True repentance never leads to despair. Its leads home. It leads to grace.
True repentance never leads to despair. Its leads home. It leads to grace.
“For grace to be grace, it must give us things we didn’t know we needed and take us places where we didn’t know we didn’t want to go. As we stumble through the crazily altered landscape of our lives, we find that God is enjoying our attention as never before.”
– Kathleen Norris
Mercy is great, but mercy is not grace. Mercy unhooks whatever barb we have caught ourselves on. Mercy disengages the power of expected consequences that make us pay for our naivety or stupidity or even outright rebellion.
Grace engages the power to become more than our naivety or stupidity or rebellion would allow. Grace empowers us to become something entirely new, entirely different – entirely holy. Grace draws us into the Presence of the Holy where nothing will ever be the same.
Without grace frontiers are formidable walls. With grace we can say with the Psalmist:
For by You I can run upon a troop;
And by my God I can leap over a wall.
We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us.
We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.
(Romans 5:2 The Message)
C. S. Lewis observed that almost all crimes of Christian history have come about when religion is confused with politics. Politics, which always runs by the rules of ungrace, allures us to trade away grace for power, a temptation the church has often been unable to resist.
– Philip Yancey
For a few hours, before the snow cover blanketed them, ice crystals adorned the periwinkle along the edge of the garden path. They caught my eye. I stopped to admire the sparkling jewels, all the more precious for their temporary existence. I needed to get on with my day so I walked on as the snow fell. By the time I passed that way again they had vanished.
I read a scripture verse today about gems. As precious and beautiful as real gems are, King Solomon wrote about something of even greater value, and that is wisdom.
I used to read a chapter of the book of Proverbs every day. 31 chapters made it convenient to find my place. It’s been a while and since I have been praying for wisdom a lot lately (because I really need some) I thought I should go back and review. Yesterday I read the eighth chapter for the eighth day of the month – the chapter about Wisdom calling out, begging to be noticed. I was reminded that Wisdom existed before time. Wisdom is part of the very creation of the earth. Wisdom is foundational and unlike my ice diamonds, not a temporary, relative thing. It’s been there all the time.
The more I experience of the grace and goodness of God the more I begin to hate evil both in myself and in the world around me. Evil is anything that is out of line with God’s perfect nature and design.
I write a lot about grace and the freedom it brings, but grace does not over-ride wisdom nor, as some people fear, give license to sin. Wisdom is woven into grace and, like love and mercy and kindness, is part of the character of God. Sin is ultimately disrespect for God. Disrespect for the Creator is the opposite of the goal of grace.
Grace does not ignore evil or dismiss the consequences of evil as being no big deal. Quite the opposite. Grace points to the sinless nature of the One who loves us perfectly and empowers us to come into alignment with his heart and avoid the consequences of idiotic choices that can start a chain of events that roll out like a Rube Goldberg device. God’s heart makes evil look unbearably sick in comparison.
God has provided a way for us to be forgiven, to be drawn back into a right relationship with him, to know how much he loves us. Wisdom rejoices in the nobility of this truth and shows us that knowing God means hating anything that puts up road blocks for others or keeps us from being aware of his desire for a closer relationship. Whether it is arrogant pride that doesn’t value others highly enough, evil conduct that soothes our pain with false comfort, or perverse speech that spouts lies about who God is and who he created us to be, the closer we get to him the uglier sin is revealed to be in comparison.
Wisdom allows us to see the gap between the way things work in a fallen world and the way things work in a restored world where God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven. Wisdom doesn’t make us choose between truth and real love, or justice and mercy. Wisdom comes from God’s perspective. Wisdom shows us how to listen and how to walk in his ways.
Isn’t Lady Wisdom calling?
Listen; don’t you hear the voice of understanding crying out?
She’s taken her stand at the highest place in the city,
at the crossroads where everyone can see her.
There, and at the gates, at the entrance to the city,
right in front of the city doors she cries out:
Lady Wisdom: O people! I am calling to you;
I have a message for all humanity.
You gullible people, acquire insight.
You naive ones, cultivate a heart that truly understands.
Listen, for I am about to tell you of unparalleled excellence and beauty;
what I am about to say will set things right.
I will only speak the truth;
I despise evil, so it will not pass through my lips.
Everything I say promotes justice;
not one word is crooked, and nothing is distorted.
Each and every word is straight talk to perceptive people,
upright and honest to knowledge-seekers.
Accept my correction as being more valuable than your prized possession,
authentic knowledge more valuable than pure gold.
You see, no gem is more precious than Lady Wisdom—
your most extravagant desire doesn’t come close to her.
Lady Wisdom: I make my home with prudence;
I obtain knowledge and sound judgment.
If you respect the Eternal, you will grow to despise evil.
I despise wretched, vile talk
and ways of pride and arrogance.
Good counsel is mine, and also true wisdom.
I am understanding, and strength belongs to me.
It’s because of me that kings wield power
and authorities decree what is right.
It’s because of me that leaders and their agents govern
and all judge according to what is right.
I love those who love me;
those who search hard for me will find me.
Riches and honor are the benefit of following me;
so are lasting wealth and justice.
My reward is better than gold, even the purest gold;
and my profit is greater than the highest quality silver.
I follow the way of right living.
Follow me along the path to find justice;
I’m ready to meet those who love me, bestow true riches upon them,
and fill up their lives until their treasuries overflow.
The Eternal created me; it happened when His work was beginning,
one of His first acts long ago.
Before time He established me,
before the earth saw its first sunrise.
I was born before the deep existed,
before any springs poured out their water,
Before the mountains were placed on their foundations,
before the hills rolled across the land—
yes, before all this, I was brought forth.
When the earth was yet unformed and the fields were not yet nestled beneath the wind—
even before the first dust of the earth—
When He created the heavens, I was there.
When He drew a circle in the deep, dividing the oceans and the sky, I was there.
I was there when He established the sky.
I was there when the springs in the deep were fortified;
I witnessed Him lay down the shore as a boundary
and put limits on the water
And determine the foundations of the earth.
All this time I was close beside Him, a master craftsman.
Every day I was His delightful companion,
celebrating every minute in His presence,
Elated by the world He was making and all its fine creatures;
I was especially pleased with humanity.
So now listen to me, my children:
those who live by my ways will find true happiness.
Pay attention to my guidance, dare to be wise,
and don’t disregard my teachings.
The one who listens to me,
who carefully seeks me in everyday things
and delays action until my way is apparent, that one will find true happiness.
For when he recognizes and follows me, he finds a peaceful and satisfying life
and receives favor from the Eternal.
But heed my warning: the one who goes against me will only hurt himself,
for all who despise me are playing with fire and courting death.
(Proverbs 8 The Voice)
I hate feeling incompetent. I enjoy being asked questions when I know the answer. Memories of first day on the job stress when I knew less than the customers or the students still get shoved back in the closet as soon as they make a peep.
As much as I enjoy new things and find routine stifling there are times when I enjoy feeling like I know what I’m doing and that I can handle this. I can coast. I can offer free advice. Dare I say it? Sometimes, in my Walter Mitty-type imagination I picture the Networks calling to ask me to come into the studio as their talking head expert of the day.
Mid dream sequence the music screeches to a stop. God asks me to follow him.
“Where?” I ask.
“But I finally know what I’m doing here. I have a system.”
“I know. Let’s do something else now.”
I wish I was faster at saying yes. I’m learning that growth only comes as I depend on God and quit relying on what worked before. I have a bad habit of not noticing that change lies ahead until I run into a dead-end or get kicked out of the nest. Sometimes asking God for guidance and yet not moving until the yank of a bridle twists my neck or a stick pokes my butt and the guidance is no longer subtle is not the most comfortable way.
Part of the problem is still my fear of making a mistake, of being wrong, of having to backtrack, or worse, make an apology. But grace gives us latitude to learn. Somewhere deep down I am still fighting the notion that I have to earn this grace with a perfect performance. That’s when failure becomes freedom. His love is not conditional. I never knew how much God loved me until I offered him my incompetence as an ego-sacrificing form of praise.
He says his eyes will be our guide. We can respond more quickly when our eyes are focused on his face. If we are more focused on our work and personal improvement projects than on where he is looking we will miss it.
Stay close. Listen. Watch. Trust.
This is going to be good.
I hear the Lord saying, “I will stay close to you,
Instructing and guiding you
Along the pathway for your life.
I will advise you along the way,
And lead you forth with my eyes as your guide.
So don’t make it difficult, don’t be stubborn
When I take you where you’ve not been before.
Don’t make me tug you and pull you along.
Just come with me!”
(Psalm 32:8 – 9 TPT)
Abounding sin is the terror of the world, but abounding grace is the hope of mankind.