Bible, children, Christian, church, Encouragement, Faith, family, friends, God, grace, Jesus, love, mothers, praise, righteousness, Spiritual

Mushy oatmeal and another hard-to-swallow thing

As a child I often found myself the overnight guest of my best friend.  She was an only child and I the middle of five.  She lived with her parents and her maternal grandparents and I saw her as the center of their world. I so enjoyed my time in the midst of their love and laughter.  While I very much felt at home there, I was still bound by the rules of my upbringing, one of which was very difficult to follow on a particular morning.

My friend had fixed my breakfast.  Instant oatmeal.  My mother often made oatmeal for us but it was the real kind – old fashioned Quaker Oats that had to be cooked on the stove.  I don’t believe I had ever tasted instant oatmeal prior to that day and I must admit I found it awful.  It was mushy and flavorless and no matter how much milk or salt or butter or sugar I added, it still tasted terrible.  And while I could hardly swallow it, I stuck to the training of being a good guest, determined to eat what was served.  I certainly did not want to hurt my friend’s feelings and made a valiant effort not to let my face show that I found her oatmeal disgusting.  I failed.  One look from her Granny and she exclaimed “Get her something else to eat!  She’s gagging!!”  Granny rescued me and I was ever so thankful.

This morning I read an article that made my heart hurt.  It was just one of the many stories and posts so prevalent in today’s culture that I find hard to swallow – the public shaming of a child.  A child’s photo posted on the internet for all the world to see, their actions recounted for all the world to read, their souls most surely wounded.  I ache for them.

I confess, I used methods of correction with my children that I now see were too harsh.  I was a very strict disciplinarian who now wishes she had been gentler and kinder.  I’m sure every parent looking back would change quite a few things.  But I was a mother raising children quite a few years before the internet.  The disciplines done in the privacy of our home were not events that were broadcast to the world.  Oh, we young mothers talked among ourselves about what our children did and how we handled it.  But it was never with the intention to humiliate them into obedience.   We didn’t use shame as a method of correction.  We didn’t publish their sins.

Above all things have intense and unfailing love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins [forgives and disregards the offenses of others].  1 Peter 4:8

Forgiveness doesn’t mean that correction is absent.  As parents we correct.  As teachers and employers and friends there are times that actions must be confronted and redirected.  But living in the kind of love just mentioned will lead us to deal with the issues at hand while also protecting the one who has erred, giving them mercy instead of shame.  This love refuses to broadcast their mistakes.  This love is full of grace.

I will be merciful and gracious toward their sins and I will remember their deeds of unrighteousness no more.  Hebrews 8:12

Jesus gave His life to provide our absolute, complete forgiveness and promised to remember our sins no more!!  His forgiveness doesn’t mean correction is absent.  But He bore the shame and humiliation of our sin and therefore He will never use those as a method to correct us.  He gently leads and corrects and guides.  His love covers ALL our sin.

He rescued me and I am ever so thankful.

Bible, Christian, church, Encouragement, Faith, God, grace, Jesus, love, praise, prayer, righteousness, Spiritual, Uncategorized, worship

If it sounds too good to be true…

…it probably is, right??  A cliche’ we believe to be true as we have read, heard, and perhaps experienced the get-rich-quick schemes, the impossible promises offered constantly through the media, and the ever-so-popular messages of 3 or 5 or 12 Steps To Whatever It Is We Want and the like, messages and schemes that have even found their way to a few pulpits.  It can be hard to tell the truth from the lies when they are so craftily woven together, and thus, it is very easy to become seriously skeptical of anything that isn’t a product of good old hard work and effort.

But what about grace?  It most certainly sounds too good to be true!

Grace is the undeserved favor and mercy and forgiveness of God given freely and lavishly to every believer. Just because He loves us.  We can’t earn it or work hard enough to deserve it or completely understand it.  It is a magnificent, miraculous, amazing gift that is ours to receive if we will.  Our human training has not prepared us for this.  We struggle first of all with agreeing that this grace really exists.  Then we continue to look for ways to earn it – we try to pray more, serve more, give more, work more, obey more…  Then we resist because we’ve never really accepted that we were given a new nature to replace our old sin nature, and this grace sounds like permission to sin…

We say we believe in what Jesus accomplished on the cross:  our salvation, the forgiveness of our sins, our deliverance from the powers of evil and death.  We quote the scriptures that we have been fully reconciled to God, Adam’s failure no longer our legacy, and sing the praises of being an heir of Almighty God, a joint-heir with Jesus Himself.  Yet we struggle.  We are constantly examining ourselves and others, finding fault in our humanity and living as if the failures we see will somehow change our position before God.  We’ve been trained to be sin-conscious rather than grace-conscious.  We have been freed from the power of sin but continue to give sin power over us because it’s what we focus on.  What would our lives be like if we focused on grace?

James writes:

“But He gives us more and more grace – power of the Holy Spirit, to meet this evil tendency (our unfaithfulness to God) and all others fully.  That is why He says, God sets Himself against the proud and haughty, but gives grace continually to the lowly – those who are humble enough to receive it.”  4:6

Grace is power.  He gives it.  Our part:  receive.  Just take it.  Whenever you sin, quickly confess and take the grace that assures you God hasn’t moved in His love and favor towards you.  This is how we live in the freedom Jesus died for!  We can trust this grace.  It will never lead us to sin.  In fact, it will do exactly the opposite:

“For the grace of God – His unmerited favor and blessing – has come forward for the deliverance from sin and the eternal salvation for all mankind.  It (the grace of God) has trained us to reject all ungodliness and worldly desires, to live discreet, upright, devout lives in this present world.”  Titus 2:11-12

This grace will teach and train us not to sin!!!  All our self-efforts falls dramatically short in this endeavor. Grace does not mean that we become unaware of sin.  The Holy Spirit will always convict and correct, but because of Jesus this is done without condemnation.  Did you get that??  His correction is always done in love with no judgement, no accusations.  We can only grasp this if we began to focus on His amazing grace.

Too good to be true?  In the natural, yes.  But we were made to be aliens inhabiting this natural world.   When we came to Christ we became citizens of the kingdom of God, the supernatural realm where grace rules.  Just say “Yes!”