I was outside just after the ice took care of her pain, looking up into the sky, when I was buffeted by an extremely strong gust of wind. Just the moment before, I was asking God to help her handle the pain. The wind came immediately.
Coincidence? I don't know. I don't believe in coincidences, and there was something about this "buffeting" that seemed full of God. The wind gust was strong, like a warrior on attack, yet gentle and affirming at the same time. It hit me on my left side and surrounded me, sending the most pleasant sensation up and down my spine. It lingered for a few moments, and then it was gone.
Maybe I am making too much of a normal gust of wind. But then, can I make too much out of a gust of wind that God created? Is that possible? Isn't it rather probable that we don't give enough credit to God's creations?
I don't know. I am seeing God in so much more these days, and it has nothing to do with being "good". Sure I want to please Him in my actions, who doesn't? But what I am seeing physically around me gives ME pleasure. And here I thought I was created for HIS good pleasure. I wonder, is that another one of those Bible verses we only got half-right? Are we maybe here so God can pour out on us His pleasure also?
My daughter is better now, the pain is gone, or has at least subsided. Thank you God, for the wind that buffets and surrounds me, and the whisper of laughs that heals her.
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God Romans 8:28……..EVEN OUR SINS (Tom Reindl, 1:1)
Hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Romans 5:5
With just these two verses running around in your head, you could live the rest of your life completely without fear or anxiety. And I am not talking about memorization here. For in order for something to run around in your head, it has to be in your heart, and….whoops, it already is in your heart. (The love of God has been poured out within our hearts).
How much love can your heart hold? The love of God poured out, that’s how much.
I have been talking about striving a lot lately. The word “strive” strikes some people differently than others. For me, it doesn’t mean performance, rather, it means doing the best I can with what I have been given, not toward reward, but toward living the life that I couldn’t build myself. This life I am speaking of is full, abundant, and full of things to do, like watching my daughter grow up, playing, working, lazing around, reading, learning, writing, and all other manner of wonderful things that used to cause such pride in me, I thought my head would explode. But there is no pride left in doing these things anymore. There is just the joy of being able to do it, of not being bored with life, of a continuous celebration because now I am free to do and free to be.
I understand so much more now than I used to. I used to think I had to be good, that everything I did had to be perfect. I used to strive as hard as I could to treat people well, but not because I loved them, rather because I thought I had to do it. Now, I do these things because I love to do them, and “having” to do them no longer exists.
Yes, I have to wake up in the morning if I am going to do anything. There are still some things I have to do, like breathe. But the things that used to cause pride in me, the things that I used to do out of fear are now things I do because I know Romans 5:5. That’s right, the love of God is poured out within my heart. It’s no wonder I love doing these things. And when I do them, I know that Romans is true, even if I fail, even if I sin.
Imagine that, if I sin, God uses it toward my good, working it together with everything else. I don’t know these things perfectly, but I am coming to know them more and more, and life is getting better and better. Dive inside of your heart, and experience the love of God poured out within you.
It has been my experience in the five years that I have been coming to know Yeshua that He never expects me to prove myself to Him.
It has been my experience all of my life that almost every human being expects me to prove myself to them, almost all of the time. They would never come out and say this, of course, but it’s there, lurking just beneath the surface.
When I was a child, and up until I was the age of about twenty-three, I would make statements about what I was going to do with my life, and would be immediately hit with a comment like, “You talk foolish”, or “You don’t know anything, that’s ridiculous”.
Amazingly enough, I never let comments like that discourage me. I didn’t necessarily use them as fuel, either, although I certainly could have. Instead, I just put my mind to accomplishing something, and didn’t stop until I succeeded. Around the age of Twenty-five, I realized that if I wasn’t successful in something, it was usually due to something I had done wrong, maybe some flaw in my planning, or some self-destructive trait in me. So I began to set my mind to eliminating these things, and some success followed. Yippee.
Then, I lost everything when my wife left me. I lost my daughter three days a week, my wife, companionship, my house, and strangely enough, my job, through a lie a fellow employee told about me, which my boss believed. Just prior to all of this happening, I had come to faith in Christ, realizing I could never save myself, never resurrect myself, and never come close to perfection. The one week where I lost everything totally broke me. But I had Jesus, and although at times,. Life didn’t seem worth being around for, He was enough.
As I grew to know Jesus, it struck me as odd that believers would also question my experiences, and my insights, as if I couldn’t possibly know what I knew. Some would make comments such as, “how do you know this, since I have been a believer all of my life, and I didn’t even know that?” My answer would always be, “I don’t know”, because I didn’t.
I would talk about grace in ways that people hadn’t heard before, and some would be encouraged, but there were always some who would tell me, “Don’t go spreading that around, or you’ll see a bunch of people doing whatever they want, whenever they want. And by the way, how the hell do you know you are right?”
Answer? “I don’t know, ask God.”
For the most part, people have always tried to get me to prove myself to them. I don’t know why. And see, the thing is, I can tell when they are doing it, they don’t have to come out and say it, I just know. The temptation to do just that, to prove myself to them, is strong. There are times I want to tell people why I know what know, I want to give them irrefutable evidence of what I know, so that they will just shut up. The temptation to do so, as I said, is very strong.
But I won’t do it.
Sometimes, I don’t gather the fact that they are trying to get me to prove myself, and I go about trying to explain myself without being hurtful. That always ends up being a pointless exercise.
But I will not prove myself.
You see, I have nothing left to prove. I have no one to impress. And I have nothing left to gain. I have already gained the only thing I need, LIFE through Jesus.
Both believers, and people who don’t believe will disbelieve some of the things we tell them. They will disbelieve our experiences, and they will probe around the words we say, using every little thing they can to “label” us. I was labeled “performance oriented” the other day. I found that odd, but interesting, and yet overall, I knew I was labeled as such because the one who said it merely doesn’t understand what I have been saying. And that’s okay.
I am not going to spend time proving that I am not “performance oriented”. I know the truth, and any explanation I give remains at the mercy of the one reading it. Yet I am at no one’s mercy, so why should I do the things that would leave me a prisoner to someone else’s opinion?
If you want to believe that I am performance oriented, or that I rely too much on grace, or maybe I don’t have the “experience” to know the things I know, go ahead. If you want to label me a heretic, go ahead. If you want to call me a fool, well…I am a fool, a fool for Jesus. And that’s okay, too.
I wish believers wouldn’t test everyone the way they do. I wish we could all accept the experiences of those we claim to love. But since that hasn’t happened whole-scale yet, rest in the fact that you have nothing left to prove, and no one to impress. Since Jesus doesn’t condemn us, let others do so in folly. We find our identity in Him, not in the opinions of people who don’t have enough information to make good judgments. If we rely on man for our identity, we are to be pitied most of all creatures.
As I have been writing about freedom and striving lately, I thought I’d give my take on what we are free to do.
Rather, maybe I should explain myself better here. I would like to write about “disciplines”, and how we are free to engage in them. But first, I must explain my view of what a discipline really is. You can take this view and trash it if you like, it won’t bother me any.
As I have been coming to know the grace of God more each day, it has struck me that we have a somewhat backwards view of “discipline”. Bar none, every person I have talked with or written back and forth to has a negative view towards discipline. Some may view the actual result of discipline as something good, but every single person I have spoken with views discipline as hard work, as almost sacrifice, if you will. I have yet to meet the person who views discipline as a way of life, as a matter of natural course, rather than as something that takes incredible effort for “expected” yield.
One question I have is this; in your profession, can you come to the fullest expectation and appreciation of your field by a hit or miss philosophy? In other words, can you be as full in your profession as possible by doing as little as you can to get by?
I’m not talking about success here, because in this world, at this present time, everyone measures “success” differently. But I am talking about what we hope to get out of something.
So here’s what I think, and again, feel free to trash it, but as you trash it, understand that for this man, you are trashing something that has proven to work, time and again. In other words, disagree away, but I am no liar in this area, I wouldn’t write this if I didn’t already know where it takes me.
I think that if we want to know the Bible, we should read the bible, regularly. That is not a law, it’s just a fact. We aren’t born with an innate knowledge of what Jesus said to the Pharisees in a given situation. To find out, we must read what He actually said. So as I said, if we want to know the bible, we must read it. There is no getting around this simple fact, as I have yet to meet the person who was born knowing the Bible and what it means, AT ALL. God could do so, He could grant a person that instant knowledge, I have no doubts of that. But I haven’t seen it yet.
I think if we want to know God, then we must spend time with Him. That is not a law. We are free to spend time with Him, and we are free to ignore Him. But if we want to know Him, we are going to have to spend time with Him, talking, listening, waiting, resting. As I said, this isn’t a law, but there is no other way I know of to get to know God better than to spend time with Him, in whatever form that takes. For some, it’s a walk in nature. For others, it’s silence. For me, it’s a combination of several things, such as silence, prayer, nature, and the strange way I recognize how He speaks to me through interactions with my daughter.
I think if we want to do the things Jesus did, then we are going to have to learn WHAT He did, and then begin to put that into practice. We cannot ask the question, “What would Jesus do?”, and expect to make the right decision, if we do not know what He would do. Likewise, we cannot expect to do the things He would do if we wait until we are on the spot, and have to make a quick decision as to what is His way. Doing what He did isn’t an “on-the-spot” lifestyle, since none of us were born doing the things He did, or even knowing what He did. We all have responses that are much different “naturally” than what He would have done. So, in order for us to do what He did, our entire lives, in fact, even the WAY we make decisions, must be changed. We cannot expect to love one another on the spot, if all of our lives, we have never loved one another as Jesus did. In order for us to love one another, we must know Jesus, we must know His love, and we must be changed.
I will not speak of how that change occurs tonight. But, I would like to add that with everything I said here tonight, imagine if we did all these things already knowing God was completing the good work in us that He had started.
Discipline is not hard. It is a way of life. We are disciplined to love our neighbor poorly all of our lives. I have never met a person who loved his neighbor well unless he had been affected by the love of Christ. So I guess what I am saying is, discipline isn’t what we have been led to believe it is. Discipline is not hard work, rather, it is a natural way of life that has taken root and borne fruit. We go one way all of our lives; in order for us to go the other way, a change will have to happen. If all of my life I didn’t know the Bible, and one day I desired to know it, what, oh what, should I do?
I am free to do all things through Yeshua, who strengthens me.
"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
Paul wrote that.
How often have I read this, and merely believed that Paul was talking about being able to “put up with” bad circumstances? Let’s say , “every time”.
No longer. As I read through what Paul was talking about just before he said he can do all things, I realized Paul wasn’t talking about suffering alone. He was also writing about having abundance, which now sheds a different light on the meaning of “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
I am coming to understand that Paul meant far more than being able to suffer whatever came his way, even though that kind of character trait is commendable to some degree. I am coming to understand that when he said he could do all things, he literally meant he could do all things. But he couldn’t do them by himself. In other words, he couldn’t live with much on his own power and understanding, nor could he live with little according to his own merit. But if Christ were in him, then, he could do these things.
So what other things might Paul have been able to do through Christ who gives us strength?
Unless the answer to that question is “every single thing we do or will ever do”, we aren’t giving the word “all” proper credit.
So could Paul have started a ministry through Christ? You bet he could. Could Paul have disciplined himself through Christ? Yes. Could Paul have learned more about God than he ever thought possible through Christ? Undeniably.
Well, if he could do those things, could he also strive to know God?
Some are not going to like my answer to that question, at least not on the surface of the answer. I merely ask you to think about what it means to be strengthened by Christ before you judge me as a legalist.
Can we strive to know God?
Absolutely, undeniably, completely, YES!
If we can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens us, then we can truly strive to know God, because it is not our effort that upholds us, but Christ in us who is strengthening us for the task. But some might say, “being is better than doing". To which I answer, when did Jesus ever say that? In fact, my answer might be to say, “see how much Jesus did BECAUSE He knew the Father was in Him?”
Do not strive to earn, strive because you can. Do not stay put because you have to. Stay put because you can. If we believe we can do nothing, nothing is exactly what we will do. But how wonderful a life Paul led, exactly because he believed he could do ALL things through Christ, who strengthens us as well as Paul.
I can be poor, and I can live poor. I can be rich, and I can live rich. I can work hard, and I can do nothing. I can strive, and I can rest. And all these things I do through Christ who strengthens me, and none of these things “earns” more merit with God than the other
Look at your life and see how you have filled its emptiness with people. As a result they have a stranglehold on you. See how they control your behavior by their approval and disapproval. They hold the power to ease your loneliness with their company, to send your spirits soaring with their praise, to bring you down to the depths with their criticism and rejection. Take a look at yourself spending almost every waking moment of your day placating and pleasing people, whether they are living or dead. You live by their norms, conform to their standards, seek their company, desire their love, dread their ridicule, long for their applause, meekly submit to the guilt they lay upon you; you are terrified to go against the fashion in the way you dress or speak or act or even think. And observe how even when you control them you depend on them and are enslaved by them. People have become so much a part of your being that you cannot even imagine living a life that is unaffected or uncontrolled by them.
That sort of gives new meaning to the idea that we desparately want to belong, doesn't it? And it is not wrong to want to belong. But so often with our lives and relationships, we approach things as if these relationships are the "end", and not a gift and pleasure given us from God. In other words, we make the relationships we have with people become more than what they really are. For some, the relationship may become life, while for others, it may become a possession. Still others will find that they are abused, and betrayed.
Yet inside, don't we want to rebel against such a thought? Haven't we been taught that relationships are good things? Of course we have, and of course they are. But unless we know Jesus and His love, I think our relationships will not be in a good position within our lives. Instead of being inner led, which is to be led by Christ, we end up outer-directed, which is to be led by circumstance and approval. That's not the healthiest way to live, especially if we draw our self-worth from our relationships with others.
So relationships are good, if they are rightly placed within our lives. But if our relationships with people control us, then sooner or later, let-downs, betrayals, and the winds of change will blow our neatly stacked house of relationship cards down.
There is only thing that will lead us to be free, even of control from others. That one thing is to know the love of Christ. Nothing else is well placed within our lives if we do not know that. The Kingdom of God is not just some far off Disney looking place with spires and diamonds in our future. The Kingdom of God brings true order into our lives, places "things" within their proper perspective, and frees us from judging circumstances and people based on outer appearances and feelings. In other words, seek first His Kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you as well. Even good relationships with people.
If I can love myself, I can love my neighbor.
But loving myself is the hardest thing I have ever had to do. Oh, I’m not talking about ego problems here. No one has a bigger ego than I do. But “ego” is not love, ego is an imposter, a fake image of the real us. Having to come to my senses, and see the real me for what I am, well….. that’s different.
And what am I?
Now I know I am God’s very special child. I did not always know that. And because I didn’t, I acted like a very unspecial child. I thought of myself in terms of my ego. In other words, I never really knew the real me, until I met Jesus. And since that time, He has been tempering the harshness I am able to bring upon myself with reality.
I say, “I am a contemptuous person. I feel contempt at people, I judge the way they are, and I hold conversations in my mind about what I would say to them if I only had the guts.”
Jesus says, “No, you are not contemptuous. You have the wrong ideas, and you have learned all of your life to judge yourself by your understanding of what good is. You are deceived, Tom, that is what you are. But know that I love you, and am revealing the truth to you, whether you believe it or not.”
To which I answer, “But, Lord, I talk about people as if they are objects sometimes!”
Jesus answers, “Yes, Tom, you do. In time, you will talk about people as I talk about them, with love, and not contempt. But you saw through a glass unclearly all of your life, and now your eyes are opened. Reject the past, and embrace the hope I give you, it is your present and your future.”
Not that I have ever heard Jesus say these things with an audible voice. I am just coming to know His voice. But I’ll tell you a secret I learned. I don’t recognize His voice if too many voices are speaking at once. For me, I want silence when I need to hear Him. It’s the only way I know it’s Him speaking. Maybe someday, I’ll be able to talk with Him, and chew gum at the same time. But for now, I am content with the silence.
He’s teaching me how to love, by teaching me how much He loves me.
If you were raised anything like I was raised, with two parents who loved you, then you might be able to relate to what I am going to write tonight.
We are children of God, being adopted by Him through faith in Jesus Christ.
Why do we try nearly endlessly to please Him? Why do we try nearly endlessly to make ourselves “better”? Will we be more a part of His family if we succeed?
I have written a few posts recently about striving, and I fear some have misunderstood my meanings. I won’t explain striving in any great length tonight, but I will stress the fact that we are already members of God’s family. Having said that, let it be understood that striving isn’t the means through which we become a part of God’s family, or even the means by which we become more a part of God’s family. Striving is a means by which we accomplish what we set out to do, be it at work, at play, or in spiritual learning.
If we set out to learn something, we will have to strive for it. In the case of spiritual growth, that striving doesn’t earn us God’s pleasure. It earns us nothing but the fulfillment to do everything we do as if we are doing it for the Lord. And even our striving has been provided for us by Him. So then we know there is nothing we do that has not been generated by God, including our striving at anything.
But to get back to the point of this post, if you had two parents who loved you, or even one, or even a “family”, did you have to try really hard to be a part of it? Or were you already accepted the moment you were born?
I will not speak of those families where abuses occur, because the actions of the abusers have destroyed the family, and thus, the abused must seek a new family. But may I venture to say that if our birth family is either accepting of us or not, neither is the world? And since we are all descended from Adam, we are all a part of a much larger family, one in which we did nothing except to be born, in order to belong.
Having said that, we can all honestly say in some forms that in the larger family through Adam, we have been abused, and sought a new family. Through grace, we have been adopted into that new family, and just as we did nothing except be born into Adam’s family, we also did nothing except be adopted into God’s family.
There is one major difference of course…….God chose us.
Listen, when you are chosen, you are wanted. Not for what you have accomplished, because none of us have ever accomplished anything that made us worthy to see God’s Son slaughtered for our sake. Rather, you are chosen because God in His mercy wants you near.
So we make mistakes, and we choose wrongly, and we punish ourselves, because we think that is what is necessary. Yet even if we do that, still, we are accepted into God’s family. So why do we act as if we have to be better tomorrow than we were today? In fact, why do we believe we have to be progressing in faith?
I do not believe we have to. I believe it is up to God to complete that work of progression within us. I believe our sole action in this world is to respond. And how do we respond? By accepting God’s good favor upon us.
Through that acceptance then, we will learn through God a better way of living. We will learn freedom. And we will learn love.
And the heart that is loved and knows it is the only heart where “obedience" isn’t an effort, but a natural response to any circumstance.
Have you accepted the FACT that you belong yet?
Is God’s wrath against man alone?
Imagine our God, who has created the heavens and the earth, working His wonders upon the earth night and day.
Imagine an imposter named Baal, a “man” of renown, of legend. This imposter was supposedly born of a virgin mother, and died at the hands of the Phoenician god of death. According to legend, this imposter rose from the dead.
Baal, the original antichrist.
Beelzebub, another name for Baal, and a name for Satan, the snake, the deceiver, cursed more than any other of God’s creation because of his deception of Eve.
God’s wrath did not originate with man, it originated with Satan. It will end with Satan. Check out then, if you are willing, the story of Baal, and of all the gods of ancient cultures. Surprisingly, you will find that every culture’s gods have a twin in a different culture. That’s because idolatry began in
Flash forward to the Revelation of Jesus Christ, chapter 13, verse 11-15
Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb and he spoke as a dragon.
He exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence. And he makes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose fatal wound was healed.
He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down out of heaven to the earth in the presence of men.
And he deceives those who dwell on the earth because of the signs which it was given him to perform in the presence of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who *had the wound of the sword and has come to life.
And it was given to him to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast would even speak and cause as many as do not worship the image of the beast to be killed.
I told a friend today we have not heard the last of Baal. I don’t know that there are any Baal worshippers out there in this world today, but I do know that Baal will be back. How do I know? Because he is the first beast of Revelation 13. His name is Beelzebub, Satan’s deception. Many are going to follow this deception, and I believe this deception is the very man of lawlessness that Paul speaks of in 2 Thessalonians 2:3.
Baal is merely a legend, formerly. But there will be a man who will figuratively be Baal, just as Satan will be also be revealed. And this Baal, as he once did to the Israelites, will mislead many of mankind once again.
There are many today who claim that God’s wrath was spent on Christ at the cross. But Baal and Satan are not men. Satan is of old, a creature who is spirit, full of lies and murder. And all who will follow Baal and Satan will do so at their own risk. The first beast will perform miracles and signs through power not his own, to mislead many into believing he is the returned Christ.
Baal has always been a false god, and a false Christ, misleading many. And the wrath of God toward Satan for this deception will come upon him in full. So when you hear of people saying, “The Lord has ALREADY returned, and the man of lawlessness appeared a long time ago”, do not be misled into thinking that God’s wrath toward Satan was fully incensed because some idiot sacrificed a pig in the
The deceptions of Satan have always been to take the truth, and twist it into a believeable lie. The purpose of Baal was to take credibility away from the prophesied Christ. The next time, it will be an attempt to take the glory away from God completely. Watch and see how victorious God will be in all of this.
Hard to believe? About as hard to believe as a bunch of Israelites lighting the arms of their Baal on fire, placing their infant child in its arms, and then having an orgy in rythym with the screams of the burning, dying infant. That is exactly how Baal was worshipped at some times.
Sorry if this is heavier than what I normally write. This is what is on my mind tonight.
I have been thinking about this strange journey I am on.
I think each day I am more aware of God’s love for me. Yet I do not understand how that is possible, since each day, I am more aware of how much of nothing I really amount to. A short while back, I made a statement which said I have to learn to accept the fact that God loves me, even though I smoke cigarettes. I have to learn to accept who I am, regardless of “what” I am.
Failure to do so will result in me judging what God refuses to judge any longer. In essence, might I not, at that point, be claiming that I know more than God? Now that’s a scary thought. If I know more than God, you all are in big trouble. BIG TROUBLE INDEED.
So I have this contradiction I am faced with each day. I know I am not without faults. In fact, I am pretty sure I am full of them. And yet I also am more and more aware of God’s love for me. Is it possible that we might only know of God’s love when we are also aware of our wounds?
A while ago, say six years, I was pretty sure that I was a pretty good guy. I paid my taxes, worked hard at my job, was better at it than anyone I knew, and treated my family pretty well, at least I thought. But I was absolutely clueless as to how God felt about me. I thought, “Sure, He’s probably pretty pissed at me for a few things, but the good stuff I have done ought to be enough. It really ought to be enough. Anyway, I can’t concern myself about that right now, since I have a life to lead, and everything is going pretty well.” My oh my oh my, how blind we can be.
Today, I am pretty certain that I am a piece of crap, not very nice in my thoughts, completely addicted to smoking, and I know right now that I have never done even one thing in my life that made me deserving of joy. In short, I should burn in hell. I can’t understand how God could love someone like me. At least, I can’t understand according to how I have lived my life.
But I have this new life, in Christ, and it makes me FEEL differently. Yes, there are many times I am pretty much “blah” about my relationship with God. Sometimes, honestly, I’d just rather sleep, than talk with Him. And it isn’t because I want to hide, or because I don’t love Him. It isn’t even because I think He is angry with me. Heck, when I think He is angry with me, I RUN AS FAST as I can toward Him, not wanting it to be true ever. No, I just sometimes feel “blah”.
You know what? I think God would rather have us addicted to cigarettes, and running back to Him, than perfect, and standing tall without wounds that require His healing touch.
I know that quitting smoking, and stopping myself from a whole host of inner contempt will make me physically healthier. But……will I be spiritually healthier?
If I exercise, and look good, will I BE good? If I serve others with all my might, and I know that serving others isn’t bad, will I be any better in the eyes of the Lord than I am right now?
Just some strange thoughts from a strange man on a strange journey.
I was privileged to listen tonight as my daughter sang the National Anthem in front of her school, at their eighth grade commencement ceremony.
My daughter has just completed seventh grade, has never had voice lessons, and neither her father nor her mother are musically gifted. Yet the national anthem I listened to tonight was sung with a voice as clear and crisp, and as emotionally charged as I have ever heard it sung.
Yes, I am her father, and maybe I am prejudiced. But to hear the reaction of the eighth grade class, and all of their friends and families, well…..I guess all I can say is; they hooted and hollered for my daughter as if they had just paid to hear her sing.
The funny thing is, the school forgot to let my daughter sing the anthem at the beginning of the ceremony, so she actually sang it towards the end, after all the awards, and after all the “completion” certificates were handed to each graduating eighth grade child. (Or do I call them entering freshmen?)
It was hot inside of the school, veeeerrry hot. The crowd sat through over an hour and a half of awards presentations and speeches, before my little girl sang. Against all odds, wondering when, or if she was going to sing, my young daughter not only did the best she could under bad circumstances, SHE NAILED IT!!! Whoooohoooo!!!!
Yes, I am proud of her, but not because of how she sings, although I admit, I love listening to her voice. In fact, I told her that I would have been pleased with her even before she sang. She sings not to please me, but because she loves it.
I wish you could have heard her. I had no idea she could sing so high and loudly at the same time. Her voice pierced the gymnasium, and pierced my heart. I have never experienced emotion listening to the national anthem, but I did tonight. I almost cried. The song just meant something to me more than a “national anthem”. It was my daughter, singing from the depths of her soul, swaying and moving in her heart and voice with the words and sound of the music.
My daughter will turn thirteen on Tuesday the fourteenth of June. She has the voice of an adult, but the heart of a child. Thank God for that.
I have decided to explain the name of my blog better. Actually, I was gently chided into it, by a man whom I consider an e-friend. (“E” only because I have never met him face to face, yet still, despite our differences in certain beliefs, I can see that he would be an excellent friend, because he is honest and open)
Father, help me with words here, because I’m not sure I can do justice to even the first word in this blog name, much less the second………………..
My blog name is Effortless Grace, obviously. Well, what exactly IS Effortless Grace?
Is it possible that effortless grace is that which we cannot bring about ourselves, down in the depths of our being? You know what I mean, because it’s what we long for, all of us.
Alright, WHAT do we long for?
How about to be different than we really are? How about that malcontent we carry along inside of us, which screams even more loudly than painful circumstances?
If we could guarantee success, wouldn’t we, each one of us make every effort to change that which we find to be wrong about ourselves? Let’s be honest, you know you would as well as I would.
Somewhere inside of us we long to be DIFFERENT!
Effortless grace means we can’t do it. Not that we can’t do it by ourselves. No, simply that we can’t do it AT ALL.
So why all the talk of striving recently?
Because striving isn’t something that is going to change us. Rather, it’s our response to changes being made inside of us already. In other words, effortless grace isn’t about the cessation of striving. It’s not about striving at all. Effortless grace is a reminder that the redemption we have, and the changes inside of us do not come about through our efforts, but through the efforts of God’s will working within us.
So does that make striving “wrong”? Never!
How could striving be wrong for those who are in Christ Jesus? If we are under grace, how could our striving be judged as unrighteous? It is an impossibility.
Often, when writing recently about striving, I have used the phrase “we don’t strive because we have to, we strive because we can.” Let me explain that.
In the past, while we were under judgment and not under grace, our striving was nothing more than filthy rags being piled up and burned. Nothing we did outside of the Lord and His Kingdom lasted. So truly, our efforts were worthless.
But now that we are under grace, we can do all manner of things we once couldn’t. Now, because of the grace of God, we are vessels being filled. Well, if we are vessels being filled, and not emptied, wouldn’t it follow that our efforts no longer empty us as they once did?
Effortless grace is the constant filling and using of that which God gives to us freely. It isn’t by our effort that changes are made, nor is it by our effort that we are filled. We are merely receivers and responders of the grace God has, does, and will pour into us. And if “striving” is our response to grace, then how could it ever be the wrong response?
Answer that in the comments section, because I am truly asking you, all of you that question.
We say we believe in grace, yet some of us chide and even judge others because their “deeds” don’t line up with what we consider to be grace. We look at adulterers, and say, “Well, they can’t REALLY know Jesus, because just LOOK at what they do.” Brothers and sisters, if any of us are caught up in doing that, we can be assured that we are amongst the world’s largest hypocrites. We don’t have to bless what others do, but we don’t even have the RIGHT to judge them either.
We say we believe in grace, and yet we cringe when someone tells us of the striving they do, of spiritual disciplines they are engaged in. We look to them, and say, “you may well be a legalist”. And how can we not recognize that when we think this and say it, we are not amongst the world’s largest hypocrites also?
True, some followers of Christ believe their efforts, their striving is what makes the changes inside of them. They are wrong, but they are not unrighteous. In fact, for us to judge them as so merely because of outward appearances makes us more like the Pharisees than they are. Misguided intentions are never the less still under grace.
But for me, effortless grace is about more than just the end of striving and checklists. For me, effortless grace is the cause, the generator of all my efforts in everything I do. It is not because I no longer have to strive that I am free. No, it is because I am free that I can strive. I am free from earning God’s pleasure, He is already pleased with me. I am free from condemnation, how could any effort now be condemned? I am free from death, how could my striving lead me back to that which I was set free from? It can’t.
So to better define effortless grace, I say this. Do not look at the effort as meaning earning. For the effort is merely an outpouring of what is being poured into me. In the Kingdom, that perfectly ordered reality, my efforts have a place. They do not come before grace. They come after and because of grace.
“Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you”.
Our efforts do not “create” anything. Our efforts are created, and in the kingdom, they are a natural response to the will and work of God within us. In the past, we tried to earn God’s favor by doing all manner of good works. Now, knowing we are under grace, we also know that it is God’s pleasure that we do good works, which HE CREATED FOR US.
Good works are not the cause of His pleasure. THEY ARE THE RESULT.
It is effortless because we no longer put the cart before the horse. Now, the horse is pulling the cart, and the cart is responding by moving forward. Some may say the cart is doing work, but I assure you, without the horse, the cart sits and rots. God is at work within us, He is the horse. We are the cart. He pulls us, and we move.
THAT IS EFFORTLESS GRACE.
I was in the midst of talking with God today, when suddenly I realized that I couldn’t tell if I really meant what I was saying.
Now I can’t even remember what it was I said that caused this all. And I am glad I can’t. It is as if it has been erased, and along with it, the guilt of it.
I told someone recently who reads this blog that the very first place I started with God when I wanted to know Him was honesty. The trouble with this is, when I began, I couldn’t even know for sure if I was being honest with Him. So, I started even before that by saying very little at the beginning of my prayers, except to almost whimper, “Lord….help me be honest with you right now”.
I don’t know if I can explain how hopeless I felt at the prospect of trying to be honest with Him. I didn’t even understand most of my own motives, how could I ever know whether I was actually being honest? The truth is, I couldn’t.
I still can’t. But you know what? It doesn’t matter.
That’s right. If inner change were up to me, I’d be lost. In fact, I take this desire for honesty before God to be a gift from Him to me. I didn’t understand that at first. I thought it was up to me to try and be honest, and in some ways, the mere act of trying began to teach me how hopeless my own efforts really were.
But that’s the kicker in all of this. Until I tried to be honest, I didn’t even know I couldn’t be such on my own. Amazing grace, huh? How awesome are the ways God uses to teach us?
So I told this person that a good place to start might be honesty with God. What have I done? My God! What have I done?!
Fear not, if grace were so weak, every thing I did would end up in death to those around me.
Did I not just say that until I tried to be honest, I didn’t even know I couldn’t be such on my own? Yeah, I think I said that. And grace will pick up the pieces of brokenness, and put them back together into something that can hold hope.
This person may very well read this post, and I hope she does. I don’t mean to use her as an example. I merely mean to share my experience with you all, and this person reminded me of my own journey. There is great hope for the believer when he comes to the end of himself, and realizes how useless his efforts really are. Knowing grace begins at that point.
And at that point, honesty can happen, through the work of the One we asked to help us because we can’t even help ourselves.