Grace as the Ingredient to Righteousness

Sara Groves, a favorite artist of ours, has a song on one of her albums that talks about grace. Specifically, she says that “this is grace—an invitation to beautiful.” The song, Add to the Beauty, goes on to talk about the places of grace, oftentimes places we wouldn’t expect to be grace-places, but they are there and God uses them as places of redemption where we wouldn’t necessarily expect them to be. And so our role in these places is to receive the grace that God gives.

I’m intrigued by this concept, and yet as I look at my own life, I can look at the hard places in my own experience and see that they were more often than not places of grace. Places where God reached into my misery or frustration or anger or pain and did something with that situation to bring about His plan. Christians serve a God of redemption, and yet He is also a God of the weird.

While this is strange, it’s the way the Lord has used the pain in this world for millennia past, present and—we could assume—future. The prophet Isaiah spoke of a time when God would redeem all peoples during His year of favor. Then, He would “provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” These, God says, will be called “oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.”

While I long to be an oak of righteousness, I sometimes wish that ashes, mourning and despair were not the way to get there. Still, are not these the people we long to be? Aren’t these the people we see as being close to God. Consider one young Dutch girl’s captivity by her Nazi-occupied government that would lead to her imprisonment as well as her future ministry to promote peace and the Good News of Jesus. Or someone I know who went through a terrible divorce years ago and now has a thriving grassroots ministry to those in similar situations.

God’s ways are strange, yet holy. Whatever our own situation, wherever we find ourselves—may each of us drink more deeply of the God Who Is and plant the roots of our being in Him to display His splendor and find ourselves made more whole by His grace.

Musings on Grace…from Spain

Today, I’m reading a bit of Teresa of Avila’s work Interior Castle. Teresa was a contemporary of Martin Luther in a different part of the same continent—Spain. She writes, “All that beginners in prayer must do is this: labor and be resolute, preparing themselves with diligence to bring their will into conformity with the will of God. This ability is the greatest thing that can be accomplished on the spiritual journey.”

Indeed, aligning our will with the Lord’s is indeed the greatest. What would it look like for you and I to do this? What sort of posture would we need to have internally to allow the Lord’s will to more fully reign within us? Might we need to stop negative thoughts as they creep into our minds? Perhaps we would need to acknowledge the fact that we’re broken ragamuffins, upheld only by the grace of God the Father, which is a good thing, as the Lord knows each of our imperfections. Echoing the words of the Apostle Paul in his letter to the church in Corinth, pause for a moment and ask the Lord how He is calling you, right now, as a colaborer with Him in this ministry of reconciliation, to first receive fully the grace of the Lord.

The Cross

I’ve been reminded this past weekend of the importance of the cross. As I move forward in new directions, the steps ahead for Jenn and I seem to be headed toward working with a local ministry in the area of spiritual formation. Pray with us as we continue to seek confirmation of this from the Lord. In putting together some sort of logo or symbol for this next chapter (or should I admit it was for business cards?!), the cross was what I came back to. I’m glad that Jesus did not copyright the cross–it is a reminder of His grace and mercy. May we enter more deeply into the meaning of the cross and Jesus’ love for us.