It's taken me some time to realize that some concepts are not related to others. I would find it easy to love those who loved me back, to believe in what I can touch, to hope when all evidences point to a certainty, to be happy when everything goes my way and to feel graced when I worked hard at doing good around me.
All lies. All illusions. All smoke and mirrors.
When I put my ego aside a moment, I discover that:
'Love has nothing to do with what I feel or others' love towards me
Faith has nothing to do with what I see
Knowledge has nothing to do with my reasoning
Hope has nothing to do with hard data
Joy has nothing to do with my circumstances
Grace has nothing to do with my deeds'
This reminds me of what I wrote earlier
'Riches have nothing to do with what I own
Wisdom has nothing to do with what I know
Salvation has nothing to do with what I do
Freedom has nothing to do with what I choose
Glory has nothing to do with how others see me
Food has nothing to do with what I eat or drink
Value has nothing to do with my accomplishments
Beauty has nothing to do with what I see
Strength has nothing to do with what I can bear
Pleasure has nothing to do with me
Power has nothing to do with what I control'
Everything about Christmas screams Grace. Or does it ? When I look at the conditions in which the ultimate incarnation of Grace came to be with us, I wonder. Today's representation of that day looks nothing like the first one.
On that blessed night, in the visible world, Grace was born...
- Out of a socially shameful out-of-wedlock conception and apparent illegitimacy
- From a carpentar and a peasant girl
- Alone without any of the direct family around
- In the most insignificant of small villages
- In a stable with smelly animals, with unsanitary conditions
- Placed in a feeding trough with spittle and munched straw
- Clothed with common rag strips, probably his mother’s underclothes
- Visited only by sheperds, the despised dregs of peasantry
But in the invisible world...
- Legions of angels were filling the sky and singing glorious praises
- A special star was guiding wise men to a majestic destination
- Four thousand years of prophecies were being fulfilled
- God was manifesting himself in the space-time continuum for the express announced purpose of dying as a sacrifice for our sins
- The definitive way back to God was being revealed
And so everything about the Christ's day doesn't scream Grace in today's noise. It humbly whispers it in the invisible.
Christmas. It's the quiet Grace.
During a British conference on comparative religions, experts from around the world debated what, if any, belief was unique to the Christian faith. They began eliminating possibilities. Incarnation? Other religions had different versions of gods' appearing in human form. Resurrection? Again, other religions had accounts of return from death. The debate went on for some time until C. S. Lewis wandered into the room. "What's the rumpus about?" he asked, and heard in reply that his colleagues were discussing Christianity's unique contribution among world religions. Lewis responded, "Oh, that's easy. It's grace."
After some discussion, the conferees had to agree. The notion of God's love coming to us free of charge, no strings attached, seems to go against every instinct of humanity. The Buddhist eight-fold path, the Hindu doctrine of karma, the Jewish covenant, and the Muslim code of law -- each of these offers a way to earn approval. Only Christianity dares to make God's love unconditional.
Aware of our inbuilt resistance to grace, Jesus talked about it often. He described a world suffused with God's grace: where the sun shines on people good and bad; where birds gather seeds gratis, neither plowing nor harvesting to earn them; where untended wildflowers burst into bloom on the rocky hillsides. Like a visitor from a foreign country who notices what the natives overlook, Jesus saw grace everywhere. Yet he never analyzed or defined grace, and almost never used the word. Instead, he communicated grace through stories we know as parables.
[Philip Yancey, What's So Amazing About Grace?, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1997), 45.]
Andrew Tallman wrote a fantastic blog post
about Morality, Grace and the difficulty of it all. Indeed the hardest thing about following Christ is NOT to follow the rules, but to emulate God's Grace towards us. Here is the post in it's entirety.
Grace. It's hard.
----One of the most common criticisms of Christianity is that it is an “easy way out” of the frustrating reality that life is painful and difficult. Christians, so the argument goes, buy into a fairy tale because they’re too strong to handle the truth. It’s a criticism that goes back at least as far as Nietzsche.
In response, Christians have often said that Christianity is anything but easy. “Restrain your lust, restrain your anger, restrain your greed, restrain your pride? These are easy things? Wouldn’t it be easier to deny God and yield to our impulses?” Though this reply is on target toward the objection, I worry that it misidentifies what is truly challenging about Christianity, especially since these requirements are common to all major religions.
See, although moral purity is difficult, moral purity isn’t the hardest thing about obeying Jesus. The hardest thing is emulating God’s ridiculous, foolish, impractical grace: forgiving enemies, giving to people who have behaved stupidly, and putting your own welfare at risk for those who won’t appreciate it.
These commands aren’t just hard, they’re downright irrational, which is why we don’t do them. In truth, we all secretly believe that these most distinctive characteristics of God are actually ridiculous and embarrassing, a judgment we share with Jonah, the Pharisees, and the elder brother in the parable of the prodigal sons. Hence, the real mark of Christian obedience isn’t personal moral purity, but a life which imitates the absurd grace of God. That’s why real Christian repentance must begin here, not with those other sins.
Lam 3:23 tells us that God's Graces are renewed every morning. That means every time I open my eyes in the morning, God has new Graces for me.
So that got me thinking: what else does the Bible say about the morning, the night, the day ?
What did others do when they awoke, during the day and when they went to bed ?
What were the daily rituals of those who felt God's renewed Graces every day ?
May this become my daily guide to experimenting God Graces every day.
GOD CREATED AND CONTROLS IT ALL
Day and night belongs to God Gen 1:5, 14-18, Ps 19:2, 65:8, 74:16, 104:20, 118:24, Jer 33:20, 25, Am 5:8, Mt 5:45
WHEN I WAKE
I will pray Ex 29:38-39, Ps 5:3, 88:13, 102:2
I will praise Ps 59:16, 92:2 (his graces)
I will have joy Ps 30:5, 118:24
I will work Ps 104:22-23, Ec 10:16, 11:6
I will act justly Jer 21:12
I will meditate on the Word Lk 21:38, John 8:2
I am given love Ps 42:8
I am healed Mal 4:2
EXAMPLE OF THOSE WHO WOKE EARLY TO
Obey: Abraham Gen 22:3, Joshua Jos 6:12, 8:10
Reconcile: Isaac and Esau Gen 26:31
Worship: Jacob Ge 28:18, Moses Ex 24:4, Israel Ex 29:38-42
Depend on God: Israel Ex 16:21
Correct an evil: King Darius with Daniel Dan 6:19
Pray: Jesus Mk 1:35
Preach: Peter and the apostles Acts 5:21
WHEN I SLEEP
I will meditate Gn 24:63
I will worship Ex 29:38-39
I will praise Jb 35:10, Ps 42:8, 92:2 (his faithfulness)
I will repent Ps 30:5
I will rest Ps 104:23, John 9:4
I will repent Jl 1:13
I will settle my wrath Ep 4:26
I am at peace Ps 4:8
EXAMPLES OF THOSE WHO DID THINGS AT NIGHT
Pray: Samuel 1Sam 15:11
Pray: Jesus Mt 14:23, Lk 6:12
ALL DAY (day and night)
I am guided Ex 13:21-22, 40:38, Num 14:14, Neh 9:19, Ps 78:14
I am seen 1Ki 8:29, 2Chr 6:20
I am followed by goodness and love Ps 23:6
I am shown my sins Ps 32:3-4
I am protected Ps 121:6
I am being accused, and defended Rev 12:10
I will talk about God Dt 6:6-7
I will be near to Him 1Ki 8:59
I will meditate on the Word Ps 1:2, Jos 1:8
I will pray Neh 1:6, Ps 22:2, 55:17, 88:1, Lam 2:18, Matt 6:11, Lk 11:3, 18:7, 1Thess 3:10, 1Ti 5:5, 2Ti 1:3
I will not fear Ps 91:5
I will worship Lk 2:37
I will take up my cross Lk 9:23
I will exhort others Acts 20:31
I will work 1Thess 2:9, 2Thess 3:8
God's plan is in motion Mk 4:27
God is being praised Rev 4:8
The pain of God's absence Rev 20:10
During my studies and reflections on Grace, it became crystal clear to me why its concept is the most unique one in all of religious history.
Here's how I can vulgarize it all, under the light of the DID, GET verbs.
- Every religion and belief system promotes the notion that:
You have to DO things to GET things.
- Biblical Grace says:
You can't DO anything to GET anything. Someone else (Jesus) DID everything so we can GET everything. You can only BELIEVE in that and LIVE accordingly.
Grace is irrational. There is no logical explanation as to why God would give such a gift to those who receive it. None. He doesn't gain anything more from the transaction which ended up costing Him everything.
Since Grace, and its irrationality, is the foundation of the Scriptures, it got me to reflect on everything else that doesn't 'make sense' - to those on the outside looking in ... and often to those who follow Christ.
I conquer by yielding.
I find rest under a yoke.
I am saved for eternity by nothing that I do and by the simplest faith.
I reign by serving.
I find riches when I am poor in spirit and when I give beyond my means.
I forgive because I am forgiven and to be forgiven.
I am made content through sufferings.
I am made great by becoming small.
I become wise by being a fool for Christ's sake.
I am made free by becoming a bondservant.
I honor myself by honoring God and other's first.
I love myself by loving God and other's first.
I seek first an invisible kingdom.
I am loved, and I love, by choice, not emotions.
I am exalted when I am humble.
I gain strength when I am weak.
I triumph through defeat.
I find victory by glorying in my infirmities.
I live by daily dying.
I am first by putting myself last
I am most satisfied when God is most glorified.
Real riches have nothing to do with what I own.
Real wisdom has nothing to do with what I know.
Real salvation has nothing to do with what I do.
Real freedom has nothing to do with what I choose.
Real glory has nothing to do with how others see me.
Real food has nothing to do with what I eat or drink.
Real value has nothing to do with my accomplishments.
Real beauty has nothing to do with what I see.
Real strength has nothing to do with what I can bear.
Real pleasure has nothing to do with me.
Real love has nothing to do with what I feel.
Real power has nothing to do with what I control.
It doesn't make sense. And that is why I believe.