Contemplating truth as I write to you this week touches my heart in special way. I long to bring a bit of blessing with each note that I scribe, praying that in some way your lives will be given a measure of grace. As I think about issuing a challenge as a change agent this week I need to come back to that special word, Grace.
Grace is His unmerited favor.
We are meant to be inheritors of grace, but even more we, who have once received grace and the redemption that comes through the cleansing blood of the Savior, are supposed to be grace-givers ourselves. Unfortunately, it is here, within the fold, that I see less-than-graceful being displayed in our daily encounters. It is here, within our families of faith where grace loses its significance because we take the other scriptures to edify, to teach, and to admonish a little too seriously.
Friends, grace is unmerited favor and we do not get to choose who receives it, especially within the Body of Christ. If Jesus accepts us when we are stained and broken, then why do we freely limit administration as we are tripping in the aisles?
I have been pondering just what I could offer as a Make a Difference Challenge this week. Each time I am drawn back to a topic that has been on my heart for a long time.
What does it really mean to be a friend in Christ?
How can we devote ourselves to grace when we don’t know how to receive it fully?
My heart longs to see women of God lifted up and encouraged; strong and confidant with complete assurance that their beauty and worth comes straight from the approval of God.
Another grace-giver wrote a book which was released this year called The Love Idol. Jennifer has been making waves as she , addresses the issue of our worth in the light of His love for us. She writes about the difficulty we daughters face in our ability to find our worth in the mirror and leads us away from seeking approval in any other place than the heart of the Father. I just bought it for myself today because I need to be reminded to take the effort to adjust my eyesight upward … always.
A Challenge to be a grace-giver in order to be a life-changer.
I’d like to challenge you this week to rock this near-sighted vision we have when it comes to each other. When will we stop looking at everything with the purpose of placing a label on it? When will we recognize the hurting we inflict with the careless words and the misspent judgments? They are not the effect of grace but the alter-ego which corrodes and destroys everything in its path, the unloveliness of pride defies the very nature of grace.
- Too often we are letting the pride of being good enough allow us to demean others so we feel better. That is not grace.
- Too often we are willing to speak words of instruction or warning only to partake in the gossip tree that breeds contempt within. That is not grace.
- Too often we choose unforgiveness and rationalization of our feelings rather than do the hard work of living and loving. That is not grace.
I know this, because I have been here. Maybe not always openly, or even willful in sharing my thoughts, but I have thought them. I have entertained the unholy to justify my own feelings of limited self-worth.
The problem is, friends that when we do this, we really don’t feel better and we eventually hurt others.
It doesn’t give me joy to speak unkindly about my neighbor, and it doesn’t make my life richer to rationalize what is wrong. Pride always causes me to stumble, so why do I allow it to interfere in the relationships that God has authorized as good and valuable within the body?
An Example of Faithful Friends defined by Grace
Ruth and Naomi give a glorious glimpse of what real friendship looks like. Love in action and grace in full force. I have come to love this book of the Bible, deeply. I have fallen in love with the story of redemption woven throughout. Naomi led Ruth to God. Ultimately 3 lives were transformed and redeemed: Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz.
Ruth chose devotion that was as deep as any connection could go. In Ruth 1:16-19 she begs Naomi to allow her to follow.
And Ruth said, Urge me not to leave you or to turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and where will I be buried. The Lord do so to me, and more also, if anything but death parts me from you. When Naomi saw that Ruth was determined to go with her, she said no more. So they both went on.
This is one of many examples of friendship, covenant relationship, that the Word reveals. I love reading the stories layered in the Word because they are both real and revelational. Each one has a purpose to teach us, guide us, lead us to truth, and to lives of real purpose.
Ruth’s example of grace towards Naomi reflects Naomi’s kindness given first.
Ruth was determined to follow the one she loved; clinging to Naomi for fear that being apart from her would be a worse fate than death. This is how we should be with Christ. Out of that devotion our relationship with Him should cause us to love one another in a deep and abounding grace that allows mercy to shower each moment in kindness.
Ruth was not only determined, she was intentionally consistent in her service. She never missed a chance to bless Naomi. Every opportunity where she was increased was spilled forward into Naomi, even at the end of the story when out of Ruth’s obedience and willingness to forsake all for God’s best, she completed the circle of grace with the birth of a child of completion. Obed was not only the blessing for Ruth and Boaz, but the reminder that God had never left Naomi.
Ruth’s inclusion in scripture reminds us that it doesn’t matter what someone’s background is, God will accept them. Ruth, a gentile was later included and welcomed in the nation of Israel. Boaz, too, had a connection to a woman with a past, his mother was Rahab, and yet they are included in the very lineage of Christ.
If in His grace He is accepting of those who were outside of that favor at one time, why do we as a body now find it so easy to mistake our true calling as grace-dwellers?
Dwell in virtue, bathe in hope, abound in mercy, give out grace.
I am ready to throw aside the clothing of the whitewashed tomb and don the garment of virtue like Ruth. Do you want to join me?
Let’s be women of grace in our actions, our speech, and our loving. God is challenging me to choose forgiveness before it needs to be offered, to serve without considering whether it is noticed, and to love with reckless abandon even if it is not returned.
This is the kind of life that grace defines… unmerited favor for others.
Praying for you this week as you fill up on His blessings and know His grace.
Blessings In Christ,
** Special prayer request: On Wednesdays I link up with a blogging friend as we share our hearts together in His Word. Rebekah is in need of prayers today and this week. You can find her sharing truth at asoftgentlevoice.blogspot.com. If you think of it, send her a sweet note of encouragement and pray for this mighty woman of God as she trusts Him to meet her needs. Thank you!***
Linking up with sweet women of grace: Jen at SDG Gathering, Sybil at Make A Difference Mondays, Holly at Testimony Tuesday, Holley at Coffee for your Heart, Jennifer at #TellHisStory, Rebekah at Words of Life Wednesdays, Beth at Three Word Wednesday, Lyli @ Thought Provoking Thursdays, Crystal at Serving Joyfully, Laura at MissionalWomen, Julie at Christian Mommy Blogger, and Sarah Ann at Saturday Soiree Blog Party.