The Accentuation of Grace

The Accentuation of Grace

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.”  Titus 2:11

Snow in the south is like rain in the desert.  It’s prayed for, rejoiced over, and trampled through.  Its occurrences are rare, so when it does arrive, it is welcomed with squeals of delight and thunderous rounds of applause.  This past Friday, it received a standing…and sliding…ovation!

There’s something magnetic about snow.  Somewhere, in its molecular makeup, there’s a very powerful, people-pulling electron that makes one grab coats, boots, and gloves and run out into the midst of it.  No matter how old I get, when snow starts to fall, so too does my attraction to the indoors.  With each falling flake, I’m magnetized and hypnotized.  The next thing I know, I’ve been pulled outside and the polarized snowflakes are wreaking havoc on my molecular composition!

That’s what happened to me this past Friday.  The snow was falling so beautifully that I just had to go outside.  I walked to the creek, enjoying the snow as it fell within the woods.  As I looked about, I couldn’t help but notice the way the snow outlined the trees…each tree…every tree.  My eyes moved from one to another until I realized I was no longer looking at the woods, but through the woods!  And, my visibility didn’t stop there.  As far as my eyes could see, not only were shapes outlined, but so too were their details, bringing clarity and closeness to that which otherwise would have seemed far away.  Then I wondered…if this is true for snow, is it also true for grace?

If you’ve read a couple of my earlier posts, namely Snowflakes of Grace and Dirty Grace?, you know that I like to compare snow and grace  There’s just such an apparent correlation between the two that it’s hard for me to see the one without thinking of the other.  So on this day, when I was looking at the snow, I was thinking about its counterpart, grace.  And so I wondered, is there a connection between the visibility snow brings to trees and the visibility grace brings to lives?  Does grace etch a person’s life the way snow etches a tree’s branches?  Does grace impact a group the way snow impacts a woods, reducing the assemblage of many to an assortment of individuals?  Does grace, like snow, draw our vision out further and further until we see that which was once unnoticed?  And as I asked, the answers fell with the snow…and within the snow.  And that’s when I saw it:  the accentuation of grace.

I must say, I was not expecting to receive such a lesson.  Snow-lined trees had never appeared before as tutors of God’s word, but on this day that’s just what they were.  And because of God’s grace, I had ears to hear…or, more precisely, eyes to hear.  And through my eyes, God spoke gracefully, glisteningly, and gloriously.  Once again, He showed me truths through His snowflakes of grace.  As I attempt to share these truths with you, please have your visualization glasses handy…they may enhance your hearing!

Remember how I said the snow on the trees caused them to stand out so that I was able to see further?  That simple tracing of white caused each tree to stand apart from the others so that my eye traveled from one to another.   Those that, in their natural coloring, would have blended in with their wooded surroundings, now stood out as if highlighted by nature’s pen. Well, in much the same way, that’s what grace does to us.  Just as snow defines a tree, grace defines us.  Grace has a way of collecting in our crevices, of smoothing over our rough surfaces, and of highlighting our structures.  The presence of grace also causes us to stand out from others as our individuality is illuminated so that we’re no longer seen as a part of the whole, but now we’re seen apart from the whole.

So just how does this grace fall upon us?  How do we become people whose lives are etched with its snow-like purity?  It begins when we are drawn to God; this pulling is nothing short of God giving us that which we do not deserve (the definition of grace).  Paul records this snowfall in Ephesians 2:8.  “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God; not of works, lest anyone should boast.”  The first dusting of grace fell upon us when God called us to become His children through faith in Him.  The second sprinkling came when we received “redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” (Eph. 1:7).  The third flurry fell when we were justified freely by His grace.”  (Romans 3:24).  Then, because we have a Heavenly Father who loves to shower us with grace, He allows us to “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  (Hebrews 4:16).

With such an outpouring of grace, how can we not be demarked and defined?  How can we not stand out among and within the forest of humanity?  What snow does for trees, grace does for people.  The trouble, however, lies in the eyes; in the way that we look with them…and the way that we hear with them.  It’s one thing to notice snow on a tree…it’s quite another to notice grace on a person. Wouldn’t it be nice if, as our eyes scanned across the people we encounter every day, we saw them bedecked in grace?  What if we saw all that God covered rather than all that nature creased?  What if we saw the person instead of the party, the kid instead of the crowd?  What…if…we…saw…grace?  Would it change the way we greeted others, or treated others?  Would it change the distance of our vision…and the distinctness of our vision?  Would we see beyond what lies before and before what lies beyond?  And, if we saw such grace, how much more would we hear?  Instead of letting our eyes give voice to the world, would our eyes now give voice to the Creator?  Would we hear Him every time we saw them?  Here’s what I think:  what’s true in the woods is also true in the woulds.

Oh, that we would allow God’s grace to fall upon us, and to cover us, and to defines us.  Oh, that we would look upon others the way God looks upon us, as recipients of His robes of righteousness.  Oh, that we would see the accentuation of grace on mankind as clearly as we see the delineation of snow on maples.  Oh, that we would see every individual conspicuously outlined by God’s snowfall of grace.  And oh, that we would hear God’s gentle reminder…“for by grace you have been saved…and that not of yourselves…it is a gift from Me.”

A quiet snowfall, a quick walk, a quaint woods, a quaking lesson.  I hope you were able to see it with me…and to hear it with me.  Now, with God’s grace, I hope you will try to walk it with me.  We’ll need grace upon grace…but we have access to a never ending supply at the throne of grace.  Let’s plan on meeting there!

Definition Defined

Definition Defined

“The LORD will establish you as a holy people to Himself, just as He has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of the LORD your God and walk in His ways.”   Deuteronomy  28:9

 To mow or not to mow, that is the question, and it’s not answered by the length of the grass.  That is too obvious.  Who would even consider mowing a lawn whose blades weren’t in need of shortening?  No, the answer lies in the amount of time one has to do the job.  For me, if I don’t have enough time to mow and weed-eat, then I don’t have enough time to mow.  If I can’t complete the entirety of what is needed, then I don’t even begin.  The only thing worse (in my opinion) than a lawn in need of mowing is a mowed lawn in need of weed-eating.  Somehow the contrast between the tended and untended causes me to notice only the untended.  And that is an affront to my optic nerves!

At my house, when it comes to yard work, I can enlist helpers to mow the grass.  It’s not too difficult to find a volunteer to drive the riding lawn mower.  But, when it comes to doing the weed-eating (or, heaven forbid, the push mower), there isn’t a volunteer in sight and, while I have tried to reinstate the “yard draft”, that too has proven futile.  Turns out no one else has heard of this civil service act.  Go figure.  At any rate, I, by decree, default, and defeat, am the leader of the weed-eating army of…one.

So, as I was weed-eating the other day, I thought about why this portion of the yard work was so important to me.  Truly, no one else in my home values this procedure as much as I do, so I asked myself why it meant so much to me.  And the answer came in one word:  definition.  Weed-eating gives definition to a yard, clearly defining its boundaries.  Without it, there is no distinction between the areas that are being maintained and those that are not intended to be upheld.  I began to think about the word definition.  Later, because I thought it was ironic…and funny…, I looked up the definition for the word definition.  Here is what I found:  the degree of distinctness in outline of an object, image, or sound; synonyms – clarity, sharpness, crispness, acuteness.  As I thought about this word, I realized it encompassed far more than I had originally speculated.  Far beyond depicting my value of weed-eating, this four syllable word held a much deeper meaning; by its very definition, it identified itself as a word that stresses the importance of boundaries, of clarity and distinctness.

As I allowed this thought to expand, it quickly jumped the borders of yard work and crossed into the boundaries of life.  Once in this terrain, it began stamping its name upon those areas that also have, or are in need of, definition.  It tattooed its name on that which is written and spoken; communication relies on definition to be effective.  It seared its name upon art and music; even our senses need precision in order for appreciation to emerge.  It imprinted its name on policies and principles, contracts and covenants, government and the governed; all these rely upon clear definitions in order to function properly.  And then, with one fell swoop, it personally wrote its name upon the Church; not the building, but the body of believers.  There too, there especially, there more than anywhere else, definition was necessary.

But how does one apply this word to one’s life?  How, as Christians who are the Church, do we become defined?  How do we develop a “distinct outline” and increase our clarity and crispness?  The answer is found in the book of Deuteronomy.  Here, as Moses reiterates the laws God has given to His people as they prepare to enter the Promised Land, we read of how the Israelites were to be defined.  They were not to look like the people who lived in the land God was giving them; they were not to follow their customs or to practice foreign religions.  The Israelites were to be distinct…acutely different from those around them.  In Deuteronomy 4:1, Moses gives these reminders to the Israelites:

“Surely I have taught you statues and judgments, just as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should act according to them in the land which you go to possess.  Therefore, be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’”  

Then, in chapter 28:9-10, Moses records,

“The LORD will establish you as a holy people to Himself, just as He has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of the LORD your God and walk in His ways.  Then all peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the LORD, and they shall be afraid of you.”  (Bold font mine.)

In these cited verses, as well as in the entire book of Deuteronomy, God defines His people.  He addresses every aspect of living so that, by definition, the Israelites will be known as His children, with a clarity that is easily recognizable and a sharpness that is in stark contrast with those around them.  Throughout this book, warnings are given to those who don’t want to weed-eat; to those who are reluctant to keep their boundaries clearly marked.  For them, God warns that, once the perimeters are no longer clearly edged, their distinction will be lost and they will soon look more like their godless neighbors than like God’s chosen people.  When this occurs, they will exchange the blessings of godly obedience for the curses of ungodly obstinacy.

While the book of Deuteronomy records what the Israelites were to do in order to be a clearly defined people, its truths apply to all believers today who make up Christ’s bride, the Church.  We too are called to live in such a way that there is a distinctness about us; we are to have our boundaries clearly marked, and trimmed, so that others know what we believe and Who we belong to.  If we only tend to our general yards through church attendance, church events, Sunday School, etc. (group activities) and neglect the detail of weed-eating through daily Bible time, prayer, Scripture memorization, etc. (personal disciplines), then we will soon lose our definition and, as was true for the Israelites, begin to resemble the people around us more than the God we have been called to represent.  We will be yards whose borders are not clearly seen and, therefore, are easily trespassed.

So, whether or not you share my philosophy for literal weed-eating, I hope you will share my newly uncovered philosophy for spiritual weed-eating!  Truly we are to be distinctly Christian; people who, by definition, are to have a “degree of distinctness in outline and form”.  May we, as believers, be a people whose clarity, crispness, and acuity may be evident so that others might first see our faith and then see our Savior.  Now that’s weed-eating at its best!