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!

The Line We All Need to Cross (or, The Cross that Drew the Line)

And now, we return you to your regularly scheduled reading…

I am back from my trip to El Salvador and thankful to once again feel the keys of my computer under my fingertips.  I have missed the therapeutic lull that arises when I put my thoughts on virtual paper and erase my numerous errors with the simple tap of a delete key.  Ah, the blessings of living in a technological age!

Since the mission of this trip was to share the gospel, I had many opportunities to sit down and share my faith with the wonderful people of San Salvador.  One thing I noticed while doing this was the lack of security many people had in knowing that, in Jesus, all things are complete because He finished it all.  That is the root from which this writing grew.  I hope it makes clear to all who read it that Jesus is the author, perfecter, and completer of our faith.  We have no starting line apart from His finish line.

The Line We All Need to Cross


The Cross that Drew the Line

                                               Jesus…said, “It is finished!”  John 19:30                                            “…the end of your faith-the salvation of your souls.”  I Peter 1:9

                Begin with the end in mind.  That is habit number two for ‘highly successful people’ and practice number one for ‘harmoniously saved people’.  The idea is that, whatever you put your hand to, you look forward to the end result before you even begin.  In other words, when you step up to the starting line, you look ahead to the finish line.  It sounds wise.  It sounds elementary enough.  It contains only two positional words:  the beginning and the end.  No big deal.  We’ve got this, right?  And yet…

And yet this practice has made the list of the top seven habits we, by default, do not have.  How can something so simplistic be so difficult to achieve?  After all, do I not wake up each morning and plan to return to bed that night?  Do I not open a Diet Coke and know that my goal is to drink it all?  And, whenever I unwrap a Reese’s, do I not determine to eat both peanut butter cups?  Yet, even in such mundane areas, I fail to cross the finish line.  I stay up too late, I pour out half-empty cans, and I…well, I do finish off the Reese’s, but you get the point.  Beginning with the end in mind is a practice that needs to be practiced; it needs to be repeated so often that it becomes habitual, and not just as it applies to our physical lives, but more importantly…most eternally, as it applies to our spiritual lives.

As believers, we all need to begin with the end in mind.  In fact, for us, the finish line is actually our starting line.  Without the line Jesus drew while on the cross, we’d have nowhere to place our feet; no demarcation of where we are to line up.  But there is a line.  A boldly drawn, perfectly poured, mercifully etched, crimson line.  And upon this line, we find our starting point. Because Jesus finished the race, we are free to start the run.

I don’t know about you, but I know (all too well) about me.  I’m a list maker.  I write things down so I can cross them off.  I, like others with encryptophobia (the fear of not writing things down), even add things to my list that I’ve already done just so I can cross them off!  It’s a strange phenomenon and one I attribute to an innate need to accomplish something.  I think (not to excuse or vindicate my habit) this drive is present because God wired us to seek the end of things; He wants us to look toward the finish line.  I think this is true because we see this attribute in Jesus.  He too had a list of things to accomplish while on earth and, when He had completed them, He crossed each one off with a drop of His blood.

As I look over Jesus’ earthly life, it is clear that He began with the end in mind.  When He cried out, “It is finished!” from the cross, He had, quite literally, crossed off salvation, struggles, and security from His list.  Jesus crossed these off of His list so we wouldn’t have them upon ours.  We cannot obtain salvation, or overcome struggles, or find security apart from Jesus. So He finished these for us, that through faith we would be complete in Him.  The first item Jesus crossed of His list was our salvation.  Through His death, God received a sinless sacrifice to cover our sins.  Our acceptance of this payment means we no longer have a sin debt.  We no longer have to bring a blood sacrifice with us when we come to worship because Jesus put an end to that practice; His death was the final, and complete, sacrifice for all sin.  What lies in the past is past; what lies in the present is past; and, what lies in the future is past.  Behind us, beside us, before us; when it comes to our salvation, “It is finished.”

Along with our salvation, Jesus also crossed off purposeless struggles.  He didn’t eradicate trials completely, but He ensured “that all things [would] work together for our good” (Romans 8:28) when we place our trust in Him.  As believers, we learn to look at struggles in a new light and with a redeemed vision.  Rather than seeing difficulties as obstacles meant to trip us up, we see them as obstacle courses meant to strengthen us and increase our agility.  James writes that we should “consider it pure joy when [we] encounter trials because the testing of [our] faith develops perseverance” and that we should “allow perseverance to finish its work, that [we] may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:2-3).  So, meaningless struggles?  They too were crossed off of Jesus’ list when He said, “It is finished.”    struggles-it-is-finished

Thirdly, there is the completion of our security.  Having drawn a finish line for our salvation and for our struggles, Jesus fully intended for us to live, well…fully.  Hopefully, gracefully, worshipfully, truthfully, prayerfully, bountifully, fruitfully, and purposefully.  When we step into the fullness of His redemption, we also step fully into the assurance of His love and we have the security of knowing that “no one shall snatch us from His hand.”  (John 10:27).  Just as there was nothing we could do to earn our salvation, so too is there nothing we can do to lose our salvation.  The security comes in knowing that it’s not the strength of our grasp that secures us to God, but the unfailing grip of His hand that keeps us nestled in the palm of His hand.

Beginning with the end in mind.  Jesus did it.  His thoughts were on us before He left Heaven; His finish line was drawn before we even knew there was a race to be run.  But upon that line, we place our feet; upon that line we begin to “run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12:1).  While it is true that upon coming to Christ, God begins a new work in us, it is we who are placed at the starting line, not Jesus.  His line was drawn at the cross and that line was a line of completion; His finish line becomes our starting line and, because of what Jesus crossed off His list, we are able to not only begin with the end in mind, but to begin with our mind already anchored to the end; anchored to the One who is the Alpha and the Omega (Rev. 1:8), the beginning and the end.  For when it comes to our salvation, our struggles, and our security…most assuredly, “It is finished!”