Forfeited Grace or Amazing Grace

“Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs,” the reluctant prophet Jonah wrote.

I stumbled across the verse this summer. One I had probably read 100 times over. But on this occasion, it grabbed me. And as we began our summer by spending one night in ER, my husband having an emergency gall bladder removal surgery, I started recognizing the pure grace that resided in the midst of trials. I saw grace for what it was, evident in the hardest year of my life. And for the first time in my life, I have had moments and even days, of fear being a completely vacant emotion in my life, erased by pure grace.

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Grace is in every breath of life God gives. It’s not ethereal, it’s reality. His nearness, his grace, his sustaining stunning peace is hope for tomorrow. Because the amazing grace He gives came at the greatest cost imaginable.

Amazing grace, saves. Saves the wretches, the every man who cares to admit their lives are tainted and ruined by sin. Mary of Bethany, both scoffed and revered through the ages for pouring out her love and gratefulness at a tear-fauceted feet washing scene, is the embodiment of amazing grace. There is also the grace that causes us to fully live. There was another Mary. Mary of Nazareth, who was visited by an angel and told she had found favor with God. The very definition of grace, unmerited favor. Mary was given grace to be the vehicle in bringing about the most miraculous and life changing person in all of history. Two Marys baptized in grace.

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There is, however, another way to live.

“Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.” (Jo 2:8 NIV) It could be that a person hasn’t encountered the amazing grace for the first time, the grace that saves from death to eternal life. But, it could also be, the one who like Mary of Bethany, bathed Jesus in a river of tears, find themselves skipping through life, avoiding ruts and stones. However, the focus on the path can in essence be the thing that trips up. The grace that was accompanied by tears on the feet of Jesus on the day of salvation is the grace that is here to accompany every day for the rest of our lives. Grace, his unmerited favor. His sweet Presence, His nearness.

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How quickly we forget. We watch the path we are on, and become acquainted with helpful devices, coping mechanisms, ways to get through. We lose sight of Jesus, we forfeit grace. We read stories like the Israelites in Exodus, and it looks so foreign, so counter-cultural, it’s easy to cast aside as non-applicable. What were those people thinking? Their leader went up on a mountain for a few days. The people became antsy. They talked to the next guy in charge, “yeah, bring me all your gold (wealth and security), let’s bow to that, instead. God seems to not be here anymore.” Their attention span appears to be less than that of a toddler.

And in their anxiety, insecurity, impatience, frustration, fear, they cling to a golden image of a calf.

“Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.”

The reluctant prophet found himself in the confines of grace more unique and obscure than any other human being. In the belly of a great fish, his life was spared, given a second chance. It was there, in the bile confines of an impenetrable prison he got the revelation.

“Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.”

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Even in his running way, grace met him, it was always there. But when his focus changed from escaping life to actually having the privilege to live, he recognized the grace that was always there.

With honest candor and justification masked as grace, we often cling to coping mechanisms, worthless idols. Too much coffee, excessive exercise, social media, the phone, “my show” that I cannot miss, food, addictions, shopping, relationships…we all have our idol of choice. How much do we forfeit the grace we have available moment by moment, day by day? We try to make sense of our jumbled up lives, examine the future what-ifs, and by it gain some sense of control. But by the same hand we are forfeiting the very grace given to survive and even thrive. By looking ahead and trying to bind things up in worry, we only jump ahead of grace.

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What if, when our soul ached and we didn’t know how to take another step without falling, we push over the worthless idol and cling to Jesus? Embraced by grace.

It’s a process, we will continue to have lots of practice and sometimes stepping out of a pattern of clinging to worthless idols takes substantial work. Sometimes it takes professional help, but what if we recognized that as grace? Sometimes we need the prayers of our friends, grace. Sometimes, we have to get out of our self-produced pity party, and recognize God pouring forth His love and grace, speaking loudly and personally through his Word and his world. Grace, always grace. Sometimes we have to walk into the very thing we dread, and discover his peace is right there to accompany us. Grace, amazing, unfathomable grace.

We get to chose everyday. Forfeited grace for an idol or amazing grace to fully live.

Thanks again for stopping by.  Grace to you today.


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