Amazing Grace

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Meditating this morning on Luke 1:26-30 and Gabriel’s words to Mary: “Greetings, you who are highly favored!” (vs 28) What was it about Mary that make her “highly favored?” Was it that she was a virgin? Hardly – there were many virgins in Israel. Was she somehow superior to other young women? The Scriptures don’t support that, even though the Roman Catholic Church teaches that she was.
Here’s the point we struggle with in the 21st century – it wasn’t about Mary at all. When we read the Bible we tend to focus heavily on the characters in the story because we are looking for something in them with which we can identify. “My favorite Bible character is Peter, because I can identity with him; we’re just alike.” I’ve said it myself about certain Bible people with whom I feel a “connection.” In the same way, we look at God and identify characteristics that highlight how He relates to us. And again, I’ve done it – my favorite attribute of God is His faithfulness, because He has been so very faithful to me. That is not wrong in and of itself, but it’s miss-focused. You and I need to see God for who He is, not who He is “to me.”
The Greek word “favor” means “grace.” Favor is a gift, a kindness, a blessing and it says nothing about the recipient, and everything about the Giver. When Gabriel spoke his greeting he wasn’t exalting Mary, he was highlighting the undeserved grace of God to her. We have a hard time wrapping our minds around that because we are a merit-based society. But there was really nothing special about Mary – God’s favor was purely His own choice. She received it in the same manner – praising Him for His grace, mercy and power (vs. 46-55). It is the same with our salvation. Despite what the church teaches, we don’t “choose to receive Jesus” – He chooses us to receive His grace – our only part is to respond in faith.
What’s your story with God Beloved? Do you recognize that you were chosen by nothing more or less than His grace? If we are in God’s blessed family it is all His doing, not yours or mine. Let’s refocus our spiritual understanding on this gift. It’s not about who we are – it’s all God’s Amazing Grace.

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Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

You are winner. Smiling man looking in mirror and pointing on himself with help of his index fingers.

“Jesus answered, ‘I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill'” (John 6:26).

Yesterday we sang one of my favorite old hymns, “It is Well With My Soul,” and it moved me profoundly. The story behind this precious hymn is part of the reason why it touches my heart every time I sing it. Horatio Spafford, following the devastating loss of first his son, then his business, sent his wife and four daughters ahead by ship to Europe. On the way the ship sank and his daughters all perished. As he sailed to meet his grieving wife, Spafford wrote these words as the ship passed over the watery grave of his beloved children:

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea billows roll;

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,

It is well, it is well with my soul.

I compared it to modern Western Christian music and found today’s offerings wanting. I’ve noticed a disturbing trend in Christian media – music, books, articles, and messages – over the past few years.  It’s all becoming less about who God is and more about who I am in Him, and it places God in a secondary role.  The result is, rather than worshiping God, we are worshiping who we are because of God.  And rather than presenting God as one who is worthy of worship in His own right, we claim His worth is seen in our worth.  In the current “Christian” culture, the theme is, “No matter what happens, it’s all about who I am in Christ.”  And honestly, that’s what sells today.  But Spafford, with a broken heart said, “When sorrows like sea billows roll . . . It is well with my soul.” His sole focus was the eternal state of his soul, not his identity.  Reading the full song, he found all he needed in the rock-solid assurance of his salvation, in the sweet forgiveness of his sins, and the glorious promise of Christ’s return. Despite his hardships and grief, all that mattered was that it was well between himself and God.

Modern Christianity in the West has become self-absorbed and consumed with what God has done/can do for me, just like the crowd in John 6:26.  They were part of Jesus’ miraculous feeding of the five thousand (John 6:1-13) and they wanted more.  Not more of Jesus, but more of what He could do for them.   In verse 27 Jesus told them essentially, don’t focus on what you want or need, but focus on “eternal life.”  Focus on Me.  Again, they came back with, “what will you do for us?” (v. 30).  He responded, not by telling them He would give them more bread, but by telling them: “I am the Bread of Life” (v. 35).  We are no different when we fail to see past what He can do for us to see who He is.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a fuddy-duddy who wants to spoil the celebration.  It is right to praise God’s faithfulness and goodness to us, but I find our acclamations seem to always turn the spotlight on ourselves and God becomes second to our “worth and identity.” The best-selling Christian books and “Bible” studies are written with a definite self-focus – all about finding “my worth, my value, my identity.”  We’ve begun to use God like a divine mirror, looking to Him to gaze on our own reflection when we should be so blinded by His brilliance and beauty that we can’t see ourselves at all.

I fell in love with Lauren Daigle’s song “You Say,” but I began to look closely at the lyrics and realized it’s completely “me-centered.” Over and over she says, “I believe what you say . . . about me.”  Look at the second verse:

The only thing that matters now is everything You think of me
Cause in You I find my worth, in You I find my identity

That honestly disturbs me – but it follows the trend of the day – the only thing that matter is who I am, not who God is.  (And I still love Lauren Daigle.)  Friend, we need a refresher course in humility and in the greatness of our God.  We need to realize that what matters is not what God thinks of me nor is it my worth and identity – it is God – only God, and His worth and identity. We need to hold Him up for the world to worship and adore, not to be the reflection of our own faces.

Beloved, who is God to you?  Is He the one who is worthy of worship and adoration?  Or is He the one who makes you worthy?  Is your life a reflection of Him, or is He a reflection of your identity?  Who does the world see when they look at you? May we seek to be nothing more than mirrors that reflect His beauty and His worthiness.

 

Check out this video of the Issacs singing, “It Is Well With My Soul”