Saturday, April 4, 2015

The unforced rhythms of Grace

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to Me
Get away with Me and you’ll recover your life. 
I’ll show you how to take a real rest. 
Walk with Me and work with Me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of Grace
I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. 
Keep company with Me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
- - - - Matthew 11:28-30  (The Message)

Tonight I listened to the Easter Sunday morning message (on Saturday night where I live) - streamed live from Hillsong church in Australia. Pastor Brian spoke powerfully on the overwhelming power of the message of Grace - the simple message that the Cross equals Love, just asking from the Giving God who gives (James 1:5, AMP). 

And then he read the above passage from the Message. One of my favorite passages in the New Testament, it is Jesus talking. I know that the Message is a paraphrase and I won't get into a debate about what version is authorized or not. (I'm thinking the original one written in Greek is, but that's just a theory...) but those words - 'the unforced rhythms of Grace' - reached out to me and ministered to my heart. 

So much of what church and Christianity has become for me and for so many others has more to do with being forced. Pushing, fighting, persevering, sweating, fasting, agonizing. Really. There's only so much effort one can make before strength fails. 

Strength fails.

"I will give you rest," Jesus said. "My yoke is easy, My burden is light." It's not forced, not accomplished by grimacing in pain or doing a Daniel fast or tithing thirty percent or hopping to it every time the church doors are open. 

It's rest. Rest in Him. "Come to Me," Jesus said. Not "go to church." 

Am I saying not to go to church? well-l, all I can say is that lately whenever I've gone to church I've come home more upset than before I went...from all the "ands" and "ifs" I've been hearing, all the mind-games and controlling practices I see. As soon as the worship starts, it starts. Raise your hands, stand up, sit down. No, really MEAN this song, you're not doing it right. Go around and greet people, love on them. Okay that's enough, stop doing that. No really, greeting time is over; be quiet, I'm talking now. What's wrong with you? how come you're not saying Amen? Now stand up. Now sing this other song. Now learn a bunch more of stuff I know but you don't. Now add this religious practice to your life. And that one. And this other one. It'll help your faith grow. If you don't do it my way you are missing something, you're defective. Repent and come to the altar, you sinners... and on it goes; it's so sickening. 

Now, if church isn't like that for you, if you look forward to going and you sense the real presence of God, great!! But I wonder if we really feel His presence there, or whether we are being manipulated emotionally. I only know that I feel manipulated and judged, when I listen to anyone's voice but His. 

Photo "Loving Father And His Baby" courtesy of
David Castillo Dominici at
So when I go to church, I try not to listen to any other voice but the voice of Jesus, not to see any face but the face of Jesus. I don't sing for (or TO) anyone but Him. Anything less - any time I get my eyes off the One who loves me, and see the sea of people around me who are looking for a shepherd, I become discouraged and I sink into despair. 

I felt like that last Sunday. I was millimeters from throwing in the towel - not on God but on those who call themselves His people. I felt trapped, used, controlled, condemned. And I was dreading going to church this weekend -- of all weekends, Easter. Too many expectations, too much pressure. The prayers and words of a friend helped me to gain enough strength to just lay that aside and seek the face of God.

I was spinning my wheels all week, in turmoil, not knowing what to do or where to go (if anywhere).

And then those words. "Learn the unforced rhythms of Grace." 

I'd forgotten that the cross equals Love. That Love came down willingly and died for me, stretched out His arms to show how much He was going to take away - everything - everything in me that separated me from receiving His love. I'd forgotten how He rescued me, how He set me free, made me the righteousness of God. I'd forgotten how He took my sin away, loved it right out of me, blazed the trail back to Heaven by becoming just like me, just so I could let the Father love me.  

He led the captor captive, tore out his teeth and paraded him through the halls of hell to the cheers of those whom He had released from their long waiting. And He rose from the dead ... so I didn't have to fear that either.

And I didn't need a ritual to "remind" me.  I needed HIM. I needed His words. That promise of rest, of Grace already given for all time, of His presence with me. 

And it brought something to me that I have not experienced for a long time. 

Peace. Joy. And Love.

No comments:

Post a Comment