Being an “Attractive Nuisance” – It’s All About Grace

TP2007-32   When my children were small, they wanted a trampoline.  The problem was that my husband was in the insurance claims business and had seen numerous cases of suits against homeowners when uninvited children in the neighborhood came to play on them and were injured; they were called “attractive nuisances.”  They were so appealing that they drew children to them regardless of the boundaries of “private property.”

I want to be an “attractive nuisance” for Christ.  I want the flavor of my life, the way I treat others, the way I respond to situations, the way I love even my enemies to make people stop and say, “I want what you have.”  Unfortunately, there are many times that none of those well reflect my Savior and many times I cringe to think how I have been a “nuisance,” but not a particularly attractive one.  Yet, I pray that each of these will increasingly become more evident in my life and more and more I will have opportunity “to give reason for the hope I have” (I Peter 3:15); that being Christ in me, the hope of glory  (Colossians 1:27).

Even in the midst of conversations that are difficult; in the midst of issues where I will conflict with another as I stand on the Word of God, I pray that my words, while unwavering from the life and freedom giving truth, will be seasoned with salt, with grace, with the love of Christ so others will be drawn to the Savior.   I want others who are convinced that “doing what is right in their own eyes” is freeing to take pause and see in me the joy that comes from true freedom; not a freedom that is contrary to a holy God, but the humble desire to grow more in love with that God and more eager to become ever more like my Savior.

Many times I hear grace and striving to be wholly in opposition to one another.  The Bible does not teach that.  Without a doubt I am redeemed, saved by grace through faith in the work of Christ on the cross and this not of myself so there is no opportunity for me to boast (Ephesians 2:9).  But God calls me and each of us to perfect our holiness out of reverence for and a fear of God (2 Corinthians 7:1).   And, though it is His charge to me as a believer – to seek out and work out holiness in my life, to run the race to which He has called me and to pursue holiness – that is not of myself either.  I cannot boast about any good thing I do or even obedience to His Word; for without a doubt, it is by God’s grace  that I am even able to exercise self control, that I have hunger to cultivate being more like Christ, that I have an increasing hatred of sin in my own life as well as in the lives of others not in a legalistic manner but because I have experienced, seen, and continue to see its defiance of God and the destructiveness and pain that follows.

But it is also by grace I am able and free to love those who are caught in its web, to pray for my enemies, to seek and pursue peace but not to, in the process, deny truth.  And, at the end of the day, when I am overwhelmed by my own weaknesses,  I can say “Father, forgive me” and not worry about whether or not He will, in spite of my failures and limitations, which will be mine until I am in His presence!

I am free to live but my life is not my own; I have been bought with a price so I must glorify God with my body, my actions, my words, my thoughts.  I do not feel bound or constrained by any man made rules, but I am joyfully and gratefully bound by Christ who did not abolish the Law but rather fulfilled its demands while expanding its meaning; by Christ who calls us to live in such a manner that we accomplish it more fully so that we are able to love others more deeply and more like He loves us.

It is my prayer that I am increasingly an “attractive nuisance,” drawing people to Christ in spite of their aversion to the rules they find binding but which, in Him, are anything but!

“Grace is not simply leniency when we have sinned. Grace is the enabling gift of God not to sin. Grace is power, not just pardon.” — John Piper, The Pleasures of God

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age” (Titus 2:11-12).

Dare to Be a David

I’ve often heard the question:  If David was a murderer and an adulterer, how could he be called a man after God’s own heart?  And yet, according to the Bible, he was!

Yes, David acted on his inclinations and there can be no mistaking his deep guilt.  But his response to confrontation – the accountability he received from Nathan- and his subsequent choice to repent and submit to God is what leads to that designation.

He was broken, but he did not remain there.  He was guilty, but he did not defend his sin or justify it.  He confessed it to the Lord and was forgiven.  He agonized over his sin in the face of the Holy God whom he knew to be loving, yet also just.  The consequences of his choices remained – his son from that liaison died and another son sought to kill him, but before the God who knew him, he was restored and transformed.  He acknowledged his guilt, repented, and sought the heart of God.  From that day forward, David chose to follow hard after God who forgave so much.

He asked God to CREATE in him a clean heart.  To create something, it must be lacking.  So he was asking God to instill in him something he knew he did not have – a clean heart.  And David asked God to RENEW a right spirit within him because he knew his spirit was beaten down, tainted by his sin, and could again be led astray.  He knew, as Jeremiah 17:9 says, that “the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked.”  To stay steadfast, it was clear to him that he had to be hidden in God Almighty.  At his point of surrender, he did not run and hide as Adam and Eve did in the garden but came clean before God for he knew he could not cover himself.  David humbled himself before the God of Eternity, before El Elyon – the Most High God, before Yahweh His Lord!  And God restored him.

Indeed, in terms of a sinful heart, none of us are any different.   For each of us have sinned against the three times Holy God in a myriad of ways both in actions and thoughts that we have nurtured and not given up to the Lord.  So, Jesus says that in our hearts and with our hands, we have sinned against God and deserve judgement.

But praise be to Him when we have exercised the self control that is a fruit of the Spirit and not acted on those thoughts and desires leading to sin with greater consequences; but make no mistake, thoughts contrary to the law and truth of God that we feed and nurture rather than submit and confess, are sin.  We “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God!”  (Romans 3:23)

It is not for us to compare ourselves to others and think we look pretty good.  Our only comparison is to be against Jesus Christ and in that we are found sorely lacking, every time; it’s why we each need a Savior.  The great joy is that our God has provided Jesus to redeem us, to pay the penalty – “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  (I John 1:9)  And that same Savior died and was raised to life to free us from the power of sin as well – “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness…and to live self-controlled…lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” (Titus 2:11-14)

Just like David, we can humble ourselves before the Lord, acknowledge rather than justify our sin, turn away from it, and be restored to the heart of God where there is true freedom.  And where there are consequences for our actions, as David had to face, God gives the strength and the courage to walk through them and even use them for our good and His glory!

When I was a child, there was a song, “Dare to Be a Daniel,” and that we are to do.  In Daniel of old’s footsteps, we are to model his faith and courage in God and  be people of integrity who dare to stand against the culture when it is contrary to God’s heart.   But I also think we must dare to be a David; I must be.  As a Daniel, I am to stand boldly in God’s strength.  As a David, I will seek to be a woman after God’s heart; a woman willing to say “Show me my sin, Lord, and create in me a clean heart, O God!  Renew a right spirit within me!”  (Psalm 51:10)  Then will I be restored and refreshed and able to bring that restoration and refreshment to others.

“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord”  Acts 3:19

It’s A New Day

It seems that in recent days, there have been a lot of difficult circumstances for those I love.  And there have certainly been tragedies in the weather and by way of other’s actions that we hear daily.   A tornado in Hattiesburg, MS, a snow storm in the eastern part of the United States, political turmoil, a life taken in anger, an unborn life taken out of fear, bodies wearing down from disease or age, discouragement from life circumstances, lost jobs, consequences of our own choices, a broken heart from betrayal – all are evidence of a fallen world and of fallen people.

My heart has grieved with each story that has been brought to me and I have taken every one of them to the Lord.  I have been tempted to say, “I wish I could do more; I wish I could fix ‘it.’”  Last night was no exception.  But He gently reminds me that when I lay them before the throne of the Almighty God, it is not the “least” I can do but the very best.   For as Zechariah 4:6 says, “it is not by my might or my power but by His Spirit” that healing begins, continues, and finds its fullness.

I woke this morning and God, in His goodness, put a new song in my heart (Psalm 40:3)!  He pointed me back to the hope that I have in Christ!  Sometimes He changes circumstances and sometimes He chooses to allow the situations but changes us in the midst of them.  I am still to pray and where I can, put forth action; but, ultimately, true healing will be found for all who need it only in a relationship with the living God through the work of Jesus!

And, even in the midst of the “hard,” our God’s mercy is evident, His glory revealed!

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“It’s a New Day,” has been in my head, on my heart, and welling in my soul this morning reminding me that, regardless of the circumstances, I am alive in Him and no circumstance can change that.  It is not only a future hope but a joyful celebration of the present certainty!

It’s A New Day by Kristian Stanfill

It’s a new day!

Everything  changed when Your love came into the darkness and You sent the light of the Son.
You sent the light of the Son.
Wake up, open your eyes, no longer dead, we are alive!
Rise up children of light. Open the doors. Go let it shine!
There is freedom in Your kingdom.
For You Jesus, we will be dancing, forever Your joy is our song.
Song for the broken – let it shine!  Into the shadows – let it shine!
Hope for the whole world – let it shine!

One Thing Remains by Kristian Stanfill

Higher than the mountains that I face

Stronger than the power of the grave
Constant in the trial and the change
One thing remains, one thing remains.

Your love never fails.  It never gives up. It never runs out on me.
Because on and on and on and on it goes.
It overwhelms and satisfies my soul.
And I never, ever, have to be afraid.
One thing remains, one thing remains.

Your love never fails.  It never gives up. It never runs out on me.
In death, in life, I’m confident and covered by the power of Your great love
My debt is paid; there’s nothing that can separate my heart from Your great love.
Your love never fails.  It never gives up. It never runs out on me.

Psalm 40:1-5

I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry.  He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.  He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in Him.

Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods.

Many, Lord my God, are the wonders You have done, the things You planned for us. None can compare with You; were I to speak and tell of Your deeds, they would be too many to declare.

Romans 8:38-39

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Cries of the Heart

There are times we cry.

Yes, we long for and delight in tears of joy, but what of the moaning of the heart?  Tears may be tender and quiet; at other times they come almost violently, physically draining – weeping of deep sorrow.  The grieving may come from the physical pain of illness, loss of life, the betrayal of a friend or a loved one, the death of a dream, watching a loved one wrestle and drift, the waiting that does not fit our time table, or a myriad of other reasons.

Great joy does not always exclude sorrow.  There are times my greatest joy has come from my deepest sadness and loss when it meant that God had torn away something that was not for my ultimate best.  At other times, the profound sorrow led to a deeper understanding of and dependence on my tender Savior.  He has often turned my “mourning into dancing.”  (Psalm 30:11)

Seasons of life have arisen when my own compromise with that which I know God had called me to or away from was made to extend my comfort.  But no lasting comfort, satisfaction, or pleasure comes from being the prodigal – either running to the far country or just outside the walls of His protection.  Tears that flow from leaving behind something that was not His best or was totally contrary to His heart are dried in the reality of the sure hope that my God knows what is the most excellent path for me and will bring it to completion if I will just surrender and trust.  His course may not always be easy, but it is, ultimately, the most pleasant.  It may not come with immediate relief, but He does promise the “still rest” as we remain steadfast waiting for our faith to become sight.  And, oh that amazing view!  But even if it never becomes sight this side of heaven, it will be worth the surrender of my will.

The cries of the heart often stem from the longings with which we were created and which, when fulfilled, will be satisfied – but only partially here.   As glorious, pleasing, and satisfying as they are now and will be in this life, they are only dim reflections of things we cannot even imagine!  They are gifts that delight from the hand of our good and gracious God, intended to point us to a greater love, a grander gift, a deeper joy!

“Now we see through a glass dimly…but then we will see (clearly) face to face…now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.”  (I Corinthians 13:12)

Will I allow the cries of my heart to be dried by the hand of my Redeemer and King as I rest in the hope of a greater promise?

“And in Your hands the pain and hurt look less like scars and more like…character.” -Sara Groves