grace

Recently, I met my friend, Lisa, for lunch. It was a snowy day (so it could have been this past Tuesday, right?)

Anywhoo, Lisa and I arranged to meet at a little café about 30 minutes away from my office. It’s the kind of cute cafe that’s too quaint to show up on a GPS, so I drove past it a few times before I realized I had actually arrived.

Whenever womenfolk have lunch, we follow one of two strategies:

Lunch Strategy#1: The “Let’s celebrate and therefore eat whatever we want” strategy. This means that we’ll enjoy pasta, bread, butter and EVERYONE GETS dessert. #favorite

Lunch Strategy #2:  The “Oh, I’m watching my weight” strategy. This means salad or a fruit bowl and sadly, no dessert.

Lisa and I rolled with option #2, but we had a great time anyways. When I checked my watch, I realized that it was time to scoot off for my next meeting. We hastily exchanged goodbyes and I fast-girly walked out of the café over an icy path to my car in 3″ heels.

Two hours later, I finished the next meeting and  stopped for gas. When I opened my wallet, there was a $10 bill inside. It shouldn’t have been there because I had gone to lunch. Then, it hit me:

I SKIPPED OUT OF THE RESTAURANT WITHOUT PAYING FOR MY LUNCH!

I dined and dashed.  Oh, no! Me? Yes! Of course, it was an accident, but I was a dine-and-dasher, just the same. Oh, shame, shame, shame on me!

In my mind’s eye, I could see the shocked look on that restaurant server’s face when a tall black woman in cute, heeled boots hightailed it up out of her small town café without paying for her lunch salad  sans the dessert.

Shame on me...

Shame on me…

Not to mention that the same tall black woman in the cute, heeled boots IS ALSO A PASTOR. And, for the record, pastors really should not dine-and-dash.  It shouldn’t be a thing for anyone, but especially not pastors. It’s like #14 on the list of things pastors shouldn’t do, like right before “wear men’s skinny jeans.”

I tried calling the café from my car, but couldn’t get through. I thought it was because the café owner was on the phone with the police giving them a description of yours truly. At each stop light on the way back to the office, I practiced my mug shot face in the rearview mirror in case somehow I ended up on the news.

“Tonight on 13abc, local area pastor dine-and-dashes in 3″ heels. Full story at 6.”

On my third call, someone at the café picked up the phone. I blurted out my name and bumbled my way through a rambling, overly profuse apology. The woman on the other line was kind and gracious. When I finished making the messiest apology EVER, she laughed and replied, “Don’t worry it happens all of the time. Most people are honest and just drop off the money later.”

I couldn’t believe that instead of reading me the riot act and calling the police, the café lady excepted my apology and wished me a good day. (My friend, Tina, lives near the café so the next morning, she dropped off my payment, tip and another apology note.)

When I receive “good” but I deserve “bad”…

As a fugitive dine-and-dasher, I could have been tracked down and possibly arrested. And I would have deserved it.

Instead, the café owner forgave my offense.  And in that moment,  I was reminded of the principle of grace:  

Grace is when we receive “good” even though we deserve “bad.”

God is in the “grace” business. He wants to give us what we don’t deserve. God wants to give us Himself, complete with access to His divine forgiveness, love, purpose, hope and power.

But, some are afraid to come close to Him: “Oh, I know that God says that He loves me, but look at my life. Look at the mistakes I’ve made.”

So, we try to fix ourselves. Must try to be a better person! We think God is a cosmic bean counter, so we can’t believe that God wants to give us “good” because we know that we deserve bad. How often have we tried to earn God’s goodness?

Here’s the truth: We can’t fix ourselves. We’re messed up at a level so deep that only God do anything about it.

So, what you and I need is GRACE.  Grace is the very best of all good things.

Today is Good Friday. For many, it’s a religious day of observation or obligation. We’ll sit in church or see the photos of Jesus being beaten and crucified on this holy day. Whips, fists, blood, nails, cross. So many violent images – and while we may flinch in the moment, does the realization of this event impact our heart and lives?  Did we forget that it is by his wounds that we are healed?

Jesus is our access to God’s grace…

Jesus came to give us "good" even though we deserve "bad" (photo credit: swordsoftruth.files.wordpress.com)

Jesus came to give us “good” even though we deserve “bad” (photo credit: swordsoftruth.files.wordpress.com)

The simple truth is that God sent Christ to pay the cost for our sinfulness and instead of punishment, we received the free gift grace.

Doesn’t matter who you are. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done.

My friends, avoid being like the “good people” who deny their desperate need for God. Remember, the good (religious) people were the ones screaming “Crucify him” on a Friday long ago.  God’s lavish grace is for those of us who realize that we can never be good enough. This divine grace extends especially to those who don’t think that forgiveness is possible. Hear this: No matter who you are or what you’ve done, God’s grace through Christ is a free gift for you.

So, I’m going to go out on a limb here and close with the simple prayer for those of you who want to experience God’s grace for yourself. If this is the true intention of your heart, then pray this prayer:

Dear God, forgive me for living my life apart from You. Today, I want to live out the rest of my life connected to You. I accept your free gift of grace made possible through Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. I invite you to come into my heart and life. Help me to learn what it means to trust you and follow you all of the days of my life. Amen.

 If you prayed that prayer…

Great! While you might not have seen fireworks, heard angels or felt all tingly inside, your life – and eternity  – have been forever changed! I’d love you to send me an email or you can CLICK HERE and you can receive a free New Testament (click on “Request Packet”) and some other materials to help you understand what it means to have a relationship with God.

Happy Good Friday everyone!

If you don’t have a place to attend church on Easter, you’re welcome to watch LIVE online at www.cedarcreek.tv/live 

Times: Friday – 5:15pm/7pm; Saturday – 3:30pm/5:15pm/7pm; Sunday 9am, 10:45am and 12:30pm

 

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