Thursday, January 12, 2017

Breathe Deeply God's Grace


  
Edith Hdz, freeimages.com
 
Imagine climbing up into the canopy in the remotest part of the Amazon rainforest and inhaling a deep breath of pristine air. Your entire body floods with life-giving and life-sustaining oxygen. While you may not be able to hop on a plane and fly to South America, you can train yourself to breathe deeply, thus providing more oxygen to your organs.
When I took voice lessons in college, my instructor taught me how to breathe from my diaphragm. Up to that point, I didn’t even know I had a diaphragm, let alone how to use one. He told me to place my hand right below my sternum or breastbone and take a deep breath. This action forced air into my lungs which helped me sustain notes and maintain better control. Babies automatically breathe this way. It’s only when we grow older that we lapse into shallow breathing habits.
            After I married, and Chuck and I started having babies, I learned the Lamaze method of breathing. I discovered that I could use these tools beyond the labor and delivery room whenever I experienced stress or serious pain.
            In my early thirties, as a young mother of three and a home educator, one afternoon I awoke from a nap feeling light-headed. My heart raced, and I broke out in a sweat. I thought I was having a heart attack, so I asked my eight-year-old daughter to call 911. A neighbor arrived to watch my kids as an ambulance rushed me off to the emergency room. Testing revealed I was not experiencing a heart attack but rather a panic attack. Over the next two years, seemingly out of nowhere, an anxiety attack would grip me, often when in the car on the interstate. I knew I had to discover how to better manage myself, so I turned once again to the deep breathing I’d learned years earlier. This tool pulled me out of many an attack. It’s almost impossible to be stressed when you breathe deeply from your diaphragm, for the action sends oxygen to every organ.
            As the years passed, I added another action to my deep breathing which I now practice on a regular basis. I stand in front of the mirror and verbally affirm these truths based on Ephesians, chapter one: I am chosen by God, redeemed by His blood, an heir to His throne, a pauper turned princess. I breathe in through my nose, hold it to the count of eight, then exhale slowly through my mouth. I call this my “Spiritual Aerobics.” The apostle Paul calls it “mind renewal” (Romans 12:2). Indeed, God created us with a body, mind, and spirit, a total package requiring a daily infusion of His grace.  
           In the latter part of 2010, God placed on my heart the desire to read through the Bible with the theme, “Breathe Deeply God’s Grace.” While the New Testament abounds with teaching on God’s grace offered through Christ, I also wanted to uncover Old Testament passages alluding to His grace. Many only see God as full of fire and wrath in the Old Testament, but careful study also reveals a God full of mercy and compassion. My journey has proved both delightful and eye-opening. I can now attest to the fact that the entire Bible does indeed spill over with God’s grace.
But what exactly is grace?
After I finished writing this devotional, I stumbled upon Harry Kraus’s book titled Breathing Grace while in the library browsing one day. Perhaps “stumbled” isn’t the appropriate word. I smile, because my discovery was no accident. I’m convinced God directed my eyes and hands to this helpful treatise on grace as He has done so many times before with various book projects. 
Kraus, a missionary surgeon and author, defines grace as “a godly characteristic that determines God’s posture toward his children whereby he generously and freely loves, forgives, favors, and exalts undeserving sinners into sonship.”
It’s vital that we approach this devotional with that working definition firmly planted in our minds. God’s truth as revealed in the Bible forms the basis for our understanding of His grace. His truth reveals who we are, who He is, what we need, and what He has done to provide for our need. We are sinners. He is Savior. We need salvation. He has provided Himself as payment for our salvation. We simply come in all our unworthiness and bow the knee to Christ, receiving His blood covering for our sin. When we realize how undeserving we really are, we place ourselves in a position of experiencing His grace in all its fullness.
Grace is not license to sin as some would have us believe. In the apostle Paul’s words: “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?”(Romans 6:1-2). When we truly understand God’s grace as offered through Christ, we will desire to love Him and live for Him. Each day, we will put to death the deeds of the flesh and put on Christ and His holiness. Nothing else will do. When we fail, and we will as long as we live in these earthly bodies, we run quickly to Christ, confess our sin, and receive His forgiveness. Our lives are so filled with gratitude for His sacrifice that we want to worship Him with our words, attitudes, and actions. His grace flowing through us defines our lives and directs our behavior.
 With these truths undergirding our “grace” journey, we understand that everything—God’s forgiveness, eternal life, the fruit and gifts of the Spirit, daily strength, provision, and protection—all stem from His hand. The apostle John notes that Jesus “came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14c). God’s redemptive and sanctifying work in our lives incorporates both grace and truth. In John 1:16, the apostle writes, “From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.”   
Let these thoughts serve as the foundation for our understanding and application of grace into our lives as we travel through the pages of Scripture. Each devotional entry isolates a specific passage. However, I have done my best to unpack the verse(s) in context of Scripture as a whole. 
            Without further ado, I invite you on a journey of discovery as we travel from Genesis to Revelation and breathe deeply His grace together. I’ve found His grace is as vital as the air I breathe. I can’t survive this pilgrimage without it.
Eileen Rife  
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Breathe Deeply God's Grace, the devotional
Read a sample here. 

  

1 comment:

chappydebbie said...

I absolutely love this devotional. It has truly blessed me.