Friday, January 22, 2016

God's Grace

There is something indescribable about the grace of God.  It cannot be understood.  The human heart and mind cannot fathom a favor that cannot be purchased, cannot be earned.  Quite to the contrary.  God's grace is lavished on even the most despicable specimens of human life.  Those who would never in a million years qualify to even taste for one millisecond the grace of God are invited to not only drink deeply, but encouraged to bath in the glory of God that is His unmerited favor.  How does a love like this work?  Why does He offer this exquisite gift?  Why take what is destined for the ash heap and make it all new? Indeed, to grant it to the prominence of a child of the king with the full rights that come with that position!  We will never understand this side of eternity.  All I know is that my soul craves it in explicable ways.  When I consider it and all of its implications in my life, my throat tightens and my eyes fill with tears.  Even my desire for it makes no sense and is likely, I strongly suspect, not even my own.  The only logical conclusion remains is that I was made for it.  It completes me.  It redeems me.  It makes me new.  It makes me whole. If I will let it, if I surrender to its healing powers, it will make me like Jesus. Like a surgeon’s knife it cuts away everything that is dead and dying and leaves vibrant, thriving life.  God's grace is the medicine that I need for an ill that I did not know I had.  Sin is a terminal illness and God's grace is the healing balm.  This magical mystical miracle cure that is God's grace defies explanation.  It is not rational, fair or equitable.  It is quite simply something to be embraced, accepted, immersed in, leaned on and surrendered to.  God’s grace is the breath that I breath, my only sustenance, the rock I stand on, the wings I soar upon, the sweet spice of life, my liberation, my hope and my provision.   And meaningful life apart from it is impossible. However, at the end of the day I am as ignorant about it as a child who asks “why is the sky blue?”.  I am not equipped to understand, but only to receive.

Friday, June 05, 2009

I Observed a Funeral Today

I observed a funeral today. I don't know why they are so intriguing to me. Perhaps it is that a funeral signals finality in ones life. For seventy some odd years (that is 25,550 days by the way) life faithfully spins on, then in a moment it's over. In life, unlike death, we always have opportunity to change. Whatever trial, challenge, or circumstance we find ourselves in, there is always a thread of hope that runs through it. Hope that tomorrow will be a better day. It is that “better” day that gets us through all the “awful” ones. At the end of the day we can take some consolation that, as Annie says “tomorrow is only a day away”. But with death there is no more tomorrow. Death is the last change, the last trial, the final circumstance.

When I attend (or observe a funeral), I take pause. Where am I headed? What will my life amount to? How will I be remembered? Unlike death, life offers me daily the choice to change my own destiny. I can, today, right now as I draw breath choose who I will be, where I am headed and what my life will amount to in the next few breaths (and a few million to come after). I think most people live their lives like a person driving on the highway with no destination. Driving, driving, driving, turning, stopping, going and going but never arriving. Never knowing where they want to go. We all tend to do it. Life lives us more often then not. It is at funerals when the driving ends and the destination is reached regardless of where you were intending to end up. For some this is a joyous time of celebration, like driving for hours and finally arriving at a favorite vacation spot. For others, it is disappointing, like competing in a timed event only to run out of time before you could complete the event. We say things like "He was to young to die" and "She had so much more life left to live.

Every day we are given is a gift from God. We choose how we will and what we will do with each. We can live it in such a way as to end it in a grand celebration or as a life cut short of direction and fulfillment. Hollow and empty.

I observed a funeral today.

Grace and Peace to you.

P.S. A note to my Christian friends. My post is not intended to leave out our hope in eternity with the Father. However, life on this side of eternity must be lived first. This life is not a disposable, throw away life. It must have meaning and depth, otherwise the next life may be just as empty and meaningless as this one was. You have my permission to read anything you would like into the previous sentence.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Jesus Insurgency

“When groups of seemingly disparate people defect and band together in the way of Jesus, they form what we might call unterror cells. They secretly plot detonations of hope. They quietly conspire to set off explosions of spontaneous kindness. They plan gentle coup d'etats to replace regimes of domination and oppression with movements of empowerment and service. In a complete overthrow of violent terrorism, they fly airplanes of generosity into towers of need and plant improvised encouragement devises by roadsides and in neighborhoods everywhere, seeking God's kingdom and God's equity.” - Everything Must Change – Brian McLaren pg 130

This is probably the most vivid, current and poignant way to connect the teachings of Jesus to today I have ever encountered. As you re-read the above quote, keep in the forefront of your mind the effect of those terrorist acts that are represented. Think about how those acts made you feel. Think about the sadness and anger you felt. Then, transfer those same emotions into the response that McLaren suggests would be the way Jesus would probably re-focus our attention today. This is essentially the same thing as Jesus suggesting to the fellow Jews of his day when He asked them to “pick up your cross and follow me”. The cross was, before His death on it, an instrument of terror. If we internalize the ideas, brilliantly expressed by McLaren, we can revolutionize our churches, communities, schools, governments, environment … the world. Isn't that what Jesus called us to do? Join the insurgency.

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Monday, July 28, 2008

I have sinned against the LORD

These were the words of David immediately after Nathan busted David for having an affair with a married woman and having her husband killed when that woman became pregnant with David's love child. Strange really. He did not say, “I have sinned against Bathsheba, whose life I have disrupted and whose unborn child I have endangered”. He did not say “I have sinned against Uriah the Hittite who was one of my closest friends and stood by me when most everyone around was trying to kill me and I was relegated to living in caves.” Nope. “I have sinned against the LORD” were his words.

I can only imagine the horror David felt as he was being outed for his sins. It is a horror that we ALL can identify with at some level. The horror of getting caught. Oh we usually try to mask the horror and try to paint a happy face on it and call it repentance, but really, it is horror. It should not be confused with remorse or true repentance, since none (or at best little) of those feelings were present after the commission of those things you now stand accused of. Let there be no mistake, like David, your horror is of being caught, busted. The root of David's sin is that David, as we all of us tend to do, began to be contemptuous of God. He started down a path of not caring about what God wanted. He got comfortable with being “away” from God. David stopped seeing God as his savior, provider and protector. He stopped acknowledging God as his strength and started to ignore God's laws.

This does not happen over night, but it is a slow gradual descent, until one day, someone, perhaps a friend (or a prophet) says “you are that man”. Then it hits us like a ton of bricks how foolish we had been. Let us repent now for the contempt of God that creeps into our lives like weeds in a garden and guard our hearts against such situations that would draw us away from God. Let us again become sensitive to the Holy Spirit and be steadfast in our devotion to God and not entertain thoughts or actions of contempt for God, His will or His desires for us.

May we never again need to utter the words “I have sinned against the LORD”.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

The Church

The church cannot just become a place where we go once a week, wear our nice cloths, smile when we feel like crying, sing songs of life as though they were death dirges, listen to a professional theologian and then go home to repeat until dead. God had a better idea.

The church is not a place where we go. If you are a partner in God's dream for Shalom, a world whole and complete. If the message of Jesus harmonizes with your soul. If His death on the cross and sacrifice inspires you to follow Him and do the same. If His spirit lives within you and directs you in the path to Shalom. If the power that raised Christ from the dead empowers you to walk those paths to Shalom. Then, my friend ... you are the church. You are the temple of the Holy Spirit.

The church is evidenced by its product. Does your life produce fruit that is consistent with the spirit of God and the life of Jesus? Does your life look like Jesus' life. The spirit that dwells within you is the spirit of Jesus. If it is there, your life will look more and more like His. The power within you will make it possible for you to over come the brokenness of this world. The power and the spirit that dwells within you will light up the darkness, will warm the cold, vanquish evil with good and apply a healing balm to this broken and hurting world.

The church must be a movement where people who know and love Jesus endeavor to follow Him and do what He did.

The church must be a force for good and love in a dying and evil world. It must be a light on a hill side a banner for hope.

The church is not a place where you go. The church is how you live, love and link together with other churches. The church is not a place to go it is rather something to be.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


The things that are of true value are not those things of material value, but those thing, times, experiences, relationships that enriched our souls and the souls of others. Our true trophies are those things that will transition into eternity where rust cannot destroy and moths will not eat.
In the end we will give an account. What did we do over our life with the resources we were given by God? Will we have used them in a way that rendered an eternal profit or a temporal, brief, fleeting moment of pleasure or did we just bury it in the ground?
Did we live a life fully engaged within our culture while at the same time preserving and protecting our designation as a royal priesthood, a holy nation a peculiar people? Or, did we look, feel and act like everyone else? Were we the remnant, the treasure hidden in the field, that a man sells everything he owns with joy to acquire it? The people of God, true Israel, is God's treasure.
Did we let our light shine in a darkened world to the glory of God, or do we sit in the dark and wonder what went wrong? Are our lives full with the savoriness of the spirit of the risen Lord? Or, have we become flavorless and lukewarm. Did we provide a clear cut path for other to follow or did we simply wave those lost away from us because we failed to press on for the higher mark or strain for the goal.
God delights in His creation and he not only wants to see it restored to wholeness, but he wants you and I to work together and join with Him in this cause. If you have received the gift of God within you, He has laid hold of you for a higher purpose. God believes in you. He delights in you and He has equipped you and empowered you for works of service to the glory of God. You see YOU are HIS trophies.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Let’s Usher People to God not Hell!

Let me say from the start that I believe there is a real heaven and a real hell. But, is it the best strategy to gain converts to Christianity by threatening them with the prospect of burning in hell for eternity? How would you feel if when you met your prospective spouse someone held a gun to your head and said “if you don’t take this person to be your spouse we are going to shoot you in the head!” What kind of relationship could you imagine would spring up out of that moment of decision? If I was going to woo some young lady I certainly would not say something like “if you don’t marry me you will live a horrible painful life that will be like your flesh burning for all eternity!” No fairy tale or romance novel has ever cast such a dark picture of true love. So then why is this our approach to inviting people into the kingdom of God? Why do we present the Gospel in this violent threatening way? Why do we use scare tactics to invite people to receive the greatest gift ever given?

A “convert” who has had the hell scared out of them is converted on the basis of their own selfish nature. They are converted on the basis of looking out for number one, not laying their lives down for a friend. We have, in the church, many professing Christians that I believe have received Christ as a form of fire insurance. They want to be assured that they will not burn in hell’s fire for all eternity. But, what they are missing is a relationship with the risen savior. Christ called us to a life of self denial and self sacrifice for the benefit or others and God. But, the fiery Hell approach plays on man’s natural bent to preserve self. This is contrary to the teachings of Christ and although true theologically, gravely misses the point of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.

You see, Jesus calls us to a relationship with Him. The spirit of the living God desires to dwell within you. Christ came to seek and save that which was lost. Save you from what? The fiery lake? No. He came to save you from a life without relationship with Him. He came to save you from a life where we don’t value the relationship of others. He came to save us from a life where we are only fixed on our own needs and not the needs of others. Jesus tells a parable where people are being separated into groups of those who know Him and those who do not. The criterion He uses is those who feed the hungry, clothed the naked, gave drink to the thirsty and visited the prisoner were people He said he knew. But the others who did none of these things He said “depart from me, I know you not.” To be clear, I am not saying that acts of kindness and service will earn a place in heaven. But, these people did acts of service BECAUSE they had a relationship with the living God who enabled them, through the Holy Spirit, in acts of service for His good pleasure. This is what saves a person.

On that day when all will be judged, there will be some sad and rude awakenings for those who acquired “fire insurance”. They will find that their policy was a forgery and they will meet the fate they had hoped to avoid. If you truly love people, please take the time to introduce them to the living God, Jesus the Christ and Messiah and drop the whole fire and brimstone approach. Fire does not save, but living water does.

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