Archive for the ‘grace’ tag
Rush. Crush. Whoosh … forever and in a split second … that’s December in our world. I like both of the following vids even though they are quite opposite.
They both remind us that God came into our busy world with grace so we could see Him and hear Him cry … an know that we are not alone in all of the rush, crush, and whoosh.
Is it really “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”?
It can be if we open a moment in our rush, crush, and whoosh for the Story to settle into our hearts!
If we let Jesus in, then we can see “The Face of God”!
So take a moment and invite Him into your rush, crush, and whoosh. Merry Christmas and may God’s sweet grace be the taste of your season.
For those who are used to white stuff falling from the sky, snowfall is no big deal — it may be an irritation, but you are used to winters with ice, snow, slush, flakes, and slippery muddy goo a part of your daily routine. For those of us who live in West Texas, however, an accumulation of snow is a rare event. When we do get it, it’s usually what we call dandruff snow — light flaky stuff that doesn’t stick and blows around in the wind.
This year, however, we are on our sixth major snow. And most of the snow is the moist, big flaky kind of snowfall that lets you throw snowballs, build snow men, and create snow angels. This morning’s offering looks like this from our front door:
I am doing a funeral today for a sweet lady who lived her years well and loved her Lord all those years. As I look a the snowfall today, rather than thinking about the inconvenience and mess we’re going to face for the funeral, I’m choosing to focus upon two great promises hidden in the snow:
- The grace that is ours because of God’s great love. Even in one of Israel’s worst times, God promised that if they turned to Him, He would cleanse them: “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow,” God said (Isaiah 1:18). These sins are not buried under the snow and hidden from sight, but these sins are forgiven and transformed into pristine righteousness by grace!
- While the snow looks so much the same, underneath the surface view is a world of variety, specialty, and uniqueness — no two snowflakes are the same. And in a world crowded with people, all who want to find their place and be a part of a group and belong, each of us is uniquely made by our Creator’s loving hand while still in the womb of our mother (Psalms 139:13-16) and remade by grace as the artistry of our redeeming God to be useful to doing His Kingdom work (Ephesians 2:10).
Whether we are shut inside with those we know well and love, stuck trudging through difficult driving conditions and harsh weather, or whether our exterior world is sunny and bright, let’s make a point to appreciate the treasure God gives us in the people we meet today and let’s seize the opportunity to help them know God’s grace and artistry He has invested in them.
When we look at ourselves and the people we know who follow Jesus, we have to admit some things. Most of us don’t look like world-changers. Most of us don’t fit the caricature of a “soul winner” who changes the world for Jesus. Most of us are ordinary folks doing ordinary things in whom Jesus wants to do something extraordinary.
But rather than Jesus making us into some weird version of ourselves so we can be useful, the Lord wants to redeem us — to take how we are wired by God to be who we are and how we are wired into relationships — and use us to touch those in our circle of influence.
The following video, called Rethink Church, captures the concept pretty well. I hope you like it. Then what follows are some questions to think about that go with this blog post and with this week’s Heartlight.org article, Catch and Release: Witnesses. Hope you are blessed by the thoughts in the article, this post, and the video. I’d love to hear from you and get your take on all of this!
Read through Ephesians 2:1-10 and think about how the movement from “dead” to “grace” to “handiwork” is the story of the life of Peter … Mary Magdalene … of yourself.
How did that movement help the early followers of Jesus live as his witnesses to others?
How can this realization help you be a witness to Jesus?
Why do you think it was important for Jesus to choose “ordinary” people to be with him and then go out and be witneeses to others of the difference that he made in their lives? (Acts 4:13)
What are some of the things the devil places in your head and heart to try to keep you from believing you have anything to share with others about Jesus?
How could Peter have used the same excuse in his life?
How could Mary Magdalene used the same excuse in her life?
How does it make you feel to know that you are Jesus’ plan to touch the world with his grace?
How do you think that early bunch of Jesus’ followers felt when they realized that they were his only plan?
The early followers of Jesus proclaimed this boldly (Acts 4:31), yet with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15), in the face of persecution and the loss of their lives (Acts 8:1-4). Why? Because without Jesus, there is not a cure to our deepest wound and religion rests only on our own power to be good, not upon grace.
As Matthew gives us the Lord’s prayer, he reminds us of one part of the prayer that Jesus felt was essential: our willingness to forgive — “forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
Hear it in context as you pray the prayer:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
For yours is the kingdom and the power
and the glory forever. Amen.
Now notice that Jesus adds the exclamation point on this point in the two verses immediately the prayer:
For if you forgive others when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins (Matthew 6:14-15).
I know of no other thing harder than genuine forgiveness. Tossing the offense of others into the “sea of forgetfulness” is something that only the Spirit of God can help us do. In reality, the more we try to forget something, the more we actually remember it. Forgiving and forgetting is something only God can do — that’s why part of our prayer is always “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” But, we can begin the work of forgiveness — we can begin to live in a restored reality that is purer than existed before the offense and trust that over time, God’s Spirit will help dissolve our memory of the offense in the “sea of forgetfulness.”
To do this, however, we must throw ourselves on God’s powerful and deep mercy to heal us. And, since the shards of life can’t always be put back together completely after a deep offense, there will be random reminders of the wounds of the past that require us to forgive again and again for our forgiveness to be fresh and real. Yes, this is hard work, but it is the holy work of Kingdom-living — again, that’s why we pray daily “your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
For me, a simple hymn sung by Jars of Clay says it well and powerfully as a prayer. Be blessed! (Lyrics below.)
All heavy laden acquainted with sorrow
May Christ in our marrow, carry us home
From alabaster come blessings of laughter
A fragrance of passion and joy from the truth
Grant the unbroken tears ever flowing
From hearts of contrition only for You
May sin never hold true that love never broke through
For God’s mercy holds us and we are His own
This road that we travel, may it be the straight and narrow
God give us peace and grace from You, all the day
Shelter with fire, our voices we raise still higher
God give us peace and grace from You, all the day through
Okay, I confess it. Last week, I was a bad blogger. I had a bunch to blog about, just no time to share it. I hope to share some really good video clips from Corbett and Crew from Southern Hills over the next week. The ones this week will focus on Groups and the importance of our having them.
Today, however, I want to give you a place to respond to my weekly post on Heartlight.org — “Captured by Grace!” — I try to explain the principle of redemption ethics and show how God’s grace has reached us and we respond to that grace out of appreciation and not obligation. So here are some discussion questions coming out of that post:
- So what is your reaction to the idea of “redemption ethics” — recognizing that God has acted first and given us his mercy, grace, and forgiveness before he asked us to share those with others? (For examples of this, seek passages like 1 John 3:16-18; Colossians 3:13; Ephesians 4:32.)
- Why is it so hard to “go first” and love, forgive, or serve when we have been wronged by someone or they don’t seem to deserve the gift we are going to give them?
- How have you tried to “earn” the cost of God’s grace given to you in Christ?
- What difference does it make to respond to God’s grace rather than trying to live with a sense of obligation that you have to earn it (Ephesians 2:1-10)?
- Paul describes God’s love and grace as well as our condition before that love and grace (Romans 5:6-10 — powerless, ungodly, sinners and enemies). Which of those four terms best describes your walk with God before salvation in Jesus? How has God changed that in your life?
- Who is someone to whom you need to extend mercy, grace, forgiveness or service?
- Why do you think it is so hard for us to get both God’s character and God’s compassion together in our lives? (Seems like we get one right or the other, but both seem to be hard for all of us to put together, yet we see it powerfully demonstrated in Jesus!)
I’d love to get your input into all of this discussion.