Archives For grace

 

This scene from On The Waterfront is iconic, and descriptive of how I have felt off and on for years. “You don’t understand! I coulda had class – I coulda been a contender! I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am!”

Off and on for years, Satan has been busting my chops with this. “You used to be somebody. What happened? You used to be someone, now look at you. Who are you? Nobody! Just a bum!”

Off and on for years I have listened to that, and I’ve let it affect me and I’ve let it keep me from being who I really am.

I wasn’t created to be a contender. I wasn’t created to be somebody important. I wasn’t created to be well known.

The reason I listen to those lies is because I listened to the lies! I believed I was created and given the talents I have so that I could move mountains and be famous and do awesome things. I listened to those lies and worked myself to death and did big and wonderful things and moved mountains and nobody even cared. When it was all over, life went on for everybody but me. Because my whole life was built on the lie that I could be somebody important.

God is our defender, he fights for us, we are his! A wonderful person from my church just said that this moment on my television! I fought for myself for so long – I never dreamed of a life where somebody would fight for me. I never dreamed of a life where God would fight for me and call me His!

In On The Waterfront, Terry Maloy is a great boxer who took a dive at the direction of a mob boss. He is tormented the rest of his days by this – if he had won, the world would have been at his feet, he could have been somebody!

So it goes for all of us who fight our own battles. If I had just done this one thing differently, if I had just known what I know now, if, if, if.

The lie is in the if, the lie is in thinking it has anything to do with us. The lie is in thinking I can fight for myself and win! It’s not about me, not about you, not about what we accomplish, not about how awesome we think we are. Not about us – all about Him!

On my own, I am a bum! Thank God I am not on my own – thank God I am His! Thank God that through Jesus His Son I am also a son! And thank God that what I have to do consists of being still and letting Him fight for me!

I was created to be a son of God. There’s nothing else. That’s it. Anything else is from me, and will fail.

So – whatever or wherever you are in life right now, know this – Our God is a warrior God, and he will not ever stop fighting for you! You are worth that much to him – worth the blood and life of his Son, worth the risk of being rejected. You are worth fighting for! Even when you were dead, lost, adrift in this world without any hope at all, God, having a wealth of mercy, made a way to save you, to lift you up from the pit you were in, and if you’re his, you’re his forever.

The lies are exposed for what they are, God is victorious, and you can be saved!

Ask him right now – to forgive you, to save you, to make you whole and make you his child. He’s already moved heaven and earth to do it! It’s already done – all you have to do is stop fighting for yourself. All you have to do is be still, and he will finish the fight!

 

rocks-in-pocket

I grew up mostly in the country. My dad had some land, pretty far away from anything civilized. When I was 4 and 5 years old, the road wasn’t even paved – it was gravel. I would walk up and down that road all day in the summer heat looking for rocks. Not just any rocks – different rocks. Shiny ones, dark ones, rocks with what I thought were dinosaur fossils in them. Whatever I found went into my pockets. I was out for several hours one day, and I had so many rocks my pants wouldn’t even stay up!

I loved rocks, and I still do. No matter where I am, if I’m walking, I always look toward the ground in front of me for some kind of new treasure. I have a box full of them somewhere around here.

The thing about rocks is, as I mentioned before, they can get heavy. They can weigh you down. If you carry them around too long, they can make you weary, and when you become weary, you can become weak, susceptible to all kinds of things.

Tonight I was reminded of a story. In John 8, Jesus was in the temple teaching, and a crowd of religious leaders brought before him a woman caught in the act of adultery. They reminded Jesus that God had commanded such a person to be stoned – the Law commanded that the woman be executed by having rocks thrown at her.

After a time, and after being asked repeatedly what they should do, Jesus agreed with the crowd – stone her! But the stipulation was this – that the sinless person in the group be the first to throw.

Well, there was nobody who could claim to be sinless. Not in the presence of the Son of God. The crowd dispersed, leaving Jesus and the woman. He asked her, “Where are your accusers?”

That’s the question I am asking myself. Where are my accusers? Who stands to condemn me? The answer is, there’s me and there’s Satan. My pockets are full of rocks. I collected them from the Enemy, filled my pockets and I’ve been trying to climb out of a ditch, weighed down by lies.

I look at the people around me, the ones doing amazing things, and I think, I could never be like that. I’m not good enough, I’m not smart enough, I’m not strong enough. I’m carrying too many rocks.

What I learned tonight was amazing. I learned about grace. Grace is a tidal wave and it just keeps on coming. Max Lucado told the story of the first time he saw the ocean. He said, “The waves just keep coming and coming!” The waves never stop – they wash over you, knock you over, they surround you and you can hardly keep your balance and they just keep coming and coming.

Grace is what surrounds me, just like a giant, crashing wave. I’m blown over by it. It never, ever stops. It doesn’t stop when I question everything, it doesn’t stop when I have doubts, it doesn’t stop when I wonder what’s next. It doesn’t even stop when I accuse myself. Sometimes I think I have bricks for brains to go along with the rocks in my pockets.

Jesus stands by the Father, interceeding for me, and because of him, those accusations have no weight anymore. There is therefore now no condemnation for me or for anyone who is in Christ Jesus! I don’t have to go to church and see people doing what I know God has called me to do and think, “I could never do that.” I wasn’t born to carry rocks – I wasn’t created to be weighed down by the Accuser. I was born to run! I was born to soar like eagles!

Jesus stands between you and the rock throwers - even if you’re the one throwing rocks at yourself. Grace – that’s what happened for me today. If God is not accusing you, and he’s not, and if God loves you, and he does, who can stand against you?

Empty the rocks from your pockets! Don’t be burdened anymore by a weight you were never meant to carry! Let Jesus do his job – let him carry it – empty your pockets and be free!

I was never any good at the maths. And you can ask anybody, I never even cared. My last good math was in 3rd grade, because in 4th we started all the junk with the fractions and decimals and all that. So, I did what I had to do to pass, which was cheat. Yep. I’ll admit that I cheated my way through math.

In college, math was required. I got out of it. All I had to do to get out of one semester of math was take four semesters of Greek. Not a problem. I’m a language/word nerd.

Nowadays, I’m a claims adjuster. Guess what? I have to use all that math I never learned every three seconds. I still kinda stink at it, but at least I can soothe people when there’s no coverage for their homeowner claim.

Who made up all that math stuff? Pythagoras? Nope it was already being done by the Babylonians 2500 years before he was born. See, I love the history, too.

God made it up. He set the universe in motion, with the physical laws that apply. Things that he created have weight and volume and dimensions. It was God who made it, and we who have tried to figure it all out.

Believe it or not, I love physics. About 1/3 of my library is books on physics. I understand the concepts, the philosophical ramifications of some of it – example – the universe, on a massive scale, is pretty orderly, and we can observe motion and make predictions, but on the very small scale, all bets are off.

Quantum physics is pretty dark and twisty stuff. There are particles within particles and they really shouldn’t interact but they do. Sometimes a part will spin in a circle and be back to it’s original starting position, sometimes it will spin and spin and spin like 8 times before it’s back to it’s starting point.

There are weird names for stuff, too. Quarks, muons, gluons, and each one has different varieties. There are six different ”flavors” of quarks.  Light is both a wave and a particle. Weird, right?

So why I am boring you with all this? Do you see how big God is? And yet how small? What I mean is, there are things so big we can’t see them – we don’t know how far out the universe goes. Once we think we’ve seen all there is to see, they make a bigger telescope. 100′s of billions of galaxies in the observable universe. And how small can we go? We think we know, then we make a new particle accelerator and all bets are off again.

My thinking is, it just goes on and on and on in both directions. God made it and he sustains it all, both big and small. And he still has time to have a relationship with you!

Why did God do all of this? Because that’s who he is! He is loving, creative, powerful. When you mix those together, you get everything. And yet he is above it, outside of it all. He’s bigger than his creation.

But, since the time of Adam and Eve, it’s all been slightly off kilter. What’s the second law of thermodynamics? Anyone? Entropy increases. That means, what started off as perfect is all going to fall apart some day. It’s why your batteries die, why things wear out, why when you drop a glass onto the kitchen floor you’re still stepping on the pieces 2 weeks later. Disorder increases. Until it is acted upon by an outside force. That’s a new law I just made up. The law of redemption. Ok, I didn’t make it up. It’s always been there.

From Adam’s first sin, to whatever you just did that you thought, “Crap that was not the right thing to do,” God has been breaking all the rules so that you could be who he made you to be. He doesn’t owe you this, but out of his love, out of his creativity, out of his power, he made a way to save us. I say breaking the rules but I know there are rules we don’t know about and could never understand anyway.

Who thought it up that something had to give up it’s life and it’s blood to redeem us and save us? Is that crazy or what? What kinda math is that? That a blameless, spotless, sinless, innocent person had to give up his place in heaven and come here to this messed up planet and lay it all down for messed up people like us.

There was no other way. Just like the fundamental laws of the universe that apply to our physical existence, the spiritual law is that when the law is broken the penalty is death. But Jesus is big enough to take that all upon himself. He took our sentence of death and died once for all, and now the law that held us back has been fulfilled! We are no longer viewed by God as rule breakers and sinners. We are seen by God through the filter of the blood of Jesus.

And now, we are living in the kingdom, just like God intended. This world will still pass away, and everything physical and temporal along with it. These bodies that we call home will be shed in death. But we will live on! This is the best news I have ever heard – that the God of the universe loved me enough to die for me! Jesus lives, and because he lives, I know I will live with him forever!

Don’t even try to figure it all out – physics or God. Some things we just need to accept. Start by accepting Christ, and everything else will begin to make more sense.

See that face right there? That face says, “I will punch a wolf.” Nothing trumps Liam Neeson. Liam Neeson is Chuck Norris’ worst nightmare. He is the reason why Waldo is hiding. He finds your lack of faith disturbing.

With that being said, there’s a new Les Miserables coming out. I will see this movie. Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean? Anne Hathaway as Fantine? Amanda Seyfried as Cosette? Heck yeah! It’s even got Sacha Baron Cohen in it! It’s not a question. My greatest hope is to live long enough to see this movie. And then I may enter eternal rest, fulfilled and happy.

Everyone knows the song that Fantine sang, right? “I Dreamed A Dream?” It’s a haunting, sad lament sung by a dying woman who wonders where life went so wrong. “There was a time when love was blind and the world was a song, and the song was exciting, then it all went wrong. I dreamed that love would never die, I dreamed that God would be forgiving…I had a dream my life would be so different from this hell I’m living. Now life has killed the dream I dreamed.”

I know that song. I’ve lived that song. Life killed my dream.

I’ve only wanted one thing, for as long as I can remember. My Grandmother use to pray over me when I was a child – “Make him your servant, Father.” And I wanted that more than anything.

I grew up in church, and everything my pastors did I watched and emulated. I studied the bible relentlessly. I checked out theology books from the church library when I was 11 years old and I even read them. I started making connections between common everyday events and spiritual things when I was even younger. I wanted my life to be a sermon. I wanted my life to be something special. I wanted to point people to God. It was my dream. Then life killed the dream I dreamed.

So many things have happened. So many people have hurt me, and I’ve done the same right back. I worked in churches for years, growing bitter, angry, being hurt and hurtful. The song was exciting – exciting to think about and dream about, but life itself was just all wrong. It was the same no matter where I went, no matter what my job was. I kept dreaming, kept hoping, kept believing that God would be forgiving, that he would bless me, and then that part of me died.

It was the best thing that ever happened to me.

My life was a hell because of my dream. I pursued a dream and not God. His calling on my life was real, and he even planted that dream in my heart, but the dream was not worthy of being pursued. I bypassed the one who called me, the one who gifted me, and made my life all about the dream.

To be who God created me to be, that part of me had to die. The part that held onto the dream, the part that was self sufficient, the part that was created and sustained by my own will.

Your dream is not worthy of being pursued, but the one who gave you the dream is!

Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, everything you do flows from it.”

Your heart’s desire should be the pursuit of a relationship with God. He is already pursuing you! When everything in your heart is right, everything that flows from you will be about him and not you. God will give you a dream and you’ll surrender it to him and he will give you all that and more.

Everything in your life should be an overflow, the excess of the abundance that God blesses you with because of your relationship with him. The dream is worthless, fruitless, without his blessing, and you can’t get God’s blessing. It’s not about not having road rage or working in a church. It’s not about the good you do or the lack of evil in your life. It’s all about resting in him. When you can rest in God, as his child, the dreams you dream will begin to come true.

My dreams died because I was never at rest, I never trusted, I went about making my dreams come true on my own. I, I, I. It was all about me, then that part of me got tired, sick, terminally ill. That part of me withered and died and was cut away. A new me emerged from that death, and God knows I’m still working it out, but at least I’m pointed in the right direction now – and that direction is one of being led by the giver of dreams.

How about you? Is the dream alive or is it dying on the vine? Is your relationship with God sustaining you or are you just barely hanging on, all alone?

Let it go! The dream is nothing without the dreamgiver. Your dream will die eventually anyway. Cut it loose now, sacrifice it at the feet of the one who can bring life from death. And after that part of you is gone, God will plant his dream in your heart and invite you to pursue him. If you do your dreams will all come true!

Mistake? Or Sin?

June 22, 2012 — Leave a comment

I’ve heard a lot of discussion these past few days about sin, shame, forgiveness, repentence, grace. I’m all about the grace. I write about it a lot because I’ve experienced it a lot.

I often reference my past, and hint that I was not a model citizen, and joke around and say things like, “I can’t tell you everything due to various local statutes, etc.” I know the statute of limitations has run out on various activities/atrocities I perpetrated as a youth, but if I were to begin a list of the horrible things I did, I wonder just how far grace would be extended?

I know God has forgiven me. That is a fact. I no longer live in regret, and where applicable, I have made amends. But there are some people I have hurt that I don’t even know who they are, how to get ahold of them – my change of heart and mind came many years after the fact, and in many instance, I literally do not know who or even where they are. I can’t make right what I did in those circumstances.

Am I guilty? You bet. For all of it. Were my actions mistakes? No!

A mistake is when I am at work documenting a file and I hit save and then realize I was in the wrong file. A mistake is when I think it’s 35 MPH in my neighborhood but according to the nice officer it’s actually 30. A mistake is forgetting to set my alarm clock back to 6:30 am after a week of vacation.

A sin is something you do knowingly, blatantly, often times hiddenly. Sin is always on purpose, which is why there’s such as thing as grace to begin with.

Remember when God asked Adam, “What have you done?” He’d already sinned – the first sin ever – and he followed it up with the second – blame. It fell to Eve, and she committed the third sin ever which was blame as well. In fact, how it went down was like this, “It’s just some fruit. Maybe God was wrong. Maybe he won’t notice just one piece missing.” Then Adam blamed Eve, and Eve blamed God.

God gave us power of choice. I learned that a long time ago, but it was recently reinforced by pastor Alan Smith in his brilliant post which you can read here. I said it once already, and I’ll say it again – this post on blame is the most important thing I’ve ever read. You would be doing yourself a huge favor to read it now.

My choice is either to do the right thing and be rewarded, or do the wrong thing and suffer consequences. Sometimes the reward is just a warm fuzzy feeling. Sometimes the consequence is a kick to the conscience and an “I’m sorry.”

I have done some things, and I have had to give way more than an “I’m sorry.” My sins have cost me money, time, reputation. I completely lost my ability to be a witness in an entire geographical region. I’ve tried to go back several times, but it’s just not the same, and may never be.

So – is it sin or is it a mistake? Well, is someone else hurt over it, or do you just need some whiteout?

Another brilliant article, this time by Michael Hyatt, gives some insight. He writes, “The term ‘mistake’ implies…something done unintentionally. Unlike a mistake, we choose to sin. Therefore, we must accept responsibility for it—and the consequences that follow.”

He goes on to suggest five actions when you have sinned:

  • Choose your words carefully – Agree with God that your actions were sinful.
  • Take responsibility – There is no excuse. If you’ve sinned, you need to own it.
  • Acknowledge guilt – Don’t make excuses.
  • Change your behavior – True repentance = true change.
  • Ask for forgiveness – I would change that to say you’re sorry. Asking forgiveness puts burden on the ones you have sinned against. They don’t owe you anything, you owe them. A little lesson I learned from Freedom Ministry at Gateway Church.

I’ve sinned horribly. I have hurt and offended many people. I am guilty. Do I deserve a second chance? No – but I got one anyway. And a third, and fourth, and fifth.

There are do overs. Unlimited chances. When people give up, turn their backs on you, when you are all alone in this world, there’s always going to be God. He’ll never quit on you, he’ll never condemn you, he’ll always be there to clean up the mess you’ve made of your life. Nothing you do will ever be too horrible to make him love you less. There is hope, and there is grace.