Archives For grace

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!

Now!

November 11, 2012 — 1 Comment

jesus-statue

For a lot of people the future is unclear. It’s like we get a glimpse of what could or should be, but it’s only that – just a glimpse.

Sometimes we have a good couple of weeks – the car doesn’t break down, things on the job are smooth and you don’t hit every red light in rush hour.

Most of the time though we need help and we need it now.

Sometimes it’s a relationship issue, sometimes it’s a bill that came due that there’s no way to pay. Maybe it’s a call from the doctor that you don’t even want to take.

Sometimes life and the future can seem so foggy. Who can you trust? Who can you call on? Who has the answers you need – not next week, not a year from now, not even tomorrow, but right now?

We need a God that’s bigger than all that. We need a God that stands outside and above everything. We need a God that’s in control.

That’s the kind of God we have! The question is do you trust him? We all have the right amount of faith – it’s just that we misplace it. We trust ourselves to provide the unprovidable. We can’t be our own source of anything – except disappointment.

I’ve spent so many years disappointed in God and that disappointment was misplaced. I was upset at myself for not being good enough or strong enough or talented enough. My faith was in me, in my abilities, in the people around me and again and again I was let down and again and again I blamed God.

I blamed God for my shortcomings, and the hole I was digging for myself got deeper and deeper, until I couldn’t see any light at all.

What changed that? I learned the truth. Over a period of three years, I learned to see God for who he really is, and me for who I really am. I am strong, smart, stubborn – which is why it took so long. God is love, he gives grace and peace and he forgives and chooses not to remember.

The peace I have – right now – is what keeps me going. That little nugget of faith that I have – it’s moving mountains because I have it focused on God now. The result of that is blessings and peace.

Peace – that’s what you need too! In all those situations that pop up in life. When the unexpected happens, you can have peace, regardless of the situation. That’s what God wants – and he wants to give it to you now! The question is, will you place your faith in him?

“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.” 2 Thessalonians 3:16

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.

How I Got Here

June 15, 2012 — Leave a comment

Of all the things I have learned, the most important is that I am blessed – beyond reason. Looking back, especially over the last few years, I have been so ungrateful – for my family, my home, my health, my friends – and the list could go on.

Something happened to me along the way, not just one thing, but several somethings. In the midst of my blessedness, I experienced life. Just like happens to you and everyone else, life happened to me.

When I was 16, I made a huge life decision, and I pursued that decision. When other people didn’t understand, even when it seemed I would never get there, I never lost sight of that decision. I knew that God had gifted me and called me into full time vocational ministry, and even with all the youthful missteps and detours I took along the way, I saw a clear path into that calling.

I took a few wrong turns, but eventually ended up right where I set out to be.  And it was nothing like I thought it would be. It really kinda sucked to be honest. I loved and excelled at certain facets of it, others I disliked so much that I didn’t even do them. Which speaks to my immaturity at the time, and ultimately it speaks to why I’m not working in a church right now.

I used my gifts to cover my weaknesses, and while I am very strong in certain areas, I didn’t even try to develop skills in my weak areas, and I never accepted help from others in those areas either. Since then I’ve learned so much -

I never thought that administrative duties were much fun, so I didn’t do anything like that. I spent my time reading, studying, meeting with people, teaching, preaching, but all the work that was required of me that undergirds all that – I just flat out refused to do it. People even asked me all the time what they could do to help – “Nothing” I would say. Now my job is administrative, and believe it or not, I see the importance in it and how vital it is that those things be done with excellence.

Another thing I refused to do is build bridges. About 95% of the people I meet, I find common ground, and it’s easy to build a relationship. If it wasn’t easy, I didn’t do it. Some people are hard to get along with, hard to build a relationship with, and what I’ve found is, often times these people are the most important ones, the ones that will stand with you no matter what. Another important lesson learned, and I learned it outside the church.

I also learned about who my source is. My source cannot be me. I’m not strong enough, not smart enough, not *anything* enough. I am not sufficient. I thought I was though – I was young, bulletproof, nothing could hurt me, nothing could stick. Until it all fell apart, I thought I was doing just fine on my own. I forgot that the one who called me and gifted me would also be the one to sustain me regardless of what came my way. I won’t forget that most important lesson again.

Where I am now – the place I ended up – is the exact place I learned all this – kicking and screaming the whole way. Not two days ago my boss was bragging on me, and she reminded me of who I was when I first started – lacking in so many skills, immature, whiny – and she reminded me of how much grace she showed me those first two years. She said she saw something there and thought I was worth it. I cried then and I’m crying now. Grace.

Grace is the one thing I have in abundance that I deserve the least. The most important blessing there is. I am so blessed! Beyond reason. But God’s love for us doesn’t have anything to do with logic and it certainly isn’t based on what we truly deserve. We’d all be in deep trouble if grace was based on anything but the fact that God is love. God is love!

God is love and God never changes – I say this a lot because I am convinced it is true -nothing you do or don’t do can cause God to love you any less. He IS LOVE. And what he wants for you is to become the person he paid for, the person he bought with blood, the person he dreamed of, the person he redeemed you to be. His goal for you is for you to live like you will when you are in heaven, here on earth.

There’s a lot involved in that. It’s a process. You’ll be there one day, the next you’ll be 1000 miles away. You’ll walk through deserts, you’ll stand on mountain tops, you’ll be lifted high and you’ll be crushed. That’s the life part.

No matter where you are, know this one most important thing: God is love, God loves you, his grace is sufficient regardless. How did I get here? I lived life on my own, it sucked, I learned to trust God. He is everything, and he is all I will ever need.