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Posts Tagged ‘Grace’

There used to be something I believed quite strongly in. That is if you just learned enough bible, you know enough verses things would get better. And the reason people couldn’t stay strong is because they didn’t have enough bible in them. So if someone had a problem hook them up to the bible IV, sooner or later they would get better, or there was something wrong with them. Why? Because the bible is the answer to all of our questions and life difficulties right?

Just apply the specific proof text to your problems three times a day and call me in the morning. Got marriage problems? Read the bible! Children experimenting with drugs (first the church may be so judgmental that you won’t have to worry about them talking to you) apply the bible. Anxiety due to the economy and you don’t have enough money saved to weather the storm? Read the bible! Molested as a child? Read the Bible! Lost your spouse and children in a wreck? Come on! Read your bible! Want to know the answers to everything in the world? Read your bible!

But what happens Community of Grace when it doesn’t work? When my husband or wife is having an affair? When my boss mistreats me and the anxiety wakes me up at 3:00 Sunday morning. When my kid overdoses? When my spouse commits suicide and we don’t have life insurance? When the chemo and the operation didn’t heal the cancer of my 3 year old? When I am told by the doctor that he can’t find whats wrong and my health insurance runs out. When my wife can’t get pregnant, or she loses 3 kids and now she has depression and don’t want to see me, touch me or even hear my voice? What happens when I don’t want to read the bible, my prayers are as heavy as armored truck, when the ceiling is closing in the walls are getting getting closer, the end seems to be as far away as the sun? When Jesus feels like an abstract thought, sort of like the Tooth Fairy or Frost the Snowman?

For the most part I don’t think we know what to do. We have become so accustomed to prescribing the bible that we don’t know how to allow people to be messed up. We got to fix it. We have to give them an answer. Forget weeping when they weep, or rejoicing when they rejoice. Forget bearing one anothers burdens. Why because that takes relationship, time,  grace. We have to allow people to question God in a way that shakes our faith at its core, and for most of us that is to scary. That is too risky. We have to allow people to cry on us until we are soaked in their tears, that our hearts ache, until we are torn as they our torn.

Sometimes we just need to shut up and listen. Sometimes we need to put the kids to bed, turn on the coffee pot (or open a couple of beers, or like me a little “wine for my stomach”) and prepare for a long night. But we don’t have time, nor the patience,  nor the endurance to bear others burdens. I also don’t think we have the compassion nor the mercy. It is much easier to fix it, give them a bible verse and it all just goes away, depression and emotional illness, and homosexual struggles, and infidelity and lose of young loved ones are not easy fixes and I know many people today who say “the church left me hanging in my time of need” and they want nothing to do with it/us.

Here is my appeal Christian, and to all of the people that I gave some neat verse in your time of need I am soooo sorry, be a shoulder, or an ear, open your home and get the tissues ready. Tell the spouse you are going to be up late at Denny’s, tell the boss you will be in a little late. In other words stop trying to do the easy fix method, the patch work of quoting verses. Listen, have compassion, lay down your life, I know you have to go to work and the kids have you up late, and the game is coming on, but I remember Paul saying “don’t look out for your own interests only”. Lets start being a community of grace and that just doesn’t mean forgiveness but also extended one’s life for the benefit of others.

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waldo1

I remember when I was in elementary we could play games for prizes. One of my favorite was “Where is Waldo” the other “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego”. I was thinking of something the other day. Where in the world is grace today?  Why is that the seeker sensitive and emerging guys are busy pulling in all of the vilest of characters? Why is it that most of the churches I go to, the people who join are the most polished of individuals. Why aren’t we bringing in the drug dealer, the drug addict, the prostitute that turned a trick less than 3 hours ago, the woman with 5 baby daddies, the alcoholic that if he burbs you will get drunk, the dude fresh out of prison or on his way in, the homeless, the heroine addict with no areas left on his body to shoot up, that person who smells really, really bad?

Why are their no broken people (socially economically speaking) filling our churches. We say “oh the church is a hospital” it looks more like the Country Club. Where is the promiscuous little girl (the one we I shook our  my head at because her shorts were just as long as her underwear), where is the thugged out young man (you know the one we said “he needs to pull his pants up”). Where are those people who threaten our way of life?

I tell you what they aren’t as hard to find as Waldo or Carmen. The problem is we ain’t looking for them. It isn’t that they aren’t available. They know and so do we, that we don’t want to interrupting our polished service. Heck they can’t understand those “deep” theological expository sermons anyway right? The church isn’t for them anyway right?

It is funny that I see a Jesus that heals throughout the Gospels. Okay, let me start over. If you don’t want to be exposed, please stay away from the Gospels. Okay I am back. Our churches don’t smell because we avoid smelly people. We don’t feel uncomfortable because uncomfortable people aren’t welcomed in our church, small groups or our lives. We would rather not have these people interrupt our church services. Never know who we might run off.

The reason I know this is true is because I have never heard a sermon on actively and aggressively bringing the most uncomfortable people into the church. We like growing the church but I don’t think we want it to grow with people who will take! Let me say that again. We want to grow but not at a cannibalizing rate. Okay let me say it this way. We don’t want to bring needy people in because that may interrupt the building fund campaign! Why because they have needs and now instead of bringing people in that will increase our reserves, we would be bringing people that may dwindle it quicker than the Dow dropped last month. The value of our religious stock will drop if we take on “unsecured debt”. Our religious portfolio may just be dwindled in the kingdom of man. That is why we have no problem ministering to marginalized people in Africa. Why? Because they won’t come back to our churches. They won’t be a pest to us. A nuisance so to say. That is why there are no broken, poverty stricken, drug addicts (not recovered but current addicts) in our churches. Why? Because we don’t want them there and Jesus knows it. He knows that we are frauds and really want no part in the lives of those individuals.

You know in 3 Corinthians 3:5 “God helps those who help themselves” and in Thessalonians it says “if a man don’t work he don’t eat”. Right? In the Gospel of Matthias it says “Give a man a fish he eats for a day, teach him how to fish he eats for life”. What if there ain’t no fish in the river he stays by. What if he ain’t got arms? You see we don’t want to be bothered with hoochies, thugs, drug addicts, alcoholics and the like. We don’t mind throwing them a bone, or even going to share the Gospel with them. But what we don’t want is them to bother our lives, to interrupt God’s plan for us to bite into the American Pie!

We wonder why Jesus isn’t using us to make a difference in the world and why secular Bono can get more troops rallied to feed the poor than the millions of “Christians” that are in the United States. We wonder why America has gotten progressively worse. It is because we have built a barb wired fence, which is both electric with armed guards around our churches.

Okay you don’t believe me. I want you to tell your pastor to preach a sermon or to start an aggressive ministry campaign that will bring in the vilest of individuals. And when they come we will have this huge dinner for them and serve them for two weeks straight. All they need to do is show up. Tell him that we are going to walk past everyone who looks half descent and find the scariest people possible. See what he says.

Jesus is a joke to the world, because his body has forgotten its mission. Which is to reconcile the world to him. The reason we have all of these para-church ministries is because it is feeling the void of the Church. There were no para-church ministries in the scriptures. The church fed the poor, took care of the orphan and widow, invited those rejected by society in for a meal, took care of the handicapped (those who were treated severely in the Roman empire), they took in the lepers, the diseased, those who hospitals wouldn’t even accept, those without healthcare and welfare. The church did this because this was their mission!

But today we are more concerned about if your expository sermon has the right components to be a true expository sermon. If you handled that verb the right way, if you use lights and puppets in your church, if women are teaching or not, if the gifts of the Spirit are for today, if the atonement was brutal, what type of baptism is correct, if God is 100% knowing or if He gave a little of that up, if people are speaking a prayer language in their spare time, if someone is partnering with someone I disagree with theologically (I am so guilty here)!

If I sound frustrated I am. Why because our Master has bigger fish for us to fry. We are having major conferences on Calvinism or Arminianism! Are we serious? National Conferences? So we go on our cruises with our favorite theologians while the world goes to hell in a hand basket! And we clear our conscience by ensuring we are paying our tithes, and making sure we spend at least 1 hour per day in devotion time. Oh yeah, can’t forget got to memorize those scriptures.

What type of Grace am I talking about. The Grace that tells a hurting world that we know a Savior who has died on the cross for you just like you are and we take you with no conditions. We place no conditions on you that the Savior of the world didn’t. Jesus takes drug addicts, homosexuals, rapists, child molesters, Muslims, Atheists, fornicators, women with 5 baby daddys, thugs with two felonies under their belts, promiscuous little girls, sorry fathers, no good mothers, alcoholics, liars, thieves, porn stars, strippers, con-men, and those in false religions just as they are. His death purchases a spot for them all in eternity, the problem is his Church doesn’t. How do I know, because we have no aggressive campaigns to pursue them recklessly.

I close with this, Jesus didn’t take the long way around Samaria. He went straight through the middle to meet a woman at a well. A broken and promiscuous woman. A woman who seemed to enjoy the company of other women’s husbands. One who was probably going to fetch some water to freshen up for the one that she was currently entertaining. A woman who was well known around the way. She couldn’t walk by without being looked at funny without other women pulling their husbands in close. When her roof was leaking no women sent their husbands to help her. But God who stepped down in human flesh back in eternity planned to meet this woman on a sunny day by a well. His purpose was to bring her to Himself, so that He can show us the type of people He saves. His disciples thought He was mistaken or in error. But that day she conversed with the Savior not by chance but by divine appointment. He shared Himself with Her and in turn she immediately became an evangelist and ambassador of Grace. So impressed were the people that they said “let us see for ourselves”. Could it be that they said “if He talked with her, the type of woman she is, would He not also accept me”?

Church where in the world is grace?

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I believe there is a spirit among those in the Body of Christ that is attempting to redefine God. I have been around and following links to links and listening to podcast and the like and there are a few books out there on the nature of God and the love of God. I believe that many of these ministries have wonderful intentions. I believe they were created out of a response of many Christians who aggressively lean toward the “wrath of God” those who consistently promote an “examine yourself” type of Christianity and the type of Christianity that attempts to manipulate behavior out of fear and control. To be truthful I hear this a lot from many people I listen to in Christendom. I believe they also have good intentions as they attempt to purify the church of “false professors” and those that use the grace of God as a license to indulge in “sinful passions”.

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Jesus says:

25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

I have decided to talk about Grace this entire month. Why? Because I think our culture is starting to become more works oriented. We are busy people who don’t feel good until we are doing! We have to be reading a bunch, discipling a bunch, serving a bunch, giving a bunch, and studying a bunch. Once again we, being of the reformed tradition, will never say we must work to earn God’s love, but boy for some reason success is found in doing and not resting.

For some reason these words of Jesus is much different. He commands us to come and promises us rest. Or as I read this, He beckons us, urges us, even woo’s us to come, and the reward for obeying is REST. We are a restless culture. And our preaching caters to this mentality versus outright challenging it. But this is one of the many elements found in the Grace the Father provides in the Son. We don’t stock pile a bunch of Good Works then lay them at the feet of Jesus and after everything is weighed, tested, and checked for quality, get a value card. No we come naked, broken, with a backpack full of weight and lay them at His feet and He promises His Rest or better yet His Grace! I am so saddened by the continue weight of trying I see many of our brothers carrying around. This weight doesn’t make you stronger it prevents you from resting at the Master’s feet. Trusting only in Him and the result of this rest causes us do the things He desires for us to do.

You see today we aren’t missional enough, we aren’t evangelizing enough, we aren’t redeeming the culture enough, we aren’t spiritual enough, we aren’t emergent enough, we aren’t religious enough! We are more than enough, in Christ Jesus. Our entire stock value is placed in our position in Him and we cant’ strive enough, toil enough, work enough, make enough disciples, give enough, serve enough, surrender enough, study enough, minister enough, learn enough, nor love enough. That is why God condescended to man! Paul asks

For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) or “‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).

For some reason we refuse to rest in Christ. Once again we aren’t bold enough to say it. But pick up the latest book, or listen to many of the sermons. Man, rest just isn’t the focus. But it is what Christ promised! All of our relationships rather vertical or horizontal has to flow from the Divine Grace found in resting in Jesus Christ. Christians should not be weighed down with the guilt that they aren’t doing enough. Why? Once again Christ did it for us. We are under a Gracious New Covenant, which was purchased by the Lamb who intercedes for us and indwelt with the Holy Spirit that prays for us (Romans 8).

My challenge to you today isn’t to go out and do anything. But only that you find rest, peace and solace, in the Lord Jesus. Our entire Christian life will be warped and distorted if we don’t recognize the Grace provided by the Godhead. As you pray doing in a spirit of rest, as you go out to make disciples, do it in a spirit of rest, as you read your bible, do it in a spirit of rest, and as you live out your Christian life, do it in a Spirit of rest! Why, because the lamb was slain for this rest, lets not waste one drop of His blood trying to do what He already accomplished in His death, burial and resurrection.

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