This one Thing

Can you see me here before you?How long have I served you? What more must I do?

Are you pleased? I don’t feel that way. How could you be? I am imperfect.

I have tried and tried until I can no longer. What more must I bring? I have but a weary body, fatigued and stretched thin.

In my dreary and failed state I hear a gentle whisper say, “it’s you my child. That’s all I’ve ever wanted. Give me your heart and I will move your hands and feet.”

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Rejecting Grace

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There are two responses that a person could have to being shown grace. One, they despise the act simply because they take it as an indictment of their own behavior. It deepens their anger and animosity. They view the kindness of another as salt in their wounds and a gift that seems more like an assault. It’s as if grace becomes some derogatory element. The second response is an equally intense emotion, but on the opposite end of the spectrum. Some will be totally raptured by the unprecedented tenderness and compassion of another. They won’t spite the love of another, rather, they will embrace it. Grace will break the hold of anger and unforgiveness that is wrecking the relationship. Obviously this takes a high level of humility, while the first reaction is distorted by pride.

I’ve seen both of these responses in my own experiences. What prompted me to write on this topic was my efforts in sharing about the Gospel with non-believers. Most of the people I share with are friends, students, and some who I have had the pleasure of having dialogue with through this blog. Everyone I have ever spoken with have had one of these two responses to the Gospel message. When the end comes, all of those who have rejected the message of Jesus will have done so because they reject grace. You know the common excuse: “I’m a good person and I think in the end, God will acknowledge that above all my bad deeds.” This person feels they have no need for grace, and they take the gospel as an accusation that they are a bad person, instead of the greatest proposition of love and acceptance.

I’ve been going through a study of the book of Revelation with my Father-in-law and a common theme that arises is the unashamed relentless refusal of human kind to repent before a patient God. It’s all because they reject grace. Pride will never allow a person to see their need for the unwarranted love of another. Pride dismisses love as a need and places it in the “I’m owed” category. If that person is shown love it’s only because they deserve it and in no way will it ever change their character. This person would look at the cross and think that it was a waste of time and life because they didn’t need it. Unfortunately, most of mankind will display this pattern of thinking.

To accept the gospel means to accept our need. To accept that we are broken, and guilty, and hurting, and searching, in need of being found. That takes a lot of humility. A LOT of humility. And so many are unwilling to go there. I don’t want to be unwilling. I don’t want anyone reading this to be unwilling.

If we can openly fall on the grace of Jesus, then we should also be open to the grace of our fellow brothers and sisters. But I know Christians who erect walls with others. I know Christians who are spiteful and harsh. I know Christians who refuse to let go and forgive. But this should never be so. This is not the mark of someone who has been touched by grace. To be touched by God’s grace is to be transformed by it. Those who embrace the grace of God should also embrace the grace of another. They should also lovingly extend that grace to another without hesitation for we have broken God’s heart far more than anyone could ever break ours.

Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven–as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

Luke 7:47 (NIV)

The problem is, people don’t think they have much to be forgiven for, so their love comes up wanting. The woman who threw herself at the feet of Jesus and washed his feet with her tears, knew her great need and knew God’s grace. Her love showed it. And so should ours.

We’ve all probably known people who can be so humble before their Savior, raise their hands in praise, weep before Jesus, and yet be so harsh among their brothers and sisters. It’s not new to the 21st century either. Jesus addressed it in His own ministry. In Matthew 18:21-35, Jesus tells a parable about a servant who had been forgiven an incredible debt (as we all have who are covered by Jesus’ sacrifice). Once forgiven, that servant showed no mercy to the one who owed him a debt. Jesus referred to that person in the story as the “wicked servant” because of his refusal to show mercy, as he had been shown mercy.

We have to face up the fact that we are without excuse. Even the kindest of us are still guilty of harboring resentment, getting frustrated, not being sincere, clinging to things that have happened to us, holding a grudge, or outright refusing to forgive someone. If we could keep things a little more in perspective we’d realize that we are hardening our hearts in so many ways. We have to release ourselves from the bondage of anger, offense, and unforgiveness. We need to release others from our expectations. We need to see others how Jesus does, with a heart full of love and grace.  Our relationships need it. Our health needs it. And the world needs to see that grace on display. We need to remember that we have been forgiven far more than we will ever be asked to forgive others.

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Ephesians 4:32 (ESV)

Punished NOT Abandoned 


I’ve had to punished my girls and I can tell you that it is one of my least favorite things to do in life. It may be necessary and right to do, but it is so hard sometimes. And even when I punish them, I have no intentions of ever leaving them. When correction is needed in their lives, and they have to face the realities of consequences, I want them to know that my love for them will never diminish. I imagine God looks at us in the same way only with greater intensity.

In the middle of pain, especially the self induced kind, it’s easy to assume God is nowhere to be found. After all, it’s my own fault i’m in this mess so why would He be here? I sinned and disobeyed Him so why would He want to be with me? I’ve committed this same old offense once more so now He really must have given up on me. How could I blame Him if He was absent in my consequences? 

The life of Moses is a captivating one to say the least. He narrowly escaped being murdered by Egyptians when he was a baby, he was raised by both his mother and pharaoh’s household, he killed an Egyptian while standing up for a fellow Hebrew, he fled into exile for 40 years, then he’s called by God (out of a burning bush!) to tell the most powerful nation in the world to release its slave labor force, he’s put in charge of a nation of people while on an exodus over hundreds of miles, and constantly has to mediate between a Holy God and an ungrateful people. No doubt that he must have been an amazing man. But even as incredible as Moses was, he still suffered from the same ailment as all of humanity: sin. One such sin caused a major consequence. In the book of Numbers, chapter 20, Moses and Aaron have to deal with a bit of a water shortage. To sum it up, Moses and Aaron don’t follow God’s instructions and end up taking the glory for bringing water from a rock rather than giving God the glory for it. The effect from that would be denied entry into the promised land. Ouch! But that’s not the point of this story. Moses screwed up and so do we. No need to remind everyone of that. What I want to point out came at the end of all this, when Moses is facing up to the consequences, at what would be the end of his life.

“Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho. And the Lord showed him all the land…And the Lord said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, ‘I will give it to your offspring.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there.” So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord, and he buried him in the valley in the land of Moab opposite Beth-peor; but no one knows the place of his burial to this day.”

‭‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭34:1,4-6‬ ‭

Moses had to miss out on walking in the promise land but he got something so much better. The Lord went up the mountain with him. The Lord showed him a glimpse out of grace. The Lord buried him where only He knows. Despite Moses’ disobedience the Lord never left him. Once chosen by God, Moses was His forever. That didn’t exclude Moses from the consequences of his sin but it did keep him in grace. And that is no consolation prize.

I heard a story once of a little boy who was placed in timeout by his mom. He begged and begged to be let out but his mom stayed firm. Along came grandpa and the little boy pleaded with him to take him out even though his mom had said no. Instead of taking the boy out, the grandpa sat with the boy in time out until his time had been served. God is much like the grandpa. He may not excuse us from the hurt and pain that our actions create, but He’ll be right there with us. Keep in mind that God is no stranger to punishment. He chose the most excruciating crucifixion for our sake and He didn’t deserve it. If He’ll hang on a cross out of love for us and you can be sure He’ll be with us in our time outs, our pain, our breakups, our divorces, our failing health, and all our sufferings. 

Believer, our sin will reap consequences in this life, for us and others. There may be no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1), but that does not exclude us from pain. On the other hand it also does not forfeit us from God’s grace. Where we have to be concerned is if there is no desire to repent of sin. Moses repented and continued to pursue God all the way to the end. If God has chosen you then He’ll be right there with you even as you battle your way through the wake of your sin. 

Our mistakes are not the end of our story just like it wasn’t for Moses. After all, Moses did enter the promise land one day. And who took him there? It was the Lord.

“And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭17:1-3‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The desperate heart has only one place to look, and that’s up. Think God has left you? Not a chance. Screwed up royally? God is still at the door knocking. Whether you’re a Believer or not, God is in pursuit of you. Our ugliness doesn’t drive Him away. If it did, He never would’ve gone to the cross for us in the first place. 

Don’t be Selfish with Grace

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If someone in your life did something wrong, would you be a person they’d want to come to? What if they had done something to you personally? Grace is not ours to withhold. Doing so communicates a message about Jesus that He is enough to forgive my sin but not enough for me to forgive yours.  The power to forgive, found in Christ, can be applied to all situations. To argue the contrary is to say that our hurt is worth more than the souls of humanity. Christ died for our souls in the face of our hate and rebellion and sin. What do we have to do in order to forgive someone of their debt? We certainly don’t have to be beaten, have nails driven through our wrists and feet, or hang to death on a cross. Jesus endured all that so that those who choose Him can have every wrong erased permanently. I’m not saying that grace is always easy, but it is necessary. No one could ever wrong us more than we’ve wronged God. To show grace is to show others a glimpse of God. To show grace is tell others that Jesus’ sacrifice is real and powerful and life-changing.

So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.

Colossians 3:12-14 (The Message)

 

Dishonoring Grace


Jonah was a prophet, called to proclaim God’s pending judgement on sin in a place called Nineveh. They were the worst of the worst in the world. They were comparable to the likes of Atilla the Hun or the Third Reich of Nazi Germany. They were bad bad bad. Once Jonah actually showed up to deliver the message here was their response: 

The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water, but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.” When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.

Jonah 3:6-10 ESV

Why don’t we repent as fiercely as the Ninevites? Have we lost touch with the weight of our sin? Have we forgotten what it cost to purchase our forgiveness? Have we reduced repentance to a simple prayer? Have we refused to allow repentance to cost us something? Forgiveness may be free, but repentance should cost us much!  

Following King David’s major screw ups, a plague was falling on Israel. This was happening because of David’s sin. It was in the wake of sin that David wrote the heartfelt words of Psalm 51. Its more of a plea on behalf of a man who knows he has sinned against God and knows how severe that is. As part of David’s acts of repentance, he goes to build an altar to the Lord and make sacrifices. The owner of the land that King David is meant to build the altar on offers to give the king the land for free. Here is David’s response:

“But the king said to Araunah, “No, but I will buy it from you for a price. I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God that cost me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.”

‭‭2 Samuel‬ ‭24:24‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The king knew that his repentance should cost him and so should ours. Repentance is not feeling ashamed of what we’ve done and asking for forgiveness. Repentance is a brokenness that can only be put back together after the broken pottery (us) have surrendered themselves to the Master Potter (God). Repentance is an end of one thing and the beginning of a whole new thing. That new beginning can’t come until the broken see the need to be fixed. No one can really repent of something they don’t think is sin. And no one will think that sin is that bad if they forget the excruciating pain that Yeshua went through for the cause of our redemption. Sin tore His skin with the lashes, drove the nails through the wrists and feet, and pressed the crown of thorns into our Savior’s skull. How could we ever treat our sin so lightly? To do so dishonors the grace we’ve been shown by God. 

Cleaning with a dirty rag

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I’ve been blessed these last five years to have a Window Washing business that provides my family with a little extra well-needed cash throughout the year. I’ve cleaned a lot of different types of filth off of windows during that time. You’d be amazed at what people allow their windows to look like…During one window job I had an epiphany. I know what you’re thinking: how enlightening can washing windows really be. Well on this occasion it happened to be very inspiring so I’d like to share it with you.

On this day I happened to be doing the windows on this gigantic house. If I lived in a house this size I wouldn’t want to clean my windows either. We’re talking like a 5-6 hour job here with professional equipment. So as the job went on I noticed that it was becoming more and more difficult to get the windows streak and smudge free. I would clean out my gear fairly regularly to ensure that I wasn’t transposing dirt from one window to the next, but after a while that didn’t seem to help. It began to be frustrating. I was getting so close to the end of the job but I wanted to make sure my last window got as clean as my first. It was starting to take a long time just to complete each window.

Then it hit me. I had a super stubborn smudge that would not come out no matter which part of the shammy I used. Each wipe just spread the smudge in a different direction. I just cleaned this shammy too so why wasn’t it doing the job it was designed for? Then a spiritual bomb got dropped on me. “A dirty and used rag, no matter how clean I try to get it, will never be good enough. The rag has to be new.” If you’re familiar with the teaching of Christ you probably have an idea of where this is going.

If you’ve ever used a shammy to clean before you know that no matter how much you clean it, there is still residue from previous uses. There are stains that won’t come out no matter the method of cleaning. Shammies are designed to suck up moisture and clean better than most anything else. They work so well that this can be their downfall as well. My point is, that people and shammies are very similar. We have been designed by our Creator to be so efficient, creative, intelligent, strong, funny, and so much more. Psalm 139:14 says that we have been fearfully and wonderfully made by God and Ephesians 2:10 tells us that we are God’s workmanship (handiwork/masterpiece). God made each of us for a purpose and equipped us to carry out that purpose way more so than a shammy. But the similarities continue. We are all stained from life…from choices…from sin. And no matter how much we try to clean ourselves, those stains remain. Many of those stains are outwardly obvious and others are below the surface just like the ‘stuff’ held in the fibers of the shammy. We try to purify ourselves by being good, following lists, avoiding bad things, believing in ourselves, reading self help books, listening to motivational speakers, achieving high accomplishments, making money, buying nice things, keeping a smile on our faces, and so much more. All of these things are simply a facade without heart surgery. No matter how good we are in life, our goodness is like a filthy rag compared to the pure holiness of God. Our scars/stains will always affect those around us as well just like my dirty shammy was just smearing the glass. The only way for me to get those windows clean…the only way to be clean ourselves…is to be made new.

Second Corinthians 5:17 tells us that everyone who is in Christ is a new creation. Jesus Christ removes the deepest stains in anyone’s lives. God promises to erase any stain and purify anyone who calls on His name and receives forgiveness through Christ. Just check out Isaiah 1:18. God goes on to tell us in 2 Corinthians 5:21 that Christ, the Holy and Perfect One, died so that we might have the righteousness of God. So our filthy rag becomes a spotless garment pure as the driven snow. So my plea to anyone reading this, who battles with deep seeded scars, struggling to mask pain and hurts from life, if you don’t know Jesus Christ, today is your day. In Him is healing…in Him all things become new…in Him is rest and peace. No formula in life will ever work outside of Christ. Everything else is just cleaning with a dirty rag. And lets be honest, every day we get our shammy dirty in some way and Jesus is the only way to remove it.

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

Lamentations 3:22-23 (ESV)