Wednesday, August 31, 2011

He Is Comfort

Troubled? Afflicted? Exhausted? Disillusioned?

If you’re at all like me, then that can be part of your Christian experience—sometimes all at the same time. God will comfort you. That's who He is. He doesn't comfort you because you do anything right or anything wrong. He comforts because that’s who and how He is. Comfort is what He has for you because comfort is who He is. (John 16:7; 2 Cor 1:3-7)

Interestingly enough, you may also expect Him to provide counsel along with comfort since the two words may be used interchangeably. That figures, doesn't it?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Friday, August 26, 2011

Hurricane Irene & Reconciliation

Here it comes, God’s judgment—Irene—on the east coast. Isn’t it about time? You don’t think God can stand idly by when all that sinning and warring and drugging and sexing and lying is going on, do you? Just because Jesus took all of the sins of all of the people for all of time into Himself and did away with all of them and is not counting any of them, that doesn’t mean all, right? If the wages of sin is death, then Somebody’s got to pay, Somebody’s got to be judged, right?


"It was God [personally present] in Christ, reconciling and restoring the world to favor with Himself, not counting up and holding against [men] their trespasses [but cancelling them], and committing to us the message of reconciliation (of the restoration to favor)." 2 Corinthians 5:19; Amplified Bible

Ridiculous Grace

(Here's a terrific post from author and friend, Steve McVey, who wrote the foreword to my book. If this doesn't impress you and pick you up, you'll want to check your pulse. Well, at least I think it should. For more from Steve, visit him here or here.)

The grace of God stands in a category all by itself. There’s nothing to compare with it because there’s nothing else like it in time or eternity. Grace is expression of the complete goodness of Pure Love toward those who have done nothing and never can do anything to deserve it or reciprocate for it. Either grace is a unilateral act or it’s not grace. The minute we think we owe anything for it, we have insulted both the gift and the giver. Those who spend their lives “trying to pay Him back for all He has done for me” will spend a lifetime unwittingly insulting the One they most want to please.

Religion is the greatest enemy of grace because it exists in a culture where the currency of survival is performance. Religion nurtures a detestable fetish in its carnal craving to “pay the price, breakthrough, storm the gates” and other such nonsense that excites the flesh in ways that arouse demonic lust that climaxes in the smug afterglow of a satisfied Pharisee.

Grace throws parties for returning prodigals without saying a word about their sins. Grace pays everybody the same regardless of what time of day they began to work. Grace restores dignity to whores that everybody else wants to stone. Grace hugs the diseased leper (or AIDS patient) that nobody else wants to touch. Grace looks past a person’s behavior and sees the person for who they are in the eyes of God.

Grace is irrational to the thinker. It is unfair to the judge. Grace is foolishness to the achiever. It is a waste to the selfish. Grace is a mistake to the disciplinarian. It is shame to the religionist.

But it is a stream of water to the thirsty. It’s freedom to the imprisoned. It is life to the dead. Grace is rest to the tired. It is another chance to the failed. It is hope to the despondent. It is a way out for the lost and a way in for those who can see the Door.

Grace. It’s not a theological premise. It’s not a doctrine. It’s not a philosophy. It’s not something to be balanced with anything else. It’s not even the most important thing. It’s The One Thing – The Only Thing. It’s a Person – a Person who has held you in His heart before the first molecule existed and One who will never let you go.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Never Beggars

“So, what do you suppose the ‘throne of grace’ looks like?” I asked. (Some time ago we were reading through Hebrews together after dinner. It’s not an every single dinner ritual; we do it about every other night. Rather than get up and move elsewhere, we stay at the table, and any one of us might do the reading.)

Ever the imaginative one, Emma offered, “I picture a big, beautiful, golden throne with God on it, and this long, long line of people snaking along toward it. That’s what I imagine. Just because I imagine it, doesn’t mean that will make it happen, you know. It’s just the way I see it.” She was sure we needed to be clear on this whole imagination thing.

“Alright—I like that, Emma. Now, how are people talking to God, what are they saying to Him who is seated on the throne of grace?” I asked. Sarah gave me an “I know what you’re getting at” kind of look. Ellen and Emma sort of defaulted to the scary television portrayal of King-on-the-throne idea, and said, “Oh, please, God! Give me what I need! Answer ‘Yes’ to my requests. Please, God!” I loved their dramatics, but not their picture. I wondered how many of us default to the idea, too.

“Okay,” I said. “Let’s pretend that it’s me on the throne—your daddy. How would you approach me?” Emma got out of her chair, cut to the front of the imaginary line, crawled up on my lap and said, “I love you, daddy! Can I have a gerbil? Can I have my own computer? Can I? Can I?” Sarah and Ellen laughed, and Ellen said, “We don’t have to beg with you, and we don’t have to beg with God, either. That would be silly!” Sarah asked, “And why don’t we have to beg God? Why don’t we have to plead with Him who sits on the throne of grace?”

And together Ellen and Emma said something like, “Because it’s the throne of grace, not the throne of begging! We already have everything with God because of Jesus. We’re in Him, so God gives us everything because of that. Did you forget that, daddy?”

(We love this.)

I asked, “So what do you suppose is most important and most honoring to God as we approach Him, seated on the throne of grace?” Still laughing, Ellen said, “That we believe we’re always welcome and always wanted and will always get what’s right from God because of His grace to us. Not because we beg just right, but because we believe and ask Him. That’s how it works.”

And we were done. If I had had a football, I would have spiked it and done one of those little swivel-butt endzone dances. (It's probably a good thing that I didn’t have a ball.) But I loved what my daughters were getting and that they we’re having fun with it.

That’s what I think the fourth chapter of Hebrews is about. Believe God is who He says He is, believe we are who He says we are, believe our relationship is as excellent as He says it is because of Jesus, and, hanging onto that, hang out at the throne! Put your confidence in Him and in what He says is true of you. It often takes some work to hang onto faith in Him, but you really will find rest. That’s how it works—did you forget?

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Grace Message

Someone asked yesterday how I would summarize the grace message:

I have and will always receive absolutely everything from God—forgiveness, death, life, righteousness, holiness, union, friendship, fruitfulness, eternal security and Himself—for entirely nothing from me.

How cool is that?!

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Antidote For Racism

People are racist because they're blinded by what they see. I'll explain.

Over the years I have spent time in such places as Saudi Arabia, England, Barbados, Holland, Bahrain, Tokyo, Scotland, Croatia, France, Mexico, Canada, Italy and India, and have traveled all the way from Hawaii to New York. Before my arrival, I have gotten as much information as I could about those places and especially about the people who lived there. If I could talk with someone who had experience in those areas, I might ask, “Tell me about Mexico and Mexicans,” or “Tell me about Croatia and Croats.” I wanted to know as much as I could before arriving to maximize my time there.

Usually I read or was told not only what I should expect to enjoy about those places and people, but what to watch out for: “Saudis are amazingly hospitable, but you can trust them only so far.” “Italians are fun loving and gregarious, but watch out because their anger can flare up in an instant.” Have you ever heard those kinds of generalizations? Have you found them useful?

Most of these generalizations were useful because they were meant to help me navigate in places and cultures that were foreign to me—to decrease my learning curve. Indeed, I think lots of generalizations about people and places are helpful.

But it can start to get a little racist, don’t you think? Maybe we could call it quasi racism, or gentle racism. Maybe not.

But the cure for true racism, the antidote for terrible and injurious generalizations—we've all heard them—can only be found through faith in Jesus Christ. Only when a man believes that Jesus Christ has been making a new race of people since His resurrection, a holy, blameless and righteous people, a majestic and noble race born of Himself, can anyone be truly free from the visual bondage of what is less. When once a man is gripped by something superior and true, he will let go—even throw away—what he once thought worthy of his grip. This amazing new race has to believed before it can be seen.

Paul wrote about the view for you and me:

So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Cor 5:16,17)

Christians don’t view or think of people only according to how they behave or how they look; we view people by their birth! Anything else and our approach to people will be twisted and inaccurate, and we won’t be living by faith. If people have yet to have a second birth, we know how lost they are. If they’ve had a second birth—they’ve received Jesus—then they’re actually a new kind of people, no longer only human but Spirit born, a royal band of priests, a people belonging to God. Not only are they better off, they’re new.

Peter wrote: Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:10)

The great mercy Christians have received is not only forgiveness and righteousness, but newness—we’ve been made regal sons and daughters of God. Remember? And we didn't just get the title, we got the guts. We've received a new nature, the nature of our Father.

So the question is, what do you believe today? What has your view? Is it what you see—skin color and hair and facial features—or is what you see determined by what you believe about Jesus? That’s the way to live by faith. If, perhaps, you’ve fallen under the influence of the flesh and this world, if you cannot now see this new race of the sons of God, then ask the Spirit to show you what He sees, to convince you of what He knows.

He will, and that’s the antidote for racism.

Monday, August 08, 2011

The Way Forward

When we know we’ve been reconciled to God, repentance and confession of sin become what they are for Christians—the awakening of faith that Christ has done everything for us and made us new, as well as a return to confidence in Him. When you and I grow weary or frustrated in the guaranteed failure of living after the flesh, we will eventually realize that living by the Spirit and in agreement with Him is the way for us now. The dawn of that realization leads to a change in how we go forward and often a declaration of what went wrong.

Jesus, I was tangled up with the flesh and seduced into the attempt to live like I used to when I was dead. I got fooled into living against myself, the self you’ve made, and sin was the result. I’m so glad you’re not mad at me and have been working to revive me. And I’m thankful for repentance away from that crazy routine. (Excerpted from my book, God’s Astounding Opinion of You, chapter 14: Stripping Mummies: Finding Freedom and Life Outside the Tomb)

Monday, August 01, 2011

From Now On

"From now on we regard no one from a worldly or fleshly point of view. . ." Seeing people not as they look or behave but as they are through Christ changes our approach to them as well as our expectation of them. We're good and different toward them, which often (but not always) frees them to be good and different toward us.

And this isn't pretend! It's our new reality.