Tag Archive: working out our faith


gracerecently i had a very interesting conversation with some people about grace & its activity in our lives.

i think that we often define grace through it’s rescuing nature.  that the grace of God shows up in times of our great need & delivers what we need when we need it.  and this understanding of grace is apt & accurate.  we love the pictures of a rescuing God & doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves.  so the understanding of Jesus on the cross for our sins is the greatest demonstration of grace [among other things] we have & is the thing that all of humanity hinges on.

but there is another aspect of grace that i think we don’t always consider.  that is that grace isn’t always rescuing…

that is to say or clarify, grace shows up in the desert, the wilderness & simply delivers the ability & strength to continue to walk on.

there are loads of examples of this kind of grace in the bible.  one we could look at is that of moses.  he’s called by God to lead the people.  but before all this he kills an egyptian because of how he was treating some of his country-men.  so he does what many of us would do, he runs away to escape certain punishment, ridicule, maybe death.  in his time away is when God speaks to him & calls him into a place of leadership.

this is the instance of grace that we sometimes read past.

tim keller once defined grace like this:

it’s when you’re welcomed into a place you don’t have a right to be

&

it never given out of obligation

before things were right with his fellow hebrew people, possibly before even things were right between moses & God…

yet God calls moses out of his wilderness.  grace shows up sometimes in the place where rescue hasn’t shown it’s face yet.

IT’S ABOUT JESUS…

something else about grace – it’s rooted in personal relationship with Jesus.  if we don’t have this relationship as a guide for life the offering of grace to others is going to be impossible & the receiving of grace will be equally difficult.  because grace is when you stand in a place you don’t have a right to be & it’s never offered out of obligation.

COMMUNITY MATTERS…

and here’s the last part of this discussion;

there isn’t a person on the planet that doesn’t want something about them to change.  we can look at our weight, our eating habits, our job, our family situation, etc. & say; “i wish that were different.”

some of us take steps toward that difference & some of us just wish.

when we talk about wanting different things that is a conversation about transformation.   the desire for transformation is a part of our humanity & the kind of transformation that lasts is done in community.

when we have others around us pushing us on to higher goals & talking through the struggle it is easier to achieve those goals.

i know this though the simple fact that recently i was getting back into the gym & there was a guy that i bumped into as i was leaving & he was coming in.  we talked for a little bit & decided that we could adjust our schedules & start meeting a few times a week at the gym.  we did that for about a month & his summer schedule got crazy busy & he hasn’t’ been able to make it recently.  you know who else hasn’t been going?  me…

grace & transformation are linked & cannot be experienced alone.  the beginning of true transformation is when we admit that something needs change, that requires a willingness to be honest about what’s broken in our lives.  when we admit that we’ve got some broken pieces to our lives that opens us up to judgmental attitudes, or  a lack of grace.

my hope is that the churches i’m leading, as we talk about grace, that it’s not just a conversation about what we “ought” to do.  but it’s a reality that we’re really doing something significant.  that we’re the kind of people that exhibit grace, that we’re a group of people that are experiencing transformation, that we’re a community bonded together through Christ.

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PS_0720W_DUMB_THINGS

recently we’ve been working through what it means to be generous & how how closely a life of grace/graceful living is tied to our generosity.  and let’s be clear, generosity isn’t just about your money.  that’s a component, but it’s not the whole story.

so this line of thinking, conversation & teaching connects to another thing that i’ve been writing about here, and that is the idea/way of living; “doing dumb things”.

this is something that’s been brewing in me for the past couple of years & i’m beginning to get it out in a couple of different venues.

the premise here of doing dumb things is about the things that God calls us to do that look to those outside of relationship with God to be dumb.  they don’t make sense financially, don’t have the resources, don’t have the talent, don’t have the personnel.  if you’ll indulge me, that list reminds me of the time elaine runs the peterman catalog & puts the urban sombrero on the cover.  jerry then reminds her that she had “no brains, no ability, no training.”  essentially saying that she had no business doing what she was doing.

anyways, back to dumb things…

the call of God on our lives to pursue, to go, to do certain things is going to land us in places that are way over our head; and that’s by His design.

in the underlying tones of doing dumb things is the activity of generosity.  i am a firm believer that God, when active in our hearts, is calling us to give more of ourselves away; to be generous with all that we are.

through this recent teaching series 3 things showed up right away in relation to our generosity & the activity of God’s people

grace shows up in the people of God when we:

walk in humility

turn toward the hurting & oppressed

die to self

if you’ve been following Jesus very long at all there’s nothing new here.  but when we consider how these reflect weather or not we’re living generous lives, that may be some new territory in our hearts.

now the reason that this works into the “doing dumb things” issue is this;

when we respond to the call of God on our lives individually & as a church body God will call us, push us, urge us to give away what we have in ways that to the one not connected to God is going to look at & ask “what the heck do you think you’re doing?”  and it may not be in that soft a language.

and their question from a self-preservation line of thinking makes a lot of sense.  but when we get our moved by the the Spirit of God all of the common sense in the world, guided & defined by the world doesn’t come into play.

i have come to fully believe that the grace we exhibit to others is reflected in our ability to be generous with all that we have been given; talents, time, finances & more.  God is going to ask you to be more generous than you & have thought possible, and it’s going to be a beautiful thing when we respond to the invitation & the graceful nature of our hearts is revealed.

this issue has been brewing in me for a while now…bill-of-rights there are a host of difficult issues at play with the activation of the religious freedom act.

 FEAR

both sides of this issue have fear as a motivating factor.  for those that believe on one should be with-held services because of their sexual orientation through the lens of religious belief the fear could be placed at the feet of the question; “what’s next?  who are they going to bar next?  don’t i have the right to eat & sleep where i want?  isn’t this a free country where no one shall be unfairly judged or mistreated because of their nationality, creed, etc.?” the fear coming from the other side of the issue may sound like this; “if we, who morally object to this lifestyle, are forced to set aside our beliefs what’s next?  what will they take away next, our right to freely gather, our right to worship our God without mistreatment & persecution?” for the follower of Jesus the conversation, for me, begins in the wrong place. Jesus tells His disciples [and us] to not be afraid.  to let go of our fear, to trust in Him.  i kind of wonder, as one who is a follower of Christ, that our fear [Christ-followers] is a simple lack of faith that God has all things under His control.

 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

-mk.4:40

 something’s that at stake here for us all, is the answer to this question:  will you & i live in fear with what might happen if…? if we get under the surface at all that’s much of this is all about.

“are we headed back to segregation?”

“what will the government make us do next?”

“is this the end of religious freedom?”

“is this the end of my personal freedom?”

WORRY

are you, am i [as a follower of Christ], willing to trust in God that He has it under control? Jesus was very explicit that if we followed Him it would get tough [putting it lightly – He actually said we could die].  but that struggle, difficulty, persecution doesn’t mean that God had let go of the wheel & mayhem is on the loose.  it simply means that the struggle continues & government, no matter it’s form or goals, does not have the last word. “but what about the WORD of God standing tall?  don’t you want that?”   of course i  do.  but judgment is best reserved for God and God alone. accountability for actions is served best in the context of relationship.  picket lines & petitions don’t allow for any relationship & draw lines of one side against another; and i’m just not that interested in doing that.  i’m more interested in the love i show & how it reveals the work of Christ in me, broken & hypocritical as i can be.

 LOVE

as followers of Christ we are continually walking a thin line between demonstrating the love of Christ & doing whatever we want.  i saw a facebook post earlier this week from a friend when he simply reminded us that Jesus hung out with the prostitutes, tax collectors & those who partied too much.  and in the eyes of the religious elite, ruined His character. Jesus’ time here on earth was spent with those that the “church folk” didn’t want to have anything to do with.  and all Jesus does is spend time with them, offering them a chance to have a relationship with God. a God they may not have known. 1283-Indiana-Religious-Freedom-Restoration-Act-Frequently-asked-questions a God they may have felt abandoned by. a God they were not invited to know. we all have a tendency to get our rights all mixed up in all kinds of things.  as a follower of Jesus my rights take a back seat to the real call on my life; to love well.  Jesus tells us that how we love communicates whom we follow, so He says love others in the same way He has loved us.

 there is no fear in love. but perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. the one who fears is not made perfect in love.      

1jn.4:18

 so our worry & fear stand in the direct path of God’s working in the midst of the muddy, murky water of life.

 FINALLY

the whole truth of how this all plays out is yet to be determined, but i have said this for a long time.  i believe that it’ll be settled by the wallet & not much else. we like money more than we like almost anything.  and this decision will have a financial impact on indiana more than the religious or LGBT community. when our wallets are affected we become different people, almost entirely regardless of our beliefs & convictions.  we have placed a great deal of importance on money & the false security it provides…

…but that’s probably a topic for another time.

so in the mean time love well, in the manner that Jesus loved. lay your worry to rest; and don’t let you fear be your spokesperson.  that guy gets enough air time.

50/50

friendshpin a recent conversation with my wife we were talking about a difficult situation where a leader had misused his power & influence; and had mistreated several people in the process.  the story goes that he & some of the people he leads had been overlooked in the midst of an accomplishment.  it was, from what i could tell, an honest mistake; but a mistake none-the-less.  this guys response was less than gracious & he really went after the people responsible.  what makes this worse is that some of those he went after were high school students.

this is all, of course, very disappointing.  but it spurred an interesting conversation with my wife & i.  and let me just say, she is very smart!  what she said, i think, we’ve talked about before but she immediately hit the nail on the head.

she said this:  “i’ve learned that it’s only about 1/2 of what you actually know [in your given field] & the expertise that you bring to the table that matters in how well you do your job.  the other 1/2 is how you treat people.

i know, brilliant!

i do believe this is absolutely true.  the measure of who we are as people is reflected in how well we treat others & the respect that’s given.  and here is the thing that takes it up a level:

the strength to consistently do this; give respect to those that we work with & give them space for mistakes to be made, this is found in a consistently deepening relationship with Christ.

if we’re going to try and do this; treating one another well, dignified & filled with grace we’re going to eventually tire & just scrap the effort.  because we will tire, we will grow weary, we will decide it’s all too hard, we will decide it’s not worth it.  the only way to battle that is finding that Jesus is the strength in our weakness.

Jesus’ mission statement [if we could call it that] can be found in john 10:10,

“i’ve come to give you life to the full.”

if we look at the whole of Jesus’ ministry we can see that this is the way that He lived.  He consistently gave dignity to people that had none in the social circles.  gave grace to those in the greatest need.  offered freedom to those that felt trapped.

so as we roll through this season, and really year around, are you offering life to those you’re in contact with?  a life connected to Christ, showing that He is the reason you act & live they way you act & live?

do you demonstrate that your skill-set; in whatever it is that you do, is only 1/2 of the things that matter in your life?

do you show that the people around you matter more than simply completing the job?

if not, make sure that changes today.

relational currencylately there have been several things that have been swirling around in my head & conversations i’ve had…

being a sports fan & originally being from indiana i’ve been watching the nba playoffs & in particular the pacers.  my, how they’ve fallen.  back in february they made a trade of players in an attempt to shore up their line-up & make a run at a championship.  in short, it’s not working & they’re in jeopardy of getting bounced from the playoffs.

in other conversations with teachers & parents the gist of the discussion has been surrounding the struggle of budgets & programming offered at public schools along the lines of, “we can’t afford to do what we once did.  oh, and we can’t pay for the labor force to teach what we once did.”  this issue has far reaching implications beyond what i can discuss here & beyond what we even currently know.

a lot of times when we’re confronted with a problem or a difficult situation we’re tempted to “out-think the room.”  believing that the solution to this problem must be complicated; at least as complicated as the problem itself.  i believe that at the root of the issues we face begins with something relatively simple, and it almost always begins with the same thing.  true, when things bloom & become this complex hairball of difficulty the problems then are complex; & fixing them takes time.  but i’m going to assert that the root issue is just one thing…relationship with people.  here, we’ll call it relational currency.

with the pacers the problems with how they’ve slide seem to be many & getting out of the hole they’ve dug is going to take time.  but i believe that it all began with a particular player being traded away; danny granger.  he seemed to be the glue of the locker room that’s now gone.  he was the guy that could remind everyone what they were supposed to be doing.  true, he didn’t get a lot of playing time, but he was greatly respected by the players & he was a voice of maturity for that team.

this basic premise of relational currency plays out with schools as well.  there has been a recent move in michigan with an animosity toward teachers in the name of dollars & cents.  so many things are veiled in “we can’t afford to…”  and those that primarily suffer are the students & their teachers.  i’ve been saying for a couple of years now that there will be a day, probably when my kids have kids, that we’ll all look back at this time in history and wonder aloud, “what were we thinking, treating kids & schools & teachers that way?!”

when people aren’t valued & relationships aren’t seen as the primary asset of an organization weather that be a school, a team, a church or any number of other places to be a part of, to work & make a living; when people aren’t valued, the system is about to crumble.

relational currency also shows up in the life of Jesus.  when Jesus gives “the sermon on the mount” [mt.5, 6 & 7] He’s talking about how there are 2 kingdoms that overlap right now.

one kingdom tells us that we’d better look out for us.  that if we don’t meet our needs, then no one is going to meet our needs.  that life is about you & you need to grab all you can before it’s all over.

the other kingdom tells us that people matter; people other than us matter.  that God has something in mind for us, and that we find that “something” when we give our lives to others.

so ask yourself some questions today:

am i living in such a way that truly values other people?  not valuing them in terms of what they can do for me.  not in terms of how they benefit my life & make me great.  but do i value them as sons & daughters of God?

am i pouring my life into the lives of those around me?  or am i content to take care of me & my needs while ignoring those around me?

4478910885_2f984019fa_zin our day & age to be reminded, or maybe notified, that our time here on earth is very short in the grand scheme of human history.  it’s even smaller when we consider the eternal existence of God.  in our life-times it’s easy to believe the hype that we know all we need to know, that our judgement is darn near perfect, & our decision-making, and that our understanding of the circumstances is well in-hand.  and to boot, when situations don’t turn out in our favor or the way we would have chosen we are tempted to rail our fists at the heavens & say, “hey God, what were You thinking allowing that to
happen?!”
 
this is what we see with habakkuk the prophet when he complains to God.

“why do You force me to look at evil,

stare trouble in the face day after day?

anarchy and violence break out,

quarrels and fights all over the place.

law and order fall to pieces.

justice is a joke.

the wicked have the righteous hamstrung

and stand justice on its head.” [hab.1:3 & 4, msgB]

seems like i’ve said those words to God before.  but God is gentle with habakkuk here & simply says, “i’m not passive or bro.  i’m going to do something about all of this.” [my paraphrase].  in the story of job God also receives a complaint about the conditions of life and here God responds a bit more direct.  God monologues for 4 chapters on how little job [and we] know about the universe.  and then God says this:

“surely you know, for you were already born!

you have lived so many years!”  [God from job 38:21]

i just love the way God speaks to one of his sons here.  what he’s doing is reminding us who He is, and simultaneously reminding us who we are.

the real question is this; are you, am i, willing to trust God even when i don’t understand how He’s rolling things out?  the things that go on in my life, the things that happen in my country, in the world at large.

it’s easy to point the finger at all that’s wrong & suggest ways to fix it & make it right.

just an aside, i think it’s important that as followers of Christ we do long for the redemption of ALL His people.

but God also gave us the freedom to choose.  and in the midst of that things will be broken, lives will be wrecked.  the scope of what i see is limited to right now.  even as i look backward my vision is cloudy & i don’t see things as clearly as i think i do.

THE LEAK

leaking-faucet

i have to give credit to whom i think these thoughts came from.  i believe i first heard this idea of the leak from ron martoia a bunch of years ago at a conference.  much thanks to him for first putting this into my spirit.  i then took the basic principles of that teaching & condensed it down for a student leadership camp & added a few extra pieces

“we teach what we know, we reproduce who we are.”

                                                        -John Maxwell

The Leak Defined…

The Leak is the thing that flows out of us when we are not looking…

IMMUTABLE LEAK LAWS

#1   we all leak [it cannot be contained]

#2    leaking cannot be faked or fabricated long-term

#3    the leak of one can have impact, but the leak of the group impacts more

“the leak is more profound and pervasive than anything we teach.”

-ron martoia

“those positive attributes, actions, or attitudes that you model in EXCESS, those who follow you will perform in moderation.

conversely, those negative attributes, actions, or attitudes that you model even in moderation, those who follow you will perform in EXCESS.”

-Kurt & Lori Salierno

“remember your leaders, consider their way of life & imitate their faith.”

                                                                   -Hebrews 13:7

this is an issue of discipleship & leading others.

so, what are you leaking?
        is it worth following?
                are they following?

as we launch into the Christmas season it’s so easy to misplace the object of [what should be] our greatest affection.

AC_Worship_ICONas a Christ-follower it IS something that we say without hesitation, “Jesus is the reason for the season!”  & “You can’t spell Christmas without Christ.”  and all of the rest of our somewhat mis-guided attempts to repaint the Christmas story.

is there a way to repaint the colors of Christmas in ways that will stick & not simply annoy people?

this year as a church we are engaging in the Advent Conspiracy more intentionally.  if you click the picture to the left you’ll be taken to the [AC] web-site & can learn of it’s genesis & it’s intention to return to Jesus as the primary focal point of the season.

this first week has had us focus on that object of our greatest affection – Jesus – and in turn find ourselves launched into full worship.

this past sun. we talked about 3 signs of the coming Messiah:

1 – the angel announcing the “better-good news” over the popular roman message of the “kind-of-good news”.  this announcement is for us as well as the 1st century folk.  the temptation is to believe what we already know & not trust the promise of something new.

2 – the star guiding the wise men to Jesus.  critical point here, God desires to guide us all.  not just when we get our lives figured out & cleaned up.  those wise men weren’t jewish, they didn’t know the God of israel, and yet God is trying to bring them close to Him.

3 – the manger, a highly unlikely place for a baby to be placed; and a king at that.  here we find God meeting us in a place of great venerability.  reminding us that He is with us.

so what should all this do for us?  is it all just a reminder of a story that we’re maybe “too” familiar with?  or is there more?AC_Worship_WORD

these things, and more, should remind us of the great, awesome & powerful nature of God & His desire for us.  and these realizations, reminders & wakening moments should cause great worship to erupt.

so how ’bout it…will you worship fully this season & not let the object of our greatest affection sit in the background?

Snowflake Box detailrecently there’s been this thought that’s been swirling around in my head…it’s really been a continual stream of wondering:

how does the “sending nature” of the gospel show up in your life?

maybe we need to define some things first;

i think, without question, that the gospel of Jesus Christ has, at it’s root, a sending quality to it. consider the season we’re launching into right now.

Jesus comes to earth.  He leaves heaven to join us here.  He’s sent here to do what we cannot –

SAVE US.

so in simple terms; do we believe that we are engaging that “called out” &” sending” thing that happens in the bible repeatedly?

most of us, as Christ-followers would immediately say “well, yes. i do believe that we’ve called into that kind of life.”

but here are, i think, the most important questions:

do we live like that?
do we raise our families like that?
do we work at our jobs with this in mind?
do we attend churches that speak this kind of language?

if we look at these questions & there is a little bit of guilt or heaviness that shows up,

if we want to run from this page,

if God is waking some things up inside you,

may that same God, the one who sent His Son, the One we celebrate & try hard not to forget & bypass;

may that God speak into this season & your celebrations.  may He remind you of the call He has for your life & the places He is inviting you to go.

our own worst enemy

Restaurant Receipt

Justin Lee: When Christians Are Christianity’s Worst Enemy.

the link above is to an article that i’m seeing far too often!  is’s about Christians that, when eating out, instead of leaving a tip for their server they will write something regarding the server’s lifestyle [gay, lesbian] or about God getting 10%…therefore no tip is given to the server.

this is absolutely unacceptable!

we are to be Christ’s ambassadors & we end up defaming the name of the One we say we love, the One we sing about & the One we worship. we end up tearing down everything we believe in when we act in this way.  the article linked above says it really well, so i encourage you to read it.  and consider the message we send while this season of hope is upon us.

john15:12 “love each other as I have loved you.” – Jesus