Sunday, April 13, 2014

All Our Messes Fixed In Jesus

Robert Capon
In Jesus’ death and resurrection, the whole test-passing, brownie-point-earning rigmarole of the human race has been canceled for lack of interest on God’s part. All he needs from us is a simple Yes or No, and off to work he goes. If we say Yes to something wrong or No to something right, he will reconcile it all by himself. Not only can he handle it, he’s already handled it: he has all our messes fixed in Jesus–right now, even before we make them. All we have to do is trust his assurance that losers are his cup of tea. In fact, it’s precisely our attempts to be winners that he warns us about: ‘He who saves his life will lose it; he who loses his life for my sake the Gospel’s will save it.’

-Robert Capon (source - Internet Monk)

Sunday, April 6, 2014

A Shelter In The Storm

We have no idea what this day will bring. We can't see into the future. Regardless of what anyone says, no one knows what the next second holds for each of us. This one thing we can know: Our future is secure. If you feel like you are free falling today, rest in the glorious truth that you are. You are free falling into the broad and loving hands of your Redeemer. And, he has promised to never leave you or forsake you. Others will come and go. Many will disappoint. Some will make your heart sad. The world will leave you hungry. Christ alone makes promises that are sure.

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35-39

Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Romans 10:13

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Struggling With Trusting? Good News!

“Like faith and hope, trust cannot be self-generated. I cannot simply will myself to trust. What outrageous irony: the one thing that I am responsible for throughout my life I cannot generate. The one thing I need to do I cannot do. But such is the meaning of radical dependence. It consists in theological virtues, in divinely ordained gifts. Why reproach myself for my lack of trust? Why waste time beating myself up for something I cannot affect? What does lie within my power is paying attention to the faithfulness of Jesus. That’s what I am asked to do: pay attention to Jesus throughout my journey, remembering his kindnesses (Ps. 103:2).”

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Paradox, Doubt and Grace

"When I get honest, I admit I am a bundle of 
paradoxes. I believe and I doubt, I hope and get discouraged, I love and I hate, I feel bad about feeling good, I feel guilty about not feeling guilty. I am trusting and suspicious. 

I am honest and I still play games. Aristotle said I am a rational animal; I say I am an angel with an incredible capacity for beer.

To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark. In admitting my shadow side I learn who I am and what God's grace means. As Thomas Merton put it, "A saint is not someone who is good but who experiences the goodness of God."

The gospel of grace nullifies our adulation of televangelists, charismatic superstars, and local church heroes. It obliterates the two-class citizenship theory operative in many American churches. For grace proclaims the awesome truth that all is gift. All that is good is ours not by right but by the sheer bounty of a gracious God. While there is much we may have earned--our degree and our salary, our home and garden, a Miller Lite and a good night's sleep--all this is possible only because we have been given so much: life itself, eyes to see and hands to touch, a mind to shape ideas, and a heart to beat with love. We have been given God in our souls and Christ in our flesh. We have the power to believe where others deny, to hope where others despair, to love where others hurt. This and so much more is sheer gift; it is not reward for our faithfulness, our generous disposition, or our heroic life of prayer. Even our fidelity is a gift, "If we but turn to God," said St. Augustine, "that itself is a gift of God."

My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.”

― Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out

Friday, March 28, 2014

Do You Have A Key To The Church?

I often reflect on the first church my husband and I attended as a family. Our son was ten and he wanted to pursue the Boy Scout religion merit badge, so off we went a few blocks away to a local community church. It is one of those "God has a sense of humor" stories because I thought we were going to help our son fill up his green boy scout sash. Literally, six weeks later God saved me. Sitting in a pew on a June Sunday morning something happened. I did not grow up in the church and I would have had no idea what you were talking about if you had asked me, "Did you pray the sinners prayer?" or, "Did you ask Jesus into your heart?" I had absolutely no clue what had or was happening to me. None of my friends were Christians. No one in my family was a Christian.

A Gentle Disagreement

Fast forward a few years. I was learning the Bible and loving every piece of it. I was involved in my new church and one of the studies I attended was in my pastor's study on Wednesday evenings. Through that study I came to learn that my pastor did not believe something that I held to be a vital part of the Christian faith and sound doctrine. I was incredulous and sad. For days I poured over scripture and commentaries. What took place next was shocking. I called my pastor on a Saturday morning. He was driving back from the Keys and had some time to talk while his wife took the wheel. He spent three patient hours with me while we talked and compared Scripture. It was a gentle and caring conversation. Here I was, a new Christian, going at it with a pastor of forty years. Ha! And yet, he was patient, loving and kind with me. We agreed to disagree, but my love and respect for him never wavered.

A Crazy Question

...Fast forward three more years. I became more involved in this community of believers and unbelievers - all tousled together under this one roof. I served in bible studies and prayer meetings and on church committees. It was becoming increasingly clear that it was time for us to change churches. We loved the people, the pastor and all. However, our son was entering high school and not connected where we were. He became involved with some guys at a nearby church and he boldly made the decision to leave and go to a place he felt suited him. My husband and I were happy to see his commitment. Upon making that decision, I called our pastor to make an appointment. I could not bear to leave without telling him. We sat in his study and laughed, cried and talked. He took his time with me not wanting to rush the conversation. I explained that we were leaving and as best I could told him why. All he really wanted to know was how we were doing. How was my husband? How was our son? Towards the end of our time together, I told him I would be considering options for alternate locations of a prayer group I met with each Friday morning in the church library. I was considering moving it to my home or to another church in the area.

He listened, then asked, "Lori, do you have a key?"
I replied, "No."
He smiled, and said, "Let's get you a key."

My response? Tears. Uncontrollable tears. Who does that?

A Crazier, Bigger God

I have shared that story countless times and each time I do, tears well up. Each time I remember the kindness of that man, I am struck again with the bigness of God. The further on down the road I get in this Christian life, I am convinced like Paul;
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 1 Cor 13:1-3
I am forever grateful to that pastor. He showed me unconditional love, patience and kindness that looked a lot like Jesus.
"Do you want to know what God is like? Then look at Jesus. If you want to know how God reacts to people, look at how Jesus reacted to people." Steve Brown
He gave me a key. Not just to the library, but what I later understood to be, a key to the kingdom. A pathway to view the freedom of the gospel.

I think that's why people leave the church. I think that explains what is going on in Christianity. We are more about locking the door and throwing away the key. We are less about extending the keys to worn out, left out and burned out people.

This one thing, I am coming to learn.

The gospel is way bigger than I thought it was.
The gospel is way more inclusive than I thought it was.
The gospel is way more welcoming, inviting, loving and receiving than I thought it was.


Keys keys and more keys!Thankfully...

...the gospel isn't about a lock anymore.

We don't have to have the perfectly cut key to open a locked door.

The door is open. The old keys are piled up inside, as a reminder. A bunch of old keys used to keep people out are now sitting in a heap on the floor next to the open door. This is what freedom looks like.

Come on in...the door is open.

Monday, March 24, 2014

An Uninvited Guest

I was standing in the middle of my kitchen last week when suddenly there was a loud pounding at my front door. It was a frantic and forceful series of knocks. My husband was working late and even though it was still light out, my senses were alerted. Heart beating fast, I walked to the door and peered through the blinds. With relief, I opened the door and fell into the arms of a very dear friend.

She had heard of my suffering. She dropped everything, jumped into her car and raced over to my home - unannounced. She pursued me with abandon, not thinking twice. No one was stopping her. She would not rest until she saw my face.

We sat for four hours. We wept. We talked. She was by my side until my husband was able to get home. She knew I was safe and in good hands. Only then did she leave.

I am counting on the truth that this is what God is like. In the midst of suffering and sin, I hope that all the things I have believed in the past are true. That despite, pain, disappointment, anguish, abandonment, confusion and isolation, that somehow that does not stop Him. That He will arrive unannounced and uninvited, at my doorstep and pound His way in. If that's not true, I have no hope and neither do you.

You have heard it said that God is a gentleman, that he will not force his way in. If that is true we all might as well fold our hand and leave the game. The truth is, none of us would welcome a polite God who doesn't want to interfere with our lives. None of us would gladly entertain a politically correct God who waits patiently for our invitation.

We are all hell-bent on our own party, inviting who we want and washing our hands of those we don't want - God included.

How deeply do men err who conceive of God as subject to our human will or as standing respectfully to wait upon our human pleasure.
- A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of Man

Your hope and mine rests on what Brennan Manning calls "the furious longing of God." Manning offers great comfort by reminding us that, "God is one who chases after creation with a fury unlike the universe has ever seen."

Radical, good news...

 ...assurance for the broken.

Friday, March 21, 2014

From One Broken To A Broken One

quill and fox parrot and typewriter cards
This note came across my screen the other day - an ocean of Love, a sea of Comfort, a word of Hope...

...beyond grateful.

"Been thinking about you today and am thinking about you right now. I am praying for you and want you to know how much you have impacted lives with your willingness to be honest about your brokenness and open yourself up to a watching world. I wish people could understand how much God uses that to encourage others to do the same. Love to you my sister tonight."