Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Dust on the Throne

Because of the bodily ascension of Jesus Christ, the dust of earth now sits on the throne of heaven.  
 — Philip Graham Ryken

Luke 24:36-51 (ESV):
As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, "Peace to you!" But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. And he said to them, "Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have." And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, "Have you anything here to eat?" They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them.

Then he said to them, "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled." Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high."

Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


“We come as children to our Father’s table and to sit there with Jesus Christ, our elder brother.  Now a father does not love to have his child sitting in a sullen and dogged way at his table or to be crying, but would rather have the child sitting in comfort with a holy cheerfulness, with a holy freedom of spirit, not in a sullen way, but as a child in the presence of his father, and not as a servant with the master.”

Jeremiah Burroughs, Gospel Worship

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

WWJDWABC (What would Jesus do with a big crowd)

The following is the Prologue to  Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman.  (Hat Tip to Alan B. for hooking me up...even though I am not getting any sleep because of it.....)

It’s a Thursday afternoon and I am sitting in the church sanctuary. It’s empty now, but Easter is only a few days away. More than thirty thousand people will likely come to the weekend services, and I have no idea what I’m going to say to them. I can feel the pressure mounting as I sit there hoping that a sermon will come to mind. I look around at the empty seats hoping some inspiration will come. Instead there’s just more perspiration. I wipe the sweat off my brow and look down. This sermon needs to be good. There are some people who only come to church on Christmas and Easter (we call them “Creasters”). I want to make sure they all come back. What could I say to get their attention? How can I make my message more appealing? Is there something creative I could do that would be a big hit and get people talking?

Still nothing. There is a Bible in the chair in front of me. I grab it. I can’t think of a Scripture to turn to. 

I’ve spent my life studying this book and I can’t think of one passage that will “wow” the Creasters. I consider using it the way I did as a kid. Kind of like a Magic 8 Ball, you ask a question, open up the Bible and point on the page, and whatever it says answers your question.

Finally a thought crosses my mind: I wonder what Jesus taught whenever he had the big crowds. What I discovered would change meforever. Not just as a preacher, but as a follower of Christ. I found that when Jesus had a large crowd, he would most often preach a message that was likely to cause them to leave.

In that empty sanctuary I read of one such occasion in John chapter 6. Jesus is addressing a crowd that has likely grown to more than five thousand. Jesus has never been more popular. Word has spread about his miraculous healings and his inspirational teaching. This crowd of thousands has come to cheer him on.

After a full day of teaching, Jesus knows the people are getting hungry, and so he turns to his disciples and asks what all these people will do for food. One of the disciples, Philip, tells Jesus that even with eight months’ wages, it wouldn’t be enough money to buy bread for everyone to have a bite. From Philip’s perspective, there really wasn’t anything that could be done. But another disciple, Andrew, has been scanning the crowd and he tells Jesus of a boy who has fives loaves of bread and two small fish. Jesus takes the boy’s sack lunch and with it he feeds the entire crowd. In fact, the Bible tells us that even after everyone had their fill, there was still plenty of food left over.

After dinner the crowd decides to camp out for the night so they can be with Jesus the next day. These are some big-time fans of Jesus. The next morning when the crowd wakes up and they’re hungry again, they look around for Jesus, aka their meal ticket, but he’s nowhere to be found. These fans are hoping for an encore performance. Eventually they realize that Jesus and his disciples have gone to the other side of the lake. By the time they catch up to Jesus they’re starving. They’ve missed  their chance to order breakfast and they are ready to find out what’s on the lunch menu. But Jesus has decided to shut down the “all you can eat” buffet. He’s not handing out any more free samples. In verse 26 Jesus says to the crowd:
"I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill."
Jesus knows that these people are not going to all the trouble and sacrifice because they are following him, but because they want some free food. Was it Jesus they wanted, or were they only interested in what he could do for them? In verse 35 Jesus offers himself, but the question is, Would that be enough?  

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” Jesus says, I am the bread of life. Suddenly Jesus is the only thing on the menu. The crowd has to decide if he will satisfy or if they are hungry for something more. Here’s what we read at the end of the chapter:
"From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him" (John 6:66).
Many of the fans turn to go home. I was struck by the fact that Jesus doesn’t chase after them. He doesn’t soften his message to make it more appealing. He doesn’t send the disciples chasing after them with a creative handout inviting them to come back for a “build your own sundae” ice cream social. He seems okay with the fact that his popularity has plummeted.

As I sat in the sanctuary surrounded by thousands of empty seats, here’s what became clear to me: it wasn’t the size of the crowd Jesus cared about; it was their level of commitment.

I put the Bible back in the chair in front of me.

I cried. 

God, I am sorry.

Almost as soon as I said it to him, I knew it needed to go further. A few days later on Easter Sunday, a crowd of thousands gathered and I began my sermon with a choked up apology. I told the crowd that I was wrong for being too concerned with what they would think and how many of them would come back. I think over the years my intentions were good; I wanted to make Jesus look as attractive as possible so that people would come to find eternal life in him. I was offering the people Jesus, but I was handing out a lot of free bread. In the process I cheapened the gospel.

Imagine it this way:  Imagine that my oldest daughter turns twenty-five. She isn’t married but she really wants to be.  I decide I’m going to help make that happen. So, imagine I take out an ad in the newspaper, put up a billboard sign, and make up T-shirts begging someone to choose her. I even offer some attractive gifts as incentives. Doesn’t that cheapen who she is? Wouldn’t that make it seem that whoever came to her would be doing her a favor? I would never do that. I would set the standard high. I would do background checks and lie detector tests. There would be lengthy applications that must be filled out in triplicate. References would be checked and hidden cameras installed. If you want to have a relationship with her, you better be prepared to give her the best of everything you have. I don’t want to just hear you say that you love her; I want to know that you are committed to her. I want to know that you would give your life for her.

Too often in my preaching I have tried to talk people into following Jesus. I wanted to make following him as appealing, comfortable, and convenient as possible. And I want to say that I am sorry. I know it’s strange to start off a book with an apology, but I want you to know that the journey I’m inviting you on is one that I’ve been traveling. It’s a journey I continue to be on, and I should tell you it hasn’t been easy. It was more comfortable to be a part of the crowd.

I know typically you put something in the introduction that makes people want to read the book. You have a celebrity* write it, or you have someone else write it so that person can tell all the readers how great the writer is. At the very least the author should write something in the introduction of a book that makes people want to read it. I’m not sure if I’ve done that . . . probably not. My guess is an apology from a man who got it wrong for a long time doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. But I just want to be clear that this book is not just information on a page or a pastor’s commentary on the Scriptures. This book is written by one of those in the crowd in John 6 who thought Jesus was great but was really in it for the free meals.

I hope you will read this book and discover with me what it really means to follow Jesus. I will talk more about repentance than forgiveness, more about surrender than salvation, more about brokenness than happiness, and more about death than about life. The truth is, if you are looking for a book about following Jesus that lays out a comfortable and reassuring path, you won’t find it here. Don’t get me wrong, I want you to keep reading; I just want to be up-front and let you know there won’t be a lot of free bread.

*By “celebrity” I mean “Christian celebrities” like that guy who was the best friend of Charles on Charles in Charge or the one guy who was on the Dukes of Hazzard, not the dark-haired one, the other one. You know the guy who sometimes does commercials for Country Music compilation CDs. Oh, and if Blair off the Facts of Lifecouldn’t do it I also understand Tootie is a believer.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Why I'm Not a 'Fan' of Jesus

By Kyle Idleman - Teaching Pastor at Southeast Christian Church

According to a recent survey, the percentage of Americans who claim to be Christian is somewhere north of 75 percent.

Really? Three out of four people are followers of Christ?

Let's see, if the population of the United States is about 311 million and 75 percent are Christians that brings the number of Christians to somewhere in the neighborhood of 233 million. That's a lot of Christians. I don't see nearly that many Jesus fish on car bumpers. I don't know, maybe all the Darwin fish ate them. I'm just saying something about that percentage is off. Because if there really are that many Christians, then why will some 35 million people in America go to bed hungry tonight, including 13 million children? If 75 percent of Americans are Christians, then how is it possible that 40 percent of the homeless are under the age of 18? Why are there more than 120,000 children waiting to be adopted? I could keep going, and that's just in the States. The numbers don't add up. Jesus said the evidence that someone is one of his followers is love. So 233 million? The evidence just isn't there.

What's the explanation for such a discrepancy? A number of years ago I read an article about the new vegetarians. These new vegetarians don't eat meat -- most of the time. One of them explained that she was a vegetarian, but she really liked bacon. A vegetarian, by definition, is someone who doesn't eat meat. Umm, yeah, but isn't bacon a meat? Is it really accurate for her to identify herself as a vegetarian? If enough people who eat meat started calling themselves vegetarians wouldn't that throw the numbers off? The discrepancy was solved by coming up with a new term to describe vegetarians who aren't committed to abstaining from meat. They now identify themselves as "Flexitarians."

A Christian, by definition, is a follower of Christ. So, I'm thinking that what might help make sense of the 233 million number is a new word to describe people who identify themselves as Christians but have little interest in actually following the teachings of Jesus. Perhaps instead of "followers," it would be more accurate to call them "fans."

The word fan is most simply defined as, an enthusiastic admirer. And I think Jesus has a lot of fans these days. Some fans may even get dressed up for church on Sunday and make their ringtone a worship song. They like being associated with Jesus. Fans want to be close enough to Jesus to get the benefits, but not so close that it requires anything from them. They want a no-strings-attached relationship with Jesus. So a fan says, I like Jesus but don't ask me to serve the poor. I like Jesus, but I'm not going to give my money to people who are in need. I like Jesus, but don't ask me to forgive the person who hurt me. I like Jesus, but don't talk to me about money or sex that's off limits.

Fans like Jesus just fine, but they don't want to give up the bacon.

Fans tend to identify themselves as Christians not because they are committed to following Jesus, but for a number of other reasons. They might point to their family heritage thinking that being a Christian is in their DNA. Like a pug nose or a unibrow it was somehow passed down from mom and dad. Fans might identify themselves as Christians by pointing to religious rituals they've kept and rules they've followed.

Ultimately, defining what it means to be a follower of Jesus isn't nearly as arbitrary or subjective as we've made it. Jesus very clearly lays it out in Luke 9:23. He says, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me." These words tend to separate fans from followers. Followers are to deny themselves and take up a cross. Instead of giving a theological explanation of what that means, it's probably more helpful to show what it looks like. I've spent the last year collecting stories of fans who have become followers.
  • Bowin and Lindsey each ran their own successful business. They had a Mercedes SUV to handle their four kids. For them, following Jesus meant selling nearly everything they had and moving to the Island of Hispaniola to bring clean water to thousands in the Dominican Republic and Haiti. 
  • For Rachelle, following Jesus meant showing love to the women working in strip clubs. She and some of her friends started making big homemade meals and taking them to the women in the clubs. As a result many of the women no longer know Christians as just the group of angry picketers out front who, from their perspective, are trying to take away their job and have started to know Christians by their love.
  • Jennifer and Tom had a car they rarely drove. They decided that they really didn't need two cars and would give one of their cars to a single mom who needed transportation. One car was a 2001 model, the other was a 2004 model. They gave her the newer one.
That's just three stories of followers. I'm praying that there would be around 233,249,997 more. They may not be as dramatic or inspiring but my prayer is that Christians would be known not by a fish on their bumper -- or the profile on their Facebook page -- or by going regularly to their church, but they would be followers of Jesus who are known for their love.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Three Dollars (not just a cup of Starbucks)

by Scotty Smith
Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist. When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven.  Prov. 23:4-5
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 1 Tim 6:6-8
Loving Father, we continue to live in a difficult economic season. Some of us who thought we’d be retired in a couple of years are now thinking it’s ten, if ever. Some of us have lost jobs, even homes. Some of us are selling stuff and downsizing out of necessity, not choice. Some of our marriages are being stressed to the point of breaking. Some of us are actually being tempted to steal for the first time. Lord, we need wisdom, we need a work of your Spirit, and some of us really do need jobs.

Father, we look to you. Give us the perspective and power of the gospel as we make hard decisions, and reflect on our relationship to money and “stuff.” Free us from an attitude of entitlement and place within us a Spirit of contentment. When did we first assume the right to excess? When did abundance get relabeled as need? Why did we think only first-century disciples of Jesus would ever actually have to pray for daily bread?

In our “iWorld” of new gadgets and cool widgets, help us ponder the fact that over half of the population on the earth exists on three of our American dollars, or less, a day. Free us to share with others from the much or little that we have. Help us to raise our children not to love money as much as we have. Don’t let us grow bitter, shame-filled or fearful.

Father, if we would wear ourselves out for anything, let it be to become rich toward you (Luke 12:20–21)—to have the gospel so penetrate our hearts that we cry out with spontaneous joy, “Who do I have in heaven but you, O Lord, and being with you I desire nothing on the earth . . . You are my portion, sovereign Lord.”

Lord Jesus, you who were immeasurably rich in all things became incomprehensibly poor for us, so that we, who were desperately poor in sin, might be made inconceivably rich in grace. We worship and adore, with humility and gratitude. We thank you for the daily bread of both wheat and the gospel. So very Amen we pray, in your holy and gracious name.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Churches Die a Day at a Time

By Jared Wilson at Gospel-Driven Church:

Yesterday on Twitter Darrin Patrick quoted a really good question from For the City (a book he co-wrote with Matt Carter and Joel Lindsey):
If our churches shut their doors tomorrow, would our cities even know we were gone?
The truth is, though, that churches don't tend to shut their doors "tomorrow." Apart from some uncommon catastrophic collapse, churches don't go from growing/thriving to dead in a day. This doesn't nullify the question, of course. It helps apply it.

In New England, churches have been closing down "every day" for a few decades. New England evangelicalism once thrived. But that was a long time ago. The churches shutting down left and right didn't die in a day. They gave up ground over time. They died an inch at a time, a day at a time.

So. We can't let up on mission. We can't lose focus on the gospel. Not for a second. Because one second leads to a minute to an hour to a day to a month to a year to a decade to "tomorrow" you're shutting the doors. And if we do let up, we've got to repent and circle back.

The best way to become miss-able to our cities is be churches that keep returning to the gospel. Every day counts.

When the preferences of the church members are greater than their passion for the gospel, the church is dying. -- Thom Rainer 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Big Names, Big Crowds, Big Events

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.   Matthew 28:19

How do we make God’s glory known in all the nations? If God has given us his grace so that we might take his gospel to the ends of the earth, then how do we do that? Do we walk out into the streets and just start proclaiming the glory of God somehow? Should we all go to other nations? If we go, what do we do when we get there? What does all this look like in our day-to-day lives?
Jesus has much to teach us here. If we were left to ourselves with the task of taking the gospel to the world, we would immediately begin planning innovative strategies and plotting elaborate schemes. We would organize conventions, develop programs, and create foundations. We would get the biggest names to draw the biggest crowds to the biggest events. We would start megachurches and host megaconferences. We would do…well, we would do what we are doing today.
But Jesus is so different from us. With the task of taking the gospel to the world, he wandered through the streets and byways of Israel looking for a few men. Don’t misunderstand me – Jesus was anything but casual about his mission. He was initiating a revolution, but his revolution would not revolve around a few men. It would not revolve around garnering a certain position. Instead it would revolve around choosing a few people. He would intentionally shun titles, labels, plaudits, and popularity in his plan to turn the course of history upside down. All he wanted was a few men who would think as he did, love as he did, see as he did, teach as he did, and serve as he did. All he needed was to revolutionize the hearts of a few, and they would impact the world.
                      ~ David Platt, Radical

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tears in our Coffee and Beer

As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?” Ps. 42:1–3

Gracious Father, your Word gives voice to every season, circumstance, and emotion we experience in the journey to gospel wholeness. In our delight and in our despair, in our certainty and in our frailty; in our cheers and in our fears—and in everything in between, you are with us and you are for us.

You don’t love us more when we have a dancing heart. You don’t love us less when we have a doubting heart. Delightful circumstances don’t mean we’ve done everything right and hard providences don’t mean we’ve done something wrong. Indeed, with kindness you drew us, and with an everlasting, unwavering love, you hold us—no matter what.

Today we bring our discouraged, weary, deeply hurting friends to you, Lord. For you tell us that when one part of the Body hurts, the whole Body hurts. We are to rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. We fulfill the law of Christ by bearing one another’s burdens.

Lord, sometimes it feels like life is just too much: the hard events, the difficult people, the aches and pains of this “tent” of a body; cars and plumbing that break down, friends who bury their wives way too early, children who seem allergic to the gospel, mounting bills and decreasing resources, and a world—even family members who say, “Where is your God in all this? What have you done wrong? Why are you holding on?”

Tears in our coffee and beer, on our sandwiches and in our cereal, and dry tears when there is no heart water left. Lord Jesus, you know what this is like—you better than anyone else. For you took the ultimate combination of assaults and insults on the cross, for me and my friends. Your cry, “My God, my God, why have your forsaken me?”, assures us we will never be forsaken—never, even when life mocks our creed and confession. It’s your thirst on the cross that assures us that out thirst is fleeting, though at times it feels fatal.

Lord Jesus, as we pant for you, you are running to us with the living water of the gospel; as we starve for hope, you are preparing the fresh bread of mercy and grace. Come quickly, Lord. Show us how to love our friends well when our words are simply not enough. So very Amen we pray, in your faithful and tender name. Amen.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Trying to do the Lord's work in your own strength is the most confusing, exhausting, and tedious of all work. But when you are filled with the Holy Spirit, then the ministry of Jesus just flows out of you. ----Corrie ten Boom

Friday, July 8, 2011

Forgives us all, Forgives us still...

Many find Jesus’ teaching on enemy love and forgiveness a stumbling block to faith. Because we find it too difficult to practice, we dismiss it as unrealistic and utopian. We should think again, and we should pray that it is not unrealistic, because this congruence of Jesus—the consistency between his teaching on forgiveness and his action on the cross—is really our only hope. It is all that stands between us and the consequences of our monumental frailty. Thank God today that Jesus died as he lived, because with those words, “Father, forgive…” he forgives us all, and he forgives us still.

- Peter Storey in Listening at Golgotha: Jesus’ Words from the Cross

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Graveyard at Miango

This may be one of the most difficult things I have read in years. I have read it over and over for a couple of years and still can't get past it. I know I have sent it our multiple times but here it is again.  The photo is of the graveyard and the Goossen Grave
No Fixed Formula (Phillip Yancey from Prayer: Does it make a difference?)

Even after spelling out some of what we do wrong in our prayers, however - especially after spelling that out - I must repeat that prayer does not work according to a fixed formula: get your life in order, say the right words, and the desired result will come. If that were true, Job would have avoided much suffering, Paul would have shed his thorn in the flesh, and Jesus would never have gone to Golgotha. Between the two questions "Does God answer prayer?" and "Will God grant my specific prayer for this sick child or this particular injustice?" lies a great pool of mystery.

Charles Edward White, a college professor in the state of Michigan spent several terms as a visiting professor at the University of Jos in Nigeria. While there, he visited a missionary graveyard in a quiet garden beside a chapel on Nigeria's Central Plateau. Most of the graves he noticed were small: two and three-foot mounds to accommodate child-sized coffins. 33 of the 56 graves in fact held the bodies of small children......Two infants lived just one day. Others lived a few years, falling victim to the tropical diseases common in that part of the world. Melvin Louis Goossen was twelve when he and his brother fell off a suspension bridge over a rain swollen creek. Their missionary father, Arthur Goossen dived in the creek to save one son. But when he dived after Melvin, both father and son drowned....

Charles Edward White wrote:
The graveyard at Miango tells us something about God and about His grace. It testifies that God is not a jolly grandfather who satisfies our every desire. Certainly those parents wanted their children to live. They plead with God but He denied their request.

The graves also show us that God is not a calculating merchant who withholds his goods until we produce enough good works or faith to buy his help. 
If anyone had earned credit with God, it would have been these missionaries. They left all to spread the gospel in a hostile environment, But God does not hand out merit pay.

Not only do we learn about God's nature from the Miango 
graveyard, but we also discover truths about God's grace. God's grace may be free, but it is not cheap. Neither purchasing our salvation nor letting us know the gift was inexpensive.

Beginning with Abel, many of the witnesses to divine grace sealed their words with blood. Jesus asked the Jews which of the prophets was not persecuted? When he first sent out his disciples, he promised them betrayal and death. Then, at the end of his ministry, he promised his followers that as they carried out his word, they would face trouble and hatred.."

"The only way we can understand the graveyard at Miango," White concluded, "is to remember that God also buried his Son on the mission field."

For a missionary couple who stand beside a mound of earth in a garden in Nigeria, no logical explanation of unanswered prayer will suffice. They must place their faith in a God who has yet to fulfill the promise that good will overcome evil, that God's good purpose will, in the end, prevail. To cling to that belief may represent the ultimate rationalization----or 
the ultimate act of faith.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Hello...My name is Grace

By Rachel Evans from her Blog:

Grace is my middle name.


I was born Rachel Grace Held—named after my great-grandmother, Grace Burleson, who taught school in rural Appalachia during the Depression and who, when I was young and she was old, used to pull me onto her lap to tell me stories about the ghost that lived in the hen house at the old farm.

Grace is a good name, a gentle name, one I’d like to pass down to my own daughter someday.

In addition to that, grace is something that Christians really like to talk about. Indeed one could argue that grace is the thing that separates Christianity from all other faiths. This idea that God does not withhold his love from us, that he gives it freely in spite of our sin and rebellion, that it is ours to receive without condition or merit is indeed very good news.

And yet Christians have a bad habit of letting grace get stuck in our heads. It becomes a doctrine we defend rather than a virtue we exhibit; an idea around which we rally rather than the animating force behind how we live.

Interestingly enough, Elizabeth Gilbert gets the essence of grace just right in Eat, Pray, Love when she describes a conversation she had with her sister:
A family in my sister’s neighborhood was recently stricken with a double tragedy, when both the young mother and her three-year-old son were diagnosed with cancer. When Catherine told me about this, I could only say, shocked, “Dear God, that family needs grace.” She replied firmly, “That family needs casseroles,” and then proceeded to organize the entire neighborhood into bringing that family dinner, in shifts, every single night, for an entire year. I do not know if my sister fully recognizes that this is grace.
I realized when I read this  just how rarely I thought about grace as way of life, and how tragic it is that grace is often reduced to a proposition, a mere religious idea.

Now we could get into a rather ungraceful argument about the true meaning of grace, but as I see it, grace is about giving without expecting anything in return. It’s about cutting ourselves and one another some slack. It’s about letting go of grudges and extending love when it is not deserved. It’s about acknowledging all the brokenness within us and around us…and loving in spite of it.

The ultimate denial of grace, then, is not to misunderstand it theologically, but to withhold it. The minute we withhold grace because of some prejudice or fear on our part, it becomes nothing more than a doctrine.

Grace is just a doctrine when we withhold it from ourselves. 
Grace is just a doctrine when we withhold it from one another.
Grace is just a doctrine when we withhold it from the world.  

When I look ahead to my thirties, the quality I most want to nurture is grace—for myself, for the people around me, and for this planet I call home. I want to be less judgmental and more open. I want to be quicker to forgive myself when I make a mistake. I want to look for the divine under every stone, down every forgotten street, and in every puddle of rain. I want to give others the benefit of the doubt. I want to make more casseroles and give more time.  I want to listen better to those who live differently than me. I want to forgive. I want to let go.  I want to relax a little and let my guard down and not take things quite so seriously. 

I want grace to move from my head into my heart and my hands, so that I live up to my name.

Do you find yourself reducing grace to an idea rather than a lifestyle? Do you see this happening in the Church? In what ways have you given or received grace within the past day or two—I’d love to hear some stories!

Sunday, July 3, 2011


By J.C. Ryle:

A zealous person in Christianity is preeminently a person of one thing. It is not enough to say that they are earnest, strong, uncompromising, meticulous, wholehearted, and fervent in spirit. They only see one thing, they care for one thing, they live for one thing, they are swallowed up in one thing; and that one thing is to please God.

Whether they live, or whether they die-whether they are healthy, or whether they are sick-whether they are rich, or whether they are poor-whether they please man, or whether they give offense-whether they are thought wise, or whether they are thought foolish-whether they are accused, or whether they are praised-whether they get honor, or whether they get shame-for all this the zealous person cares nothing at all.

They have a passion for one thing, and that one thing is top please God and to advance God’s glory. If they are consumed in the very burning of their passion for God, they don’t care-they are content. They feel that, like a candle, they were made to burn; and if they are consumed in the burning, then they have only done the work for which God has appointed them. Such a person will always find a sphere for their zeal.

If they cannot work, or give money, or a man cannot preach, then they will cry out and sigh, and pray. Yes: if they are extremely poor, on a perpetual bed of sickness, they will make the activity of sin around him slow to a standstill, by continually interceding against it. If they cannot fight in the valley with Joshua, they will do the work of Moses, Aaron, and Hur, on the hill. (Exodus 17:9-13) If they are cut off from working themselves, they will give the Lord no rest until help is raised up from another quarterand the work is done. This is what I mean when I speak of zeal in Christianity.

Friday, July 1, 2011


Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Matthew 28:19
Billy Graham once said that it takes twenty people to lead someone to Christ. The first person thinks she had nothing to do with it. The last person thinks it was all him. The work of cultivation was those first nineteen people. And if they’re not careful, they can think their effort was all for nothing.
-Ben Arment, Church in the Making