Category Archives: grace

Grace That Stoops To My Level

Fisherman

There’s a famous scene in the Gospel of John where Jesus and Simon Peter sit together after a nice breakfast of fish and bread (detect a theme?). Jesus turns to Peter and delivers a charge to him that stops the story of the Bible in its tracks. Here is the passage from a not too familiar translation of the Bible:

When they had finished breakfast Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these others?” “Yes, Lord,” he replied, “you know that I am your friend.” “Then feed my lambs,” returned Jesus. Then he said for the second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord,” returned Peter. “You know that I am your friend.” “Then care for my sheep,” replied Jesus. Then for the third time, Jesus spoke to him and said, “Simon, son of John, are you my friend?” Peter was deeply hurt because Jesus’ third question to him was “Are you my friend?”, and he said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I am your friend!” “Then feed my sheep,” Jesus said to him. [John 21:15-18; J.B. Philips New Testament]

The play here is in the Greek. Jesus asks the first two questions using the Greek word, agapeo, which means something like “radical God love that pursues without limits.” Peter responds with the Greek word, phileo, which means “You are my brother.” In the third question/answer, Jesus changes the Greek agapeo to phileo.

Jesus isn’t confused about how he loves Peter. Peter is offering him all the love he has in his guts. It’s real. It’s Expendables. It’s Rocky/Apollo Creed. It’s Ben & Jerry. It shows that God doesn’t require that we always love up to his level, that we be all perfect when we’re only faking it. In fact, Jesus doesn’t even ask Peter to fake it. Jesus condescends. †

Rather than throwing a high and mightier than thou smack down on Peter, Jesus says, “Pete, your love is substantial and I can love you like that. Like real brothers. Blood brothers.”

There’s this great scene in the movie Gung Ho…you may not have been born yet.

In this scene, Michael Keaton plays the manager of an automobile plant that has been taken over by a Japanese car company that has entirely different expectations. One of those expectations is that the American workers will up their game exponentially and produce 15,000 cars in one month — impossible. Keaton has to make sure that the job gets done knowing that it is going to be a tight squeeze to get to the bottom line. His team kind of makes it, but not really. The numbers are there but the quality is a circus of serious shortcuts.

Jesus believes in us like that.
If our lives were cars, he’d drive our cars.
If someone said ‘we failed’, he’d say, “I thought it handled great!”

I think we spend alot of time worrying about whether or not God likes us, much less loves us.
I think we believe that Jesus is a middle manager that polices our lives for the Boss (not Springsteen).
It’s hard to accept that he loves us.
And sometimes it’s impossible to believe he accepts us.

We can come up with a whole list of reasons why he shouldn’t, but it doesn’t matter…he does.
We don’t need to love God the way he loves us.
He loves you the he loves you…the way he loves someone like Peter.
A misfit that betrayed him.
A screw up that denied him.

Brennan Manning writes (brilliantly in The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out
:”Jesus comes not for the super-spiritual but for the wobbly and the weak-kneed who know they don’t have it all together, and who are not too proud to accept the handout of amazing grace. As we glance up, we are astonished to find the eyes of Jesus open with wonder, deep with understanding, and gentle with compassion.”

The truth is:
There’s nothing you can do that will make God love you less.
There’s nothing you can do that will make God love you more.

When Jesus asks, “Are you my friend?” It’s not a lesser love, it’s absolute.
It’s a love that stoops to my level.

Now…marinate in the vastness of that.

† “God didn’t overlook your sins, lest he endorse them. He didn’t punish you, lest he destroy you. He instead found a way to punish the sin and preserve the sinner. Jesus took your punishment, and God gave you credit for Jesus’ perfection.” Max Lucado, Grace: More Than We Deserve, Greater Than We Imagine

Help! Where Can I Get A Better Story?

Recently, Michael Hyatt (the Yoda of the Blog World, minus the whole short, green, shriveled alien thing) blogged about changing your personal narrative. I’ve heard Don Miller speak on this and when you read his books, you get your fill of changing your story type language. The deal is…it’s taken me a long time to frame changing my story in a way that makes sense to me.

How do we tell a new story when an old/current story already exists?
Close that chapter and write a new one!

Let me illustrate:

For alot of my life, my story had its roots in the ‘schoolyard.’ I believed that I was last picked for the team, that in order to be good enough I have to out perform everyone around me. I need to be smarter, cleverer, faster, brighter…basically anything that ends with -er. This all started way back in the day. The ‘last one picked’ scenario held me back for a long time.

This comes from a personal narrative (the story I tell about myself) where I am not the main character. I am a supporting actor in my own movie (if everyone else is picked first in my story…that’s just where I fit). As a result, the story of my life has been filled with self doubt, fear, confidence issues, trust issues, passivity, etc…

So telling a new story about myself begins by deciding who the main character is.
That has to be me.

In my real story, I am not the last one picked. I was chosen “before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love [Eph 1:4].” Telling myself that I am always going to be chosen last is a lie. It’s not a true story. Scripture affirms the exact opposite. Of course, that’s why it’s so important to live in the Scriptures. I have to hear God’s voice at least as much as the voice of those who don’t know the real story.

The deeper truth is, I’m a part of a greater story than my own.
I am a part of Jesus’ story and by his choosing.

For the last twenty years or so, I can’t think of a time where I was actually picked last. In fact, in my experience, there isn’t a whole lot of picking going on. My wife didn’t pick me, she fell in love with me. That job I didn’t get, it’s not that they didn’t pick me, I wasn’t right for it — or for them. The deal is…I cannot be the victim in my story, even when it feels like I might be. If you were writing the script of the movie that is your life, what questions would you need to ask yourself to keep your story moving forward?

How can I tell my story so I am the hero fighting my way through adversity?
How can I see the main character as someone who has to thrive in spite of opposition?
Where are places that the main character needs to celebrate, enjoy and rest?
Where is my story connecting with Jesus’ story and how is that shaping me?

I HIGHLY recommend that you take a moment to read the Hyatt post, if you are interested in this topic.

This is a great TED video from Chris Seay, Pastor of Ecclesia in Houston, TX, on story. It’s a great way to spend 17 minutes. Plus, he’s Houstonian!

He frames some great questions that I would like to spend some time reflecting on:

If you had one song to sing that would tell the world who you are, what would it be?
Are you living your story…or someone else’s?
Whose present is the past that is shaping your future?

Peace

I don’t have time for God anymore…

“I don’t have time for God anymore.”

Have you heard yourself say those words lately?
Have you run the gauntlet, plied the mental gymnastics to work through the guilt?

All because, the truth is, “I don’t have time for God anymore?”

The good news is: God still has time for you!
As a matter of fact, God has all the time in the world just for you.

In Eugene Peterson’s book, Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity, he writes, “George McDonald once wrote that sleep is God’s contrivance for giving us the help he cannot get into us when we are awake [p.69].”

This is a statement of sheer grace.

Kind David, crooning one of his salty blues numbers, wrote something similar:

O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from far away.
You search out my path and my lying down,
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Psalm 139: 1-3

God is active in our rest. We are active participants in God’s work of re-creation even at rest. Perhaps, especially at rest.

Have you ever thought about that? Have you ever though about God’s relentless pursuit of you, his constant compassion and presence with you while you are asleep?

Enjoy your time with God. Enjoy his presence while you rest. Be still and know that he is God.

Peterson continues:

I prepare for sleep not with a feeling of exhausted frustration because there is so much yet undone and unfinished, but with expectancy. The day is about to begin! During the hours of my sleep, how will he prepare to use my obedience, service and speech when the morning breaks? [p.69]

Grace says to you: “Rest. The Lord is working in you to do what you cannot. Time? Time is just a way of measure the distance between moments. God is good at moments.”

somehow God forgave me…

If you don’t follow People of the Second Chance yet, then it’s time. Catch them on Twitter as well.

Our God is a God of second chances.

Think about it…you got one (maybe two or three or a thousand).
It’s called Grace.
Grace looks like radical forgiveness.

Grace finds beauty in ugly things.”
[U2, "Grace" All You Can't Leave Behind]

Minutes ago I read this article from the director of the General Assembly Mission Council’s World Mission. In the article, three key issues are brought up concerning world mission: the root causes of poverty, reconciliation amidst a culture of violence and sharing the love of Jesus Christ around the world.

After reading this, I saw this video on twitter (via @billyritchie).

PEOPLE OF THE SECOND CHANCE: EMMANUEL’S STORY

That is deep grace.

Where is grace trying to break through in your life?

Are you letting grace find beauty in ugly things?