Tag Archives: grace

The rent is great

img_3366We’re meeting in a park next to a lake (of reclaimed water) called Lake Balboa. I feel like Jesus preaching next to the lake. We are called Lighthouse Church, but I have taken to calling us Church on the Lake, a spinoff of the nearby mega Church on the Way.

The colors are beautiful. We get visitors from all the passers-by. The shade is good, as is the weather in Los Angeles. If you get bored of my sermon, you can enjoy the view. So why do some church members want a “building?”

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The rent is cheaper here (we pay $O, though others paid with blood the price of freedom in America). We just grab an available picnic table in the shade, set up some chairs, play an acoustic guitar, use the music stand for a pulpit, pass the toilet paper basket for offering and — presto! — free church.

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People can sit discreetly at he benches a ways back and hear the sermon.

It was my goal, on being sent out to “pioneer” a new work, to charge nothing to the parent church, which was burdened heavily with the Guatemalan ministry. I wanted to show that with faith and prayer it was possible for other pastors to plant churches at no cost to the mother church. Today we had 16 people.

Eventually, we will outgrow the park and need a building. Until then, I’m enjoying the view and the ride. It’s a blast for me, the #ValleyBoyPastor.

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When you can’t resist temptation

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I couldn’t resist Anita’s chocolate chip cookies.

I’m trying to build a muscular body. I’m going to the gym. I limit my sweets intake. But when it comes to Anita Guerechet’s cooking, all will power succumbs to taste bud power.

The human condition is weakness. Oscar Wilde famously said, “I can resist everything except temptation.”

Nobody is perfect, and if you lay claim to perfection, you’re in the camp of the Pharisees. The Bible says we are all sinners.

We all need forgiveness. This is the heart of the Gospel. We are saved NOT by what we do but by what Christ did on the cross to forgive us.

Now, it’s true that we have the obligation to strive to live for God as best we can, out of gratitude. But we don’t earn salvation by good works.

And don’t be calling me a hypocrite. I’m human, as are you.

So why resist temptation? For the greater joy of being in right relationship with Him. And when you fall (to cookies, or whatever), get back up and on the right path again.

Just because I broke down and ate three cookies doesn’t mean I’m going to let myself go and become obese. Get up, dust yourself off, make some good decisions. Maybe it’s not a good idea to have a constant supply of Anita’s cookies within reach, for example. (Fortunately for me, those cookies showed up at church for a sendoff service, and those types of services are very infrequent.)

Was the cookie worth it? Yes.

Is a healthy body worth it? Yes.

Is it worth it to strive to resist temptation? Yes.

Is it better to walk in right relationship with the Lord? Yes.

Do we have forgiveness for when we slip up? Yes.

Honestly, I can’t figure out why anyone in the world wouldn’t be a Christian.

God doesn’t help those who help themselves

ben franklinDon’t misunderstand. I’m not advocating abdicating responsibilities. But I am hacking away at a mentality that flaunts self-sufficiency and human arrogance. Because Christianity at its most basic level recognizes how helpless humans are to please God. Hence, the need for forgiveness. Christ did for us what we could never do to gain for us what we could never gain for ourselves.

I thank God I’m a Christian. This doesn’t mean I’m perfect. I’m means I humbly and repeatedly ask for God’s forgiveness, intervention and favor. Join us. It’s a beautiful life.

These are the truest Christians I’ve ever heard

How can the victims’ families forgive the confessed killer of nine blacks in an AME church in South Carolina. He tried to start a race war. It looks like he started a revival.

May all those filled with the sin of racism let the love of Jesus into their hearts. We whites have done hundreds of years of gravest crimes against blacks. It is our time to repent.

Martin Luther King Jr. knew that the love of Christ would prevail. I can only pray to God to have the sincere faith of these brothers and sisters in Christ who, in the moment of fresh pain, unreservedly forgive the killer of their loved ones and invite him to Christ.

(Originally, I tried unsuccessfully to a shorter embed video from the New York Times. Then I found it on YouTube. This video is a must-see for anyone curious about true Christianity.)

How God looks down on us

God's heart

gif from dominique

Guilt is not so easy

scarlet-letter

Image thanks to https://www.enotes.com.

Just because Hester Prynne unclasps her scarlet letter and flings it away doesn’t mean disposing of guilt is so easy.

As a symbol of the difficulty of working through guilt, Pearl the brat demands her mother put the fabric “A” back on her dress. On one level, the infant simply can’t accept a disruption in her mother’s appearance. But on another level, for Pearl, the letter is like a wedding ring, and casting it off is tantamount to breaking worse her already broken family.

If all you come away with in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s book is stones to throw at repressive religion, I respectfully suggest you’re not delving past a superficial reading of The Scarlet Letter. That is only one of the themes. Hawthorne’s genius explores the intricacies and complexities of the human psyche, and you’re settling for gold dust and missing the mother load.

scarlet-letter-hester-pearlTo be sure, Hawthorne rains his pen down on failed religion. Arthur Dimmesdale flogs himself and performs excessive good works yet cannot find peace. His understanding of Jesus is deficient. A Christian is neither saved by piety nor charity; he is saved simply by Christ’s forgiveness, which Dimmesdale is blind to.

The book is full of ironies because Dimmesdale’s brokenness makes him the town’s favorite minister. This is eminently keen insight. If you have never suffered, you can’t have compassion on your fellows when ministering the word.

Hester Prynne herself, after her one sin of passion, likewise constrains herself to a rigorous life of charity. She dresses the drabbest colors and constricts her luxurious mane of hair to the insides of a bonnet.

After seven years of suffering, the pair meet in the forest and scheme to run away together back to England. Suddenly, sunshine pours in on them and the feel the exhilarating release of nearly a decade of pressure, scrutiny and condemnation.

It’s a good plan — except that they see themselves a sinners for doing it. Pearl is only the first to ruin it. She insists with a temper tantrum that her mother restore the letter to its rightful place. Then Roger Chillingworth, the evil avenger, completes the fatal stroke by booking passage on the same ship.

In traditional Greek fashion, the story must end as a tragedy. Hawthorne is sounding the dark regions of the human conscious, not writing a treatise on salvation. Nevertheless, the message emerges that only grace, only forgiveness in Jesus, can heal the heart. Religion never works — only relationship with Jesus.

The traditional spin on this book is that society is to blame for oppressing these free spirits. If you want to read the book that way, go ahead. But I can’t help but see deeper. You can’t just throw away guilt so easily. You and I need to come to Christ and be healed of our sin. Restoration works, not repression.

The difference is mercy

cute babyOne girl sputtered out of the church. Her pastor/uncle treated her gruffly when she got pregnant out of wedlock. Twenty years later, she’s still out of the church.

Another girl, in her down and out moment, got friendship, love, acceptance, encouragement. Today she’s serving in the church, a huge blessing.

It’s good to uphold a high standard for the church. But we must never lose sight of mercy. Sometimes striking a balance is tough. If we err, let’s err on the side of mercy. That’s what God does.

I make mistakes

grace for mistakesTherefore, I like grace.

Forgiveness is a wonderful thing.

You can try to live without it. But why?

Do not be afraid

afraidEvery Christmas narrative in the Bible contains the command: Do not be afraid. The angel says it to Joseph, to Mary, to Zachariah.

To you.

Don’t be afraid of God. He is loving. The commands of the Old Testament are satisfied in the New Testament through Jesus. Christmas is, in the words of the angel, “good news of great joy” because God is forgiving the sins of all who ask. The gap separating man from God is bridged by the cross. Reconciliation is possible. Perfect love drives out all fear — 1 John 4:18 NIV.

God loves you with a perfect love. All you need to do, as with a Christmas present, is open it.

The greatest gift: forgiveness

forgivenessGod gives gifts to men.

What’s startling about this statement is that kings GET gifts from their subjects.

If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! — Matt. 7:11 NIV.

The greatest gift you could ever receives is NOT a Lamborghini. Nor is it a date with Brittany Spears. Nor is it a trip to Tahiti.

It is forgiveness.

God’s forgiveness is available only for the asking.

Unfortunately, many are too busy arguing that there is no need to ask for forgiveness.

The Day of the Lord/ The Day of His Visitation

The Day of the Lord

I want to thank whoever originated this image. It is stirring. I don’t own its rights, and I’m not making any money on it.

Two widely used Old Testament terms appear synonymous.

  1. the Day of the Lord
  2. the Day of His Visitation.

In fact, they are polar opposites. The first is for judgement, the second, mercy.

Why do you long for the day of the Lord? That day will be of darkness, not light — Amos 5:18 NIV. By contrast, Naomi fled famine in Bethlehem to Moab, but when she heard the Lord had “visited” her people by giving them rain (food), she returned (Ruth 1:6).

This is more than delving into Scripture deeper than most people care for because of the Day of our Lord Jesus. Was Jesus’ advent a “Day of the Lord” or a “Day of His Visitation?”

The answer is both. His incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection was God’s judgement on the world, diverted onto Christ. It was also God’s favor because we were lavished with His grace — His restoring forgiveness.

Such Bible study should stir us to praise as we marvel over the wonderful conclusion that Jesus Christ brought to the progressive revelation in the Old Testament.

But the judgement fell elsewhere

unquenchable fireIt almost seems like John the Baptist got it wrong.

Rattling off ominous predictions of imminent doom, John warned that Jesus’ advent would mark the end.

The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire — Matt. 3:10, 12 NIV.

Jesus failed to live up to his billing. The meanest thing he ever did was overturn the tables of the money changers in the temple. When it came to violent confrontation, he meekly handed himself over to death — hardly the expected judgement.

But no, John didn’t miss the mark. The threatened judgement DID fall, and the wrath of God DID execute implacable justice.

It’s just it didn’t fall on the guilty. It fell on Jesus.

That horrible death of Jesus. The ax fill on the root, on the root of Jesse. The burning scorched Jesus.

Jesus was the soldier who threw himself on the hand grenade to save his buddies, you and me.

More on order of operations

god's graceAn analogy is powerful persuasion. But it also has its flaws in that it never holds 100% correspondence to what it is being compared to. Such was the case of my last post, math = God’s systems. Specifically, I focused on order of operations, and how it you do math out of order, you get the wrong answer. I compared this to fudging God’s order from the Bible. For example, many people now think (especially in California) that it really doesn’t matter if you have sex before marriage. I insisted the correct order does matter.

great grace

image from Pegponderingagain.

Then http://marshajobrien.com/ pointed out that my post didn’t sound right. It sounded condemning, compassionless, cold. Maybe it turned a lot of people off to the gospel when my wish is to attract people.

grace of God

image from josephprince.com

While I believe there is a great truth to the order-of-operations analogy, at the same time there is a fallacy: Grace trumps. God redeems the brokenness and hurt of our lives. He gives us new beginnings. Think of doing the math problem wrong and still getting the right answer: that is grace.

God's mercyGrace is when we turn to God, realizing our sin. We want forgiveness. We want a new start. And He embraces us with compassion. He shows us a better way to live life. When we blow it, He continually gives us a new opportunity.

The tension between grace and law are summed up in the prodigal son: He was restored to full sonship, but his part of the inheritance was entirely and irrevocably squandered. We do lose blessings by our bad decisions. But God works the math to always favor us. Even this runs the risk of lacking grace.

Loneliness

lonelinessIf you never suffer pain, you will undervalue joy.

If you don’t know anguish, relief is boring.

If you ignore what misery is, you will be void of compassion.

If you don’t understand how your sin puts you into desperate straits before God, you will never grasp the imponderable wonder of grace and salvation.

If it’s always somebody’s else’s fault, you will never know what it means to forgive.

If you only love yourself, you do not know what love is.

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Grace4Disgrace

GRACE4DISGRACE

Heaven is real

Heaven is real

from Blue Pueblo

Dianna’s co-worker was dumbfounded — why was Dianna not crying? Her dad had just died.

Dianna explained that 1) his passing came as no surprise, and 2) we have no doubt as to the reality of Heaven.

beauty

from Blue Pueblo

If you don’t believe in Heaven, you will try to extract every ounce of pleasure from Earth. Don’t get me wrong: I believe there’s a great taste of Heaven here. But that is just a foretaste. Those who try to experience Heaven on Earth are accepting tinsel for gold. If you don’t believe in Heaven, then you wail hopelessly upon the death of friends and family — or stiffen yourself stoically.

joy

from Dumb a Day

The evolutionists deride Heaven. The atheists scoff. The humanists ridicule. Still the human heart yearns to believe in eternity. We are not animals. Undeniably born in the human heart is the knowledge of eternity. What we yearn for, God confirms in His Word:

  • My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I a.m — John 14:2-3 NIV.
  • We do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first — 1 Thes. 4:13, 16 NIV.
  • And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God — Revelations 21:3 NIV.

In regards to Heaven, let me say one important thing: We eat sumptuous food in Heaven. Why should Dianna cry? Dad is in Heaven.

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Forgiven

forgiven

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God’s grace

God's grace

How to pray? Optimize

  • How to pray?
  • Prayers from the Bible
  • Prayer optimization
How to pray? Optimize

from Christianity Matters blog

Recently, a close friend was broken. His ex was possibly dying from cancer, and even though she was an ex, heart strings were tugged. He came with me to prayer and poured out his heart to God asking for her healing. She’s better now. God answered from grace. Even though God answered, my friend still is not coming to church for gratitude, for commitment, for anything.

from cloud lounge blog

from cloud lounge blog

God’s grace is the greatest thing. You don’t earn salvation, and He doesn’t deny your prayer request just because you’re not attending church. You cannot earn a positive response from God.

But it seems to me like we’re not optimizing our prayer life when we treat God only as 911. We call Him only in emergency. It seems to me that we actually optimize our prayers when we serve Him faithfully. It’s an insult to God when we treat Him as unimportant 364 days out of the year and only remember Him on the one day we have a crisis. Still, He answers out of His grace, not out of our merits (because even when we’re somewhat faithful, we have not merits).

from blue pueblo blog

from blue pueblo blog

I don’t pretend to fully understand this. I’m only describing a tension that deserves to be rectified. There’s no mathematical formula for when you will get an answer and when not. God’s grace overrides any formula.

Maybe the best way to describe this is to say, treating God only as an Emergency Service in Heaven, is not cool. How to pray? Don’t be uncool.