Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Habit of Being Better Than Good

In Zig Ziglar's new book Better Than Good he comments on the old conversation, "How are you doing?" "Good", inevitably is the reply. In this scenario 'good' usually means everything but good!

So Ziglar then asks a new question to get at what really is going on in your or my life: How Do I Know When I am Doing Better Than Good?

1. You are doing better than good when you have made friends with your past, are focused on the present and optimistic about your future.

2. You are doing better than good when you are filled with faith, hope and love; and live without anger, greed, guilt, envy or thoughts of revenge.

3. You are doing better than good when you are mature enough to delay gratification and shift your focus from your rights to your responsibilities.

4. You are doing better than good when you are secure in who you are, so you are at peace with God and in fellowship with man.

5. You are doing better than good when you understand that others can give you pleasure, but genuine happiness comes when you do things for others.

6. You are doing better than good when you love the unlovable, give hope to the helpless, friendship to the friendless, and encouragement to the discouraged.

7. You are doing better than good when you know that "he who would be the greatest among you must become the servant of all."

If someone asks you today, "How are you doing?", can you say "Better than good"? Or at least, "I'm on the journey to becoming better than good"?

1 Corinthians 16:13-14
Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. And do everything with love.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Stories Matter

The stories of people in Scripture are not perfect. They are often painful, messy and very real because God has chosen to speak to us through us.

When we choose to embrace our story and tell it to others, God is able to make lemonade from our lemons. Stories matter to God. Our own story matters to God.

Telling your story is a gift of vulnerability to others, and that creates power to break down walls between you and others. It enables the ministry of reconciliation.

Stories enable us for thanksliving because of what God Has done, is doing or the hope of what He will do. That's life in the kingdom...

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the
Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet
And whither then? I cannot say. J. R. R. Tolkien

Friday, April 28, 2006

Men's Breakfast

This is what a man longs for,

A battle to fight...

An adventure to live...

A beauty to rescue...

Every man was once a boy. And every little boy has dreams, big dreams: dreams of being the hero, of beating the bad guys, of doing daring feats and rescuing the damsel in distress.

But what happens to those dreams when we grow up? Walk into most churches, have a look around, and ask yourself: What is a Christian man? Without listening to what is said, look at what you find there. Most Christian men are…bored.

Join the guys at CoHo this Saturday at 830 AM and find out why we're 'anything but bored!'

We're also heading to Calgary for the Wild At Heart conference June 2-3. Talk to Stew if you're interested.

It's never too late to become the man you were meant to be...

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Determining Your Citizenship

Jesus came as King of kings and Lord of lords, ruler over all. Being in relationship with Jesus means joining His kingdom, putting us under His rule and authority. This requires obedience to His commands on our part. It is not the same as a democracy.

A democracy is headed by elected leaders who can be changed based on their popularity with people.

A democracy allows participation by members of that democracy in the decision-making process. The people can change the rules.

The leadership in a democracy represents the people.

A king rules on the basis of His birth and is king for life.

A kingdom is ruled by a king who gives decrees and expects obedience. Approval by the people is not involved.

In a kingdom the people represent the king.

Which domain are you a citizen of?

Revelation 19:16
On his robe at his thigh was written this title: King of all kings and Lord of all lords.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Habit of Stopping

Mike Huckabee, Governor of Arkansas, has written a book about his 100+ pound weight loss called Quit Digging Your Grave With A Knife And A Fork. In it he lists "12 Stops" to get you on a healthy living track:

Stop procrastinating.
Stop making excuses.
Stop sitting on the couch.
Stop ignoring signals from your body.
Stop listening to destructive criticism.
Stop expecting immediate success.
Stop whining.
Stop making exceptions.
Stop storing provisions for failure.
Stop fuelling with contaminated food.
Stop allowing food to be a reward.

The '12 Stops' apply to many other areas of life, not just healthy living. In order to make lasting changes in our life we often have to stop certain bad habits before we can pick up new ones. We call this process 'unlearning'.

What do you need to stop doing today?

Romans 12:1-2
And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The Habit of Patience

Ephesians 4:32
Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

2 Timothy 2:24
A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people.

Proverbs 19:11
Sensible people control their temper; they earn respect by overlooking wrongs.

Proverbs 29:11
Fools vent their anger, but the wise quietly hold it back.

Monday, April 24, 2006

The Jesus Habits: Stories

A spiritually formed person participates in the life of Jesus in order to become like Jesus.

“We would not only claim to be Christ followers; we’d actually act like Christ followers.”

The focus isn't on the 'product', as in needing to attain 'perfection; the focus is rather the 'process', the aligning of our beliefs and actions!

A spiritually formed person embraces the stories of others who love Jesus.

Story is the main way in that God reveals truth. Not only is truth embodied in story, it is also fully revealed in a person...we have a relationship with the TRUTH...Jesus!

Are you enjoying the way you are following Christ? In going from Jasper to Banff you can travel via Edmonton & Calgary & the rather boring & predictable Highway 2, or you can take the beautiful Icefields Parkway. The joy can be in the journey.... the joy can BE the journey. Getting from A to B can be satisfying. Such is the life of a Christ follower. The journey, the transformation along the way, is the goal!

Turn Off the Autopilot. When you think of Highway 2 you think of ‘autopilot’.

Listen. Your life is happening. You are happening. A journey, years long, has brought each of you through thick and thin to this moment in time as mine has also brought me. Think back on that journey. Listen back to the sounds and sweet airs of your journey that give delight and hurt not and to those too that give no delight at all and hurt like Hell. Be not afraid. The music of your life is subtle and elusive and like no other—not a song with words but a song without words, a singing, clattering music to gladden the heart or turn the heart to stone, to haunt you perhaps with echoes of a vaster, farther music of which it is part.

…God says he has been with us since each of our journeys began. Listen for him. Listen to the sweet and bitter airs of your present and your past for the sound of him…
Frederick Buechner The Sacred Journey

‘Can my church help me experience God and experience personal transformation?’ By this question, we’re asking to not just ‘learn about’. Desire transformation. Desire to want to learn Christ. Then you flip the question around to its proper state: ‘Can I help the others in my community, those fellow travelers experience God and personal transformation by sharing my story?’

Stories are a Journey of Change

'If you love me you need to love my people' says God. Following Jesus is always communal. Character is tested in isolation, but developed in relationships. That’s what Jesus is doing along this journey that we find ourselves on.

The word experience comes from the Latin words ex pericolo, which mean "from danger." Our stories become our danger in which we learn from.

We find our story in ‘His story’ through the characters in Scripture; through their experiences; & through the challenge to transform & grow and the stories of others. The evidence of that character growth is revealed in the fruits of the spirit. This character growth is anchored in our stories. These stories affirm our journey & encourage us to embrace each other’s stories.

See the Jesus Habits as a Way of Life Not Another Program.

It's more like getting an entirely new system, and some of the old programs are incompatible!

Following Jesus through the Jesus Habits cannot be trivialized as little more than a devotional lubricant to keep us from stripping our gears when pursuing our own lives. We have tried to reduce it to quiet times and Sunday mornings, which are highly privatized, spiritualized, disconnected, and event-oriented efforts. Our modern culture around us still defines the good life.

We are what we repeatedly do. Aristotle

We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another. Jonathan Swift

Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair. G. K. Chesterton

Lets get beyond information, ‘about stuff’, to transformation-life change!

"While you are sleeping, a miracle happens and you become much more Christ-like. Because you were sleeping you are unaware of this miracle. When you are awake, what will you notice that you are doing differently?"

"Imagine you are changed on the inside; your character reflects more of Jesus. What does that internal change look like on the outside? How is your behavior different than before?"

That miracle actually did happen last night and the night before that. It'll happen tonight, too, and tomorrow if you'll let it.

Faith as a way of life: being held by the truth rather than trying to grasp, hold and possess the truth. Live the truth through your story. People often said Seinfeld was a story about nothing, but that was completely wrong; Seinfeld was successful because the mundane stories were all about relationships!

Grace is not opposed to effort (in actions) but to earning (an attitude).

On Sunday we had a conversation with our friend, Ronda, who had been reflecting about the knowledge base her dad has as an 'oilwell doctor’. She said that it was amazing how much he knew. And he’s only one man!

Michael Polanyi, in his book Personal Knowledge writes the following, "It follows that an art which has fallen into disuse for the period of a generation is altogether lost. There are hundreds of examples of this to which the process of mechanization is continuously adding new ones. These losses are usually irretrievable. It is pathetic to watch the endless efforts -- equipped with microscopy and chemistry, with mathematics and electronics -- to reproduce a single violin of the kind the half-literate Stradivarius turned out as a matter of routine more than 200 years ago."

Stradivarius had what is known as "elbow knowledge" as a 4th generation violinmaker. The art of apprenticeship; the art of mentoring and the art of disciple making has been lost in modernity. You learn to follow your master even when you can't analyze or account for the detail. You watch and learn unconsciously, even those intuitive rules not explicitly known to the master. The challenge of great teaching is to take what a person does intuitively and make it accessible to others.

This type of knowledge doesn’t reside in books like the "Idiot's Guide to Violin's." Surrendering uncritically to the imitation of the master is the only way to assimilate it.

"Practical wisdom is more truly embodied in action than expressed in rules of action." Could following Christ have become pre-occupied with just words? Could we have lost this wisdom and the art of disciple making, mentoring, apprenticing? Hve we lost the ability to embrace each other's stories as a means of our growth?

Discipled, mentored, apprenticed.

Disciple = "student of the art." Disciples are apprentices of Jesus.

All of us have relationships, at least informal ones. But few of us recognize the potential for transformation in them. Deliberate, proactive steps, can be taken so that relationships can become mentoring and apprentice relationships where spiritual formation can happen. Usually mentoring is not best done via setting up of programs but by using already existing situations.

We let Jesus mentor us through his Habits and guidance of others around us.

In Revolt of the Masses, by Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset, he states that each of us has a destiny that is a non-transferable work to do, a part of our being that is ours alone. He goes on to say that if we do not live up to this destiny, it follows us like an accusing shadow for the rest of our lives. I believe that you could substitute the word ‘story’ for destiny.

Each of us has a non-transferable story to live; a part of our being that is ours alone. If we won’t live that story, it will follow us like an accusing shadow for the rest of our lives.

We are called to learn from our story. A great concern for us should be “Being out of alignment with my destiny (story).”

Ephesians 2:10
“For we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

‘Walk in them’ is simply ‘living your story’, writing your story, rewriting it, and learning from your story, ‘your danger’.

Do you honestly feel that there is some way of good works, a story for you to live, prepared beforehand for you to walk in? Can you embrace that reality?

Discipleship should be like orthodontic braces…a little effort and energy consistently applied over a long time will eventually change the location of your teeth. In the same way, it’ll change a person’s character. Our character.

Are you putting that consistent work into understanding and learning from your own story? Is your story a story of redemption, like the flow of the Bible, or is it a tragedy? A comedy?

Shortly after becoming a Christ follower I experienced sever back pains that lead to surgery. A friend gave me a book by Tim Hansel, You Gotta Keep Dancin’. In it a climber falls about 50 feet and lands on his back. The book chronicles his rescue and his life adapting to the degenerative pain his back injury cause him. It is a powerful story of resilience and spoke to me profoundly. Even to this day. I said to myself, or more appropriately God said to me, "You can learn from Tim's story. In some ways it's you story too."

When you read God’s word, you must constantly be saying to yourself, “It is talking to me, and about me.” Soren Kierkegaard

The Bible is not an end in itself, but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may enter into Him, that they may delight in His Presence, may taste and know the inner sweetness of the very God Himself in the core and center of their hearts. A. W. Tozer

Philippians 3:10-11
I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!

We always want the power, don't we? What we need to desire first is the passion! The passion always precedes having the power.

I believe that one of the ways this happens is entering into the stories. Let’s look at Peter’s story to see what it can say to us…

It is said that conversion, like wisdom, takes a lifetime. If conversion were a coin it would have two sides: a point in time and a process. Some of us recall vividly turning to follow Jesus at a specific time. Others of us recount it more as a gradual releasing of all that we are in obedience to God over a period of years. Neither is ‘right’ to the exclusion of the other. We are all undergoing an ongoing process of character change.

Another way to look at conversion is contrast between a birth certificate and a driver’s license. A birth certificate metaphor asks the ultimate question, “What do I need to get to heaven?”

A driver’s license metaphor asks, “How do I love God?” the former is concerned about a moment; the latter is concerned about a life. Jesus Habits are more like driver’s license than a birth certificate. A birth certificate proves we were born on a specific day in a specific location. A driver’s license gives us permission to drive, permission to ‘operate a motor vehicle’.

When we produce Christ followers with a birth certificate we produce babies that need to be pushed around in strollers and fed milk. When we practice the Jesus Habits we produce adults who can operate with love for God and others wherever they go.

Think of the life of Peter. When was he converted to the Jesus Habits? Let’s observe several vignettes; stories from the Bible about his life:

John 1:35-42 Introduced To Jesus

2. Luke 5:1-11 Confession As A Sinner

3. Mark 8:27-30 Confession of Jesus As Messiah

4. Mark 14:66-72; John 21:15-22 Restored By Jesus

5. Acts 2 Receives The Holy Spirit

6. Acts 10:28-29; 34-35 Jesus is Lord of All

7. 1 Peter 2:18-25 Fully Embraced Life Of Jesus

Peter’s life gives witness to the ongoing work of transformation through the Jesus Habits. Life as a Christ follower is more than just an event; it is a process to be embraced. It is a lifelong series of gentle and not so gentle prods to our soul. The question of when someone is converted is much less important than that they are converting!

1. Peter suspects Jesus might be the Messiah.
2. Peter recognizes Jesus as someone profoundly superior.
3. Peter confesses Jesus as the messiah, although he disagrees with the Messiah on whether or not the Messiah needs to suffer!
4. Peter realizes that the Messiah must suffer.
5. Peter confesses Jesus is Lord.
6. Peter realizes that Jesus is not just the Lord of the Jews, but Lord of all. Peter finally grips that the Jesus Habits are about loving God and all others!
7. Peter fully embraces Jesus’ life as the way of living.

Peter’s growth is not linear and consistent because it is his story, his life. Can you see any of your story in Peter’s story?

“All individual human beings are unfinished…still struggling toward the fulfillment of the dream of God for us, implanted in our being, created Imago Dei”. James Fowler

In the community of Jesus, each story is embraced. Can we embrace our own story so that it doesn’t remain a tragedy?

The Jesus Habits are about our being lead by the Holy Sprit into the life of Jesus. God has placed all around of us people whose story we are drawn to. As we are drawn to those stories of resilience, redemption and resurrection, God is giving us guides along the journey. We must reach out to those people God has placed in our life.

Who in your life can become a mentor to you on the journey? Who in your life is looking to you as a guide on the journey?

What story are you having a difficult time embracing from your own life? What story are you having a difficult time embracing from those around you?

Sunday, April 23, 2006

The Habit of Finding Margin

The unbalanced life will not be kind to the areas we neglect.

Our 'margin' is the space that exists between ourselves and our limits. If we live balanced lives dedicated to God's purposes, He will help protect our 'margin.'

Jim Burns has created what he calls the "Overload Exam” to help us identify the kind of life we’re presently living.

1. Have you stopped enjoying life because you’re too busy?

2. Have you stopped developing new relationships?

3. Are you exhausted most of the time?

4. Do you and your spouse have a regular “date night?” (if you're married)

5. Do you have credit problems or a large load of debt?

6. Are you getting enough sleep?

7. Does your family have dinner together on a regular basis?

8. Do you take a restful “day off?”

9. Do you have regular “family time” together?

1 Thessalonians 5:18
Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Psalm 18:2
The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

Psalm 127:1
Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.

Lord Jesus I give my over-committed and under-connected life over to you. Help me to surrender to community with the friends that I have on this busy journey called 'life'. Give me courage to go where you call me to go and wisdom to avoid the rest. Amen.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

The Habit of Baby Steps

Who can ever forget Bill Murray in the movie What About Bob? uttering the famous line,

"Baby steps, get on the steps get on the elevator...Ah, I'm on the elevator."

[Elevator door shuts]. "Aaahhhhhhhhh!!!"

Bob does go on to conquer many of his fears, transforming his psychiatrist, played by Richard Dreyfuss, in the process. The basic notion is a good one: small efforts, concentrated in a helpful and hopeful direction will yield results over time.

Just like one of my kids favorite jokes, "How do you eat an elephant dad?"

"One bite at a time!"

With God’s grace, we will continue to take baby steps to see the dream of Christ formed in us and our community.

Galatians 4:19
My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you...

Jesus I yield myself to your work of change in my life. You who have began a new work inside of me will be faithful to complete it; help me to not resist your love. Give me the energy to begin the journey of a thousand miles with the first baby step today. Amen.

Friday, April 21, 2006

The Habit of Traveling The Carefree Highway

Matthew 6:24-25
Therefore I say to you, Do not be anxious for your life, what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor for your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow; for tomorrow shall be anxious for its own things. Sufficient to the day is the evil of it.

If the Kingdom of God is our first and only priority, God will help us overcome anxiety. Stephen showed no anxiety at death since he saw the Kingdom expand from Jerusalem as a direct result of his death. Accepting death, our death to self every day, is the first step to a life of peace. Accepting our need to die means no blaming others.

Remember the old Gordon Lightfoot song Carefree Highway? "With knowin' I got no one left to blame."

Philippians 4:6-9
Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.

Dear God, help me to see my story in the story of your son, Jesus. Help me to pick up my cross every day, to die to my self that I might fully live. Let my spirit soar to spread hope wherever I go. Amen.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Habit of Throwing Ropes

Last year at the Men's Retreat, we canoed, rafted and kayaked the upper Red Deer River. When one of the boats capsized, which happened quite a bit, we made it our first priority to get the guys out of the water as hypothermia is never far off on a mountain river. The only effective way to get a guy off of the river while they're swimming is to throw them a rope and a throw bag to catch. Once it's in their hands they can be steered and guided to shore to catch their breath and warm up. Let me tell you there were some thankful looks when the swimmers made it to shore! Me included!

Can you think about a time when you were in need and someone threw you a rope? What did it mean to you?

Have you thrown any ropes to those in need in the past three months? How do you usually throw ropes? Look at the following list for ideas,

__Sending a card __Providing transportation __Caring for a child

__Contributing financial help __Giving career assistance __Preparing Food

__Providing a meal __Fix up or repairs __ Giving a hug __Listening actively

__Shopping for food __Paint a house __Volunteering __Providing manual labor

__Giving a party __Holding a hand __Extending hospitality __Running errands

__Making a hospital visit __Providing nursing care __ Tutoring __Offering prayer

__Cleaning __Discipling ___Making phone calls __Visiting a home __Sewing

__Reading __Presenting a gift __Shovel a sidewalk __Raking leaves

“I realize that I usually throw ropes to hurting people by________________________________________________________

Romans 12:13
When God's people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.

God please help me to see with eyes of compassion. Help me see the opportunities to throw a rescue rope rather than a rock of judgment to those in need. Help me too, to swallow my pride and catch the ropes thrown my way. Amen.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Rescuing Hug Habit

In the first week of life for a set of premature twins, each were in their respective incubators, and one was not expected to live. A hospital nurse fought against hospital rules and placed the babies in one incubator. When they were placed together the healthier of the two threw an arm over her sister in a endearing embrace. The smaller baby's heart rate stabilized and her temperature rose to normal.

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” Leo Buscaglia

Your touch can bring life to someone. Be God's hands and feet wherever you go.

Matthew 8:15
But when Jesus touched her hand, the fever left her. Then she got up and prepared a meal for him.

Jesus I surrender to your way. Help me overcome my hurriedness, my indifference to the pain of others, my discomfort at being 'touchy-feely' and my fears that I'll be misunderstood by showing your love through touch. Amen.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Habit of Dependence

Psalm 33:20
“We're depending on GOD; he's everything we need.”

Coming to follow Jesus is not just a continuation of life as it has always been and then adding God's blessing; it is rather a life of obedience to what Jesus asks us to do and a humble dependence on that way of life. It is a way of life in where we no longer sing that song, "I Did It My Way." Everything in our lives is submitted to God.

John 14:15
"If you love me, obey my commandments."

Matthew 22:37-39
Jesus replied, "`You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: `Love your neighbor as yourself.'"

What is holding you back from living today in the Great Commandment?

"Jesus I release all of my being in service to you and everyone that I meet today. Fill me with your life and love that it may leak out wherever I go. Amen."

Monday, April 17, 2006

The Jesus Habits: Receiving & Welcoming God's Love

A spiritually formed person participates in the life of Jesus

A little magic show...
We all know it’s not really magic. We say illusion because it appears as if something magical happened; but it didn’t.

Today, as we celebrate Easter, we recognize that it wasn’t ‘magic’ that put Jesus on the Cross; it wasn’t an illusion that He rose and conquered death; it was God’s love in action.

I don’t think our greatest problem is not feeling bad enough about what we’ve done wrong. I think our issue is not feeling good enough about what God has done right. We vastly under-celebrate the greatness and goodness of God. The goodness of Easter.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could magically become more Christ-like? Crucifixion and the resurrection was the way Jesus enabled the beginning of the journey for us, and then He modeled some habits & spiritual disciplines to aid in our growth.

Matthew 22:36-39
"Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the Law of Moses?" Jesus replied, "`You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: `Love your neighbor as yourself.'

These two are indelibly linked together. You really can’t have one without the other. The Greatest commandment can be called,

God For Dummies
God is to be loved with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind. And share it with others.

Love is seeking the welfare of another. To receive God’s love is to the first part of the Greatest Commandment; love God with all of your heart, all your soul, and your entire mind. To welcome God’s love is to put it into practice by loving others. Practice is how habits form.

Love is the delivery system for the ingredients of life.

To receive God’s love we hear John in,
John 1:9-13
The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was going to come into the world. But although the world was made through him, the world didn't recognize him when he came. Even in his own land and among his own people, he was not accepted. But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn! This is not a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan--this rebirth comes from God.

A spiritually formed person loves God & others.

In some ways loving God is the easy part; it’s kind of like inviting your best friend over to your house for a visit; you think, no problem, it’ll be awesome. But then your best friend shows up with His entire family, and there are more people than you’re comfortable with; some of the newly arrived guests don’t look very likeable and some even grate on you before they get inside your house. Say hello to welcoming God’s love and the beginning of the journey of being made more like Jesus. It does take some effort because it entails some growth.

The kingdom of God is not opposed to effort, only earning.

There was a time when one could almost be afraid to call himself a disciple of Christ because it meant so much. Now one can do it with complete ease because it means nothing at all. Soren Kierkegaard

Notice the emphasis in the following statements: I need to get my act together. I need to get really serious about God. I need to get into better shape. I need to become a lifelong learner. I need to grow up in my walk with God. Now obviously personal ownership and motivation is a very good thing. That’s clearly a given. But might our attempts in fulfilling these quests be in part, the result of leaving out the most important context for our transformation—our community of faith?

Community matters. That's about like saying oxygen matters. As our lungs require air, so our souls require what only community provides. Without it, we die. It's that simple. Without a community where we know, explore, discover, and touch one another, we experience isolation and despair that drive us in wrong directions, that corrupt our efforts to live meaningfully and to love well. Larry Crabb

We think in very small circles, “the self” (individualistically)

If a tree falls in the forest does anyone hear? The idea is that it takes one person to speak and another to hear: community. Can you love as an island? Or as a solitary individual? That degenerates into Narcissism. The Trinity has always had three, the Father, the Son & the Holy Spirit. And we know that the biblical idea of love isn’t feelings, but actions. Practices. Habits. The Jesus Habits.

“To hear God, we must join him in his work. We must stand so close to him that his scent rubs off on us." James Miller

“As we listen, we should be asking, ‘How do I become a person who has the heart of God?’

“A sculptor is not punishing the marble he is polishing. God wants us to be better specifically because he loves us." James Miller

"If I'd asked my grandfather, who was an ultra-orthodox Jew from Eastern Europe, 'Do you believe in God?' he would have looked at me with a blank stare, wouldn't know what I'm talking about. And what you do is you carry out the practices. Of course, you say 'I believe in this and that,' but that's not the core of the religion. The core of the religion is just the practices you carry out." Noam Chomsky

Those general ideas still hold true for us as Christ followers. When Jesus went to the cross to show His amazing love for us, it called into question everything we are and everything we have and everything we do. The kingdom of God demotes our most important priorities as secondary to the purpose of God in our lives and the life of the people we’re living among.

It doesn’t have to be impossible, or even a burden, though. Listen to our teacher, Jesus himself,

Matthew 11:28-29
Then Jesus said, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls.

Proverbs 15:2
The wise person makes learning a joy.

Proverbs 4:23
Above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything you do.

Now notice what follows as to the habits and practices of how to do that:

Proverbs 4:24-27
Avoid all perverse talk; stay far from corrupt speech. Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you (Jesus). Mark out a straight path for your feet; then stick to the path and stay safe. Don't get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil.

Love is important because it is the primary ingredient in a relationship

"Happiness is not a destination. It is a method of life." Burton Hills

A method made up of practices and habits that help us to formed into the likeness of Jesus Christ. It helps us to let God be God in your life now & the future. It’s being able to say, So Far So God.

Galatians 2:20
I myself no longer live, but Christ lives in me. So I live my life in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Micah 7:18 (Message)
Where is the god who can compare with you-- wiping the slate clean of guilt, turning a blind eye, a deaf ear, to the past sins of your purged and precious people? You don't nurse your anger and don't stay angry long, for mercy is your specialty.

Do you want to become like that?

Romans 7:18-21 Message
I realize that I don't have what it takes. I can will it, but I can't do it. I decide to do good, but I don't really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don't result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. It happens so regularly that it's predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up.

Atlantic Monthly columnist Jonathan Rauch wrote an article in which he declared that the US had made a major civilizational advance. What was this remarkable achievement all about?

That Christians have become lukewarm and apathetic about faith in God. Rauch, an acknowledged atheist, calls the behavior apatheism. In his article, Rauch explains that apatheism is “a disinclination to care all that much about one’s own religion, and an even stronger disinclination to care about other people’s.”

He notes that people are going to church less often, and when they do, they go more to socialize or enjoy a familiar ritual than to worship. According to Rauch, this new breed of religious person doesn’t invest much in an actual commitment to faith. The things these folks are really seeking are comfort, spiritual reassurance, and a God who doesn’t expect too much in return for their valuable time. Rauch is more than a little pleased by the trend because he believes it is better to be apathetic than to be “controlled by godly passions” for the simple reason that religion “remains the most divisive and volatile of social forces.” Followers of the way of Jesus, as described in the book of Acts, would probably agree that Rauch’s last statement is true!

“I am a Christian, not because someone explained the nuts and bolts of Christianity to me, but because there were people willing to be nuts and bolts.” Rich Mullins

Love always begins with the person closest to you. It does not begin with nameless and faceless people. It begins with those you sweat and struggle with--those who frequently disagree with you and put you down. That is why it is so hard. It is easier to love the world than your closest relative. The world is general. Your relative is specific. The world is vague. Your relative has character... Whom will you love today? ... It won't be easy. Love is never an option. Jim Smoke

Love transforms us for a mission – reconciling others to God and to each other in three stages:

Stage 1; purgative way - a catharsis of sex, money and pride, not to get them out of your life, but to face sex, money and pride and to recognize how driven you are internally. Jesus is our model and way because He wasn’t driven by money, sex or power.

Stage 2; illuminative way – once the curtains of our inner life are pulled back, we are ready to be bathed in the light of Christ. Practices include daily prayer - i.e. bathing in front of God, breath prayers (Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me a sinner), singing, etc. We begin to absorb God. We begin to have a God scent.

Stage 3: unitive way – you experience the daily presence of God in order to be an ambassador,
2 Corinthians 5:17-20
What this means is that those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun! All this newness of life is from God, who brought us back to himself through what Christ did. And God has given us the task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people's sins against them. This is the wonderful message he has given us to tell others. We are Christ's ambassadors, and God is using us to speak to you. We urge you, as though Christ himself were here pleading with you, "Be reconciled to God!"

These stages keep cycling and learning and deepening, and ultimately transform us.

There are going to be two kinds of people when it comes to the Jesus Habits: doers and complainers. The doers are the ones who will do it and make the world go around. Complainers usually try to find something wrong with what the doers are doing.

Another way to look at these two groups of people is to see red apple Habits and green apple Habits. The Bible teaches clearly that God is using the circumstances of life to ripen some people to the need to follow Jesus wholeheartedly. There's no point following for a person who isn't ripe. They are the ones too busy singing "I Did It My Way".

We would call a person who isn't ripe to the Habits a green apple. He or she is not thinking about God & how to align their life with the habits of Jesus. You may share these ideas with them, but they're likely to say, "I don't care about this, I don't need this." They're not ripe to the Habits yet. It's only God who can ripen a person, and he uses the painful circumstances of life to do that in the hearts of the people he's drawing.

Some of you are familiar with Jack LaLanne. He was a pioneering fitness leader who began his career in the 1940s, focusing on being physically active through stretching. And he has never stopped stretching. He is still getting up at 5 AM to exercise and swim two hours per day! And He's 91 in this picture! He said, “The only way to hurt your body is not using it. That’s the killer: inactivity. Sitting around on your big fat butt and thinking about the good old days.”

The same is true for the spiritual; the relational; the intellectual and the emotional realm. The killer is inactivity!

"Just Do It!" Alcoholics Anonymous has a slogan "One day at a time".

Are you still stretching? Are you learning new things, trying new things, open to new things?

Or are you slowly shrinking? Is your heart getting smaller? Are you less compassionate than you used to be? Are you less in love with God?

You will remain spiritually fragile until such a time as you are able to find a place to practice the Jesus Habits with a group of fellow pilgrims to journey with.

Start the Jesus Habits one day at a time. Celebrate His goodness and share it with others.

If my significant relationship had more love, how would my life be different? If I shared more love in all my relationships, how would their lives be different?

Sunday, April 16, 2006


The Bridge Builder by Will Dromgoole
An old man, going a lone highway,
Came at the evening, cold and gray,
To a chasm, vast and deep and wide,
Through which was flowing a sullen tide.
The old man crossed in the twilight dim;
The sullen stream had no fears for him;
But he turned when safe on the other

And built a bridge to span the tide.
“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim near,
“You are wasting strength with building here;
Your journey will end with the ending day;
You never again must pass this way;
You have crossed the chasm, deep and wide—

Why build you the bridge at the eventide?”
The builder lifted his old gray head:
“Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said,
“There followeth after me today
A youth whose feet must pass this way.
This chasm that has been naught to me
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be.
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building the bridge for him.”

“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” Henry Brooke Adams

“Money that goes into the making of character, the shaping of destinies—money that gives new hope and spells opportunities does not ‘pass away.’ It is as imperishable as truth itself.” Robert W. Stockman

“For life—which is in any way worthy, is like ascending a mountain. When you have climbed to the first shoulder of the hill, you find another rise above you, and that achieved there is another, and another still, and yet another peak, and the height to be achieved seems infinity: but you find as you ascend that the air becomes purer and more bracing, that the clouds gather more frequently below than above, that the sun is warmer than before and that you not only get a clearer view of Heaven, but that you gain a wider view of earth, and that your horizon is perpetually growing larger.” Endicott Peabody

Saturday, April 15, 2006

CoHo’s Last Supper

Last Supper
Luke 22:13-16
Now the Festival of Unleavened Bread arrived, when the Passover lambs were sacrificed. Jesus sent Peter and John ahead and said, "Go and prepare the Passover meal, so we can eat it together." They went off to the city and they prepared the Passover supper there. Then at the proper time Jesus and the twelve apostles sat down together at the table. Jesus said, "I have looked forward to this hour with deep longing, anxious to eat this Passover meal with you before my suffering begins. For I tell you now that I won't eat it again until it comes to fulfillment in the Kingdom of God."

Remember the Passover
Exodus 3:7-9
Then the LORD told him, "You can be sure I have seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard their cries for deliverance from their harsh slave drivers. Yes, I am aware of their suffering. So I have come to rescue them from the Egyptians and lead them out of Egypt into their own good and spacious land. The cries of the people of Israel have reached me.

Exodus 12:44
Any slave who has been purchased may eat it.

Anyone who has been set free by Jesus may come to the table. We eat the bread to remember the broken body of Jesus. Broken on the cross for each of us, and for so many others yet to awaken to that reality. We drink the juice to remember his shed blood to restore us to relationship with God & ultimately each other.

Luke 22:17-20
Jesus took a cup of wine, and when he had given thanks for it, he said, "Take this and share it among yourselves. For I will not drink wine again until the Kingdom of God has come." Then he took a loaf of bread; and when he had thanked God for it, he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, "This is my body, given for you. Do this in remembrance of me." After supper he took another cup of wine and said, "This wine is the token of God's new covenant to save you--an agreement sealed with the blood I will pour out for you.

God has been hearing the cries of his people for thousands of years. He has always mounted rescue attempts, but we vainly resisted them. In Jesus he has finally enabled the way, the truth and the life. Recieve it today...

"God weeps with us so that we may someday laugh with him." Jürgen Moltmann

As you come to receive these elements, bread & juice, physical materials, remember they are symbolic of deep spiritual realities that are not always seen. In taking them we recall the death of Jesus. We recall our contribution to that.

When Love Comes To Town by U2 has a line, “I was there when they crucified my Lord. I held the scabbard when the soldier drew his sword. I threw the dice when they pierced his side; But I've seen love conquer the great divide.”

You were there. I was there. To really experience that, to really feel that reality, you’ll have the opportunity to come up & pound a nail into the cross. You can visualize participating in the anguish of Jesus. Perhaps you want to write your name on a piece of paper & nail it- dieing to your self. Perhaps you want to write something you struggle with & want freedom from- come & nail it to the cross. Come now…

Friday, April 14, 2006


Nobody is born worried; you have to practice.

Where God is, peace follows. In the eleventh chapter of Exodus the final plague is delivered upon the Egyptians; the death of every firstborn.

Exodus 11:6
Then a loud wail will be heard throughout the land of Egypt; there has never been such wailing before, and there never will be again.

Anf yet in the midst of the horror and grief listen to what God says about those on whom His favor rests:

Exodus 11:7
But among the Israelites it will be so peaceful that not even a dog will bark.

What are you afraid of today? What worries you? Do you believe that God's favor rests upon you?

Philippians 4:6-7
Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God's peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

Thursday, April 13, 2006


In Searching for Home, Craig Barnes draws on Dantes pilgrimage as a parallel to our own search for paradise. Barnes writes,

A few weeks after 9/11, a woman in our congregation who works in the Pentagon told me that she was so shaken by what happened that she took a trip back to the farm in Alabama where she grew up. She said, “I went there to walk the ground on which I grew up, because I was hoping it would put the world back in order for me.”

I asked her, “How did that work out for you?”

“Not very well she said – no one remembered me and they were all as scared and confused as I was.”

When the disaster is so great that airplanes are falling out of the sky and towers are collapsing, the need for this axis mundi, (the steady center around which the world revolves) that binds earth to heaven is obvious. But in reality, we who trudge into church on Sunday mornings have always been walking on shaky ground. Our jobs, relationships and health are never as secure as we think, and eventually we realize it is only a matter of time before we lose all these things. Scared, or at least anxious, we enter the sanctuary like children who run home with skinned knees.

When people come to worship, I don’t tell them, “welcome home!” That is what they want to hear, and why they rush to the sanctuary in times of disaster. Some pastors tell their congregation that their new home is with the new family, the church.

However, even in the most spiritualized sense of the term home, this is not quite right. More accurately what we should say is that
in the church you have found the long-lost brothers and sisters who are as confused about home as you are.

Those words are even more applicable as we move towards Good Friday and Easter. The world looks like it may fall apart any time; our world looks like it might fall apart any time; the disciples world did fall apart at the crucifixion. More appropriately their world and the world ever since has been turned upside down by Jesus. The beauty of the church is the fellow pilgrims who look for the same upside-down kingdom that you do.

Colossians 1:5-6
You do this because you are looking forward to the joys of heaven--as you have been ever since you first heard the truth of the Good News. This same Good News that came to you is going out all over the world. It is changing lives everywhere, just as it changed yours that very first day you heard and understood the truth about God's great kindness to sinners.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Changes that Heal

Henry Cloud has this to say as he compares a legalistic church to a good AA group:

"In a legalistic church, it is culturally unacceptable to have problems; that is called being a good AA group it's culturally unacceptable not to have problems; that is called denial.

In a legalistic church, people look better but get worse; in a good AA group people look worse but get better. Because of a lack of grace and truth in some churches, Christians have had to go elsewhere to find healing."

Oswald Chambers writes that, "God is the God of our yesterdays and He allows the memory of them to turn the past into a ministry of spiritual growth for our future. God reminds us of the past to protect us from a very shallow security in the present".

Where is God bringing changes from your past that heal? Surrender to them today. Remember, experience is the best teacher, only if you learn from it.

John 12:44-47
Jesus shouted to the crowds, "If you trust me, you are really trusting God who sent me. For when you see me, you are seeing the one who sent me. I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the darkness. If anyone hears me and doesn't obey me, I am not his judge--for I have come to save the world and not to judge it.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


"Maybe the church has too much to say and asks too little. The wise person recognizes that questions are often more important than answers." Mike Yaconelli

Certainty by Paul Seburn

If you've got stock in certainty
what a shame you did not sell while you could
now we're dealing in adsurdities
it's a game that's hard to tell like we should

Is there anything left of me in the kingdom of heaven?
Is there anything more to be in the presence of love?

We talk about security
we don't have to live in hell if we're good
as I fade into obscurity
otherwise I'm doin' well. understood?

Is there anything left of me in the kingdom of heaven?
Is there anything more to Be in the presence of love?

“I do not think we have enough of the wondering spirit that the Holy Spirit gives. It is the child-spirit. A child is always wide-awake with wonder. But as we get older we forget that a child’s wonder is nearer the truth than our older knowledge. When … we are rightly related to God, we learn to watch and wait, and wait wonderingly. “I wonder how God will answer this prayer.” “I wonder how God will answer the prayer the Holy Spirit is praying in me.” “I wonder what glory God will bring to Himself out of the strange perplexities I am in.” “I wonder what new turn His providence will take in manifesting Himself in my ways.”” Oswald Chambers

Sallie McFague comments on the idea of deconstruction, (called unlearning, living the questions, what Oswald Chambers terms 'wondering'):

"it underscores the necessity of developing ‘negative capability’— the ability to endure absence, uncertainty, partiality, relativity, and to hold at bay the desire for closure, coherence, identity, totality.

Deconstruction cautions us against trying to save ourselves through our constructions. The temptation to seek security, in a vast number of complex ways, against the abyss, the chaos, the different, the other, the unknown — whatever threatens us. By seeking security through our own constructions, we refuse to step outside the houses of language we have erected to protect us from the emptiness and terror we cannot control. Our safe havens, called dogmas and orthodoxy, become absolutes, giving the illusion of being certain, being “on the inside”, having the truth.”

Let Jesus be the way, the truth and the life.

Monday, April 10, 2006

I Love Jesus But Hate The Church: Living The Questions

Recap of the series, "I Love Jesus But Hate The Church". Week 1, 'It Hurt(s) So Bad: Give Voice To The Pain'. The ‘disenfranchised grief’ people carry needs to find expression.

How to Be a Christian Without Being Annoying, new book

Week 2: Judgment Day: Say “No” to judging others. Say ‘Yes’ to compassion. Risk it!

From a blog: "I am 17. I quit school. Im pregnant. And I used to love church."

Week 3, 'A Building or the Kingdom of God?': The Kingdom of God heals and feeds people. It listens to you. The church has left the building. It is the life force that changes people.

“I am learning that the church is at its best when it gives itself away.” Rob Bell

Kind of like a manure pile: before you spread it around it's smelly & doesn't do much good; after it's shared on the field it provides fertilizer & brings growth.

Last week: But For the Grace of God…Grace is God’s unmerited favor. We cannot earn it; we can only humbly receive it.

"What should a real relationship with Jesus Christ invovle and how should our lives and church look as a result of that relationship?"

The United Church of Christ in the US has an advertising campaign giving these images of the church:

Shelter for the spiritually homeless

Please return, no questions asked

Turn your other cheek, not your back

Christ’s church isn't rocket science. She is the New Community of Christ’s followers. She is wholly relational – the people of God united before Him, reconciling others.

Luke 9:18-20
One day as Jesus was alone, praying, he came over to his disciples and asked them, "Who do people say I am?" "Well," they replied, "some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say you are one of the other ancient prophets risen from the dead." Then he asked them, "Who do you say I am?"

WDYSTIA? Jesus is still asking that question today...

As we study the life of Jesus we find him asking a lot of questions, indeed returning an answer with another question!

"Be patient towards all that is unsolved in your heart and dreams, try to love the questions themselves." Rainer Maria Rilke, German poet

Questions are very powerful. John Scully, CEO of Pepsi was lured to the computer business when Steve Jobs asked him, “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugary water or do you want to come with me and change the world?” That sounds like something Jesus asks us everyday of our life.

Living The Questions is when you know that intellectually the bungee cord might be the right strength and length for the jump off of the bridge, but jumping is still something we don’t easily do.

Live The Questions.

What are some of life’s big questions? Who am I? What are the nature, purpose and significance of my existence? Role, gender, job or circumstance?

Where am I? What are the origin and nature of the reality in which I find myself? Am I trapped, caged or free?

What’s wrong? How can I account for the distortion, pain, and brokenness in this reality? Is God good? Am I good? Do I deserve this?

What’s the remedy? How can I alleviate this brokenness, if at all? Am I doomed?

These are more powerful forces than ever before because of the time we live in. Wwade Clark Roof has identified that today we live in a “quest culture. A qualitative shift has occurred from unquestioned belief to a more open, questioning mood; from a search for certainty to a hope for a more authentic, intrinsically satisfying life.”

He who is near the church is often far from God. French Proverb

I don’t know anyone less Jesus-like than most Christians. Bill Maher

This is often true because of a dogmatic belief in churches to just shut up, smile and say that you ‘love Jesus and pretend like everything’s okay.’

To believe is to ‘be’, + ‘live’. To know your identity in Christ, ‘be’, and experience that everyday, ‘live’.

If we don’t, we end up like Melissa, at 20 a daughter of missionaries who said, “I love God but I hate the church.” What did her parents ‘be’ and ‘live’, believe?

Colossians 2:17
For these rules were only shadows of the real thing, Christ himself.

Jesus is our integrating reality.

John 14:1-6
"Don't be troubled. You trust God, now trust in me. There are many rooms in my Father's home, and I am going to prepare a place for you. If this were not so, I would tell you plainly. When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know where I am going and how to get there." "No, we don't know, Lord," Thomas said. "We haven't any idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?" Jesus told him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.

Jeremiah 6:16
So now the LORD says, "Stop right where you are! Look for the old, godly way, and walk in it. Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Habakkuk 1:5
The LORD replied, "Look at the nations and be amazed! Watch and be astounded at what I will do! For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn't believe even if someone told you about it.

Habakkuk 2:14
For the time will come when all the earth will be filled, as the waters fill the sea, with an awareness of the glory of the LORD.

This imagery is of a path, a pilgrimage, and a way of life. A way of life that embraces the questions and doesn’t render them ‘undiscussable’.

To be on a pilgrimage and following a way of life is to accept the journey together. The Hebrew prophet Amos asked in 3:3, “Can two people walk together without agreeing on the direction?”

Who are you walking together with? Why?

Community of Hope is made up of a group of people who have chosen to walk together in order to create a place where the broken-hearted can become hope-filled followers of Jesus. The first step though, is to recognize the journey motif. Until you’re ready to surrender to the journey with other folks you will remain a professional seeker, a fulltime devil’s advocate, a wanderer and not a pilgrim. This group of people, this spiritual place is not for everyone, and we never begrudge anyone from leaving, we only encourage that they find a group of fellow traveler’s to ‘live the questions’ with.

Certainty of Death, No chance of success...what are we waiting for! Gimli

Journey. The Bible knows nothing of solitary existence.

"The path to greatness is along with others." Baltasar Gracian, Spanish baroque moralist, philosopher, and Jesuit scholar

“God’s purpose is greater than your problem." Rick Warren

We think that questions are problems.

"What is happening right now?"

For some of you it is the classic dark night of the soul. Many people experience something similar in their own lives. The particulars are always different but the essential experience is the same – a deep, depressing, gut-wrenching pain. In most cases people say, "everything I thought I knew about life went completely out the window."

That’s living the questions.

The reality of naked trust is the life of a pilgrim who leaves what is nailed down, certain, obvious, and secure, and walks into the unknown without any rational explanation to justify the decision or guarantee the future. Why? Because God has signaled the movement and offered it his presence and his promise. Brennan Manning

What is happening right now? Can I be surrender to it? This asks the basic “What or who will I turn away from? What will I let go of?" The Bible calls that ‘Repent’, or we can call it 'unlearning'.

“What or who will I turn toward? What will I hold on to?" The Bible calls that ‘Believe’.

“How or where is the Spirit leading now?" ‘Hope’

I hear people moved more and more by questions and desires than answers and possessions, not being so linear and driven, becoming the pursuer of a ‘focused life’.

Philippians 1:6; 2:12
And I am sure that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on that day when Christ Jesus comes back again.
Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.

Slow Down and Listen.

Colossians 4:2
Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.

What do you thirst for? What do you long for the most? Where do you desire more connection: with the Spirit, with others, or with something else?

How have you sought to fulfill your longings? Are you satisfied?

Can you pick a close friend and exchange perspectives on the longings or unfulfilled needs you see in each other’s life?

Proverbs 13:12
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when dreams come true, there is life and joy.

We have been culturally conditioned to suppress these inner longings. The desires that often occupy our thought space are just distractions from the deeper, nagging desires and questions of our soul.

Our hearts long to be reconciled with God, to be one with Him. This is the ‘why’ of our search for spirituality.

Sometimes we have to travel to the edge of ourselves to find our center. Buck Ghosthorse, Lakota Sioux elder

In traveling to the edge of ourselves we are surrendering our control of the journey to God. We must submit, hold still and stop squirming so he can complete his work. It takes vulnerable love, ruthless trust and raw endurance to follow His way. In the midst of such an agonizing journey the depth of the pain is matched only by His gracious love and healing power.

“God brings us to the end of our human resources and then He releases His.”

“Maybe the reason so much emphasis on ‘proving God’ through rational means is that many Christians are missing the experience of God in their lives.” Jonathan Campbell

This is why we can be theologically correct but at the same time spiritually bankrupt.

Truth can be a weapon, more damaging than healing, in the hands of the unwise.

The Bible doesn’t exist to prove the existence of God. It assumes God’s existence and tells the story, the journey, of the human relationship with God. Replete with many questions.

On Jesus' backpack, you probably would not have found a bumper sticker saying, "The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it." A careful reading of the gospels reveals His attitude was more like, "This is God's Word, stop and think about it, and let's talk about it." As John tells it, Jesus seems to have asked more questions than He ever answered outright. And those questions are still reverberating in our hearts today.

Life is full of questions, and an honest follower of Christ learns how to embrace those questions.

Rachel: “What’s urban?”

Why do kids do this? They don’t want the info. They don’t want to talk about the issue; they just want to talk. They want a relationship. They are reveling in the fact that they can say something that makes you answer. We can approach Jesus with our same questions.

We experience the reality of Jesus as we submit to Him without reservation. Theological correctness doesn’t bring spiritual fulfillment; nor does it bring right living. Spiritual fulfillment comes only from the Spirit working in us, not from how hard we work at getting it.

Submissive prayer is prayer that welcomes God to work in and through my suffering rather than begs him to take it away. It's thanking God for what he gives me rather than resenting him for what I lose. Submissive prayer is changing me from someone who knew a lot about God into someone who is experiencing God in deep, though sometimes difficult, ways.

Are you in a dark night of the soul? Is the Spirit stripping away some of the rough spots in your character? What is being stripped away? What deeper realities are holding true?

How is God revealing, or not revealing Himself through this experience?

Who is walking with you through this time? Who isn’t?

There is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.

The Shawshank Redemption: it’s one thing to get the prisoner out of the prison, but quite another to get the prison out of the prisoner.

Romans 8:28
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

Living The Questions is life with a compass, not a map.

“When our maps of the world stop operating in the ways we expect... we become confused, frustrated, and angry...”

“No one grieves well alone.”

“It requires us to lay aside our need to provide solutions to peoples uncertainties and sense of alienation.”


Elijah in 1 Kings 18-19

I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Don’t Waste Your Life

My friends Marc & Loralie, serving at the Tanzania Children’s Rescue Centre, sent me this John Piper quote:

“I will tell you what a tragedy is. I will show you how to waste your life. Consider a story from the February 1998 edition of Reader’s Digest which tells about a couple who “took early retirement from their jobs in the Northeast five years ago when he was 59 and she was 51. Now they live in Punta Gorda, Florida, where they cruise on their 30 foot trawler, play softball and collect shells.”

At first when I read it I thought it might be a joke. A spoof on the American Dream. But it wasn’t. Tragically, this was the dream: Come to the end of your life – your one and only precious, God-given life – and let the last great work of your life, before you give an account to your Creator, be this: playing softball and collecting shells.

Picture them before Christ at the great day of judgement: “Look, Lord. See my shells.” That is a tragedy. And people today are spending billions of dollars to persuade you to embrace that tragic dream. Over against that, I put my protest: Don’t buy it. Don’t waste your life.” John Piper

A good wake-up call to stay focused on what's important. Choose people over possessions. Finish strong. Are we living a legacy worth leaving?

Isaiah 58:10-12
“…if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness… you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.”

Saturday, April 08, 2006

All Because Of You

I was born a child of grace
Nothing else about the place
Everything was ugly but your beautiful face
And it left me no illusion

I saw you in the curve of the moon
In the shadow cast across my room
You heard me in my tune
When I just heard confusion

All because of you
All because of you
All because of you
I am...I am

I like the sound of my own voice
I didn't give anyone else a choice
An intellectual tortoise
Racing with your bullet train

Some people get squashed crossing the tracks
Some people got high rises on their backs
I'm not broke but you can see the cracks
You can make me perfect again

All because of you
All because of you
All because of you
I am...I am

I'm alive
I'm being born
I just arrived, I'm at the door
Of the place I started out from
And I want back inside

All because of you
All because of you
All because of you
I am

"all because of you" song

Sounds a lot like a prayer that you or I could be saying right at this moment. The Hebrew word for God is literally "I Am". Talk to the great I Am today.

Exodus 3:13-14
But Moses protested, "If I go to the people of Israel and tell them, `The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,' they won't believe me. They will ask, `Which god are you talking about? What is his name?' Then what should I tell them?"

God replied, "I AM THE ONE WHO ALWAYS IS. Just tell them, `I AM has sent me to you.'"

Friday, April 07, 2006


This song has the feel as if God himself is singing it to each and every one of us. When Vincent Van Gogh painted yellow he always felt that he was painting the divine presence in our midst.

What a great song to sing this Easter...

Look at the stars,
Look how they shine for you,
And everything you do,
Yeah they were all yellow,

I came along
I wrote a song for you
And all the things you do
And it was called yellow

So then I took my turn
Oh all the things I've done
And it was all yellow

Your skin
Oh yeah your skin and bones
Turn into something beautiful
D'you know you know I love you so
You know I love you so

I swam across
I jumped across for you
Oh all the things you do
Cause you were all yellow

I drew a line
I drew a line for you
Oh what a thing to do
And it was all yellow

Your skin
Oh yeah your skin and bones
Turn into something beautiful
D'you know for you i bleed myself dry
For you i bleed myself dry

Its true look how they shine for you
look how they shine for you
look how they shine for you
look how they shine for you
look how they shine for you
look how they shine
look at the stars look how they shine for you

Ephesians 2:4-7 (The Message)
Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, God embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us! Then he picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah.

Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

In The Deep

Before you can live you have to die.

Thought you had all the answers
to rest your heart upon
but something happens
don't see it coming, now
you can't stop yourself
now you're out there swimming
in the deep

Life keeps tumbling you heart in circles
till you let go
till you shed your pride and you climb to heaven
and you throw yourself off
now you're out there spinning in the deep

If you want to be given everything, give everything up

In The Deep video

"Challenges make you discover things about yourself that you never really knew. They're what make the instrument stretch -what makes you go beyond the norm." Cicely Tyson

Colossians 3:1-4
Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits at God's right hand in the place of honor and power. Let heaven fill your thoughts. Do not think only about things down here on earth. For you died when Christ died, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your real life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

I Love Jesus But Hate The Church: But For the Grace of God

I remarked to Bev just last week that I felt like I was walking and living out God’s grace much more when I knew little about the Bible or theology, when I had experienced a transformation of a hardened heart. A few years ago I just wanted to walk in love and grace, to have God’s light shine through me. And now I find myself worrying or concerning myself about someone else’s theology or beliefs.

Just yesterday I had finished my message for this morning and was feeling quite proud of its theological precision, and biblical references. As I always do I asked Bev to sit with me as I read it out aloud. Feeling quite puffed up by my new, and potentially dangerous, theological understanding I turned around and saw Bev with the same glazed look over her eyes that I get when she is trying to explain to me how a computer works.

“I love you, she said, but this is not you. Whom are you writing for?” She was very gentle. And I was properly convicted. I prepared this message to look at three possible ways that we may see God, each other and our world.

Fear-based paradigm
Reward-based paradigm
Grace-based paradigm

I confess that I wrote my message from a fear-based perspective. My own self-doubt about who I am. My own perspective of trying to prove to my parents and others who doubted me that I am intelligent. Trying to make this more biblical so I couldn’t be accused of “watering down the gospel.” Or “appealing to the world instead of properly convicting people of their sin.” Accusations I have read and heard from people as I journey into my understanding of grace, and yet see all around me the miracles in peoples hearts and lives happen as a result of God’s amazing grace.

So there I was yesterday morning, as Ted already had all of the power point ready, and all of my scripture on slides… and I prayed. God, what do you want me to say?

I am so fearful of judgment by people who have been Christians for far longer than I have who can quote whole chapters of scripture, who use the “Word” as a weapon. Who “want meat, not milk.” That I wrote my message to appease them, as opposed to just sharing from my heart and brokenness what I believe God may want us to know. God has a sense of humor, and it’s a real good thing I took typing in high school.

I was even worried about showing scenes from this movie in case it might offend someone. The movie Saved came out a few years ago amidst controversy and anger from many Christians. I remember watching it with Brodie and I told him that I had reservations about it and veto power over whether or not we turn it off. Because I love satire and parody, I actually really liked this movie. As we are exploring our understanding of God and faith and Christ and life. As we reflect on why we might love Jesus but hate the church. See if these scenes speak anything to your heart. I’m going to show this to you without fear.

It centers on the life of kids in a suburban Christian School, Some of these have either a fear or reward-based understanding of faith. Hilary Faye is the primary character played by Mandy Moore. And she is “on fire” for Jesus. She has a special elite club only for those who are like her and on fire. She is out to “save the heathens” and makes one rebellious Jewish girl her specific project. But one of her friends in the “in club” who love Jesus ends up pregnant. Her faith is shattered as she tries to understand Jesus in this clearly frightening time. The scene we are going to look at here first shows how confused Mary is when she finds she is pregnant. Because of her fear paradigm she now believes that maybe Jesus does not love her. So we find her exploring other “spiritual” alternatives. The principal of the school then enlists her friends; headed by Hilary Faye, to “gently" bring her back to her faith.

Scene 10 on DVD “Jesus loves you.” She says after traumatizing a confused friend.

Hilary Faye is coming from both a fear based and reward based understanding of God. She is fearful that her friend is “ backsliding” and going to follow Satan, she is fearful that if she doesn’t do anything that she is not doing God’s will…. And then she feels that if she “saves” her by performing an exorcism that she will receive her rewards. Her theology or paradigm is evident in the fruit of her life… I know about Love she screams angrily at her friend as she throws a bible at her. Her words say one thing but the fruit says something entirely different.

The movie goes on to show how Hilary Faye becomes so angry with the people who are resisting her efforts to “save” them that she ends up plotting to get them expelled by writing graffiti on the school walls with anti-Christian slogans and planting the spray paint in their lockers. In typical high school movie fashion the climax comes on prom night when Hilary is exposed as the one who spray-painted the school. In this scene we see Hilary’s anger at not receiving her reward for “saving the heathens”

Scene 19 on DVD. Hilary Faye and others were “on fire" for Jesus with the wrong paradigm. How many of you know a Hilary Faye? How many of us have been a Hilary Faye?

But, some will say, a good dose of fear will keep people in line. How else can we stop people from sinning? Look, there are many passages about fearing the Lord.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Psalm 111:10

But what we are not told by those who like to quote these scriptures is that the meaning of the word fear in the original Hebrew and Greek has several interpretations. And the one definition that many scholars prefer seems to fit with our loving father in heaven

Fear = Respect, reverence,

Let’s read it again.

Respect and reverence for the Lord is the beginning of wisdom

That sounds right to me. Makes a lot of sense doesn’t it?

There will be those that argue that no; indeed, fear means what we know it to mean, to be terrified and frightful. We know that our paradigms will produce our actions and behaviors. The beliefs that we hold in our hearts will come forth in what the Bible calls our fruit. This is the external evidence of what is taking place inside of us. Many Christians tell stories of the turmoil in their hearts when they have been asked to reconcile a fear based theology with an understanding of the love of Christ.

Fear based understanding produces fearful and anxious Christians. The fruit of fear is fear. We become fearful of what we don’t understand, we become fearful of what we can’t see, we become fearful of what God really thinks about us, we become fearful of “non-Christians.” Fear could naturally move us towards works in order to please God and others. Works righteousness means that we can gain our right standing with God by doing more, praying more, serving more, preaching more, judging more and “saving” more heathens! Maybe controlling or manipulating others…

I recently had a conversation with a young youth pastor. First let me describe him to you. He was a very nervous looking guy, with pent up energy, a bit of a wild eyed look to him. He looked a little like Kramer off of Seinfeld. If I hadn’t known any better I would have suspected that he might have been high on cocaine or something, a look that I was more than familiar with as an undercover narcotics cop. He was, as we would say today, a little sketchy looking.

I began to ask him about his ministry in Northern Alberta and he exuberantly told me that his youth were “on fire” for the Lord. They were traveling to all of the native reserves in their area and telling them about Jesus, he said. “Because we’re in the end times now you know, we don’t have much time left.” Normally I would have politely changed the subject but I had just finished a course at seminary on Revelation and so I thought I would engage in a little banter.

“What makes you think that we are in the end times right now” I asked politely. “I, I, I, don’t really know.” He replied. “I’m a bit of a conspiracy theorist.” He confessed. “I look at what is happening in the Middle East with Hamas, and things that are going on around the world.” He stated excitedly. “And you know I think I know who the anti-Christ may be.” “Oh really, who is that?” I asked. “Prince Harry, think about it, he has a rebellious spirit, he is an heir to the throne from one of the most powerful countries in history, He could be king one day.”

I gave him that smile that we use when we are trying to be gracious but thinking cuckoo!

I John puts fear in its proper perspective. “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the Day of Judgment, because in this world we are like him. 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.” 1 John 4: 17 – 18

Perfect love drives out fear. And in one of the smallest sentences in the Bible that can be used to define whom God is we read, God is love. And we know that God is perfect, therefore if God is love and God is perfect then his perfect love is what drives out fear. But wait a minute; we’re told to fear God. Why would we fear perfect love? No wonder we get confused about God’s nature. This does not mean that we throw out Scripture that encourages us to have awe and reverence for our mighty God. It does mean that we should put this into its proper context and perspective. If we truly experience God’s love, through Christ, we need no longer fear. We walk confidently in His grace. We have even more reverence and awe at his ability to transform our lives.

Let’s now look at the second possible paradigm.

Reward-based paradigm

I once heard a message on the story of David and Goliath. The person giving the message was not a pastor but rather a very wealthy and high up person within a multi level marketing business. Now I am not saying that these businesses are bad. But the mixing of biblical teaching with the purpose of encouraging others to see faith as an avenue to wealth is in my view very dangerous theology and the opposite of what Jesus taught. Now let’s look back at a story we may remember, the classic story of David and Goliath.

“Now the Israelites had been saying, “ o you see how this man keeps coming out? He comes out to defy Israel. The king will give great wealth to the man who kills him. He will also give him his daughter in marriage and will exempt his father’s family from taxes in Israel.”

David asked the men standing near him, "what will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?"

They repeated to him what they had been saying and told him “this is what will be done for the man who kills him.” 1 Samuel 17:18

This speaker used this story to show that David took on the challenge of killing Goliath because he was motivated by the reward that would await him. The speaker went on to say that the motivation of reward and wealth was in fact honoring to God because as we see, David won, and if it wasn’t honoring then God would not have been with him in his victory.

Can you see the danger in this theology? If I am motivated by my own desire for wealth and comfort and luxury, and then attach my faith as a means to get there then really we are replacing our God, who desires humility and goodness and love in this world, with our own god of self.

Through this speaker’s paradigm of reward based theology he took the story of David and Goliath and drew an inference that indeed David was motivated by reward. But he doesn’t go on to read the whole story. While the story speaks of this reward being floated out, David in fact brings it back to understanding what God would have him do and tells us later what his motive truly is.

Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s and he will give all of you into our hands.” 1 Samuel 17: 45-47

David does not say to Goliath or anyone else “well look I don’t really know if I should do this, although boy it would sure be nice to be rich and have the kings daughter. So maybe it’s worth the risk. I’ll do this for God sure, but really I know the reward and so Goliath you don’t have a chance.” No, David acknowledges that he is there in the name of the Lord to do the Lord’s will. Why? So that “the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel.”

The location of scripture to fit our viewpoint is called proof-texting. This was a really sad example of proof-texting to justify self-centered motives.

But Jesus knew this is part of our human nature. This idea of reward is nothing new. One day two of Jesus’ disciples, James and John pulled him aside privately to make a request. They asked, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory (Mark 10:37) They assumed that Jesus would soon initiate a kingdom and they were lobbying, if not for crowns at least for thrones. They didn’t seem to be embarrassed at their less than noble motives for following Jesus. Now the other disciples once they heard of James and John’s request were more jealous than angry. No one questioned the propriety of seeking rewards.

So Jesus challenged his disciples. He said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whomever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10: 42 - 45

Jesus is correcting his followers. He is saying, look, your motive for hanging with me and following me is wrong. You want your glory and your reward. But I need humble servants who can bring my message of hope into a hurting world. Don’t be motivated by your own desires for status, prestige, and wealth. This is the wrong motivation. The wrong paradigm.

A reward-based paradigm appeals to self-interest and down plays self-denial.

A reward based understanding of faith serves to fuel the very sin that Jesus came to take away, my own pride and self-centeredness. C. S. Lewis writes about the great sin in Mere Christianity.

“There is one vice of which no man in the world is free; which everyone in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else; and of which hardly any people, except Christians, ever imagine that they are guilty themselves.”

“The vice I am talking about is pride or self conceit…pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.” C.S. Lewis

Lewis goes on to write that pride is essentially competitive. If we are reward oriented in our theology and paradigm then we are generally placing ourselves in competition. Because we can only know if we are rewarded when we compare ourselves to someone else. If we all received the same amount of money, or beauty, or comfort yet we have been working so hard to serve the Lord so that we may get reward then we say why bother. We cannot love others the way God would have us do when we are in competition with them. We cannot love when we are seeking reward. Because the only way we can measure our reward is by comparing our stuff with others.

So I won’t. But if you feel like some homework read the parable of the workers in the vineyard in Matthew 20. This is about reward based thinking producing competitive and envious people. It illustrates the message of grace.

God distributes his gifts of grace not because they are earned, but because he is gracious. In the kingdom of God, the driving force is not merit and ability but grace.

Grace-based paradigm

Fear and reward based theology is nothing new.

In the 1500’s Martin Luther challenged a fear and reward based theology that had manifested into the corruption and control of the Roman Catholic Church. He began the whole reformation, our heritage as a protestant church, protesting against fear and reward. He discovered in his own life and others, God’s grace. If you are interested in his story I encourage you to rent the movie Luther.

Luther, as no one before him in more than a thousand years, sensed the importance of the miracle of divine forgiveness. Our right standing before God was merely a matter of credence and trust. This was the only requirement. For by faith and only faith are we made right with God.

One writer says this about his own journey of faith.

“Although heaven and hell are often presented as different ends on a spectrum, they share a common assumption. For those who understand all of life as preparation for heaven or hell, a loving relationship with God is secondary, if not irrelevant. God’s grace becomes the ticket to heaven rather than the means of transformation. Such cynical thinking suggests there is nothing inherently attractive in a relationship with God, that without the carrot or the stick, no one would bother with God. Yet what ultimately attracted me to God and the Church wasn’t fear or greed. It was meeting people who lived their lives selflessly, who no longer asked, “What’s in it for me?” They spoke of God not as an abstraction, but as one who loved them so fully they were freed to love extravagantly.”

When we have been transformed by God’s love, forgiveness, and grace we cannot help but become gracious to others. Some of us have certainly come from places that have desperately required God’s grace.

In my darkest days of despair, brokenness and confusion and chaos I found myself staring at the bottom of a bottle of Jack Daniels. Crying out to a God that I had long forgotten from my youth. And by His grace alone my life has been transformed. I had a choice… J.D. or J.C. By God’s grace…How about you?

Why is it we see more grace at an A.A. meeting than we do at many churches? Because people don’t have the mask on, their pride has been stripped away; they humbly read one of the signs on their meeting room

“ But for God’s grace go I…”

How many times have we humbled ourselves enough to see someone who is different and looks like they have been through life’s wringer, and truthfully say… but for God’s grace go I….

I wonder sometimes if we have never experienced God’s transforming grace can we fully comprehend it.

Phillip Yancey is one of the most insightful writers on the issue of God’s grace. He says this,

"Grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us more . . . And grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us less" Philip Yancey What’s so Amazing about Grace?

We can only make room for his grace when we choose to let go of fear and self centered motivations.

It's hard to be full of grace when you're full of fear. Cornelius Plantinga, Jr

We cannot earn a right relationship with God; we cannot do things, and follow laws, and dress right, act right, say the right things, or act spiritual to gain right standing. Don’t drink, don’t swear, and don’t watch the Simpson’s…Will not change our hearts and minds. Can I back that up with scripture? Well, Martin Luther certainly did.

But now righteousness from God, apart from the law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. his righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Romans 3:21

How we see our relationship with God and with each other will drive our motives. Even the smallest things that we do.

How do we know which viewpoint is coloring our perspective on faith?

God’s spirit is not angry, judging, condemning, haughty, and prideful. God’s spirit is not controlling, manipulating, or vengeful. It does not harbor grudges. It is not God’s spirit that causes us to hurt others. One of the reviews that I read for the movie Saved by a Christian journalist that was in response to the anger of many Christians is that the movie was not a parody or making fun of Christianity. Rather it was a parody of our own humanity. It is not God’s spirit that causes some of us to want to be the sin police. How do we know this? Is this “bible preaching” Well, here is what I read,

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5:22

A few years back I met a lady at a social function. She found out that I was a Christian and asked me what church I went to. I told her and she said to me with a bit of a knot in her face “you know some of those grace based churches are from Satan” I thought I was in a scene from the Waterboy and I was Bobby Boucher.

Grace is God’s unmerited favor. We cannot earn it; we can only humbly receive it.

It’s grace that brings us into communion with God
It’s grace that allows us to see others as God sees them
It’s grace that allows us to humbly come before God when we are tempted to judge others and say, but for God’s grace go I, and as a church community, but for God’s grace go we.
It is grace that brings hope amidst suffering, crisis of faith and the dark nights of the soul.

It’s grace that prompted Bev to tell me yesterday, this isn’t you Bob. Speak from your heart.

It’s grace that will bring us freedom
And it’s grace that will teach us how to love.

But this amazing grace came at a tremendous cost. As we celebrate the symbolism of the Lord’s Supper let us take some time to reflect on that cost. Let us see Jesus on the cross, beaten, scorned, spit on, ridiculed. Grace is not cheap, and grace is not license. Grace penetrates our hearts to the extent that we are free to live and love and laugh and dance and sing in union with God and each other. But it came at such a cost as Christ hung on that cross for our sake to free us spiritually from our own self-centeredness or despair

As we eat the bread in memory of his broken body
As we drink the wine in memory of his blood

We realize that together we are now a part of his body that our belief in him has caused for a supernatural and mystical relationship that transforms us. But what a cost of that amazing grace. by Bob Stenhouse