We don’t need Jesus

3 02 2015

They say catchy titles will draw people to read your post.  Did it work?

Can I be honest?  I see some truth in the title.

“Give us our daily bread”  Honestly, I look for that in my paycheck that comes faithfully twice a month.

“Your will be done” is great as long as it can be accomplished on the weekends and preferably not during football season.

When a crisis hits, the need for Jesus shines brightly.  As a Chaplain I am in awe when I bring the power of the Gospel into a situation.  I am always amazed and humbled when God moves me out of the way and touches hearts.  Then, I go home where I have a good marriage and, while my kids frustrate me from time to time, they have normal middle class American problems.

Jesus teaches his disciples to pray for God’s will to be done.  On the night he was handed over to be crucified he has a desperate time of prayer and says “not my will but your will be done.”

Wow!  Jesus lives out the very thing he taught.  I am convicted.

If you can relate to me, I challenge you as I challenge myself to re-engage our world.  I don’t believe we have to wait for a crisis.  We just need to allow ourselves to be uncomfortable.

My conviction was helped by a NPR story on my drive home.  The reporter was being honest that the stories of Jesus seemed distant but a priest who stood up for the poor and was killed for his stand made the stories of Jesus real.  No, I do not want us go out and get shot.  However, when we engage our world, we bring hope and make Jesus real in lives of the people around us.  Then, we have the privilege of watching our Savior change lives.

After listening to the story I went into the store to pick up a couple of items.  As I looked around, the Holy Spirit pointed out that each person I saw had a story and God loved them.  It was an invitation to join him as he looks for his “will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

I want that. I need that.  I need Jesus.





Agents of Grace

28 02 2014

Have you ever read something and did a double take. You reread it just to make sure it said what you think it said. That happened to me as I was reading Exodus. In Exodus 24:9-11 we are told about Moses, Aaron and his sons along with the seventy elders going up to see God. Verse 11 is what made me pause, “But God did not raise his hand against these leaders…”

The reason I did a double take is God was the one who invited them up. Why would he raise his hand against them? Here are my thoughts.

At the end of the day God is holy. He also has the true “big picture.” As he saw these men walking up, he would have known that Aaron would soon fail as a leader and make an idol for the Israelites to worship (Exodus 32). Aaron’s sons would choose to disregard the requirements laid out by God for proper worship and would put God in the position of maintaining the holiness of the Tabernacle (Leviticus 10). You could add to this the number of times the Israelites would complain and talk about how good life was when they were slaves. The seventy elders never seemed to help lead the people in a better direction. Instead they just went along with the crowd.

Have you ever had a meeting with someone you know is bad? Have you ever gone to a function where a person who makes really poor choices is placed at the same table as you? Thanks to the power of Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and other internet tools we can “raise our hand against them.” We can fire off that perfect poke in the eye. We can bash them and get “likes.” We can even text while we talk with them making sure people know what an idiot they are.

I am thankful God takes a different approach. God extends grace. At the core we see God’s desire to have a relationship with us. His desire will result in inviting guys like Aaron to eat with him. It also meant Jesus would get the reputation of being a glutton and drunkard (Matthew 11:19).

Technology is allowing us to set our own borders. We can isolate ourselves with “friends” who are just like us. When we argue, we seem to be crueler and sharper in our attacks with those not in our circle. In an ocean of words we feel the only way we can be heard is if we get creatively ugly.

The world is in desperate need of the unique grace offered by God. I say unique because in our own circles we tend to be really good about sending encouraging and uplifting messages. There is never a shortage of inspirational stories or pictures on my Facebook news feed. What if we extended grace outside our circles? What if we did something kind for a person we despise? What if we took Jesus seriously and loved our enemies?

God never condones sin. There are plenty of examples where God steps in and demonstrates justice and holiness. God also extends grace. God does it perfectly. The rest of us do it a little less than perfectly. There will be times when we need to take a stand because something is immoral or harmful. I would offer there are plenty of times we can follow God’s example and extend grace.

Grace changes the world. Grace tears down walls, restores relationships and offers hope. Ultimately it was God’s grace that opened the door for our salvation.

Will it be hard? Yes. Will we be misunderstood? Likely. We will always get it right? If you are like me, no. However, if we focus on grace and extend it to others then I think we can have the opportunity to truly impact our world.

There is also a blessing that comes back to us. I wanted to write about grace. God is awesome in bringing things together. Where I ended up is different from my initial thoughts. I wanted to remind us that we live by grace. God tweaked my message to focus on offering grace outside our circle of friends. However, I believe as we offer grace the byproduct will be a reminder of the grace given to us. God loves you and me not because of what we do. As we meet with God, he knows how we will blow it next week. However, he loves us and desires to have a relationship with us. He doesn’t raise his hand against us. Instead, he extends grace and offers us a seat.

Our challenge for this upcoming week is to be an agent of grace. Some of you need to accept God’s grace. All of us need to be intentional about looking beyond our circle of friends and finding a way to show grace. I am going to trust God on this one. Say a prayer and ask God who you need to give grace to.
Warning: God is most likely going to bring up the one person you absolutely do not want to give any grace to. He does that to grow you. Trust me it will be worth it.

What will it look like? It may be going out to lunch with someone you normally would not eat with. It may be saying an encouraging word to someone you normally ignore. It may be asking forgiveness for your part in why a relationship has soured. It will be critical that there be no strings attached. You are simply following Jesus.

My prayer is we will be agents of grace in the weeks to come. It will give God an opportunity to work through us bring hope, peace and reconciliation. If you are like me you are very thankful and humbled by God’s grace. Those we give grace to will hopefully be grateful but no matter what you will have given them a snapshot of God’s heart.

PS. Yes God has prompted me on who I need to extend grace to. I am praying about how to do it well.





Grace and Truth

11 01 2012

By now we have settled into the routine of our daily lives. Many who made New Year’s resolutions are resolving that next year will be the year they will keep them. Some are looking at their waistline and gauging just how much they enjoyed the holiday season. They convince themselves they will start working out…tomorrow…which never seems to come. Change is hard even when the intentions are good. There are plenty of books and formulas on how to stick with something or make a change that will last. However, it seems like the only person it works for is the friend who visits the neighbor who you only meet once. That person always seems to get it right. The rest of us keep piling on the good intentions and hope that one day our will power will be strong enough to change us.

But I am a Christian. Change should be easy. We talk about transformation. We talk about a new life. The Apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”

Change should be a piece of cake. My best intentions should be realized. Yet, those inside the church seem to wrestle with the same issues. The only person who was really changes is the traveling speaker who we heard once. That person’s change was so profound they were able to start a whole ministry around it. The rest of us keep piling on the good intentions and hope one day change will happen.

As we finish packing up our Christmas decorations, we need to remember we celebrated. John 1:17 says: “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

When Jesus came and lived with us, I believe he brought the power of change. It rests in the duel power of grace and truth. The more I mature and see change in my own life, the more I am convinced of this reality.

Truth is powerful. It helps us have an honest assessment of where something is at. It gives us a clear picture. We see things as they are. Truth can be very painful to look at. Sometimes too painful. So, we minimize it, ignore it or turn it into a weapon we use to beat ourselves or others up with.

In steps grace. It is sweet and refreshing. Hope runs alongside it. It lifts us up. It encourages us. It believes in us. Ultimately it creates a safe area around truth so I can face it and deal with it effectively. Grace truly is a gift of God.

The law that came through Moses was a picture of truth. Jesus is truth (John 14:6). When you study the life of Jesus, you see those who were self-righteous (trying to be their own truth) were silenced. Those who had been broken by the truth of their life received grace. In the midst of that grace their lives were transformed.

Do you need change? How honest are you being about the situation? How much grace are you allowing into the situation?

You will have to sit down with God and really be willing to be open and honest. I will pick on Christians for a moment. This is where we tend to minimize or beat ourselves up. We start to look at the truth but then leap to the “right answer.” The best we can hope for is to become self-righteous. The worst is we will become hopeless never living up to that “right answer.” We must accept grace. Allow truth to be truth and let grace embrace us. Then something amazing happens. We start to live truthfully and grace guides us in changing. We really see change happen in our lives.

Now imagine this at work in the relationships around us. What if we were honest with one another and lived truthfully. Yes, we would need to give grace and live by grace and look for lots of ways to inject grace into all our interactions. You noticed I didn’t say by inserting grace we ignore the truth. Again, to pick on us Christians, this is what we tend to do. We pretend everything is alright when it is not. Truth and grace must go hand in hand. It is the only way it works.

Are you ready to change? What is the truth about the situation? What does grace look like? Remember Jesus is truth so you will need to start with him. He is also the one who offers us grace. For the church, we must be communities that live by the duel power of truth and grace. The world desperately needs it and so do we.