Grace and Truth

7 01 2018

This is something I wrote a few years ago.  I have the opportunity to preach at our church and I plan on mentioning this idea of “Grace and Truth.”

I will be preaching January 7.  Our church “Live Streams” our 9:00 Service.

Here are two links that should get you there:

http://existencechurch.com/

This is the church’s website and there is a place to click on the top of the page that says “Live Stream”

This is where link takes you:

If you miss it.  They will post it.  It is the first sermon in the series “Blank Space”

Here are some thoughts on “Grace and Truth”

Change is hard even when intentions are good.  There are plenty of books and formulas on how to stick with something or make a change that will last.  It seems the only person it works for is the person you see on social media.  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 make the change we really hope for.

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.

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 can be seen 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 we are at.  It gives us a clear picture.  We see things as they are.  Truth can be painful.  Sometimes too painful.  So, we minimize it, ignore it or turn it into a weapon that we use on ourselves or others by just “telling the truth.”

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.  You will also need to 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.

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 of our interactions.

You noticed I didn’t say by inserting grace we ignore the truth.  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 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.  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.





These are socks…Hope

29 10 2014

In my last post I shared about how Coach Wooden, the legendary basketball coach for UCLA, would begin his first practice. He started off each season by teaching his team how to wear their socks stressing the importance of protecting their feet. Getting a blister on your foot makes you ineffective on the court. Bottom line remembering the basics helps you win the game.

What are the Christian’s socks? What are the basics we have to remember to be effective? I believe there are three; faith, hope and love. Today I want to focus on hope.

Hope is a well-grounded confidence that allows us to face reality. Let that sink in.

The two most common verses I use as a Chaplain are Romans 5:3-5 and James 1:2-4. Both of these passages talk about what can happen during hard times. In Romans “we rejoice in our suffering” because we will gain perseverance, our character will be revealed and we will see where we have placed our hope. James wants us to “consider it pure joy when we face trials” because the end result will be full and complete maturity.

Two people can go through the exact same circumstance. One person comes out stronger and one person comes out weaker. What was the difference? I believe it is often perspective and choice. We have to choose to become stronger and we need the right perspective to overcome our circumstances.

For Christians I believe life is a win-win situation. When we don’t have bad things happen, it is a win. When we do have bad things happen, it is also a win because we can grow and become stronger as a result of those difficult times. There is a practical truth to this. When we look back on what helped us become a better person, many times it was a difficult circumstance. There is also a profound spiritual truth to this.

As Paul mentions in Romans, our hope comes alive in suffering. If we truly believe that Jesus overcame both sin and death and one day will return, everything we are experiencing here is temporary. This does not mean I want to go through hard times. It does mean when I go through them I can have confidence this is not the end of the story. I have hope.

This hope actually allows me to face the situation for what it is. I am so thankful Jesus cried at Lazarus’ tomb in John 11. Why? Jesus knew he was going to raise him from the dead. He knew this was not the end of the story. He also knew people were hurting. They loved Lazarus and watching him die was hard and painful. He was able to connect with them and share in their sorrow. He faced reality but was not overwhelmed by the situation. He had confidence in the rest of the story.

When my socks of hope are on, I face reality with confidence. If there is injustice I can stand against it and call it injustice. Why? Because I know Jesus will one day return and make the final judgment. If I have sin in my life I can deal with it effectively. Why? Because I know Jesus died for my sins and conquered sin therefore I can overcome this area of sin in my life. When I see suffering or death I can cry and mourn with those who are mourning. Why? Because this life can be hard however I will not be overwhelmed by grief and sorrow because I know the rest of the story.

Christian hope is not simply being optimistic. It is grounded in the reality of who God is and what Jesus has done. When we let this reality settle all the way down into our socks, we have a profound hope that anchors us. We face reality boldly and we impact our world radically.

Is there something you need to face? Is there a situation you are avoiding or minimizing because your socks of hope have holes in them or haven’t been put on properly? This is when a mentor is really helpful. Talk with someone you respect who has hope in spite of difficult circumstances. They will give you wisdom and insight that will inspire you. You will need to be in prayer and take the time to really learn what the Bible has to say. God will lead and guide. The result will be a confidence to look at reality and see…hope.





God’s restraint –He wanted us more

13 07 2013

My wife is on a diet.  (This is when good husbands insert the comment, “She already looks great and does not need to diet but I will be supportive.”)  One of the keys to success in dieting is self control.  I watch Andreya have self control as she eats her lunch while three…okay four hungry boys eat a much different lunch.

Self control is critical to being successful in life.  I also believe it is vital to grow as a healthy Christian.

There seems to be two primary ways to get self control.  One is by establishing habits.  The other (and the one I want to focus on) is when we want something more than whatever we need self control for.  For example, if you really want an “A” in a class you will not watch TV but instead study.  Andreya wants to be at a healthier weight more than she wants that piece of chocolate cake.  (Sorry honey for reminding you of chocolate.)

Many people will try to have self control but fail.  I believe they fail because they either don’t have good habits or they are more focused on what they are giving up rather than on what they want.  When I keep thinking about how I am not suppose to watch TV, all I want to do is watch TV.  However, when I focus on the fact I want that “A,” I am not thinking of TV but I am focused on my class.

What do I want more?  That simple question seems to be a powerful tool to help me develop self control.

Here is the amazing part.  God never asks us to do something that he has not done.  God wants us to have self control.  What about God?  Has God ever demonstrated self control?

Walk with me through the gospels.  Luke 4:9-12 gives us some insight into the power available to Jesus.  Satan tempts Jesus to jump and see if the angels will do their job and catch him before he hits the ground.  Jesus turns him down by quoting scripture.  Just a little while later in Luke 4:28-30 we see Jesus walk through a crowd of people who wanted to throw him off a cliff.  He walked right through because he had the power to do so.  John 18 is about the arrest of Jesus.  Verse 6 shows the soldiers falling back as he spoke. Later in the chapter, verse 22, we see Jesus getting slapped by one of the officials.

Pause with me right here.  It is safe to say every angel in heaven wanted to pounce on that official.    Imagine all of God’s army at the ready begging to step in and save Jesus.  (There is a similar picture in 2 Kings 6:17.)

Instead of releasing the angels to protect Jesus, God restrained them.

Jesus wanted us more.  He demonstrated self control in the face of humiliation, beatings and ultimately the cross.  It is very humbling.  It is also inspiring and amazing.

If you are like me you will struggle with self control in some area.  Sometimes we will get self control by building good habits.  Other times we may need to pause and ask ourselves what we want more.  In that moment remember what God wanted more.  If you are like me it will put things into perspective.  You will be grateful and it will be easy to pick what you want.