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.





Life transformation and immediate gratification

10 04 2013

I love the speed at which we can get things today. If I want a book I simply check to see if there is an e-book version and with a click I can be reading it. If I want to know something I go to Google and within seconds I have the answer. I also know that when I have a slow internet connection and something takes longer than 5 seconds I become impatient. If the book is not available on Kindle I am frustrated. Bottom line: I want what I want NOW.

I think I have seen this slipping into my walk with God. If I pray for something, I want my prayer answered…now. If I struggle with something I should be able to overcome it by…this afternoon at the latest.

However, when I step back and see people truly transformed by God very rarely is it immediately. There are dramatic moments but more often than not it is this slow and steady change seen only when we look back and reflect.

Matthew 13:1-13 gives us the inside story on one of Jesus’ parables. He talks about four types of soil and then goes on to explain the meaning of each type to his disciples.

One type is shallow soil that does not have the depth to allow the seed to take a firm root. It shoots up quickly but life happens quicker and soon the plant is scorched and withered. Another type is soil with weeds and refers to the worries and troubles of this life choking out the seed.

As I become more impatient and distracted I fear I am becoming like those two soils and I missing out on what God is trying to do in my life. (Feel free to admit you struggle with the same thing. I just didn’t want to be the one to point it out.)

Those who have been faithfully plugging along continue to grow in depth and maturity. When hard situations happen in their lives, they are able to rise above the circumstances and graces shines through. Meanwhile, those who have not given God time to work get frustrated and give up. Those who don’t slow down to really consider God’s wisdom see their situation get worse as they feel pressure from all the worries of this world.

It makes perfect sense. God typically goes against our expectations and standards. In our time of immediate gratification and multiple distractions it would only make sense that God would move slowly and would encourage us to focus in order to see his transformative work in our lives.

In Isaiah 55:8-9 God tells us “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways…As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

If we take that to heart then I need to be a lot more patient and intentional at looking for God. In other words there is probably not an App for this.

I encourage you to take some time and reflect. Look back and see if you can catch God working. Look for distractions you need to remove so you can better focus on the things of God. Then, spend some time thanking God and committing to following God for the long haul. Will there still be amazing moments and dramatic stories of God’s intervention? Absolutely. However, I am truly amazed as I look in the opposite direction the world is going, as I slow down and I take the time to not be distracted. I find a loving, patient God who is quietly transforming lives.





Living beyond laws

8 08 2012

I am back!  I returned from deployment at the end of June and I was able to spend some down time with the family.  To be honest it can be hard to get going after a break.  The good news is that the need to write is pushing me to the point I had to get started again.  So here it goes…

Within the last several weeks we have had two terrible shootings that have rocked the nation.  After the grieving there are a couple of normal responses the community has.  First, we try to figure out who the person was and why he did it.  Second, we evaluate our laws to see if they need to be changed or new laws need to be added.  I want to focus on the second response.

Laws establish boundaries for what we believe is acceptable behavior in the community.  In reality laws only control some behavior some of the time for some of the people.  Want proof?  Did you break any speed limits this week?

As Christians we believe that God transforms our lives.  In Galatians Paul lists the byproduct of being in a healthy relationship with God (Galatians 5:22-23).  We call them the fruits of the Spirit.  He says something interesting at the end of the list, “Against such things there is no law.”  That makes sense.  How do you legislate gentleness?  Can you force a person to be joyful or have peace?  These things have to be byproducts of something deeper.  I would offer the discussion we need to have is not about laws or the one individual but our own personal growth and how to be a healthy community.

I am grateful we live in a country that gives us freedom.  We are able to have a “market place of ideas.”  The church brings Jesus to the market place.  We offer that a relationship with him will transform us.  It gives us new life.  It results in communities built on love that are good and faithful.  Has the church ever gotten it wrong?  Absolutely.  I offer we get it wrong when we shift our focus from Jesus.

Now what?  If you are not a Christian I would invite you to consider Jesus.  Talk with a Christian you respect and explore what it means to have a personal relationship.  For those who are in a relationship with Jesus, take a peace of paper and write the 9 fruits that are mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23 (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control).  Consider each one and ask yourself “Am I growing naturally in this area?”  If you are human you will have mixed results.  There will be areas you are growing and there will be areas you need to work on.  For those areas you need to work on avoid the easy answer which is to make a rule (or law) to try and change.  Instead pray and ask God to change you. Please be willing to listen.  God will open opportunities for you to grow.  It may be by talking with someone, reading your bible, getting plugged in with a church or looking for a way to get involved in your community.

The result will be transformed individuals living in communities that are vibrant and healthy.  Will we still have tragedies?  Sadly, until Jesus returns we will.  However, we will have given ourselves the best chance to avoid them and an effective way to respond.