grace

29 November, 2006

I’m ba-ack! Thanks to those of you who sent emails wondering where I’d gotten to and fretting over the lack of bloggages. Life has kicked in once again, with work and friends, and strangers and coffee and dinners and in short… it’s great!

Here’s what God’s been immersing me in of late, this isn’t anything different to previous blogs, and I’m not sorry for repeating myself, I love this stuff! So, here it is:

“We are stewards of His grace”

Paul says it ever so sweetly (has Paul ever been described as ‘sweet’ before?) when he says:

“For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles— if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you…” (Ephesians 3:1-2, NKJV, emphasis mine)

The NKJV uses the word ‘dispensation’ (that’s for you Gi), but it can also be translated as ‘administration’ or ‘stewardship’, basically he gives us grace, not only for us, but for others, and we’re in charge of how that’s to be shared, given away, freely administered. Not held onto, stored up, stashed away and hidden from those around us, from those who don’t like us, from those who work against us, but poured out in abundance upon them, just as His grace is poured out on us! Lovely. And of course, there’s absolutely no reason not to give His grace away, to share it with others, because tomorrow, He’s going to pour out some more on you! His mercies are new every morning!

I’ve been listening to a stack of teaching lately that I’ve downloaded from the net, Dallas Willard and Todd Hunter speaking on the relationship of the Kingdom to the Church (loved it!), and Gayle Erwin of Servant Quarters teaching on the nature/character of Jesus. This is some of the best teaching on Jesus I think I’ve ever heard. Gayle teaches on The Jesus Style, which is really the way Jesus did life, and it is absolutely brilliant! It’s been a complete delight and pleasure, Gayle also being one of the funniest teachers I’ve heard.

If you’re interested in listening to these guys, links to them are the MP3 resources page of my website.

So, that’s it for tonight. Short and sweet. If you call yourself a follower of Jesus, then stop hogging his grace. Go be nice to someone who least expects it. Smile at them. Ask them how their day is going. Ask them how their family is. Find out what their interests are and become their friend. It’s really not that difficult. And it’s a whole lot of fun!

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how?

7 November, 2006

Matthew 5:43-48

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. ‘But I tell you: Love your enemies bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (emphasis mine)

How’s that for words of life! How awesome! How radical! Loving our enemies? Loving people who actively work against us? Love them, to have their best interest at heart, to want the best for them. To bless those who curse us? Do good for those who hate us? Pray for those who make life hard for us!?! It’s the complete antithesis of our instinctual self-preservation! What? Put them ahead of ourselves?

How? You’re kidding right?? That’s a pretty huge ask! I mean, if I give them an inch they’ll take a mile! It’ll surely end in tears (mine!). It’ll all go pear shaped! Nup. I have to protect myself. I have to stay away from them.

But, what if someone taught me a better way? A better way. The Way… love. The Truth… all have sinned, and while we were still sinners, He died for us. The Life… life abundant. Not held captive by anything… anything.We’re all broken. We all need love. We all want to be signifcant. We all want to matter. The great majority of people have no clue how much they are loved. They don’t get that they don’t have to put others down in order to feel okay about themselves. They don’t know how to love others without feeling diminished by it… how sad is that!? Surely it’s the antithesis of life…?

Imagine spending all your days trying to prove yourself, comparing yourself with others, competing and downgrading…? They aren’t really our enemies, they’re their own worst enemies. They’ll never achieve what they want. They’ll always be someone else in their way, or doing better, or happier, or richer, or more popular, or even more content. They don’t like themselves. They’re so insecure.

How can our response be anything but love? How can we not want them to know the truth? To set them free from this incredible lie!? How can we not pray for them? How can we not want to bless them? To do good for them? To love them! How can we not want the best for them? To bless their proverbial socks off!!! To show them a better Way!!

The Way

The Truth

The Life

How wonderful…!

Isn’t He…. ?!


context

19 October, 2006

There’s a lady that’s a regular at one of the places that I go to in the mornings for brekky. We’d been nodding and smiling at each other for a month before I went and sat down with her and we started talking. Now we catch up most mornings. It’s really nice. Yesterday we discovered that we know a lot of the same people.

She grew up one street from my parent’s, and her husband lived in the same street. gve-frameWhen she was 15, my grandparents gave her a lift to and from a wedding. It was really nice hearing her talk about two people that I really loved. She said she remembers that my grandfather always wore a hat and had a great sense of humour, and my Nan had a great laugh. I remember these things too, although I would’ve said that Nan had a bizarre laugh (maybe she was just being polite).

The wedding that they went to was that of my grandparent’s, best friend’s daughter. She said she’d lost contact with them along the way and I was able to fill her in on where they’re at – the dad, “Harry” died 2 weeks ago. We talked about a lot of the families that live in my parent’s street. Most of whom have moved on, but there are a few still there. We also talked about how she came out here from England when she was 10, and I heard her story, where she’s from and how they came to live in Dandenong. She’s still in contact with a family that used to live in my street, I remember playing with their son before they moved away. I was around 7 at the time. We talked for over an hour about our mutual friends, and while there’s 26 years between us, these memories helped us connect more closely as friends. I also really enjoyed remembering people and places from my past and connecting them with my present, and how much has changed in me over the years.

I think I mentioned in my previous post that I’ve been making my way through the New Testament once again, and just like yesterday’s conversation, it’s reminding me that I’m a part of a bigger story. A story that has been in progress for centuries, since the beginning of time (and beyond). It’s reminding me that Yahweh has been about the same business all this time. He’s been calling out to His children and inviting them into relationship with Himself. As I read through the Gospels and now Acts, it been wonderful to watch how Jesus corrected people’s assumptions about his Father and invited people into loving, and meaningful relationship. I also love how he called them, and then sent them, telling them to do the same things, and how he made it clear that that’s what His Kingdom is all about. Freely receiving and freely giving. Such beauty, such grace, such love!

I’m also seeing once again that this isn’t about ‘doing’ but about living. He didn’t come so that we would just obey him (although of course that’s a part of it), but he came so that we may have life, and be his friends. So that who we are as his friends is lived out in the midst of not only those who know Him, but those who don’t. That we be about the same stuff that he is, that we, for want of a better term, ‘buy into’ the same story. Not because we feel compelled to, but because it’s a natural response to the love and grace that he pours into our lives.

In this respect we can neither be ‘inward-looking’ (aware mostly of our Christian families) or ‘outward’, but rather constantly aware of those around us and looking for opportunities to bless whoever it is that comes our way, whether they be brother, sister, friend, stranger or even our enemy. The story, the thing that we’re a part of, that has been going on all these years, the thing that we commit ourselves to when we become disciples of Jesus, as it has been for centuries, is to pour out the blessings and love that have been poured into us, upon any and all that our Father places before us.

This is the context into which the Christian enters.

This is our story.

This is our heritage.

This is what it is to be a friend of God.

This is what it is to be “a co-operative friend of Jesus” (as Dallas Willard so eloquently puts it).


confrontation

14 October, 2006

Back coffee-shopping in Dandy today. Long day. Busy day. Busy week. Great coffee, lovely people, and peaceful enough to sit and read and write. Not sure I could ask for a lot more on a Friday afternoon to top off the end of a very hectic week. Lovely.

Speaking of lovely, I’ve been making my through the Gospels again and watching (I’m a visual reader) the way Jesus interacted with the various groups of people, messing with their pre-conceived ideas of God. There were very few people who met him and said “Yup, you’re Him, and you’re exactly what I expected“… maybe a handful? But then, apart from maybe Simeon & Anna, even those who had an inkling of his true identity weren’t always certain. Even John the Baptiser sent his disciples to get confirmation when he found himself in prison.

Mostly of course this was because nobody really expected the Messiah to act and respond the way Jesus did. The religions leaders/teachers couldn’t bring themselves to accept as Messiah someone who was so critical of the job they were doing, and on top of that, he went and gave authority to ‘the man on the street’ to preach the Kingdom of God – to teach, to preach, to heal, he even gave them authority over demons and to forgive sins! Completely by-passing the accepted authorities. I mean, how dare he? Even while recognising the wonder of what he did, they were intensely jealous for their own status and significance within their society. I mean, let’s face it. These guys had been the keepers of truth and teachers of Israel for quite some time, how dare this young upstart, this carpenter’s son, challenge the status quo by going about teaching relationship with God, healing on the Sabbath and claiming to be God’s Son?!? Then, then… he gave others the authority to do the same!

The really sad part is that they recognised the good he was doing, the authority with which he spoke, and Caiphas had even prophesied in their midst concerning him! They were just really cheesed off that their own positions were being called into question. When it came down to it, they quite definitely had made it all about them. If only they had had “ears to hear”, they would have realised it really was all about them.

Then there was the common man, daily going about his business of eking out an existence for himself and his family – and along comes Jesus… the Son of God, the Creator himself… right into the midst of their lives, turning them upside down.

The story that ‘gets me’ every time is the one of Peter who had been out fishing all night and had nought to show for his efforts. Jesus suggests he throws the net over the other side of the boat and I get the feeling Pete only does it to humour him – “low and behold” he pulls in more fish than his nets can handle. Peter, confronted with the reality of this one event, reacts in a way that I totally understand… “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!” The self evaluation, the sense of unworthiness! And of course Jesus responds in his inimitable way… “Don’t be afraid“… then he invites Pete into relationship with himself! How lovely is that??

Then of course there are the women, the tax collectors, the unclean, the prostitutes, the demonised, the sick the paralysed the, rulers, the children, the gentiles, the rich, the poor, the military, the movers and shakers (to name but a few)… and each time Jesus meets them where they’re at, speaks truth, shows compassion and love and grace and mercy, and turns their respective worlds upside down.

I find myself wondering what my reaction would’ve been 2000 years ago. I suspect I’d react like Peter, feel completely unworthy of his attention, but truly longing to be near him, to hear him, to get to know him. I think I’d also find it difficult not to feel sorry for the religions leaders, after all, they were trying to be true to what they believed, and Jesus really did give them a serving… fair, of course, but harsh. I do love that he made it clear that God Himself had stepped down from Heaven to shepherd his own sheep (slightly reminiscent of Ezek 34). It’s just a shame these guys couldn’t let go or the responsibility they felt (and enjoyed), their status and their positions of honour and get with the relationship…


real life

26 September, 2006

Yesterday morning I finished reading “Searching For God Knows What” (again) and I cried (again). I truly love the way Don Miller presents Jesus and the way we work out our life with him and each other.

Don’s view of “Life-Boat Life” is the story of my life and to see it so succinctly described and explained is refreshing and powerful – even the third time around.

Once again I find myself completely in love with Jesus who, makes lifeboat life obsolete and so ugly in comparison to the life that He invites us into here and now. His perspective, his truth, his reality, makes the pride building, ego-centric peer squabblings and pursuits so inconsequential.

And with a sense of awe at the prospect of life with Him and with the people around me, here and now, I continue to step out of the lifeboat and walk on water…


redeemed

13 September, 2006
  • every thought
  • every word
  • every act
  • every hurt

Only His love can redeem these things.  A jury of my peers can offer solice, support, empathy, contempt, love – but it’s not redeeming love, it can’t be, for even our love must be redeemed by His love – it is imperfect, it is conditional, it comes and goes, is offered and withheld, it’s whimsical – it will not last, it cannot last, it will always hurt – His love will never harm me, never, ever.  He loves me.  I have been redeemed.

Jesus, my kinsman redeemer – my goel.


anything you can do

6 September, 2006

I’ve been thinking about the aforementioned comparing/competing cycle that we humans seem to be caught up in, and am noticing how we spend the great majority of our time proving our worth in order to get kudos from others. It’s like we spend all our time trying to suck praise and admiration out of others, and we’re all doing it!

Listen to the conversations that happen around you, listen to the words, the pronouns, and note how many times you here “I” and “they” and “them” and “you” and “we”, and then note how many of these words are followed by the word “did…” or “said…” or “think…” It’s like we need to get our quota of reassurance each day.

I’ve also noticed that there’s a distinct difference between those who have a better handle on how loved they are, and those who don’t. The biggest indicators are:

  • they aren’t constantly looking for someone to blame
  • they readily acknowledge their faults
  • they are genuinely humble
  • they apologise quickly
  • they rarely tear others down, but rather recognise their brokeness and have compassion for them
  • they don’t need to be constantly reassured
  • they’re low maintenance friends
  • and possibly most importantly, they can freely give love away, recognising that it doesn’t cost them anything

Sounds wonderful doesn’t it? This is who I want to become, with Dad’s help… and love.