Sunday, February 01, 2015

Grace Centered Super Bowl Sunday Tips

Today is the day of the big game and I know if you are like me emotions, and tempers, can flare up during sporting events. So here are a few grace centered tips that I myself need to be reminded of. I hope they help you enjoy today's game as well.

1. Remember, it's just a game. In the end it's a bunch of dudes running around with a silly ball.

2. Honor things like sportsmanship and athletic ability over winning. Be able to appreciate the skills of not only your team, but the opponents as well.

3. This is a time for gathering with family and friends. Remind yourself of that before the party. Make the conscious decision that you do not want to say anything to hurt another person over a football game.

4. A little fun smack talk can be fun, just be careful not to turn in into insults.

5. Have fun. If you don't have fun, you've defeated the purpose of watching in the first place.

6. Don't forget to take opportunities to connect with people and listen for their needs. Remember, the people you are with today are much more important to God than the game you are watching.


How Can I Pray For You? #1

This is something I do once a week on Facebook and thought it would be a good practice to bring to the blog. How can I pray for you this week? A simple like or comment will suffice. But remember a one important thing

1. make sure you have permission to share a prayer request from another. If not simply say "unspoken need".

 Having said that I really love praying for my friends. I hope this is ministry that is both meaningful and helpful to you.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

This Weather Guy Nailed It...Well Done.

What Books Do You Want to Read This Year?

Going along with my theme of grace lately I have been reading or re-reading anything I could get my hands on from fellow CIU grad, Phillip Yancey. Titles that I have finished are What's So Amazing About Grace?, Vanishing Grace, and Where's God When It Hurts?. Next up for me is Disappointment With God. I am curious, what book or books would you like to read or already have read in 2015? Do you have a reading list? I'd love to see what you are thinking as it may help me with some reading choices, too. Just comment away!

Friday, January 30, 2015

My #OneWord2015: Impact

One of the ways I really want to make an impact is to serve people that nobody else wants to serve. People that society shunned, the ones religious leaders turned their noses up at...these are the very people that Jesus ran to. The immoral woman he meets at the well in Samaria. Matthew and Zaccheus, both hated tax collectors. Mary Magdalene who the Bible says Jesus freed from seven demons. The hooker who crashed the party at a Pharisees house to wash Jesus' feet with her tears and her hair. Jesus became known as a friend of sinners. Sinners LOVED being around Him. They flocked to him. Why do we think this is a bad thing? I want impact people this year by being more like Jesus and hanging out with more "sinners". Besides, the moment I believe that I am better than anyone else I forget that I too am a sinner. What about you?

First Step Into a Bigger World

As you have already seen by the fact that you are visiting this site OSJ finally has it's own domain name after almost 9 years as a address. I am hoping this is the first step into a bigger world of ministry for me here at Our Sovereign Joy. I have long sensed that God wanted me to do something more with this blog and now there is a vision beginning to form in my head. So pray for me and OSJ. My #oneword2015 this year is impact so I am looking at how best I can impact people in my own personal life and ministry. Thanks for reading and being a part of this!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

When In Doubt...Grace Harder

We all have moments of doubts. Even those of us that have been Christians for quite some time. In the last couple of years I have doubted many things that I thought to be true about God and about my faith. And we are not alone. Job questioned God on why his lot had gotten so bad. David questions God constantly in the Psalms. Then there is Thomas...and Peter's famous three-fold denial (and don't forget later Peter had to be rebuked by Paul because he was being wishy washy when it came to the Judaizers). And of course there is John the Baptist...that bastion of faith...who sent word to Jesus from prison wondering if Jesus was in fact the One.

Often times when we go through periods of doubt we think the answer is...try harder! I will go to church more! I will pray more! I will read my bible more! I will witness to ten people this week! Not that there is anything bad inherently about any of these activities...unless they become works to "get back in God's good graces." In a crisis of faith...we turn to works...which only makes things worse. We brainwash ourselves, or let others brainwash us, into thinking that we need to get our act together and that if we don't we are going to make God very angry at us.

When a crisis of faith hits, we don't need a "try harder" religion (which only leads to failure or arrogance) we need a dose of what gave us faith to begin with, "For it is BY GRACE you have been saved, through faith - and this is NOT FROM YOURSELVES, it is the gift of God" (Ephesians 2:8). Our faith was originally a grace gift, and it continues to be. The Galatian Christians made the mistake of thinking that they were "saved by grace" but the rest was up to them, "Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit (read grace there), are you now trying to finish by the means of the flesh?" (read try harder there) Galatians 3:3

Not only did Paul say a "try harder" guilt-driven way to "better our faith" won't work, he actually called it stupid (i.e. foolish). In fact, foolish or stupid, seems to be his favorite adjective for the Galatians he says were "bewitched" by this other gospel that in fact was no gospel. That's because there is NO GOOD NEWS in a try harder approach.

Jesus wasn't about trying harder, He was about finding rest in Him, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble i-n heart, and you will find REST for your souls. For my yoke is EASY and my burden in LIGHT." (Matthew 11:28-30)

Circumstances will always cause you to doubt your faith. There are two reasons for this. First, we tend to think that if we "do everything right" then things will go our way. This isn't true. Sometimes we go through hardship when we are faithful. Job was faithful and suffered. Christians all over the world are murdered for their faith to this day. Second, life can really suck. We live in a fallen world. But when we have doubts, take them to God. Be honest about them. Know that our eternal reward cannot be lost just because we struggle. The struggle is real and often times the struggle means we really do have the Holy Spirit living inside of us.

God loves us. Even when we doubt. He understands. That's why He sent Jesus. We are a treasure to Him even when we don't think we are.

When in doubt...grace harder.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Understanding Grace: Some Random Thoughts

The grace of God given to us really does defy human understanding. Nobody deserves God's love, yet God so loved the world (John 3:16). This isn't just a pie in the sky theology, it's a truth that should impact our everyday lives. Here are some random thoughts I had while pondering "If grace is true".

If grace is true then...

1) Nobody is beyond my forgiveness because I have been forgiven.

2) I NEVER have the right to judge motives or someone's heart.

3) I am supposed to love THAT person...yes...THAT person.

4) I should cut people slack when they screw up...after all I am a professional at screwing up.

5) I need to learn to be easier on myself and others.

6) I must fight the urge to look down on people for the situation they have gotten themselves into.

7) I should practice helping people...even if they are the person in #6.

8) I should not take myself too seriously...ever.

9) Laughing is good.

10) Honesty about my own sin is allowed.

Monday, January 26, 2015

I Don't Get Mad...I Get Even! (Where is the grace, part 2)

We've all seen the bumper sticker:

In fact I even ran across a book on Amazon for sale by the same title. Maybe our cars don't have this sticker. Maybe we'd never read a book on getting even. My guess is that we've all at least thought this. We have all wanted people who have wronged us to "get what's coming to them." It's possible we have even prayed for God to help in this endeavor (I mean didn't David pray that way? We are just being spiritual right?) 

We tend to see our sins as very small while sins that are committed against us as very large. This is in contrast to Jesus' teaching in Matthew 7 where he states that we are the ones running around with planks in our eyes trying to remove specks from the eyes of others. His comical point was that if we looked at our own sin as a bigger problem than the sin of others, then we will be in a better position to dispense grace. You know...grace. Loving someone who is unlovable. Forgiving someone who is unforgivable. You know...those very things that God has done for us in Jesus. 

There is a famous quote by rapper Eminem that I have seen make the rounds on facebook and on memes. I don't know if he said it, but this is what is attributed to him, "I don't care if you're black, white, straight, bisexual, gay, lesbian, short, tall, fat, skinny, rich or poor. If you're nice to me, I'll be nice to you. Simple as that." I will say that it is very admirable to be nice to people no matter their race, gender, physical appearance, or sexual orientation. However, this quote still doesn't go far enough to escape ungrace. "If you are nice to me...then I will be nice to you." Jesus took it much, much further:

32 If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 If you do what is good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners to be repaid in full.  Luke 6:32-34

Grace doesn't only do good to those who do good to you. Grace does good to everyone, no matter what you get out of it. Grace is kind even to it's enemies. Our world is full of ungrace. We live in a "you get what you deserve" kind of culture. Thankfully that is NOT how God is. Eminem (and others) say that it is enough to be nice to people who are nice to you. What if they aren't nice to you? Well, we have a bumper sticker for that...

I can't tell you what you need to do in every specific situation in your life. All I know is that if God took the attitude, "I don't get mad, I get even!" then we would all be doomed and without any hope at all in this world or the next. 


Part of A Little R and R's LINK PARTY

Friday, January 23, 2015

Where Are You, Grace?

I recently read Phillip Yancey's Vanishing Grace which has led me to re-read his What's So Amazing About Grace many years after I first read it. I must admit, I am heartbroken not only in the amount of ungrace found in the church today but also the amount of ungrace in my own heart. Yancey tells the story of a group of leaders from various world religions who were once discussing what unique contribution Christianity made to the discussion. In other words, what makes Christianity special? The group could not come up with an answer. Reportedly, C.S. Lewis entered the room and asked what all the hubbub was about. When they posed the dilemma to him, he replied, "That's easy, grace."

Grace. We sing about it. We preach about it. We say it before meals. But do we really believe it? How do we really feel when Jesus tells the story of the land owner who paid the guys who worked one hour the same amount he paid the guys who toiled for 12? Why do we so easily empathize with the older brother who stayed home when he was upset that his father accepted the wayward younger brother back no questions asked in Luke 15, even throwing him a party?

Yes, grace is scandalous. Everything in our culture and even in most of our churches is built around a "you get what you deserve/earn" kind of mentality. Truthfully we expect people to "get themselves right" and then Jesus will deal with them. A no questions asked acceptance and love that is truly unconditional is not how most of us live, and sadly we do not see God in this light.

But that IS how God is. He loves not because we are lovely, but because He is love. Just as the father in Luke 15 was happy (that is an understatement) when his prodigal son returned, so is God happy (again this is an understatement) when a wayward lost child returns to Him. God is not waiting to zap anyone, He is waiting to welcome them home. That is the picture Jesus continually gives us of the Father. That is the picture even the Old Testament gives of the Father.

I plan to spend some time the next couple of weeks really delving into the treasure that is grace. The world around you (and you) don't need more judgment, we need more grace. That's what we all crave, because God made us to need Him. He loves us, just as we are. The sooner we realize this, the more stable our lives will become.