Tag Archives: Faith

Radical Growth in Grace

If there is not radical growth in humble love toward everyone (even your enemies), you don’t really know you are a SINNER saved by grace. If there is not radical, concrete growth in confidence and joy (even in difficulties) you don’t really know you are a sinner saved by GRACE. — Tim Keller

Sue and I do a Marriage Rebuilder ministry at our Church. I also facilitate a mens group called True North.  In both groups we have couples and men struggling with some difficult issues.  My goal as a facilitator is make these groups a safe place where couples and men can engage in James 5:16 (confess your sins and pray for each other for healing).

Sometimes in order to grow in life it means going backward in life and making amends with the people you have hurt.  This means taking a risk because the other side can spew out “condemnation” toward you when you try to restore the relationship.  You may never have the relationship totally restored but God will always honor honesty.. even when other people don’t or when other people condemn you for your actions. Unfortunately its not always safe to take risks with some people but that is why there is risk involved I guess!

As I write this I think of a time last summer when I was planning a new ministry at Grace Church. As I was walking out someone from my past was in the SUV picking up her kids.  As she saw me she waved at me and smiled.  Later that day she sent me an e-mail apologizing for having a critical, condemning spirit of me.  You see us and this couple have a broken relationship that started when they found out about my sin about 10 years ago and even though we spoke no words as I walked out the door she continued to hold things against me.  I appreciate her e-mail and apology  but wonder if the root of this critical, condemning spirit  is also the same root and reason  of why every other friend relationship ( a total of 5 broken relationships)  I share with them is also broken…. and also why it plays out so prevalently in their own rocky marriage.

My prayer for them is at some point they can go backward someday and maybe even reconcile those broken relationships with family and friends as opposed to just moving forward and leaving all the relational carnage behind. I believe growth would occur on both sides if they can shine the True North of the Gospel message of Christ on those relationships!

The way its been working …. for me at least…. is that the depth of the my understanding of the Gospel, grace, and mercy increases as I work the Gospel out in a community of people. Not just a community of people that have all the same ideas but a community of people that have different ideas, sins,  and agendas than mine.

If there is not radical growth in humble love toward everyone (even your enemies), you don’t really know you are a SINNER saved by grace. If there is not radical, concrete growth in confidence and joy (even in difficulties) you don’t really know you are a sinner saved by GRACE. — Tim Keller

My .02c for the day!

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Martin Luther and the Bangles

Actually the song and the movie are both historically accurate. The movie being show in the video is very good and historically accurate!  One of my heroes of the faith is Martin Luther from 500 years ago!!!

A New Reality

I was listening to Bill Bohline preach on Acts a few weeks back.  He discussed 4 general steps that the bible discusses.

  1. We were created in Gods Image
  2. The fall: We sinned
  3. Christ Came:  He loves us and  came to save and rescue us
  4. Restoration: Living in the restoration and the victory of the Cross.

Point 1 is generally assumed. Bill said quite often Churches are stuck in points 2 or point 3.  The legallist will stay stuck in point 2 wanting to remind people of their sin.   Usually, understanding well the new covenant of grace but living functionally in the old covenant of the law.  The antinomian will stay stuck on point 3  only wanting to talk about unconditional love and Gods Grace and the new covenant … always forgetting about sin.  As I have discussed in previous posts…. the 2 errors of the Gospel are those 2 extremes.  Staying stuck on point 2 or 3 both miss opportunities for change and growth in the Gospel message of grace toward sinners.

As is the case for many Martin Luther  purists …. we pride ourselves in having the proper biblical  distinction between law and gospel and keeping the “bullseye” in front of us!

Bill then  made a very good point.  He said churches don’t always tell the rest of the story.    They don’t often show the rest of the story where Jesus has restored and his people are living in freedom and the victory of the cross …. and to be  bold people who  share their stories while helping others overcoming their brokenness.  We just don’t live in the victory of the cross!  In our religiosity we continue to live in bondage!  The victory of the Gospel is where we should live!  The victory of the cross  slowly rewrites our story into Gods story!

Why did this come to mind…. well, I had an interesting thing happen to me a month back and came to some enlightening observations about myself …. but mostly I had some God moments where I saw God writing a different story of me than what I was trying to write for myself.

I have mentioned on previous posts about some friends that have a long line of broken relationships. He was/is  a good friend of mine for the last 35 years.  I was the only person from his side of friends that was invited to their wedding.  I am fairly certain they no longer have a relationship with his brothers.  Also, as I said they have other broken relationships of his friends before marriage.  I am sure there are others I am not aware of as well.  These conflicts normally started from a tension with her religious legalism and then later on him coming to rescue and protect her in the conflict.

Well,   a few years back, in a time after my sin and transgressions… it came to light that he was struggling with some pretty deep issues.   However, in her fear based world she no Continue reading

A deep intimate level of communication

I strive very much to have a mercy narrative in how I live and behave…. especially in light of the things that have occurred and played out in my life.   Mercy and love are two words that are very interchangeable in scripture.  Mercy basically means love toward people that are strugglers and sinners.

There are two basic narrative identities at work among professing Christians. The first is what I will call the moral-performance narrative identity. These are people who in their heart of hearts say, I obey; therefore I am accepted by God. The second is what I will call the grace or mercy narrative identity. This basic operating principle is, I am accepted by God through Christ; therefore I obey.

People living their lives on the basis of these two different principles may superficially look alike. They may sit right beside one another in the church pew, both striving to obey the law of God, to pray, to give money generously, to be good family members. But they are doing so out of radically different motives, in radically different spirits, resulting in radically different personal characters.

So what do you do when these two narratives clash!  I know that I can have a form of grace-legalism; that is, I can have an unloving heart toward unloving self-righteousness ….. or pharasaism.  So what have I learned!  Well, the first thing is just love others unconditionally.  The second thing is when confronted by self righteoussness is to have strong  boundaries when it comes to your communication. Love them … yes … but these people are not the same as the people you trust in the closer circle… so dont communicate in with them the same way.  The deeper levels of communication are reserved for people you trust and have a secure track record with.   For example, I have a few close friends that have invited me into their inner circle.  These are special friends.  We talk at a deep level. We are invited into each others lives and discuss things at a very intimate level.  My wife is one of those people. I have a few other men in my life that share that same level of communication.  Communication goes beyond cliches, fact reporting, and advice-giving. Its transparent, honest, and gulp…. intimate.  Walls of performance and personal image have been torn down…. mostly!

Also this form of communication is threatening to most people and to talk to people that aren’t ready at this level is almost impossible. They will feel threatened.  You really cant invite yourself into that world unless you invite each other in. To go in uninvited means a threatening environment  for the other person.  And if you are invited in it also means you share a two-way, not a one-way street.

The thing you can do with ALL people is to have a mercy and grace narrative with them!  This is the one need and thing you can offer that is completely audience and type of person independent. This grace and mercy narrative meets the needs of all people all the time!

The parable of the pharisee and tax collector contrasts the pharasaical moral performance narrative approach with the mercy narrative of the tax collector!

The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector

9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

I want to point you to the words “I fast twice a week”!    Up to this point the pharisee was only quoting old testament law about being a robber, an evil-doer, etc. Now he says he fasts twice a week.  He now has an additive to the divine will of God!  He now has something other than a grace and mercy narrative to the tax collector!  He compares his moral performance to the tax collector’s and says here look at my performance RELATIVE to him!

This is what phariseeism does it. It adds a tweak or narrative that exists outside of the Gospel based truth and adds something to the truth.   It has a close resemblance to the truth…. but its really a very evasive lie. It compares its performance to the others. The tax collector on the other hand just looks at his own heart and says “God have mercy on me a sinner”.

Today, I am thankful for the way my wife and I communicate. Sue and I are taking a marriage class and she told me last week “I cant believe how far we have come”.  It took a lot of hard work for me and Sue to get past the first three levels of communication of  (1) cliches, (2) reporting facts, and (3) giving advice.  Its deeper and more intimate and it (4) shares real needs and feelings… yes men, feelings…. and it (5) risks emotional and personal openness.

I am also thankful for the men that have invited me into their lives and that I have invited in.   Together, we strive to see the tax collector and the pharisee in all of us and says “have mercy on me, a sinner”!

 

The righteousness shown to us in baptism

If I did it all over again I would still baptise my children as babies (even though my current Church does not baptise babies).  I found an interesting word when reading about when John baptized Jesus. The word rigtheouss is one that has an interesting but often misunderstood usage in scripture.

Mat 3:13  Then Jesus came from Galilee to Jordan, to John, to be baptized by him.
Mat 3:14  But John restrained Him, saying, I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?
Mat 3:15  And answering Jesus said to him, Allow it now, for it is becoming to us to fulfill all righteousness. Then he allowed Him.
Mat 3:16  And Jesus, when He had been baptized, went up immediately out of the water. And lo, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting upon Him.
Mat 3:17  And lo, a voice from Heaven, saying, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

It says Jesus wanted to allow himself to be baptised to fulfill all righteoussness.  All righteoussness comes through what God does in us.  Not by what I can do!

The righteoussness of God is being shown to us in baptism!!!!

The lust for divinity and the movie Beowulf

OK, so hows that title for an attention grabber. Lets read about the original sin:

Genesis 3

The Fall of Man

1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ “4 “You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.

……..

22 And the LORD God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”

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I have been somewhat enamored on the idea of why God did not want us to know good and evil like He did in recent years. The tree we were NOT suposed to eat from was even called the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil. For many, knowing good and evil is what Christianity is all about and the height of their being Christians.

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Living the Gospel: Implication #2: The Sufficiency of the Gospel

This is a part of a continuing series on Living the Gospel.

Implication #2- The sufficiency of the gospel. Second, Paul is showing that we never “get beyond the gospel in our Christian life to something more advanced” The gospel is not the first “step” in a “stairway” of truths, rather, it is more like the “hub” in a “wheel” of truth. The gospel is not just the A-B-C’s but the A to Z of Christianity. The gospel is not just the minimum required doctrine necessary to enter the kingdom, but the way we make all progress in the kingdom.

We are not justified by the gospel and then sanctified by obedience, but the gospel is the way we grow (Gal.3:1- 3) and are renewed (Col.1:6). It is the solution to each problem, the key to each closed door, the power through every barrier (Rom.1:16-17). It is very common in the church to think as follows. “The gospel is for non-Christians. One needs it to be saved. But once saved, you grow through hard work and obedience.” But Col.1:6 shows that this is a mistake. Both confession and “hard work” that is not arising from and “in line” with the gospel will not sanctify you–it will strangle you. All our problems come from a failure to apply the gospel. Thus when Paul left the Ephesians he committed them “to the word of his grace, which can build you up” (Acts 20:32)/.

The main problem, then, in the Christian life is that we have not thought out the deep implications of the gospel, we have not “used” the gospel in and on all parts of our life. Richard Lovelace says that most people’s problems are just a failure to be oriented to the gospel–a failure to grasp and believe it through and through. Luther says, “The truth of the Gospel is the principle article of all Christian doctrine….Most necessary is it that we know this article well, teach it to others, and beat it into their heads continually.” (on Gal.2:14f) The gospel is not easily comprehended. Paul says that the gospel only does its renewing work in us as we understand it in all its truth. All of us, to some degree live around the truth of the gospel but do not “get” it. So the key to continual and deeper spiritual renewal and revival is the continual rediscovery of the gospel. A stage of renewal is always the discovery of a new implication or application of the gospel– seeing more of its truth. This is true for either an individual or a church.

This was an excerpt from Tim Kellers Centrality of the Gospel that can be found here

The Gospel is…
We are more sinful and weak than we ever dared to admit and…
We are more loved and accepted than we ever dared to hope.

In Christ,

Jon S