Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Saving Grace

I have never watched "Saving Grace," and there is slim chance I ever will. Besides I think it's been cancelled. I just don't spend much time watching TV - got too much else to do.
It may be a stretch to relate the other kind of saving grace to the TV show. Saving Grace comes to you and me at great expense to the One Who provides that grace! Saving Grace comes at absolutely no cost to you and me. It is a free gift of inestimable value! Jesus purchased grace with His life's blood!
A favorite hymn captures some of the significance of grace. "... Tune my heart to sing Thy grace." What does that mean? "Tune my heart ... " Does God have this great tuning fork in the sky that He uses to reach down to tune hearts? Hardly!
Changing only one letter in "tune" explains what it means: "...Turn my heart to sing Thy grace." It is God's work in my heart and yours that turns my heart from my preoccupations to know and appreciate and live out His gift and work of grace in my heart!
The hymn continues: "O, to grace how great a debtor daily I'm constrained to be ... " If and when God's grace floods and changes my heart, then my days must be (constrained) lived in the humility that God's grace is a free gift for which I should and must live gratefully.
When I live gratefully knowing what a great debt I owe for God's grace to me, then I must love God first and best and love others well! That means I must forgive because grace is the vehicle of forgiveness for me! Every day calls me to model the Gospel as I live and be.
When my heart is shaped by such incredible, overwhelming grace, I am free and constrained to care for others with all the grace, hope and love of the Gospel!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Safe or Sorry?

I just finished a really interesting little book by David Powlison, God's Love. He makes the powerful point that God's love is so much better than unconditional. God's love isn't the wishy, washy stuff of the unconditional love touted by the psycho-babble of our culture. Powlison says God's love is too great and strong, too wonderful to be unconditional. If I understand what Powlison is saying (and I think I do), then the love God has for me and for you does ask for something in return. God wants our hearts! God wants to change who and what we are with His incredible, life-giving and life-altering love!
In C.S. Lewis' classic tale The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe there is a scene when Lucy asks Mr. Beaver whether Aslan (the great lion from beyond the sea) is safe. Lucy is concerned. Mr. Beaver tells her quite seriously, "No, he isn't safe but he is good."
What a beautiful picture of God's love Lewis paints: God's love isn't safe. God's love changes us to the very core of our being. God's love pushes our hearts to move from our zone of comfort to go places and take extreme risks for the sake of God's Kingdom. Empowered by God's love we dare to be salt and light! God's love pushes me (and you) to be and do all God's love is changing us to be and be able to do. God's love propels me out of safe into the grand adventure of knowing and loving God and showing God's love to a dark and dying world.
Powlison says, "Unconditional love feels safe, but the problem is that there is no power to it." (p. 6)
God's love isn't safe. It wasn't safe for Jesus. God's love embodied in the Person of His dearly loved Son Jesus intrudes intimately, personally and actively to every dark corner of my heart exposing my sin and shame and then changing my heart so I too can reflect His love to a watching world. God never accepts me just as I am leaving me to "be"! God loves me (and you) too much not to radically change who and what we are for our good and for His glory! That may not be safe, but it sure isn't sorry!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Gift from God

She's a little doll - bubbly, happy, bouncy, adorable! She's gonna be my granddaughter soon. Her name is Vania, "gift from God" in Hebrew. She is all that and more! She never stops smiling. She makes it her personal mission to cheer anyone and everyone up.

When I first saw Vania, she was wearing a darling ruffled jean skirt and trendy white top. Her long blond hair was in a cute pony tail. She gave me a big smile and kept coming back to give me hugs.

Vania is God's beautiful gift! So is her mother ... and her two brothers!

A year ago my dear son thought he'd never find a girl he would love and who would love him. I too lacked the faith to believe God could and would send that special someone to the North Carolina mountains where our son lives, works, hunts and fishes among other pursuits. Thankfully God works even when my faith is small!

Part of this special restoration story is that Vania's mother even likes to coon hunt. Tho' another day finds her in 4-inch designer heels.

You know what? God is good all the time! All the time God is good! He heals broken hearts! He restores brokenness! He makes beauty from ashes! Wow!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Empty is the E in Easter! That's KEY!

Empty - It's a word we use often.
  • We say the car is "empty" and we don't mean no people are in it. We mean there's no gas in the tank.
  • We say the glass is "half empty" or "half full." The measure is exactly the same amount. The difference is how we look at the glass' contents.
  • We say the can of Coke is empty or our plate is empty.
  • We say someone's promises are empty meaning they don't keep their word.
  • And on and on ...............
On Easter Sunday we talk about the empty grave. There is no more significant way to say "empty"! Joseph of Arimithea gave his tomb to Jesus. That tomb stands empty to this very day.

God doesn't make empty promises! He always keeps His word! He promised the very first sinners - Adam and Eve - that He would someday send a Savior (Genesis 3:15) Long years passed. Then God sent Jesus to live and die. Jesus came and died to make a trade with us - with anyone who believes in Him. Jesus trades His perfect life (His righteousness) for all our brokenness and sin and shame!

"For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)

The cross is nothing without the empty tomb. It's the two together that make Easter! Together they make all the difference in life and death! And because God always keeps His promises those aren't empty words!

Thursday, April 1, 2010


Today I was talking with some 3rd and 4th graders who told me that Easter was all about Jesus dying. I shocked them when I said, "No, that's not what Easter is all about." They wanted to know what I meant.
I reminded them that when Jesus died there were two men hanging on crosses on either side of Him. Both of these men were being crucified for the crime of robbery. They all three died that day so long ago, but only one of the three became the Savior of the world.
Jesus did have to live a perfect life to qualify Him to die. Otherwise He would have died for His own sin just like the two thieves who died that day.
John the Baptist proclaimed three years before that terrible, awful day outside Jerusalem approximately 1980 years ago: "See the Lamb of God who comes to take away the sin of the world." (John 1:29) He spoke about Jesus.
Jesus died to demonstrate how seriously God takes "mercy rather than sacrifice" (Hosea 6:6). Jesus' death proved God's value of mercy over sacrifice because God extends His mercy toward us at the cost of the life of His only Son, Jesus.
Jesus said, "Go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." (Matt. 9:13)
Jesus' death rendered all other sacrifices unnecessary forever!
On the cross Jesus cried, "It is finished!" (John 19:30) The sacrifice was and is complete!
However, one more thing had to happen in order to validate the death Jesus died. Two thieves also died that day. The dying wasn't where the power to change hearts comes from. Jesus came back to life on the first Easter Sunday morning to PROVE for all the world to see that He conquered sin and death. He alone can take my sin and shame and do something that matters! That goes for you and your heart, too!
AND that's basically what I explained to my 3rd and 4th grade friends. I think they "got it"!