Category: Grace (Page 1 of 10)

Lavish

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” ~1 John 3:1

Our God does not measure his love to us. He doesn’t weigh it on the scales or scoop it out with a spoon. He doesn’t give us just enough of his love to get us by or just as much of his love as we might deserve. He floods us with his love! We have more of his love than we could ever ask for or imagine! That’s the one thing you can ask God to do that’s just impossible – God, will you love me more? Nope. Can’t. Impossible. He lavishes us with his love.

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us.” ~Ephesians 1:7-8

Our Father lavishes us with his grace. We sing about it. God’s amazing grace. God’s matchless grace. God’s grace that reaches even me!

God’s forgiveness is over the top. It’s not that you’re forgiven of some of your sins or you’re forgiven of most of your sins or all the little sins or every sin except that one sin. It’s not that you’re forgiven if you do this one thing or keep these sets of rules or say this particular creed. In Jesus Christ, God’s forgiveness is total and complete and forever! In Jesus, every single one of your sins – all of ’em, name ’em! – are all gone forever. They are removed from you as far as the east is from the west. They are hurled to the bottom of the sea, never to be dredged up again. God doesn’t put your sins up on the top shelf in the corner of a dark closet just so he can pull them out and hold them against you at the worst possible time. God’s forgiveness is lavish and complete.

Lavish love. Limitless grace. Inexhaustible forgiveness. Unmerited favor. Eternal glory. Our God is passionate about you and me. And he holds nothing back.

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I’m not writing anything here today about the Mavericks. I don’t want to jinx it.

Peace,

Allan

Weakness Turned to Strength

I know you make mistakes and you mess up. Me, too. I know you sin. I know you leave things undone that should be done and you do things you should not do. Me, too. But those mistakes are not what define you. Those sins do not characterize who you are as a person and they do not limit how our God relates to you. It is God’s grace that defines you. It’s his grace that covers you. It is his grace that enables you to keep going in the trust and faith that God is powerfully at work in you.

I look at the Faith Ring of Honor in Hebrews 11 and I don’t see any perfect people.

Sarah had a laughing problem.  Abraham had his own laughing problem and a problem with lying and the kid with Hagar. But the Bible says they never wavered in their faith. That means Abraham is not defined by his many mistakes. Sarah is not characterized by her poor choices.

In Hebrews 11, Rahab is not condemned for being a prostitute. All these people are commended for their faith. Gideon? He’s a spineless, wishy-washy doubter. Barak? He’s gutless. Samson? He’s arrogant and selfish, a violent womanizer. Jepthah? He’s stupid and thoughtless. David? An adulterer, a liar, and a traitor to his country. Samuel? Maybe one of the worst parents in all of Scripture. But here they are in this list of heroes with all their sins and all their flaws. Hebrews 11 says these are the people who conquered kingdoms, administered justice, gained what was promised, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword. These are the people, it says, whose weakness was turned to strength!

You know, the Bible says God’s power is made perfect in our weakness.

His grace is also made perfect in the places where you need it most.

Peace,

Allan

Outside Solution

Right now, our nation feels so fractured. Just turn on the news for about four seconds. Any channel.

Right now, our families and neighbors seem so separated. When’s the last time you saw your parents or went to a birthday party?

Right now, our churches are more scattered than gathered. There are people who used to sit by you who don’t anymore. Your church is smaller than it used to be. And your pastor doesn’t know what to do.

Right now, the whole world is focused on the distance and the differences between us. Just check out your Facebook.

Right now, it seems that if you don’t live where I live, look like I look, think like I think, vote like I vote, or worship like I worship; if we are of different ages, different races, or different nationalities; we can’t be together. If we don’t have these things in common, we must not have anything in common. We can’t.

This is decidedly not what Christians believe. We believe that by the grace of God we are all connected to one another. But it’s only by grace. It’s nothing we can accomplish on our own.

We live in a broken world. We are a fallen people living in a fallen world in which the systems and structures and supports and the people who operate them are broken. We cannot fix what’s wrong with us, what’s wrong with other people, or what’s wrong with the world. We can’t fix it because we are the problem. The solution can’t come from within us or our systems because we and our systems are busted.

We go to family counseling but, once the sessions are over, the family system pushes us back into the old habits. Black Americans suffer injustice and we all protest together but, give it time, and our society goes right back to where it was. We go to the polls for every election and vote for change every time, but we stay stuck in the status quo. It’s the old line: If voting could change anything, they’d make it illegal.

A fallen humanity in a fallen world offers no hope to anybody. We put our hope in our science and technology, but all the great advances have caused more problems than they’ve solved. We put our hope in our money, our kids, and our careers, and we wind up disappointed and empty. Every time.

We all need the grace of God that comes to us from outside our broken systems. We need a salvation from outside our fallen selves. And the Good News of amazing grace and everlasting truth is that God so loved the world that he came here to us. He came from above us and beyond us to save us. He redeems us by his blood, he restores us by his love, and he connects us together in himself.

Right now is the time to remember all the things we have in common and, by God’s grace, to live into them together.

Right now is the season to consider the countless ways we are attached and, by God’s grace, to work towards expressing and experiencing them together.

Right now is the occasion to acknowledge and prioritize the many ways we are connected to each other and to every man, woman, and child on this planet by the incredible gift of our faithful God’s amazing grace.

Peace,

Allan

To Mature All Graces

“May it be our blessedness, as years go on, to add one grace to another, and advance upward, step by step, neither neglecting the lower after attaining the higher, nor aiming at the higher before attaining the lower. The first grace is faith, the last is love; first comes zeal, afterwards comes loving-kindness; first comes humility, then comes peace; first comes diligence, then comes resignation. May we learn to mature all graces in us; fearing and trembling, watching and repenting, because Christ is coming; joyful, thankful, and careless of the future, because he is come.”

~John Henry Newman

Both Now and Forevermore

The most serious mistake you can make on the path of discipleship to Jesus is to think God has given up on you. When you get sick, when you feel anxiety, when conflicts come, or when loneliness or grief set in, it can feel like God has left you. God has gotten bored looking after you and he’s shifted his attention to a more faithful Christian and you’re going to have to take care of yourself. God is tired of your up-and-down faith and now you’re on your own.

If that’s what you think, you’re wrong. If you believe God is tired of you or he’s already given you too many last chances and he’s given up on you and you don’t have his love or protection anymore, you’re wrong.

“The Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” ~Psalm 121:8

God’s love and care for you, and his presence with you, does not wax and wane according to your ups and downs. I know it’s hard to believe the Maker of Heaven and Earth gives a rip about your mundane everyday life and all your feelings and all your problems. But he does.

Nobody gets out of this life without experiencing some pain. While we’re on this journey, we’re walking the same ground everybody else is walking on. We’re breathing the same air. We’re drinking the same water, shopping the same stores, paying the same gas prices, fearing the same dangers, subject to the same pressures, and dying and being buried in the same dirt as everybody else.

The difference is that each step we take, each breath we breathe, we know we’re protected by God. We know we’re accompanied by God.

Peace,

Allan

Sheer Mercy

I waited tables at a Red Lobster one summer when I was in college. This was back in the 1980s when the restaurant offered an all-you-can-eat popcorn shrimp dinner on Tuesdays. One Tuesday evening a man sat down in my section and placed four five-dollar bills on the edge of the table. He said to me, “I want the all-you-can-eat popcorn shrimp with double fries and an iced tea. This twenty dollars is your tip. Every time I have to ask for more shrimp or more tea, I’m putting one of these five-dollar bills back in my pocket.”

I was both shocked and thrilled by this man’s great generosity and my great opportunity. I thought, “This doesn’t happen in real life! This only happens in the movies! This guy must have won the lottery or something!”

Over the next hour or so, I made sure this man’s glass was never below half-full and that he never had to wait in between bits of popcorn shrimp. I got that twenty dollars. And I felt like I earned it. We had an arrangement. I met my end of the bargain and he met his.

Grace is not like that at all. Mercy is not an arrangement that obligates two parties. And that’s what makes it so hard to receive.

God’s mercy doesn’t fit our paradigm. It’s not how we operate. We function according to merit. Our world and all its systems are based on merit. We work for what we get and we mostly get what we deserve. In school, we get good grades or bad grades and, most of the time, it reflects what we’ve put in. We get promotions and pay raises for the work we do. If we make an investment or render a service, we expect to get paid.

To receive mercy is to accept that you are powerless. It’s to place yourself in debt. It’s to understand that you are incapable of taking care of yourself or of saving yourself. It’s to admit that you are broken, you’re helpless, you’re unable and weak. And we are not very good at that at all.

It might seem like a little thing, but we have changed the word in the ancient hymn, “Alas, and Did My Savior Bleed?” I’m not sure when it happened, but the line in the newer hymnals reads, “Would he devote that sacred head for such a one as I?” Why?

Because I’m not a worm! I’m not unworthy! I’m not weak or incapable or hopeless!

That’s what makes it so hard to receive mercy. But if you can humble yourself to receive the mercy of God, if you can see your hands as empty and yourself as having nothing to offer, it’ll change everything.

That same summer at Red Lobster, a young couple sat down in my section on a Friday night. The place was packed, I was running like crazy between my four tables, and I messed things up with this couple very early in our relationship. I got their salad dressings wrong and the guy had to flag me down for some more tea. They had to wait forever for their food. I was so busy with my other tables, I let their dinner sit in the pickup window too long. And when I delivered their plates, I could tell I was not going to get a tip.

So, I quit on them.

I dropped off the check and didn’t talk to them again. It was already decided, I didn’t have a chance. So, I didn’t refill their drinks, I didn’t check back with them, I completely ignored them the rest of the meal, and I was relieved when they finally got up and left. And they left me a twenty-dollar tip.

It felt different than the way it did with the popcorn shrimp guy. It changed me. I didn’t deserve this tip, I didn’t do anything to earn it. I had no idea why they did that for me. It didn’t make sense. It didn’t fit the framework. It was sheer mercy. And it transformed me. For the rest of that summer, I saw people differently. I treated people differently. I saw myself and my responsibilities as a waiter differently. Mercy will do that.

God’s mercy is a free gift. It’s free for you with all your baggage and all your mess. It’s free for you and all your powerlessness and helplessness. That’s what makes it so transforming. You can’t earn it. Salvation is an entirely unmerited gift, so it blesses you with the freedom and the power to change. The problem comes when we try to earn it, when we want to feel like we’ve done enough. We try to get ourselves over the minimum number of good deeds required by God to be worth of his love and grace, but it doesn’t work that way.

Against all odds and against all circumstances, God in Christ takes care of all your needs. In shocking and thrilling fashion, Jesus becomes your sin and carries it to the cross. We’ve got so much guilt, we’ve got so much shame. All of us. We’ve got regrets. And our sin, my goodness — none of us has a chance. Except for the sheer mercy of Jesus. At the cross, Jesus settles all your business, he pays all your debts, he heals your disease, and he finishes your work. Just humble yourself to receive it.

Trust him with everything. Give him your doubts. Give him your fears. Admit all that up front: “Lord, I’m a mess!” It’s OK. Our God is big enough and strong enough to handle whatever you can throw at him. And he will receive you and accept you, not for anything you’re done or might probably do in the future, but because of what Jesus has done and promises to do for you forever.

Peace,

Allan

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