Random prayer of grace

“I am your child.  I quit trying to MAKE myself presentable to you and instead trust that I AM presentable to you despite all of the things that are just parts of a sinful nature around me.  I move on in that passage and believe, ‘if I confess my sin, you are faithful and just and will purify me and forgive me’ because again, you only see your child here, and I need not be plagued by sin OR guilt.  I mean is not guilt the actual issue here?  Not sin.  I mean sin is just inevitable, but what IS of choice by me is whether I will allow guilt to plague me and keep me from seeing myself as your child instead of seeing myself as this horrible person.  You’re so much quicker to forgive me than I am to forgive myself.

When a hero dies

Last night, my hero passed away. Brennan Manning has had the strongest impact on my bedraggled heart. Sitting with him twice over hot dogs will be moments my heart will not easily forget. But far more important than hot dogs and baseball are his reflections on the outrageous love of God in all His grace and mercy that have wrecked my heart for good since 1999.

My hero finally rests in Abba’s embrace for his Father was very fond of him.

Abusing grace

grace

The question of just about any presentation of grace is the same Paul rhetorically poses, “So then should I just sin so that grace may increase? Of course not.” So what is the answer to anyone who DOES sin so that their grace may increase? What about those who will say, “I have a reason and excuse to sin. I can sin because PC said God doesn’t care what I’ve done. God will love me.” That picture is again the outstanding picture of grace that is my marriage.

I vowed to love Tonya and cherish her as a gift of God. I would be naïve to say I will always do these things without tripping up. There WILL be times I will not honor Tonya perfectly. There will be times I will not cherish her and hold her in the regard she should be held. There will be times she does not receive love from me as she needs and desires.

Now will she give up on me and divorce me? No! She will go on loving me even though I have hurt her. But that is not the deepest cut. The deepest cut comes from the fact that I will have broken an eternal covenant we set in place through spoken vows. Each time I do not love, honor and cherish her, I break a covenant. She still loves me anyway. I DON’T DESERVE THAT!!!

Now imagine you are good friends with Tonya or some other wife, and she comes continuously to you about her husband. Suppose she tells you how many times he has emotionally wrecked her with absolutely no regard. Suppose she tells you how many times he unabashedly destroys the promises he made to her. Suppose you knew these things. Are you inclined to say, “Well Tonya! That’s great! Now your grace may increase to him?”

I am compelled to realize how much grace Tonya really does show me. How much of an idiot I would be if I paid no mind of her grace and continually abused it! Sure she may always forgive me and love me, but in the end I’d only be abusive.

I see how much she forgives me and loves me despite my broken promises and I desire even more to love and serve her.

Such is God’s grace! Do I just abuse it or does his grace drive me to a realization of my disregard?

The Worst

worst

I, for one, would really like to thank you for being the worst sinner, because for a long time there, I thought I was the worst sinner.  Wait!  Nope, I’m still the worst sinner.  You’re welcomed to second place if you would like, but I am still the worst sinner.  Thank you very much.

I am not as bad as you think I am; I am much worse.[Tweet That]

1 Timothy 1:15-16 tells me that I am still the worst of sinners SO THAT MERCY MAY BE SHOWN TO OTHERS THROUGH JESUS CHRIST.”  People quote that thing and forget it is only possible if you realize you are a sinner who actually NEEDS mercy…you don’t DESERVE mercy…you NEED mercy.

Grace for the whore

Image

I remember visiting my roommate, Dave, at the old people’s community he used to work at in college. One of our buddies, Jason, and I wanted to visit Dave at work and see what he did there. He took us around introducing us to several of the residents he had come to know in his time working there. I remember one man pretty well even to this day.

I do not really remember his name, but I do remember Dave leaving Jason and I alone to talk with this man. That was part of the reason we chose to come; to talk with some older people with great stories. It really can be an excellent moment if you allow for it.

Jason and I sat making small talk with this older man. He was gruff. Through course of conversation, his curiosity sparked him to ask if we were Christians. He snapped the question pretty coarsely, which to our affirmative response he quickly and gruffly said, “Well I don’t believe that shit!” We asked him why not, and he said he used to be in the service and lost some of his buddies. He said he even tried to turn to religion then and all he ever saw in that damn book was “death death death.” That was all the Bible was to him; death and punishment. Why would a loving God go around punishing, killing, and getting pissed at people? He could not fathom that at all.

It made me think tonight about Judah as we read about it in Jerimiah, and even as we read about Israel on many occasions as well.

I wish, today, I had thought to ask the man if he was married before. If so, I would say, “Now we know you absolutely loved your wife. Of course! Now what if you came to find that your wife was sleeping around on you behind your back? You knew she had messed around some before, and you were angry, but you still chose to love her, and forgive her. But suppose she kept doing it, and it kept getting worse. Now you are a man who loves your wife. Are you angry at your wife though? Darn right you would be angry at her. What if after several occasions, you discovered your wife continued to do it and it got worse with more and more involvement with the adulterous lifestyle you come against years before? At what point would YOU break and file for divorce and say you had just had it?”

I imagine I would possibly direct my cynical friend to Jeremiah 3:1. “You have lived as a prostitute with many lovers–would you now return to me?’ Declares the Lord.” Most of chapter 2 and 3 of Jerimiah reveal a God who is pissed and hurt by a people he loves who have continually gone back to the sins and idols they created. God is a passionate lover who considers all of his people his bride. He is a passionate God whose love has been continually neglected by his bride.

Now as a husband, I can see how passionate my God really is for me. To see his anger and comparing me to a prostitute when I continually neglect his love has really challenged me to understand the anger and divorcing-death that my elderly friend had read so often in ‘the damn book’. To see myself as the slut that Jeremiah writes of challenges me to see God as a passionate lover who desires real intimacy apart from my whoring continual sin. He truly is a God of grace, and I do not overlook that; but to see his anger allows me to see his passion for me revealed even more.

How often do I ignore my Gods commands and warnings?

How often should my heart break to read Jerimiah 2:2, “I remember…how as a bride you loved me and followed me through [your] deserts…But then you tore off your bonds, you said, ‘I will not serve you!’ Indeed, on every high hill and under every spreading tree you lay down as a prostitute.”

I am basically, as the Lord terms it, “a donkey in heat’ (2:24) just shifting in the wind in his craving.” I go to whatever I feel at the moment and nevermind my reckless lover who awaits my constant return.

In the words of Derek Webb:

“I am a whore I do confess.
I put you on like a wedding dress,
and I walk down the aisle.
I am a prodigal with no way home
I put you on like a rign of gold
and I walk down the aisle.”

Random Reflections: Thursday

We always ask why and blame it all on God. Our sin has the power to blow up

Devastation OR Desperation will bring transformation…which one will I choose

Transformation prayers are repentant prayers. It is because of us that we are where we are in all this. Humility is our first step to transformation.

Why do we wait on God? It is NOT because he trying to catch up.

Transformation prayer is also unified prayer. Join hands in prayer with leaders, pastors and intercessors. After all, if we sin together, we should be in prayer together. Do not leave it to that prayer warrior you know to pick up the mess of your sins, but if we sin together, lets repent together.

Saved from what?

I need a more concentrated sense of my sin.  We need to understand our sin in a more detailed manner.  Only through knowing our sin in its detail can we really experience grace and salvation to its fullest within us.  Ozzie Chambers writes, “There is never any vague sense of sin [in the presence of God], but the concentration of sin in some personal particular.”

This concentrated understanding of our sin is important because then there is real freedom in realizing what grace has saved you from.  It is easy for us to claim we are sinners.  OF course we are sinners!  We all know that and can claim it very simply.  We do not experience real grace in that though.

It is just as easy for us to claim we are sinners, but we have been saved.  Yes, that is true, but that kind of understanding is not concentrated enough to really understand what grace really means.  A more concentrated understanding of our sin allows us to feel and answer the real question:

“SAVED FROM WHAT??!!”

If we are only claiming the unconcentrated and ambiguous claim of being a sinner, we are no different than anyone else.  In this manner, we only know grace and salvation as a concept, which does no one any good.

We have to break ourselves down and embrace our sin that we may sincerely embrace grace offered to all of us.  When I begin to quit calling myself only a sinner, but a selfish man with too much desire to please myself through my time, my words and my actions, I can THEN feel a distinct sting of my sin.  When I feel that distinct sin, I am able to realize what I am actually saved FROM!  Salvation and grace become that much more real to me. With each sin exposed, the embrace of grace grows that much more sincere and real.

Ozzie writes, “The cleansing fire had to be applied where the sin had been concentrated.”  When we allow ourselves to concentrate our sin instead of leaving it vague and general, we begin to know real cleansing.  In Isaiah 6, verse 5, Isaiah concentrates his sin.  He does not say, “Woe is me!  For I am a sinner.”  We all know he is a sinner.  We all know ourselves to be sinners.  No!  Isaiah repents, “Woe is me!  For I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips.”  Isaiah concentrated his idea of his sin.

The Seraph touches the cleansing coal not to Isaiah’s entire life either.  He touches the cleansing coal to Isaiah’s lips; the very concentrated part he had repented of.

When we can concentrate our sin into the detailed sins, we can answer the question,

“SAVED FROM WHAT?!”

Graveclothes

As soon as Jesus calls Lazarus from the dead, Lazarus is still not free.  He is still bound by the grave clothes. Jesus does not unwrap him.  No, the very Jesus who just breathed life into a man did not unwrap the binding grave clothes. He has some other guys do it.  Why would he do that?  He is perfectly capable of unbinding him with a snap of a finger or a word of his mouth.

Jesus knew the very people who wrapped him will unwrap him.  Now, many of us are Christians. Many of us have been a Christian for a long time, but are we still free?  DO we still feel free?  There are still grave clothes.

I need the reminder, the gospel, every single day.  Without it, I forget the gospel and its efforts to change me each day.

I need the people around me.  I need the accountability of my gift of grace.  I need the accountability of my good friends.  I need that challenge to always get back to the gospel, the milk, the simple identity of Abba’s Child.  I need those around me to help unwrap me.  Yes, God is capable of unwrapping me myself.  He is perfectly capable of doing it with just a word, but I need to have my brothers as well to unwrap the grave clothes that bind me.  It is God’s design.

Not like Jesus

The best part about artists and non-believers in general is their honesty.  Artists are specifically honest as you listen to their music…at least most of them are.  You listen and hear the honest struggle within each artist.  Those are the sorts of artists I love to listen to; the raw and exposed lyrics of honest writers.  This is a quality lost in most Christian music, which is a main reason I don’t like it or listen to much of it.  These secular artists leave their reputations to the wind and write with ceaseless honesty about what goes on inside themselves.

Christians often lack this kind of honesty.  In most cases, our reputation is king.  So because of this, every piece of humanity or struggle that leaks out the holes in the mask are shocking and scandalous mostly because we never saw it coming.

As Derek Webb said in an interview, “We are all wrapped up in trying to look like Jesus instead of people who need Jesus.”

We are so fearful that people will see us as we really are.  I want to live a life where I am not afraid of letting people see me as I really am.  Because truth of the matter is I’m NOT like Jesus…I don’t look like Jesus…but I DO need him.

Without Jesus, I am absolutely lost and in the dark.  Alone, I am a man prone to being lost.  I have huge potential for being lost, but honestly I would rather people consistently see my potential lostness…my potential for being alone and broken…I would rather people see all of this instead of a pretty and shiny self-righteousness which I have a whole wardrobe full of to draw upon.  I would rather people see my brokenness and potential for straying because if all I ever show them is my righteous and confident garb they’re going to be shocked when they find out I really am a ragamuffin, beat up, broken and bedraggled.

That’s who I really am, Daddy’s little boy who likes to get into everything (especially dirt), who is a little ragged but still looks to his Daddy with phenomenal awe.  That’s who I really am, and I’d rather people just know that.