Grace and Hope Are Everywhere… If You Know Where to Look

I mouthed off at Laura yesterday. Well, I guess you wouldn’t call it “mouthing off” but I did an “I told you so”. I do that a lot. I am trying to be rid of that nasty habit…er.. uh… sin…

Anyway, we have an agreement that when things like that happen, we call each other on it. And she called me on it. My first reaction, as always, was defensive, telling her that even though it was an “I told you so” at least the information that I was providing was correct. That only made it worse.

Thing is, even if the information was correct, she didn’t need it. She already knew it. And even if she didn’t know it, she didn’t need me to call it up.

“I told you so’s” are just another form of control that we use on others when we don’t see things going according to our plans. You see, you and I will do anything to get what we want. If you violate my agenda for myself, I will even “murder” according to James to get what I want.

Our hearts can be so desirous of control. It points up many things that are wrong with us. For one thing, it is a failure to trust God – you see we do not trust God that He will work in the other person’s life without our pointing out their faults. We do not trust God with control over the situation so we feel the only thing appropriate is for us to take control ourselves. It is actually a form of idolatry. All of sin is a form of idolatry.

There is hope though.

  • Hope in God the Father. You see because God is in control, we don’t have to be. It is such a relief not to have to be God when you come down to it. Right? I mean who would really want to carry that much control and responsibility? Yet we try to do it in our lives and in the lives of others all the time.
  • There is also hope in Jesus. Because of the work Jesus did on the cross there is forgiveness and grace upon grace. Jesus provides the grace we need when we cannot be in control. And the hope that one day, control won’t even be an issue. Jesus will come back and balance the books for everything we’ve done wrong to others and ourselves, and everything others have done wrong to us. And He will do a far better job of setting things straight than we could ever do.
  • There is finally hope in the Holy Spirit. It was the Holy Spirit that led me to repent and tell Laura I was sorry and it was the Holy Spirit that led her to forgive me even before I asked.

God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit pour grace upon grace on us who know Him (yes Him… there is one God, in three persons). Because of God, we do not have to be in control, we do not have to be right, we have nothing to prove. We just have to rest in His grace and love. When we do that, we can be free. Being free means not having to be in control, worry, doubt, or fear.

Those whom the Son sets free are free indeed (John 8:36).

On this Christmas eve, I hope that if you do not know Jesus that you will finally trust Him and that if you do know Him, you will rest in the grace that God deposits all around us.

Question: Where have you experienced His grace and hope in your life recently?

Dealing With the Unexpected

This is a guest post from John Fischer. John is an author, speaker, and musician. He is the author of several books, including, 12 Steps for the Recovering Pharisee (like me). You can sign up for the daily emails John sends out, free of charge, at The Catch, Connecting Life to Faith.

Everybody should be allowed at least one computer day a year. By that I mean a day you didn’t plan on losing to some form of technological breakdown in your high-tech arsenal of electronics necessary for twenty-first century communication.

Mine turned out to be six hours in the Apple store yesterday getting Marti’s iPhone to sync with her calendar and contacts. Forrest, Michael, Mandy and I are all on a first name basis now, and given how hard they worked to try and help me, I have no complaints in their regard. I understand this is part of the nature of the beast. Six hours. And I had Chandler with me as well. In fact, it started out as a one-on-one session with Chandler to help him get the most out of his computer, and the poor guy never got his shot. I never would have made it as far as I did if they didn’t have video games he could play in the store.

How did I do? Well I definitely could have done better. I could have seized the opportunity to find out what this experience was all about. Instead of fighting it I could have gone with it and looked for what meaning I could find in the futility, and gain through what appeared to be a random sequence of malfunctions. I could have asked, “God, what do you have me here for right now?” (There’s nothing random with God.)

I’m writing about this so that those of you who might be going through a similar experience might think to ask God the question, “what do you have me here for right now?” Actually, we could all stand to ask ourselves this question many times a day.

What do you think God is doing in your life at this moment in time?

The Parable of the Talents… feel guilty?

We are all familiar with Jesus parable of the Talents found in Matthew 25:14-30. A man gives ten talents to one person, five to another and one to the third person. The persons with ten and five talents invest theirs and reap returns causing the master to say “well done thou good and faithful servant.” The last person buries theirs in the ground and gets a tongue lashing and then is cast into darkness.

At first glance this parable appears to be a teaching on what will happen to those who don’t invest the gifts God has given them, who waste resources, or who don’t work really hard for the kingdom.

But is that really what Jesus had in mind? Was He really teaching that if you don’t work really hard at it you will be tossed aside? Is He teaching that if you aren’t faithful to work furiously to invest what He has given you that He will reject you?

Many pastors and teachers have used this parable as a stick to beat people over the head about a wide range of topics from giving to obedience to working for the kingdom. And while it is not wrong to give, be obedient and to work for the kingdom of God, I don’t think that is the central teaching of this text.

Jesus is meek and lowly of heart. His yoke is easy and His burden light (Matt 11:30). He is gracious and His ministry was about anything but works.

In fact His harshest words were for those working at it really hard.

Those who not only worked at it really hard, but ridiculed those who didn’t work at it as hard. Those who not only worked at it really hard, ridiculed those who didn’t work at it as hard, but didn’t do so hot with it themselves at the same time as ridiculing others. The Pharisees worked harder at it than anyone else. They made the big “kingdom investments” of the day. And Jesus called them snakes and worse (Matt 23 – read it sometime).

So is it correct to say that Jesus will cast people aside who don’t work really hard at it, or could there be more to this parable than we’ve all been taught?

In order to understand what is going on here, you have to remember that Jesus is saying this to a generation of people who lived under the harsh demands of the law. Demands made even harsher by Pharisees and religious leaders who added to the law to where no one could keep it. There were thousands of little things added to the law of Moses – and the law of Moses itself couldn’t be perfectly kept. These people were oppressed. And Jesus of course, came to set the oppressed free (John 8:32). So, does it make sense that He would teach oppressed people that were working hard to keep the law that they should work harder at it?

I don’t think so.

You see this parable says more about the Pharisees than it does about the people they oppressed. This parable was incredibly offensive to the religious leaders. The servants with the ten and the five talents were the Pharisees and religious leaders. And what they were doing was represented by the master’s treatment of the person who buried the talent. The person who buried the talent did so because he was scared. The people in Jesus time were scared too. Scared of the Pharisees and scared of God because they thought God was like the Pharisees.

Jesus was teaching:

1.  It is impossible to serve a hard master and do anything but dig holes to protect your stuff (Matt 25:24-25)

The servant in this parable who buried the talent, “perceived” the master to be a hard master. The fact was the master was not a hard master. What is your perception of Jesus? Do you think Him to be a hard master?

2. It is impossible to dig holes and dance with Jesus at the same time (Matt 25:25)

You can’t dance the dance of grace with Jesus when you are spending all of your time looking at your feet. In order to dance the dance of grace with Jesus you must look at Him, not your dancing ability.

3. It is impossible to to live a full life loving Jesus above all else without risk (Matt 25:27)

When you know you are forgiven, and you know you are loved and will be loved even if you screw up, you will be free to risk. If you are scared to trust Jesus you will be sacred of everything else too.

So, though we should be obedient and make investments in the kingdom and we should work hard to spread the kingdom, we must look at our perception of Jesus and our motivation. Are we doing what we do out of fear? Are we doing what we do out of joy?

Where are you in this area today?

Sanctified By Grace

“When God is your Father, He never stops being your Father. To put it in theological language, not only is your justification (being saved) by grace, your sanctification (becoming more like Christ) is by grace too. The trouble is that most Christians think they’re saved by grace but grow by sweat. Many of us believe that when we were saved, God took our slate filled with sin and rebellion and wiped it clean. That’s a lie… Listen! God took our slate and He broke it in pieces and threw it away. He does not deal with His family by keeping track on a slate of how we are doing. The slate is irrelevant because of the blood of Christ.”

Steve Brown, When Being Good Isn’t Good Enough

Failure, Performance and the Christian Life

“The main thing we learn from a serious attempt to practice the Christian virtues is that we fail.  If there was any idea that God had set us a sort of exam and that we might get good marks by deserving them, that has to be wiped out.  If there was any idea of a sort of bargain—any idea that we could perform our side of the contract and thus put God in our debts so that it was up to Him to perform His side—that has to be wiped out….everyone has the idea of an exam or of a bargain; the first result of real Christianity is to blow that to bits.”   CS Lewis