Beyond Me

Thoughts on Life and Faith

Archive for the tag “Grace”

Broken On the Cornerstone

Matthew 21:42-44

Jesus is speaking to the Pharisees when he quotes Psalm 118:22. The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone, or cornerstone. Jesus, though rejected by the religious, is the foundation from which God’s grace will be built in the world. He is the cornerstone. But then he says something interesting…in vs. 44 he says that those who fall on the cornerstone are broken to pieces, and those who it falls on are crushed. Admittedly, the story goes on and the Pharisees knew Jesus was talking about them. They plotted to have him arrested and killed.

But it got me thinking…why did Jesus say it two different ways? Broken and crushed? Maybe there is more to glean.

It’s obvious to me the part about being crushed. The stone falls on you, you are crushed. End of story. Those who reject Jesus will find judgement in the end. If he’s the cornerstone then you either build off of him or you end up crushed underneath the capstone.

But what about falling on the stone? It could be argued Jesus is double emphasizing the judgement, but maybe there’s more here. Maybe the point is to fall on the stone and be broken. We all carry pride, sin, selfishness, and the like. No one wants to believe they can’t do it on their own. But to begin this new life, we must be broken. We surrender our old life and build it upon the cornerstone. We break the old, shatter it, and allow the chief builder to rebuild us new on the cornerstone. The Pharisees couldn’t see that. They couldn’t hear anything but their own pride and power. Let us not make the same mistake as them.

Today I want to fall on the cornerstone, being broken, and allowing my Father to build me back up on that same stone…Jesus. I hope you will join me.

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The Lost Message in the Duck Dynasty debate

This week has been a tough one.  I can’t help but feel, after all the reading, discussing, and social media uproar that the only person that won this week was Satan.  It saddens me and leaves me somewhat broken inside.  Once again the enemy was able to drive a bigger wedge between the Body of Christ and the culture in which it resides.  We’ve seen this week intolerance and hypocrisy reign on both sides of the issue.  And, it seems, that both sides of the issue are missing the bigger point…We are all being used.

News seems to be breaking this morning via the Huffington Post and WSB-TV in Atlanta that Phil Robertson is to return to filming Duck Dynasty after the holidays.  The show will air in January and it will continue to film.  This is a tremendous victory for 1st amendment rights in the United States, but I don’t feel it is a victory for us as Christians.  I also do not believe canceling the show would have been a victory for the LGBT community.

To be clear, (because I don’t want to be accused of being a coward), I have a tremendous amount of respect of Phil Robertson and his family.  I wish, more than anything, I had the courage and ability to live life the way that he does.  I think he is living the Gospel in ways many Christians, and maybe some non-Christians, wish to live.  I also agree with his stance.  While I would have said it much differently (and wish he would have to) I believe in the heart of the message.  ALL in this world are sinful, disorder, people in need of the grace Jesus Christ gives freely to all and repentance and realization of our sin is needed.  I am one of these sinful people, and it is an everyday occurrence I need to die to myself and the sinful nature within me.  Did he cross a line with his anatomical description in the interview?  I believe so.  But is that all that he said?  No.  Did he completely single out one group of people?  No.  I challenge you to read the article in its entirety and come to another conclusion.  There needs to be room in this culture for differing points of view and we should all be allowed to express them calmly, rationally, and maintain our relationships.  As I’ve heard Newspring pastor Perry Noble say recently, “You can win the argument but lose the relationships.”  That blog covers much better than I ever could the overarching argument in this debate.  This leads me to the real reason I am writing.  The fact of the matter is that Christians and the LGBT community are in the same boat.

We are being used.  By the media, by companies, and especially by Washington, DC.  We are seen as consumer groups.  We are seen as voting blocs.  We are commodities to be won over.  This is highlighted in no greater way than with what looks like A&E’s decision to air episodes in January and return Phil to the airwaves.  They are not concerned with free speech, feelings, insensitivity, morality, or anything of great importance.  Most companies, especially in Hollywood, are not concerned with these things.  Their allegiance belongs to ratings and dollar signs.  They will support and do, not what is right, but what furthers their interests of increasing the bottom line.  If A&E were a true supporter of LGBT rights, they would stand by their decision regardless of the backlash.  If they were a true supporter of Duck Dynasty and Christianity they would have stood by Phil Robertson or at least protected him from such an interview.  But they do not care.  Many politicians do not care.  Many companies do not really care.  They have no convictions or compasses…Their guide is the almighty dollar.  The sooner BOTH groups realize that the better.

My heart breaks for both my faith community and my brothers and sisters in the LGBT community.  There is so much more to a person and movement than their sexuality.  Gay and lesbian people are now, in this moment in time, only defined as such.  It’s like we don’t even realize there are people who deal with all of the other stuff we all deal with.  We’ve allowed the media to define this debate, and the media has ultimately dehumanized and manipulated it in such a way that makes for heated argumentation, rather than rational debate.  The media has defined the message.  It saddens me for the LGBT community, and I challenge you all to take back your message.

But now I want to speak to my fellow Christians.  We also have allowed the media to define our message. And there is SO MUCH MORE TO THE GOSPEL than sexuality.  It’s only a snap shot of what Jesus says and has to offer.  Is it important?  Yes!  Should we have convictions?  Absolutely!  But we cannot continue to allow the secular media (right and left) to be the voice and definition for what disciples of Jesus truly stand for.

I’m reminded of Louie Giglio’s predicament at the beginning of this year.  He was bestowed with the honor of praying at the Presidential Inauguration.  But, because of a sermon 20 years ago, people called him a bigot and demanded he not be allowed this privilege.  He could have screamed in front of every camera and mic about free speech, his rights, and demanded boycotts or petitions.  But his words rang loudly of grace as he respectfully withdrew his acceptance of the invitation.  He served a bigger purpose.  There is so much more to the Gospel than the issue of sexuality.  He wanted to serve that message and that Savior.  And he goes on about his life embodying the Gospel.

The truth is, our message and Gospel is not meant to be preached from the pulpit of Fox News or CNN.  It’s not meant for the masses.  That’s why, often times, when large crowds gathered to hear Jesus, he often said something that offended and made the mass majority not able to follow.  Disciples were made by those who saw him live, day in and day out, the truth of which he spoke (Read John 6).  We need to understand that our best tool Jesus gave us is community and relationships.  We can speak softly because we carry the biggest stick the enemy has ever seen…The power to love all, even those against us, and pursue community and relationships with them regardless of how they treat us.

A small movement of just over 100 people began a journey in this fashion.  It changed an entire empire.  The message lived out spoke louder than the message in words.  We need, no we must, rediscover this ability.

If we dare to take this challenge, if we begin to trust more in the Holy Spirit and our savior, this world and especially Satan’s reign in it do not stand even the slightest chance.

Glory after Catstrophe

Isaiah 4:5

“5 Then the LORD will create over all of Mount Zion and over those who assemble there a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night; over everything the glory will be a canopy.”

The book of Isaiah begins with the promise of destruction. There will be catastrophe. There will be blood. Life as Israel knows it will come to an end. All because of their on decisions. They turned their back on God. They broke every commandment. They longed to be like the other nations rather than rest in the holy, set apart nation God intended them to be. It’s a bleak beginning to this book. But Isaiah, knowing and understanding the glory and grace of God leaves this one verse. It provides a glimmer of hope. It recalls a time when Israel had no place to call home. They had no riches. No king. No direction. But they had Yahweh and that was all they needed. They had a guide, a protector, a provider…and even in the face of impending catastrophe that promise remains. God’s glory can always be seen after the catastrophe blows through and destroys all we had known.

We make bad decisions in our life. We will turn our back on God at times. We will deal with the consequences of our own sinful actions. But whenever the darkness closes in around us, we need only cry out for God who never turns his back and look up for the pillar of fire to guide us out. Israel needed it once. So do we. Today I want to rest in the fact that God has called me. He has set me apart. He has made me new. I can follow the smoke by day and the fire by night. I trust he is there and his glory is a canopy over my life. No matter what may come, that truth will always remain. You too are called. You are holy. You are set apart. Whatever you may be going through, your guide is ready it show you the way. Your protector wants to surround you with his grace. Your provider wants to give life and give it abundantly. Cry out. Look for the towering fire that can light up the darkest of darkness. The light will show the way.

Let’s all find our hope in that today.

Obedience

I was reading in the book of John last week Jesus’ prayer in the Garden.  I’ve read this prayer countless times.  I have always enjoyed it and feel it really gives us a peek into the heart and mind of Christ.  This time, something jumped out at me that never had before.  In John 17:6, Jesus, when praying for his disciples, says they obeyed God’s word.  Then, down in verse 8, says they knew Jesus came from God.  I can’t help but think back through the Gospel’s and think about this ragtag group of disciples and say to myself, “Really?”  They obeyed?  They believed?  These guys who, at multiple points, had no clue what Jesus meant when he spoke.  The same disciples who still expected Jesus, at some point, to lead a revolution against the Romans.  Peter, who just hours before this prayer tried to tell Jesus what to do, and then just hours after this would deny Jesus.  Peter, whom we often think of as aloof obeyed and believed?  Doubting Thomas?  James and John who were concerned about who would sit at Jesus right and left were obedient and believed?  These same disciples who couldn’t perform healings at times or cast out demons because of their lack of faith were obedient and believed?  This seems a strange thing for Jesus to say, considering the multiple recorded accounts of the disciples’ failings.

I believe this is something that can speak incredible grace into our lives today.  With all of those failings, Jesus still said they obeyed and believed.  Even with all of these moments where they clearly did not obey and did not believe, Jesus still said they were obedient and believers.  Moments of unbelief do not separate us from Christ.  Moments of disobedience do not disqualify us from the Kingdom.  They are just that, moments.  They are fleeting.  They pass.  We move on from them.  Clearly the disciples did, because we sit here today as believers.  Clearly we can as well.

I can be hard on myself and allow my moments of disbelief and disobedience separate me from Christ.  It is never Christ who does this, only me and my own guilt.  Christ still sees me as an obedient believer, even in those moments. Jesus still believes in me, still loves, and is still going to use me.  Jesus still believes in you, still loves, and is still going to use you.  Look no further than this moment of prayer, when despite the clear shortcomings of these first disciples, Jesus still had faith and love for them.  Obedience and belief are a journey.  They can’t be figured out in one moment, and neither can they be undone in one moment.  This is what Jesus believed about the first disciples, and what he believes about us today.

Re-Election

There is so much I want to write.  In the wake of last nights Presidential results, and the reactions I have seen to them, there are a lot of things that I could and would like to say.  However, I feel that much of what I would want to say would come across as political, and that’s not what this blog is about.  This blog is about encouraging the believers in faith.  And that’s what I want to speak to.

Church, God did not lose last night.  Contrary to what Franklin Graham and other vocal Christian leaders may think, voting for Governor Romney over President Obama last night would not have been repentance.  It  would have been a transfer of political power, which can happen every four years.  Plain and simple.

We have a divided nation, almost right down the middle.  We also have a tendency to tie Christianity to the political process.  We somehow think that by placing our efforts in fighting for the “right” candidate we are somehow taking up the cause of the Kingdom.  But the Kingdom is so much more than this.  The Gospel of Christ deserves so much more devotion than this.

Now we can lament, and rightfully so, about the moral decline of our nation.  Divorce is at an all time high.  Teen pregnancy is at an all time high.  Addictions ruin the lives of people.  We are confused on the definition of marriage.  I could go on and on about the negatives.  Many of us feel that we have completely turned our back on God as a nation.  But let’s pause before we jump off the cliff.

I would like to think that I know history, especially biblical history, fairly well.  Let’s go back to the first and second century, right as the Church was beginning.  Ancient Rome, the most powerful nation in the world, was the epitome of immorality.  Prostitution was not only legal, but it was an accepted form of worship.  There was open worship of multiple gods.  The “Pax Romana” was used to brutally keep people in line all in the name of peace.  Caesar’s, who thought themselves to be gods, ruled in the only interest of increasing their territory and power.  Many were far more inherently evil than our newly re-elected President and other politicians of our day.  And Christianity was not just despised but persecuted mercilessly.  To the point where, in his Roman palace, Nero burned Christians alive to light his garden parties.  I know we have our issues, but our world is nowhere near that.  But guess what happened?  The church THRIVED.  Christians won their neighbors over because the love of Christ was so compelling.  And this was done through living life as Jesus commanded, regardless of the law of the land, and it spoke to a nation.  It wasn’t done in the chamber of the Roman Senate or in Caesar’s court, but in the lives and hearts of the people.  Amidst that climate, the church exploded.  It can happen today, too.

I know many are angry, sick, upset, and feel like the world is going to end.  It may today, but not because President Obama was re-elected.  If it ends, it will be because the Sovereign God who knew the results of last night’s election long before we did says it is time.  I encourage you today though, followers of Christ, to take heart for He has already overcome all things of this world.  Maybe one day the moral fiber of this country will be woven back together stronger than it ever was.  That would be a great thing. But maybe it will continue to decline.  That will be fine also, because the darker the world gets the brighter the light of Jesus can shine.  Church we have done our best work in history when the world is at its darkest.  Today, the sun came up.  Let’s move together, taking the revolution of grace and love Jesus started, giving to Caesar what is Caesar’s, respecting the God-given authority of our leaders, and in doing so win this world.  Last night was not the end of anything, but only the beginning of continuing the good work of Jesus and his Gospel.  Let’s unite together and act like it.

Misplaced Faith

Obsession…that’s what could describe this last week in our world.  We learned that we are obsessed as a culture with being correct and with figuring out what we were never meant to figure out.  We as humans cannot live with our limited human capacity.  It is difficult for us to deal with that which we cannot wrap our minds around.  Often times we choose to avoid such subjects because they make us uncomfortable.  Others, like Harold Camping, choose to read into the words of Scripture and make them say something they were never intended to say.  Those of us who know better mock.  Those who don’t believe mock.  Nobody wins when faith is misplaced.  I can remember being younger and being obsessed with the end times as well.  It was one of those things that just fascinates our culture.  How will history come to a close?  In reading the New Testament one can see that clearly those writers thought it would be soon, just like we are sure today.  If you were to ask most practicing Christians today they would probably tell you without a doubt that we are in the end times.  Truthfully, this idea is relatively new to Christian thought.  The idea of a rapture did not even surface until the 20th Century.  For whatever reason, this idea has taken hold in our culture and in the church.  Pages upon pages are written trying to relate the words of the Prophets, the words of Revelation, and correlate them with the events of today.  In doing so writers take the power out of the words of Scripture and cheapen them, which leaves our faith open to attacks and criticism like we all witnessed in the week leading up to last Saturday as well as this week.  We misplace our faith when we take Scripture out of context.

Most Christians who even casually read their Bible knew that if Mr. Camping had been correct it would have been more likely by coincidence rather than his work of interpretation.  We joined with the world in mocking him…I was one of these at first.  As I thought more, read more, I really began to have a change of heart.  This man, these people, did not deserve to be mocked.  They did not intend evil, they just had their faith misplaced.  Camping’s followers made this mistake in placing their faith in a fallible man who made a major error in interpreting Scripture.  As a result many have lost their livelihoods and some may even lose their faith.  This should break our hearts.  Camping misplaced his faith by spending more time trying to read into the Bible rather than just reading.  He truly believed he had come to understand what was not understandable and wanted to help the world.  He was not unintelligent being that he was an engineer and successful businessman.  He just had a little too much faith in himself.  Trying to figure out something became more important than just living out what is made clear.  He intended good, but the results were drastically bad.  That should break our hearts as well.

Before we jump on Harold Camping’s case we should ask, “Are we any different.”  At times we are all guilty of misplacing our faith.  We become more hooked on an idea, a movement, or a personality rather than what those elements represent.  Christ alone our faith should be placed in and the rest should be peripheral.  Churches split or close their doors every day because they become based on the pastor rather than the true head of the church.  Too often when we hear a great message we praise the personality of a great speaker or writer rather than the one whom the message originated from.  Then, when those decidedly human and fallable people fail or are wrong it shakes our faith.  I’m guilty of the same thing Camping and his followers are…just not in the same way.

I hope humility can be shown from Camping and his followers.  I am given hope from a quote from one of Family Radio’s board members who said, “I don’t know where we went wrong other than that we obviously don’t understand the Scriptures in the way that we should.”  This gives me hope that good can come from last week.  And I hope that we can all join in being compassionate, graceful, prayerful towards those who misplaced their faith.  They aren’t the enemy and we should not want to see them be looked at as such.  Indeed, it would have been nice if they had been right.  The prayer of the early church was, “Maranatha,” which meant “Lord come quickly.”  That should be the desire of our hearts as well.  I also hope we realize that their mistake is one we make often.  When we take our eyes off of the cross, off of Jesus, we misplace our faith.  We do this often and our faith and the church suffers because of it.  There are somethings we are not meant to understand and therefore we should be content with that and let our faith take over where understanding fails.

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