I’m a big fan on grace. I can tell you that while I’ve needed a lot of it and learned that I can’t be too proud in accepting it I still struggle to give it. Why is it so crazy that our human condition falls to the level of greed even when we’re talking about the last bottle of water for the heart in a desert of anguish. We would rather keep or receive grace and forgiveness than dispense it to the sick or needy.
My own life has pivotal revelations of grace as well as soft misty fingerprints across the window of my daily life. I remember the impact moments as times when I'm self absorbed. Sometimes for purely selfish indulgulent reasons when I've pursured my own interests and isolated myself from those who care and those I love. They're times when I forgot about the big picture and was only interested in the icing on the cake. Those moments, that are more than a few, are painful not for the aching stomach full of icing from supping on lifes pleaures, but more for the accidents that ensue. The icing gets in your eyes and you end up driving at life's high speed off the road only to make an impression on the bark of the neighbour's tree. These are the times when grace drives up in a white ambulance, wraps itself around the wounds and consoles the heart through the recovery.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 6 Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. 2 For he says, “In a favourable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favourable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. 2 Corinthians 5:17 – 6:2 ESV
So what about those fingerprints? You leave them everywhere and don't realise it unless you have paws covered in chocolate sauce like your 3 year-old niece. Unlike a toddler God tends to walk through the universe with fingers cleaner than freshly fallen snow. So how can you see the grace around you? Like a good detective it comes down to dusting for prints. Thats where that dusty old Bible might just come in handy. The more I look for prints the more I find. As I read the Bible I move through thoughts of self-aware concern based on my own failings. My sin, my life in a cracked pot is like driving over a series of potholes. The difference when driving with grace is that the potholes are filled in. You don't see them but a smooth road allows you to lift your head and take in the view.
How can this amazing revelation of grace be forgotten, hidden or ignored? Why would someone who was once sick and now healthy then forget where the medicene could be found? How could someone who had come back from the brink of despair so lose sight of of the relief that moment in history brought. So much so that they are unable to remember where to point a fellow traveller languishing with the burden of sin and life. The burden we know as sin was answered at the cross when Jesus lifted it on to his own back and carried it to the point of death. He did it for you.
There are three responses to grace that we can own. For many the administration of grace is like running from the nurse with the needle. They aren't sure if its good for them or not but they sense that submitting to the cure is an admission of the ill. For others grace is like drops of water across the gate of a sand encrusted mouth. They have thirsted after rightousness and like those mentioned in Matthew 5:6, they shall be filled. For many though there is no response to grace. Its not a matter of engaging or running from the freedom that grace affords, instead its an ignorance afforded by times of bliss that layer a cushion that can numb the senses to the genlte touch of grace.
20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 5:20-21 ESV
I was really grateful when a friend sent recently sent me a video of Jimmy Needham’s Grace Amazing. It was just the right tonic for the day and brought some much needed perspective into the day. That dose of ‘grace’ injected through this song was the right answer for my heart when my head was working for the opposition. As we saunter through life, we can stubb our toe and find ourselves only interested in the foot long length of of gravel before us and the ache we feel in the seeping black and blue of a pulsing toe. I think that's where the danger comes when our focus on the problem means we become blasé to the amazing nature of grace that abounds around us.
I still remember looking at my Dad's collection of LPs (old speak for MP3 embedded on black plastic dinner plates) and thinking I wonder if I can have these when he dies. It’s a strange feeling thinking your parents are really old and wondering if they will 'leave' you anything in their will. My Dad has now sold all those LPs. A few upgrades that included golf clubs and now a growing CD collection have meant that incredible collection of Elvis records along with a few Charlies like Charlie Rich and Charlie Pride will never be mine.
That little confessional story from my childhood also shows the short-sighted nature of selfishness. Even at a young age I was looking at 'whats in it for me'. As we grow we face new choices just like the Prodigal Son that Jesus spoke about in Luke 15. The bottom line was he wanted to spend his Dad's cash before he'd even earned his own. There always seems to be a pinch of laziness that seasons a life of greed.
The youngest son wanted to live it up and felt the Dad owed him. It took quite a journey for him to learn the lessons he needed to face life with a different perspective. Become a kid again for 4min and watch this video. Don't be so focussed on the son that you don't catch some great lessons from the Father and the older brother. In fact the older brother's biggest challenge was his focus on being… wait a minute I'm telling the story when I should let Crossroads tell the tale.
I really couldn't resist this video on the "Prodigal Son" from the Crossroads Kid's Club. Their range of videos available via their Vimeo account is brilliant as a resource for Sunday School teachers and Religious Education teachers. If you enjoy the video why not leave a comment on their Vimeo page by clicking through or heading to their website at Crossroads.
Thanks to Adrian Warnock for posting this today. There is something about Matt Chandler and the way that with his preaching he walks through his heart and mind connection with the gospel. Love it – take a moment to hear God’s heart for you.
This amazing video presentation brings together the message from Dr. Shadrach Meshach (S.M.) Lockridge’s and some great imagery.
Who is Jesus to you? If you take communion don’t forget he said do this to "Remember Me". If you have forgotten the Jesus you first met when you first believed. He’s waiting to walk with you, talk with you so you can worship him as the son of God.
This mashup of Arnie coming back in time is a riot. So glad we weren’t dependant on man and a time machine for our salvation. It makes you glad prophecy never had a problem like a stupid robot in sunglasses. Yes he could potentially stuff things up if he has enough ammo left in that shotgun and Judas keeps getting in the way. Hang in there to the end. You’ll love Arnie’s last line.
The beauty of this clip is it still reminds us of God’s Master Plan of salvation. Jesus proven as the son of God comes into our world to save you and I. We can’t earn, buy or trade our way out of our sin. You’ve probably tried that already. Who is Jesus? Not a wimp in long blonde hair. Check this out as Mark Driscoll helps explain the real Jesus
How’s this for being just plain weird and cool at the same time? The parishioners of a Swedish church have taken a unique perspective on presenting Jesus to the congregation. 30,000 lego bricks and 18 months later this ‘monument’ created by 40 volunteers appeared in the foyer. The work is a copy of a piece called the ‘Resurrected Christ’ by Danish sculptor, Bertel Thorvaldsen. Apparently many of the blocks were donated and although the piece is in white many coloured lego blocks were donated and they have been placed inside the construction. The story was carried by the Columbus Dispatch Click on the image for a closer look.
Back in 1983-1987 I was profoundly blessed to be in a youth group run by Gavin and Liz Hockly. It was through this Te Awamutu Bible Chapel youth group called “Word of Life” that I learned lots, was challenged to ‘grow-up’ and also had the blessing of being able to try the gifts God has given me. Big apology to everyone I used as guinea pigs back then.
Recently I mentioned ‘The Box’, a records box of memories that had been missing for 10 years. A lot of the items were notes, poetry and newsletters I had kept from my youth group days. It was a habit that I would carry into the 90s as I ventured out into the world. I wouldn’t quite call it journaling because it didn’t have the consistency that I see in those who ‘know how to journal’. But it is a record of things I’m happy to remember.
Today I started at the top and opened up this box of memories. One of the first things I found were the hand written notes from a bible study evening I was leading. I loved using audio visual. It wasn’t unusual for me to want to ‘play a song’ or show a video (VHS people!) to get a point across.
On this night I had hand written the lyrics to a song ‘Reminders of You’byGeoff Moore and the Distance from the 1992 CD “A Friend Like U”. Part way through I had made a note to pause the song and ask people to think on what reminds them of the Lord.
You know every day I drive home from work I have the privilege of taking an off-ramp that turns back on itself towards the west. I see the most dramatic sunsets and they always bring me back to God the creator who spoke the world into existence. I look on every beautiful burnt orange or red sunset blasting through the unique branches of our Australian gum trees and am reminded that the sunset I saw yesterday was taken down last night and God painted a new one today. I am grateful for His love and care, His creativity and the freshness I see that remind me that like it says in Lamentations 3, His ‘mercy’ is also new every morning.
The song is written by Jeff Silvey and Billy Simon.
Reminders of You
(Verse 1) A cross on a chain Or a thunder cloud rolling A Bible in a hotel room Or lights on an evergreen
Tombstones on the hillside Or a little child laughing Just to name a few Reminders of you
(Chorus) You abide in me, my hope my Lord And I will not forget your name Please keep sending me reminders of You
(Verse 2) A table set for twelve Or a northern star shining A lazy Sunday afternoon Or a cool mountain stream
A piece of bread with a red wine A December snow falling Just to name a few reminders of You