Amazing, Uncontainable, Irrefutable Grace part 1 why can’t we give it away?

Amazing, Uncontainable, Irrefutable Grace  Part 1 why can’t we give it away?

We have only lived in Germany for 1-½ years.   However, even in that short time, it has become apparent to us that generally speaking, Germans are guarded, protective of self, and rather isolated within their network of family and very close friends. We have been greatly privileged to become very good friends with two of our neighbors and even closer friends with a family who lives just a couple farm roads away. We hang out together a lot, and our kids play together.   You might be thinking, “Well, they have reason to be so guarded and reserved.”  After all, we did endure two “great wars” on the opposite side of each other.  And their sins have followed them ever since.  When we first moved here, I was encouraging one of my friends to visit us. This friend happened to be Jewish. She said she wasn’t sure if she could do that.  I also know that often times when our German friends travel abroad to bordering countries, they are treated disrespectfully and discriminately.  Finally, their schools also play a role in reminding these precious children over and over of the sins of the past. History and education are important. Self-deprecation is not.  Sad or as we would say in German, “Sharda.”  Pity.  So what part has the church played in Germany in not only removing that stigma, but also spreading the message of grace, forgiveness and joy? I would humbly submit that the “state church,” as it is so referred-has not done so well in its 500-year existence.  Why do I say this? Because when the church is transformed, so are the communities.  When the church is transformed, then they shout from it from the rooftops, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has God removed our sins from us.”  And when the church believes that about itself, then so can those outside the church. If those of us IN the church have not bought into this message of grace, then we can’t expect those outside of the church to do that.   

So you can imagine how utterly emotionally moved I was this past weekend when I sat in an arena filled with 8500 people worshipping God together.  With the exception of a few hundred Americans, Dutch, and French present, the remaining 8000 or so attendees-all German. Germans who are sold out for Christ. Sisters and brothers in Christ who have “received the message with eagerness,” (Acts 17:11) and are Christ centered. German Christians saying emphatically “Here am I, Send me.”  My heart was so speechless, stunned, and utterly impressed.  Young, middle aged and older folks all present at this Leadership conference praying and listening for new ways to reach the lost of not only their communities, but also churchgoers themselves all over this beautiful country.  

You know we think we are so different.  USA evangelical churches have spent decades trying to convince other evangelical churches what they are doing wrong.  We have done this at the expense of our next-door neighbor’s lost soul, at the expense of single parents who can’t feed their kids, and alas, while violence and addictions continue to destroy families.  Yes, while I am in a debate with another churchgoer over contemporary versus traditional, or while I am up to my ears with trying to reconcile the coexistence of dinosaurs and Christians, thousands of human souls are paying the price for my ego driven spiritual quests.  Last weekend John Ortberg made a very bold and courageous statement,  “There are too many undiscipled disciples-too many who think spiritual growth is trying to follow rules in the bible.  We have held up the wrong people as spiritual examples for so long, we have produced churchy people, but not transformed people.”  Here is the thing, I wouldn’t agree with Ortberg’s statement just for the sake of believing it, if it were not for the fact that I have experienced this first hand. For most of my life, my own spiritual examples have been Pharisees in form, fashion, speech, and demeanor.  They have been so in every way with the one exception of what they believe about the Messiah.  It is only in the last decade that this has steadily changed for me. And it certainly has had a great impact in my marriage, my parenting, where we serve and worship, and what we believe about the infinite, incredible, uncontainable grace that Christ offers us. 

This is a Part One Devo. Because I think this is important.  Next time, I am going to talk about removing the masks that we wear and stepping into not only God’s incredible grace for our lives, but also into the journey, the joy, and the mission that He purposed for us even before we were born. 

Thanks for reading

An old Friend Revisited

An Old Friend Revisited

If someone said to you  “who is your favorite author in the whole world,” what would you say?  Would you say Stephanie Meyer, Stephen King, or maybe CS Lewis?    There are truly some great authors out there, and some equally great books.  Reading is assuredly one of my greatest pastimes.  So many classics, so little time is how I feel.  Whenever I pick up a good book, I always feel like I am basking in the company of a dear old friend.  So how do we feel about the bible?  What allure does it have for us? Does it have any?   Is it too complicated or overwhelming for you?  Are you too busy to delve into it with the fervor that you think you should?  There are many reasons why we don’t read our bible with the same intensity we might another book.  But did you know that the authorship of the bible is God himself? Yes, it is true there were many who wrote and recorded the truths we find there, but according to 2 Timothy 3:16, these men were all chosen and inspired by God himself.  This passage tells us “all scripture is God breathed.”  There are other places in Scripture where we see the breath of our Lord giving life.  Genesis 2 tells us that the “LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”  The same breath that gave us life also gave us the Word of the Living God.  In John 20 Jesus is anointing the disciples with the Holy Spirit. We read there “And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”  Wow, so when we see that our lives were borne out of the breath of God, and the Holy Spirit was given by the breath of Christ, does this give us new insight about the bible which is “God breathed?”  The same breath that has given us life has given us the words to live that life. This is indeed “life with God.”  According to Richard Foster in his book, “Life with God, Reading the Bible for Spiritual Transformation,” we often read the bible for two main reasons, (1) to gain knowledge and information, even information to affirm what we believe and used to admonish others or (2) to address a specific issue in our life in an attempt to “solve whatever the pressing problem” in front of us.  These two reasons are not inherently wrong.  But Foster goes on to say, “But what we must face up to with these two objectives is that they always leave us or others in charge.”  Foster goes on to say that if we truly read the bible for spiritual transformation then we must be prepared to “call into question our dearest and most fundamental assumptions about ourselves and our associations.”  In other words, start reading the bible with a clean slate. Many of us have had churches, parents, grandparents, and pastors who have taught us for years from scripture, and Praise God for them. But when was the last time you read the bible without any pre-conceived notions or prior associations? (Acts 17:11) Just read; listen with your heart, and soak in God’s teaching, his comfort, his peace, and the love of his Son.  Only when we approach the Word with this attitude of humble submission, can personal transformation truly happen.  It is the inside out approach that God uses to change us with his Son-the Word of God. (John 1:1) Not the outside in approach with which we often employ in our bible reading.  So the next time you have a moment, revisit an old friend-your bible.  In the words of Richard Foster, “It is the loving heart of God made visible and plain. And receiving this message of exquisite love is the great privilege of all who long for life with God.”