Sometimes, because He’s gracious, Jesus asks us to surrender the very thing He created us to be good at or value, so He can then restore it under His Lordship.
Otherwise, we end up seeking after the gift, rather than the Giver.
Everyone loves the poor, until asked to share a meal in their home with one.
Everyone loves mercy, until they have to embrace the actual mess of inconvenient victims.
Everyone loves justice, until it disturbs their comfort zones.
Everyone loves the prophetic, until it exposes sin among them.
Everyone loves grace, until it calls them to repent.
Everyone loves love, until it speaks truth.
Someone asked if it is God’s will when evil happens.
I suspect it is God’s will that we have the right to reject Him and choose evil, because He wants us to have the related ability to freely choose the love, grace and rule He offers us.
I also suspect that He grieves with us at what some have done with those choices.
~ Jim Wright
Is it any wonder that a generation raised to believe it’s all about them has a hard time grasping that it’s all about God?
They are easy prey for those peddling God’s amazing grace, love and acceptance, while rejecting repentance, truth and change.
The greatest deceptions, however, involve half truths.
Unfortunately, there’s just too much of this going around these days, and it’s terminal when it comes to healthy believers and healthy ekklesia.
Grace is the means – God extends undeserved mercy, forgiveness and truth.
Repentance is the result – I accept, submit and change.
Among our fellowships, we keep it real.
We have to. We have no choice.
Continually, people are coming to the Lord through us from places of deep bondage and despair.
This old-world clematis goes back at least three generations in my family.
It originally grew in my grandmother’s yard in Maryland, then was transplanted to my parent’s home when I was a young man, and finally came with me to Virginia when I moved here with my own family many years ago.
In all, I figure it has been cared for by a Wright, in one place or another, at least sixty years.
God is a polyglot: He speaks to different people different ways.
Some primarily hear Him through the language of their heart and feelings, some analytically through their mind, some through the dynamics of action, some through the identity of relationships, and some through the passion of mercy and justice – among other ways.
Problems often arise among His people, however, when we think that our primary language for hearing God is His only language, or is superior to other languages He uses with others.
When we think of redemption we usually think about Christ’s atoning blood which delivered us from our sins. Yes, on the day we personally surrender ourselves to the Lord and ask His forgiveness, He redeems our soul and we become His children.
Christ’s sacrifice was vital. We can now partake in His kingdom here on earth and when we die join Him in heaven. However, I believe that Christ’s act of redemption is far more encompassing then simply making a way for us to enter heaven.
Tim Day, a fellow elder here in Virginia, is co-teaching a Biblical Foundations discipleship class with Sheri Warren and me on Sunday evenings.
That class pulls together folks from indigenous, participatory fellowships that are relating together in our county. Through it, the three of us – with help from other local elders – are helping to lay a foundation of sound doctrine in those churches through their emerging leaders.
Over the last few weeks we have focused on spiritual gifts, and the importance of everyone being able to encourage and minister to one another in our local fellowships as we each use the gifts God gives us for our mutual benefit.
In the New Testament, repentance means to change the way that we think and act. Without the Lord, this would be impossible. However, when we bring, and then surrender, our thoughts, beliefs and actions to the Lord, He replaces them with peace, truth and hope. True repentance brings transformation.
I love to work in my garden. Have you ever dug a large hole in hard clay to plant a bush? I think repentance requires many of the same steps.
When I dig the hole, I expend a tremendous amount of energy. Being willing to openly expose my sins and faults to the Lord also requires much effort.
Sometimes my feet hurt from stomping down on the shovel as I try to break through the hard soil. Likewise, there have been times when my body, soul and spirit ache as I struggle and my heart can feel like heavy, solid clay.
On Saturday, over sixty people gathered for a mass baptism at our house, involving various fellowships and ministries relating together here in Virginia.
After we buried lots of old natures, and lifted lots of new believers up into that same resurrection power that raised Christ from the dead, we enjoyed a cookout and just hangin’ with each other.
This is the one year anniversary of a wedding I performed for Oscar and Nicole.
Marianne and I hosted the wedding in our home, and they are part of the fellowship that meets there.
I was very sick at the time, and had to have a stool beside me just in case I felt weak and needed to perform the ceremony sitting down. But I made it through on my own two feet and it was a great time of celebration!
This was a highlight of ministry for me. Oscar and Nicole mean a lot to Marianne and me, and are evidence of how God delights in redeeming lives.
Here’s more of the story…
Christians seek God’s forgiveness – not to remove some block in His heart, but to release a block in our heart.
Today is our wedding anniversary.
Our marriage is a testimony to the greatest gift two people can give each other: The ability to love, and be loved.
Finding Freedom in a Prison Cell, by Marty Friedman
This is a wonderful story of redemption. Marty Friedman came to the Lord in jail, and for two years was part of a fellowship we helped start in the housing unit where he lived. He became a leader in that fellowship, where he profoundly impacted many, many lives. Now that he’s out, I am privileged to call him my friend.
BTW, I’m not sure about that reference to me as his “Sunday pastor”.
Marty, we gotta talk about that…
Critique of the Center Church by Tim Keller [Part 3], by Neil Cole
I like Tim Keller’s books. We even went to the same seminary and share many similar influences. But Neil Cole provides a needed critique on Keller’s latest book, which views churches as institutions.