We have all heard the expression “hanging on by a thread.” Did you ever stop to think about what it might mean to be “hanging on by a thread”?
Is there still no room at the inn?
It’s not too late: Invite to your time of Christmas family sharing, or to your Christmas meal, that man or woman who recently was released from prison, or that person who has no family in your area and is alone, or someone who is destitute and living in the woods near your home (trust me, they are there).
You and your family will bless them, and be blessed, more than you can ever imagine.
If you don’t know anyone to invite, call your local homeless shelter or battered women’s shelter. Ask for the staff person on duty. Tell him/her you want to invite someone to join your family Christmas morning, or to share a Christmas meal at your home.
Let them know if you are interested in inviting a family, or maybe just an individual or two, and ask for their recommendation. They will know the residents, and will do a good job introducing you to an appropriate person or family.
Some of my most enduring friendships have come from reaching outside my comfort zone to those who are destitute, abandoned, imprisoned or just plain alone. It will change you far more than them.
And please, don’t try to “fix” them – just be a friend. The rest just sort of follows naturally – including them fixing you as you open your heart and your life to those who you previously treated as “other” or only “helped” through impersonal “programs”.
Take a chance. Open your home and your lives to embrace the Joseph’s and Mary’s of our age.
This is true church. This is true religion. This is true grace.
For the religious, the road to grace is the toughest journey they’ll ever face.
For me, this certainly has been the case. And although the road to grace has been a wonderful journey, there have been many bumps and detours along the way. But slowly, I’m finally starting to find my way forward.
It’s Jesus in me and Jesus through me, so that it becomes possible to have Jesus in us and Jesus through us.
So much of my life over the last five years has been about the Lord reducing me to that simple truth.
This made me weep.
“Judgement looms under every steeple,
with lofty glances from lofty people.”
Since early this year, I’ve been working on a huge sex abuse case involving a large, local Assembly of God church.
The human carnage and shattered lives have been great.
I take on these kinds of cases not only because I believe in justice, but because I also believe in redemption. Often, I have the privilege of seeing God’s grace shine through as healing comes and the survivors begin to find the strength to reclaim their lives – and their stolen voices.
As I interview and get to know various survivors and their families, I’m often asked if the pain will ever stop. I tell them how I have seen God bring beauty from ashes time and again, both in others and in my own life.
It is hard, but once we pass through the fire and begin to see what God does with the ashes of our lives, we experience gratitude for who we start to become.
There is something in the prophetic personality that loves the thunder, the lightning and the storm.
I get a kick out of standing outside and watching the dark, billowing clouds roll in. We feel God’s majesty in turmoil, and know that He often uproots before He establishes.
I think we feel His mercy more deeply, but also differently. Because our personalities are especially attuned to His power and redemptive judgment, we more fully appreciate His grace.
That’s why we embrace the oppressed and battle tyrants, while relishing the storm.
This PowerPoint presentation looks at the seven gifts listed in Romans 12, and the motivations and ways that different people use those differing gifts. More significantly, what is the resulting fruit when your church allows those seven gifts to be fully expressed in its structure, ministries, leadership, meetings and day-to-day fellowship?
Today I marry a woman whom I love more deeply than I ever thought possible.
The possibility of spending my life with someone who can love and receive love seemed impossible. But the Lord shows mercy to those who trust Him, by turning evil to good and creating beauty from ashes.
To love someone who in turn is able to truly love and truly be loved is a wonderful gift.
My joy and my gratitude are unbounded.
I am friends with and minister to men and women who most people, and many churches, shun (except for arms-length “programs”, if even that). Pick a vice – any vice – and I’ve likely come beside and embraced those in bondage to it: former drug addicts, narc dealers, sex offenders, embezzlers, thieves, gender benders, Satanic ritual abusers and even murderers.
Because I’ve been willing to see past the sin and accept the common humanity we all share – not as one who is perfect but as a someone willing to walk with them as we sort out our individual imperfections together under God’s mercy and grace – some of these folk are now following the Lord.
I love such people, because daily I see how God creates beauty out of their ashes.
I am blessed, because I serve a God who, above all, creates. He takes destruction – what has become void and without form, in the words of Genesis 1 – and brings wonder and life and order. . .
. . . and He delights most of all, I’ve found, in redeeming lives that many think are beyond hope.
Of the seven spiritual gifts listed in Romans 12, the last – but, I believe, the greatest yet least appreciated and most abused – is mercy.
As I watch and sense what God is doing with an emerging new spiritual generation, I see that their dominant characteristic is mercy. I also have begun to realize that God wants to use “mercies” (those with the primary spiritual gift of mercy) as catalysts to unleash additional gifts in others. That, in turn, will bring this rising generation to new pastures where God wants to dwell among us.
This doesn’t mean everyone in this new spiritual generation has mercy as their dominant individual spiritual gift. But as a whole, they nonetheless seem to collectively exhibit the main motivations of mercy – which are a deep, personal craving for the presence of God and for genuine intimacy with others.
As a result, this rising generation has little interest or patience with the moral and cultural wars of my generation, or with our prevailing hypocrisy as we tried to fix everyone else but failed to exhibit God’s presence in our own lives. Nor can they understand the focus on programs and institutions – with a resulting lack of authentic community – among older Christians.
Each of us is born with a personality that’s uniquely tailored to what God created us to do with our lives.
Understanding God’s calling and the associated personality He’s gifted us with is not difficult: Our passions correspond to our gifts, and we are gifted in what we are called to do. Furthermore, when we use our gifts and fulfill our calling according to God’s will, we feel His pleasure – in addition to our own.
There’s a problem, however, when our validation comes from using our gifts or pursing our calling, instead of pleasing God. Rather than being content with God saying “well done, thou good and faithful servant,” we seek legitimacy in who we are, what we do, how others react to us, or in the results of our actions. Such validation comes from and is focused on us, rather than God.