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.
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.
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…
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…
A rap/poem by a brother in fellowship in the local jail, who is learning to become the man God created him to be.
When I reached out
You took me in
When there wasn’t a soul in sight
And all I saw was you
You took me in
Dusted me off
Cleaned me up
Asked me if I’d yet had enough?
Knew about my past
Had been there through the struggles
Said you’d carry my burdens
If I’d give you my troubles
I grabbed to my shirt
Expressed a cold smirk
Yeah I’d heard that before
Seems never to work
I have learned that God sometimes lets us walk through things that others could not bear, in order to buy a grace they will not fathom – yet because of it, the world around us is forever changed.
This blog by Kelly Clark embodies that kind of grace.
Marianne and I have the greatest privilege in the world. God allows us to introduce Him to those who have reached the end of themselves, and then allows us to walk with them towards healing and wholeness.
We have the privilege of then seeing those who some consider the discards of society grow in the Lord to become mighty men and women in His Kingdom.
But the highest privilege of all is this: To call them friends.
This is the story of so many when we first met. Listen, and may the Lord move your heart to compassion.
I don’t know about you, but the Lord sometimes loves me enough to nearly kill me. And I’m not talking metaphorically.
In fact, for those who have given our lives to Him, the Lord loves us so much that some day He literally will take our lives so He then can give us eternity.
Short of death, however, the Lord sometimes kills something important to us or in us – some vision, some hope, some confidence, some quality or attribute, some accomplishment, or even something good He previously gave us.
It’s not that the thing He kills necessarily is wrong. It’s just that it needs to die so we then are free to be and do whatever He wants of us, and for us, as we move forward in Him.
As Job understood, in the midst of everything good in his life being stripped away, “Though you slay me, will I trust you Lord.” Job 13:15.
On Christmas eve, Marianne and I spent time with about thirty brothers in the jail. During our time of fellowship, one of the men read the poem below. Here’s the story behind the poem, then the poem….
Earlier in December, I had shared with those men how our journey in the Lord is like Israel’s journey from slavery in Egypt, through the desert, and then into the promise land.
God takes us out of the bondage of Egypt, but then uses the wilderness to burn Egypt out of us.
In the wilderness, God prepares us to take possession of the promise land – that place where we are able to own and responsibly manage the things He has created us to both be and do.
Marianne and I have never recommended a movie on our blog, but yesterday we went on a date and saw the new movie, Les Miserables.
Twenty or so years ago I saw the Broadway play in New York, and it was powerful. But the movie is … amazing.
I was hesitant to go to the movie, because I expected the original Christian themes of redemptive grace and forgiveness in Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel to be watered down, if not eliminated. After all, that’s the way of Hollywood. They take culture created by Christians and bastardize it.
Hyper grace teachers deny the need for confession and forgiveness in the life of a believer. What they fail to understand, though, is that confession and forgiveness for a believer are NOT about obtaining justification, but about obtaining wholeness.
Words have the power to not only define, but to create reality – for good or for bad. Too often, we forget the power of words: not only ours, but of God Himself.
I don’t think it was a coincidence that God spoke the universe into existence, chose to reveal Himself through His spoken Word of scripture, or came to dwell among us as the Word made flesh.
I also don’t think it is a coincidence that God still speaks to us today, or that He has empowered us to speak authoritatively on His behalf.
Rob Moley, in his blog Restore the Word, wrote yesterday on “The Great Commission: Discipling Individuals or Nations?”.
In it, he says this about the Great Commission:
Rather than being a command to influence nations with the principles and truths of God’s kingdom, the logic of the command in Matt. 28:19-20 is to make disciples from every nation. Then, as ambassadors of God’s kingdom, these disciples are able to influence all aspects of society, and God willing, even disciple whole nations.
His point is that the Great Commission is about transforming individuals into disciples who obey all that Christ commands, who in turn transform the world around them.
This picture has great significance for me. It is from one of our fellowships – this one meets in my home on Sundays.
Yesterday, as we gathered together, we prayed and give prophetic words of encouragement over Oscar, a close friend who is moving forward with his road-side pit barbeque business by signing a contract to have a mobile food service trailer built for him (Oscar’s Barbeque). He has worked faithfully towards this moment – as unto the Lord – for two years.
I’ve watched and walked with Oscar as he’s progressed over time, step by step, in growing, proving and succeeding in his business model as part of God’s call on his life.
You tell me how in Christ love is everything.
How it transcends morality, truth and even scripture itself…
How if we just expressed your concept of love, the world will beat a path to Jesus…
Yet you recoil at basic truth, like the reality of sin and moral precepts.
And you reject much that God has revealed in His Word to help us understand His own nature and thus the parameters of authentic love – for the good not just of individuals, but whole societies.
Somehow, you have been deceived into thinking that authentic love is freedom from truth, when actually it is truth set free.
This afternoon, Marianne and I are hosting an outdoor wedding by our pool for a couple in one of our fellowships.
One of my greatest delights is seeing God redeem lives, and being part of that process – especially when it comes to performing weddings for men I’ve mentored in the Lord.
The groom is someone I got to know while he was in jail, where I helped introduce him to Jesus. Since his release several years ago, I’ve had the privilege of continuing to walk with him as he’s learned to let the Lord put his life back together.
There were some hard stretches, like when he ended up living in the woods, homeless, for several months while God burned some unhealthy attitudes out of him. Some would have rushed out in “mercy” to save him from that fate, but I knew that it was what the Lord wanted. So rather than “save” him from being homeless, I drove him to the store to pick out a tarp for his tent, then dropped him off at the homeless “community” behind the local K-Mart.
Rather than run from what the Lord was doing in his life, he manned up to his issues and let God do His sovereign work of transformation. I was privileged to be there for him as an older brother in the faith, and to help him during that difficult time go to those places in his life where he finally got real and allowed the Lord to bring healing.
Since then, he’s been on a fascinating journey as he’s been developing his own successful business. I’ve had the privilege of helping as a trusted counselor, based on my own entrepreneurial background. In fact, he was the subject of a TV program that was broadcast last year on several local stations about some of what we do in our fellowships to mentor folks – including business.
Since then, he has grown greatly in the Lord and is one of those brothers who is always there when someone needs help.
God delights in bringing beauty from ashes. Today, we celebrate yet another step in yet another man’s journey as he continues to grow in the authentic life in Christ – along with is wonderful bride.
As I perform the wedding, I will share about what marriage is about – as God created and ordained it. As we see the institution of marriage assaulted on all sides, maybe we need to re-affirm these principles.
So here’s part of my “pastoral” charge for the new couple:
“In Genesis 1, Scripture tells us that God created humanity in His likeness and image. I believe He did this by putting His essentially masculine qualities into men, and putting those aspects of His nature that are more feminine, into women. That’s why, I believe, the Bible says He created us as male and female.
“He then ordained the institution of marriage, which represents the coming together of those masculine and feminine qualities so that we, in marriage, can reflect the completeness of His own nature – in unity of purpose, in the security of lifelong fidelity, and in the bonds of joyful, sacrificial love.
“The challenge, and the delight, of marriage is learning to honor and esteem those essential differences that we possess as husband and wife …”
To Oscar and Nicole, may the Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious unto you.
May the Lord turn His countenance upon you and give you peace.
Yesterday’s wedding of Oscar and Nicole was one of the most amazingly joyous celebrations we’ve ever had the pleasure of hosting at our house. Life was breaking out all over. And the dancing as awesome.
Marianne and I want to thank everyone who came for your help. It was the Body of Christ – and community – in all it’s glory.
The way everyone pitched in, especially when we had to figure out at the last hour how to move everything indoors due to the rain, was a blessing beyond measure. We totally enjoyed ourselves – which is something hosts can’t often say.
Here’s a couple of pictures. We Christian’s sure know how to have some fun!
I’ve heard privately from some who were offended with my use of “lazy-assed” in my blog, I Want More Religion (Part 1).
In my own defense, I was going to say “stinkin’ white-washed sepulchres” and use a whip to toss some tables, but I thought I’d tone it down and used “lazy-assed” instead.
Seriously, if we don’t get out of this post-modern, introspective, insular, Jesus-is-all-about-affirming-my-own-sensibilities funk, then there is no hope of redemption and wholeness – for ourselves, for those He calls us to tangibly love and bless with real deeds, or for our culture.
My wife, Marianne, wrote this. Where I am vision and logic, she is feeling and heart. The Lord speaks to us in very different ways, and we have learned to passionately value those differences.
Anyway, I think this was for both of us, and maybe it will speak to you too as the first of hopefully many devotionals from her.
As I was in the midst of an intense struggle over some situations in my life, the Lord spoke to my spirit: “Acceptance with joy.”
I responded, “Lord, I don’t even know what it is that I am to accept, but whatever it is, there certainly is no joy.”
For me, it became pray, pray, pray: I cried my heart out in hopes that somehow He would let me see what He wanted.
With me, the Lord speaks in pictures, and the picture He showed me was not encouraging.
Often, longstanding hurts, disappointments and emotional wounds are like old, familiar friends. We let them become so engrained into our sense of identity that they begin to define us.
When that happens, we often aren’t willing to transparently expose and turn them them over to Jesus, but tightly hold onto them like a child clinging to a security blanket.
Instead of finding transformation and wholeness, we become our past.
If this is a struggle for you or someone you know, let me suggest an old blog I wrote years ago called God Shows Up. It’s a good starting point on the road to healing.