Nearly a year has passed since I’ve been with the very first fellowship I helped start here in Virginia. I’ve missed them dearly.
Last night I got to be with them, share some stories of their beginnings, and convey a sense of God’s special pleasure and love towards them.
We all laughed and listened and talked – and there was life.
Confronting the Error of Hyper-Grace, by Michael Brown:
“The biblical message of grace is wonderful, glorious and life-transforming. We can’t live without it for one second of our lives. But there is a message being preached today in the name of a new grace reformation, mixing powerful truth with dangerous error. I call it hyper-grace…”
The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness…Gal 5:22 NIV
Kindness is extending God’s grace to an often unpleasant situation. Many times the easier road to follow is one of impatience, sarcasm, criticism or being judgmental.
For myself, I often need to stop and make the choice to respond with kindness.
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.
When “Intimacy with the Lord” Goes Bad is a must-read blog by Steve Crosby.
In the past, I was concerned with some of Steve’s blogs because they seemed to dance right up to the line with some of the “half grace” doctrines and existential nonsense going around these days.
With this blog, however, all’s forgiven! It strikes just the right balance between “being” and “doing”, which I’ve also tried to achieve in some of my own past blogs. But unlike me, he avoids obscure, big sounding words. 😉
Plus, I love his swamp analogy – especially since I often use it myself when I teach!
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.
In our fellowships, we literally embrace those struggling with sexual identity, as well as other life controlling issues. We affirm our common humanity in the Lord, while showing grace in our common journey towards healing and wholeness in Christ.
Read this blog by Sam Allberry, on How Can the Gospel be Good News for Gays, for a vitally missing perspective.
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.
This last year has been marked by very painful and difficult health issues. Through it all, however, I’ve been grateful for what the Lord has done for me even as I struggle with the sorrow of diminished capacity.
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.
In our fellowships, grace is real, raw and unmerited.
But we also understand that although grace is freely given, it costs everything to accept – because when it is authentically received, we then take up our cross as we die to self and follow Him.
Real people want real answers and real freedom from real issues – not just the tidy platitudes of half truths.
Maybe that’s what has shaped my strong reaction to hyper grace, which is really half grace: It cannot offer real freedom from real issues because it seeks the grace of God’s affirming love and presence, but not the grace of His transforming truth and rule.
Many Christians have lost their way by embracing “hyper grace”, which is really half grace – it robs them of the power to become mature disciples and the confidence needed to go forth as ambassador’s of God’s full grace.
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.
Contentment can be an elusive state. For me, my contentment usually ebbs and flows. I believe that contentment is a choice. In contrast, peace is a gift from God.
Jesus died on the cross because He accepted me, wholly and completely, just as I am…
So I could die to myself in order to accept Him, wholly and completely, just as He is.
This the true Gospel: Accepting me as I am cost Jesus His life, and accepting Him as He is costs me my life in return.
The mystery of the cross is that we die with Him to find new life in Him – but only on His terms.
Yet if you look at social media sites like Facebook, it seems that many Christians only know a Doobie Brothers’ Gospel.
Don’t confuse God’s love and grace with His delight.
You can have the former, which is unmerited, but still miss the latter, which comes from doing His will and obeying His commands.
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.
I figure that if half of the folks reading my blog say “amen!”, and the other half say “oh my!”, then I’m right where God wants me.
The consternation and angst – in blogs, Facebook comments, podcasts and the like – generated by this series have convinced me that what I said needed saying.
My point is simple, and 100% Biblical:
I go, do and obey because of who I am in Christ. It is His life in me, expressed through me.
But here’s the kicker: If I do not “do”or obey as Christ commands, then the life of Christ in me is a lie – at least in those areas where I choose to disobey or stay trapped in my own sensibilities.
This is a fifty-five minute teaching I shared with about thirty men, based on hundreds of pastoral counseling sessions where God showed up and brought freedom and healing from deep hurts – including abuse, abandonment and so much more.
My blog is a feeble attempt to upload a lifetime of service to the King of Kings. I believe this audio teaching, however, captures better than anything I’ve written some of the most significant things I’ve learned as I’ve walked with folks to those ugly places of bondage and hurt in their lives. When we get there, and they exposed their hurts and lies to the Lord, He brings His loving, healing truth.
In this talk, I also share some of my own very personal story about my own places of hurt, which I had to expose to Lord so He could then bring wholeness to me.
You may think you know me from my writings, but this captures my heart in ways that a written blog never can.
If this resonates with you, I also recommend my related blog, God Shows Up.
This scene from Chariots of Fire helped define my life when I saw it as a young man in 1981.
In it, Olympic runner Eric Liddell explained what motivated him: “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.”
What a wonderful way to feel, know and experience the Lord and His purpose.
Most of my life has been guided by the sense of His pleasure as I’ve been the man He created me to be and done the things He created me to do. Even when there’s been adversity, I have felt His pleasure as I serve the King of Kings with whatever gifts He’s given me.
There is no greater joy, no greater fulfillment, no greater purpose.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uwyltmUR3MU%5D
We all tend to put God in a box bounded by our own biases, giftings and sensibilities.
I do it. You do it. We all relate to Jesus within the confines of our own God-given (and sometimes not so God-given) attributes. And we all tend to think our own box defines, or should define, the totality of life, reality and even Jesus Himself.
Maturity, however, is recognizing and affirming Christ – often in others (including their warts and shortcomings) – outside our box.
Two weeks ago I was accepted into a NIH Phase II clinical trial which is evaluating two drugs for treating pulmonary fibrosis in scleroderma patients.
That I was accepted is a miracle because my lung function was just below their minimum. It’s a double blind study, so I don’t know which of the two drugs I’m taking (either cytoxan or cellcept), but they are both really strong, serious medications that typically have significant side effects.
My close community of brothers and sisters here in Virginia, and others, have been lifting me up in wonderful prayer. It has been mature prayer, not desperate prayer, rooted in making our requests known but also being at peace in God’s ultimate grace and sovereignty.
As my close friends know, for the last seven years I’ve been dealing with a rare autoimmune condition called scleroderma (also known as systemic sclerosis).
Recent medical tests indicate that it is now impairing my lungs. This is a progressively debilitating and likely fatal development, and there is no known cure. I was not surprised by the latest test results, as I’ve been feeling my health deteriorate more rapidly over the last several months.
I’m posting this to be transparent and so none of my friends feel blindsided. I am totally open about what’s happening, and not bashful over it, so don’t feel you have to ignore it when you’re around me. If you have questions or want to just talk about it, feel free!
However, I also do not want it to define me. My life has been, and will continue to be, about so much more than this disease!