Posts Tagged 'Grace'

Just As I Am

By drewFebruary 14th, 2012Blog, Marriage/Family, Mission/Justice, The Church, WorshipNo Comments
Cline-12-3

Twenty years ago I met a beautiful girl in college.  She was a leader, smart and funny, in love with Jesus, and I loved being around her. We became great friends and then decided to take our relationship to the next level.  As we began to date, our conversations deepened and we began to discuss dreams and plans for the future. I remember the night we were driving somewhere and she began to tell me what she was hoping for in husband.  I wasn’t looking to get married at 18 but she was the kind of girl that definitely made me start thinking about it. I was on my best behavior and tried to come across like I had it all together and hoped that in some way I could impress her.  She shared what she had been hoping, even praying for in the man of her future.  She shared her desire that he be a passionate believer in Jesus, someone who could make her laugh, someone driven to succeed and become all that God wanted him to be. Up to this point, I was holding my own, I felt like I had a chance with this amazing girl. Then she added one last criteria, one last prerequisite. “I want him to be pure – to be a virgin”.  My heart dropped from what seemed to be the highest cliff in my chest and I’m sure my countenance changed.  I realized in that one split second I had been disqualified from the race to win her heart, that I might as well quit hoping and trying for a deeper friendship with her because I was not a virgin – not pure.  I began to cry.  She knew in that second that her desire for something more in a man wouldn’t be found in me.  I felt all the shame and guilt of my sin compounding in that moment. Now I hadn’t only disappointed and failed God, I had failed in my life and my future.  I felt with a stinging reality, a painful consequence of the “lusts of my youth”.  She began to cry. What had seemed like a beautifully charged moment of hope and destiny became a brutal awareness of the brokenness of sin. I don’t remember the exact conversation that followed but I do remember that at some point, she lowered her expectations and offered me grace. In the most real way I had ever experienced, I felt grace, undeserved favor – forgiveness.  That wasn’t the only time I disappointed that girl, and not the last time she offered me grace.  She’s been a beautiful, real, tangible reminder of God’s grace in my life.  She’s not perfect, and so I’ve had the privilege of returning the favor at times.  She has however taught me so much about how God loves me in spite of me, that even though I couldn’t measure up to His standards, God’s expectations and prerequisites were met in the holy, sinless life of Jesus. Jesus extended to me, through His sacrifice, a chance to have value, to be accepted, to be apart of His family. My sin disqualified me from a relationship with God, but Jesus applied His sacrifice to my life and I was accepted, given undeserved favor – forgiven.

Have you been so busy in your “work” for God that you’ve forgotten that moment His grace was traded for your sin? It’s easy to forget who we were, what we’ve done, or who we can be in our sinfulness. Let’s make time to worship this heroic friend that has made a way for us, whose grace is sufficient for all of us, whose love has accepted and justified us (just as if I had never sinned).

That girl became my wife nearly 18 years ago, and we now have two beautiful daughters who are teaching us new lessons on grace and mercy. We continue to be undone by God’s love and kindness for us and seek to model His grace for each other and those around us.

Rom. 5:8 (MSG)

“But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him.”

“This is that mystery which is rich in divine grace to sinners: wherein by a wonderful exchange our sins are no longer ours but Christ’s, and the righteousness of Christ not Christ’s but ours. He has emptied himself of his righteousness that he might clothe us with it and fill us with it; and he has taken our evils upon himself that he might deliver us from them.”    – Martin Luther

For more study on this topic:

I Jn. 1:9 / Matt. 11:28 / Rom. 5:20 / 2Cor. 4:16 / 2Cor. 13:14 / 1Tim. 1:12

* Photo by Matt Britton

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Contagion

By drewJanuary 25th, 2012Blog, Leadership, Mission/Justice, The Church, WorshipNo Comments

“This cup is the new covenant written in my blood, blood poured out for you.”

Luke 22:20 (MSG)

I recently watched a movie called Contagion.  It was pretty much a horror flick. Not in the classic sense set in a campground or on Halloween, and there were no monsters or crazy creatures – “only” a disease. What made it so scary weren’t visual effects or crazy costumes and make up design. It was the fact that the plot of this story could actually happen in real life.  The “monster” as it were, was a highly contagious disease contracted through the air and by touch.  Every angle and colorization of this film made you feel infected.  I found myself washing my hands excessively for days after this movie. Between that film and a recent stomach bug my family endured, I’ve thought a lot about germs, infection, cleanliness and cures.  If you’ve ever suffered through a bad flu or virus of some kind you know what I’m talking about. As the parent of two little girls both under 5, my wife and I are cleaning, disinfecting and gagging quite a bit.

I watched this movie with a parallel in mind. I couldn’t help but think about the disease you and I are both victims of. In fact, every human being contracted this illness from our mother and father – our original mother and father, Adam and Eve. Eden must have been an amazing place, no concerns, no illness, no fear, and only one rule. Adam and Eve disobey God, breaking that rule, and in the time it takes to compromise and bite into a temptation, they become sick, they feel confused, ashamed, and aware of their need to be covered. They were infected with Sin, this wasn’t the first case of the outbreak, it originated in Heaven. Lucifer sinned in his heart against God and suffered the consequence of being cast out of Heaven to later show up in our story as the influencer, the “pusher” of this forbidden fruit.  Since then the disease has been passed down in our very DNA. It is a part of the human condition. Our diagnosis is even scarier than that of the disease in Contagion because it’s not a matter of if we’ll get it or when, but that we’ve had it from even before we were born and the consequences are that of eternal death not just this temporal one. We didn’t contract it through germs or a bad meal. Instead, it’s lurking within us and affects everything we do and everything we are. We work to “disinfect” our lives, and think if we’ll follow certain rules we won’t meet the same fate as that of our disobedient ancestors.  In hopeful moments of the awareness for our own need to be covered, God in His grace shows us that there’s nothing we can do to fix the problem.  No ritual or work, no meds or therapy will reverse our eternally terminal illness. But He made a way, provided a cure and offers us life instead of our certain death without Him. That vaccine, that remedy, is the blood and sacrifice of Jesus. Nothing else will do, nothing but the blood of Jesus. Do you have the vaccine? Are you working towards the rescue of those who don’t know of this cure? Let’s tell the world of this breaking news, this antidote!

What can wash away my sins?

Nothing but the blood of Jesus

What can make me whole again?

Nothing but the blood of Jesus

For Further Study on this topic:

Matt 26:26 / Rom. 5:9 / Eph. 1:7 / Eph. 4:14 / Col. 1:18 / Heb. 9:11 / Heb 10:19 / Ps. 51 / Is 64:4

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Good To Grace

By drewDecember 13th, 2010Blog, Leadership, Marriage/Family, Mission/Justice, Worship3 Comments
Good To Grace pic

I’m an entrepreneur at heart.  I’ve been around business quite a bit and admired those who have succeeded at it.  I’ve racked my brain at times trying to think of the next “Facebook” or “Walmart” and though I’ve come up with some ideas, nothing ever seems to be significant enough for me to find the will or drive to just make money.  I’ve blamed it on lack of business savvy or right opportunity, but the reality is, that though I have an entrepreneurial spirit, God has set me apart to be a leader in the church, to rethink systems and motives and strategies, sometimes to simplify, sometimes to build structure, but one thing is for sure – the church is not a business, we shouldn’t lead it like one!

I love learning about leadership and being mentored by great men and women whether personally or through books but something that seems a common mistake of late is that pastors or church leaders can sometimes confuse the mission of the church, or how they lead the church, with that of some business or leadership book.  They are NOT the same.  I do believe, with all my heart, that we can glean and learn from great books not specifically written for the ecclesiastical application but we must be careful to not be misled about how to lovingly lead this bride of Christ, one book is sufficient for that, it’s His word.  As pastors we must remain accountable to godly counsel and healthy debate so that our agendas and sinful nature don’t wander into the family God has placed us in responsibility of.

The business book “Good To Great” by Jim Collins, is a great book about leadership, business, winning, and excelling in competition, standing out among so many other businesses or organizations.  There are some amazing nuggets of wisdom for church leaders in this book like this one:

“If we allow the celebrity rock-star model of leadership to triumph, we will see the decline of corporations and institutions of all types. The twentieth century was a century of greatness, but we face the very real prospect that the next century will see very few enduring great institutions.” – Jim Collins (Good To Great)

This is a great quote for church leaders to be reminded that Jesus is the Chief Elder according to scripture, that this position of leadership is not for us or about us and we should be militant to fight the desire within us to surround ourselves with people who only agree with us. Instead, we’re called to serve and model this life in Christ.  Proverbs 27:17 says that “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” If you’ve ever seen this sharpening process you would agree that it’s not a quiet or uneventful one, but that the sparks fly and that it takes great heat and pressure to turn ordinary iron into that of a beautiful, functioning tool.  In the same way, if you as a church leader never see sparks fly or the heat turned up in loving discussion, then you will remain a safe, protected, useless lump of metal.  Be intentional to surround yourself with people who have a different world view than you, different approach to life or ministry.  Their input for your leadership will be invaluable. If they are loving in their approach and kind in their debate, yet truthful and honest, you can trust that what they’re saying is real, and being said to better and strengthen, not tear down or hurt.

(Prov. 27:6)

Pastors, have you created a culture where your input is valued more than the rest, or have you sought to lead through serving, offering your opinion as one of many, seeking God’s agenda and not your own?  If you’re serving more than being served and listening more than you speak, than you’re on the right track to lead as Jesus did.

“Good To Great” talks about ‘level 5 leaders’, these are people with an “unwavering will and commitment to do what is necessary to drive the organization to the top”.

That’s a fine and right approach for business but how does that translate for the church? I know a lot of pastors that would translate it to ‘unwavering will to serve the church over our own relationships in Christ or devotion to our families, driving the organization ‘to the top’ while driving our souls in the opposite direction. Is it the Kingdom way to shoot for the top? And what is the top in church leadership?  Have we really looked at our motives as church leaders recently?  This is where the agenda of “Good To Great” gets quite screwy when applied to the stewardship of the family of God. 

One of the most recognizable theories from “Good To Great” is the one about making sure you have the right team.

“Get the right people on the bus – that has to happen before the “what” decisions are taken. That can change if you have the right people, but the wrong people will certainly make the enterprise fail.” – Jim Collins (Good To Great)

I agree with Collins that you have to have the right group of people serving with you to accomplish your goals, and think his idea here is best if you’re building a team from the ground up.  However, once you’ve built that team or if you’ve found yourself coming into an existing team, this theory has to be tweaked a bit. You’re now called as a leader of a church to love and care for people, for their hearts, and for their families.  These are not just “seats on a bus” but family, each of them children of God with a unique design and imprint from the Spirit of God.  How you care for them or mistreat them shows more about the condition of your heart than what your words may so eloquently portray. We are called to love, to communicate clearly, and to lead with grace over greatness.  Matthew 18 is known well for Jesus’ directive to approach someone in sin but interestingly enough the chapter begins with the disciples arguing over who is the greatest among them. Not unlike what so many churches seem to be doing competing with each other in buildings, budgets and programs, instead of investing in people, making disciples and loving the least.  Jesus, pulls a child to His side and reminds the followers of the simplicity of the Kingdom of God and the warning to all leaders to keep our priorities straight, not misleading the body by doing all we can, to go from good to great.  Obviously I’m not saying that we can’t learn from this and other business books on leadership, but more that when our decisions begin to take on the strategy of Collins instead of the character of Christ, we’ve begun to be misled, all the while misleading those who follow us.  That seems to be the progression for many churches today. Working so hard to grow in number or to come across so perfect in performance that they’ve not only lost heart but the priority to be about changing them, developing them or caring for them.

Another lesson from Matthew 18 can teach us so much about the heart of God and practice of a great pastor.

Vs 10-14

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven. “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? and if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.

Does reading this change how you think God feels about your “seat on a bus”?  Obviously we as leaders have to assemble, manage and care for those on our teams but more so, we are called of God to treat them as family, with grace and a tenacity to love them in their coming in or their going out.

The Greek word for church is Ekklesia.  It is most closely translated family of God, not organization, not business, not board, committee, or denomination.  It’s time we as leaders, lead more like fathers not presidents, more like brothers not CEO’s.  In a family every one has a voice that is valued and though we sometimes drive each other crazy, we can’t run away from tension, we learn to navigate in the struggle and love with humility, forgiving seventy times seven, serving more than securing and trusting our chief pastor Jesus to shape us into something useable and beautiful together.

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Don’t Hide, Be Hidden

By drewSeptember 3rd, 2010Blog, Featured, Marriage/FamilyNo Comments
Pic-Don't Hide

When I was a little guy, I remember getting in trouble with my parents and running to my room and hiding in the closet.  It’s not like that was the safe haven where no discipline would find me.  In fact, it was usually the place my father would find a trusty belt to remind me of why it’s good to be obedient.  The truth is, it’s in our heritage to hide.  When we’ve truly screwed up and know it, it’s only “natural” to want to remove yourself from the situation and run to some dark place where the consequences of that action hopefully won’t follow.  Unfortunately, they always do.  I say it’s in our history because even in the garden, Adam and Eve sinned, heard God walking and calling out to them and then they hid. I think the cause of this desire to run and hide is shame.  Shame, by definition is, a negative emotion that combines feelings of dishonor, unworthiness, and embarrassment.  Even at a very young age when we’re disobedient we know that our action will most likely bring some act of discipline and that’s the part we hate.  We don’t mind the sin so much, it’s more the consequences that cause us to find the nearest closet.

As we grow older the closet seems to lose it’s ability to cover and protect us and we find new places to hide.  As adults it’s easier for us to hide emotionally, to detach ourselves from the reality of our situation or sin and hide in destructive places. For men, we often retreat to the shelter of our Lazyboy, a good game on television, our work, or worse the internet.  Women can hide from reality with a good romance novel, shopping spree, or soap opera.  Our families and friends can still see us and we may even fool them enough in our churches that they think we’re doing just fine, but often our true hearts are lonely, afraid and hidden in the closet of some dark addiction instead of the transparent solace of our Father’s arms.

Psalm 139:22-24 says “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”  To make this your prayer, you’ve got to be ready to be undone, floored by God’s grace, to be completely open to His Spirit and willing to allow Him to purge you of every wrong thing.  As a worshiper, your heart should be seeking God, asking Him to look deep into the reality of who you are, to draw you out of your hiding places into His marvelous light. Know however, the wonderful irony of God is that we don’t have to hide from God when we feel guilty or shameful, but instead let Him be our hiding place.  Let His grace be the first place we run to, not from.  Our nature is to run away from God when we’ve sinned, but through Christ, God has given us a new life and a new direction.  We may now find our hiding place in God and come boldly before Him.

What exactly in your life are you hiding from God, from your spouse, or from the truth of scripture.  There is healing, and hope and help if we’ll just not run away from God to hide but instead, to hide in the shadow of His wing.  Don’t hide, be hidden.

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