Category "Life With God"

500 Backpacks

Last night, 50 people from Fairwood Church went to World Vision’s distribution center to stuff 500 backpacks with school supplies.

It took us 2 hours.

The work party was super fun.

Can’t wait for the Great Big Backpack Giveaway on Saturday, August 28!

Decapolis Changed

Harry was a hot mess – like a squirrel on meth. He was stressed out, messed-up and disturbed.

He lived in the cemetery. Harry ran around like a madman screaming and howling. He cut himself. And here’s the real kicker… he was naked.

Harry wasn’t a healthy, contributing member of society. He was a menace, a freak-show and a nuisance.

Then one day, Jesus shows up and changes Harry’s life forever.

Harry was healed, delivered, set free… he was a new man!

When Jesus set Harry free, the demons who had been tormenting Harry went into a herd of pigs…

Pigs go crazy.

Freaky scene.

Ear-shattering oinking and squealing.

Herd jumps off a cliff.

Mass pig suicide.

Angry pig farmers demand Jesus get out of town.

Harry begs Jesus to let him leave with him.

Jesus says, “Go home to your own people. Tell them your story – what the Master did, how he had mercy on you.”
(Mark 5.19 MSG)

Harry obeyed. He started preaching in the Decapolis (the 10 cities of that region), telling everyone what Jesus had done for him.

He was the talk of the town.

Fast forward – a few chapters later in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus returns to the Decapolis.

This time, the people are happy to see Him. They bring the sick to him – confident that he will heal them.

Jesus heals the sick. The people are beside themselves with enthusiasm.

Gushing with praise, they say: “Everything he does is wonderful.” (Mark 7.37 NLT).

Decapolis changed.

The attitude of the 10 city region was different this time.

The testimony of one man made a difference. The people could see that his life had genuinely been changed.

Harry experienced God’s grace and was forever changed (that’s what grace does – it changes things).

Harry the scary cemetery dweller somehow transforms into Harry the happy testimony sharing machine.

Think of the impact Harry had on the Decapolis: this crazed madman suddenly becomes a nice, normal, healthy, fully-clothed difference-maker in that 10 city region!

Harry had a terrible reputation, but grace changed him.

Grace makes all the difference in people’s lives…

and when people change, the Decapolis changes.

Happy Zach Pays Back

Zach was a white collar crook.

He used his influential position as chief tax collector to take extra money from hard working citizens who were struggling to pay their own bills.

Zach had grown very rich – yet he was despised and hated by most people.

When he heard Jesus was coming through town, he was curious.

Unfortunately, Zach was both late and short.

A crowd had already gathered and he couldn’t see over their heads.

Zach didn’t give up. He climbed a tree.

Eventually, Jesus walked over, looked at Zach, and told him to come down. As Zach scrambled down the tree, Jesus invited himself over to his house for dinner.

The religious crowd grumbled: “he has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner.”

Meanwhile, something happened in Zach… he was overwhelmed with the grace Jesus had shown him.

Zach was usually cursed, ostracized and despised, but Jesus didn’t judge him or condemn him.

Zach was so moved by the grace given to him, he began to change (that’s what grace does – it changes things).

All on his own – without having to be told – he pledged to give 1/2 of his wealth to the poor and to repay anyone he cheated 4x the original amount.

Zach the crook somehow transforms into Zach the philanthropist. Happy Zach pays back!

Think of the impact Zach had on his city: this notorious crook suddenly becomes a loving, kind, generous, trustworthy difference-maker in Jericho!

Zach had a terrible reputation, but grace changed him.

Grace makes all the difference in people’s lives…

and when people change, the city changes.

Objects in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear

Have you noticed the warning “objects in mirror are closer than they appear” engraved onto your car’s side mirrors?

On the passenger side of an automobile, a convex mirror is used. This makes object appear smaller than if they were viewed in a flat mirror or looked at directly… this is known as perspective distortion.

I wonder how often we have perspective distortion?

I wonder how often we have perspective distortion – causing us to see God as distant, cold and angry?

I wonder how often we have perspective distortion – causing us to see people as a threat to guard against?

I wonder how often we have perspective distortion – causing us to see life as difficult, heavy and burdensome?

Grace changes our perspective.

It changes how we see things.

Grace causes us to see God as our kind, loving, caring Heavenly Father who is for us, not against us.

Grace causes us to see people as God’s kids, worthy of our interest, time, love, respect and compassion.

Grace causes us to see life as a gift – precious and to be cherished; to be enjoyed and lived to the full.

Grace fuels and empowers us to love God, people and life.

I Can See Clearly Now, The Scales Are Gone

About 12 years ago, I had LASIK surgery on my eyes.

After the surgery, gauze-covered metal shields were taped over my eyes. These shields had to stay on overnight until my follow-up appointment in the morning.

For almost 17 hours, I couldn’t see (because of the shields) and didn’t know if my vision had been improved or not.

It was such a relief when the bandages finally came off and I could see again!

My vision improved to 20/20.

Vision is so important – not just physical vision, but spiritual vision (being able to see what God sees).

Outside of grace, our vision is impaired.

Without grace, we are unable to accurately see what God wants us to see.

The Bible says that Saul was blinded when he encountered Jesus and recovered his sight 3 days later…

“Instantly something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he regained his sight.” (Acts 9.18 NLT)

Before his encounter with Jesus, Saul didn’t see things clearly. His vision was off. He wasn’t seeing what God wanted him to see.

Grace changed Saul’s vision, perspective, point of view and purpose.

Grace is like spiritual LASIK – it corrects our spiritual vision, allowing us to see what God wants us to see.

Grace changes our vision, perspective, point of view and purpose.

“God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for all the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (Ephesians 2.8-10 NLT)

Along with grace comes salvation – and a new sense of vision, purpose or destiny.

God shows us what he’s been wanting us to see all along – our reason for being.

Grace changes our focus.

I can see clearly now, the scales are gone… it’s gonna be a bright, bright, sun shiny day!

Spittin Some New Lyrics

MC Saul used to spit some pretty ugly lyrics.

Murderous threats. Ill intentions. Slapping down serious judgement.

“Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers.” (Acts 9.1 NLT)

He saw people outside his tribe as a threat to the establishment.

He was fueled by hatred for the way others believed and how they lived.

But then something huge happened that changed everything…

Saul met Jesus and experienced God’s grace.

Grace changed everything.

Saul changed. He became a new man. He even changed his name to Paul.

His heart changed. He thought differently. He saw things differently. He even sounded different…

He started spittin some new lyrics.

MC Paul brought grace to the microphone.

The new man, the changed man said, “My life is worth nothing to me unless I use if for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus – the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.” (Acts 20.24).

Paul was now fueled by God’s vision.

He no longer saw people outside his tribe as a threat to the establishment. Rather, he saw them as God’s mission and God’s children.

Paul’s hatred had changed to love.

He received a new focus, purpose, agenda, mission from God.

That’s what grace does. It changes stuff. It changes us. Grace changes everything.

Grace causes us to love God, love people and love life.

Do You See It?

Ya ever had someone point out something to you, something off in the distance… and you can’t see it?

I feel like this happens to me often.

It’s frustrating. I feel stupid. I’m tempted to just pretend like I see it – even though I don’t.

I bet we do the same thing with God – can’t see what he sees, get frustrated, feel stupid, tempted to pretend…

Here’s the good news: grace changes our focus.

Grace helps us see what God sees.

Grace gives us perspective, vision and clarity.

Seeing what God sees gives us purpose, significance, a sense of mission and a job to do: joining in God’s agenda to give grace to others.

“Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus.

Saving is all his idea, and all his work.

All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish!

We don’t play a major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing!

No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving.

He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.” (Ephesians 2.7-10 MSG)

God’s grace helps me see it…

I have a reason for being: to love God, love people and love life.

Do you see it?

Even Prophets Need Naptime

Carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders can be both intoxicating and addictive. When doing important work, it’s easy to think…

“I’m working so hard, doing so much – I’m irreplaceable.”

“I’m the only one who sees, understands, and gets it.”

“Without me, everything will fall apart.”

“Nobody else cares as much as I do.”

The frenzied and stressful pace of trying to be the solution, answer-man and super-achiever quickly spins out of control. The results?

Anger.

Frustration.

Depression.

Excuses.

Blame.

Sometimes, we need to be reminded that the world doesn’t actually rest on our shoulders. We aren’t the only ones who see, understand and get it. There’s still time for naps – and we probably should take one.

The Old Testament prophet Elijah had to learn this lesson.

He had become delusional, intoxicated, addicted to carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders.

He started to believe that he was the only one.

Actually, there were 7,000 others just like him (1 Kings 19.18 & Romans 11.3, 4).

Elijah had become self-absorbed and self-important. He worked alone and was burning out. He was getting angry, frustrated and depressed.

God’s solution?

He had the prophet take a break from working, have several naps and eat properly.

After that, God directed Elijah to recruit someone younger to work with him.

Interesting, isn’t it? Even prophets need naptime.

It’s a great reminder for all of us who are doing “important work” – we all need breaks, naps, healthy food and some young people around us to invest in.

A Hot Mess

One definition of a hot mess – When one’s thoughts or appearance are in a state of disarray but they maintain an undeniable attractiveness or beauty.

Martha was a hot mess.

She looked good on the outside but was freaking out on the inside.

She was running around like a squirrel on meth trying to get everything just right.

The dinner table was perfectly set but she was beginning to unravel emotionally.

Her hair and makeup were impeccable but she was on the verge of a meltdown.

She was full of stress and anxiety.

And yet… Jesus, the personification of grace, was sitting there – relaxing in her living room!

He gently told her that she was a hot mess.

“Martha, dear martha, you’re fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing.” (Luke 10.41)

Wow. Moment of clarity. Reason. Sanity.

Maybe Jesus is gently telling you that “you’re a hot mess.”

Have you been fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing?

Time for a moment of clarity? Reason? Sanity?

“Has anyone by fussing before the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? If fussing can’t even do that, why fuss at all?

Walk into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They don’t fuss with their appearance – but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby along side them.

If God gives such attention to the wildflowers, most of them never even seen, don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you?” (Luke 12.25-27 MSG)

Squirrels on Meth

Squirrels are busy, hardworking, quick and a bit fidgety…

Now, imagine a squirrel on meth:

Anxious.

Super fast.

Stressed out.

Repetitive, obsessive behavior.

Teeth clenching and grinding.

Dark circles under the eyes.

Lack of sleep.

Unpredictable.

Paranoid.

Irritable.

Scary.

Sometimes we behave like squirrels on meth. We go beyond busy and hardworking. We end up stressed out, anxious, irritable, losing sleep, dark circles under our eyes.

That’s no good.

Stress and grace run in opposite directions.

Go with grace… you’ll enjoy the journey and love the destination!

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion?

Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest.

Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.

I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn how to live freely and lightly.” -Jesus (Matthew 11.28-30 MSG)