Category "Life With God"

Relax

Do you stress, freak out and (over)react to things?

Do you take simple things and make them complicated?

If so… allow God’s grace to change you!

Here’s what Jesus said:

“If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers – most of which are never even seen – don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you?

What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving.

People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works.

Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.” (Matthew 6.30-33)

Relax.

Don’t be so preoccupied with getting.

Respond to God’s giving.

People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things – but you know God and how he works.

Steep your life in God – his reality, initiative and provision.

Don’t worry about missing out.

All your needs will be met.

Relax!

Whale Spit

Jonah didn’t like the people of Nineveh. In his opinion, they deserved the worst.

He didn’t want to play any part in extending grace or mercy to “these people.”

He was so turned-off by the Ninevehites, when God called him to go preach to them, he ran…

Opposite direction.

Boat.

Storm.

Thrown in.

Swallowed by a whale.

Three days in the whale’s belly.

Whale spit-up…

Running didn’t work. God’s plan was bigger than Jonah’s prejudices and opinions!

Instead of judgment, God poured out His grace on the sinful people of Nineveh.

Jonah was furious. He lost his temper. He yelled at God, “God! I knew it – when I was back home, I knew this was going to happen! That’s why I ran… I knew you were sheer grace and mercy, not easily angered, rich in love, and ready at the drop of a hat to turn your plans of punishment into a program of forgiveness!” (Jonah 4.1, 2 MSG).

Silly Jonah.

He knew God was all grace and mercy.

He received God’s grace and mercy for himself – yet he didn’t want “those people” to receive God’s grace and mercy.

A few lessons we can take away from Jonah:

• Running from God’s plan never works.

• God’s plans are bigger than our prejudices and opinions.

• Don’t try to block the flow of God’s grace and mercy to others (you might end up being whale spit).

• Give, as happily as you’ve received, God’s grace to others!

Looking For A Loophole

The religion scholar had just done a fantastic job of summarizing all the commandments – “Love God with everything you have, everything you are… and love your neighbor as well as you do yourself.”

Jesus gave his summary an enthusiastic two thumbs up.

But the religion scholar started to feel trapped. It was a great summary of the law, but did he really want to be held to that standard?

“Looking for a loophole, he asked, And just how would you define neighbor?” (Luke 10.29 MSG)

Jesus, in typical Jesus-fashion, tells a story. It’s a pretty famous story too – it’s where the term “Good Samaritan” came from.

After his story-telling, Jesus asks the religion scholar, “Which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?”

The religion scholar replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”

Remember how he was looking for a loophole?

Well, he didn’t get one.

There are no loopholes in God’s demand for us to extend mercy and grace to others.

No exception clauses. No excuses. No loopholes.

“You Pharisees manage to find loopholes for getting around the basic matters of justice and God’s love. Careful bookkeeping is commendable, but the basics are required.” (Luke 11.42 MSG)

“God is all mercy and grace.” (Psalm 145.8 MSG)

“I want you to show mercy.” (Matthew 9.13 NLT)

Devil Horn Glasses

You know those Groucho Marx disguise glasses? The ones with bushy eyebrows, big nose and a Mario-style mustache?

How about Devil Horn glasses? You ever see someone wearing those?

When we look at people, we’re either wearing Devil Horn glasses or God goggles.

Do you see people as God sees them or are you looking at people the way Satan does?

The Bible calls Satan “the accuser” (Revelation 12.10). He’s gifted at hurling judgment, criticism, guilt and accusations. His Devil Horn glasses magnify all that’s bad, wrong, ugly and messed-up.

God sees things differently.

He looks at us through the finished work of the cross – through the blood of Jesus. He sees his creation waiting to be redeemed, restored and renewed. He has compassion on us because we are like sheep without a shepherd – needing to be rescued, cared for and protected.

Before he met Jesus, Paul the Apostle wore Devil Horn glasses. He was on the hunt, looking for people to accuse, judge and condemn. Then he met Jesus, experienced grace… and that changed everything.

Here’s what Paul had to say after experiencing God’s grace:

“God gave me the special responsibility of extending his grace to you…” (Ephesians 3.2 NLT).

He went from looking for people to judge to looking for people to extend God’s grace to.

Paul exchanged those Devil Horn glasses for some God Goggles.

We should do the same.

Grace Brings Out the Best

I remember going to my Scottish great aunt’s house for dinner. Whenever we came over, she prepared the most amazing food and served it on her finest china. I felt like royalty. As a result, I was on my best behavior.

Grace brings out the best in others.

If you treat people the way they deserve to be treated, you just get more of the same behavior.

If you treat people poorly, you invite them to become worse.

If you give grace, you nurture and bring out he best.

Without grace, we tend to…

• Enjoy listening to (or reading) a bad report about someone else.

• Predict someone’s failure.

• Separate ourselves from others, cutting them out of our lives.

• Judge people.

• Cut people down with harsh and unkind words.

• Speak cynically about people we don’t even know.

With grace, we…

• Have a big heart for others (including people who aren’t part of our “tribe”).

• See people the way God sees them – as his kids!

• Bless others (including people we disagree with or don’t understand).

• Speak graciously about people.

• Welcome and include people into our lives.

• Choose to believe the best, not the worst about others.

“Use your heads as you live and work among outsiders. Make the most of every opportunity. Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out.” – Colossians 4:5, 6 (The Message)

Grace brings out the best in others!

A Pig in a Wig

No matter how dressed-up and decorated she gets, she is still a pig.

Miss Piggy might have fancy clothing, pearls, perfume, a handbag and salon-styled hair… but none of that changes the fact that she’s a pig.

Religion attempts to do the same thing as Miss Piggy.

It decorates, dresses-up and pretends to be something it isn’t.

Miss Piggy is silly.

And we’re silly too, when we get all dressed-up in our religious outfits, talk and attitudes.

Religion’s rules deal with the externals: wear this, don’t wear that / eat this, don’t eat that, go here, don’t go there…

But grace goes deep. It changes what’s on the inside of us.

Grace changes who we are – and that changes what we do.

“Don’t touch this! Don’t taste that! Don’t go near this!” Such things sound impressive if said in a deep enough voice. They even give the illusion of being pious and humble… but they’re just another way of showing off, making yourselves look important. (Colossians 2.20-23 MSG)

Religious posturing, parading and pretending is nothing to be proud of.

When we focus on the externals, we’re like Miss Piggy going to the salon for fake nails and hair.

Don’t be a pig in a wig.

Let grace change you – from the inside out.

Grace makes us new, a new creation, a new person.

Grace changes everything.

A Polished Turd

I once saw a Mythbusters episode where Adam learned the ancient Japanese art of dorodungo – creating hard, shiny, polished balls from dirt and water. The catch? Adam wanted to see if polishing a turd was possible.

Sorry – I know this is gross.

That’s the point. It’s nasty.

A polished, shiny turd is still a turd.

Religion tends to decorate the outside, cover blemishes and give the illusion of perfection.

Religion is good at polishing turds.

Jesus said the religious Pharisees were “all spit-and-polish veneer.” (Matthew 23.3 MSG).

Grace is different. Grace doesn’t decorate us – it changes and transforms us!

Galatians 6.15 reminds us that the outward stuff doesn’t count… “What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation.”

Grace goes deep.

Grace makes us new.

Grace changes everything – including you.

Fifteen Pieces of Flair

I remember this scene in a movie from the late ’90’s…

Joanna (Jennifer Aniston) is a waitress at Chotchkie’s. A customer named Peter asks her to explain what “flair” is.

Joanna answers, “That’s where, you know, suspenders and buttons and all sorts of stuff. We’re, uh, we’re actually required to wear fifteen pieces of flair. It’s quite stupid actually.”

Peter replies, “Do you get to pick them out yourself?”

“Yeah. Yeah,” says Joanna. “Although I didn’t actually choose these. I, uh, I just grabbed fifteen buttons and, uh, I don’t even know what they say.”

Religion is like Chotchkie’s. It requires you to wear fifteen pieces of flair. It is deeply concerned about decorations and external things.

Grace is different. Grace changes things.

The Bible warns us not to get caught up in a Chotchkie’s fifteen pieces of flair kind of religion.

Paul warns the church against “religious barking dogs,” saying, “All they’re interested in is appearances.” (Philippians 3.2 MSG).

Grace is interested in more than appearances. Grace works from the inside out. It transforms.

“Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! All of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ.” (2 Corinthians 5.17, 18 NLT)

If you belong to Jesus, you have become a new person. This is a gift from God – totally undeserved, yet completely generous and given freely.

That’s not fifteen pieces of flair.

That’s grace!

“In These Economic Times…”

I feel like I’ve heard something about “this economy” or “our economic climate” or “in these economic times…” so often that the words have lost significance.

A friend of mine recently joked… Today, instead of saying “NO,” I’ll say “NOT IN THIS ECONOMY” – as in: “You want fries with that?” “Not in this economy!”

With humor, he pointed out that complaining about and/or blaming the economy is overplayed.

My opinion: God’s people should sound different… confident, peaceful, thankful, content, secure, faith-filled, and gracious.

Regardless of “the economy,” we are blessed.

God, the only One who has limitless resources, loves and cares for you!

“You can be sure that God will take care of everything you need, his generosity exceeding even yours.” (Philippians 4.19 MSG)

I’m guessing you’ve heard this one-liner in church before: “You can’t out-give God.” Well, it’s not just another cute Christian cliché or bumper sticker quote. It’s true: “His generosity exceeds even yours.”

God will take care of you – his generosity will exceed yours!

The worst thing you can do when you’re struggling financially is to kick God out of the equation, stopping your tithing and giving.

Tithing is bringing the first 10% of your income to God’s House – it’s putting God first in your finances. It’s making a statement: “God, I trust you. You are my provider. You are my source. I’m putting you first.”

In “this economy” and “our economic climate” and “in these economic times,” God is good. He doesn’t change with the economy.

Don’t kick God out of your finances. Instead give Him something to work with!

Remember, His generosity will exceed yours.

Fishwich Snack-Pack

I’ve had the responsibility of planning and providing meals for hundreds of teenagers at camps and conferences. This is no small task. I mean, have you seen how teenagers eat?

Trying to feed teenagers on a limited budget is quite the challenge.

200 kids. A week of camp. Thirteen meals provided. $2.75 per meal budgeted. Total food cost: $7,150.

I can’t even begin to imagine the difficulty of doing this on a larger scale – like 25x larger (5,000 people).

Just one meal for 5,000 people at the bargain price of $2.75 = a total cost of $13,750.

That’s a whole lot of cheddar baby.

Jesus and his disciples were faced with this reality.

A hungry crowd (minimum of 5,000 people).

No Taco Bell nearby.

What to do?

The disciples recommended sending everyone home.

Jesus said, “No, you provide their dinner.”

The accountant/numbers-nerd Phillip freaked out: “Even if we worked for months, we wouldn’t have enough money to buy all that food.”

Andrew brought a middle-school boy over to Jesus. He was carrying his Nintendo DS and a brown paper bag with a fishwich snack-pack that his mom sent with him.

The boy was happy to be there and glad to contribute something.

He probably thought that Jesus would enjoy one of the fishwiches…

Little did the boy know, Jesus was about to perform the most famous picnic miracle of all time. Jesus took the fishwiches, blessed them, broke them into pieces, gave them to his disciples and told them to share with everyone.

Everyone ate. In fact, there were plenty of leftovers. (John 6.1-13)

Imagine the stories the middle-school boy told his parents late that evening when he got home!

Maybe you feel like your resources are small, insignificant and wouldn’t make a difference in the lives of others. It’s easy to let that feeling keep you from sharing what you have.

The story of Jesus feeding a huge crowd with a middle-school boy’s fishwich snack-pack reminds us that our resources are significant and will make a difference in the lives of others… if we willingly to give them to Jesus.

“God loves it when the giver delights in the giving. God can pour on the blessings in astonishing ways so that you’re ready for anything and everything, more than just ready to do what needs to be done.”
(2 Corinthians 9. 7, 8 MSG)

God is our provider. He gives us more than we need so that we are able to share with others.

When we hand our “fishwich snack-pack” over to Jesus, miracles happen!

Our giving simply reflects His generous grace in our lives.

Grace makes us generous.