Category "Life With God"

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.

Can’t Touch This

Remember MC Hammer’s big hit: U Can’t Touch This?

When it comes to the subject of money, many people are singing Hammers’ tune…

It’s private. None of your business. This is between me and God. You talk about money too much.

U can’t touch this.

I said it before and I’ll say it again: Grace Changes Everything.

Grace changes our heartstrings and our purse strings.

Grace makes us aware of how much God has provided for us – and it makes us generous.

Yes, with grace – U can touch this!

“God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you.” (2 Corinthians 9.10 NLT)

God’s provision produces a harvest of generosity in us.

It’s impossible to have received God’s grace and remain selfish and stingy.

Our giving reflects our receiving – of God’s grace.

Grace makes us generous.

Grace has Stones

When a bunch of crusty, mean, self-righteous, religious dirtbags caught a woman in the act of adultery, they pounced at the chance to bring judgment.

In front of a big crowd, they asked Jesus, “The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”

They were having the time of their lives… a good old fashioned stoning was about to get underway, and they were confident their question would make Jesus say something that could be used against him too.

Unfortunately for them, Jesus was perfect example of confident strength, courage and grace.

As they pressed Him for an answer, He stood up and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!”

All her accusers left.

Think about Jesus’ response… “let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone.”

Who is the one who has never sinned?

Jesus. He’s the only one who has never sinned.

He’s the only one with a right to throw stones.

Jesus has every right to judge and condemn – to throw the stone – but instead he gives grace.

Grace has stones – and the right to use them, but chooses to set them down.

The lady in this story was having a very bad day:

Caught. Embarrassed. Humiliated. Judged. Condemned. About to die.

And then grace stepped in.

The story of her bad day was rewritten with a new ending: Rescued. Loved. Forgiven. Accepted. Freed.

Having a bad day? Bad week? Bad year? Bad life?

Your story isn’t over yet!

No matter how bad things have gotten, grace will rewrite your story.

Grace Destroyed 38 Years of Trying

I celebrated my 38th birthday a few months ago. A certain Bible story captured my attention because it features the number “38” – it’s the story of a man who was sick for 38 years…

The Bible doesn’t give the guy’s name, so I’m gonna call him “Phelps.”

Phelps tried everything he could to get better. He spent his days hanging out by the pool of Bethesda – a place some believed to have “healing powers.” According to the legend, angels would occasionally stir up the water of the pool. If you were the first one to jump in while the angels were doing their thing, bam! You would be healed.

So, Phelps is there by the pool – waiting for the whole angel-hot tub-healing thing. Only problem: Phelps isn’t having any success with this method either. Because of his sickness, he needs help getting into the pool. Other people keep jumping in before him.

38 years of trying – and Phelps has nothing to show for it. He’s been sick for a long time. No change. No results. Same old story…

And then grace shows up. Jesus comes by one day, sees Phelps by the pool and asks him, “Would you like to get well?”

Phelps starts in with the explanation of why he can’t get healed: “I can’t sir – I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone always gets there ahead of me.”

Jesus doesn’t react to Phelps’ superstition / messed-up theology. Instead, He gives grace – a wonderful, unexpected and totally undeserved gift of God’s favor to Phelps. He says, “Stand up, pick up your mat and walk!”

Instantly, Phelps was healed. (John 5.1-9)

Incredible! Grace shows up and destroys 38 years of trying.

That’s what grace does – it accomplishes the very thing we’ve been trying to do (unsuccessfully) for years.

Grace alters the course of our lives. It changes our destinies. It rewrites our stories.

Maybe you’ve been “trying” for years and years…

The way I see it, you have two options:

Keep on trying (and get the same results you’ve been getting).

Quit trying, and let grace change everything!

I’m 38 years old – and I’m done trying, working, striving, straining, freakin and stressing.

Grace showed up and has completely destroyed my 38 years of trying… accomplishing what I never could.

It’s not Fair!

I remember playing pickup basketball when I was a kid. Guys would usually “shoot for teams” – until the shooting went on and on for 20 minutes ‘cause nobody could make a free-throw… then we’d start selecting players using the team captain approach.

As the games got underway, new guys would show up and get assigned to a team.

I don’t know why, but it seemed like the last guy to show up was always Kobe Bryant… or some kid who was Kobe-tall and had Kobe-skills.

Here’s the deal: whichever team “Kobe” got assigned to always won. If he was on my team, we won. If he was on the other team, they won.

It really wasn’t fair. It was just the Kobe-reality.

This brings me to my point: grace isn’t fair. It’s the undeserved, unmerited favor of God in your life.

When grace shows up in your life, it’s not fair… but the scales just got slammed down in your favor. Victory is guaranteed.

“Overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.” (Romans 8.37 NLT)

How the game of life started out for you does not predict how it will end.

Maybe you couldn’t make a free-throw to get into the game. Maybe you were the last pick: “I guess we’ll take that kid”. Maybe you feel like you deserve to lose…

What you deserve really isn’t the issue – Jesus is!

It’s not fair. That’s grace.

I am who I am not because of anything special about me. I don’t have any Kobe-skills.

I am who I am because of grace.

“Because God was so gracious, so very generous, here I am. And I’m not about to let his grace go to waste.”
(1 Corinthians 15.10 MSG)

Look, if you have Kobe on your team, enjoy the game, savor the win and celebrate like a champion!

Don’t let God’s grace go to waste.

You’ve been given something sooooooooo wonderful.

Enjoy. Savor. Celebrate.

Your Story, Interrupted

The laws of cause and effect, reciprocity and karma have been interrupted.

Your story (the one you should have based on what you’ve earned or deserve) has been rewritten.

Grace changes the outcome.

Grace steps in and changes everything.

It interrupts, alters, intervenes, modifies, changes, transforms… it rewrites your story!

Grace is a gift – it means you’re receiving favor that you don’t deserve.

“God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” (Romans 5.9 NLT)

Christ didn’t die for perfect people, he died for sinners. That’s grace; that’s the Gospel.

Grace changes your story. Who you were does not predict who you’re becoming when grace is involved.

“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)

Paranormal Activity, KCMS & Maritime Ghosts

Recently, someone was telling me about the scariest movie they had every seen.

He said, “Paranormal Activity was so scary, I had to flip on all the lights in the house and turn on Spirit 105.3 KCMS.”

His reaction (turning on all the lights and Christian radio) cracked me up.

I haven’t seen the movie (and won’t), but I believe him… I’m sure it’s scary. I’m just not a fan of scary stuff.

In my opinion, a big percentage of fear is learned, nurtured and developed.

I don’t like to feed fear in my life.

Years ago, when my daughter was a baby, I was forced to play the role of the devil in an illustrated sermon at church. The makeup artist must have been a fan of horror movies, because I was painted up like some type of a bloody Skeletor dressed in a Count Dracula’s cape.

After the performance each night, my daughter would see me up close and personal before I could get out of the costume and makeup. She was never afraid. She had no context for what I was supposed to be. She hadn’t yet learned to be afraid of bloody Skeletor.

Her peaceful reaction to me (looking the way I did) left a lasting impression on me… I don’t have to be afraid!

There’s a fun story in the Bible about Jesus’ disciples attempting to cross a lake in the middle of the night. A big storm picked up and their boat was in trouble.

As they struggled to keep their cool in the storm, they saw something that really freaked them out:

“About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water, When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, ‘It’s a ghost!’” (Matthew 14.25, 26 NLT).

I think it’s funny that they went right to “It’s a ghost!” instead of “That must be Jesus coming to rescue us!”

I wonder if they had just been sitting around telling ghost stories?

It wasn’t some maritime ghost, coming to torture them – it was Jesus, coming to save them.

“Jesus spoke to them at once. ‘Don’t be afraid,’ he said. ‘Take courage. I am here!’” (Matthew 14.27 NLT).

Where Jesus is, there is grace.

Feed on grace – not fear!

Focus on how good God is – not all the possible scenarios of terrible things that could happen to you.

Learn, nurture and develop the good – not the bad.

“You’ll do your best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious – the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.”
(Philippians 4.8 MSG)

Fear Sucks

Fear sucks the life, strength and courage right out of you.

It distracts.

It paralyzes.

Grace, however, changes everything.

Grace fills you with new life, strength and courage.

It gives focus.

It mobilizes.

Where Jesus is – there is grace.

“Don’t be afraid… take courage. I am here!” (Matthew 14.27)