Tag Archives: grace

God can do our work better than us

“One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.” 

This month we had a big fundraiser dinner we were planning for the non-profit I work with.  I was just focused on what I needed to do, which was to work on a video slide show.  As time progressed I knew that there were very few people who signed up to attend the event, an event which would be critical to outreach to donors to continue this important work of investing into the people of our community in need.   If we don’t get pledges for support our non-profit cannot continue to exist.  Yet, in my selfishness I didn’t take time to really think of the impact to our community of having this event flop.  I made a video.  One of the advisors gave me detailed feedback to make it better.  I bristled in response with what I had put my time into.  My pride was hurt.

“When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.’

Simon answered, ‘Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.’”

The night before the event, I was frustrated, we were under pressure to finish many things still, still less than half of our expected numbers of guests, and, to make matters worse, we were having conflict amongst ourselves.  Around midnight, I texted a number of friends to pray for us and the banquet that would be happening in less than 24 hours.

“When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.  So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.

When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, ‘Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!’ For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.”

My advisor initiated a conversation with me and we resolved our issue around 1:30am.  I showed up at the banquet hall an hour prior to the event at 5pm to meet with the rest of the team.  Once there I began to realize I had forgotten about a speaker for the video, a screen for a projector, and a power strip.  All things I needed if we were going to show a video.  Even the one thing I was entrusted with I failed to completely follow through with.  Phone calls were made by my advisor.  Different people from our community came through with each item.   People came trickling in, many as last minute additions, and before we knew it all 50 seats was taken.  In fact, more people kept on coming.  We had to squeeze in two more tables!   Different people in our community shared about how they had been affected meaningfully by the existence of our non-profit.  Even someone who does not live in our community stood up to speak and challenged everyone present to consider supporting this non-profit to become an institution that could spread its positive impact beyond just our community.   Needless to say the event was a success.  People were encouraged.  Our community worked together…all in spite of my shortcomings.   God stepped in…and it made all the difference.

“Then Jesus said to Simon, ‘Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.’ So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.”

net-fishing-sea-of-galilee-thomas-r-fletcher

day 15: glory

Exodus 40:34-38; 2 Chronicles 7:1-3; John 1:14

“Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.  Throughout all their journeys,whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out.  But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out till the day that it was taken up.  For the cloud of the LORD was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys.” – Exodus 40:34-38

“When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple.  The priests could not enter the temple of the LORD because the glory of the LORD filled it. 3When all the Israelites saw the fire coming down and the glory of the LORD above the temple, they knelt on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshiped and gave thanks to the LORD, saying, ‘He is good; his love endures forever.’” – 2 Chronicles 7:1-3

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only,who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” – John 1:14

glory: praise, honor; beauty and splendor.  the glory of the One who can say “I AM” over all time and eternity…what would it be like to encounter Him?  In time past His radiance had to be accompanied with “the cloud” and “the fire”.  these physical things served to reveal but then also to conceal His glory…something so terrifying and overwhelming…that it completely filled the vessel He entered so much so that no one could be in the same place…and to which the only response was to fall on one’s face with recognition of how awesome He is.

then His glory came in the form of a man…The Man.  at first sight He came in a vessel so ordinary and approachable…seeming to conceal but then also to reveal…to anyone willing to take a deeper second look.  John and some of his audience were able to see the glory of God…in the flesh…in Jesus the Christ.  the glory of God was revealed in the fullness of His grace (undeserved favor) and truth (what is actually True).  grace and truth are qualities of the God who made heaven and earth…they are facts from eternity.

then this next step is mind-blowing…to consider that followers of Him are called not only the temple of Christ but the body of Christ.  if all the fullness of the glory of God dwells in Jesus’ body and we are called His body…what does that mean…what should that mean…and look like?  indeed…as the scriptures remind us “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.  So glorify God in your body.” – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

how can we, this day, be filled with the fullness of His grace and truth and so glorify Him?  if we find we are not filled with Him…with grace and truth, then what are we filled with?

thank you Lord that you reveal your glory

day 14: incarnation (God as a human)

Isaiah 11:1-9; John 1:14; John 8:12

“There shall come forth a shoot from the stump ofJesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear,but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins.” – Isaiah 11:1-5

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” – John 1:14

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'” – John 8:12

the artist joan osborne once asked in a song “what if God was one of us?” God actually gave us an answer: i was and i am…his name is Jesus of nazareth. it is a wonderful and terrifying mystery that God became a human being. so it begs the next question: what was/is He like? well if we use the scriptures listed above we learn that at the very least:

1) He has insight and understanding into ALL things. His discernment goes far beyond physical sensory perception…He sees beyond appearances. He does not make decisions like men do. who really knows anything to the heart, really, except God himself?

2) He really likes being in awesome reverence of God. its strange because even though He is God, He delights in God, and reveres God. maybe this means He has a totally right view of Himself, He is at total peace with himself. who has total insight, even into themselves, and still has total respect for themselves and are at peace with it?

3) He focuses on the poor and the meek. with all this power and authority, this is who He spends time with and lives among? its preposterous…it hurts our pride…its true…precisely because men wouldn’t do that. who, having all the authority and power of the world at their disposal, would give themselves to the poor and the nobodies?

4) His words have such weight people can die from just being in its presence. forget about that dos equis most interesting man in the world…He IS The Man in the world. people are cut to the quick by His words. no one can escape them. we’ve tried to hush them up, ignore them, or get rid of them for over two millenia…they just won’t die. whose words mean anything these days…who actually sticks to them…who actually has any authority to carry them out?

5) He is righteous and faithful. who is righteous and faithful? stop. ’nuff said.

6) He is full of grace and truth. He does not lie…He cannot lie…
He only speaks and lives the truth. yet, even though He knows all the truth about all of us, He overflows with the ability to give us good when we deserve the worst. whom of us pour forth only truth and always chooses to offer grace?

7) He is the guide to life. who can make the guarantee that where they are leading is absolutely the right way? only God who walked the way Himself first.

for reflection i’ll ask the same question joan osborne asked: “…if God had a face what would it look like / and would you want to see / if seeing meant that you would have to believe…?”

thank you Lord for showing us yourself.

Grace is for people who don’t deserve it = that’s us

These past couple weeks ive been struck by and also discouraged by what I see around me…in the church.  that’s right…the people that are supposed to be children of God…not really living like it.  all this with a general theme that I’ve been hearing/reading/seeing repeatedly that just because someone says (and even believes) they are Christian doesn’t necessarily mean that it is so (Isaiah 58, Matthew 25, John 15, James 2).  Then I find myself being super critical and judgmental.   Gosh, im really not any better.

So needless to say I’ve been feeling really drained and emotionally tired.

Then this morning God opens my eyes again to this thing called his grace.

On my drive to work I was listening to a message by Rankin Wilborne.  It was basically about the idea that one of things that makes Christianity so offensive to people, to us, is actually this idea of grace: that God would love us, regardless of where we are at in our lives.  It sounds nice but he challenged me to really think about that.  When you think you’re pretty good and someone treats you lovingly that’s pretty rad…duh, that’s obvious.  But when you know you’re pretty rotten inside and someone lavishes real love on you, that’s jarring…humiliating, and “traumatic” (in Wilborne’s words).

He drew out this point from the episode in Jesus’ life, the night that he knew he was going to be betrayed, when he washed his disciples’ feet.   So Jesus comes around to Peter to wash his feet (a disgusting job reserved only for the lowest person) and basically Peter says “No way, Jesus!  You’re my master…I can’t let you do that!”  Jesus then lets him know that unless Peter allows Jesus to do this, he can’t be part of a real relationship with Jesus (alluding to the fact that Jesus would, in fact, die for Peter’s sins).  Peter’s response seems like a respectful thing, but the idea that underlies what he said is that he can’t accept Jesus loving him this way…in his unloveliness.  But you see, that is what grace is: letting Jesus love us in our crappiness.  We can’t tell Jesus to love us when we have our act together…first off, that day will never come and second, if that day did come then that’s the day we are saying God should wash our feet.  WHY WOULD GOD, THE SOURCE OF ALL LIFE, BE OBLIGATED TO WASH OUR FEET?!?!

Just in case I wasn’t getting all this, Jesus shows me even more grace this morning.  So, I was completely lazy last night and this morning, even though I have sooo much work to do.   I was late to our professional development meeting this morning at work…but I still got “staff cash” (its like a little raffle ticket that people get for being on time).  Then Grace (Yun) sat down right next to me (haha).   Then at the end of the meeting, that I was slightly dozing through (I know terrible huh…after like 9 hours in bed!), I win the raffle.  Man, I really didn’t deserve anything like that.  I know that’s not even comparable to how Jesus died for ALL of my sins, even the ones i committed and will commit today.   Now, this is no license to keep living in sin, in fact, if I really taste his “traumatic” grace regularly, I shouldn’t be able to help but change…out of  love for him.  the moment I take his grace for granted is the moment it is no longer grace to me.