Saturday, May 30, 2009

The unforced rhythms of grace!

What was it about Jesus that men were willing to follow him to their deaths?


Was he harsh?  Sometimes, yes, particularly to religious hypocrites.


Was he honest?  Brutally so.  “You’ve had five husbands…”


Did he expect sacrifice?  Risk?  “If anyone would follow me let him take up his cross…”


But it was not these apparent hard things that defined him.  We know from John chapter one that Jesus was full of grace and truth.  Listen to these words from The Message , Matthew 11:


“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 to live freely and lightly.”


I love the phrase, “the unforced rhythms of grace.”


Grace is undeserved favor.  I don’t merit it, didn’t earn it, don’t need a qualification for it beyond my own need (believe me, according to this standard, I’m qualified, summa cum laude!).  The ability to accept someone unconditionally (grace) is what gives them the power to change. 


Grace isn’t a one time, got-grace-at-the-altar experience.  It is the ongoing characteristic of God that determines his every interaction with his children.  It is present behind every good time.  And every hard trial. 


Just because the road has gotten hard doesn’t mean his grace has lapsed.  No, it may be disguised in a cloak of suffering.  We may not see it for what it is on this side of eternity, but I believe God’s character of grace is unchanging.  His actions to us whether roses or trials, reflect his goodness and love towards sinners (us!).


Jesus’ invitation in Matthew 11 is open.  Come and rest.  Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.


I’m in.


Have a great weekend.


Harry Lee

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

What happens when we see God?

I heard Del Tackett ( expound Isaiah 6:1-8 and he makes three points in response to my question. I want to expound on them here.

First, let's recap the first few verses from Isaiah 6: "In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he coered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: 'Holy, holy, holy is the lOrd of host; the whole earth is full of his glory!' And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: 'Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!' The one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: 'Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for. And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send and who will go for us?' Then I said, 'Here am I! Send me.' And he said, 'Go'..."

Look at Isaiah's response to seeing the Lord: I am lost! I am a man of unclean lips. This is the first thing that happens when we see God: We are exposed!

When we encounter the perfect, loving Savior, we quickly see how inadequate we are. But don't despair. Our weakness is our qualification for service! Remember, God is not looking for the strong, but for those who know their strength lies only in him. When we see Jesus for who he really is, our anxieties fall away. Our guilt and shame are erased. There is no place for fear!

The second thing that happens is related to the first and is seen in Isaiah's next response: "I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips." Number two: Our culture is exposed.
The third thing that happens is that God uses us to engage our culture. (Whom shall I send? Here am I, send me!). When we see God, He makes us world changers.

I believe our calling is to show Christ to the world as the true treasure that he is.  When they see Jesus in reality, expect a reaction.

The challenge to me is to live every day so that onlookers will see someone enamored with Christ and not with my own pleasure, riches, reputation or career.

Thanks Del, for reminding me what happens when we look at God.
Harry Lee

Friday, May 1, 2009

A Preposterous "Gospel"

Maybe you've seen the ads on TV where a question is asked, "What if roadies ran the world?" or one of the variations on the theme. Well, today, I'm asking, "What if humans invented the gospel?"

What would it look like if I got to make all the choices. Would I dare suggest qualities of a desired Savior in a personal ad?

Wanted: One Savior, attractive, wind-blown hair, funny, personable, willing to forgive my sin, and purchase my entrance into heaven. Not demanding of sacrifice, and certainly not prone to talk about money and generosity, except to bless me and my family. Able to lead on a smooth road towards Glory, not too many bumps, instilling in me the lofty qualities that men admire, but more instantaneous and without all the trials. A Savior who will heal my pains, and help me shed unwanted pounds without dieting. A Savior willing to hand out financial blessings and one who won't keep talking about service of the poor, taking up my cross and persecution.

Hmmm. It looks like a gospel that revolves around me.

But the Gospel is really all about God. Start to finish. He calls, prepares, saves, and leads an undeserving group of followers down a road characterized by things we define as good and things we'd rather avoid: suffering. The Gospel is all about God getting the glory.

So why do we seem so prone to long for a me-centered gospel?

Perhaps because we don't realize that true joy and blessings come from embracing and treasuring Jesus as he really is in incomprehensible awesomeness. Pastor and author, John Piper calls himself a Christian hedonist because he has realized that true joy and satisfaction in life come from a life lived in service for the king. Since he longs for that kind of joy and satisfaction, he gladly gives his life up to make others glad in God, to find their treasure in Jesus, the King of Kings.

This is where I will find true joy.

Oh Lord, help me see the truth of the Gospel without the blurred lenses of my own selfishness.
Harry Lee