conduits of grace

Does loving like Jesus ever feel impossible to you? It does to me. I cannot make it through my morning coffee loving God and others the way he has loved me. Does my failure to love perfectly mean that I should question my salvation? No. Rather, I believe Jesus was telling his followers, “Look, I’ve come to show you the best way to live. Life in my kingdom is radically different from the life you have been living. Become a conduit of my grace and engage in true other-centered living.”

from Notes from the Upper Room, The Devotionals

Beauty, is above all, a manifestation of grace, of abundance and generosity. It’s the reason why God placed flowers on the earth: to have little voices calling to us constantly about grace.-Dallas Willard

O’ Radiant Light

An Independence Day reflection on true freedom:

I have been shackled, by the tyranny of sin,
both outward behaviors, and thoughts within.
A slave to my passions, which demanded my soul,
I said “yes” to them; death took its toll.
I felt utterly hopeless, as though choice were a fiction,
The accuser ever whispering, curse and malediction.
But one came along, O’ radiant Light,
his love pierced the darkness, shining so bright.
He silenced the devil and unlocked my chains
released from my prison, no penalty remains.
He looked in my eyes, with love on his face,
“I saved you not by your works, but by my grace.
Now I invite you to come, walk along with me
and never forget, my blood set you free.”

Lofty Eyes

Pride is poison to the soul and none of us is immune, though the symptoms may manifest uniquely in each of us. Pride in possessions, pride in health, pride in righteous living, pride in right theology–even, ironically, pride in humility.

In the past several decades, several streams have converged that seem to make human pride all the more evident. The self-esteem movement, beginning with noble aspirations, has become a corrupted thing where self becomes preeminent and sin is excluded as a construct without meaning. The culture of self when combined with increased connectivity through social media creates a witch’s brew of hubris. The first ingredient contributes to a strong sense of our own rightness, whereas the second provides a mechanism of delivery.

And Christians are not immune, far from it. Every day on social media, I watch arguments unfolding over too many issues to name. I see Christians tearing down believers and non-believers alike, all in the name of rightness.  When Christian leaders fail publicly, it chums the social media waters for attack. Christian sharks influencers on social media and elsewhere smack their lips and prepare to feed.

Sometimes, it is not even an issue of one’s moral failure, but grows from a place of disagreement and an assumption of right belief. How many good and godly ministries have faced public attacks and charges of heresy by those who are “clean in their own eyes.” In recent weeks, one of the godliest men I know has been excoriated publicly by another believer. I wish this were uncommon; it is not. Indeed, there are “ministries” whose sole purpose is to identify and expose the ways other believers are in error.  They are not proclaiming the good news, they are airing what they perceive to be dirty laundry. They want to be seen as legitimate news, but in truth they are tabloids.

This ought not be so. The apostle Paul instructed Titus, “Speak evil of no one. Avoid quarreling. Be gentle. Show perfect courtesy to all people.” (Titus 3:2). When God calls people to be ministers of His word, He does not invite them to an easy task. Public proclamation of God’s word inevitably leads to challenge, criticism, and attack, yet I believe every one of these willing leaders would gladly request that other believers stop shooting them in the back.

Speak evil of no one.
Avoid quarreling.
Be gentle.
Show perfect courtesy to all people.
-St. Paul

As Francis Chan said in his excellent sermon Think Hard, Stay Humble “It would be like a great basketball player who never misses a shot but keeps shooting into the opponent’s basket. He may say, ‘I was five for five today from the three-point line,’ but his teammates would respond, ‘But you’re killing our team! You’re shooting at the wrong basket!’ He answers confidently, ‘But I did not miss.’ That is the kind of attitude that Paul is confronting here. You might be brilliant, but you’re killing our team.”

None of us is immune. Not one. Before weighing in on controversy, before criticizing another minister of the gospel, before denouncing other believers or their ministries, consider asking yourself:

  1. Is it possible I am wrong?
  2. Am I more interested in being right than being loving?
  3. Have I considered that I may not know all of the relevant details about the person or thing I am criticizing?
  4. If I were face to face with this person, would I be willing to offer the same criticism? Would I use the same words? If not, why not?
  5. How does my response align with Titus 3:2 (and an abundance of other scriptural references)?
  6. Is it possible I am wrong? (Yes, I know I asked this question above. I ask it again because I want each of us to consider that, in our fallen state, our knowledge is tainted. We have perfect knowledge of neither the content of Scripture nor the intent of God).

Empowering Grace

I try so hard
To follow God
Hoping He’ll approve;
I fail and fail
Day after day
Condemned by this proof.

“You are welcome.
You are my child.”
Jesus says to me.
“You belong
No matter what.
I’m your identity.

I choose to live
For God above
Not to gain His praise,
I serve Him well
As oft I can
Because He’s given me grace.