Monday, April 28, 2008

Grace and Works

Some times exhortations given to live a purpose driven life of good works, seeking to bring glory to God, can seem to fly in the face of the message of grace. Is labor for the Kingdom, or seeking to bring our behaviors in line with Biblical standards works? Some would say yes others it depends on the motivations of the heart.

The Greek word for grace carries the idea of “the divine influence on the human heart." It is God who draws us, rescues us and gives us our standing with Him apart from works. Yet to state that exhortation to live a life of purpose and to make intelligent and reasoned application of the will to that end is works would in my opinion misses the point.

We were created for good works; grace (God's influence) produces that in us. Paul in Ro 12 tells believers to present themselves as a living sacrifice, and them describes that service as reasoned and intelligent service.

Grace invites us to co-labor with the Spirit of God to bring to pass the works that we have been given to do. While I do not believe that ever believer has the same call as, lets say Paul, that said, I do believe that every believe has a specific call and a destiny that sits in God heart for them. For that destiny to be realized takes the cooperation of the believer by responding to God's influence on their heart. I am not talking about salvation; I am talking about how we build on the foundation that grace lays in our life, wood, hay or subtle or precious stones. Jesus states "This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15:8), that is the out working of grace in the believers life. Fruit is the result of being connected to the vine, as Jesus says.

To trust in our works to make us acceptable to God is ludicrous, to respond to that incredible outpouring of mercy from God, putting our trust in the work of the cross leads to a consecrated life committed to the fathers will. We have the choice to give ourselves to the purposes of God or not. God affords us that choice without fear of punishment. I choose to live my life as a slave of God because of the remarkable work of grace. His love and interaction with me leaves me no other sane choice.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


One of my heroes in the faith is Terry Virgo who leads Newfrontiers, His passion for the Word, his love for people and the commitment to living in the Spirit always inspires me. I am struck on how he can work with people of different perspectives, be true to his convictions and truly honor them. There is a genuine humility that is very evident in his life. I believe that is a mark of a true leader. I was reading Terry's blog (check it out) and was stirred by a testimony of healing that is a foot note in his blog, He tells the story, "While at Rhiwbina I had the joy of praying for Maggie Parker, who had been wheelchair-bound for 23 years. She stood, walked unaided to the front and testified to an astonished and tearful congregation how Jesus had completely healed her, and then expressed her surprise that everybody seemed so short! That was pretty exciting too!"

I want to approach life with that same humility and faith, to be a bridge builder and an encourager. To pray for people with the same child like faith, trusting God for the result.

I believe it starts with a deep revelation on how far we were from God before He broke into our lives. From that reality profound gratitude should propel us into humble obedience to the one who redeemed us. The immediacy of Christ by the Holy Spirit should captivate us. It should be reflected in our worship, our relationships, and every area of our lives.

With this perspective we can carry on with passion and confidence, knowing that God sees us in all our weakness and humanity and yet has chosen to work through us.

Monday, April 14, 2008


My step mother used to say "life isn't fair" as she tried to help me as a troubled teen. At the time I hated those words and the premise that they held. I was the center of my world! In my mind it was all about me and the things that I had gone through. As a result my life spiraled out of control as I slipped deeper and deeper in to bitterness. Bitterness dictated my thought life and affected every area of my life. It was God who confronted my way of thinking that led to a change in my life.

All of us are challenged with the temptation to become embittered over something. In our American culture there is a deep seated sense of entitlement that is in many ways is unrealistic. I believe that it is a chief battleground in the heart of Christians. Hebrews 12:15 describes a bitter heart and how bitterness spreads as a cancer. Bitterness has been described as the child of resentment. It is the result of a real or imaginary injury played over and over again in the thoughts of a person. Bitterness is being constantly hurt by a memory and is holding onto a hurt until it has a grip on you and effects the way you respond to life. Bitterness is a frozen form of latent anger and resentment. Bitterness grows out of our refusal, to take responsibility to forgive when someone or something is taken from us. I have found that bitterness will manifest itself in the following ways.
• The harboring of animosity against a person or group of people whom the person feels has mistreated them.
• Unresolved anger over a negative event, which occurred in the past.
• Emotional turmoil felt whenever a certain person or event is discussed.
• The lack of forgiving, the inability to let go and forget.
• A root of distrust and suspicion manifests when dealing with people.
• Unresolved grief experienced when finding it difficult to accept a loss.
• A grudge held against a person or group of people whom the person feels has kept them from achieving anything.

All of the above point to a misunderstanding about the universe and our place in it. We are not the center! Our perspective is limited. As Christians we have the promise that God is involved in our life. He declares in Romans 8, that He works all things for our benefit. A little humility is called for if we are to escape the trap of bitterness. Jesus told us that we would face difficulties in relationships, that there would be misunderstandings. He said things like love your enemies, pray for those who use you! Jesus challenges us to think in a different way.

Luke 6:32-36
32 "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' lend to 'sinners,' expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
(from New International Version)

Jesus' words force us to consider that there is more at stake than the wrongs we have suffered and we must ask the question how do we change. Here are some of the ways that I have found helpful. First, Make a decision- consecrate your life to God. Realize and focus on what God has done for you. Rehearse His faithfulness in your life, set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. Then be ruthless when you see thinking patterns shaped by this world system. Actively sow a different way of thinking. Praise is a powerful antidote to negative ways of looking at life. Prayer is also a key to quieting the soul and gaining perspective. Prayer is where we make our needs known, and we can pour out our hurt and disappointments. Yet prayer is to flow from the place of thanksgiving, knowing that God is for you and has your best interest at heart. All of these things sow a different perspective and help us see the bigger picture.

On that eventful day in which Christ apprehended me He spoke deep in my heart that I was responsible for the outcomes in my life. Bad things had happened, but that ultimately it was that choices that I made, how I responded lead me to the place of crises that I was in. That day started a amazing journey that full of surprises.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

I'm Thrilled

It has been a while since I have had time to sit down to write. Life has this insane ability to get busier and busier. Church planting is thrilling yet hard work. The young church that I am involved in worked hard to reach out this easter and I would say that Easter was a success. Jesus was lifted up! We had over 80 people in attendance 66 regulars and 14 guests. A number of folks expressed interest in Journey. There was great food, great fellowship and a great service. The weather was a typical Oregon rainy day. We hosted a Easter egg hunt after service and everyone got wet. There was a clear sense that God was pleased with our efforts. It was clear from the start that there was going to be serious spiritual warfare against Journey Church's grand opening. Key people got sick, car accidents, and naysayers all tried to distract from the work. One family got the chicken pox twice!!! In spite of all the challenges everyone rallied to get done what needed to be done. We had hoped for a greater turn out but when the dust settled we are pleased. Even more importantly we sensed that Jesus was pleased with our efforts. I was pleased to see the strong sense of community among our people as they came together to put it all together. We are also grateful for the help that Silver Creek Fellowship and the Year Team gave to make this last weekend a success.