Greatness Just Is

Several years ago, I was with my family at the airport trying to get on a flight that was oversold and it didn’t look like it was going to happen. They issued a boarding pass but then took it back. The way it played out left us literally standing at the gate with our luggage in hand ready to head down the ramp at a moment’s notice. My dad had dropped us off at the airport and was waiting in the baggage claim area outside of security, watching through the glass. I looked over at him as we waited at the gate and realized that his oversight was a great comfort.

There he was, standing patiently and watching to see if we were going to get on. Nothing particularly dramatic about it, but it was a great snapshot of what he has done for me my entire life. He’s been there, watching and waiting, ready to help if needed. There was nothing he could do about getting me on that flight so it wasn’t a matter of fixing things for me. It was his presence that was the offering which brought me comfort. He’s a great dad.

The power of presence is often underrated. Just being there offers confidence, security and support among other things and is the greatest gift we can often offer another. In fact, just being there and supporting when there is nothing else we can do to “fix” something is the kind of love that allows those that we love to work through things with the comfort of knowing that if they can’t work it out they still won’t be alone. It assures them of a place at the table of family and community which allows for living.

My Dad is always there. I can walk with the comfort of His presence even when He is letting me work through the details of my choices and the consequences of those choices from a safe observation point. The oversight and invite are an assurance of my place in the world during times when the world seems to offer no place. The consistency of His offering is that when I draw nearer, there is a peace in the middle of the questions of life. There is acceptance among rejection and strength for the next step. He’s a great Dad.

We Don’t Get It Until We Live It

The depths of grace never cease to amaze me. Just when I think I see it that much more clearly, I’m situated to walk in it and realize my view is so limited. My accumulation of knowledge regarding grace has not yet perfected my understanding and acceptance of grace. My actions and reactions in the circumstances I experience prove that there is more.

I had a friend tell me recently that he was going through a challenging legal battle a few years ago and was called to testify in a deposition. He would face unjust accusations. His preparation wasn’t a review of the facts, it was alignment with grace. He watched a scene from “The Passion of the Christ” in which Jesus was accused. He watched it over and over for several hours. The example portrayed which Jesus set before us of what grace lived out looks like was brutal. It was Him standing in the face of completely unjust accusation and not defending Himself. With all the defense in the universe available at His command, He stood in the truth of His identity. His identity was the foundation for His freedom. He knew who He was and who His Father was.

When rooted in the security of identity, there is nothing anyone can do to us that draws a defense. They can spit in our face, call us names, get their facts wrong or whatever else but the freedom born of security rooted in identity frees us from the need to respond. That’s grace and there is no fully knowing it until the spit, accusations, and questions come. Even when we are right. Especially when we are right.

I’m just not there. Not completely. I want to be. I’m trying. Yet, not yet.

Sometimes, for some time, I can hold back when the defense or counter-argument is sitting there for the taking. Sometimes, however, I pick up my tool belt and go to work. When I was practicing law, that was good and right. As I am diving deeper into grace, that kind of work produces a loss even when I win.

My friend knew the story of Jesus before he watched the movie that day before his deposition. He knew Jesus personally as Lord and Savior, as well. The experience of picking up his own cross and following Jesus in a way that afforded him the experience of grace is what changed his soul. The experience of grace facilitated the understanding of the knowledge of grace which was incomplete without the exercise of grace.

 

If You’re Feeling Salty

I took some hits recently. In places and in ways that I was not accustomed to getting criticized, I was picked apart. It was behind my back and to my face in front of others. It hurt and it made me angry, but I didn’t respond. That hurt, too. It hurt to die to myself and my desire to defend or even attack. I’ve taught on grace and written about grace and believe in grace and now grace is getting further engrained into my soul. I’m seeing a fresh glimpse of an ancient truth.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” (Colossians 4:6).

Salt is used to describe graceful conversation. Graceful talk is salty. Salt = grace.

Salt is a mineral, not a seasoning. Pure salt doesn’t lose its flavor. It can get contaminated and the flavor can get lost in the contaminants or it can get diluted to appear to lose its flavor, but salt is salty forever. Grace never changes or fades away.

Now consider this passage from Mark 9: “Everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with each other.”

We get grace embedded in our soul by trials (fire). Grace actually requires flaws to be put on display. The imperfections of relationship are what affords us the imprint of grace. Remembering that grace doesn’t lose it’s flavor, there is no end to the limits we are called to allow for the flaws in others.

Matthew 5:13 says that we are to be the salt of the earth and it goes on to say that salt that loses its flavor is not good for anything except to be trampled by men. The world will accept our proclamations of Jesus only for so long as our flavor is His grace. Once we decide we have to defend ourselves or attack others, even among ourselves as the world is watching, they have no use for our hollow declarations lacking the flavor of grace.

Only the pain of sin and offense can flavor you with grace. Where there is a temptation or even a right to fight back, the invitation is into grace. It will hurt; dying always does. It will taste good to those that need to taste Jesus, however.

 

 

 

The Fear That Produces Faith

img_0826We went up a mountain yesterday and as I was turning a corner of a winding mountain road, came face to face with a herd of sheep. Thousands of sheep were being pushed down the mountain and we were going up where they were going down.

When we were sitting off to the side of the road to let them pass, they were too scared and the shepherd started to lose control. They started running up the mountain and all over the place. We had to back up to a wide turn with extra space off to the side for them to pass on the road.

Same situation from two different perspectives produced two very different results. We were having a blast. This was so unique and fun to be in the middle of this scene that most of us had never imagined. We gave the shepherds bottles of water and talked with the trailing owners overseeing the large operation. It was a highlight of our day.

The sheep, however, were scared to death. They were panicked and freaking out. We were a perceived threat although we actually presented no threat at all.

There have been times that we’ve gone up the mountain with a different group where members of the group were scared to death. They didn’t like the mountain roads with drop-offs on one side. They didn’t like heights. They didn’t like being out of control. Fear will paralyze us and distort our perspective.

Later in the day, I spent time by myself on the side of a different mountain as I sought the presence of God. At least once during that time, I perceived the fear of the Lord in the sense of His awesome sovereignty. At one point, I literally spent time on my knees before Him.

The fear of the Lord is real and it is the only fear that will actually clarify and motivate. Realization of God puts us in perspective compared to Him and humbles us. It clarifies perceived threats we are facing  and puts them in perspective under His grace and love, as well. We can face the threats knowing that they aren’t as threatening as He is promising.

In this world, we are going to have trouble whether we know the Lord or submit to Him or not. Only through submission to Him can we find peace the surpasses the logic of the fear. Some things are scary, and only perfect love casts out fear.

The Multiplication of Contentment

storm wallThe view from the dream is different from the view upon fulfillment of the dream. That is, when we want something and imagine the greatness of what it would look like if we were to get it, once we do it’s not as perfect as we had imagined. From the distant place, we imagine the new reality without flaw. That’s pretty much never the case once we get there.

An active faith allows for God’s faithfulness to be manifest in our lives. When we believe Him and agree with Him, He will come through. He isn’t a genie and we don’t always get what we want. When He says it, however, it will be true. So we pray and agree and look for the day of deliverance into those things He has indicated are promised. Then we get them and want something just a little different.

Julie and I have been on an incredible journey for the last decade or so. We’ve been transformed individually, as a couple, in our calling, circumstances and practically every other way. Yet, there’s stuff that we wish were different. There’s stuff we wish were different about ourselves individually, marriage, family, finances, circumstances, etc. That stuff is smack down in the middle of a great big testimony of the faithfulness of God in our lives.

Going from glory to glory requires the agitation of some desire. That desire for new glory, however, is not at the cost of contentment. It’s the producer of contentment. From one glory to the next, there is always something to be worked out so at each station along the way, we might as well enjoy and accept the circumstances we experience.

We can gain and we can advance, but 1 Timothy 6:6 says, ” . . . godliness with contentment is great gain.” The contentment is the multiplier.

When we were called to Virginia several years ago, I really didn’t want to go. I liked where we were and preferred to stay. Somewhere along the way, the Lord worked out stuff within me that took me from agitated by the fact that we weren’t where I wanted to be to content. As soon as I was able to sincerely declare contentment and was willing to stay or go, God opened doors that have multiplied every area of our lives.

We walked through the doors to the new opportunities for multiplication that were born in the contentment and all along the way there were challenges. Today there are challenges. The choice is clear; content or discontent?

The Only Hope

treesI went to a funeral last week where we grieved and remembered and we also hoped. Most funerals are sad, some are tragic. This one was tragic as my friend’s 10-year-old boy had died suddenly in almost unthinkable fashion. This one left you questioning and grasping for “why?”

I don’t know why, but I do know this; without the perspective to even offer up the “why” there is absolutely no hope. If limited to the temporal scope of considerations, this one just sucks; nothing more, nothing less. It’s only with the faith to believe beyond the immediate that hope can be found.

The services attracted thousands offering their love, support and condolences to a family that is rooted in and lives from a faith that is mature. As I was standing in the sanctuary taking in the room, beyond the grief, I sensed a hint of hope.

I texted Julie and told her of my perception that hope was in the room. She texted back almost instantly, “It’s Jesus.”

That is so right. The reason there was a whisper piercing the crying was Jesus. He is known by the family and depended on in good times and bad. So much so, in fact, that as the family’s pastor was addressing the media on their behalf for the first time following the fatal accident, the pastor received specific instructions on how to represent the family. “Go preach Jesus,” my friend told his pastor.

In the middle of tragedy and grief, this families heart was to minister to others. Sure, they have a process they are in and will be going through. That process will include all kinds of difficult emotions and practical challenges. Instinct, however, was and is Jesus.

Hope doesn’t disappoint. Jesus is faithful. Despite the setbacks, hurts, failures and challenges, God is good and He is faithful. He doesn’t kill little boys and He doesn’t forget grieving families.

“Yeah, but what about . . .” doubters, scoffers and contrarians argue. They use facts to attempt to combat the truth and their evidence can, at times, be compelling. Compelling right up to its limitation of hope. Compelling right up to its limitation of Jesus.

It’s only with the hope of an eternal perspective that hearts turn to helping others even when they are broken hearts needing healing themselves. Little Caleb’s life was too short. His blink of an earthly lifetime, compared to eternity, is not much different from ours. Are you living in the hope of Jesus with an eternal perspective? He is the only One with more life to offer beyond the blink we all get.