Day 40

We started out our journey together talking about all our messes, but we always ended up talking about grace. 18 of these blogs have intentionally been about talking about and teaching about grace. On this last day of our journey, I thought I would share one out of the thousands of messes that I’ve put myself or found myself in through the years. I share this mess with the definite hope that though my messes have been great, his grace is far greater. I share this mess with the definite hope that though my messes have been real, his grace is more real, more permanent, more powerful. I share this mess with the definite hope that I am no longer defined or confined by my messes but rather I am formed and transformed, molded and shaped by his amazing grace. Remember grace is the unmerited, unearned, unconditional love of God that meets us where we are and takes us where we need to be. I praise you Jesus for your grace!!!

When Janey and I had been married for six years, we found ourselves with two small children serving a new church that had been through a major crisis and loss of their founding pastor. We were told that we were sent there to “fix things” and “turn this church around.” That may have been what key leaders told us, but looking back almost 30 years, I would say that God sent us there to expose our hearts and lives to the need for his healing.  

I was an adult child of an alcoholic who thought that all that stuff was dealt with. The truth was I was filled with insecurities and the need to compensate by overcompensating. My worth and significance was found in my performance and a win at all cost mentality. How this crossed over into my Christianity was that who I was in Christ was all wrapped up in what I did for Christ. This led to a workaholic spirituality that sucked the life out of anyone that was close to me, including especially Janey. I was marching, sprinting through life expecting, even demanding her to do the same. One of the survival tricks I had played on myself when my dad was active in his alcoholism was that I flipped an emotional switch that said, “I am not going to hurt anymore.” I flipped that emotional breaker switch in my adolescence, and when I did, I also took out a lot of necessary, healthy, functional, greatly needed emotional wiring. I may have knocked out my hurt, but I also took out my capacity for deep empathy and love. What I had done to survive as a teenager, became normative. In many ways I was like a machine just cranking through life no matter what the circumstance. Needless to say who I was was killing my bride and the mother of our children. Janey was suffocating and had no one to really say ouch to. I was hurting her and causing her heart to be hardened toward me and I was absolutely, positively clueless to the decline and immanent death of our relationship. I wish I could say I had a great epiphany and things got better immediately. The truth is things got worse and great wounds occurred, and only by the grace of God and his long term healing presence was our marriage restored, made new, indeed resurrected.

Grace didn’t come to us because we deserved it; we didn’t! Jesus, His grace, came to us because we needed him. Forgiveness both vertically and horizontally came. Life, love, laughter came because of who He is not because of who we were. Yea, Andy, but what did y’all do? What are the 10 key principles for surviving marital death? Can’t answer that. I don’t know. But what I do know is that His grace is sufficient. What I do know is that when in our brokenness we came fully to Him, He came fully to us. What I do know is that when we said not just an excruciating “Ouch” but a surrendered “Help,” Jesus was there in the blink of an eye. What I do know is that he gave us the strength to take a step, to take a breath, to simply move forward.

I’ll always remember as we were visiting with a counselor and the counselor asked me, “Andy, how do you feel about _________?” I said, “Well, I think ….”

“No, Andy, how do you feel about _______?”

“It seems to me that ….”

“No, Andy, how do you feel…?”

It literally took me about five minutes to give birth to a feeling. That was a breath, that was a step that was taken only by the grace of God.  

As we finish out this journey, where are you still stuck in your mess? Where are you still stuck in your brokenness, in your sin, in your past? Let God meet you there, let Him start His work of healing there, let Him give your breath there, let Him give you the power to take a step forward, a step out, there.

He loves you! There is nothing you can do to make God love you any less, nothing you can do to make God love you any more. He simply and profoundly, deeply and unconditionally, loves you!

 

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Day 39

“We love because he first loved us! 1 John 4:19

After a long hard day at work, a weary father collapsed in his EZ boy and tuned out the world as he vegged in front of the TV. As he was half zombied and half asleep, he felt a tap, a tug, and finally a pull on his arm. When he finally looked down, he saw the expectant face of his six year old son. “Daddy, daddy, will you play catch with me?” The exhausted father knew the right answer, but he also knew the reality of his weariness, and so he came up with what he thought was a great plan. He said, I tell you what son. I’m going to make this puzzle for you from my magazine, and as soon as you put it together, then we’ll go play ball.” The dad then reached over to the magazine rack and pulled out a National Geographic. He flipped through the pages to find the map of the entire world that he had seen a few days before. He then tore that page out of the magazine and ripped it into over twenty pieces, and then he said to his little boy, “Here son, put this together and then we’ll play catch.” With that said, the dad closed his eyes in great satisfaction and peace knowing that he had solved his son’s need for activity and his own need for rest. But just a short two minutes later, he was awakened by another tap, another tug, another pull and this time a shout: “Look, dad, I’m finished. I’m finished!” And sure enough the son had that whole map all taped back together. “How in the world? Son, that’s incredible. How did you do that so fast? I didn’t even know you knew all the nations and continents. That’s amazing.”

‘No dad, it wasn’t that big a deal. lt was really simple. Daddy, all I had to do was put the man’s body together that was on the other side and the world just fell in place.”

So what are the relevant morals to this story for those called in grace to be a part of the Body of Christ?

When the Body of Christ becomes one, it will pave the way for the world to know the One. When each of us live out our part in making Christ’s body whole, the world can be made whole. When each piece of the Body of Christ comes together, it makes for a beautiful view and a powerful body.

In 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 Paul lays down five core calls to make such beauty and power a reality in Christ’s Body. First, Paul calls the Body of Christ to connection and oneness. The body is composed of arms and legs and eyes and a nose, but Paul says that the Body is to function as a unit. Over and over again he uses “one” to describe the essential nature of Christ’s Body. Our oneness comes as we connect to each other and specifically as we connect to He who is the Head of the Body, Christ Jesus. Paul says in verse 15, “If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body.” Even in Paul’s day there was a tendency toward isolationism in some who followed Christ. This feeling that one can be a Christian and not connect to Christ Body is just as offensive as saying to a groom at his wedding, “Hey, I love you man, but I can’t stand your bride.” To follow Christ is to choose to totally connect your life to His Body and His purposes and to vitally experience oneness with the Body of Christ.

Second, Paul’s call to the Body of Christ is a call for each of us to do our part and a call for each of us to let others do their part. The eye needs to see and not to worry about hearing. The feet need to stand and not worry about talking. We all have our part to play, and we need to play that part. Paul says in verse 17, “If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?” The Body of Christ, both locally and globally, is impotently limping rather than powerfully sprinting because many, many Christians are withholding their parts, and many other Christians are trying to fill gaps and thus play parts they were never intended to play.  

Third, Paul’s call to the Body of Christ is a call to interdependence. The truth is simple, we need each other. By His design of His Body, there is a mutual dependence. The ear needs the eye, the eye needs the voice, the voice needs the hands, the hands need the feet, the feet need the ear, and we all need each other. The individualistic and autonomous nature of our culture is a huge obstacle to the full and effective functioning of the Body of Christ today. We must be willing to say “Ouch” and “Help” to one another, and we also must be willing to move toward others in need.

Fourth, Paul’s call to the Body of Christ is a call to diversity without discrimination. There are radically different parts that exist in Christ’s Body, but there is to be no division and no hierarchy. All of us who belong to the Body of Christ do so in His Grace and in His grace alone. Our merit, our strength, our intelligence, our accomplishments do not define our place, but rather God puts us where He wills. Verses 24-26 say, “But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”

Fifth, Paul’s call to the Body of Christ is ultimately a call to love. I Corinthians 12:31 says, “But eagerly desire the greater gifts.” This verse is then immediately followed by the love chapter of 1 Corinthians 13:1-13. Such love becomes the primary motivation and the primary empowerment for the Body of Christ actively engaging and serving one another and the world. When Body parts are disconnected and when the Body of Christ is ineffective, chances are there is not a structure problem but rather a love problem. 1 John 4:19 says, “We love because he first loved us!”

Grace Point: The Body of Christ needs you, and you need the Body of Christ!

Grace Truth: “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.” 1 Corinthians 12:12

Grace Question: Are you playing your part in the Body of Christ? Have you figured out how your puzzle piece fits in God’s master plan?

Day 38

“A priest is not just someone who has direct access and profound relationship with God, he or she is also someone who becomes a willing agent of God’s grace and presence in the world.”

Several years ago I had the opportunity to participate in Leadership Summit put on by Willowcreek Church out of Chicago. This leadership conference is open to leaders from all types of backgrounds but is intentionally targeted at Christian leaders. Businessmen, higher education professionals, service industry leaders, salesmen, etc. All come together along with many folks who serve in some kind of “ministry” positions in their local church. 10 years ago, Wayne Cordaro, pastor of the largest church in Hawaii, addressed the audience and casually asked, “How many of you are ministers?” Out of several thousand participants, maybe a few hundred raised their hands. Wayne shot back at us: “I thought all Christians were supposed to be ministers. Don’t we believe in the priesthood of believers anymore?” We’ve come a long way baby since Martin Luther’s “95 Thesis” back in 1517, but maybe when it comes to all Christians being in ministry, we are still back in the dark ages.

The priesthood of all believers was the radical watchword of the Protestant Reformation. lt was both a response to the hierarchicalism of the medieval church and a desired return to the formative foundations of the early church. 1 Peter 2:9 tells us that we are a “chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God.” What made the priesthood of believers so radical then, and I believe what makes it still so radical today, is that because of the Great High Priest, Jesus, we have complete and direct access to the very presence of God. We believe that because of the grace of God we have become the very temples of God indwelt by His living and powerful Holy Spirit. Luther and Wesley may have had their differences, but this was not one of them.

A priest is not just someone who has direct access and profound relationship with God, he or she is also someone who becomes a willing agent of God’s grace and presence in the world. A priest is one who stands in the gap between God and humanity as His witness and also one who stands in the gap between humanity and God as humanity’s intercessor. All Christians are called to be priests. In our Book of Discipline a whole section is dedicated to The Ministry of All Christians.  

The priesthood of believers seemed such a drastic principle in the 16th century because the laity of that era was wholly dependent on the ordained priesthood for their spiritual identity. The scriptures, the sacraments, salvation itself was held and controlled by those called priests. Such control and dependency created a rigid hierarchy and separation between lay and clergy, and as time went on, it even led to the misuse of power and the abuse of persons. Layers and layers of reasons and centuries of political, religious and cultural history led to such a situation long ago, but God desires that such would not be the case today.

In a recent conversation with a friend, he asked, “How many ministers do ya’ll have at that church anyway?”

Without, hesitation 1 replied, “1,200!”

“Oh yea, right, 1,200. You’re talking about that priesthood of believer thing. But how many ministers do ya’ll really have?”

Without missing a beat and with a little stronger clarity I said, “We have 1,200 followers of Christ who have each been set apart and called into ministry.”

“Yea,” he said, “but how many preachers do you have?”

“Weil, right now we have about 60 folks in our church who are specifically called and intentionally exercising the gift of teaching. On our church staff, we have 7 or so full time ministers who have been called to raise up and equip our whole church for ministry.” A little exasperated he said, “Yea, but how many pastors do you have?”

“The truth is we have at least 100 folks who are serving as pastors and shepherds who are daily taking care of Christ’s flock in and through our church.”

“That’s different, Andy.”

“Yeah, I know, but that’s biblical.”

Now some of you may see our church differently than the way I just described it, and that’s OK. But there is no doubt in my mind that God has called each and every one of you who are reading this blog into ministry. God has given you gifts and passions and abilities to love and to make a difference in this world. Don’t just use your grace-given priesthood to get to God; use your grace-given priesthood to change this world for Christ.

Grace Point: “God’s call is for all!”

Grace Truth: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may deciare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”

1 Peter 2:9

Grace Question: Where is God calling you to be his priest today?

Day 37

“A spiritual gift is not a mere human talent; a spiritual gift is a divine, supernatural ability given by God to enable a Christian to serve and to make a difference in this world.”

When I was in seventh grade, I started playing the coronet in our junior high band. I wasn’t first chair, but I was pretty dose. I could play coronet with the best of them. But then, something tragic happened — I got braces. Overnight my lips and my mouth seemed to lose their ability to function, and I went from high chair to no chair. My band director suggested I try the baritone instead. Man, was that the best advice ever. I took to that baritone like a pig to slop, and I played and played and played that horn. There was only one problem. Seventh graders were pretty low on the totem pole when it came to taking the school horns home. On a regular basis I was denied access to one of the school horns because somebody from the high school band needed it. While my family may have appreciated the break, Mama and Daddy knew that I was missing out on pursuing both a passion and a skill because of my inaccessibility to the school baritones.

I’ll always remember Christmas morning of my seventh grade year. I went to sleep on Christmas Eve wearing my socks. Those socks were essential equipment for sneaking down the hall to see what Santa had brought. I woke up around 3AM and slid silently down our long hall to the living room that was filled with both wrapped and unwrapped presents. At our house the unwrapped presents were from Santa. In the twinkling of the Christmas tree lights and in the slow blinking of our manger’s light, I saw a huge case resting on the hearth of our fireplace. I knew immediately that it was a baritone case. I rushed over to the case opened the lid and pulled out a beautiful, brand new baritone. I just hugged that horn like it was a long lost relative. I couldn’t believe Mama and Daddy had gotten me a baritone. After a while, I put the baritone back in its case, locked it up and headed back to bed. I was so excited that I couldn’t even begin to go back to sleep, so around 4:45 AM I snuck back down the hall and once again uncased the baritone and took it in my arms. This time, however, I also took the mouthpiece out and put it in the horn. That horn looked so good and felt so good. I just couldn’t help myself and in a manner of minutes I was blasting out the “Boogie Woogie” on my brand new baritone. Would you believe that in a matter of seconds everybody in our house was up for Christmas. Did I mention that we had my two 90 year old grandmothers, staying with us that Christmas? Did I mention that we had one of my brothers and his almost full term pregnant wife staying with us? Well, we did. Since it was almost 5:15 AM and since we were all up, I called by brothers Joe and Terry on the phone and played the “Boogie Woogie” for them too. That really was a great Christmas and that really was a great gift my parents gave me.

So what does God’s grace have to do with my baritone?

First, God loves to give his children his grace. His charis (Greek word for grace), his grace, his unconditional love is the greatest gift of all! My baritone was an awesome gift, but it dims in comparison to the gift of God’ s amazing grace in our lives. My parents sacrificed to buy that gift for me; Jesus sacrificed his all to provide his grace for us. That baritone was something I wanted; God’s grace is something we cannot live without. The gift of my baritone was free; it was not something I earned. The gift of God’s grace is absolutely free and not based in any way on what we do or don’t do. The charis of God also comes with the charisma (Greek word for spiritual gifts) of God. These spiritual gifts are given to all who believe in Christ. God’s desire is not just to let us know his love and charis but for his love and charisma to become operative in and through our lives. Paul specifically addresses the issue of spiritual gifts in Romans 12:3-8, 1 Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4:7-16. Receiving that baritone 30 years ago was pretty cool, but receiving God’s charis and charisma on a daily basis truly blows me away.

Second, God desires his gifts to be joyfully used not neglectfully shelved. When I saw and held that baritone long ago, I just couldn’t help myself, I had to play it. It would have broken my Mama’s and Daddy’s hearts if I would have said, “Hey, great gift; I think I’Il go put that in my closet.” That baritone was made to be played. Paul exhorts us in Romans 12:6-8 to use the gifts that God has given us. Our gifts may be different and we may be different from one another, but may we as one use our gifts to make a difference in this world for Christ.”‘ In 1 Timothy 4.14, Paul gives some simple and practical advice to Timothy and to us: “Do not neglect the gift you have…” No matter who you are, no matter how long you have been a Christian, no matter how spiritually mature or immature you think yourself to be, you have been given spiritual gifts that are to be joyfully used and not neglectfully shelved.

Third, God’s gifts will powerfully affect this world. When I “boogie woogied,” I woke the whole house and my whole family. Even some of the neighbors beard the ruckus. That’s what happens when we play for God, when we use our gifts for His glory. People will be awakened and changed and moved. You see, a spiritual gift is not a mere human talent; a spiritual gift is a divine, supernatural ability given by God to enable a Christian to serve and to make a difference in this world. Imagine if everybody in our church took their spiritual gifts off their shelves and boldly lived them and played them for our hurting and broken world. Would our church be different? Would Lubbock be different? Would our world be different? Would we be different? Absolutely!

Grace Point: God loves to give His spiritual and purposeful gifts to His children.

Grace Truth: “Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant.” 1 Corinthians 12:1

Grace Question: What are some of your spiritual gifts?

Day 36

“He is not calling him and her and them; He is calling you to make a difference in this world for Him.”

Moses had been through a lot in his life. He was strategically abandoned as a baby, and yet he was miraculously rescued by a princess. He grew up as a child of extreme privilege, and yet in his heart he knew he was one with the Hebrew slaves. He had incredible opportunity, and yet he had incredible emptiness. In response to the beating of a Hebrew brother, Moses murdered the Egyptian abuser. Moses, who was rescued out of the Nile as an infant, is now forced to flee for his life into the land of Midian. Moses lived in Midian for 40 years. He married, he became a father, and this once child of the great Pharaoh became an ordinary shepherd in a foreign land. One day, this ordinary shepherd had an extraordinary encounter. This man, who was once a child of Pharaoh, came face to face with the reality that he was in actuality a child of the Living God. Moses met God on Mt. Horeb, and God called Moses to go to Egypt to set His people free.

It is not every day that one meets God in a burning bush, not every day that one stands on the holiest of ground, but it might be every day that you and I do what Moses did next. Moses waffled, Moses back peddled, and Moses tried to do everything he could to get out of doing what God had called him to do. Exodus 3:11-4:17 tells the story of Moses’ reluctance to follow God’s call.

First, Moses questioned if God had the right person (3:11). What Moses felt on Mt. Horeb might be similar to what Peter felt by the Sea of Galilee right after Jesus taught him how to really catch fish. (Luke 5:1-8) Jesus had used Peter’s boat to stand in as he talked to the crowds, and then in the middle of the day, Jesus sent these hardened, experienced fishermen out onto the lake. They knew that you couldn’t catch fish in the heat of the day. They knew no fish were to be caught at that depth and location. Sure enough as Peter and his friends cast the nets into the water, the nets began to come alive with fish. So many fish were in their nets that the nets began to tear and the boats began to sink. When Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Depart from me Lord for I am a sinful man” (Luke 5:8b). Translated into Moses’ jargon, “Jesus, I don’t think you’ve got the right guy.” If you, like me, are one of those persons who doubts whether God could ever use you and who has full confidence that He could use someone else better, hear this foundational principle: “God doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called.”

Second, Moses questioned the very credentials of God, Himself (3:13). Moses is really asking God to both identify and verify His essential character. Now while most of us don’t go around with a God-sized stethoscope checking out the nature and condition of God, we do often find ourselves in places of wondering if God really is Jehovah Shamah, the God who is present in our lives? Is God really Jehovah Jireh, the God who provides for our needs? Is God really Jehovah Nissi, the God who is our banner protecting us and covering us in his love? Is God really Jehovah Rapha, the God who heals us? Is God really a God of grace who passionately pursues a relationship with us even when we have ignored and abandoned Him? While such questioning and struggling with God is part and parcel of a deepening intimacy with Him and while such doubt can lead to a more authentic faith, a lack of trusting in the nature and character of God, a refusal to trust in Him rather than in oneself, can result in a paralyzed and empty life.

 

Third, Moses questioned God’s strategy and authority (4:1). Moses had lived in Egypt; Moses personally knew Pharaoh; Moses understood Pharaoh’s leadership style; Moses knew from experience how things worked and didn’t work down in Egypt. He knew that the Egyptian leaders would never believe him, and that they would never heed his command. Moses had learned his lesson in the school of hard knocks, and he knew that he didn’t have a chance up against Pharaoh. Moses is a lot like us. He was basing his expectation of the future on his experience in the past. Do you ever do that? When we lived in Louisiana, I was out mowing my grass one day, when I got stung by a big ole orange wasp. It got me right in the back of the head; I never saw him coming. After that, I was always a little leery about even walking by the nest which was under my shingles over the garage. It’s natural for our brains to define our current reality based upon our experience of reality. It was natural for me to feel a little shudder every time I get out of our van by the grarage or took out the trash because both of these required me to walk directly under the wasps, but I cannot let my past experience control my present and future reality and neither can you. I can hear some of you shouting at your book: “Andy, just get rid of the wasps and then you can do what you need to do.” I also can hear God clearly speaking, “Andy, give me your past, and then I’ll take care of your present and your future.” Moses had a choice of trusting in what he knew about Egypt or trusting in what he knew about God.

Fourth, Moses questioned his abilities to lead because of his weaknesses (4:10). Moses saw his lack of eloquence and his s … t. . .u.. . .t. . .t.. . .e. . .r…i…n..g as obstacles to carrying out God’s purposes. Almost as if he saw God conducting the ultimate job interview, he saw himself as falling woefully short of being what God really needed to accomplish His will. God, however, is not looking for great ability but great availability. God isn’t looking for those with perfect credentials but rather for those with willing hearts. The Apostle Paul began to fully understand and teach that “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Ultimately, God was not looking for a great deliverer in Moses, but he desired to be the Great Deliverer for Moses and for all of Israel. Your weakness is not your enemy, and your seeming obstacles are but opportunities for his grace.

Fifth, Moses finally just begged God, “Please Lord, just send someone else to do it” (4:13). The truth is God wanted Moses to go. The truth is God wants you and me to go. He is not calling some of us, but all of us into ministry. He is not calling him and her and them; He is calling you to make a difference in this world for Him.

May God’s grace work in us to overcome our reluctance and thus free us to set others free.

Grace Point: God doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called!

Grace Truth: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”

2 Corinthians 12:9

Grace Question: What’s holding you back from saying “Yes” to Christ’s call?

Day 35

 

On Day 1 of our journey, we took a brief look at Paul’s Magna Carta of grace as found in Ephesians 2.8-9:

“‘For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – – not by works, so that no one can boast.”

These beautiful and powerful verses come in the context of Ephesians 2:1-10 that gives us an even fuller view of the work of God’s grace in our lives. We see in this passage that grace reaches out to us in the midst of our spiritual death and then offers us new life in Christ. We see that grace finds us in the pit of following after our own ways and then raises us up to be like Christ, and we see that grace meets us when we are without purpose and then transforms us into the very purposeful handiwork of Christ, Himself. This descriptive and grace filled passage concludes with a hopeful promise and definitive invitation for all of us who are recipients of God’s grace:

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).

This verse gives us five specific truths about all of us who are grace-filled followers of Christ. First, we grace-filled followers of Christ are no longer our own; we are His. Each year at our church we have a stewardship emphasis. For a few weeks each year we talk about how everything that we are and everything we have belongs to God and how God has given us access to His resources while we are here on this earth. Most of us, however, tend to live with an upside down stewardship. We tend to live like everything that we are and everything we have belongs to us and every now and then we let God have a window of access to our belongings. When God’s grace finally gets us, this will never be the case, for we are HIS workmanship. Our material possessions, our creative minds, our physical strength, our spiritual gifts, our future, our all is not ours at all. For grace-filled followers of Christ, all that we are and all that we have belong to Him.

Second, grace-filled followers of Christ are not mere accidents of nature but rather artwork of the Grand Artist. The teachings of strict Darwinism and “God is Dead” philosophies offer horribly pessimistic views of humanity. Too often, such ideology considered peripheral by many has moved to the mainstream of American culture. God is viewed as non-involved at best and non-existent at worst. Humanity, in such a paradigm, exists and lives by mere chance. Paul teaches instead that we are the craftsmanship, the creation, the artistry of God. The Psalmist says “God created us, He knit us and wove us together and we are fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:13-15). Paul specifically says we are “created in Christ Jesus.” Paul tells us in Colossians 1:16 that all things were created through Jesus and for Jesus. lt is in and through Christ that we are both created and recreated in his grace. God made YOU! God never makes junk! You, my friend are not junk but rather His priceless and treasured creation.

 

 

 

 

Third, grace-filled followers of Christ have a God-given purpose. Why are we here? Why are we on this earth anyway? Hedonism says you only go around once in life so go for the gusto. Hedonism says that my fulfillment is found in my pleasure. Humanism says that man humanity, is all that there is. Humanism says that my fulfillment is found whatever way I determine, that the buck starts and stops with me. Existentialism says that morality is subjective and ethics are situational. Existentialism says my fulfillment is found in doing what is right in my own eyes. Pragmatism says that anything goes as long as I’m not hurting someone else. Pragmatism says that my fulfillment is found in what works. Nihilism says that there is no such thing as meaning, so if it feels good, do it. Why not? Nihilism says my fulfilment can never be found because there is no such thing as fulfillment. But God has given us GRACE, which says that you and I have ultimate worth and significance to God. GRACE says that you and I have been made for a purpose, and that purpose is to do works of goodness, excellence and honor. I often wonder who has my attention – – the voice of this world or God’s voice of Grace?

Fourth, grace-filled followers of Christ are a part of God’ s master plan. In this passage Paul is inviting us into a grace-filled reality that has been prepared for us since before the foundation of the world. He is echoing the Psalmist who says “When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:16). God’s grace is about accepting us and transforming us, but it is also about connecting us to that which is greater than we are. He has awesome plans and marvelous desires in store for us if we will but follow him and live in his grace. I know that many of us struggle with the tension between God’s sovereignty and humanity’s freedom, and that’s OK. Don’t let that tension stop you from trusting His plan and design for you. Jesus said, “I have come that you might have life and life abundantly” (John 10:10). Jeremiah 29.11 “For 1 know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Fifth, grace-filled followers of Christ are never found on the sidelines of life. They engage, they serve, they grow, and they make a difference in this world for Christ. Grace-filled followers understand that Christianity is not a spectator sport, but an all-play reality.

Grace Point: Grace says that you and I have been made for a purpose!

Grace Truth: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. “Ephesians 2:10

Grace Question: If God is the potter and you are His clay, what is he shaping you to do?

Day 34

“For whatever the reason, many Christians have heard the call and invitation to be saved, loved and transformed by God, and yet stayed oblivious to God’s call of purpose, service and ministry.”

I grew up in a fairly typical West Texas Methodist home. We went to church on Sundays where my mama played the piano and my daddy taught Sunday school. God and our church were on the main street of my hometown but on the remote side street of the internal home of my heart. God’ s voice was relegated to a few minutes of preaching and teaching on Sunday mornings, but all that began to change as my strong and proud family began to show signs of cracking. My dad’s financial success hadn’t brought the anticipated fulfillment, and it was becoming obvious that his social drinking was clearly becoming problem drinking. A couple of my older brothers (I have five!) began to spiral out of control in the late 60’s: one with drugs, depression and divorce, the other with a rampant party appetite that almost cost him his life on several occasions. Into our stayed and autonomous, never-let-anybody-know-you’re hurting, little town came the fresh wind of God’ s Spirit. Through a series of profound miracles, lives were changed right in front of my very eyes. Churches of all denominations united to worship the Living God, to pray and seek His face, and to experience His radical and transforming grace. My brother Kerry was saved and delivered from destruction right in the middle of a raunchy beer bash. My daddy was set free from alcohol the week before Thanksgiving of my senior year in high school. During those formative days, I realized that we don’t have a side-street, sidelined or silent God. We have a God who acts and who speaks to those He loves.

I was 17 years old at a church camp in Ceta Canyon, Texas, when God clearly called me to follow him. I had spent my junior year in high school pursuing my passions and my goals. In football I had started as outside linebacker and led our team in tackles in several games. In basketball our team had advanced to the regional finals. In FFA our parliamentary procedure team had placed at state contest, and I had earned the Lone Star Farmer award. In academic competition I went to state in Science and Number Sense (speed math). Put all these together and you know what I really had? NOTHING. None of this came even close to filling the void that God desired to fill in my soul. Only God himself could fill the vacuum that He had designed in me and in all of humanity. At camp that summer, a Methodist preacher named Stan Cosby preached on Mark 8:34-37: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?”

As he preached, I heard Stan, but in my mind and heart I began to hear another voice, the voice of Jesus, saying, “Andy, if you want me, you’ve got to give me your all. If you want to be full of me, you’ve got to be empty of you.” I heard Jesus’ offer on a Wednesday night and I said, “No way!” You see, I had big plans for me and they were about me, not about Jesus. Throughout the next day God’ s grace, love and presence were so overwhelmingly available to me in spite of my rejection.  The ice of my resistant heart began to melt. On a Thursday evening at a stone cross and concrete altar I said, “YES” to Jesus and his love and his purpose for my life. Almost immediate to this unconditional YES, I began to understand and hear another call, the call to serve Jesus in full-time ministry all the days of my life. I was clueless about what that meant, but I understood that Jesus had called me to both belong to Him and serve Him.

 

The call to follow and the call to serve, the call to know and the call to do, the call to be loved and the call to love, the call to belong and the call to make a difference had come in my heart and life almost simultaneously. I praise God for the way in which I came to hear and understand His call in my life. I know that many have heard these calls in a different way and in a different time sequence, but I am convinced that these calls must never be exclusive of each other. For whatever the reason, many Christians have heard the call and invitation to be saved, loved and transformed by God, and yet stayed oblivious to God’ s call of purpose, service and ministry. ALL Christians are called to ministry! St. Luke’s UMC is not a church of three ministers and 1000 members; we are a church of 1000 ministers!

Grace Point: “God’s grace is never content to just work in us; it always seeks to work and move through us.”

Grace Truth: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (even Ruston). Acts 1.8

Grace Question: Have you heard and heeded your call into ministry?