The Gospel according to Greg

The story of the gospel is that God is in the business of making masterpieces out of messes, beauty out of chaos, life out of death, and wholeness out of your broken and shattered pieces. No matter how high into the heavens you go, or how deep into hell, Jesus can still find you. And the good news is that Jesus is not out to get you or against you, but that He is with you and He is for you. He took your ruin upon Himself and gave you robes of righteousness.

He will never stop pleading your case, cheering you on, or fighting for you. He will never stop giving and blessing and loving you, no matter what you do. No matter how you screw up or walk away from Him. He will never give up on you until you are exactly the person He made you to be. Until you are exactly like Him.

What can you and I do in response? The greatest response, our very best act of worship, is to show Jesus gratitude– to never stop saying “Thank You”– and to show compassion–to declare with our lips and our lives tha absolutely no one is too low or too messed up or too far gone for God to reach down and redeem, which is another way of saying God can turn something worthless into something priceless, my trash into His treasure.

We worship by living with open hands, open hearts and open homes. We say to Jesus, “All that I am and all that I have and all that I do is Yours.” We become fully awake and alive and aware of God at work all around us. We see how precious and beautiful is this life He has given us, and that time is too short to not stop every once in a while and smell a rose or watch a child play and breath a prayer of thanksgiving.

We worship by giving ourselves away to the lost, broken, and hurting, expecting nothing in return because we know that God will give us back a thousand times whatever we gave up or lost for His sake. We worship by looking at people and not seeing their circumstances, but seeing through their circumstances to Jesus and what He in His resurrection power can do through those circumstances (thank you, Brian Ball, for that!) We worship when we seek and hope and believe the best about every one we meet.

Christ is in you. He is your hope. He is your glory. Always and forever from the very beginning to the very end and every moment in between, Jesus not only loves you but is in love with you. And nothing has or can or ever will change that.

Believe and live and love and sing and dance in the grace of God. May the love of God penetrate every part of you and fill you so that you become transparent vessels that show forth the awesome wonder of God to the world around you.

As always, I believe. Help my unbelief.

Stream-of-consciousness thoughts on spirituality

As believers in Christ, we don’t fight for victory; we fight from victory. The battle is the Lord’s and He has overcome. The battle is won!

The moment we choose to rebel against what we know to be true is the very moment we open the door to demonic activity in our lives. Peter is a good example of this when he opposed Jesus’ going to Jerusalem and to the cross. If we are under attack, maybe the question to ask is, “What am I believing that is a lie?” or “What am I not believing and acting on that I know to be true?”

God doesn’t want all your activities and programs and to-do lists as much as He wants your heart. And that does not mean a still-beating heart on a silver platter. It means that God wants your heart surrendered to Him. He wants your affection, your emotions, your devotion. In essence, He wants you to fall in love with Him all over again like you did at the first. God is not mad at you or disappointed in you. He knows you better than anyone. He knew who you were and who you’d turn out to be when He created you. Nothing you do is a surprise to Him. But what He’s about to do in your life will be a great surprise to you (and better than anything you could have dreamed of). As I heard someone say, God will use you unless you choose not to be used.

Some of Satan’s modes of attack is accusation and condemnation. That you are not good enough. That you are not nearly up to the task He has called you to. Remember that God doesn’t call the equipped, but equips the called. He wants your availability, not your ability. Another mode of demonic attack is to divide and conquer, to get you isolated and vulnerable. If you are cutting yourself off from fellowship with other believers, beware. You are walking straight into the devil’s trap. But every story of deliverance starts with admitting that I am helpless and that I need Someone to come to my rescue. And God is in the business of rescuing.

God wants your heart. God wants your availability. Believe it or not, God wants you. God still wants me, after all I’ve done wrong and how I’ve often been a walking billboard of reasons not to believe. Rest in your Abba’s love for you. Wherever you are and wherever you’re headed, you can always turn around and come Home.

My prayer for this Wednesday

O Great Lover of my soul, so captivate my senses that all I see is You, all I hear is Your voice and all I long to do is Your will. Make every breath a prayer, every thought a praise and every action an offering. Speak, O God, through my daily life so that everyone may know how You can turn ashes into beauty, dross into gold and something worthless into something priceless.  Remind me that there is no such thing as a lost cause or a hopeless case with You, because NOTHING is impossible for You!

Help me to see with your eyes, feel with your heart, reach out with your hands, and run with your feet toward the broken, outcast, and hopeless ones. Break my heart like your heart was broken over what sin does to Your people. Give me Your passion to see Your people unified, singing with one voice the praises that are due You, lifting up holy hands in prayer and laying down their lives for Your kingdom.

Forgive me the times I have slandered Your name by professing Your name with my lips and denying the same with my lifestyle. Forgive me for seeking to curry favor with the popular when You have always sought after the widows and orphans and outcasts of the world. Forgive me for making so much of myself and so little of You. Forgive me the times when I was silent out of fear instead of being Your voice to the lost and hurting. Forgive me my weakness and unbelief.

Send your Spirit in a mighty outpouring over this land. Let your revival sweep over your Church and let it begin in me. Awake your peoples to be glad and shout for joy at the Eternal Song that is You. May the buildings were Your people meet be shaken to the core, and the people inside broken and mended into new creations. Let us never quit until we have testified of Your goodness to every tongue, tribe, and nation on the planet.

Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

Whatever you did to the least of these, you did it to Me.

“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40).

I have been thinking about that verse quite a bit today. Not so much in the sense of the poor and downtrodden, which is obviously the main ones Jesus is talking about here. But what if at one point I am the least of these. Or what if you are the least of these. How would you treat me? How would I treat you?

I’d like to think I would treat you with respect and dignity and be Jesus to you. The truth is that whatever I do or don’t do to you at that moment of your utmost weakness, I do to Jesus. It’s interesting that Jesus always identifies with the broken and downcast and outcasts rather than identifying with those who are socially acceptable (like I tend to do nearly all the time).

Am I ignoring Jesus in someone else because He doesn’t look or act like me? Am I brushing past Him when I walk past someone who is less polished and more socially awkward? If I am harsh and critical with myself when I am at my lowest ebb, what am I saying to Jesus? Whatever you and I did or didn’t do to the least of these, my brothers and sisters, you and I did or didn’t do to Jesus.

So treat everyone you meet like you would treat Jesus, all of us go through times in our lives when we can identify with the least of these through our brokenness and weakness. In the end, what will matter most will be what we did or didn’t do for the least of these, whether they were living in a cardboard box in the slums or in a mansion.

Some thoughts about worship

Jesus didn’t die for our good works or good intentions. He didn’t die to make good people better. Or for that matter to make bad people good. He died to make dead people come alive. He died for our dark places, our wicked deeds. He came to take our blame and our shame and give us His perfection. Jesus died to make us worshippers.

John Piper says in effect, Worship, not missions, is the purpose of His people. The reason that missions exists is because for so many peoples, worship does not. People can’t worship a God they don’t know. People can’t worship a god made in their image that is too small to save or love or rescue anybody. Redeemed people worship a real God. Really when you look at it, missions and evangelism are both forms of worship– declaring the great worth and works of God to all peoples.

Worship is Romans 12:1-2, offering our bodies as living sacrifices. In the Old Testament, part of worship was offering sacrifices like bulls and goats. Since Jesus did away with the old sacrificial system, what we bring as our offering of worship is ourselves. Worship is giving to God our bodies, our souls, our true selves. Worship is giving back to God what was already His and acknowledging that He owns it all, including us.

Worship is James 1:27. When we give to the widow and the orphan, we give to Jesus. Whatever we do for the least of these, we do for Jesus. Jesus didn’t choose the popular or strong or wise; He chose the throwaways of the world, the lepers, the outcasts and the abandoned to be His worshippers. Worship also means keeping yourself unstained by the world, to be set apart and different. Worship is either a 24/7 lifestyle or it’s nothing at all.

Worship is taking your two loaves and five fishes and watching Jesus turn it into a meal for thousands. When we give what little we call our own to Jesus, He takes it and not only blesses the multitudes, but gives back to us more than we can contain.

Worship means to kiss, to adore and to sacrifice. It is saying that God is supremely worthy of all of me. It means I will give my life away on a daily basis for the Kingdom of God. It means that every breath is a praise and every thought a prayer.

Honestly, after all this, I still don’t really know what worship is. I’m not very good at it. Or I should say I am not very good at worshipping the right thing, i.e. Jesus of Nazareth who died on the cross and rose triumphantly from the grave and has all authority in heaven and on earth, including authority over my life.

In the New Testament, when people worshipped, they fell on their faces. In the book of Revelation, the apostle John fell on his face before Jesus as a dead man. That’s what I pray for: to die to everything else, to fall on Jesus, and live to Him, with Him and for Him only.

As always, I believe. Help my unbelief.

Redemption (It’s Never Too Late to Come Home)

For my 50th blog, I wanted to talk about something close to my heart. That something is the subject of redemption. Especially since I and all those who trust in Christ have been redeemed.

Some definitions I found of the word redeem are: “1) to recover ownership of by paying a specified sum, 2) to pay off (a promissory note, for example), 3) to turn in (coupons, for example) and receive something in exchange, 4) to fulfill (a pledge, for example), 5). to convert into cash: redeem stocks, 6) to set free; rescue or ransom, 7) to save from a state of sinfulness and its consequences. 7)  to make up for: the low price of the clothes dryer redeems its lack of special features.8)  to restore the honor, worth, or reputation of.”

But it’s one thing to know about redemption in an academic sense and an entirely different notion to know experientially what it means to be redeemed. To know that Jesus can take something worthless and turn it into something priceless is cause by itself for worship. To know that no one is beyond His reach is cause for eternal devotion.

The thief on the cross proves that no one is ever a lost cause or a hopeless case. Not even in his dying moments was he too far gone to be saved. Such is the case for anyone in my life (or your life). No one is too depraved to be forgiven. There is no one who has left the path who can never come back.

If you are the one who has crossed every line and blown every chance, there”s still hope. You can never stray so far away that there is no way to get Home again. If you aren’t the one who has lost his or her way, but know someone who has, know that there is never a time to quit praying and reaching out and believing in faith for that person.

I love this quote from John Newton, who himself was a slave trader who was redeemed and became a great hymn writer and leader in the abolition movement in England. As he lay on his death bed, he said to a minister friend, ‎”True, I’m going on before you, but you’ll soon come after me. When you arrive, our friendship will no doubt cause you to inquire for me. But I can tell you already where you’ll most likely find me–I’ll be sitting at the feet of the thief whom Jesus saved in His dying moments on the cross!”

Remember it’s never too late to come Home. Even if you’ve lost your way, Jesus knows how to get you Home. After all, He is the Way. Don’t lose hope for that loved one. Even in his or her last breath, there’s still a chance for redemption.

As always, I believe. Help my unbelief.

And when I am afraid . . .

We talked  about Elijah tonight at Kairos Roots. Here is a man who was just like any of us. He prayed and it did not rain for 3 1/2 years. He prayed again and it rained. He went up against all the prophets of Baal and prayed down the fire of God not only on his sacrifice, but theirs as well. Yet when a woman named Jezebel threatened him, he ran for his life.

“Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers” (1 Kings 19:3-4).

It’s funny what will make us afraid. Even after an awesome spiritual conquest like Elijah experienced over the prophets of Baal, he let one person rule his life with fear. When I have seen God show up and move mightily, why is it that I am so very prone to fear a day or two later? Why am I so forgetful of all He’s done when a little thing comes up that I don’t think He can handle?

God asks a very important question to Elijah, “What are you doing here?” The question is not for God to gain information, but for Elijah to admit to God what God already knows. Elijah never directly answers the question. He says to the effect, “I am the only one left. There is no one on my side, no one who understands.” That is one of the great lies, that we are alone in what we face and that no one else will understand. God always has a remnant He has kept for Himself.

God provides Elijah three things: 1) something to eat, 2) something to drink, and 3) a friend. He sent someone who could speak into Elijah’s fear with understanding and compassion. When we are facing our fears, God will always send friends to walk with us through our trial.

Then Elijah waits in the cave for God to speak. God speaks not in the great strong wind, not in the earthquake, not in the fire, but in the sound of a low whisper, or “The Sound of Silence”, to borrow an old Simon and Garfunkel song title. It reminds me of when Tracy Chapman sang, “Don’t you know talkin’ bout a revolution sounds like a whisper?” We should not expect God to speak to us like He has in the past, because God almost never speaks to a person the same way twice. In a culture that prizes noise and speed, we have to be silent and still. Where the motto of the majority is to “live loud and live fast”, we have to slow down, to stop even, and to be quiet and listen.

In the Old Testament, God often reminded His people of their slavery in Egypt. Not to shame them, but to remind them of this. In the midst of your bondage, God showed up and instead of miraculously delivering you instantly from it, walked with You through it so you would never have to fear it again. God gives us the ability to endure in tough times, which leads us to character growth, which leads to hope. And hope does not disappoint.

I have two questions from God for you. The first is, “If I has been faithful to you and blessed you all these years, what makes you think I will stop now?” That leads to the second question from God: “Will you trust Me for the next 24 hours?” Not a year or a month or even a week. 24 hours. God will not fail to keep His promises toward you. And remember, the purpose of everything that happens to you is to conform you into the image of Christ. Not your happiness or contentment, but joy and holiness.

As always, I believe. Help my unbelief.

Lies I have believed

Even now I still buy into the lie that says, “No one knows you or wants to know you. No one cares about you. You are not welcome or wanted. You are nothing but a shadow that will pass away and nothing will be different when you’re gone.” Even in the midst of those thoughts, when I am almost completely given over to despair and self-pity, Jesus still speaks freedom and truth into my life and against that lie. He illuminates the darkness and exposes what I have believed for the deception it really is.

When the lie says, “No one really knows you,” Jesus, You say, “I know you down to your innermost parts and I know the plans I have for you.”When the lie says, “No one cares about you,” You say, “I care. I loved you so much that while you were a sinner and hostile to me, I died for you. When the lie says, “You are not wanted,” You say, “Come and drink, you who are thirsty for love and come and eat, you who hunger for acceptance. Come to me and I will never cast you out.”

Jesus,  You say, “If you seek Me and not popularity or acceptance, you will not only find that I am your heart’s greatest desire, but you will also find yourself next to those whose hearts are also tuned in to Me. When you can no longer walk, you will findI have placed other in your path to be My hands to carry you. When you can no longer speak, they will be My voice to speak to you and for you. They will share your burdens, sorrows and joys.”

Jesus, take every lie that I have believed and show it to me through Your eyes as the deception it really is. Bind and rebuke the enemy from my mind and so fill my thoughts with You that there is no room for any other voices. Help me to believe the best about my family and friends and loved ones and never to give up on anyone because You never gave up on me– and never will!

Love Your people through me. May I never take it upon myself to determine who is or is not worthy of receiving Your love, but to remember that no one is worthy of Your love, but Your love made us worthy. Thank You for Your reckless, wild, unrestrained, passionate crazy love for me. Break my heart for what breaks Yours. Heal the dark and scarred and shameful places in me.

Captivate me so that I will only chase after You alone and not make idols out of the people or things or places You put in my path. You know that I am by nature prone to idolatry at times and practical atheism (living as though You didn’t exist). Capture my heart so that nothing else will ever matter next to knowing You and making You known.

Help me to remember that I am broken and part of a community of broken people. I belong to a body of believers who don’t have the future mapped out, but know the One who is the Way; who don’t have life figured out, but know the One who is the Life; and who don’t have the answers, but know the One who is the Truth. You are 100% completely in control and we are 100% completely dependent on You at all times for every single thing. You and you plus nothing else make a great Church. Only You are worth living for and only You are worthy of all the honor and glory and praise I can ever bring and a whole lot more. No one or nothing else. Only You.

As always, I believe. Help my unbelief.

Let your light shine


“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:16, NASB).”

I find it very interesting that Jesus does not say “Do your good works, so that your light may shine and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” The command is not do good works, but let your light shine. The good works come out of the light shining and are God at work in and through your surrendered heart and willing spirit. As you are being transformed into the image of Christ, that light shines more and more brightly. And one of the main results of our being transformed is that we become more compassionate and are able to love the unlovely and unlovable.

Too many times, all our good activities and events and programs get in the way of our being lights in the world. We are too busy doing things for God that we neglect to be God’s people that show the world what He is like. If all they see is me running around, fatigued and miserable from all my activities for God, they will have missed God. Don’t get me wrong. These activities are good, but the focus is being the Light of Christ wherever we are and whatever we are doing.
The reward is the glory of God given to God. It is not awards or commendations or praise for me. If I shine, the world sees Jesus, not me. People sees God as He truly is and are drawn to that. Lord, help me to not be another busybody in your Kingdom, but a Light that shines in the dark that the world and the devil will never be able to put out.

My prayer is that we get to the end of our lives and hear Jesus say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You took your light into the dark places few others were willing to go and loved those few others were willing to love and in reaching to the least of these, your light shone brightest.

As always, I believe. Help my unbelief.

Talitha koum

“After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!” ). Immediately the girl stood up and walked around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished” (Mark 5:40-42).

First of all, I’d like to preface this by quoting a Derek Webb song that pretty much sums up all my blogs: “I am like a mockingbird, I’ve got no new song to sing. And I am like am amplifier, I just tell you what I’ve heard, oh I’m like a mockingbird.” There’s nothing really new or original here, but hopefully there’s truth here and God can speak through what I’ve written.

When Jesus spoke the words “Talitha koum” to the dead little girl, she came to life. She didn’t think about choosing to come to life. She was dead, which pretty much means she wasn’t thinking about anything. But Jesus spoke life into her and she had no choice but to live.

What does that say to me here in 21st century America? It says to me that no matter what the situation, there is never such a thing in God’s mind as a lost cause or a hopeless situation. It means there is no part of my life– no struggle, no relationship, no stronghold, no lie– that Jesus cannot redeem. There is never anything or anyone beyond hope that Jesus can’t step in and speak life into. I have never lost anything or anyone that Jesus can’t either bring back to me or give me something 1,000 times better.

There is nothing broken that Jesus can’t make whole. There is nothing defiled that Jesus can’t make clean. There is nothing forsaken that Jesus can’t find and bring back. There is nothing dead that Jesus can’t make alive. To that broken friendship, Jesus says, Talitha koum, be restored! To that wayward loved one, Jesus says, Talitha koum, arise and come home. To that shattered dream, Jesus says, Talitha koum, I have a better dream for you. To that shameful past, Jesus says, Talitha koum, I have born the shame so you can have healing and freedom.

To those who have lost their path, Jesus says, Talitha koum, I am the Way. To that lie that has gripped your soul, Jesus says, Talitha koum, I am the Truth. To that part of your faith that has died, Jesus says, Talitha koum, I am the Life.

What should we do with this? I think for me it means I should never ever give up on anyone, because God never gave up on me (and never will!) It means I should be faithful and follow, because nothing I do for God is ever in vain. It means that every day, every second and every breath is a second chance and that no failure is ever final. It means that if God is for us, then no one or nothing can ever be against us.

As always, I believe. Help my unbelief.