My Rights

For the record, I am not one of those teetotalers who are against everything remotely fun. I have no problem with those who have the occasional beer or glass of wine. I’m okay with dancing. Even the Macarena.

I have noticed a disturbing Facebook trend among people who profess to be believers. One post will be about how much they love Jesus and the next will be along the lines of “I’ll live my life however I want and don’t you dare judge me” and “It’s my right to do whatever I feel like because I know God will forgive me in the end.”

I love what my pastor said: no one will stand in front of Jesus with His nail-scarred hands and feet and argue about their rights. Anyone who truly follows Jesus has laid down their rights.

If anyone had the right to insist upon his rights, it would have been Jesus. Yet that very same Jesus didn’t insist on clinging to His equality with God or His heavenly authority. He laid all that down and emptied Himself, becoming an obedient slave willing to go through torture and death instead of claiming His own rights.

No one has the right to cause a brother or sister to stumble, like drinking a beer or a glass of wine in front of a fellow believer who struggles with addiction to alcohol. The Apostle Paul says that while everything may be permissible, not everything is beneficial or helpful.

The verse that always convicts me is the one that says that whatever isn’t done in faith is sin. For me, a non-drinker, there have been lots of times I’ve sinned by not acting in faith.

The question isn’t “Do I have the right?” The question is “How will this honor and glorify Jesus?”

Ultimately, I laid down my rights when I said yes to Jesus and decided to follow Him. I was bought with a price and Jesus owns me completely. That includes my rights.

My prayer is that my life will be my witness to how good God is and that there will be nothing in my life that impairs that witness in any way. I hope that’s your prayer, too.

PS I know that I am prone to a judgmental spirit at times, but I hope you’ve read these words from a perspective of grace. I know I’ve messed up way too much to ever condemn anyone else for anything. We all need Jesus every moment of every day.

A Seat at the Table

titanicending

“He went on to tell a story to the guests around the table. Noticing how each had tried to elbow into the place of honor, he said, ‘When someone invites you to dinner, don’t take the place of honor. Somebody more important than you might have been invited by the host. Then he’ll come and call out in front of everybody, ‘You’re in the wrong place. The place of honor belongs to this man.’ Red-faced, you’ll have to make your way to the very last table, the only place left.

“‘When you’re invited to dinner, go and sit at the last place. Then when the host comes he may very well say, ‘Friend, come up to the front.’ That will give the dinner guests something to talk about! What I’m saying is, If you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face. But if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.”

“Then he turned to the host. ‘The next time you put on a dinner, don’t just invite your friends and family and rich neighbors, the kind of people who will return the favor. Invite some people who never get invited out, the misfits from the wrong side of the tracks. You’ll be—and experience—a blessing. They won’t be able to return the favor, but the favor will be returned—oh, how it will be returned!—at the resurrection of God’s people.'” (Luke 14:7-14).

I’ve observed in a few Nashville churches that the “holier than thou” club has been mostly replace by the “hipper than thou” crew. There are a few telltale signs. 1) Their pastor and/or worship leader(s) wear skinny jeans. 2) The church building doesn’t look anything like a church building. 3) The worship songs are the latest and newest songs that haven’t even hit the radio yet.

To be fair, I’ve had my share of “hipper than thou” moments, as well as “holier than thou.” I’ve caught myself a few times comparing myself with others and detected more than a little pride in my pop culture knowledge and vast and educated musical tastes.

The fact is, anyone could look at me sitting in a seat at Kairos or in a church pew and rightfully ask, “What are you doing here? You don’t belong here.”

It’s true. I’ve done stupid things. I’ve said and typed much that I regret. I’ve had such thoughts that I truly hope I never run into a mind reader who can read my past thoughts. That would be tragic and awkward.

The fact is that in the Kingdom of Heaven, no one belongs and everyone belongs.

No one deserves to be there. I certainly don’t. Everyone has sinned and sin brings death to everyone every single time (to paraphrase my pastor Mike Glenn). The only reason anyone gets in is grace.

Because of grace, everyone can get in. The door is open. The invitations are sent. Everyone is welcome and no one who wants to get in will be left out.

In my opinion, there’s no such things as bad or good Christians. There are only sinners saved by grace. I love Thomas Merton’s definition of a saint– not someone who is good, but someone who has seen the goodness of God.

Don’t think you’re so very wise and holy that you get the best seats in the house. You’ll find yourself getting knocked down a few rungs on that old ladder. Remember Jesus, who didn’t consider anything or anyone beneath Him, but lowered himself to the position of a slave and didn’t think that death on a cross was too scandalous or too much of a sacrifice to get you and me into His kingdom.

If you’ve accepted the invitation, Just be thankful you’re in. And if you’re still undecided, remember there’s always room for one more– you.

Freedom and Other Thursday Randomness

dog with gate open

I don’t understand a lot of what happens. I don’t understand why people act the way they do. I don’t know why I act the way I do half the time.

But I do know this.

The best kind of freedom is freedom from the expectations of others. The freedom from being a slave to whether someone else likes or doesn’t like you. The freedom to know and be your truest self, regardless of who sees or responds.

I’m not there yet. Maybe you’re not either. I have a strong feeling many people wish they were there, but aren’t just yet. It’s a precious few folks who find this kind of freedom.

People come and people go. You never know who will show up and who will leave. You never know who will be your friend and who won’t. You just have to trust God daily and cherish the people he brings into your life while they’re there.

Sometimes, when my life feels most unstable, that’s when I appreciate the most God’s unchangingness– how he is the same yesterday, today, and forever. His promises are true yesterday, today, and forever, too.

Cling to the eternal and let what is temporary go. Or, as Jim Elliot said, “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

I’ve always loved that. And that’s what I intend to do, God willing and with God’s help. And today is one of those days when I need an extra helping of God’s help.

I’ve been told that God helps those who help themselves. But if we could help ourselves, we wouldn’t need God’s help in the first place. I think it’s more like this. God helps those who know they can’t help themselves, who have tried and tried and failed so many times before only to end up back where they started. Who know that they are poor and wretched and miserable and blind and needy without God. The poor in spirit.

Lord, may we fall into your grace and find that it is more than sufficient.

Amen.

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.

Blessed are the meek

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).

To be meek is not to be a pushover. To be meek is to be strong, but under control. It’s strength with a purpose, focus and goal. Think of a bridled horse whose strength is harnessed for a race. John MacArthur states, “True meekness is power under control. We can see that in light of the different ways the Greek praos was used. Medicine taken in the proper dosage can be helpful, but an overdose may kill; a domesticated horse is useful but an undomesticated one is destructive; and a gentle breeze cools and soothes, but a hurricane kills.”

Again, I like the way The Message puts it: “You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.” To have power under control is to be content. To not fight against God’s will, but instead fight against the things in your life that oppose God’s will. If you are not content with who you are, you will expend useless energy in striving to be someone you’re not and to meet the expectations you’ve projected onto others about yourself (which can’t be done. I know. I’ve tried)

The best example of meekness is Jesus in Philippians 2:5-11. He who was God and equal with God made himself nothing, becoming a slave. His strength was geared toward laying down His life for us on the cross. He had no other focus but doing the will of God.

John MacArthur writes that some of the ways that you know can know if you are meek are obedience to God’s word, becoming angry only when God is dishonored, making peace, gentle in how you teach others and– most importantly–receiving criticism in a loving spirit and loving those who are giving the criticism.

What is the result of meekness? We inheirit the earth. That means that we belong to the God who owns it all and has given us everything we need. It means that one day we will reign with Him (2 Timothy 2:12). The best part is still that we have God with us, for us, and in us. How could it possibly get any better than that?

As always, I believe. Help my unbelief.