Tag Archives: grace

Outsiders on the Inside

16 Aug

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Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,

To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:

May grace and peace be multiplied to you. 1 Peter 1:1-2

 

The Christians Peter wrote to were outsiders, scattered all over the Roman Empire, not clustered together in Jerusalem. Outsiders, especially in the First Century lived at the bottom of society. If they had a job it was most likely feeding pigs or washing feet. Some were probably beaten, others had their possessions confiscated, and most likely anyone trying to climb socially avoided them altogether.

These undesirables focused not outwardly, but on their relationship with God. While they saw the haves and the standard of living they enjoyed from the outside, they saw life from the inside of the Kingdom! These believers knew the sanctifying work of the Spirit and the regenerating power of Jesus’ blood.

And they possessed grace and peace – possessions of which those around them knew very little.

The mathematical word multiplied means an abundant increase in something that exists already. Elementary math students know that zero cannot be a multiplier. In other words, zero can’t be reproduced into two or three (or any other number of) piles. It literally doesn’t compute. In order for grace and peace to be multiplied to the Christians Peter addressed, by definition they must already possess them to some degree. In this introduction of his first letter, Peter prays that God will multiply, bestow a many-fold increase in, the amount they already have.

Peter knew what it was to be harassed– and he knew how much greater the grace and peace of God were compared to the life’s difficulties. He reminds his readers that the grace and peace of Jesus do not simply negate the hard stuff of life, they exponentially surpass it.

Abundance is a God-sized concept. He lavishes blessings like grace and peace on us until they fill and overflow our finite containers, spilling over onto those around us.

———-

READY FOR SUNDAY

Put all the hard stuff of you life in one place in your head. Or make an actual list. Include the unfair, as well as things you deserve, that hurt and make life difficult.

Now, in your heart gather up what you have in Christ, all of which you (and I) don’t deserve: grace, peace, forgiveness, redemption, joy, eternal life, inheritance with Christ, a new heart…

Now compare lists.

The troubles we have in this world don’t come close to what we have in Christ. I’m ready to worship God now; I don’t have to wait for Sunday!

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Gomer’s Choice

18 Feb

[She] went after her lovers
and forgot me, declares the Lord.

Therefore, I will allure her…  Hosea 2:13-14

Forgetting God is what Gomers do.

Western culture and human nature produce one after another.  Gifted artists, raised in the church where their God-given talents are nurtured, attain a level of ability that gives them options not available to most of us.   In the myriad of choices they forget the One who gave them their talent.

Elvis Presley grew up singing Gospel songs.  After becoming famous, he continued to sing and record songs that glorified Jesus while he chased after fame and self-gratification– empty idols that seduced him away from God.  He died young (age 42) and miserable.

Whitney Houston‘s mother encouraged her to eschew fame and continue singing in church.  The lure of fame pulled her through a morass of substance abuse that ended last week in her early death.

Hosea gave his wife everything she needed.  Gifts that she used for idol worship.  Gifts she attributed to her lovers, not her husband.  (Hos 2:8)  My heart grieves for her, and Elvis, and Whitney – each so blessed and loved, and all so deluded.  They remind me of Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, who went looking for her heart’s desire by running away from those who loved her best and from what, deep in her heart, she really wanted.

Gomer’s story is also Israel’s.  God provided Israel with everything she needed because of His love for her, but His chosen nation chose to worship other gods.  Throughout the book of Hosea, God exposes Israel’s idolatry.  He calls her behavior what it was – adulterous whoring.  (Hos 2:2)  He punished her severely, taking away all His gifts, and put an end to her celebration. (Hos 2:9-13)

But that’s not the end of the story.

God allures her.  He entices and woos her as a lover would to a place where they can be alone together and tenderly speaks to her.  (Hos 2:14)  He gives back everything her lifestyle took from her and promises hope where there had been trouble and despair.  Her actions called for punishment and death; He gives grace and restoration.  (Hos 2:15)

Whitney and Elvis turned away from the Source of their great talent at the beginning of their careers, one choice at a time, until what they were chasing devoured them.  Though we don’t know for sure, reports indicate that they were both seeking God in their final days.  I pray they were able to see through the veil substance abuse had erected to the Face of the Lover of their souls.

It’s the little choices.  The ones that focus attention on me, not God.  To play a fill so others notice me.  To choose a song because it features my talent.  To plan a program that fulfills my need for significance.  To imagine how people will praise me for my abilities when the worship service is over.

We each have some Gomer in us.  Whether we use the talents and abilities He gave us within the church outside of it; whether we tour in a famous band or play in a local 2-piece duo, the choice is: worship myself or God?

———-

Heart-check for Sunday

What is my motivation for leading, playing in the worship band, designing the service, etc?  Whose glory am I interested in?

During the worship set, where does my mind go?  Am I worshiping and leading others to worship God?

The second half of Hosea 2 covers Israel’s restoration.  Because Israel did not acknowledge that all she had was a gift from God, He took His gifts back.  I have known musicians and teachers who had experienced this, yet with others (like Elvis and Whitney) God lets the gifts remain.  God cares for each of us differently, but in one respect we are all the same: He wants our hearts.  In every case God graciously calls, deep unto deep, with an offer of complete restoration – no strings attached.  Free grace.

That enables me to sing again, as when I first knew Him.

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