The Most Dangerous Word

Nicodemus

Many times to better understand something, it is helpful to learn what the opposite of that something is.

I’m a student and proponent of Grace. But Grace can be a squishy word. So I would like to talk about the opposite of Grace, which is LEGALISM.

Pastor Tullian Tchividjian writes “Legalism says God will love us if we change. Grace says God will change us because He loves us.”

Nicodemus was a legalist. He was a Pharisee.

Max Lucado writes “It’s a fact of the farm. The most fertile ground remains barren if no seed is sown.”

This defines legalism. Legalism is obsessed about soil preparation but totally misses the point of the seed. This is how legalism thinks. Faith is an outside work. How you speak, act, pray, the image you portray.

If Nicodemus would have been a farmer, he would of had a degree from the University of Farming in cutting edge soil preparation techniques.

The Pharisees were really good at making the soil look good but they had one problem, (How many of you would love to have one problem? But it was a big problem) they produced very little fruit.

Nicodemus, was tired of his fruitless, shallow, look good on the outside life, so he is drawn to Jesus. He sees the fruit, passion, love and humility of Jesus. He sees Jesus breaking the rules so he can touch the untouchable and love the sinner that the religious leaders had shunned.

Nicodemus’ spiritual life has become a charade and it’s shrinking his soul, so the Gospel of John says that he came to Jesus at night. He’s drawn to Jesus, but he has a reputation to uphold, so he sneaks out to see Jesus at night.

Which is very symbolic of legalism. Legalism offers no light.

Legalism robs your freedom. It sets your standards so high that it leaves you paralyzed.

Legalism damages relationships. Nobody wants to spend time around people who feel they are spiritually superior to everyone else. The Bible says, “Love forgets mistakes. Nagging about them parts the best of friends.”

Legalism puts rules in front of people. I recently met a couple who were teaching a high school Sunday School class and they took some high school students to an elderly widows home to paint, clean and bring her a meal. The youth were reprimanded and the couple asked to leave the church because they happened to do these biblically good deeds on the Sabbath. The rule was more important than the person.

Legalism ultimately destroys your joy. Because there is always a gap between what you want to be and what you want others to think you are and who you really are! The gap destroys your joy.

And here is Nicodemus, he has no freedom, all his friends are legalists, he is putting rules ahead of people and his joy is gone, so he comes to Jesus.

In the dark of the night, Jesus tells him, “Nicodemus, I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God (No one can be good enough, no one can have flourishing relationships, no one can love people the way I love them, no one can experience a joy that is indestructible and liberating, no one can have eternal life) unless he is born again.”

Jesus gets right to the point “Nick your problem is legalism. Your soil looks good, but you have no seed.”

This meeting in the dark is a meeting between two opposing views on salvation.

All the world’s religions can be placed in one of two camps: LEGALISM or GRACE.

Either man saves himself or God saves him.

Legalism is a dark world. Fear (Have I done enough?) Arrogance (I have done enough!) Failure (I’ve made too many mistakes.)

Jesus goes on to tell him, “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit give birth to spirit.”

Jesus says that salvation doesn’t come from church attendance, a certain set of rules or perfect theology.  

Jesus tells Nicodemus that Salvation is God’s business, Grace is his idea and it is at His expense.

In the dark of the night, Jesus looks at Nicodemus and shares these revolutionary words, “For God so love the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (And you thought the guy with the rainbow, curly wig who sat in the endzone of NFL football games holding a sign of John 3:16 made this saying up, but this comes from the very mouth of Jesus.)

Nicodemus, the legalist, had had a lot of conversations about salvation. But not like this. This was the first time no rules, systems or secret decoder rings were needed.

“Everyone who believes can have eternal life!” Not “Everyone who achieves or succeeds or agrees.”

EVERYONE WHO BELIEVES!

When Nicodemus heard those words, his life was changed forever!

GRACE CHANGES EVERYTHING!

It gets you off the perfectionism treadmill, because as the Psalmist wrote “Nothing is perfect except God’s word.” I hate treadmills, because you run and run and run and you sweat, you get beaten down and tired and when you are done, you are standing in the exact same place you started. That’s legalism!

Plus, trying to be perfect is not only tiring, it’s narcissistic. Pastor Tullian Tchividjian goes on to say, “To focus on how I’m doing more than what Christ has done is Christian narcissism.”

Pretending to be perfect is also hypocritical. The Greeks used to call actors, hypocrites, because an actor is someone who pretends to be someone or something he or she really is not. This is the same word Jesus called the Pharisees.

Jesus told Nicodemus, “Your soul is tired and worn out because you have been on this perfectionism treadmill. Jump off, because salvation comes from me, not from your works. My Grace is available.”

Grace changed Nicodemus. How do I know?

A while later, Jesus was killed on the cross, by the legalists, and the disciples were scattering like cockroaches when the lights go on, but a man named Joseph of Arimathea asked permission to take Jesus’ body down from the cross and John 19 records that: “Nicodemus, the man who had come to Jesus at night, came too…” and he brought embalming ointment and he helped lay Jesus in the tomb.

Nicodemus, the one who came quietly, fearfully, secretly at night now comes boldly, courageously and confidently in the day.

Grace has liberated him!

Nicodemus had received the seed of Grace and now plants the seed of salvation, Jesus into the tomb and 2 day later that seed burst forth and defeated death once and for all!

Legalism Kills.

Grace liberates and brings forth life!

Our world is being destroyed by legalism.

Grace is our only hope.

EVERYONE WHO BELIEVES!

I pray you get off the perfectionism treadmill and receive grace!

You don’t have to pretend anymore!

You are loved and accepted.

 

THESE PEOPLE

jesus feet

An abandoned daughter discovers her Heavenly Father.
An angry ex-con encounters authentic friendships.
A controlling mother learns to let go and let God.
A one year clean woman mentors a struggling drug addict.
A relationship destroying alcoholic gains new tools and makes amends.
A recovering sex addict finds new purpose and is set free.
A guilt-ridden religious woman experiences grace.

Who are these people?

These are the people Brennan Manning celebrated when he wrote, “There is a beautiful transparency to honest disciples who never wear a false face and do not pretend to be anything but who they are.”

These are the people Jesus had in mind when He said, “I have come to heal the broken-hearted.”

These are the people Jesus said are the greatest because of their humility and commitment to one another.

These are the people Jesus would call the Church.

Yet…

These are the people most churches reject, ignore and outsource to other agencies.

These are the people most churches marginalize, judge, undervalue and under serve.

These are the people most churches hope go somewhere else.

Yet…

These are the people who are bringing huge blessings to my church.

These are the people who are showing us that God is still in the miracle business.

These are the people who are showing us how to be transparent and brave.

These are the people who are showing us the importance of accountability and genuine friendship.

These are the people who are showing us that we are all in recovery from something.

These are the people who are showing us that the ground is level at the foot of the cross.

These are the people who are showing us that everything is Grace.

These are the people that God is with, and if we are with them, then we are with God.

Yet…

Why are so many fleeing the church?

Because the church has rejected “these people.”

These are the very people Jesus said he would judge us by how we treated them.

These are the very people Jesus said that when we serve and love them, we will be blessed.

These are the very people Jesus said that when we serve and love them, we serve and love him.

We too often want the world to change when in reality, the church must change.

Until the church becomes transparent, inclusive, safe, brave, courageous, messy, grace-filled, humble and willing to sacrifice, serve, strategize, prioritize and make a high commitment to serve and be led by “these people”, then it will continue to shrink and be benign.

We too often want the world to repent, when in reality, the church must repent.

If the church is not serving and welcoming and allowing “these people” to lead, then it is really not the church, but more a building, more an exclusive club.

At my church, “these people” call themselves Celebrate Recovery, and they are leading the way towards blessings, miracles, redemption and an intimacy with God that is rarely seen.

Thank you for your example in humility.
Thank you for your leadership in transparency.
Thank you for your commitment to grace.
Thank you for re-introducing us to the presence of God.

May there be a revolution of “these people.”

“It is impossible to meet God without abandon, without exposing yourself, being raw.” Bono

Twitter @celebraterecvry

http://www.celebraterecovery.com

My One and Only Fabulous/Imperfect Life

“It’s too late for me” is my lifetime cry
“Second tries aren’t possible” screams out the lie
Bitterness feels good, a drug that fills
It’s an unnatural high that quickly kills

I’ve sanctioned my actions, sold out to compromise
Defrauded my mind, it’s made me unwise
I am wonderfully made, it’s called Amazing Grace
My life’s full of fear, it’s such a disgrace

Children should learn, the world needs their illumination
My focus on “I” has muted a powerful generation
More for the rich, more for the strong
Can I keep affording to be wrong?

Prophets redundant in their admonition
Promising pain and affliction
I use up my resources without permission
While missing the point of true religion

Self-indulgence, gluttony, greed, I easily meet
From the inner city down to Wall Street
Covet my neighbor, keeping track of what they own
My happiness is fragile, I don’t even know the Jones

Called to eternal reasons, called to bigger dreams
Called to deeper thinking, it’s harder than it seems
Obsessed with brief amusement, my aim is so small
Bombarded by shallow living, I’ve succumbed to the fall

I’m far more powerful than I believe
Truth is, if I walk in, scarcity must leave
Cynicism rules the day, it has strangled my soul
Stops me from changing, it has taken its toll

Parched soil, empty bellies leads to much heartache
Many won’t eat today, while my plate is too great
I’m not here to manipulate, to throw out guilt or coerce
But I’m missing opportunities that bless and don’t curse

In the words of Paul, “I don’t do what I should”
He goes on to say, “I’m not always good.”
In the words of James, “Your faith might be dead”
He goes on to say, “They’re not works if just said.”

I compromise with apathy, bragging I’m doing no harm
I do just enough, showing off my charlatan charm
Justice is calling, it’s a Kingdom mandate
My comfort zone is charity, I’m missing my fate

The message is simple, it’s clear and concrete
My directive is obvious, overt, not discreet
Hand over my life, it’s the power of surrender
It’s about loving the least of these and a heart that is tender

The One Thing That Can Change Our World

rembrant-prodigal-son-detail

I wrote this poem about the one thing that can change our world:

“It is hard to explain, but you know it when you see it.
It is meek, but you can’t contain it

Hard to grasp, but you know when it’s around.
It is hard to teach, but it can be found.

Exceedingly quiet, while deafening loud.
It is extraordinarily humble, yet aptly proud.

Thieves want to own it, but it cannot be stolen.
Many are for the strong, It is for the broken.

No one’s ever dreamed it.
No one’s ever owned it.
No one’s ever bought it.
You just get it when you receive it.

No politics can claim it.
No business can sell it.
No celebrity can wear it.
The poor and outcast possess it.

It is private, yet transforms communities.
Largely diverse, yet brings unity.

It is unfair, yet purely just.
More powerful than our strongest lusts.

Often emulated, yet falling short.
Eye for an eye, it is karmas retort

Always talked about, yet seldom shown.
It is something you must experience to be known.

It is not so much a destination, than an eternal trip
You can’t get by trying, you just open the gift.

It is multi-faceted, never looking the same.
It is the one thing that will never change.”

This poem is about Grace.
Grace is a scandalous thing.
It will get you kicked out of your religion
It has gotten quite a few people killed.
Yet, Grace is the only hope for you, me and our world.

I am hesitant to try to explain Grace in a simple sentence or catch phrase but…when we forgive our enemy, serve the poor, fight injustice, love someone who is different than us ethically, politically, or spiritually, that is a picture of Grace.

“To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark.  In admitting my shadow side I learn who I am and what God’s grace means.”

Brennan Manning “The Ragamuffin Gospel”

A Hidden Epidemic

self-esteem

There is an epidemic of low self-esteem in America today.

Many are highly successful on the outside but inside there is a gnawing question of “Do I really matter?”

In our society we tend to judge our worth by our appearance,  income, possessions or popularity.

The problem with these judgments is that none of them are stable.

Beauty fades, fashions change, incomes shrink and popularity wanes.

We are good at creating universal standards on temporary cultural fads.

Joseph Stowell, in his book “Fan the Flames”, writes, “It was absolutely amazing. I was in West Africa, and the missionaries were telling me that in that culture the larger the women, the more beautiful they were thought to be. In fact, a young missionary who had a small wife said that the nationals had told him she was a bad reflection on him– he obviously was not providing well enough for her. A proverb in that part of Africa says that if your wife is on a camel and the camel cannot stand up, your wife is truly beautiful.”

Low self-esteem leads to destructive addictions, crushing depression, compromising relationships and self-absorbed narcissism.

High self-esteem comes from building your identity on something that won’t change. And the one thing that does not change is what God thinks about you.

Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector who lived in Jericho and one day Jesus came visiting Zacchaeus’ home town.

If there was a man who had deep seeded low-self esteem, it would be this guy.

Zacchaeus had the trifecta of low self-esteem.

1) He was self-conscious about his short stature. He was so short that he climbed up in a tree to try to see Jesus when he was walking through his town.

2) He was unpopular, in fact, he was pretty much hated by everyone in Jericho because he was a chief tax collector meaning he would collect and keep as much taxes as he could get as long as he paid Rome its due. He was more like a mafia extortionist than a legal collector of taxes. His family had disowned him, he was not welcome in the local synagogue and he was viewed in a class of people worse than murderers.

3) He hated himself because when you have a guilty conscience, you can’t feel really good about yourself.

Here is a guy with a lot of money and an empty soul.
A lonely, miserable man, desperate for things to change.
And one day things did.
He had an encounter with Jesus and learned how much he mattered to God.

The story about Zacchaeus shows how God feels towards us:

FIRST, no matter how invisible you feel, JESUS SEES YOU.

Zacchaeus climbed up in a tree to see Jesus, but Jesus walks past thousands of people on the streets and walks right up to the tree, stops and looks directly at Zacchaeus.

Can you imagine what Zacchaeus is feeling when Jesus sees him?

He’s thinking, “Well, here it comes, judgment! I’m going to get what I deserve. The Son of God walked right over to me to tell me all the wrong things I’ve ever done and the punishment that I am going to receive.”

But Jesus didn’t judge him or condemn him.

Jesus walked over to Zacchaeus to let him know that he knew exactly where he was at.

God knows exactly where you are at today. He has not abandoned you. Even though he knows every thought you have had, every word you have uttered, every deed you have done, good or bad, he has constantly kept his eyes of love upon you.

The deepest expression of love is attention and God’s attention span for you is eternal.

Jesus not only NOTICES you…

SECONDLY, no matter what others think of you, JESUS VALIDATES YOU.

Zacchaeus’ life of crime and corruption had nullified any credibility of character and yet Jesus came with a completely different kind of opinion.

Jesus not only walked up to the tree and saw him, but he called Zacchaeus by name.

Zacchaeus must have been shocked that Jesus knew his name.

Jesus not only knows where you are but he knows who you are.

The crowd had to be shocked for two reasons. 1) That Jesus knew his name, and 2) What Zacchaeus’ name meant.

Zacchaeus means, “PURE ONE.”

The crowd must have thought Jesus was joking.

Zacchaeus was everything but pure.

Zacchaeus must have been shocked too. He probably had been called every dirty name in the book over the years but he probably hadn’t heard his real name for a long time. “Pure One” was a name he had given up many compromises ago.

In spite of Zacchaeus’ sin, Jesus validates him.

Jesus says, “Beneath the emotional hurt, shame and insecurities and amidst all the bad choices and the hardening of your soul, I see a pure one. Zacchaeus, I created you for purity. I didn’t create you to be a crook. You are the pure one.”

The Apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 2:10 “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus so that we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.”

Masterpieces are not mass-produced.
When God made you, he broke the mold.
You are one in 7 ½ billion!

Maybe you have had some horrible things said to you growing up. “You’ll never amount to anything.” “Why can’t you be more like your brother/sister.” “I’m embarrassed to be around you.” “You will always be a slut.” “You’re fat.” “You’re dumb.” “You’re a failure.”

And those voices and phrases play over and over in your mind and they define you and paralyze you.

A defining moment in all of our lives is whether we choose to believe what other people say about us or what God says about us.

It will deeply affect our self-esteem and determine our destiny.

Jesus sees Zacchaeus and then validates his masterpiece by saying, “You are the pure one. I see all your potential no matter your failures, hurts and shame.”

Jesus not only NOTICES you and VALIDATES you…
THIRDLY, in spite of our past, JESUS WANTS A RELATIONSHIP WITH YOU.

Zacchaeus was lonely, insecure, bitter, resentful, full of guilt and shame and yet Jesus not only sees him and validates him but he goes one step further and invites himself to Zacchaeus’ home for dinner.

“Come down from that tree quickly, Zacchaeus, I am going to be a guest in your home today.”

This is an invitation to enter into a deep, intimate relationship.

This was scandalous and incomprehensible!

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, walked all the way through town, past thousands of onlookers, to find the biggest criminal in town to say, “I’m going to your house to be your guest. I see you, I validate you, I choose you!”

The crowd’s reaction was fairly predictable: “All the people saw this and they began to complain, ‘Jesus is staying with a sinner.’”

Zacchaeus may have been thinking the same thing too: “I’m not good enough! Jesus, you don’t know the things I have done.”

We have all felt that way, haven’t we?

The reality is that none of us are good enough, but gratefully, our relationship with God is not based on our goodness but on God’s compassionate love for us in spite of all we have done.

God spoke through the prophet Isaiah when he said, “I am the God who forgives your sins, and I do this because of Who I am. I will not hold your sins against you.”

Jesus said in John 3:17, “I was not sent here to condemn you, but to save you.”

That’s called grace.

Grace is when God gives you what you need not what you deserve.

Zacchaeus received undeserving, scandalous, mind-blowing grace.

How should we respond?

The way Zacchaeus did.

The Bible says, “So he came down at once and he received him with joy.”

He couldn’t get down fast enough

Zacchaeus took Jesus up on His offer for a relationship. And he began to change.

Luke 19:8-9 “Zacchaeus stood and he said to the Lord ‘I’ll give half of my possessions to the poor and if I’ve cheated anyone I’ll give them back four times the amount.’ Jesus responded, ‘Salvation has come to this home today.'”

Dr. Charles Cooley, the Dean of American Sociology once said, “Your self esteem and self worth is determined to a large degree by what you think the people or the person that matters most to you thinks about you.”

I encourage you to make Jesus Christ the most important person in your life. He SEES you, VALIDATES you as a masterpiece and wants to offer you grace and be in a RELATIONSHIP with you forever.

Muchas Gracias

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“Can you see the holiness in those things you take for granted–a paved road or a washing machine? If you concentrate on finding what is good in every situation, you will discover that your life will suddenly be filled with gratitude, a feeling that nurtures the soul.” Rabbi Harold Kushner

Gratitude is the discipline of being thankful for all the good things we have in life. And for most, the list of blessings is very long.

The problem is, as humans, we tend to focus on the things that are not going well in life.

Will Rogers once said, “The Pilgrims gave thanks for mighty little, for mighty little was all they expected. But now, neither government nor nature can give enough but what we think is too little. If we can’t gather in a new Buick, a new radio, a tuxedo, and some government relief, why, we feel that the world is against us.”

Our culture is consumed with having more and I think it has a lot to do with the philosophy that getting just a little bit more will bring us happiness.

QUESTION: “How much will be enough to satisfy our souls and fill our hearts?” How much?

There was a woman who went into a life or death surgery. She wasn’t sure she’d make it through. During the surgery she heard this voice say, “You still have 42 more years to live.”

When she woke up from surgery she called the surgeon over and said, “I’m going to live a long time now so while I’m here I think I’ll have a little extra work.”

She had liposuction, a tummy tuck, a face lift, some injections. She had a friend come by and color her hair. A few days later she was discharged from the hospital.

As she was walking out she was hit by a cab and killed.

She’s standing before God and said, “I thought You said I’d live 42 more years! How come You let that cab hit me?”

God said, “I’m sorry I didn’t recognize you.”

The prodigal son was the story Jesus told about this young runaway boy. He shuns his dad, takes his inheritance and leaves his home with a pocket full of money and has a bar room full of friends.

If CNN had sent a news crew to that bar and asked the young man, “What’s life like? How are you now enjoying this life of rebellion, your plunge into decadence, in this moment?”

At that moment the young man would have said, “It’s the best decision of my life! In this moment my life is filled with pure pleasure.”

It wasn’t until sometime later – we’re not sure how long – the prodigal son’s pleasure ended. He ran out of money and his friends ran out on him. He was homeless, he was unhappy.

Living for pleasure only – pleasure at any price – is like jumping off a tall building. The first 95% of the fall might be sheer thrill but that last 5% is going to get you!

Pleasure is not bad. But even positive pleasure is temporary.

For example, what’s the best meal you’ve ever had? How long until you’re hungry again?

What’s the best night’s sleep you have ever had? How long until you were tired again?

What’s the best kiss you’ve ever had? How long until you needed to be kissed again?

Another thought about gratitude, is that it is hard to be grateful when you are holding on to grudges.

Henri Nouwen wrote, “Resentment and gratitude cannot coexist, since resentment blocks the perception and experience of life as a gift. My resentment tells me that I don’t receive what I deserve. It always manifests itself in envy.”

Resenting other people’s success, your heritage, your economic status, your hurts and abuses of life will rob you quickly of any type of joy.

Comparing and resentment go hand in hand.

Celebrating your God given uniqueness allows you to be grateful for your irreplaceable gifts and distinct reason you were put here on earth!

Don’t let others determine how extraordinary you are. It’s up to you!

People are far more talented and brilliant than they give themselves credit for.

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind
don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”  

~ Dr. Seuss

Another thought about gratitude, is that to be truly thankful, it must be INCLUSIVE.

Job said, “If we take happiness from God’s hand, must we not take sorrow too?”

Author Henri Nouwen wrote, “To be thankful for the good things that happen in our lives is easy, but to be grateful for all of our lives—the good as well as the bad, the moments of joy as well as the moments of sorrow, the successes as well as the failures, the rewards as well as the rejections—that requires hard spiritual work. Still, we are only thankful people when we can say thank you to all that has brought us to the present moment. As long as we keep dividing our lives between events and people we would like to remember and those we would rather forget, we cannot claim the fullness of our beings as a gift of God to be grateful for. Let’s not be afraid to look at everything that has brought us to where we are now and trust that we will soon see in it the guiding hand of a loving God.”

I call it “Learning to find joy in the TENSION of life.”

We are taught that when we are without challenge and problem-free that then we will finally be happy.

Living in the tension means that we live every day facing and feeling the problems and hurts and challenges of life, while celebrating and thanking God for all the good things that are going on.

Stephen Covey writes, “Fish discover water last. They are so immersed in the element that they are unaware of it. So it is with many people who become so immersed in an abundance of blessings and opportunities that they are unaware of them until they stop, pause, and reflect and allow gratitude to emerge. Sadly, too often it takes the force of circumstance rather than the force of conscience to stir up our gratitude.”

Gratitude: A sunrise, a rainfall, the smile and embrace by someone special, a glass of red wine with your spouse, God’s amazing Grace, the food on your table, the laughter of children, the step you just took, the breath you just breathed, the wind blowing past your face, a celebration with friends.

Tony Campolo tells a story about getting on an elevator in the Empire State Building in New York City, “It was one of those express elevators that goes fifty floors without making a stop. The elevator was filled with briefcase-bearing, somber business men on their way to “heavy” meetings. As I got on the elevator, a feeling of fun ran through me. And, instead of turning and facing the door, as we are all socialized to do, I just stood there facing the people. When the elevator doors closed, I smiled coyly and announced, “We’re going to be traveling together for quite a while, you know.” And then I added, “What do you say we all sing?” The looks were amazing, but they all ended up singing. You should have been there as a dozen or so businessmen threw aside their put-on seriousness and joined me in a ringing rendition of “You Are My Sunshine.” By the time the elevator got to the fiftieth floor we were laughing. Being a Christian on that elevator helped some men, made numb by the affairs of this world, discover a little joy that can happen when we celebrate together.”

“Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.”
― Henri J.M. Nouwen

“Emit gratitude as though it was done”
― Henri J.M. Nouwen

Take the time to fill in the blanks:
I am grateful when…__________________________
I am grateful for…____________________________
I struggle with gratitude when…__________________

The Power of an Orange Chair

isolated chair

THIS FREE DOWNLOADABLE BOOK IS DEDICATED TO THE SELFLESS, PASSIONATE, GENEROUS SERVANTS OF GREEN VALLEY COMMUNITY CHURCH  http://www.live58.org/7mandates

I am a hungry student of Grace.

When I began to explore grace, it changed my world. It made me less religious and more graceful (except on the dance floor).

Grace made me less critical of others and more committed to growing my heart. Grace made me less fearful.

I became less exclusive and much more inclusive after realizing grace is for everyone.

I discovered freedom.

Jesus said, “The truth will set you free.” Jack Nicholson said, “You can’t handle the truth.” But I think Jack was wrong. I think we can handle it. It can be scary—counter-intuitive—but it will set you free!

For those of you who have been hurt, shamed, abused and manipulated in the name of God, I am so sorry!

My heart breaks daily as I live in this paradox of being a pastor, yet see the hypocrisy in our religious world and even in my own heart.

But don’t run away from grace. Don’t run away from the truth that can set you free.

My life changed forever in college when I discovered grace.

The rest of the world operates on Karma. You get what you deserve.

But Jesus came and offered us this amazing, wonderful gift called grace, where we get something better than what we deserve.

Since grace happened to me, I don’t judge other’s beliefs or religions; I just hope they someday discover grace, because Jesus cut through all religious ceremonies and traditions to get to the heart of the matter. We need grace.

He did the only thing that could be done to get grace. It was the crucifixion.

This book aims to bring credibility back to the church and to obey Jesus’ call to share grace in tangible ways to our world.

Credibility comes from obeying Jesus’ teaching to shelter the homeless, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, love the rejected, touch the untouchable, fight for the abused, and take care of the widow and orphan.

When the church begins to share God’s grace in those tangible ways, credibility will come back to the church.

This is my life mission and my life goal.

It’s all Grace,

Ken Burkey
Senior Pastor–Green Valley Community Church
burkeyk@gvcconline.net
http://www.kenburkey.com
twitter @kenburkey

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Contradiction, It’s Where I Find Me

Contradiction

Contradiction, it’s where I find me
Success is promised, but tempted to flee
Strength is waning, never been so strong
Screaming out truth while surrounded with wrong

Heart breaks for broken, yet it’s harder than stone
Surrounded with people, feel so alone
Wisdom is clear, but it’s not convenient
Standards are high, yet fittingly lenient

Contradiction, it’s where I find me
Grace is free, but for others there’s a fee
Focused on the prize, eye on the goal
Culture sidetracks, stuffing this God-shaped hole

Disciplines obsessive, lethargies overtake
Foundations unyielding, yet easy to shake
Purpose focused, never in doubt
Roadblocks surround, quick to pout

Contradiction, it’s where I find me
Beauty disguised, ugly reality
Full of creativity, overcome with exhaustion
Frustration rules, leaning towards resignation

Days so long, life so short
Feelings rage, demanding to sort
Wealth of opportunity, a catalog of choice
Volume getting loud, muting my voice

Contradiction, it’s where I find me
Obsessed with acceptance, don’t care if they hate me
There’s chatter of courage, yet fear rules the day
Conviction is high, unless there’s a price to pay

Morality important, it cramps my style
Aim is focused, yet missing by a mile
Souls transparent, never wanting to fake
Portraying translucent, diagnosis opaque

Contradiction, it’s where I find me
Hiding pride, shouting humility
Spirit shrivels, heart breaks
Finish the race, whatever it takes

“Smack in the centre of contradiction is the place to be.” –Bono

We, people of faith, often times feel like we have to have it all together in order to feel like good, successful Christians.

We, people of faith, often times feel like we should have no doubts, no temptations, no frustrations and at the same time, have an endless amount of strength and faith oozing out of us.

We, people of faith, often times forget what the scriptures show us about the life of one of the most amazing Christians to ever live.

Let me share with you two examples:

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate, I do.” (The Apostle Paul) Romans 7:15

(“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ ”  The Apostle Paul) 2 Corinthians 12:8-9

The Apostle Paul, stuck in a contradiction, it’s where we find him: Tempted, discouraged, weak, and that’s why we need God’s Grace and not religion!

Funny How People Are

judging

Funny how people are
They talk with force yet live in fear
They laugh in public yet cry private tears

They ask for truth yet avoid the light
They teach abundance yet hold on tight

Funny how people are
They walk with confidence yet are deceivingly unsure
They offer weak opinions yet hoping others concur

They care when others are watching yet their love is calculating
They are addicted to admiration yet their self-esteem is fleeting

“He wears a mask, and his face grows to fit it.” ― George Orwell

Funny how people are
They say let’s change the world yet are frozen in comfort
They lecture struggle and sweat yet their efforts fall short

They read the statistics yet their hearts stay cold
They see the pictures yet their habits remain old

Funny how people are
They make people feel good yet it’s not what they need
They agree to aid yet vanity wins over deed

They convince their peers yet fool themselves
They betray their minds yet deceive no one else

“A mask can hide you from others, but not from yourself.”
― Marty Rubin

Funny how I am
I create caste-systems of wrongdoing, while self-pride rules
I ignore my own deception while pointing out fools

While judging other people, my eyes lose sight
My transgressions are unfathomable and my sin dark as night

Funny how I am
My plank is seemingly invisible, their speck obvious and huge
Hypocricy has become my identity, my ignorance is my refuge

I love mercy for me and judgment for their evil times
I want revenge for my enemies and acquittal for my crimes

“The fierce words of Jesus addressed to the Pharisees of His day stretch across the bands of time. Today they are directed not only to fallen televangelists but to each of us. We miss Jesus’ point entirely when we use His words as weapons against others. They are to be taken personally by each of us. This is the form and shape of Christian Pharisee-ism in our time. Hypocrisy is not the prerogative of people in high places. The most impoverished among us is capable of it. Hypocrisy is the natural expression of what is meanest in us all.” ― Brennan Manning

Letting Go of Old Identities

identity

Life’s too short for drama and negativity,
Pointing out the problem doesn’t take much ability.
Saturate the day with encouragement and optimism,
It’ll take focus and work, the opposite of passivism.

Only you can go to places that will stretch & grow you,
It will be scary, difficult, but it will reward you.
No one will cheer you, but go there anyway,
Few will understand, it’s the price you must pay.

The sign of maturity is to become less dramatic,
Being the victim has now become anti-climatic.
Energizing those around, you’re no longer a drain,
Hope is your new choice, like the smell of spring rain.

Jesus came to remove the sin of exclusion,
The Pharisees felt threatened like he was an intrusion.
Gandhi was puzzled by the churches prejudice,
He stayed Hindu because there was no difference.

We create our own boxes, it’s time to get rid of them,
We’re far more creative than we can fully comprehend.
So don’t get caught up in main stream philosophies,
The world needs your uniqueness with no apologies.

The only prayer you need is a simple “Thank you”,
Gratitude’s the answer, and miracles are the clue.
Thankfulness leads to joy, it’s the obvious fruit,
Waiting for perfect conditions is a destructive pursuit.

As we grow older we gravitate towards safety,
Talk is cheap, where have you gone lately?
To see justice we must run towards the unknown,
Uncertainty and discomfort, it’s where faith is grown.

His love is unconditional, no grading on a curve,
A stunning faithfulness, it’s not what I deserve.
It’s easy to forget, I strive for perfection,
I’m vulnerable to fail, but grace is my protection.

I have more pants than days in the week,
My 4g is slow, it’s new products I seek.
Lack of sanitation kills, statistics show it,
More people have mobile phones than a simple toilet.

Too many people choosing not to forgive,
It’s become their story, the way that they live.
I must let go of old identities, it’s a matter of will,
I’m canceling the debt, it’s paid in full.