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  • UNCOVERING GOD’S RHYTHM OF GRACE

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Book Reviews

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    More.

    It seems as if the fast paced society we dwell in craves more.  More of our time, talent, and treasure.  Kerri Weems stands in the gap and boldly proclaims that we don’t have to buy into the demands of more.  Instead, we need to step into God’s gift of Rhythms of Grace.

    Weems argues that we pace ourselves to the wrong rhythm, the rhythm of more and “mammon.”  The true pacesetter ought to be God and the Shalom he offers.  Shalom, as defined by Weems, is peace and wholeness that comes from walking in the rhythms of God, full of rest and grace.  Shalom does not come from productivity, it’s experiencing more of God’s peace in the midst of all the things we have to do.

    After making her case for Shalom, Sabbath, and Grace, Weems pivots to practical applications of combating pace stealers by guiding her readers to embrace saying yes to their needs (which are really God’s means for sustaining his creation).

    Rhythms of Grace is very approachable and easy to digest.  I especially enjoyed her study questions given in the back of each chapter.  With that being said, this book is clearly geared toward women.  There weren’t too many examples geared toward males, so I would recommend this to my female friends for an engaging devotional read to challenge the underlining cultural narrative or more.

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  • CHRISTIANITY IN ONE SENTENCE

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Theology

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    Want to know what the Christian faith is in a nutshell?  Here it is:

    “We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.” -Tim Keller

    Thanks be to God.  *Alleluia!  Amen.

    What other definitions have you heard?

    * Literally “Praise the LORD”

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  • THE COST OF A U-TURN

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Story

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    The Lord will make a way for you where no foots has been before.
    That which, like a sea, threatens to drown you, shall be a highway for your escape. 
    -Charles H. Spurgeon 

    Remember God delivers, when your back is up against the wall or when you are caught in between the violent sea and a malicious army.  When you cannot see the way out.

    Remember, God will deliver.  

    When you have rejected the ways of the Lord and have chosen to go off the pathway.  When you collected your inheritance and went out on your own, only to find out what happens when you fall flat on your face.

    Remember, God will welcome you home. 

    When you sin.  When you consciously reject the wisdom of God and others.  When you wander from the goodness of the Lord.  When you realize the stupidity of your ways.

    Remember, God will run and embrace you as soon as you head back (read: repent) to the house of the Lord. 

    How easy we are to forget and how hard it is to make that U-turn.  As Jesus once said, repent for the kingdom of God is at hand and believe in the good news.  

    Might we walk in this unbelievable good news. 

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  • WHEN GOD SHINES IN ALL THAT’S FAIR

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Theology

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    Tracce

    One of the most formative statements I’ve ever heard came from a class I took from Richard Mouw at Fuller Seminary.  He said that God shines in all that’s fair.

    Think about that for a moment.  God shines in every good thing.

    Think about the brilliant sunset you saw recently or the soprano nailing a solo.  Now picture the struggling musician crafting a symphony or an architect designing a structure.  What do all of these have in common?  God is glorified through their excellent work and he revels in it.

    As Mouw said, God shines in all that’s fair, whether it is sacred or secular.  Even the poem I thoughtfully crafted in an English class assignment and the hymn that was penned two hundred years ago are both beautiful in his eyes.

    Perhaps one might be more profound than the other—certainly the grandeur of Handel’s Messiah will stand the test of time against the works of Justin Bieber (please Lord, let this be true!)—and some things might be more beautiful in our eyes, but the good things we create certainly makes God smile.

    There’s a melody that you can hear in the symphonies of Beethoven.  There are lyrics to a song long forgotten etched into the chiseled statues of Michelangelo.  There are even faint echoes of a forgotten beauty found in the flawless run of the downhill Olympic skier.  The echo of the glory of God is found even in broken humanity.  The song of creation is found in all that’s fair.

    Do you find that God shines in all that’s fair?

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  • THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT GRACE

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Story, Theology

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    gavel

    What makes Christianity different from the other great world religions?

    Moral code?

    Sayings?

    Theology and dogma?

    Christian author Philip Yancey suggested the major the thing separating Christian faith from the other major world religions was its emphasis on grace.  If you think about it, there are moral codes shared with other religious books and there are certainly many helpful proverbs and comforting sayings, but Christianity is different.  The central theme of Christianity is something that is strangely other.  It is the theme that God restores and renews, even when we do not deserve it.

    To borrow from the English poet John Milton, Christianity tells a story of how paradise was once lost and how the creator of all things did not stand idly by as paradise descended into chaos.  Instead God went after his creation as a hound follows after the scent of a lost child.  Paradise indeed would be recovered and will be restored under the umbrella of grace.

    I love being immersed in the stories of the Bible where imperfect people lived imperfectly  for God through grace.  Even the great heroes and heroines of the faith had prominent flaws for all to see.  Moses murdered a man and had a hot temper, David was an adulterous murderer, and Rahab was a prostitute.

    These heroes of the faith had issues!

    The redemptive narrative found in the Bible is one filled with grace.  The stories that are on the pages of Scripture are filled with flawed people who rested in the flawless One, the provider of grace.  With the exception of Genesis 1 and 2, the rest of the Bible unpacks the “covenant of grace,” where humanity received the opportunity of reconnecting with God through the completed work of Jesus.  This covenant of grace is something that God initiated and God provides, there is simply no way that we could ever earn it.

    My friends, God is indeed love.  God is also holy and just. 

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  • IS GOD LOVE?

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Story, Theology

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    Ego sum alpha et omega

    Facebook comment threads are a lot like a really bad freeway accident.  As much as you know you shouldn’t be looking, you simply cannot tear your eyes away from the wreck.

    I fell victim to “rubbernecking” by reading all 30+ comments on one picture that descended into absolute argumentative chaos.  For the Christians and the non-Christians alike it all boiled down to love.  God loves love, so therefore I’m right.

    It is entirely true, God is love.  The Christian who denies this point needs to sit with the letters and gospel account written by John to absorb the beauty of this truth.

    God is love.  God is also a judge.

    The New Testament (in addition to the Old Testament) is clear on the point that Jesus is a judge who will ensure justice.  One of the great creeds of the Christian faith encapsulates this when the saints from throughout the ages proclaim,

    For our sake [Jesus] was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
    he suffered death and was buried.
    On the third day he rose again
    in accordance with the Scriptures;
    he ascended into heaven
    and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
    He will come again in glory
    to judge the living and the dead,
    and his kingdom will have no end.

    The judgments of God are not like a kangaroo court and they certainly are not like the injustices that occur in the name of justice.  If you can wrap your mind around it, God is righteous and his ways are pure, good, and true.  Keep in mind that his ways are not like our ways, he is not cruel or vindictive.  I know that this is a common issue raised by the “New Atheists,” and the ruthless violence done in the name of God is rightly condemned as evil.  However, when we read in Scripture about the judgments of God we need to read that from the starting point of God as being a just judge.

    Admittedly, it is tough to grasp that it is possible for someone to be both loving and just.  The imperfect image of a kind father and a wise old judge do not have to be at odds when it comes to the God revealed in Scripture.  Instead, this God who is so far above our comprehension and is vastly beyond all measure can embody both love and justice.

    God is love.

    God is also holy and just.

    In fact we can see this when God demonstrated his love for us by choose to pay for the lamp that was broken by our hand.  The beautiful message revealed in Scripture is that God is both gracious and just.

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  • WHY YOU SHOULD GET DRUNK ON GRACE

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Growth, Theology

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    snail & wine | shell-ebrations ? - explored Jesus partied

    He hung out with hookers, scoundrels, and crooks.  While his cousin John the Baptist would be marked as a man who fasted and lived meagerly, Jesus seemed to be characterized as an eater and drinker who liked to hang out with the wrong sorts of people.  At first glance, it seems as if Jesus marches to the beat of his own drum.

    The funny thing about this description is that Jesus was a good Jew.  He kept the Law (loved God and neighbor) and was steeped in the Hebrew Scripture.  I remember a class discussion about Jesus and the Law that led me to the realization that he was close to the Pharisees in terms of doctrine.  But here’s the thing: Jesus would drop the hammer on this group many times because they burdened people with more laws than could ever be kept.  These people ate the bread of law when they should have been drunk on God’s grace.

    Years later, the Apostle Paul dealt with many issues as a church planter.  While Paul wrote to Corinth repeatedly about so many problems, he never went off on them the way he did on another church.  Paul just about flipped out over the choices of another church plant in Galatia.  What did they do?  Instead of reveling in God’s ineffable grace, they chose to follow rules and laws.  They craved the rules that burdened so many people in the past instead of basking in a life rooted in grace and freedom.

    The Galatians didn’t realize that the Law of God was given to point out our need for a savior. 

    Paul would tell them how the Law acted as a teacher, and it stood as a guardian over humanity.  Yet Jesus came and he kept the Law, and he led us into glorious grace through faith in him.  Now, my friends, if we put our trust in him, we are able to absolutely revel in God’s grace instead of constantly cowering in fear of messing up.  Quite simply, we get to be hammered on grace.

    Friends, a spiritual to-do list will not help us reach God; it will only lead to exhaustion – I know it utterly exhausts me!  Instead, we need to grasp that peace is found only in the completed work of Christ.  The truth of God’s sacrifice for us is that we don’t need to “be good” on our own.  Heck, we don’t have to follow a to-do list!  Instead, we need to get drunk on God’s grace and follow Jesus.

    Care to get hammered on grace?

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  • THANKFUL FOR A BROKEN LAMP

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Church Fathers, Wisdom Wednesday

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    The leg lamp

    “The whole is from him, the giving of these things and of those; for no achievement finds its source in us… Not then so as to deliver humankind from darkness only did he show his love toward him.  It is a great thing indeed to have been delivered from darkness; but to have been brought into a kingdom too is far greater.”

    -Chrysostom

    Have you ever broken something?  Perhaps you might have knocked over someone’s vase or smashed their car.  Maybe you broke someone’s trust or heart.  I’ve also broken many things throughout my life, including rules and my word.  Things both trivial and tragic.

    In Scripture, we are told that humanity has broken things, we’ve broken boundaries and laws that God set up for our own good.  It’s like how one day my wife and I will set up gates in our house to keep Lucy from crawling or running straight down a flight of stairs to a world of hurt.  Similarly, God offered humanity life and beauty, and we instead push down the gate to escape down the stairs.

    CS Lewis wrote about a beautiful lamp that was broken.  At a party (perhaps it was you or I) this lamp was knocked over on accident, and it shattered on the floor.  Mortified, I certainly know what the next step would be.  In an utter state of horror and embarrassment, I would declare to the host, “I am soooooooooooo sorry!  Please forgive me.”  Knowing that it is a priceless lamp, one that was passed down from her late grandmother, there is simply no way to make amends for that crash other than to crassly offer to pay for a new lamp.

    Lewis went on though, and said that while we can be forgiven for the lamp, somebody had to pay for its repair or replacement.  The repairs simply needed to be paid for; even if the host tells us we are forgiven.

    The ancient preacher John Chrysostom reminds us that if we place our hope and trust in the risen Jesus, we will be led out of darkness.  But it doesn’t stop there at forgiveness or grace, instead he goes further.  We are then brought into the family, into the Kingdom of God and are made co-heirs with Christ.  While Jesus paid for the broken lamp, of sorts, on the hillside of Jerusalem so long ago, we are given new life.

    Friends, I am thankful that Jesus paid it all, though sin had left a scarlet stain, he washed it white as snow.

    What else are you thankful for?

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  • FINDING GRACE AT 2 AM

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Story

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    Lucy

    I received the privilege of guest posting over at More Than A Beard this past week and here is an excerpt:

    I used to think that I was a servant, and would always go out of my way to help others.  However, that idealized portrait of myself dissipated when the cries in the middle of the night from my daughter Lucy began last month.

    My inward response was, “Kristen, you go change her.”

    In my mind, the logic was flawless.  She needed to be up to feed her anyway.  I, on the other hand, should be allowed to get more sleep.  Although it seemed logical, I am not sure that my wife appreciated my wisdom.

    The truth is that when I was most vulnerable and without any excuses, I found myself not the saint that I had always imagined.  I even considered faking sleep at times that first week or two so I wouldn’t have to leave my cozy bed.

    To read more, find the post here.