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Culture of Grace

May 13, 2013 — Leave a comment

For a long time, I’ve wanted to write about grace. Yet it hasn’t happened, because I haven’t been able to find the words I need to express what I want to say.

Then I found this video, by the wonderful folks at Trinity Grace Church. It’s 3 minutes and 15 seconds long, and it encapsulates all I wanted to say and more.

I urge you to watch it.

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“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” Mother Teresa

I recently heard a story of a lesbian and a Bishop who were part of a television debate. There was a huge amount of vitriolic argument, with the criticism aimed mostly at the Bishop. The majority of those present, both on the panel and in the audience, suggested his views on sexuality, equality and ethics were outdated and bigoted.

Despite the abuse thrown his way – particularly on the issue of sexuality – the Bishop responded to each question with love, humilty and grace.

At the end of the debate the lesbian participant approached the Bishop, moved at how he had responded so gracefully. She said this:

“I would rather be disagreed with and loved than tolerated.”

The Bishop – despite having strong views on her sexuality – had treated her with love, grace and respect. He hadn’t judged her, hadn’t criticised her, hadn’t made her feel guilty. He had shown her love.

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In the latest edition of Relevant Magazine, editor Cameron Strang writes this:

“Even when it isn’t popular, or it means we might be labeled or even attacked, we are called to speak the truth in love. We can no longer be voiceless.”

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In Rumours of God, Jon Tyson and Darren Whitehead point out that in the Gospels, Jesus doesn’t criticise those society would define as sinners.

Jesus loves them. He forgives them. He rebukes those who considered themselves righteous, the Pharisees.

But to those who were expecting to be condemned, Jesus only shows love.

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I wonder what our worlds would look like if that was how we treated people. I wonder what my world would look like if that was how I treated people.

If I was quick to love, slow to judge, even slower to condemn.

After all, that’s what Jesus did.

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“Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly.” Langston Hughes

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the difference between understanding God and knowing God.

I think it’s important we try, within reason, to understand God. While we can never fully get our minds around his power, love, grace or holiness, it is undoubtedly helpful in our relationships with him to grapple with these facets of who he is.

After all, many people over the years have helped other Christians by developing their understanding of God.

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But more so, I think sometimes we (and by we you can definitely read I) worry too much about understanding God and don’t spend enough time simply knowing him. I may not fully grasp God’s love for me, but I can fully experience it. I may not completely comprehend how great the gift of grace is, but I can embrace it and live my life in it.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying we should never try to understand God. There’s a definite time and place for such thinking.

But I believe understanding God alone will not transform us, will not turn our lives upside down for his Kingdom and fill us with the peace that God offers.

Only knowing God can do that.

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“Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart…live in the question.” Rainer Maria Rilke

Working on my reflection

September 21, 2012 — 1 Comment

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

I love Jesus. I’m quite the fan.

But frankly, I really struggle to be like him.

I know it’s because as a fallen human, I am not perfect, and so can’t ever be completely like Jesus. The thing is, I want to be more like him, but I find it really difficult.

I find it hard to love those who annoy me. There are plenty of people with whom I don’t see eye to eye, and I struggle to treat them as Jesus would have. He’d have loved them, given them time and shown grace to them. All things I probably don’t.

If I’m honest, I find it hard to love the poor and the lost as Jesus would have done. Yes, I give money to charities which support them and provide hope. But whilst money and support is vital in helping these people, Jesus never gave anyone cash. He gave them his presence and his love.

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I wonder what would happen to those around me if I was more like Jesus. More compassionate, gracious and loving. I don’t wonder that from a self-centred, “wouldn’t it be brilliant if more people looked at me and thought I was amazing” perspective.

I wonder it from an honest place of longing to be more like Jesus. Despite all the wonderful programs, five-year goals and objectives our churches put in place, these aren’t going to transform the lives of those around us.

Only meeting Jesus is going to do that.

We are the representatives of Jesus for so many of those in our lives. In my life, I know there are some people whose only contact with the church is me. So how I act matters. How well I reflect God’s love matters.

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I wish it was easier, but it isn’t. Being like Jesus can be hard, because it flies in the face of what the world defines as successful.

But the impact it can have on people is beyond anything this world can offer.

For all the struggles we may have with it, the difference our reflection of God can have in the lives of those around us echoes into eternity.

I think it’s time I worked on my reflection.

I wonder…

August 30, 2012 — Leave a comment

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

I wonder…

I wonder what God thinks when all I do is come to him with a list of things I want, rather than simply sitting and listening.
I wonder what he thinks every time I fail to do something according to his word, or his will for my life.
I wonder what he thinks of church.
I wonder what he thinks of what I do at church.

I wonder what the Trinity thinks when it looks at its creation killing each other.
I wonder what Jesus thought as he looked out from the cross.
I wonder what the thief on the cross next to him thought when Jesus said, “You will be with me in paradise”.
I wonder what God the Father felt the moment Jesus breathed his last human breath.

I wonder if I’ll ever truly grasp the love of God.
I wonder if sometimes I should stop trying to understand and question God’s love and just live in it.
I wonder what those who don’t know Jesus see when they see me.
I wonder if I’ll fulfil all my dreams.

I wonder.

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“Your plans are still to prosper, You have not forgotten us, You’re with us in the fire and the flood. Faithful forever, perfect in love, You are sovereign over us.” Aaron Keyes.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A while ago, someone I follow on Twitter posted this image. I love it, even though I have no idea where it is from. I think it’s great.

One of the reasons I love it so much is because it reminds me of one of the most amazing characteristics of God – that His mercies are new every morning.

So often, I find myself worrying about things for a prolonged period, carrying burdens around and letting them get me down. Sometimes these are genuine concerns, things that it’s OK to be worried about. And sometimes, they are things which really I should not worry about.

But what’s amazing is that with God, every day is a new day. Every day is a chance to start again, to wake up cleansed by His love and grace and free to live in Him.

For me, that’s one of the things I love most about God. In a world which seems to remember everything I’ve done wrong, to keep a record of all my mistakes and all my failings, it’s amazing to know that God takes my brokenness and makes it beautiful, every day.

More than the morning coffee, that’s the best way to kick-start my day.