July 2018 Streams of Thought
Two great spiritual leaders of the 20th Century were Rev. Oswald Chambers and Rev. Billy Graham. Chambers was a Scottish pastor who served as a chaplain to British troops in World War I and died of appendicitis in 1917 at the age of 43. Graham was born the next year and was a world-famous evangelist who died just shy of his 100th birthday.
Most if not all, of us have heard of Billy Graham. Some might know Chambers through his classic devotional book My Utmost For His Highest. It's never been out of print and has been translated into 39 languages. Chambers wrote at least 30 books while Grahm wrote about the same number.
Their influence during their lifetimes was powerful and it's easier to gauge Chambers' long-term influence due to his death being a centrury ago. Graham's posthumous legacy is just beginning and it would be interesting to see where it is in 100 years.
Much more could be said about the great Christian leaders, but there's a detail I think is significant. Graham lived over twice as long as Chambers. Yet it could be argued (in retrospect for Chambers and prospectively for Graham) their legacies are and will be great.
Other saints have influenced the Church longer than Chambers or Graham. St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Teresa of Avila, and St. Francis of Assisi are just a few whose influence has lasted for literally centuries.
The point is God's Holy Spirit takes our lives of faith, no matter their length, and uses them beyond the time we spend on earth. An important theme in the Old Testament is that of personal legacy; the "righteous", as the Biblical writers call them, have influence beyond their time on earth.
So what's the secret to a legacy of faith? It's simply this: faithfulness to God throug His Son Jesus Christ. We won't live our faith perfectly, but we can, by God's grace, live it faithfully. May God grant each of us a legacy of faith no matter how much time we're given on this earth.
Grace and Peace,
June 2018 Streams of Thought
Grace and peace,
May 2018 Streams of Thought
Our sermon series "Embrace the Grace" continues this month and I
hope it has been helpful to your faith. God's grace, as Ephesians 2:8-10 says, is pure GIFT, received freely through faith in Christ. God gives it so freely we easily take it for granted. Without grace we would not be able to respond to God, let alone sense Him calling us or trying to get our attention.
In his book What's So Amazing About Grace? Philip Yancey shares Ernest Hemingway's story about a Spanish father who longed to reconcile with his
estranged son. He put an ad in a local paper
that read: "PACO MEET ME AT HOTEL MONTANA AT NOON
TUESDAY ALL IS FORGIVEN PAPA." Arriving at the spot on the appointed day the father found nearly 800 young men named Paco seeking reconciliation and forgiveness from their fathers.
We're starved for grace--for total, unconditional love, mercy, and forgiveness. Why? Because we live in a graceless world and often experience what Yancey calls "ungrace." Much of life is performance-based and we get caught on an endless treadmill of trying to hit the mark, live up to expectations, or meet standards.
The problem is when we don't we're often told, in so many words, that we've failed. And that's where it stops; no encouragement to try again or learn or know we're not alone, that it happens to everyone and it's ok.
We're so unfamiliar with grace we don't know any other way of responding or reacting. This dynamic often keeps us from embracing or showing grace. This is the "power of ungrace" (Yancey, p. 37). Breaking that power starts with "embracing grace."
Yancey explores Jesus' parable about workers who were paid for fieldwork. The ones who worked all day got the same wages as the ones who worked an hour or two. The ones who worked all day were incensed but the landowner basically said "I can pay whoever I want what I want and I chose to pay you all a day's wages."
Among other points Yancey makes is this one: if God operated out of fairness, mathematics, or merit alone we'd "all end up in hell." But God doesn't do that; instead "God dispenses gifts, not wages" (Yancey, p. 62). And the greatest of those gifts is His grace in Jesus Christ.
Living into God's grace can break the cycle of "ungrace" so prevalent in our world. As we continue to "embrace the grace" of God let it change and transform us so when people speak of us they recognize the grace we show in our daily lives.
Grace and Peace,
April 2018 Streams of Thought
Our next sermon series will explore a big topic: God's grace. What is it? How does it work? How do we respond to or experience it?
One definition of grace I like is from Catholic theologian Karl Rahner: grace is "God's presence with us." God is with us even when we don't feel it; His presence is
grace, what the Greeks called charis (favor, kindness, or gratitude) often within the context of giving. God's grace, as the Apostle Paul says in
Ephesians 2:8-10, is pure GIFT, received freely through faith in Christ.
God gives it so freely; we easily take it for granted. But without grace we would not be able to respond to God let alone sense Him calling us or trying to get our attention. Methodist founder John Wesley understood grace as working three ways. The first is prevenient grace. Before we know God, before we have faith in Him, grace is working in us. "God-moments" happen but we don't recognize them; only after we come to faith and look back on what led us to God do we realize He was leading us to Him.
Justifying grace is trusting Christ for forgiveness of sin and salvation. This is the start of the Christian life but it doesn't stop there; justifying grace continues through our lives as we follow Christ. Then there's sanctifying grace; this is grace working in us as we grow in our faith. All three aspects of grace continue to work through our lives; God is always going before us, always justifying us through faith, always leading us further into His truth.
For Wesley, grace pushes us on to what he called "Christian perfection." By that he DID NOT mean absolute moral or spiritual perfection but a dynamic of grace so alive and active within us that any awareness of sin causes us to respond with prayer and
seeking God to forgive or avoid actions, words, or thoughts that displease God.
Our relationship with God is fueled not only by grace but by love, by God's love for us and our love for God and others. Wesley called this "perfect love;" again not absolutely flawless or faultless but love that seeks to please God and not harm or hurt others. All of it is by grace. Without grace, Wesley believed, and Scripture bears it out, we cannot come to God or know Him. But by the gift of grace we can know God and serve Him in this life. For His glory and the sake of others.
Grace and Peace,
Grow as you are led
Serve as you are able