This coming Sunday, November 3, we begin our new series following the outline of Max Lucado's book, Grace: More Than We Deserve, Greater Than We Can Imagine. It is the perfect complement to Dusty's sermon series "Scandalous Grace.” We picked this topic, not only as that complement, but because those of us who have been way lost have felt the full effect of getting what we don't deserve...forgiveness, and a new chance to get it "right" this time.
But as we learn more about this amazing thing called grace, we see that God has an all together different way of looking at it than we do. He that is last is first, despite the fact that the first one may have worked longer and harder; doing good is just a part of serving, not a qualification for heaven; and, being a previously total train wreck in your life may qualify you to be one of God's greatest leaders. WOW! It's scandalous, upside down turning, and may be the most misunderstood quality of God!
Max says: "It rewires you, from insecure to God secure. From regret riddled to better-because-of-it. From ready-to-die to ready-to-fly. Grace is the voice that calls us to change and then gives us the power to pull it off.” And, this is exactly where most of us fail. We are saved, and now we've got this....just do the right thing and everything will fall into place. Wrong. The power is in understanding that grace is not a one-time gift but is truly the gift that keeps on giving! Life happens, and every moment of every day we need grace to deal with ourselves and the human race.
Max goes on to say that "When grace happens, we receive not a nice compliment from God, but a new heart. Give your heart to God, and he returns the favor. 'I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you' Ezekiel 36:26.” And he adds these powerful words:
"You might call it a spiritual heart transplant... when God hears your heart, does he not hear the still-beating heart of his son?"
So we will begin this Sunday with the topic "The Grace Shaped Life,” asking the question of you: What does a grace shaped life look like? And, more importantly, do we look like that? Is God hearing the heartbeat of his Son within us?
We have books, participant's guides, and a line-up of grace-filled teachers to lead this compelling topic over the next two months. Please join us when you can and let's let the Spirit of the Lord guide us into a life completely filled with Grace!
In the AA 12 Step program they always mention that their Steps are suggestions, that if followed have a high rate of success to maintain sobriety. Since the framework of these Steps came from the Bible, please allow me to make a radical suggestion to you.
Think of the 10 Commandments as 10 Suggestions. (I might be stepping into the fire here, but bear with me please.)
Since they were nailed to the cross and a public spectacle was made out of them and the Law, maybe it would be easier to follow these Commandments if we process them through a funnel of love. This would much easier to teach to people who have led a life of dysfunction and have never been very good at following orders. Let me explain.
As Jesus stated, "The greatest of these is to love the Lord your God with all your (heart and soul), and to love your neighbor as yourself,” he was letting us in on a secret to spiritual fulfillment. If you remember, nobody could ever keep the Commandments. What would make us any different? Love, not Thou Shalt Not's.
Think of telling a child that you must never do that, or as Adam and Eve who were told, do anything you want, but don't eat that! Sure, I am playing on words, but I am also appealing to our hearts. You see, because I love you, I won't take your stuff, lie to you or want to own everything you have. I won't murder you or try to sleep with your wife. And I will do my absolute best to respect you and show you how great God is. But I won't wag my fingers in your face telling you how bad you are, and say one thing and do another. That's the basis of love, not wanting to hurt ourselves or another.
So, let's just say that we do love the Lord with all our heart and soul. That means every time we hurt him or others (and it will happen no matter how good we are at loving), we will feel really bad that we did, and maybe we won't do it again. I am suggesting to you that a life of Love is the more excellent way than a life of being judgmental and trying to be perfect. It'll never happen no matter how hard we try.
The 10 Suggestions are the same as the Commandments, but they come from a different place of faith. I love you so much that I don't want to disappoint the one who saved my life, (nailed to the cross, written on our hearts, not tablets), nor do I want to hurt you intentionally. And because you are my neighbor, I will be the best neighbor you ever had, because that's the way I love myself.......because I followed the Suggestions of the Lord.
Remember we are alot like kids, we rebel at being told what to do (just like Adam & Eve), and we respond so much better to a call to Love than a call not to do something. So hug your neighbor, love your kids, send Dusty notes about how good he does, not ones that complain, and especially this Sunday, walk up to an Elder and thank them for always having your back, and for holding us accountable when we act like children.
Love every day like it was your last!
It has been a week for me to refresh, spending the entire week in the ATL, getting to be at the Monday meeting, getting to do the Step By Step meeting Wednesday (we had a good crowd, about 20), and getting to spend a bunch of time with my grandson Logan. Both of us have had a touch of some kind of virus, so we have had time to build, play games and read. Last night and this morning we finished off the book "Bartholomew and The Oobleck".
In the book the King gets bored of the four things that come down from the sky: sun, rain, snow and fog. He is irritated to the point of calling in his magicians to concoct a formula or magic words that will bring down a new fifth element that will please him. I am pretty sure you already see why I am writing about this, we never seem to get enough, but bear with me as we discover some other points this story makes.
When the Oobleck does come, it comes in globs, sticks to everything, people are stuck, ducks stuck to cows, the bell to warn the people is stuck, and the King gets stuck to his throne whining and trembling in fear. The Oobleck takes over everything and threatens to collapse the kingdom (you can think of many corresponding things here.) Bartholomew, who is the King's assistant, finds him stuck to his throne crying and when the King asks him what he can do, Bartholomew tells him straight, "you must say you are sorry, you must ask for forgiveness.”
No one, of course, had ever spoken to the King like this, so he rebels at first, only to relent and apologize. When he does, the Oobleck lets up, it melts away, and the kingdom is restored. (I can see you cheering right now!) Everyone gets unstuck.
So you can see how this relates to my previous words on "Yard Work,” but here is a point that all of us need to remember in dealing with relationships of any kind, and it is entirely biblical. Sooner or later we need to put people on the money, in however we do it, preferably with tough love, that it is not okay to keep spreading your dysfunctional "Oobleck" around on your friends, family and associates just because you are unhappy. Sometimes we think we think we are being Christ-like when we fail to make others accountable for stepping all over us. But negative, controlling and abusive folks need to know it's not okay.
In this story, Bartholomew risked everything to tell the King off, but in the end it saved the kingdom. It just illustrates that accountability, honesty and sometimes survival rely on us being real with each other, not judgmental, but delivering the truth when necessary.
So you could probably replace the previous leaves with Oobleck as that which is blocking your life from improving, and I have a simple way to help remind you to remove it if it is an obstruction. Logan and I sang the Willie Wonka song with new words this morning, and you also may try it........."Oobleck, Oobleck, Ooobly Dooo........."
Maybe it's time for me to go on the road again!
The very mention of those two words creates fear in the hearts of many of us who are homeowners with lots of grass, bushes and trees. I remember one year collecting 100 of those yard bags of leaves, promising myself I would find another way to dispose of them. As I gaze out upon my property, I think of how many football games I will have to miss while performing this rite of fall. Those leaves look so beautiful this time of year as they change colors, but so ugly as they lay dead on the ground.
If you apply these words to our lives, assuming that doing our personal yard work is a lot like bagging up a whole bunch of leaves and disposing of them, then the real fear will set in when we understand just how much work we have to do to clean up our proverbial yard. Part of getting emotionally healthy whether an addict or having experienced life changing circumstances, is understanding that God does not wave a magic wand to make all the leaves go away. Some things that we thought looked good on us in the past, now have to die and go for us to regroup and heal. There is only one way to get it done......yard work.
Paul says in Philippians "continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose." In other words, work it out to the finish, work out your spiritual growth and development on a continual basis, do the Yard Work through each season of life. But to me, the key words that hit home are "with fear and trembling.” It is not joyful to make amends for past bad behavior, to heal from a broken marriage, or to look back at a total path of destruction from addiction, but as we do this we have the assurance that it will all work out if we keep at it......."according to His good will and purpose."
God will transform a yard full of leaves into a beautiful lawn in season, when it is ready to mature, like Fall leads to Winter and Winter leads to Spring. Each season of life that we do yard work in leads to a beautiful conclusion in Summer. Fresh beautiful flowers, thriving green grass, and many growing trees. That is unless, we fail to do the yard work, in which case the grass turns brown and those flowers we planted that we failed to water never bloom.
It's definitely difficult to continue to work on ourselves as we do on our landscape, but it is vitally necessary to grow and feel the joy of God's promise to use us for His "good purpose.”As we do, we need to remember Jesus already paid the price for our salvation in heaven, we are just down here working to thrive and grow until we get there.
And we can't do it with a pile of leaves on top of us every day we wake up.
Ready for Yard Work,
The challenge of always providing a unique and different type of topic for our ATB Sunday class is one that requires some deep thought, prayer and sometimes a sign from Him that it is right. This morning I got that confirmation that what I was thinking was what He wanted. Dusty begins his series on Grace next Sunday, and to complement that we will begin a study in November.
Our new series beginning on Sunday, November 3rd is based on Max Lucado's book "Grace: More Than We Deserve, Greater Than We Can Imagine". After hearing of Dusty's plans and reading the glowing promo of Max's book with words from such as Charles Stanley, Louie Gigglio, and Franklin Graham, and knowing how many people struggle with understanding the real meaning of God's grace, I truly believe this will be a wonderful eye opener for us. Here is the official book promo:
"Grace. We talk as though we understand the term. The bank gives us a grace period. The seedy politician falls from grace. Musicians speak of a grace note. We describe an actress as gracious, a dancer as graceful. We use the word for hospitals, baby girls, kings and pre-meal prayers. We talk as though we know what grace means. But do we really understand it? Have we settled for whimpy grace? It politely occupies a phrase in a hymn, fits nicely on a church sign. Never causes trouble or demands a response.
When asked "Do you believe in grace?", who could say no?
Max Lucado asks a greater question, Have you been changed by grace?"
This book comes with participant books for the study and goes for about 12 chapters. Combined with Dusty's series it will give us a chance to explore and dialogue about that exact question, have we been changed by grace? In my own life, this is the one single thing that has worked me through lack of self-worth, unforgiveness, resentments, anger, and the compelling need to always get things right. It is the main attribute of God that has led me to shed the worst attributes of Glenn.
Join us again, November 3rd at 10:15 AM as we embark upon this new journey that promises great personal discovery!
Last week it made more sense for me to stay in Pensacola for the weekend and return on my auction journey form Monday through Thursday in Orlando and Tampa. Unfortunately there were predictions of a tropical storm (Karen) and most forecasts were for pretty bad weather. I listened but something told me riding Into The Storm was the right thing to do rather than fearing the outcome. As it turned out, Karen did little damage and fizzled out into a few moments of rain.
Sometimes life leads us into danger, but we must always remember, the Lord is with us, and in fact storms are a significant part of our walk as Christians. If we hold to our faith we are often criticized and led into controversy aside from the normal battles of life, and God teaches us that riding Into The Storm with him can make us stronger, and sharpen our faith. Which led me to write this poem on a plane yesterday while riding through some turbulent weather.
Into The Storm
There are times when we lose ourselves, in the daily grind of making the proverbial grade
We strive to provide, to improve, to succeed, and most of all to just survive, we must get paid
And in those times the light and dark are often intersecting, one moment happy, one moment sad, and not sure why
We want everything to be right, put our faith into action, but often we fail and are left only to cry
Oh Lord I didn't know we'd be headed into a storm, I thought it would be a smoother ride, that would be the norm
Forgive me for thinking that your word was all about joy, but making us think that way, that's the devil's ploy
I found out my Father, that you love us even more, when we ride into the storm with nothing but you
The rest of life comes in second place, unless our faith gets a little black and blue
My God, you are so much more than we could ever be, in us you live for others to see
One day soon, I'll be on my way to meet you, and at that moment I hope you will say
"Well done my son, despite your flaws and the battles you lost, you too have paid the cost
Of following me whether in joy or experiencing pain, when you took me into your storm, heaven was your gain!"
Words from my heart that I hope will comfort you in whatever situation you are in. Sometimes riding Into The Storm isn't such a bad thing!
For many of us, life used to be all about me,myself and I. We could never get enough attention, praise, love or just enough of anything in general. The only difference we ever made was in making the other person's wallet next to us a little lighter, or in getting what we wanted out of any situation that we could manipulate. We were takers, never givers.
I look around at some of our folks involved at ATB and in Campus, and I see givers who seem to always be giving. They are making a difference. I see recovering people who are really recovering and also making a difference. These past few weeks, a woman whom we have helped financially sent a letter to the church along with a small repayment check....making a difference to those who had helped her. One of our men stopped and prayed with his co-workers before their job began, something he had never done before in any situation. One of our ladies is always making coffee, giving others rides and becoming quite a role model, again, both making a huge difference.
A couple in our class has a business in which they are always hiring and helping people who may be un-employable, giving them some way to earn their way back into society while bringing them to church and teaching them a different way. There are two couples who constantly provide food on Monday nights, cards, letters and anything else needed to fit the situation....what a major difference they make. And there are two elders who are heavily involved in ATB that will take on a challenge in a heartbeat because that is just the way they are...servants who really serve.
I could go on, but if anything compels me to be a better man, it is things like these that fuel the passion for ministry, and things like this that are a whole lot like Jesus was in the way he talked about and treated people. Not just any kind of people, but especially the angry ones, the downtrodden ones, and the outcasts who had no one else to care about them- especially the sinners and thugs who were broken down by the kindness of Him. It's funny, but with all the prisons and laws, the simplest way to help change dysfunctional behavior is to be like Jesus and watch others respond.
Today is my birthday, so I am making a public wish- let's make a difference in this world because He has made a difference in us. Instead of me, myself, and I, let's make it all about you. Do you have a need today, do you hurt, do you feel isolated and alone? Call us, we have some difference makers who will quickly help to make a difference in your life.
Don't hesitate because we may be busy helping someone else.....that's what he taught us to do!
Glenn is an ex-Marine Viet Nam vet who is also a recovering alcoholic, clean and sober for 30 years. He has been involved in start up and ongoing recovery ministry at North Atlanta Church and Campus for the last two decades. He has a passion for outreach and to spread the message that the answer to lasting and fulfilling recovery from addiction is in a relationship with Jesus Christ. He and the ATB team are available to assist in your questions or needs on an individual basis and will do so maintaining complete confidentiality. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.