Discipleship and Group Life, Grace

Jesus as a friend

Our family is on the tail end of a long vacation visiting national parks and spending quality time with family we don’t see all that often. And as is becoming tradition, making our way back west we stop to see some of our greatest friends.

Forged in the throws of ministry in Washington State and surviving through long distance moves, these are gospel friendships worth more than gold. It is a refreshing time to connect and keep up with each other.

What we do though is pull our 27 foot RV into their driveway and invade for a couple of days. We plug into their electricity. We eat their foot and drink their wine. We make ourselves at home. And when they visit San Diego next year they will do the same sans the RV.

There is no pretense, no performance, no perfection required. It’s just us and the acceptance of those fluent in the gospel.

We all need these types of friends. Not merely because having friends is good and healthy but because they are imaging Christ and we need the reminder of his care, his welcome to us.

Jesus let’s you pull your stuff into the driveway and plug in. He is the source, the provision and he doesn’t review your manifest before granting entry. He embraces you like the oldest and deepest of friend glad to see you. Like the one that holds on just a while longer because it has been so long.

This is your acceptance in Christ. Believing in him, he doesn’t just look away from your junk, he owns it for himself and frees you of every burden, every ounce of shame. And he invites you to stay, held by him for eternity. No threat of loss or status. Secure forever in him.

Live in that truth of his embrace today would you? And then find some friends you can do the same thing for. Remind each other of the gospel and sing of Christ’s grace.

Grace

The Way of Eternal Comfort

“But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this, he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.

“Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.” (ESV) 2 Thessalonians 2:13–17

How can we live today, in the midst of what we see as a rampant opposition to the truth of Jesus and a misguided embrace of self above all things? How can we face the struggles, the challenges and the people we are surrounded by?

We do it by clinging to our eternal comfort and good hope and asking to be comforted yet again in Jesus.

Paul is writing to a church experiencing trouble. Some false teaching had invaded and suggested that these believers had missed out on Christ’s return. The Apostle reminds the church what he taught them at first and encouraged them by making clear the Day of the Lord had not yet come. From that truth then he calls them to stand firm in Christ – that they had been claimed, redeemed, and empowered by God for his glory.

What great truth this is! For a people living in fear and making decisions from fear, the reminder of the gospel comes as a comforting security. It is an eternal comfort and good hope we have. Given identity in Christ, safe come what may as we are headed to eternity with Jesus.

And it is in this comfort we are given a daily dose of more – the prayer that the God who loves us and gave us eternity will comfort us and establish us in the work he has for us.

Where are you today? What fear can you surrender to the God who loves us and comforts us? How can you stand firm in the truth of Christ, his forgiveness, and righteousness? Run to Jesus. Be comforted.

Grace

The Air We Breathe Matters

The air your breathe matters. Think of it. The level of oxygen, the toxins, the mold spores, the carbon monoxide… all in the air you breathe in an out and the balance of these things makes all the difference. Whether you are healthy and thriving, or suffering and gasping for something more.

This is true metaphorically in the church as well, shoot, in any pattern of thinking and believing. The air we breathe matters, it is even life and death.

In Western Christianity, here is the air that is in abundance: God created the world. Starting with a spark the expanse becomes a garden and life begins. A deity is responsible and he has given us free reign. God then desires for people to be good, nice, fair to each other as taught in the Bible and actually in most world religions. It is all suggestion and the best way to live really, so give it your best college try! While we are being good, the real goal of life is to be happy and feel good about oneself – the world revolves around you and when I say that I mean specifically me!

God is still there but he doesn’t need to be particularly involved in my life until I have a crisis or need to resolve a personal problem. When there are bumps in the road to happiness, God is there to give me a comforting platitude to get through the day.

When the journey is all done, good people go to heaven when they die.

If we consume nothing but this air, our systems get used to it and actually start to crave it. Anything that smells different becomes suspicious and wrong. But it is bad air. Toxic leading to death. There is purer air to breathe.

Here is a taste:

“To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” Acts 10:43

To Jesus, all of the Bible points. Everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins. Full stop. No more work to earn a way in because you could never match the perfection required. No steps to cross off the list. No obedience to maintain to prove your worth. Justified in Christ alone. How can it be?!

The Lord of All appointed Judge of the living and dead becomes the Savior through his blood. Jesus’ perfect obedient life for you. His substitutionary death for you. And his life-giving resurrection for you.

Rejoice. Breathe deeply this fresh, freedom inducing air. Worship Jesus. And in your awe, tell someone about him.

Gospel Obscurity, Grace

In the Mess He Has You

It is a crazy time. Shootings. Abuse. Angst against the unknown. Contentment in a sea awash with American commercialism. It is enough to drive you crazy, and by you I mean me!

This morning I was feeling the slush of all the crud and was preparing myself to become a Desert Father and hide away in a cave in the wilderness… but alas Jesus has put us where he desires, in the mess he has us, and gives us purpose.

At the same time that I am wrestling with said placement I hear of believers in Nepal who spent four days walking and two days in a bus in order to attend a conference to hear the gospel. That puts my enneagram “romantic” desire for more in glaring perspective.

But the Lord doesn’t use these examples or subtle reminders to guilt us. After all there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. But he uses such examples of faithfulness and even the guttural angst in the routine to remind us that he has placed us here, as outposts of his grace and love.

Jesus has you where he does, maybe on the way to somewhere else, on purpose. To grow you, care for you, challenge you, and use you to make much of him. Be free today in the midst of the mess to rest in his finished work for you. And share it with someone else.