When I Run Low on Grace

Stacy and I settled in for a relaxing evening and turned on the newest restaurant makeover show. The star chef was determined to revitalize a slumping eatery in just 24 hours. (As a side-bar, I am thinking of doing the same kind of show for churches – 24 hour replants… who is in?!)

As the background rolled you immediately witnessed the dysfunction of the staff and vision of the restaurant and while there were many culpable parties I personally focused on the kitchen manager. I didn’t like the way he belittled and gossiped about the owner and he was clearly responsible for the failure of food quality and safety. Having pegged him as the problem I said out loud a couple of times, “He needs to go… fire that guy!”

Then the renovation and new birth began in earnest and there is a scene where the celebrity chef brings the negligent kitchen manager to a test kitchen to train him in the new menu. As he learns the skills needed to make these new delicious entrees, he tells his story of an absent father and a lack of passion for life and work. The f-bomb-dropping chef hears the pain, makes sure the manager knows he hears him and relates to him in shared story and dreams. He won’t give up on this guy and he hopes the manager won’t give up on him. He extends real grace in the face of failure and plants the seeds of transformation.

Watching it unfold I exclaimed that I couldn’t believe Gordon Ramsey was more gracious than me to which Stacy responded, “way to go pastor!”

Boom.

Oh man, there are some many more examples I could use to make clear my often lack of grace toward others. Here I am the “grace junky” incapable of extending the grace I say I need so much. It is convicting. But it is not the end.

You see, when I run low on grace Jesus sends wave upon wave of more grace. When I don’t mirror the gift I am given in Jesus he gives in fresh, abundant ways. When I fail Christ holds me and tells me that his grace is sufficient, so much so that now I can learn and attempt to give grace to others. And this is true for you too.

Today, know that the grace of Christ is unending toward you. With it, Jesus calls you to real life, a gracious life. May we learn to extend this same grace that we would look and smell like Jesus!

Gospel Perspective to be Shared

“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:58 (ESV)

As I prepared to preach these words last week I was struck by the necessity of ministry, what is essentially the minister’s role; to live and share a life informed by a gospel perspective.

There were a couple opportunities for counseling and helping people through difficulties, there was the expositing of Scripture and also encouraging leaders and making vision decisions for the church. All of this along with being a husband and father of a growing and active family. At each moment I noticed my internal lurch toward a self-centered, anxious perspective. Thinking the worst of events (which is bad because I am generally an optimist), and figuring my striving was the only solution.

But the gospel brings a different word, a better perspective. In Christ I am secure, I am made immovable, unshakeable and empowered to do the work the Lord has called me to. None of it is in vain, but one purpose and worthwhile. This perspective, a redeemed one, changes how I approach my family, ministering and setting a vision for the future. And this perspective is exactly what I have to offer and am called to give to other believers and those in need of a savior.

Over and over again at every opportunity, this perspective is our security.  When someone is facing the unknown in the hospital. When the car is wrecked. When the relationship breaks. When the job falls through or comes through. When the lottery is won.  And when every other mundane moment of life comes along… it is the gospel and the perspective of life it forms that I bring by way of reminder, in love to others. Because I need it too.

It is with a gospel perspective, one that knows Jesus is Lord and cares for us, gives us grace for life, that we can stand, steadfast, immovable and abounding in good work. Let’s live with this perspective.

Fail to Pray

“It is rare today to see a passion for prayer as the essence of gospel ministry. But I also believe it is futile to try to work people up into prayer. It just doesn’t get results beyond a surge of enthusiasm that soon wears off. I know of only one infallible way to get a church praying, and keep it praying, for the power of God to come down: we need to fail. We need to fail so badly and obviously that we find out how much we really do trust ourselves rather than God. We need to be shocked by the collapse of our best methods. But what a blessing catastrophic disaster is, with all its misery and shame, if it turns us back to God!” – Ray Ortlund, The Gospel.

We have just finished a study of this little book at theology breakfast and it was a worthwhile experience. I commend it to you.

Failing to fight procrastination

Peter Bregman has an insightful post on the Harvard Business Review site about something he noticed while sitting on a beach and watching surfers. 

“No matter how good, how experienced, how graceful they were on the wave, every surfer ended their ride in precisely the same way: By falling.

“Some had fun with their fall, while others tried desperately to avoid it. And not all falls were failures — some fell into the water only when their wave fizzled and their ride ended.

“But here’s what I found most interesting: The only difference between a failure and a fizzle was the element of surprise. In all cases, the surfer ends up in the water. There’s no other possible way to wrap up a ride.”

Bergman then suggests that preparing for and embracing the “feeling” of falling is the best way in our professional lives to overcome procrastination and truly excel. 

“The answer that kept coming to me was that we would take more risks. That difficult conversation with your boss (or employee, or colleague, or partner, or spouse) that you’ve been avoiding? You’d initiate it. That proposal (or article, or book, or email) you’ve been putting off? You’d start it. That new business (or product, or sales strategy, or investment) you’ve been overanalyzing? You’d follow through. And when you fell — because if you take risks, you will fall — you’d get back on the board and paddle back into the surf. That’s what every single one of the surfers did.

“So why don’t we live life that way? Why don’t we accept falling — even if it’s a failure — as part of the ride? Because we’re afraid of feeling.”

In order to beat this reality, Bergman tells us to get to feeling. 

“Practice. Which you get by taking risks, feeling whatever you end up feeling, recognizing that it didn’t kill you, and then getting on the board and paddling back into the surf. Have that difficult conversation. Listen without defensiveness when your colleague criticizes you. Name the elephant in the room. Get rejected.

“And feel it all. Feel the anticipation of the risk. Feel the pre-risk cringe. Then, during the risk, and after, take a deep breath and feel that too.”

It is a simple but profound idea. We don’t “do” out of fear. We procrastinate because we are scared of the feeling of failure, or maybe even success. How might this be lived out in the life of a Christian? After all we know how this all ends and were our justifications comes from. In other words we have nothing to lose or risk because we are secure in Christ. We should be known for our willingness to step out, take on the task and be willing to fall or fail and get back up and surf again. 

What are you procrastinating on? What conversation do you need to have? What words need to be put onto paper? What things do you need to say no to in order to free up you time to create? Fall, embrace the feeling and get back on the board. 

Read the whole article here