Category Archives: Relationships

Grace Prevails

There is a song out by Matthew West entitled, “Grace Wins.”
The words are powerful, the concept beautiful, here are the lyrics from part of the song:
“For the Prodigal son
Grace Wins
For the Woman at the well
Grace Wins
For the blind men and the beggar
Grace Wins
For always and forever
Grace Wins
For the lost out on the street
Grace Wins
For the worst part of you and me
Grace Wins
For the thief on the cross
Grace Wins
For the world that is lost
Grace Wins
There’s a war between guilt and grace
And they’re fighting for a sacred space
But i’m living proof
Grace wins every time”

As a person who writes and speaks, i am keenly aware of how important it is to define the words we use.

Traditional definition of GRACE – the free and unmerited favor of God.

Dallas Willard – “GRACE is not opposed to effort, but to earning. Earning is an attitude. Effort is an action. Grace is not just about forgiveness — if we had never sinned we would still need grace! GRACE is God acting in our life to do what we cannot do on our own. Grace is what we live by, and the human system won’t work without it.”
When God chose to act on our behalf, in the person of Jesus, He did what we could not do. That grace existed because of the very nature of our God, [who He is] and it shapes our relationship with God. We can not have a relationship with God apart from the GRACE of God in Jesus.
GRACE is God’s action in our lives. GRACE is not a once and done, rather it is a consistent living into. Relationships are constantly changing, either growing together or growing apart. God’s grace/action in our lives is designed to draw us closer in our relationship with God. When we refuse to accept this grace/action and choose our own will/way, we grow apart-the relationship suffers. This growing apart does not lessen God’s grace/action/love for us, God is not like us, God is not fickle. GRACE wins every time.
Why is this so important? Why spend five paragraphs defining GRACE? Because I believe that the lack of living into God’s action/grace/relationship is the single largest reason the light that disciples are supposed to shine in the world has dimmed.
The Christian church has become a people who love their position/opinion/beliefs/politics more than we love other people and more than we love Jesus. We are so convinced that our position is right that we love that supposed “rightness” more than we love the person who has a different position. When this happens, we have missed the point of God’s action/GRACE in our lives. To do this is to miss the mark that Jesus has called us to as disciples.

Think about Simon the Zealot and Matthew the tax collector. Two people that couldn’t have been more politically/socially/economically different. For Simon the Zealot, he loved a free Israel so much that he was willing to kill Romans to accomplish that freedom. For Matthew the Tax collector, he loved money so much he was willing to be branded a traitor and nationally despised. And Jesus called them both to be His disciples. Can you just imagine Simon sitting at the camp fire as Matthew joins the group for the first time, and Jesus says, “Hey, Matthew, I think there is an open seat next to Simon.”
Plug what ever opposing “stances” you want into the equation. The result is the same. Pro-life vs. Pro-choice. Homosexual vs. Not. It doesn’t matter. Both sides love their position more than they love the people on the other side. This is where God’s GRACE/action in our lives comes to play. Simon and Matthew loved their positions, and had given their lives over to their cause/ideology. Yet, having encountered God’s GRACE in Jesus, both chose not to love their position, but to let go and to love Jesus more. GRACE wins every time. Their encounter of God’s grace in the person of Jesus led them to love him more than they loved their position. And because they loved Him more than their position, they were willing to obey when Jesus commanded them to love each other!

Grace cannot be experienced apart from a relationship. When we choose to define people by their stance, rather than a person whom Jesus loves, we miss the point of the Gospel. Many churches are going the legislation route. Legislation will not bring about healing, only relationships built on the person of Jesus can do that. In Christ, there is no Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female…. see Galatians 3:26-29. A disciple of Jesus will always choose to build a relationship with another person because of the relationship the disciple has with Jesus. The encounter of GRACE/God’s action in their lives compels the disciple to seek the relationship with the other person not in spite of their ‘stance’ but because of who Jesus is.
This is the problem that the broader church faces: people want to love their position or their building or their theological stance more than they love their neighbor. We fail to love others because we fail to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. This dims our light/witness to the world. Our light is hidden under the basket/bushel of our position. The church has learned the lesson of the world all too well, that people are disposable. It’s OK to write off your brother; it’s OK to dismiss someone, if they don’t agree with your perspective/stance.
Don’t hear what I am not saying. I am all for Biblical authority, I am all for conservative values. But, above all, I am for Jesus. And Jesus commands me to build relationships with other people out of my love for Him based upon His love for me. I need God’s grace to do this. In the end, GRACE wins every time.

A Call To Discipleship

Now more than ever, the words of Jesus herald truth…“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.John 13:34-35”

The world needs disciples. What is not needed is more rhetoric, hate speech, divisive commentary, baiting of one side against another. The world needs Jesus. They way the world comes to experience Jesus is from His disciples.

Like so many, I add my voice to the fray of noise regarding the violence that we see played out in America. Senseless killing of individuals, regardless of color or ethnicity, a life lost is tragic. You may disagree, but then you may not claim the name of follower of Jesus.

Jesus chose to heal his attacker’s wounds. [And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear.
But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him. Luke 22:50-51]

Jesus chose to forgive the men driving the spikes through his wrists. [Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34]

No slight, no offense, no racial profile, no name calling is worth taking another person’s life. No one has been slighted, offended, profiled, racially slurred or called names more than Jesus. His path is not protest. His path is not angry words. His path is not violence. His path is forgiveness.

Instrumental to all of this is Jesus’ relationship with His Father. The second key is that Jesus chose. He chose to love his father, obey his father, honor his father. He chose these rather than his anger, hurt feelings, slighted ego, wounded spirit, selfish motives, entitlement attitude, and perceived rights.

There are all kinds of buzz and conversations happening at lunches, around the water cooler, in the break rooms, at the back yard BBQ’s. What if Jesus’ followers started acting like Jesus-followers and offered a word of forgiveness instead of jumping on the commentary wagon? What if Jesus-followers would go out of their way to be polite, smile, offer a helping hand, concentrate on building relationships that reflect Jesus?

Our broken, hurting world needs disciples of Jesus to be disciples; “love one another as I have loved you.” — Jesus

KISS Principle for Discipleship -or- It’s All About Relationships

Most people know that K.I.S.S is an acronym for “keep it simple, stupid.”

When it comes to discipleship we, being the church, tend to make it much more complicated than it needs to be.  We like to look to experts, develop schemes and methodologies, seek quick tips and automated processes.

This is not how discipleship works.  Discipleship is not complicated.  It is simply about a relationship – our relationship with Jesus that informs and affects our human relationships.

Discipleship is not anymore complicated.

Think about how you developed the “friendships” and the deep, abiding relationships that sustain you.  They all follow the same principles. Discipleship is not any more complicated.

Honesty – All relationships begin with honesty.  We very carefully choose to to take a risk and share a little bit of ourselves with someone else.  We choose to be honest.  Next we wait and see what that person does with our honesty.

Trust – If they receive our honesty, with respect and authenticity, we begin to build trust.  As we build trust, we take a few more relationship risks and become more transparent with the other person. We peel back the layers and slowly, over time reveal our true selves.

Love – Over time, with much energy poured into this other person, trust grows into love.  This could be a romantic kind of love, but not necessarily.  It may be a kind of love, like Jesus talked about in John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”  This relationship kind of love is seen in examples between brothers, siblings, parents and children.

Honesty builds trust, and trust builds love.  It only happens over a significant amount of time, with equal parts of energy and transparency.

The truth of this process, in all relationship, is seen when we look at it from a reverse process of questions.  Do we love someone we can not trust?  Can we trust someone who is not honest with us?  The obvious answer is no.  

The graphic below may be helpful for those of us who are visual learners.

Relationship Steps

Relationships with Jesus follow this same pattern.  The process from Jesus’ perspective is that He is always honest, He is always trustworthy and He deeply loves us.  He proved his words from John 15:13 by willingly going to the cross.

From our side, we learn to journey with Jesus over time.  We learn to take him at his word.  We learn to trust in Him.  We learn to love him.  This process is best described as a journey.  It takes significant time.

One last important point, that we shall explore in later posts, this discipleship process is demonstrated and designed to be done with other believers.  It does not happen in isolation.

So in my post title, I stated that discipleship is about keeping it simple.  This process is not complicated; rather it is life giving.  It is not difficult, it is simplifying.   It is understood in a few moments and practiced over a life time.    And it is life transforming. Let’s journey together as we are transformed into the likeness of our Savior, Jesus.  May we be covered in the dust of our Rabbi.

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