Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Herding Cats

My husband had the boys by himself last weekend so I could attend a wedding. He told me afterwards that trying to get them from the house to the car and back to take them to the mall was like herding cats. And that really is a very apt description of my highly energetic, curious, unflappable two and four year old. Simple things like going to the car that used to take 1 minute before I had kids now take 15 minutes with them. Nothing is simple anymore. Everything takes more energy, more time, more patience.

Oh, children. I wanted mine so badly--experiencing deep depression when I struggled briefly with miscarriage and infertility and then great excitement when I finally got pregnant again. But pretty much since the moment I gave birth to my second son, I have experienced intense emotional and spiritual battles. The pressure has not let up. As each boy gets older, the types of pressure change with their stage, but the general sense of pressure remains. My boys have been God's instrument of sanctification in me, exposing much of my sin day after day. Mainly, it exposes that, when put under the right amount of pressure, I am not much different than those I would like to compare myself to make myself feel better. "Well, at least I don't parent like them!" But with enough pressure, the same (pardon the vernacular) bitch voice can come out of my mouth that comes out of the most sorry, angry worthless parent you know.

When I use that voice, that's when I know I am defeated. I usually want to sit down in a corner and cry. I have failed. I have become the very thing I detest and vowed never to be. Instead of persevering patiently with my boys in their sin, I have sinned against them. Instead of modeling for them right responses, I have become the very thing that I have been trying to teach them not to be. What hopelessness I feel. The problem isn't that I'm herding cats. I could handle herding cats all day long if it didn't bring out in me the things I hate the most.

But God does not leave me in that moment. I have been working long and hard on a manuscript on the book of Ephesians. And while it may or may not get published one day, God has certainly used the study in my heart to radically change how I respond in that moment. I know what to do now in that pit of despair over my failure. I don't have to hide until I can get myself back together. I don't have to justify myself. Instead, I turn to the gospel. I look to God and pray, "God, open my eyes to the power at work on my behalf, the same power that rose Christ from the dead. What is my spiritual inheritance in You? Show me how to live in light of all you have declared me to be in heaven. Show me how to deal with this sin in me right now in light of all You have done for me on the cross." Then, I can be honest with the boys about what I did wrong and how Jesus helps me in it.

I love the gospel. It matters. It meets me in the midst of the things that weigh me down the most and gives me hope that God is calling me to a better way and making a way for it to happen. The gospel teaches me that I don't have to figure it out on my own. That I can cast myself upon His mercy and He will do the heavy work of transforming me into His image. And that, my friends, give me great peace and hope. The gospel meets me in every need.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Mentoring Like Jesus Part 2

In Part 1 of this series, we looked at Jesus as our primary example on effective methods of mentoring and discipleship. Our first and primary responsibility is to be like Christ. But our second responsibility flows from the very fact that we aren’t. Unlike Christ, we are sinners with a fallen nature. Therefore we must always …

Pursue Wisdom

Proverbs 2 1 My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, 2 turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, 3 and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, 4 and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, 5 then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.

Proverbs 4 (KJV) 7 Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.

We are not inherently wise and are dependent upon Christ and His Word to grow us in wisdom. What is our part in this growth? In a word, theology.

Proverbs 9 10 "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

Theology, in its most basic sense, is simply the study of God. We must pursue knowledge of God—not head knowledge alone (big words that puff up our pride), but knowledge of His desires, His character, and His Word that we might understand how He wishes us to respond in life’s circumstances. Our study of God should lead to an awesome reverence for His Word and His power and a trust in His sovereignty and His wisdom, which all play out practically into daily living characterized by wisdom and understanding.

Note that the principles to Be Like Christ and Pursue Wisdom are not specific to either the one who disciples others or the one who wants to be discipled. All of us are to pursue these goals. This leads to my final big principle.

It’s Cyclical.

Unlike Christ, none of us will reach a point in which we no longer need to be discipled (trained in righteousness).

1 Corinthians 11 1Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.

Philippians 4 9Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me--put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

2 Timothy 2 2And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.

Beware of the guy or gal who has stopped welcoming others to speak into his or her life. As Paul learned of Christ, he taught Timothy. As Timothy learned of Paul, he taught others. Then those unnamed students of Timothy discipled still others. This cycle is to continue until Christ’s return. Even as mature believers are pouring themselves into your life, you too are called to commit those things you are learning to the next guy. We never get to either stop learning from those who have come before us or stop training those who come next. The best quality to look for in a teacher/mentor/discipler is a humility that accepts wisdom from others.


We need someone to speak wisdom into our lives, and we also desire to speak wisdom into the lives of others. What practically do we do from here? This may seem like odd advice, but I encourage you simply to SERVE. The Master Discipler, Jesus Christ, gives us this example. He did not grasp His rights as God, but He made Himself of no reputation, humbled Himself, and served His way into the hearts and lives of those He discipled (Phil. 2). There are hundreds of opportunities for service in the local and global church, and at each service opportunity, there are many men and women longing for someone to speak into their lives. Through faithful service, you will meet brothers and sisters in Christ, earning the right to disciple them by serving alongside them in the trenches, modeling before them servant leadership.

I’ve been a part of mentoring programs at various churches. My experience is that, despite the best efforts, they are woefully inadequate for real discipleship. I’m not against such programs at all, but I do want to emphasize that authentic discipleship requires long-term investment and patient nurturing of relationship. We can’t control what the Spirit does in hearts or which hearts He chooses to knit together with ours. We can’t make it happen. However, when we abide in Him and get a vision for His example, we can rest assured that we will bear much fruit and that fruit will last long term (John 15).

Leadership begins with servitude, so volunteer to clean that toilet, change that dirty diaper, or baby-sit at community group. Then open your life to your coworker in ministry. That is the kind of servant leadership to which we are called. God will bring across your path that one who is looking for someone to speak into their lives. Our job is then to be ready to welcome this one into our lives—prepared to speak truth, love, and bear long for the glory of God and the beauty of His Body.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Mentoring Like Jesus

1 Thessalonians 2:8 So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.

Perhaps you are a mature Christian who is burdened to help other women. Or maybe you have been recently saved and have reached a point in your walk with Christ in which you feel ready to speak into the lives of others who are younger in the faith. How do you go about finding someone to mentor? Or for those of you looking for someone to speak into your life, how do you find someone to mentor you? And what do you do when you find that person?

First, let’s note that the term “mentor” is not a biblical term. It actually originated in Greek mythology. Mentor was Odysseus’s trusted counselor, and over the years, the term came to mean any wise and trusted counselor or teacher. The term has gained popularity during the last few decades as a secular business idea for growing leaders in a company. From the business world, the term then infiltrated the church.

When people want to “mentor” or be “mentored”, it is important to let Scripture and not current psychological or corporate models dictate the plan of action. What believers who desire mentorship are really longing for is discipleship. By discipleship, I mean training in righteousness in all aspects of our lives through life on life contact. We long for relationship. Ultimately, we have this deep inner need to sit at the feet of Christ, as did His disciples. We want and need the ultimate wise and trusted counselor, Jesus Christ, to speak into our lives. Christ has willingly chosen to use imperfect believers to do this in His name. Discipleship is the goal.

Christ is our model for discipleship. He was the Master Discipler, which leads to the primary principle in discipleship.

Be like Christ.

Matthew 10:25 (KJV) It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord.

1 Corinthians 11:1 Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.

Our obligation is no more and no less than to be like Christ. Paul teaches us in Romans 8:29 that God’s purpose for His children from before time began was that we would be conformed to the image of Christ. If we’re to be conformed to Christ’s example, exactly what did he model for us?

Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

Matthew 20 25Jesus called them together and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27and whoever wants to be first must be your slave-- 28just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

The first characteristic of a Christlike Discipler/Teacher/Mentor is servanthood. Christ did not come to be served. He came to give His very life a ransom for many. Those of us who want to “mentor,” both in corporate settings as well as the church, must guard ourselves from the attitude of pride that often comes with it. “I am mature and ready to dispense my wisdom to the lesser beings who surround me, and once church leadership recognizes my wisdom, they too will want me to tell immature Christians to be like me.” This is an attitude that must be stamped down at every turn. In truth, Christ-like discipleship is a humble, selfless job that requires true sacrifice. Christ washed his disciples’ feet as a specific indicator of this reality. Though He was the Master Teacher, He sat at the dirty feet of His pupils and washed them, teaching them through this very act of service that the true spiritual teacher leads through service.

Christ is also an example to us in the methods He used to teach His disciples. Christ modeled His teaching through His life. Matthew 8 is a good example of this in the life of the disciples. In this chapter, Christ moves from ministry opportunity to ministry opportunity with His disciples in tow. He has just finished the Sermon on the Mount in which He gives clear teaching to his disciples and the crowds with them. Afterwards, he heals a leper, a centurion’s servant, Peter’s mother-in-law, and many others of their various sicknesses. He also spends time casting out demons among a large number of demonized people that friends and family brought to Him. He then gives a few more verbal instructions to individual disciples before He and His disciples get on a boat. On the boat, a terrible storm comes upon them and Christ uses it as an important object lesson to the disciples about their faith in Him. Throughout the chapter, Christ uses a variety of teaching methods. Christ taught through His words in sermons to large crowds, but the most intense lessons He taught His disciples came from dealing with life situations that arose naturally as they walked along the way together. Christ taught through His words, but perhaps more importantly, Christ taught through His actions.

Our lives speak much more clearly and effectively than our words. It is the LIFE WE LIVE far more than the ADVICE WE GIVE that impacts others towards Christ likeness. Paul reflects this in his words to the church in Acts 20. It was Paul’s example over the years that taught these young believers how to respond in their current hard situation.

Acts 20 18When they arrived, he said to them: "You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. 19I served the Lord with great humility and with tears, although I was severely tested by the plots of the Jews. 20You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. 21I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus. 22"And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. 23I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. 24However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me--the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace.

25"Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again. … 29I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. 31So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears. 32"Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33I have not coveted anyone's silver or gold or clothing. 34You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. 35In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.' "

36When he had said this, he knelt down with all of them and prayed.

Paul’s LIFE was the lesson here. For three years, he had lived his faith openly before these believers. Finally, as he left them for good, it was the teaching he lived as much as the words he said that remained with them. Paul learned his discipleship methods from Christ. Throughout His public ministry, Christ took teachable moments that arose out of a familiar relationship to train His disciples. In Matthew 8, perhaps the most important lesson the disciples learned that day took place on the boat in the storm after an extended time of service together with Jesus. Christ had taught many that day, but He had invested a special part of His time and Himself in the few that entered the boat with Him. Because of their special familiarity with Christ, they were on the boat together in the storm and learned something precious of Christ through that circumstance.

Here's another important point. As Christ walked along with His disciples, He was confident in the results of His investment even though they weren’t immediately evident at His death.

John 6:39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.

The Apostle Paul shared Christ’s confidence and says it this way.

Philippians 1:6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Paul was confident that, whether or not he witnessed the results personally, God was transforming His people. In I Corinthians 3:6, Paul says, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.” Paul was only a part of the divine process. God used him to plant the seeds while someone later came along to water it. Whether Paul saw the fruit first hand or not, he had great faith in God’s ability to cause the growth and bring about real fruit in the lives of those he discipled.

We too are called to invest in people’s lives for a time. Like Paul, we are only a part of the process. Perhaps we are the first to plant the seed, or maybe we come along after another to water the seed. Some get to provide fertilizer to the tender young plant. Wherever we are in the process of growing fruit in a believer’s life, we must realize that it is GOD who brings the growth. Our ministry will seem hopeless and frustrating if we look to ourselves alone to bring forth fruit in the lives of those to whom we minister or if we expect results in a specific time frame.

Remember, it is enough that we be like Christ. With that in mind, let’s summarize His example on discipleship. Christ invested 3 years into 12 men, who all (but John) abandoned Him at His death. He did not give sequential advice and systematic lectures. Rather, He used teachable moments to teach new concepts or repeat old ones. He persevered through the disciples’ ignorance, confident that the fruit would come forth in due time (though not in His earthly lifetime). He had every right to be dictatorial and authoritarian, but instead He taught through questions (“Peter, do you love Me?”) and service (washing the feet of the disciples). And His parting words to His disciples were to go and do the same to all nations.

I'll conclude with part 2 of this tomorrow.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Speaking the Truth in Love

I read too many Christian blogs this weekend. It was quite depressing. First of all, I am a glutton for sensationalism. I admit it. If someone blogs about a controversy in the church, I'm likely to read every detail I can find. I realize how often Christians sin by repeating gossip and slandering their brother in Christ on these blogs, and yet I read it anyway. I've vowed not to entertain such gossip on this blog, but I still watch it happen on others and then wrestle with God and myself on my motives and responses. I've done a lot of thinking lately about this trend--I've watched it repetively over the last few years I've been reading Christian blogs. And for the purposes of this post, please don't try to attach a particular target to it. This is about principles of Christian communication and confrontation in general, not about targeting any one blog in particular. I think of this blog as a lecture to myself, though others are welcome to read along, and if anyone is the target, it is me.

I read a comment on one blog after a particularly blistering post against another Christian. The commenter said something along the lines that the fact that the blogger voiced her concerns was evidence of her love for the one she criticised. The problem is that Biblical love is not a subjective concept. The Bible defines it explicitly, and the author of the post didn't evidence any of the objective attributes of love given in I Corinthians 13.

4Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not proud, 5 love is not rude; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things (is ever ready to give the benefit of the doubt), hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails;

The author wasn't kind, wasn't humble, was rude, and did not give the benefit of the doubt. They may have spoken truth, but they violated the greatest command. That's not good.

In his discourse on unity in the Church in Ephesians 4, I appreciate that the Apostle Paul clears up a lot for us with the simple summary phrase, "speaking the truth in love". Do you see? It is so clear. Speaking the truth is not necessarily loving. Speaking the truth is not synonymous with love. YOU MUST DO BOTH! Here's a great quote from John Stott's Message of Ephesians.

Thank God there are those in the contemporary church who are determined at all costs to defend and uphold God’s revealed truth. But sometimes they are conspicuously lacking in love. When they think they smell heresy, their nose begins to twitch, their muscles ripple, and the light of battle enters their eye. They seem to enjoy nothing more than a fight. Others make the opposite mistake. They are determined at all costs to maintain and exhibit brotherly love, but in order to do so are prepared even to sacrifice the central truths of revelation. Both these tendencies are unbalanced and unbiblical. Truth becomes hard if it is not softened by love; love becomes soft if it is not strengthened by truth. The apostle calls us to hold the two together, which should not be difficult for Spirit-filled believers, since the Holy Spirit is himself ‘the Spirit of truth’ (John 14:17), and his firstfruit is “love” (Galatians 5:22). There is no other route than this to a fully mature Christian unity.

Speaking the truth in love. May it ever be our goal in the Christian blogosphere.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Fruit that Remains

John 15: 16 "You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain ..."

Fruit that remains. Who doesn't want that? Who doesn't want a return for their labor that endures longterm? I want that! I want to see progress for my investment. I hate the idea of laboring day after day on things that slip away immediately. In particular, I want my labor for Christ to have enduring results. I want spiritual fruit.

However, I face a big battle whenever I think about spiritual fruit. That battle centers around who gets to define what spiritual fruit really is. I have had several points in my life where I judged fruit not on how the Bible defines it but on how my culture defines success. And our culture defines success in terms of numbers and extent of influence. It's so easy to project this definition of success on the church. In this warped paradigm, a church is "fruitful" if it's growing in numbers and influence. Now, certainly there are churches growing in numbers and influence that are also fruitful. But those are not synonymous terms.

The Bible is very specific in its definition of fruit.

Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

This is fruit. This is the result I look for in myself and in my influence on others. This is the outcome I want to see endure. Is God moving in me and I yielding to His conviction in such a way that I am growing in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control? Do I see enduring love, peace, patience, gentleness, and so forth as the desired outcome of the investments I make in others?

And how do I go about bearing this fruit? Scripture is straight forward about this as well. In John 15, fruit that remains is the outgrowth of abiding in Christ. In Galatians 5, we are told this is fruit of the Spirit. It's not our job to focus on producing fruit. That's God's job. Our job is to be connected to Jesus and filled by the Spirit. We focus on unity with Him. We are the branches and Christ is the sustaining root and trunk of the tree. If you want an apple tree to produce apples, the branch is powerless on its own. It must have a healthy connection to the trunk. And so it goes with us. It's a perfect illustration.

I often get caught up in the lure of programs and structures thinking they will result in fruit. The vast majority of the time, I am disappointed. I may see great waves of immediate results, but it doesn't last. Instead it's the unexpected moments of ministry as I abide in Christ that have always had the greatest pay off in enduring fruit. A seed is sown and months or years later, Christ directs me across a path that reveals to me the enduring fruit He has brought about.

If you want to meditate more on the concept of fruit that remains, I recommend reading it in context of the whole of John 15.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Meditations on Resurrection Morning

A few years ago, I dropped my 1-year-old son off at church nursery. He wailed, despite the good care of the workers. When we went to pick him up, it was obvious he had made his peace with the caregivers. But when he got a glimpse of me through the window, his demeanor changed immediately—he must get to me RIGHT THEN. No obstacle could stop him. And he did it, making his escape and running into my arms before anyone could get in his way. It was quite sweet and affirming of my place in his heart.

I think of that scene when I read John 21.

4 Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, "Children, do you have any fish?" They answered him, "No." 6 He said to them, "Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some." So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. 7 That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. 8 The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.

While the other disciples make a respectful return in the boat, Peter just jumps right into the water and swims/runs to Jesus. I get that! All was NOT well with Peter’s world. And I can imagine the moment for him—they had crucified his Lord. He had denied Jesus. And there the Savior was, standing on the shore. Peter’s response reflects his utter need for Jesus. “Jesus, I can’t do this on my own. I just denied You three times. I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing now. I can’t even catch fish on my own. I’m sitting here fishing on this boat because I have no idea what else I’m supposed to be doing. I need You!” Like my son in nursery, nothing was getting in Peter’s way. In that moment, NOTHING else mattered. Getting to Jesus was number one priority.

I have moments in life when I imagine what it will be like to see Jesus face to face for the first time. It will be beautiful, and I envision that, like impetuous Peter, I’d stupidly jump into the water to get to Him, impatient for the time it takes to sail in the boat.

Envisioning that day sustains me quite often. Even so, Lord, come quickly!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Fruitful in the Land of My Affliction

I have been reading through the story of Joseph and was struck by the name he gave his 2nd son.

Genesis 41:52 The name of the second he called Ephraim, "For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction."

Fruitful in the land of my affliction. Wow. Many thoughts hit me as I meditate on why Joseph named his son Ephraim (which sounds like the Hebrew for fruitful). First, I resist the name. I don't want to be fruitful in the land of my affliction--I want my affliction to end!! And then I want to be fruitful in the beautiful land I imagined would be God's best for His children. But, like Joseph, I am usually powerless to end my affliction (whatever form it may take). And then I must wrestle with God--"How can I do what You have called me to do in THESE circumstances?!"

The second thing that I realize (with a more objective look at Scripture) is that no one in Scripture seems to be very fruitful EXCEPT in the land of their affliction. In fact, you can argue from Scripture that suffering, affliction, and death to self are ESSENTIAL for fruitfulness.

John 12:24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

I have situations in my life that plague me, that I would desperately like to see changed. But today, I am moved by God's story in the life of Joseph to meditate on what it looks like to be fruitful in the very places from which I would most like to be delivered. And I receive hope that affliction doesn't end the possibility of fruitfulness, but may instead be the very thing that prepares the ground for "fruit that remains."

John 15:16 NAS "You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain ... "

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Still Suspicious of Grace

A few months ago, I wrote a post entitled Suspicious of Grace. That phrase had struck me when my pastor used it in a sermon, and after meditating on the phrase for a while, I came to recognize both my own suspicion of grace and also the incredible power of grace in furthering the kingdom. Six months later, I am still meditating on the phrase.

Tonight, I watched a few minutes of a documentary on the life of Jesus. The discussion was on how He gathered His disciples and strategically began a religion that would change the world. It was a bit academic, but it made me think--what exactly is it about Jesus that changed the world? Why did His name expand globally with such a small initial following? What made Him stand out from all the other religions? In a word--GRACE.

He washed Judas' feet.

He healed the ear of the soldier coming to take Him to His death.

He prayed, "Father, forgive them for they don't know what they are doing."

Jesus is distinctly different because He was full of grace. Ephesians 1 makes this clear. It lists the great scope of all our Father in heaven has been doing for us since before time began. And right in the middle of the discussion is the singular reason for all He has done for us--to the prasie of His glorious grace. God's glory is tied up in our understanding of and receiving of His grace.

God's glory is also tied up in our giving of grace to others.

Eph. 4:32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Luke 6 32"If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

This passage in Luke strikes me everytime I read it. Grace is God's calling card--this is what He is known for. HE IS KIND TO THE UNGRATEFUL AND EVIL. Wow!!! And if we are being conformed to His image, this is a major piece of His character we are called to reflect.

Yet I remain suspicious of grace. I would have never washed Judas' feet. I would have given him a piece of my mind for selling me out. Or maybe cried before him to let him know how much he had hurt me. Or sent him out of the room in righteous anger. He's betraying the Son of God! He deserves some righteous anger!

I'm humbled by Jesus' example on the cross. "Father, they are ignorant. They do not know what they are doing. They are caught up in the crowd. They are foolish and immature in their thought patterns. As they mock me while I am dying for them on the cross, forgive them. They don't know what they are doing. "

Why does God choose grace? I don't know! But I believe the fact that He has chosen to show His glory to us through His grace demands that we value it as He does. That we examine our lives against His example on it. That we choose it over worldly methods in conflict.

God is rooting out sin in the world and furthering His kingdom by His grace. May we believe in His chosen method and adopt it as our own. Don't be suspicious of grace--either God's grace toward you or His call for you to choose grace toward another. Give God the glory due His name by praising His glorious grace to you and demonstrating this same grace to the one who has sinned against you.

To the praise of His glorious grace.