In 1517 Martin Luther posted his 95 thesis declaring salvation by grace through faith. Today the church desperately needs a second reformation of sanctification by grace. Christians are chained to a treadmill of trying to please God by their behavior, of trying harder and sinning less. If they can just discipline themselves enough and be determined enough, they are deceived into thinking they can become righteous and holy and be close to God and He will be pleased. Grace tells us that our relationship and intimacy with our Father in heaven is no longer dependent upon our behavior...or lack there of. Grace tells us we no longer have to strive to become righteous, because He has given us a new nature that is righteous. Grace tells us that it is the only thing powerful enough to deal with our sin. Grace tells us that God is already head-over-heels in love with us and nothing we do can change that. Welcome to "Formed by Grace."

Monday, March 25, 2013

If God Had a Face... (55 sec.)

One of my favorite authors is Brennan Manning. One of the questions he asks is this, "If God had a face, what kind of face would He make at you right now?"

Would it be unemotional?  Stern?  Sad?  Frustrated?  Wondering?  Disappointed?  Impatient?  Based on our last two discussions about reconciliation and being bound back together with our best friend - there is only one answer.  He sees you and has a grin from ear to ear!  He is ecstatic about you. 

If God had something to say to you today--what might you imagine that to be?  "You need to work a little harder?"  "When are you going to get with it?"  "We need to have a talk?"  Will you hear some nagging feedback?  I don't think so. God does have something to say to you and me today, and this is what I hear; "Do you know what a joy and delight it is for me to live in you?  Do you know I have loved you from before you were created? I have always loved you and always will.  No matter what. Its a done deal.  Forever."

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A Wild and Crazy Friendship!!

Galatians 5:1 tells us that we have been set free from some things so we can be free to live in some things.  And so the joy of my Christian life is not just in the past, just in being set free from guilt, condemnation, punishment, the fear of God, etc.  I am to find joy in the wild current reality of walking with God.

In our last blog we began looking at Romans 5:1 and one of the things that we have been set free for is to "have peace with God."  We saw how the word "peace" means to bind back together that which was broken.  It means the restoration of a broken relationship.  I used the illustration of our standing face to face with God our Father, his arms wrapped tightly around me, and Jesus walking in circles around us, binding us tight with loop after loop of a long rope.  Then he ties an unbreakable knot in the rope.  Colossians 1:20 tells us he has made peace (bound us together) by the blood of his cross.  That rope that holds us tight is his blood.

Now, a quick look at who I am bound to.  John Stott writes, "To reconcile means to...renew a friendship."  And so who am I bound back together with?  My friend.  And God is now bound back together with his friend--me.

Do I ever hear God the Father calling me, as a believer, his friend in the New Testament?  Well, yes and no.  The answer is no if I look for God the Father directly calling me or anyone his friend.

But the answer is absolutely YES!  Jesus tells us we are his friends (John 15:14) and we are promised nothing in all creation will separate us from this loving friendship (Romans 8:37-39).  But why is Jesus so committed to us as friends?  Because Jesus only does what he sees the Father doing and he only says what he hears the Father saying.  Jesus calls us friends because that is what he hears the Father calling us.  He treats us as loving friends because that is how he sees the Father treating us.

I have been set free to be my Father's friend...I am not his enemy.  And he is not mine.  Think about is not only absurdly good news, it is an absurd present reality...God and me...walking in a mutual friendship.  May I be as crazy about him as he is about me.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Always Set Free for Something

Like gramma used to say, "You can only serve what's cooking in the kitchen," and so here's what has been cooking in my kitchen.

The Gospel is the good news of freedom...freedom from that which holds us in slavery so that we can be set free for something.  It is always freedom for something.  "For freedom Christ has set us free..."  (Galatians 5:1).  We are never set free just to live in a neutral zone.  We are set free so we can experience a life that is filled with unfathomable goodness and love. 

After laying out for us the wonder of justification by grace, Paul starts Romans 5:1 with a huge "therefore."  "Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."  Peace...not fear, not wondering, apprehension, timidity, no rebuilding of a relationship because of past wrongs...but peace.  God, through Paul, says the number one thing that we are set free for is peace with him.

The word for "peace" in the Greek comes from a verb which means "to bind together that which has been separated"  We have been bound to God.  Picture this, you are standing face to face with God, so close that he has his arms wrapped around you, holding you tightly.  And then you see someone making circles around you with a rope...always pulling it tight...snugging you tightly together.  Loop after loop.  Then finally they put a knot in the rope.  There is no way you can break apart or get loose.  It is impossible.  You can't even begin to untie the knot.  (Bryan Chapell wrote that, "If God knew we were going to untie the knot of salvation his love would require that he deny us the opportunity.")

That someone with the rope is Jesus.  Colossians 1:20 tells us that he bound us to the Father with the blood of the cross, "making peace by the blood of his cross."

Our having "peace" is not a reference to us feeling peaceful, quiet, serene or contented.  To be at peace with God is to be in a state of reconciliation, to be bound back together.  That is us today.  Forever.  Never to be changed. 

NEXT BLOG:  We are bound back together with a friend!!!

Monday, March 4, 2013

A Time to Hold On and a Time to Let Go.

Bill - where have you been?  Good question. 

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote, "Great is the art of the beginning, but greater is the art of ending."  Endings are a part of living.  If we are going to move into the future, if we are going to grow, something always has to end.  If we are going to become who we are meant to be, we must move on.  Henry Cloud in his book Necessary Endings writes, "There are relationships that should go away, practices and phases that must be relinquished, and life stages that should come to an end to open up the space for the next one...some things need to die and some things need to be killed...Endings are not only a part of life, they are a requirement for living and thriving...we stay stuck in what should now be our past...endings bring hope."

The author of Ecclesiastes writes this, "A right time for birth and another for death, A right time to plant and another to reap...a right time to destroy and another to construct...A right time to hold on and another to let go."

When I stopped blogging it was a season for ending and letting go.  I was within ten months of being able to step down from a 13 year stint as a VP of The Navigators.  I had requested to be released from the role two years previously, but God made it clear that I needed to continue to serve in that role.  I had the direction right, but the timing wrong.

I was becoming increasingly aware of a dichotomy between what I had learned to do and how I was now being shaped by God's grace...between who I used to be and who I was becoming. The work load was high and increasingly no longer meshing with my motivations.  I was and am incredibly thankful for how I had the privilege to serve - and for the privilege of serving with such godly leaders. Teammates who are friends.  I had no regrets, but also knew it was time to enter a new phase of life.

Formally I stepped out of my role in August 2011...informally about eight months later.  There were projects to finish, an awesome replacement to orient, commitments  to keep, etc.  In  May of 2012 The Navigators gave us the gift of a six month sabbatical...the first one in forty years with the Navs.  It was a tremendous gift.  It gave us time to deeply rest physically and to deeply restore our souls.  We ended with our souls full and journals bursting at the seams...ready for a new future.

Now it is a season for new beginnings.  Our role in The Navs will be to continue to lead - but in a very different way.  Instead of leading from a "role," we have the incredible privilege of leading by teaching and mentoring leaders in discovering how the gospel changes everything in their lives and ministry. A key focus will be to help the next generation of leaders to become deeply anchored in the Scriptures...especially the New Testament...not just as a text to be studied, but as the doorway to an  unconditional love and unconditional relationship.  We will have opportunity to do this both with Nav leaders and leaders in the Body of Christ.  And with you.  We are living a out our life's message and using our core giftings.

Part of new beginnings is beginning to blog again!  There is a time for everything.  Stay tuned.