Archive - February, 2013

Freely given

The salesperson put this little sample bottle in my bag at Sephora last week.

It cost me nothing more than a trip to the store.

It was unexpected.

It was undeserved.

Such is grace.

A larger version of the bottled grace is available for sale.


Real grace cannot be bought or earned,

Only freely given.

Undeserved favor.

From my sermon notes on Sunday:

There are only two choices. Either:

The sacrifice of Jesus accomplishes everything.

The sacrifice of Jesus means nothing.

Real love

As some of you may already know, I’m not a big fan of Valentine’s Day. If you think that makes me unromantic, well…I don’t really care. I won’t give you my arguments against the holiday, as I think I’ve made my case against it here and here.

But I will reiterate my contention that Valentine’s Day is not so much about love, but about expressing love. Not a bad thing, of course. We all need to be loved. My problem with the holiday is with all those who feel so completely unloved by their exclusion in the festivities. I’m not suggesting a boycott of the holiday, I just don’t personally celebrate it.

For all of you who face this week with trepidation–worried that you won’t give or receive enough to feel loved, I’m going to break my self-imposed ban of Valentine’s Day to send out a very special message of love. It’s one I’ve posted here before, but one I need to be reminded of often.

Maybe you do, too.

Brennan Manning said:

The Lord Jesus is going to ask each of us one question and only one question:

Do you believe that I loved you? That I desired you? That I waited for you day after day? That I longed to hear the sound of your voice?

The real believers there will answer, “Yes, Jesus. I believed in your love and I tried to shape my life as a response to it. But many of us who are so faithful in our ministry, in our practice, in our church going are going to have to reply, “Well frankly, no sir. I mean, I never really believed it. I mean, I heard alot of wonderful sermons and teachings about it. In fact I gave quite a few myself. But I always knew that that was just a way of speaking; a kindly lie, some Christian’s pious pat on the back to cheer me on. And there’s the difference between the real believers and the nominal Christians that are found in our churches across the land. No one can measure like a believer the depth and the intensity of God’s love. But at the same time, no one can measure like a believer the effectiveness of our gloom, pessimism, low self-esteem, self-hatred and despair that block God’s way to us. Do you see why it is so important to lay hold of this basic truth of our faith? Because you’re only going to be as big as your own concept of God.

Do you remember the famous line of the French philosopher, Blaise Pascal? “God made man in his own image, and man returned the compliment”? We often make God in our own image, and He winds up to be as fussy, rude, narrow minded, legalistic, judgemental, unforgiving, unloving as we are.




In the past couple of three years I have preached the gospel to the financial community in Wallstreet, New York City, the airmen and women of the air force academy in Colorado Springs, a thousand positions in Nairobi. I’ve been in churches in Bangor, Maine, Miami, Chicago, St. Louis, Seattle, San Diego. And honest, the god of so many Christians I meet is a god who is too small for me. Because he is not the God of the Word, he is not the God revealed by it in Jesus Christ who this moment comes right to your seat and says,

“I have a word for you. I know your whole life story. I know every skeleton in your closet. I know every moment of sin, shame, dishonesty and degraded love that has darkened your past. Right now I know your shallow faith, your feeble prayer life, your inconsistent discipleship. And my word is this: I dare you to trust that I love you just as you are, and not as you should be. Because you’re never going to be as you should be.”

Do you believe that He loves you?

Unlikely heroes

Last week, I watched new coverage of the ongoing hostage situation unfolding in Midland City, Alabama. Sixty-five year old Jimmy Lee Dykes had taken a 5 year old child off a school bus after fatally shooting the driver. Dykes held the boy hostage in an underground bunker for a week until negotiations broke down and authorities stormed the bunker, rescued the boy and killed his kidnapper. Much has been said of bus driver Charles Poland, and rightly so. Poland stood between Dykes and the children on the bus to protect them. He made the ultimate sacrifice. He died a hero.

That’s a word that’s bandied about a lot, isn’t it?


I’ve heard single parents called heroes because they must be both mother and father to their kids while working full time. I’ve heard teachers referred to as heroes because they’re required to be babysitters and counselors and well as educators. And while I don’t diminish the hard work and dedication it takes to be a single parent or a teacher, I suspect if you were to ask why they do what they do, most answers would be along the lines of, “What choice do I have? It’s what needs to be done. It’s what is expected.”

For me, being a hero involves going beyond what is expected; displaying courage and nobility when others do not. It’s about doing the right thing even if it puts your life in danger. Soldiers are heroes. First responders are heroes. Likely heroes.

And then there’s Kai, the homeless, hitchhiking, surfer, hippie. An unlikely hero, but a hero just the same:

In the unedited version of this news report, you learn a little more about Kai. At the very end of the tape, the reporter tells Kai that it seems he doesn’t seem to have any concern for himself, that he seems to be all about doing the right thing and not even worrying about “Kai first”. Kai’s short response really struck me:

“I don’t have any family. I mean, as far as anyone I grew up with is concerned I’m already dead. So…whatever.”

He probably doesn’t live a lifestyle most would condone or want for their own children. Fresno, California is a long way from where he said he grew up in West Virginia. If I had to guess I’d say he had a less than stellar childhood, has done many things he regrets and has relationships in his life he thinks are irreparably broken. But despite all the emotional baggage and regret he’s probably carried around much like that backpack, on this day, he did not let any of it weigh him down. He saw the opportunity to do what was right, what was heroic, and he took it.

May we all be so brave.

“No matter what you’ve done you deserve respect. Even if you’ve made mistakes you’re lovable, and it doesn’t matter your looks, skills, or age, or size, or anything, you’re worthwhile. No one can ever take that away from you.” — Kai