GraceWaves Articles

Golden Scars

“My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 One of the most puzzling themes in the New Testament is the idea of embracing personal weakness as an opportunity to experience God's power. Jesus taught that being last of all and servant of all leads to exaltation, denial leads to salvation, losing life leads to finding life. Paul wrote of being a broken vessel that demonstrates God's transcendent power. Peter wrote of rejoicing in a fiery ordeal. The Bible itself is a lengthy illustration of this great paradox. Perhaps the most memorable

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Acceptance and The Transformation of Trouble

“Do not be surprised by the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in that you share Christ’s sufferings.” 1 Peter 4:12-13 A few brief GraceWaves are not sufficient to address completely the subject of acceptance, but I want to draw this little series to a close this week by focusing on the biggest objection to the idea of acceptance, i.e. suffering. Mention acceptance and the first response is liable to be something along the lines of an objection that we can’t just sit around and accept suffering.

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A Well-Meaning Bull in God's China Shop

“But I trust in You. I say ‘You are my God. My times are in Your hand.’” Psalm 31:14-15 Last week we began our brief exploration of the idea of acceptance by saying that this spiritual key begins with accepting the fact that life is not fair. That’s rather easy pickings for life presents us with multiple illustrations each day of its unfairness. The second key is a lot more slippery. It’s the idea that we have a role in many of the problems we face in life. Personal responsibility is a hard pill to swallow, but it does insulate

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When Your Problems Have Problems

“Do not resist one who is evil.” Matthew 5:39 A woman came to my office and after the initial pleasantries, began with a long sigh and said, “my family has issues.” Though I didn’t say it, my thought was “if you have family you have issues.” The same can be said of any particular problem we bring to a pastor, counselor, or trusted friend. To say we have problems is like admitting we breathe. Problems are an inescapable part of life. The real problem with problems is when they multiply and run into one another and seem to shut out

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Shedding Light on The Shack

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of the Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” 2 Corinthians 13:14 When it first came out in 2007, I read William P. (Paul) Young’s The Shack. Not surprisingly, this popular Christian book generated a great deal of discussion, and some of it vitriolic. Because the movie is coming out this week, I’m seeing quite a bit of discussion about the story, again some of it rather vitriolic. I want to address some of the major objections I hear and perhaps shed a little light on

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Living the Ordinary Life Extraordinarily Well

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17 “Whatever you do” and “do everything” clearly covers a lot of ground. As a practical matter though, what did Paul have in mind here? Was he serious? For the average Christian, whoever that may be, what is the “whatever and everything” of life? In religious matters, surely one of the most common mistakes is to limit “whatever and everything” to the realm of “highly spiritual events” in which everything that happens every day

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Saved. Again.

“Therefore let us leave behind the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity.” Hebrews 6:1 Spiritually, when I was nine-years old I walked the aisle of my church and made Jesus mine. I became a Christian. Physically, when I was nine-years-old I was probably a little over 4 feet tall, and weighed about 50 pounds. Tomorrow I will turn 59, half a century of living after being that little kid. Physically, I am 5’ 10” and weigh 145. Spiritually, I am ? Measuring spirituality is very hazardous. We usually reduce it to memorizing a catechism or Bible verses.

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Stay Connected

"I am the vine, you are the branches…Apart from Me you can do nothing." John 15:5 One of the most common agreements among people of widely differing backgrounds is they don't feel very satisfied in life. This cuts across all the usual demographics. The gnawing sense that "something" is missing afflicts most everyone, either chronically or at least on occasion. One of the great themes of Scripture is how we might find a life of meaning. In fact, this is THE theme of scripture. The Bible really doesn't present us with a well-ordered or systematic theology in spite of our

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Are You Reasonably Happy?

"If you (who by comparison are evil!) know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him?" Matthew 7:11 Everyone wants to be happy, and that is certainly not a bad thing. I want to be happy. Happiness means my surrounding circumstances are agreeable. Things are going my way. So I'm happy when my health is good, the bills are paid, the Kentucky Wildcats win, etc. I could make a long list of things that make me happy. The Bible actually has quite a bit

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It's All About Love

"God with us." Matthew 1:23 For more than 25 years I wrote Bible study materials for several publishing companies. I'm not trying to impress you. It's not glamorous-Philip-Yancey-kind-of-stuff. When you write Sunday School material you are trying to explain a passage of scripture so that a volunteer teacher can teach it to a class of adult students (in my case) who came to church that Sunday to learn about the Bible and gain some insight and encouragement for life. The goal is engaging exegesis, not exploring new theological vistas. So while it's certainly not glamorous, it's honorable, and I truly

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From the Inside

“And an angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds.” Luke 2:9 During my college days I worked as a carpenter, first learning how to frame, then exterior finish work, then interior finish, etc. I really enjoyed it, especially during the Spring. In the winter, however, during Christmas holidays, it was a different story. We would work if it was above zero. I can remember going to bed at night with the temperature hovering at zero and thinking we won’t have to go in tomorrow. The alarm would wake me about 5:00, and I would learn that it had warmed

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Peace

“And Joseph, with Mary his betrothed, went from Galilee to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem.” Luke 2:4 Peace on earth, good will to men. That’s the wild and sweet promise in one of my favorite Christmas carols, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day. Peace on earth. Does that sound wonderful? Or just completely implausible? Peace is the theme of the second week of Advent. Ironically, in some traditions we light the Bethlehem Candle on the Advent Wreath. Bethlehem was anything but peaceful the first Christmas. It was a crowded and cranky little village full

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Thin Places

"Set your minds, therefore, on things that are above, not on things of the earth." Colossians 3:2 Many years ago, I ran across a concept in Celtic theology called "thin places." It's the idea that certain places are sacred, and that by being in those places the distance between our physical world and the spiritual world is quite thin. The sacred places offer us the opportunity to look beyond the surrounding clamor of empty busyness, both external and internal, and "see" what is true, real, and eternal. Thin places nurture our souls. I'd like to expand the idea to include

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The Difference Between Being Healed and Being Whole

“Rise and go your way, for your faith has made you whole.” Luke 17:19 The story of the ten lepers in Samaria is a perfect Thanksgiving illustration. You may recall that when the lepers called to Jesus to have mercy on them, He replied that they were to go and show themselves to the priests. The implication was clear. A leper only went to a priest to show that his leprosy was gone. As they went, all ten were healed. Only one of the lepers, however, praised God and returned to thank Jesus. Only one. 10%. I have a feeling

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Angry about the Election?

"But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language." Colossians 3:8 I’m not a prophet but I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict that about half the country is going to be angry Tuesday night. Of course, that’s the time when we learn who our next president will be. Every election cycle has its share of vitriol, and there’s always an article about “politics has always been rough.” The author, every cycle, brings up the stories of vicious insults about Lincoln’s appearance for example. Implied is the idea

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