Posted tagged ‘Freedom’

An Open Serving Policy

July 8, 2014

Greystone Bakery taught me about grace once again.

Anyone that comes to the front door of their bakery is given the chance to work, no questions asked. When a job becomes available they take the next person off the waiting list and give them a job.

keep out

I want to be part of a church that has an “open” serving policy. Anyone who wants to serve, can. This doesn’t mean they can do whatever they want, in whatever way they want.

There are standards and expectations for certain types of service. Elders and deacons are held to higher standards than others. But, graceful churches, like Jesus, can adopt an open serving policy. Think of the band of misfits Jesus used. One of them wasn’t even a believer.

The open hiring policy of Greystone says your past isn’t your future.

Reluctance:

  1. Children need protection from predators.
  2. Financial integrity is essential.
  3. Quality of service needs to be held high.

In other words, open serving doesn’t mean anyone can do anything. But, its incumbent for those who believe in grace to express grace by providing places of service for anyone.

Religious pressure:

Could it be that you are worried about what other believers think? After all, what would “they” think if the person who is passing out bulletins was drunk last night?

I’d rather offend a religious person than belittle an unbeliever by excluding them, unnecessarily.

Bigger issue:

The bigger issue is you feel superior to “them.” Your sins aren’t as bad as their sins. But, you don’t have permission to look down on outsiders, especially when Jesus loves them and died for them.

Low responsibility jobs have low or no standards. For example, the next time you take out the garbage, ask the guy who was drunk last night to help.

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The Right Idea – The Wrong Idea

May 5, 2014

Grace is under-appreciated and abused. But, protecting grace from being abused turns some into self-righteous rule-makers.

wondering

I was reminded yesterday that people might get the wrong idea when they hear a graceful message from the Bible. The “wrong” idea is that sin doesn’t matter.

Paul was concerned the Roman believers might get the wrong idea.

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? Romans 6:1 (ESV)

What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? Romans 6:15 (ESV)

10 Observations:

  1. You haven’t taught grace until people start asking, “Does sinning matter?”
  2. Grace always goes one step beyond your sin, regardless of how much you sin (Rom. 5:20).
  3. Don’t solve your concerns about abuse by re-instituting the law. We aren’t under law (Rom 6:15)
  4. Sin has negative consequences, even for people under grace.
  5. Believers who fall into sin need more grace not less.
  6. Grace changes us from the inside out.
  7. Laws don’t have power to change us. Telling people what not to do never changes their heart.
  8. Freedom in grace is freedom to love and be loved.
  9. The standards of grace are higher and nobler than law. We live by the law of love.
  10. Holy living must be freely embraced.

Source of concern:

Why was Paul concerned that believers might get the wrong idea about grace? Because he was teaching in a way that might give people the “wrong” idea.

The question, “Does behavior matter,” only comes up when you teach that people are made right with God by faith, apart from behaviors. (Rom 4:5).

The idea that someone could be righteous before God and have unrighteousness in their life is astonishing. Grace is astonishing.

Can grace be abused? You abuse it everyday.

Should we remind people that sin matters? Paul did.

How to be a Friend of “Sinners”

February 10, 2014

friends

It’s a great compliment to have self-righteous Christians complain that you’re too friendly with non-Christians. The religious elite made a similar complaint about Jesus – the friend of sinners (Lk. 7:34).

But there’s another side to this issue.

1 Corinthians 15:33 (ESV) “Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” Our friends predict our future.

How can you be a friend to “sinners”?

The inner circle:

Cultivate and develop an inner circle of three deeply committed believers. One of them should be a visionary like Peter. One should be a doer like James. And the other, should be a lover like John.

Questions to ask before becoming a “friend of sinners”:

  1. Do you know who you are?
  2. Where do you look for approval? Or, who are you trying to please?
  3. Are you deeply connected to committed believers?
  4. Can you explain the gospel quickly, simply, and clearly. (The best way to do that is tell your own story of trusting Jesus.”
  5. Do you deeply love “sinners”? If God loved the world, so can you.

Three attitudes:

Every believer who aspires to be a friend of sinners knows they are:

  1. “One of” not “one above.” Christianity isn’t morality. Christianity is Jesus. Everyone is in the “falling short” bucket. The fact that you may sin less doesn’t make you sinless.
  2. Not trying to change or reform “sinners”. Your job is sharing Jesus. Changes are his business. Getting people to sin less, might make life better, but it doesn’t help in the long-term.
  3. Dedicated to serve others, not be served. Jesus came as one who serves and you aren’t above Him. The path to influence is the path of service. Solve a problem. Meet a need.

Embrace these attitudes or you’re doing more damage than good.

Be a friend of sinners. But, fasten your spiritual seat-belt. You’re in for a challenging ride.

New Years Resolutions

December 29, 2013

2014

Most of my friends don’t make resolutions. One recently said, “The only resolution I’ve been able to keep is the one not to make resolutions.”

We know they don’t work and we don’t want to get depressed when we fail. What’s the use?

A history of failure is the reason you don’t try again. Why bother? Nothings going to change.

Grace is all about starting over, again.
Those who can’t start over never get there.

Peter wasn’t planning to start again. He planned to go back to the fishing business. The, “change the world idea,” that Jesus planted in him didn’t pan out.

Those who don’t start again, quit.

Jesus came to Peter, after his denial, in John 21:15 to offer a fresh start.

15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

Starting again:

#1. Don’t start with something to do. Start with your heart. Starting again is first about the heart then about the hands.

“Do you love me?” is an invitation to start again.

#2.  Focus on the future. Jesus didn’t bring up Peter’s past denial. He turned him to the future.

A person:

Peter wasn’t looking to start again. He’d failed. It was time to quit.

Jesus kick started Peter.

You may be too discouraged to start again. But, someone who believes in you can give you courage to try.

Surround yourself with people who believe in grace – starting again. Better yet, be a person who helps others get up again.

If you do start again in 2014, begin with the heart.

Rahab the Believer

December 18, 2013

plungers

Rahab, the Canaanite prostitute from Jericho, was a believer. She didn’t know much but she knew enough.

Joshua 2:8-11 Before the men lay down, she came up to them on the roof 9 and said to the men, “I know that the Lord has given you the land, … for the Lord your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.

Rahab refers to God as LORD. Most Bibles use lord in all capital letters to indicate the personal name of God, Yahweh. Rahab called God by his personal name.

Second she identifies him as the God of the universe, “heaven and earth.” She said, “Yahweh is God.”

The writer of Hebrews includes Rahab in his great hall of faith, chapter 11. The names in Hebrews 11 appear in this order:

  1. Abel
  2. Enoch
  3. Noah
  4. Abraham
  5. Sarah
  6. Isaac
  7. Jacob
  8. Joseph
  9. Moses
  10. Rahab

Others are mentioned in Hebrews 11, the parents of Moses, for example. But they aren’t named. The last person named is Rahab.

The footnote section concludes Hebrews 11 in verses 32 – 40. Individuals like Gideon and David are mentioned. But their stories aren’t developed like the 10 people listed above.

The people in the great Hall of Faith are messy. Abraham lied about his relationship with Sarah and puts her and himself in mortal peril. Moses had an anger problem. Jacob was a shady business man all his life. Rahab carries the label “prostitute” right into the New Testament.

Rahab has another label, one she had even when a prostitute, Rahab the woman of faith.

Acceptable Service

December 13, 2013

bowing flower

The “why” of service matters more than the service itself.

Christian service is an expression of love and gratitude, nothing more, nothing less, nothing else.

Ungrateful service is arrogance in disguise.

Arrogant servants think:

  1. I deserve better.
  2. I’m not appreciated.
  3. What about them?
  4. Whose serving me?

Ungrateful servants whine and complain. Grateful service, on the other hand, frees us.

Service as response is privilege and opportunity.

Service as obligation is a burden.

Focus:

The focus of grateful service is Jesus, not the people you serve.

Arrogant service focuses more on results than response. Results matter. Serve where you have impact. But, results come second to response.

Engaged:

Those who aren’t serving haven’t seen grace. Law may pressure into service. But, law never produces acceptable service.

Perfect gratefulness:

How grateful is grateful enough?

We all always falling short. Sometimes you serve out of obligation, other times out of love and gratitude.

When you see the signs of arrogance I listed above, don’t try to be humble. Instead, refocus on Jesus. Remember his grace.

Give yourself space to respond.

Gratitude can’t be demanded or manipulated. But, you can let it happen. When it’s absent, keep on serving. But at the same time acknowledge your brokenness and believe in his grace.

Let gratitude rise in you. If it doesn’t, know you have forgotten how Jesus served you.

Clothes Matter

December 10, 2013

Bow Tie

Getting dressed up for church makes outsiders feel uncomfortable. Fancy clothes exclude.

A few years back I quit dressing up for church. Some said I was trying to be hip. Others didn’t care. I’m glad I made the choice to “dress down.”

Uncomfortable:

What if you dropped into my house and my wife and I were in formal dress clothes, but you were in jeans? How would you feel?

We’d say, “Oh! It doesn’t matter. Make yourself at home.”

Would you feel at home? Probably not.

For you to be comfortable, we’d need to change into casual clothing.

Respect:

One reason people dress up for Church is it shows respect for God. I don’t doubt that some feel that way. But, others get dressed up to impress fellow church members.

If your church is in an upper class suburb, maybe you should dress up. But, if you’re like the rest of us, just wear casual clothes.

One reason to dress casually for church is it shows respect for guests. Wear normal cloths to church so that normal people will feel comfortable.

Adapt to the people around you just like Jesus adapted to us when He arrived. Fit into culture just like you expect missionaries to fit into the cultures where they serve.

Adapt and fit in:

Jesus adapted to us when He arrived. Feel free to follow His example. Adapt to the people around you. Just wear what normal people wear. We aren’t in a culture war. We’re here to bring Jesus into any culture.

Diversity:

Some people will never dress casually for Church. It doesn’t matter as long as your church has diversity.

We’ve come to the place in the Church where I lead, that clothes really don’t matter. (As long as you’re wearing some.) We have some young people who have fun dressing up with ties or dresses. We even have an occasional suit. It’s fun. Diversity and variety take all the pressure off Christian fashion. Diversity is inviting. It shows we can adapt.