Saturday, April 13, 2013

Rest In Joy, Brennan Manning

Brennan Manning passed away yesterday. I already miss him.

For many, the homecoming to heaven is going to be a shock. Most of us are just not acclimated to grace. Think of it like this - a person who grew up in the desert southwest leaves to visit his friend in Atlanta. In August. It's a small connecting flight, one of those where you walk down steps from the plane. The door to the plane opens, and he walks down the stairs into the humidity that is the South in summer. He feels like he's been immersed. His friend greets him warmly - "Welcome to the South!" The traveler is amazed. His friend looks so cool and unmarred by the grip of moisture.

Because he lives there.

Brennan Manning lived in the grip of grace.

Now he's home. I expect he's very comfortable there.

There are so many quotes from his work I could share.

“Because salvation is by grace through faith, I believe that among the countless number of people standing in front of the throne and in front of the Lamb, dressed in white robes and holding palms in their hands (see Revelation 7:9), I shall see the prostitute from the Kit-Kat Ranch in Carson City, Nevada, who tearfully told me that she could find no other employment to support her two-year-old son. I shall see the woman who had an abortion and is haunted by guilt and remorse but did the best she could faced with grueling alternatives; the businessman besieged with debt who sold his integrity in a series of desperate transactions; the insecure clergyman addicted to being liked, who never challenged his people from the pulpit and longed for unconditional love; the sexually abused teen molested by his father and now selling his body on the street, who, as he falls asleep each night after his last 'trick', whispers the name of the unknown God he learned about in Sunday school.

'But how?' we ask.

Then the voice says, 'They have washed their robes and have made them white in the blood of the Lamb.'

There they are. There *we* are - the multitude who so wanted to be faithful, who at times got defeated, soiled by life, and bested by trials, wearing the bloodied garments of life's tribulations, but through it all clung to faith. 

My friends, if this is not good news to you, you have never understood the gospel of grace.” 
― Brennan ManningThe Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out

Do you understand it?

What about this?

“The story goes that a public sinner was excommunicated and forbidden entry to the church. He took his woes to God. 'They won't let me in, Lord, because I am a sinner.'

'What are you complaining about?' said God. 'They won't let Me in either.” 
― Brennan ManningThe Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out

Friends, I have absolutely NO use for any church that is not open to sinners reeking of sin. If we won't open to people in need of grace, then we should not be open as a "church" at all.

 - David - a sinner, saved by grace

Monday, April 08, 2013

The Only Prayer God Can't Answer

Is the one you never pray.

What I tried to do yesterday was give the congregation some examples of when Jesus responded to people reaching out with whatever amount of faith that they had. Faith that had holes in it. Faith that was only sure that they had to do something.

I tried to answer some questions that we've left unspoken for fear we might be looked on as less.

And with the last example - the Father who had been let down so many times, who had prayed so many prayers, who had just enough faith to try one more time...

we get honesty - "I do believe, as far as I can, but you are going to have to help me believe like THIS."

Just enough faith to keep asking, to keep hoping, to keep believing that THIS time it would be different.

The only prayer God cannot answer is the one we never ask.

Ask. Seek. Knock.

Don't quit believing.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Just Saying...

It's gotten to be a joke between my bride and me - my use of the phrase "I'm just saying..." as I try to make a case for an opinion or qualify something I've said. One of the great joys of this life has been and is that I get to spend time with someone who knows me intimately and yet loves me as I am.

My wife has a knack for "helping" (I typed that wincing, BTW) me to see not just whether my arguments are good ones, but perhaps as important, whether the way I'm putting them forward is good.

You see, I'm a passionate guy.

This life, role, position - this whatever you call it - how about - Christ-follower- demands that I never "phone it in". I'm supposed to be ever learning, ever changing, ever growing as I follow Jesus as his disciple. Love for Him drives me to really work at that - every day.

But there are times when even while driving hard after being like Jesus, being conformed to His image, I wind up portraying just the opposite. And what's crazy, I can do it without even realizing it.

"I'm just saying..."

If my Spirit-filled wife is really good at pointing that out, there is someone who's even better.

The Holy Spirit.

So I'm reading the story of the prodigal son today in Luke, not looking for anything specific, just wanting again to experience how much God loves "lost" things and through that remind myself of how much He loves "lost" people.

You know the story. Guy gets full of himself, tells his old man he's splitting, and to give him his part of the inheritance. Dad does, guy goes off to Las Vegas (my modern day paraphrase) and loses it all, and winds up sleeping with the pigs and living low on the hog. Realizes finally what he left behind and gets up and goes to try to make it right. Has his apology well rehearsed, probably repeating it over and over as he nears his old home. But his daddy, whose been pleading with God every day for him, and expecting God to bring him home, sees his son coming and runs to meet him. Grabs him. Hugs his filthy self and tells him it will be okay. BBQ ensues. (irony there, eh?)

With me so far?

Ok. Here's where I found myself in the story today.

28 "The older brother was angry and wouldn't go in. His father came out and begged him, 29 but he replied, 'All these years I've slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. 30 Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!' Luke 15:28-30 (NLT)

I could see the older brother, seeing what went on and getting furious. Then as we used to hear in Georgia, he "showed himself."

All those years he spent doing the right thing - for the wrong reason - had changed him alright, but not in the way they should have. They made him more cynical, more willing to find fault in others, more blind to faults in himself.

When his daddy protested 'Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. 32 We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!'"

Luke 15:31-32 (NLT)

I could hear that older brother say,

"I'm just saying..."
Friends, that's just wrong.

I thank God for the people He's put in my life to help with the corrections necessary sometimes when I start to veer off the Way.

What about your life -  if you were able to step back and see it as others do, would make you realize that changes were needed to get back in step with the Spirit?

Maybe it's time to really commit to becoming part of a community of faith where each person holds the other accountable to Jesus, in love.

Maybe it's time to really follow Jesus as His disciple.

You need Jesus. I'm just saying... :)