Archive for the ‘Grace’ Category

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“Helpless Look To Thee For Grace”

April 30, 2009

Dick and Rick Hoyt are a father-and-son team from Massachusetts who together compete just about continuously in marathon races. And if they’re not in a marathon they are in a triathlon — that daunting, almost superhuman, combination of 26.2 miles of running, 112 miles of bicycling, and 2.4 miles of swimming. Together they have climbed mountains, and once trekked 3,735 miles across America.

 

It’s a remarkable record of exertion — all the more so when you consider that Rick can’t walk or talk.

 

For the past twenty five years or more Dick, who is 65, has pushed and pulled his son across the country and over hundreds of finish lines. When Dick runs, Rick is in a wheelchair that Dick is pushing. When Dick cycles, Rick is in the seat-pod from his wheelchair, attached to the front of the bike. When Dick swims, Rick is in a small but heavy, firmly stabilized boat being pulled by Dick.

 

This is not a new story to most of you. You have probably seen news reports or specials about the closeness of this father and son team. Below is a video that I hope you will take a few minutes to look at and listen to. It is not just the retelling of their story. The music uses their visual images to teach a much greater lesson. It is a lesson about our own redemption. It tells your story and my story. As I looked at this video a verse from an old song came to mind.

 

Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to the cross I cling; naked, come to thee for dress; helpless, look to thee for grace; foul, I to the fountain fly; wash me, Savior, or I die.”

 

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“Jeopardy Churches”

January 28, 2009

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In 1969 Barb and I moved to Pennsylvania to preach for an established church that needed a pulpit minister. Little did I know that that move would begin my journey out of legalism and into a broader understanding of God’s Grace. We were away from the Bible Belt and in an area with few Churches of Christ. I was fortunate to have fellow preachers within a short driving distance of where I lived. When together with these fellows I began to learn that they did not always see eye to eye with me on my understanding of scripture. The challenges that would follow would send me on a mission to learn the Bible and not just rely on pat answers that I had accepted from our brotherhood preachers, books and publications.

 

Mike Cope’s blog from the 26th. reminded me of those early years.

Len Sweet talks about the passing of the Jeopardy churches: churches that think their job is to answer every question. (I guess more precisely to match the show, they provide the exact question to fit every answer!)

Most people aren’t dying to be with people who think they know everything. It’s much more exciting to be on a journey — where everyone’s insights and everyone’s experiences are valued and then considered through interaction and discernment.

People don’t need to be given a thousand answers. They need to be invited to follow the One who is himself the Answer/the Way. They need to be invited to a life that is other than self-obsession, self-preoccupation, and self-preservation.

The way of the cross. That is the answer.

Those early years of transition from finding all the answers to finding the one who had all the answers opened my eyes to how immature it was for a person or church to think they could have all the answers. I gradually came to realize that I was simply on a journey with others seekers. We had all begun at different points, but our ultimate goal was to find Jesus and His will for our lives. They were not evil “truth” haters, closed minded defenders of evil. They were much like me, filled with preconceived ideas and opinions put there by folks that thought they were doing the will of the Father.

I am a big fan of “The Dog Whisper” on the National Geographic Channel. This guy understands how dogs think. One evening recently he mentioned how important it was not to introduce two strange dogs to each other – eye ball to eye ball. Rather he suggested that they meet and walk side by side for a bit before they begin the other routines dogs have to check each other out.

That made me think. Meeting eye ball to eye ball sounded a lot like the days of debates. Introductions were made and then the fight was on. I wonder if those meetings could have ended differently if first they had walked side by side and discussed what they had in common. What if we had seen each other as equals on a journey together to seek the will of the Father? What if we had seen each other as people with honest motives and intent?

I like Len Sweet’s characterization of “Jeopardy Churches”. It is sad but so very true. I think “Jeopardy churches” are just generations away from death. The declines of the past years will continue to increase and take there toll as more and more members either die or awaken to the reality of God’s Grace. Their children are already voting with their feet. Sadly, it is just a matter of time.

Answer: They don’t understand God’s Grace. Question: What is the reason churches are on the decline?

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The Power of Drama

September 3, 2007

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Drama is becoming a powerful teaching tool. Check out the following video my daughter sent. Powerful message. Click here.

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Cecil Hook 11.24.1918 – 6.1.2007

June 30, 2007

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(Vic, Lea, and Cecil)

Cecil Hook, a champion of grace and unity, has gone to his reward. He will be greatly missed by those who loved and respected him through the years. Though we had never met face to face, I counted Cecil a friend and a brother. Like the change that many of us have gone through, Cecil went from legalism to grace. His ministry has been an encouragement to so many. The following is an interview with Cecil by Fred Peatross.

Cecil Hook was born in Fort Worth, Texas on November 24, 1918. He was raised on a cotton farm at Rochester, Texas, during the Great Depression and Dust Bowl days. After graduating from Abilene Christian College in 1941, Cecil began full-time preaching in eastern New Mexico and Sundown, Texas.

Cecil has also served churches in Port Neches, Fort Worth, and Dallas in Texas.

As the years of his ministry progressed, Cecil became increasingly aware of the many misdirections. His conviction to be honest with himself forced him to make drastic adjustments to his teachings. Sharing these new concepts from the pulpit brought thrilling responses from some, but others soon aroused unbearable opposition. By the time of his retirement, he had begun to write and publish his efforts of redirection. Cecil found that thousands of others were questioning traditional beliefs and practices. Cecil says, “God has made exciting use of my unskilled efforts, and he has brought many wonderful people into partnership with me in this ministry.”

(Click here for the rest of the interview)

(For Cecil Web Site and writings click here.)

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Amazing Grace

June 21, 2007

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Last nights lesson about the thief on the cross went well. One of the Elders remarked to me after the service that we need to have a lot of lessons on grace to offset the years of legalism we all grew up with. He is right! You hear a lot today about dysfunctional families. Well there are dysfunctional churches as well. And it takes the same kind of repetitive teaching for churches that it does for families to over come years of the wrong kind of indoctrination. Even if we have progressed to the point of accepting that we are saved by grace, many still believe they only stay saved by their works or their faithfulness. But we need grace here too! It is not about our faithfulness, but His! I love Paul’s words to Timothy, “if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” (II Tim. 2:13). God knows we will never fully overcome; He only expects us to engage in the struggle. And yes I am aware of Rev 2:10 that tells us to be faithful unto death, but you and I both know that at its best that faithfulness will be imperfect and in need of Grace.

Results from a Life Way Research study of teenagers says that out of the 69 percent of teens who strongly or somewhat agree they will go to heaven because Jesus Christ died for their sins, 60 percent also agree that they will go to heaven because they are religious and 60 percent also agree they will go to heaven because they are kind to others.. That leaves approximately 28 percent of American teenagers who are trusting only in Jesus Christ as their means to get to heaven. The teens are learning this from someone, it may just be us. We must be careful to place the right emphasis on grace and it’s role in our salvation.

There was not enough time to cover all that I would have like to in this lesson. For example right up to the ascension the disciples that had been with Jesus for over three years still did not understand the nature of the Kingdom, but the thief seems to have grasp its spiritual and eternal nature, at least to some degree.

I would have also enjoyed diging a little deeper into the thief’s statement, “this man has done nothing wrong”. That is a powerful statement when you consider he was condemned by the court, mocked by the High Priest, the mob, the soldiers and the other thief.

Finally, the reply of Jesus to the thief’s request, “Today you will be with me in Paradise”, begs to tell of the relationship that Jesus seeks to have with each of us. You with me, that is what the father seeks to create through the death of His son.

Yes grace is amazing. It is full and free. It reaches you and me.

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The Thief On The Cross

June 20, 2007

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The story of the thief on the cross, as it has come to be known, is such a powerful testimony to the wonderful grace of God. While there were two crucified with Jesus we only remember the one because of the change that takes place as he hangs suspended between heaven and earth, oddly enough, about to leave the one for the other, escorted to paradise by the Lord Himself.

As I was doing research on this topic for tonight’s lessons at Madison I did a Google search and I was amazed to find that the vast majority of links that were brought up were lessons being taught by ministers of my tribe. My amazement quickly turned to sadness as I saw that link after link dealt with the necessity of Baptism for salvation and how this conversion was an exception rather than the rule. Over and over again, link after link and little or no emphasis on the wonderful grace of Jesus. Is Grace not the lesson! Is that not why this wonderful story is in the scripture?

There is something in our human nature that causes us to not like the thief. An outlaw hell-bent and hung out to dry one minute, and is paradise bound with an escort by the very son of God the next. With His dying breath Jesus pardons an outlaw who would have zero opportunity for spiritual growth or be able to do one work of gratitude. Hands and feet that might have been used in service to Christ are now fastened to a cross. A tongue that might have been used to praise His name now cleaves to the roof of his mouth from thirst. He had nothing to offer, absolutely nothing to offer.

The world tells us we deserve praise when we are good. We are not comfortable when someone does a good deed for us, until we can find a way to repay. We pride our self’s on being a people who “pull themselves up by their boot straps.” Like the cartoon of the two Pharisees arguing when one says,” We get our salvation the old fashion way, we earn it.” Or have you heard some well meaning person say at a funeral about the diseased, “If she doesn’t make it to heaven, there is no hope for any of us,” as if doing enough good gets our ticket punched.

The only choice that this dieing thief had was to trust by faith. He had no time, no opportunity, so he sought the only thing left…mercy. And he finds out that was all he needed. Oh the wonderful grace of Jesus.

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. Eph. 2:4-9.

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May We Never Forget

April 25, 2007

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Reading through the Bible again this year has brought a fresh awareness of the difference in relationship between God and His people as pictured in the Old Testament and what we experience today in our walk with Him. Leviticus especially if filled with detailed instructions about not touching the ark, never going into the Holy Place where the presence of God resides, very detailed instructions on what to do and not do in worship. It is easy to forget the world that those first disciples grew up in. Worship in that day meant that something had to die. On a festival day in Jerusalem the air was filled with the bleats and cries of thousands of animals destined for the altar. The smell of burnt flesh that filled the air was only a reminder of the great divide between God and His people. The name of God would never cross the tongue of a devout Jew. Close one on one relationships with God were only for a select few like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, or Moses to mention a few.

While I am reading through the Old and New Testament in the program I am using, I find myself longing to get to the Book of Acts. I long to read of those intimate gatherings of Christians who are indwelt by the Spirit of God, who pray to Abba and who are learning to develop that daily walk and talk relationship with Him. I am seeing again the power of the tearing of the Veil in the Temple when He died, and the wondrous door of fellowship that was opened to us through the death of Jesus.

It is easy to take for granted what we have as His children today. Animal sacrifices seem so foreign to us and primitive today. No long journeys to reach the presence of God. We just open our mouths, and sing and worship Him where ever we are. We enjoy immediate access to the God of heaven. How blessed we are. May we never forget!

“To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.” Rev. 1:5b-6.