grace

Obscure, No name, Unseen People

Photo Credit: Sam via Unsplash

 

The other day I had a conversation with someone about being called to minister to people no one sees—obscure, no name, unseen people.

This conversation has had me thinking a lot about the people Jesus reached out to.

If you know anything about Jesus from the Bible, then you know the stories of him touching lepers, healing the blind, and paralytics. You might even have heard the stories of Jesus reaching out the likes of tax collectors, harlots, and even the occasional religious leader gone astray.

All these incidents serve as reminders and examples for followers of Jesus to go an do likewise.

But it's, it's the obscure no name, unseen people that have me pondering—the few obscure stories about obscure people I'm questioning, thinking, and praying about.

About Jesus...

In a way the scriptures talk of Jesus being someone people didn't value or weren't mindful of.

This is what was said of him:

“He grew up before Him like a young plant and like a root out of dry ground. He didn’t have an impressive form or majesty that we should look at Him, no appearance that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of suffering who knew what sickness was. He was like someone people turned away from; He was despised, and we didn’t value Him.” Isaiah 53:2-4

So it seems natural for Jesus to love those who society doesn't value or afford dignity to—the people no one thinks about or the people we turn away.

Jesus loved them and interacted, even when he had nothing to gain from them.

I know many times in my ministry and Christian walk I subconsciously or at times consciously interacted and ministered to people because there is something to gain from them—whether it was for the ministry I was leading or even for my own dignity and self-worth.

But the power...

I believe the power of our witness of Jesus lives in the fact we have nothing to gain. I know Jesus did many things and got either accolades or condemnation, but it is his conversations with obscure no name people, people who time had forgotten—its these examples that show the power of his love, grace, and forgiveness.

Take the story of the Syrophoenician women and Demoniac in Gerasenes. Neither of these people were brought to Jesus like many of the others. They either came to Jesus on their own or Jesus crossed paths with them.

Demon Possessed Man (Luke 8:26-39)... The demoniac didn't even have his own name. His name came from demons. When he was set free, the people didn't care about him, they only cared about their livestock.

Syrophoenician woman (Mark 7:24-30)... She came to Jesus herself. She was willing to be likened to a dog eating scraps fallen from a table, if only Jesus would heal her daughter. Talk about someone with no dignity left.

We, Jesus followers are people of a second chance, and some of the people who need a second chance on life the most are people who we can't even put a label on and many times we don't even see or choose not to see.

Jesus doesn’t need your cool for His kingdom. He needs you to love obscure people.

Do you have any people in your life who don't even cast a shadow? Do you notice them? Can you love them?

When negativity and condemnation come, You Are.

Photo Credit: Wellington Sanipe via Unsplash  

Through the negativity and condemnation I have received from others or most often self-imposed; I have trouble seeing my value or worth. I have had days when I questioned whether I should even get out of bed. I can't even count how many times I have lost heart.

I know many of you struggle with the same thoughts. Whatever you are wrestling with or the deepness of your darkness, know they are lies.

Your dignity, your value, your worth is found in no one else, but Jesus. He is the counter to all the negativity and condemnation.

Not to long ago I wrote something to help me push through the storms.

 

You are.

In your mediocrity, you are unique. In your ugliness, you are beautiful.

In your frailty, you are strong. In your pain, you are healed.

In your loneliness you are companionship. In your helplessness, your are needed.

In your darkness, you are light. In your condemnation, you are forgiven.

You are loved. Your are God's redeemed child.

 

We are people of a second chance. Grace and Peace to you.

What's wrong with your grace?

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Is your view of grace self-centered or other-centered?

I've been thinking about grace a lot lately. So often my view of grace becomes focused on ways for me to not deal with my sin anymore—in a way it becomes a crutch for me to not feel guilty, convicted or hurt.

I fall into a pattern of living life in my new person and freedom that self-centered grace provides for me—which isn't necessarily bad. However, when grace promotes a sense inner denial and protection of my inner-self from my outer-self or my public image, it becomes self-centered, shallow, and dishonest.

Grace is and was never intended to be self-serving, but instead altruistic in it's very nature. It's never about protection and or opacity, but about vulnerability, and transparency. The grace Jesus talks about and demonstrates is about embracing the world through the lens of love, compassion, and empathy.

Self-centered grace creates a false image of who we really are, and keeps us from drawing closer to God. It keeps us working at becoming a better person, and sets up a false dichotomy of grace earned and not freely given. It truly keeps us from becoming who we were meant to be.

Where as other-centered grace reveals our need to be totally honest with God and with the people around us. This grace requires us to seek deep renewal and meaningful life-change. It is no longer about individualism, but it is about community. While grace might start inward, it was always destined to move outward. This grace is not about me and my salvation, but it is about the salvation of others—of all creation being made new.

Here's the thing. You can't live the grace that Jesus talks about on your own power or your own strength. You need Jesus and only Jesus.

So. What's wrong with your grace?

 

 

Yep, this is me...

My mom and me. Maybe 1979 or 1980.

Yep, this is me...

Yep, this is me... I complain about sensitive people, but really I am just as sensitive. Yep, this is me... I hate having pictures taking of me, because I hate seeing how fat I am. Yep, this is me... I really want to be healthy, but I can't wait to have the new Twinkies (It's a go: Operation Twinkie-gluttony with secret agent Elle).

Yep, this is me... I struggle being comfortable with who I really am with God, others, and myself. Yep, this is me... I think I'm a really awkward/nerdy person, and don't really know how to have one on one conversations.

Yep, this is me... I love laughing and having a good time, but I struggle with enjoying the moment. Yep, this is me... I still am trying to figure out who I am, and I'm 40 years old. Yep, this is me... I struggle with getting older, even though I told myself I never would. Yep, this is me... I am pissed off that some people think being 40 and older makes you unmarketable and unemployable.

Yep, this is me... I call people out for being selfish, but I am the most selfish person I know. Yep, this is me... I almost blew it with my wife many years ago, and have done this several times since. Yep, this is me... I wish I could be a romantic person, but I think being romantic is weird. Yep, this is me... I tell people that I don't care what they think of me, and get really worried that I don't care.

Yep, this is me... I can have a tendency to not let people into my trust circle. Yep, this is me... I can also have the tendency to let the wrong people into my trust circle. Yep, this is me... I can over promise and under deliver. Which makes me work even harder in the end, with the result of burnout. Yep, this is me... I am a lazy person, but cover up my laziness with over working.

Yep, this is me... I struggle with the American church, but I'm afraid to voice my opinion too loud. I have too much to lose. Yep, this is me... I struggle with consistently reading the Bible and praying. Yep, this is me... I more often than not live in fear of man, instead of the fear of God.

Yep, this is me... I am worried about people reading this and using what I have posted here against me.

You know what though... Despite all my failures, weaknesses, and insecurities; God will continue to use me. God isn't finished with me; he is only just beginning.

We all need to get over ourselves.

We'll never be good enough, perfect enough, or having things exactly the way we want them to be. AND that is okay. God has extended grace to us through Jesus, so that we can live life to it's fullest.

Life is too short to not enjoy it; so Enjoy it!

Joe (Submitted to the Weekly Writing Challenge: A Pinch of You)

A Tribute to Brennan Manning

brennanOne of the people who have heavily shaped and influenced my life and Christian walk passed away yesterday. Brennan Manning showed me that the God of the universe was more than some distant authoritarian being, but a Father who wanted me to call Him Abba which distinguishes me as His child, a part of His family. Now you got to understand I never met Brennan Manning. I never heard him speak at a conference or sat in a lecture by him, and I never attempted to meet him. His influence on me was through his writing. I first started reading his books while I was in Bible college. One of my professors made a couple of Brennan’s books required reading, and once I cracked open the pages of his books, it was no longer required reading for me... Brennan Manning also taught me to depend on God’s grace day by day and moment by moment. He purposed me to live a life defined by having an awareness that I am deeply loved by Jesus. My true identity is found in Jesus and that it was a gift, not anything I deserved or could buy, but it was offered to me for free - The Father’s grace...

Brennan Manning’s influence profoundly molded my view the reconciliation of my old life to the new life I have in Jesus. Even to this day when I struggle with the demons of my past, I reflect on not only the words of Jesus, but also on thoughts written by Manning, such as...

“My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.” - Brennan Manning, Ragamuffin Gospel

“To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark. In admitting my shadow side I learn who I am and what God's grace means.” - Brennan Manning

Becoming aware of my need for redemption from the dark shadows of my life, one that is given not earned, reminds me that it is through this painful life that we find love and acceptance from Abba, Father. In turn, Manning spoke of this grace being something that is not selfishly kept, but desperately shared. In his book The Wisdom of Tenderness, Manning speaks of the true measure of our love for God is seen in our love for our neighbor. Our understanding of God’s love for us is when we seek to have our heart broken and concerned for the things that God cares about. Grace is something to be shared not something to keep. Manning wrote that The Father’s grace is for the hurting and not for the well. Manning states in his book Abba’s Child: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging, “Our hearts of stone become hearts of flesh when we learn where the outcast weeps.”  May we all have a heart like The Father’s and take life moment by moment like Brennan Manning.

Thank you Brennan Manning you have shaped my life through your writing! You have shown me I am loved by my Abba, Father and the need to live gracefully.