Archives For faith

Grace is a subject inexhaustible. A well whose depths we could never hope to fully plumb, a tower so high we could never hope to scale its heights. Perhaps then it’s easier to begin a post on grace by stating what it isn’t:

Grace isn’t mercy.

Mercy, for the purposes of discussion here, is simply the withholding of something deserved. For instance, let’s say you’ve been pulled over by one of our boys in blue for speeding. Both you, and he, know you deserve that ticket. You were speeding. Instead, the officer lets you off with a warning. You’ve just received mercy. A deserved consequence has been withheld.

How would grace play play out in a similar situation (for the sake of argument, please bear with me here)? You were speeding in your battered, beaten old Chevy. You stop. The officer approaches your car. You figure you’re going to get a ticket for sure. You’re not getting out of this one. When the cop asks you to exit your vehicle, you know you’re toast.

And then…

Not only does he give you a warning, he also hands you to the keys to his supercharged Dodge Charger. He says it’s yours, and to go on your way. You deserved a ticket, and instead got a new car!

That’s grace, my friends. Erstwhile theologians the Newsboys put it this way:

“When we don’t get what we deserve it’s a real good thing.” (Mercy).

“When get what we don’t deserve it’s a real good thing.” (Grace).

Put another way, and let’s say you’re a parent, the difference between mercy and grace is the difference between merely withholding a deserved consequence from your child (mercy), and instead bearing that consequence yourself–and then taking your kid out for ice cream! While the two go hand-in-hand, there’s nevertheless a vast divide betwixt them. As defined by the theologians, grace is “the unmerited, unearned favor of God.” We did nothing to earn it, nothing to deserve it, and yet He pours it out upon us.

Why?

Because Jesus.

Not only did He take our deserved punishment on the cross, He now pours out unearned, unmerited blessings upon us. Like the example above, we deserved a ticket, and instead got the new car.

All we have to do is believe.

The late science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein coined the phrase “there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch” (TANSTAAFL). Respectfully, Mr. Heinlein I disagree. There is, and it’s called Christianity. Specifically, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Romans 5:8 says, “God shows His love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” All who call upon His name shall be saved.

Have you called upon His Name today? Have you experienced His grace?

You can–if you will but believe.

Thanks for reading!

This topic, in your mind gentle reader, may seem far afield of the faith once delivered to the saints. But I assure you it’s not.

How not?

Both horror (films, books, etc.), and Christianity force us to take unflinching looks within ourselves at the skull beneath the skin. We are made to confront our fears, lay them bare. This is often an uncomfortable process, and many there are who just won’t go there. Just as Jesus vicariously suffered and died for us, so, too, allows us to vicariously confront our fears (in a safe environment). It is in the words of director Scott Derrickson, “the genre of non-denial.” And rather than adding to the real horrors of the world, the genre gives us way to deal with, process, and understand the horrors of this world.

Additionally, I find that the genre is not so much about making us afraid (although it does do that), but rather about catharsis–about releasing the tension which it builds within us. We return to the real world better able to cope with difficulties we’re facing in our lives.

Nota bene: as with a balanced diet, horror media should not be all we consume. Because balance is the key to life, like vitamins, we should take it in controlled doses. Now this may not be a prescription for everyone, but I will say that I find far too many Christians who don’t like to be made to feel uncomfortable. Who don’t like to confront their fears. Yes, I know the Scriptures say that “perfect love casts out fear.” Who amongst us, however, has been perfected? If we say we don’t have any fears, we’re lying.

The great C.S. Lewis (he being dead yet speaketh), once said that “we ought to come to God with what is in us. Not with what we think should be in us.” The point being that God already knows all of our fears, failures, flaws anyway.

So we may as well be honest.

And in my view, the horror genre helps us do just that: be honest. Be taking that unflinching look, by confronting us with what’s already inside.

That, my friends, is my $.02. You may have come up with a different equation, or come to a different conclusion. If so, please sound off in the comments below.

Thanks as always for reading!

There are numerous misconceptions in the wide world about Christianity, about Christians, about faith. We’re all bigots, hypocrites, weak-minded, deniers of science. We’ve taken the primrose path of easy-believism.

Nothing could be further from the truth. A life of faith is anything but easy. Some have the mistaken notion that faith in Christ takes all of one’s problems away. That’s, as Paul would say, “dung.” If anything, faith multiples one’s problems, because:

Having experienced the love of God, we are forced to reconcile that love with an unloving world.

With hostility.

With health problems (in ourselves, or those we love).

With financial worries.

With children who seem hell bent on piddling away their lives.

We who know God know that He can step in, render aid; instead, He often chooses to walk, and weep, with us through the hard times. Where we desire the miraculous, He offers succor instead.

Faith, Christian faith, requires much more of us than we are willing to give; namely, dying daily to our expectations about just who, and what, God is. C.S. Lewis once said that “faith holding onto to those things our reason once accepted, in spite of our changing feelings.”

In spite of a world which, where it doesn’t actively oppose a life of faith, is casually indifferent to it (and that indifference is infectious in that it tempts us to forgetfulness of God). It’s all pretty relative, and tolerated, unless one stubbornly clings to the cross of Christ. That life, as the Bible says, is offensive. Because it’s rooted in the Gospel it gives off a certain savor; to the saved, it is the aroma of life. To the unsaved, it’s the sickly sweet stench of moldering death.

No one wants to be reminded that not only are they going to die, but that they are in fact dead already.

This, amongst many other reasons, is why it’s harder to believe than not to.

What are some ways you’ve found it’s harder to believe than not to?

Everybody loves Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you, and not harm you. To give you a future and a hope.”

We eat that stuff up like delicious, delicious candy.

Or what about “I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me?”

That’s a good one, too!

“Taste and see that the Lord is good, and blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.” That’s a great one, which has adorned many a pillow down through the years.

How about “God is faithful in that, with every temptation, He provides a way of escape that you may be able to bear it?”
That’s a good one! And it’s probably the genesis of the oft-quoted (but less than biblical idea) that “God never gives us more than we can bear.”

Poppycock, I say! Tis pure balderdash!

Is this the same God Who says “In this world you will have tribulation?” Is it the same God that admonishes us to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling?” Is is the same God Who promises us “they shall hate you because they first hated Me?”

When the last time you saw that cross-stitched anywhere?

Or taught about in your church for that matter?

What about the epistle of First Peter, where we’re told “after you shall have suffered, God will?” We kind of gloss over that don’t we? Nobody wants to suffer, endure pain, or hardship.

But God promises it.

We shall be delivered up, the world shall hate us. Some of us will even die for our faith–be martyred.

Cheery thoughts, I know. These are the not so precious promises of God. The ones we don’t like think about.

Here’s another one: “Whether we live, or die, it is for Christ.” And “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” Fact is, nobody wants to die. But sooner, or later, we all do. There’s no avoiding it. Whether by “famine, or nakedness, or sword, or peril” nothing is able to separate us from his love. Not Ebola, or ISIS.

OR ANY OTHER THING ANYWHERE.

Here’s a promise you can stake your life (and afterlife) upon:

“Fear not him [ISIS, disease, the devil] who can destroy the body, but Him Who can destroy the soul [God].”

What’s your favorite not-so-precious promise of God?


Prayer is like working out; the muscle it exercises is faith. Like going to the gym, or spin class–or anything, really–it’s a discipline we develop. And it can only be developed in the doing.

Thinking about doing a thing (like prayer) is very much different from actually doing that thing. I could, for instance, stare at the muscle mags at the bookstore all day, and not put on any new muscle. The difference lays between the very great gulf betwixt intention and action. The gentleman in the top photo didn’t lift all the weight upon the back of his intentions; no, he put in the work. He trained.


In other words, intending to pray is akin to intending to exercise: not worth a hill of beans. Prayer is the active exercise of our belief, our communion with the unseen. It’d where the rubber of life meets the road of faith. It’s part and parcel of our spiritual disciplines. It’s part of our training. Remember the verse from Hebrews? “He that comes to God must first believe that He is, and that He is the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.”

Prayer–like exercise, like writing, like the arts, like honest work, requires this: diligence.

Have you prayed today? If not, when’s the last time you did?

There’s no time like the present. Don’t put it off anymore. Exercise your faith (and not just your body).