Church discipline troubles me. I am well aware of the Matthew passages and even agree with them. Problem is, the church has so screwed up its influence and place in society with believers and non-believers alike, I am pretty sure I would tell a pastor or church deacon or elder board who likely doesn't know me, but wants to correct me, to take a hike.
Further, the church has no business in my personal life - it doesn't even have its own personal life in order. Church authoritarians many times just want you to know they have "power" over you. Because of its failings, the church has long since been stripped of any authority God gave it - it has suffered the natural consequences of its own lukewarmness in failing to to be salt and light in the world. It is no longer the center of life. And don't blame the secular society for this. Blame the church - and uncomfortably, this means blaming the leaders and ourselves. It has been said many a time that if you want respect as a leader in the community, you have to be a servant of all and live the life you preach at others. The church hasn't done this... not even close.
But a friend who tries to set me straight? Him (or her) I would listen to. If my wife were to confront me? I would listen to her. My kids? Yep. I would listen to them. As a matter of fact, I can't live the Christian life without many friends and family who are also accountability partners in my life. I would fail miserably without them.
The church, in its current state? That, sadly, I can live the Christian life just fine without ever darkening its doors again.
I was sitting in church last night - well, actually, I was standing since we were singing. We were singing "Your Grace is Enough" and as usual, when I sing a song about one of God's immeasurable attributes, my mind begins processing what I am singing a million miles an hour. So I quickly wrote a few notes down right after the song - thinking I would blog about it later.
The whole concept of God's grace has become such a cliché in Christianity today. We throw it around pretty easily. We say, "Grace and peace be with you." or "Go in God's grace." Or "But by the grace of God, there go I." Or we say "Grace" at meal times. And then in the larger secular world, we hear about a celebrity's "grace and style" or her "graceful mannersisms", or how she dances with such "grace and power". It's actually quite easy to forget what grace means in God's economy.
When I looked up the word in the dictionary, there were many different definitions and amazingly, I found the one I was looking for:
freely given, unmerited favor and love of God
I also found this one:
the condition of being in God's favor or one of the elect.
That definition brings to mind that there is a part in the song that beckons God to "remember your people, remember your children, remember your promise..."
But the part of the song that got my mind going in a different direction is actually the chorus and the name of the song: Your Grace is Enough.
As I was singing, I thought about my own life and my continual seeking after some sort of comfort to get me through the rough times. Always seeking to control as much as possible, any catastrophe big or small, so as to protect myself from pain. Then there are those times I have sought to do something - to accomplish something - asking God to bless what I was about to do. I put so much personal equity in my big plans - and then I fail. And I get angry - angry at myself, angry at God - and I want to give up.
Really what I am angry about is that I think everything should work out - that somehow I am exempted from rough times and from troubles and hassles as I try to succeed in life. Especially when I am trying to do something for God. Sometimes, as a last gasp at trying to somehow salvage what has gone so wrong, I beg God to help me succeed - to make it all right. And of course He doesn't - what I was trying to do was never in His plans for me. And of course, I get mad, pack up my toys and I go stomping off - cursing Him, myself and whoever was involved with my failure.
I can be pretty immature at times. Instead of throwing a temper tantrum, I need to learn that God's grace is enough for me. I doubt very much He is affected by my pathetic behavior. I am sure He is content to wait for me to grow up - though I know he won't tarry forever, waiting for me to submit to him. He is after all, God, One who really has no NEED for me or anyone else. But he WANTS ME - much like I want my own children - only more intensely (which is a whole other post for me to contemplate).
Here is the lesson in maturity that I need to learn: I may have nothing. I may not accomplish anything I want to accomplish. But I MUST learn the lesson that God's grace is enough for me. I suspect that every pastor or leader or anyone who has stepped out in faith has had to learn that God's grace is enough to see them through. I wonder if He had to strip everything away from them as He seems to be doing to me... in slow motion... to get their attention?
Don't misunderstand me, I haven't lost much materially - I haven't lost many people that are close to me. Compared to others, my life is pretty easy. What I am talking about really is my expectations of following Christ. Expectations that remain unfulfilled. Expectations that had me teaching, leading, mentoring - showing others that there is peace to be found in God. Problem is, I don't have much peace. It's hard to pass along what I don't already possess. But I suspect that more than anything, at least this side of salvation, that understanding fully, and grasping completely, God's grace is enough to follow Christ and His will for my life. I suspect that accepting that God's grace is enough for me will lead to peace and contentment in my life, no matter the storms that are blowing through.
I remember reading Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire by Jim Cymbala and his story of the broken down, beaten church he inherited and how he had to finally surrender the church and its future to God - trusting in Him and His grace, through fervent, honest prayer. The church became the Brooklyn Tabernacle. And it was built back up by God, using His grace through those that had come to the understanding that if it would be accomplished, God would do it and He would choose only those willing to surrender their wills to His. Jim Cymbala, his wife, and the rest of the church needed to come to the conclusion that God's grace was going to be enough for them.
If I am unsure about many things along the path of following Christ, I am sure of one thing: I can be mad as hell at God, but I still love Him and will never leave Him. I know it's wise to never say "never" - but I have had so many chances to pack it up and walk away, but I can't. I have to stay. Not only am I afraid to walk away from someone Who says, "I am the way, the truth and the life..." but I HAVE to see what God has in store for me. And I think maybe that a step in that process that I can't skip over (as if we can skip any of the steps God has ordained for us) is to come to the realization AND put it into operation in my life is to really believe that God's grace is enough for me.
I am in the midst of reading The Appeal by John Grisham. I don't feel like typing a synopsis of the book - it's not really pertinent to what I am about to say anyways. Grisham slipped in a line in the book saying that opposing abortion and supporting the death penalty are contradictory. The headline of this post says everything you need to know about my argument that there is no contradiction..
Remember the photo from the Vietnam war era of the little Vietnamese girl running naked down a road after being napalmed by I assume American forces. It's one of the most famous and well-known photos from that war. Well, here's the rest of the story.
Husband. Father. Art Director. I am husband to lovely Trudy. Father to Chelsea, Christopher and Zachary. Art Director at Buckner International. Owner of my own studio, apcreative: design for advertising.