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Archive for the tag “grace”

The Bus Ride

Laguna-Beach-13-comMy oldest son accepted an exciting new job in beautiful southern California, so I got a call to help him move. It was also my first opportunity to explore the beautiful Laguna Beach area. I had a good breakfast and set out on my own personal walking tour.

It was a gorgeous day and impossible to not marvel at God’s beauty and creativity. I couldn’t help but be reminded that in my wildest imagination, I would never have come up with something as amazing as a sea lion or skinny palm trees that can grow over 100 feet towards the sky. God’s imagination and creativity are mind boggling!

After a few hours, I was ready to give my feet a break so I climbed aboard a city bus headed in the direction of a new scenic spot (and lunch).

Sitting a couple rows in front of me was man about my age who, I gathered, lived on the streets. He was pleasant and carrying on a conversation with the bus driver. I learned his name was Jim. We were making a routine stop when another passenger from the back moved to get off the bus. Just before exiting, he noticed Jim, said hi, and instead of getting off, sat down in “Jim’s row” as the bus pulled away. The conversation then went something like this: 

“Hey Jim, what are you doing today?” 

“I’m just riding the bus.”

There was a short pause, a shrug of the shoulders and then he said, 

“Sounds good.”

The conversation continued with a discussion about various places where they had found things to eat or places to sleep. The contrast with the daily lives of my bus companions while being surrounded by the amazing wealth and beauty of Laguna Beach was profound. The bus made a new stop and a third man entered who instantly knew Jim and the other man.

“Hi Jim. Good to see you. Where you going?”

“No place. I’m just riding in the bus.”

“OK,” the man said and sat down in a neighboring seat. 

The conversation picked up where it had left off as the three friends exchanged helpful information about places to go as well as places to avoid. Then their conversation took a different turn.

“Hey Jim, I’ve got some weed if you want.”

“Nah,” Jim answered, “I’m a drunk. I just want to drink.” 

Jim’s other friend said he’d take some and without hesitation his friend reached into his pocket and handed over a joint.

“I heard your mom was in town,” the guy with the pot said to Jim.

“Yeah,” he answered, “It was my birthday. It was really good to see

her. She got me a hotel room so I could clean up and sleep in a bed. 

She took me out to eat and told me about my kids.” Jim stopped, lost in thought. There was a long, silent pause.

“Your mom is great,” the other said. “Mine don’t like me much…”

I missed my stop and several after that. I was so entranced by their conversation everything else blurred away. I looked at these three men and I couldn’t help but wonder what their stories were. How did they get here? Where were their families? How do they survive from day to day? Then I thought of the popular phrase, “There but for the grace of God, go I.”

It’s Easter season, a time to celebrate that Jesus Christ, paid the price for our sins and rose again to reconcile us with God the Father. He conquered death, our greatest enemy, and if we would only believe, made us right with God.

The phrase, “There but for the grace of God, go I” is attributed to the English Reformer and martyr, John Bradford (1510 – 1555). It is meant to be an expression of humility and reliance on God’s grace. It is also a reminder that God’s grace brings hope to each one of us — me, you, the guys on that bus — if we will only look to Jesus.

The bus stopped, others got on, and I got off. I was about to return to my comfortable world. I stood and watched as the bus pulled away. It turned a corner and was quickly out of sight. All I could think was, “There but for the grace of God, go I.”

Cliff Jumpers – Live

I tried to play football at South Miami High School. I was a quarterback who couldn’t run fast or throw well. But man, could I hold a clipboard.

I was pale, skinny, and completely lost on the football field. I had never played before my 9th grade year and was far more afraid of our head coach than any opposing linebacker. It was on our high school football practice field I met Jonathan Scott. He looked like he could bench press 500 pounds. His robust laugh flew right in the face of danger.

We became close friends. His walk with Christ impressed me. It was real. He truly loved Jesus and it was hard to miss. Before practices and games he would even pray for his new friend, the pale and skinny QB who desperately needed courage…and much faster feet. Together, we survived on and off the field.

Today, Jonathan is the South Park Campus Pastor of Forest Hill Church in Charlotte, NC. He is a fabulous musician, teacher, preacher, motivator, father and husband. And now, on his own accord, he’s taken to putting to life to some of my blogs. And that’s just really cool. But more than anything else, John is my friend. That is a wonderful privilege and joy and one that will only last…FOREVER!

Cliff Jumping

AdobeStock_14254754_email650“Don’t jump,” the wise voice of sanity said in the back of my brain. It was quickly followed by my foolish voice of insanity which mockingly laughed and said, “You can do it. Jump!”

I jumped.

A moment later I found myself clinging to a Grand Canyon outcropping which stood out like a finger reaching far into the sky. It stood alone about four feet from where I had jumped and about three feet lower. To jump back to safety would require an Olympian long jump I was not capable of making. The drop on all sides seemed at least one hundred feet.

I was alone. The sun was setting. I was in trouble.

The Bible is full of stories of men and women who are in desperate trouble. More often then not, it is a result of their own foolish decisions. Like me, they “jumped,” knowing full well it was a bad idea.

So why do we still jump?

I came across an article written by my father many years ago titled, “How Forgiven Are We?” It seemed rather appropriate for all of us foolish and sinful “cliff jumpers.” In it, he takes us to Romans 7 and discusses our “unrelenting struggle between our spiritual desires and our desires that are totally contrary to God.” Paul says it this way, “…the trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself…” Sound familiar?

In my Dad’s article, he goes on to explain the incredible Good News of what Jesus accomplished at the cross for us – a full pardon “even for the sins we commit today.” Oh, that is Good News!

He then asked his readers to do something. He asks us to open our Bibles to Luke 7:36-50. In this familiar passage a sinful woman pours expensive perfume over Jesus’ feet. Feel the incredible emotion as “…her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair.”

Now, in all the places where the passage refers to “the woman,” insert your name. Dad said, “Open your Bible and read it aloud to yourself. Do it right now.” Bring yourself to verse 48. Here Jesus says to the woman and thus says to those of us who believe in Him, “_________, your sins are forgiven.”

What a beautiful Easter message! What a beautiful message for every other day, too. Our sins are forgiven! Complete and unconditional grace. “At the cruel cross,” my Dad explained, “the blessed Son of God received from His beloved Father all the judgment and punishment you and I deserve. There at the cross Jesus exclaimed, ‘It is finished.’ He completed all that was required for divine justice to forgive us completely and totally – no matter the depth of our sin.”

Back on that cliff…

My brother Gregg and a college buddy, Paul, were with me there in the Grand Canyon. They had ventured off to find some food and water while I foolishly jumped out onto the precipice. I’ll never forget my brother’s look of confounded wonder as they found me stuck on the cliff. Gregg has literally had to save my life more than once so perhaps this was not completely unexpected.

Risking his own life, Gregg leaned over the cliff with an outstretched arm as Paul held onto his belt and leaned back to create a fulcrum. Gregg looked at me and calmly and confidently said, “I got you.” In one motion, I reached out, grabbed his arm, and Gregg pulled me over the ledge to safety. He then whacked me over the head – followed by a long embrace.

Happy Easter…and happy Every Day…to all of us “cliff jumpers.”

Grace & Traffic Signs

As usual, I was running a bit late taking my kids to school during my carpool days. I always had specific instructions not to be late.  But of course, I always was.

On this particular day my daughter, Abby, who was thirteen at the time, seemed relatively unfazed by our tardiness. Besides, she had me to blame.  My youngest son, David, however, who was ten, believes if he’s not five minutes early, he’s late. So while Abby and I were relaxed in the front seats, David was stewing in the back.

By the time we got near the school, the line of traffic was backed up for several blocks. “See!” David said exasperated, reminding me why Mom said to leave the house early.  We were inching along when we came to a side road that would enable us to circumvent an entire block or two of traffic. “Turn here, Daddy,” Abby said.  Immediately behind her, however, David, yelled, “No!  Mom said you can’t turn there because of the sign.”

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The sign in question simply read, “No thru traffic. Residents only.”  I paused for a moment considering the various interpretations of the word, “resident.”  Recognizing my hesitation, Abby began excitedly yelling, “Turn, Daddy, turn!” while David in the back seat yelled in horror, “No, Daddy, no!” I felt like Pinocchio with two opposing Jiminy Crickets.

I turned, of course.

I well understand why Oscar Wilde famously said, “I can resist anything except temptation.”  For a moment I was thrilled with my decision feeling certain I would circumvent dozens of cars and perhaps even get to school on time.

That’s when I saw the flashing lights.

“See!” David yelled out in anguish, clearly miserable with the foolishness of his father.  Abby and I looked at each other with big wide eyes.  Then we turned around and looked at David in the back seat. He was so visibly angry and upset, he looked as if someone ate his bowl of ice cream, left his baseball glove out in the rain, and canceled P.E. for the rest of the year.  And for some reason, this sight caused Abby and me to explode into fits of laughter.

About this time the officer reached our car and asked, “Do you know why I pulled you over?” speaking loudly to overcome our loud laughter snorts.  “Of course I do,” I said trying to compose myself.  “You saw the sign?” the policeman asked, apparently not accustomed to people being happy about getting a ticket.  “I most certainly did,” I answered, “but I turned anyway…because she made me” I exclaimed, pointing at my daughter who was wiping tears from her cheeks. “But my son told me not to,” I continued, “and now he’s so mad we could fry and egg on his forehead.”

The officer peered into the back seat and saw the steam rising from David’s ears. “Oh my,” he said, a bit perplexed with the stark differences emanating from the front and back seats.

Then the officer did the most unexpected thing.  He scratched his head, peered back in the car, and then smiled. “I can’t give someone a ticket who’s in such a good mood,” he said.  “Besides, looks like you have enough trouble in the back seat.”  With that he asked me to not turn there again and wished us a good day.

By definition, grace is “kindness we don’t deserve,” and I certainly received some from the police officer that day. But grace has far deeper and grandeur meaning. Christians define grace as “God’s unmerited favor.” The Bible describes grace as a gift we do not deserve, but one God gives us anyway. Church hymnbooks are filled with songs expressing the wonder of God’s amazing grace. The full impact is expressed in this succinct Bible verse, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is a gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).

Grace is a beautiful thing.  Receiving it from others will make your day.  Receiving it from God, however, will make your eternity.

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