Thursday, December 16, 2010

Fall From Grace...Is It Really Possible?

(Not so Random Thoughts from Brent Long, Consultant, Long On Life.)

I’m not really sure I have the answers, of course, but I have been thinking about this quite a bit lately.

From the Bible, Galatians 5:4
Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. (KJV)
You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. (ESV)

Culturally, it simply means to fall from a position of high esteem.

So here’s my dilemma… From a human perspective, I believe it is truly possible. There are those that we (humans) elevate to positions of high esteem based on any number of differing factors (that would take up way too much space to list here). However, at the root of this list is an overriding discovery that most of our human esteem is based on performance, appearance, etc. So when an athlete fails to live up to his or her billing, or when an entertainer commits a disastrous, career-ending gaffe, or when a husband and father fails and falters in his fidelity and leadership, we can agree that these might all be examples of a “fall from grace.” That’s not my question.

My question is this… Does Grace ever let go of us humans? Grace, in the human form of Jesus Christ came busting through the Creation He created to put on our sinful flesh, walk around amongst us, take on all of our sin, die for us, rise on the third day defeating the grave, and return to the Father having completed the most GRACEFUL act of GRACE the world has ever seen. He did all that to set us free from the sin that so easily entangles us. The Love of God is the Grace of God! Can anything separate us from the Love of God? According to His Word, nothing can… Nothing! (Romans 8:37-39)

So what does that mean for us?

No clue… but what I am realizing and learning is this: That for me to experience the true Grace of God, I might need to fall from the lofty, human pedestal that I placed myself on in my lifetime of striving to gain esteem from fellow humans, so that the Love of Christ (His Grace) can rescue me from the law (of legalism) that I have forced myself to live under… even after He set me free.

I have not been rescued by a weak god. Rather, I have been rescued by a loving warrior God Who was and is willing to go to the depths of hell to find me hiding there, completely helpless in my self-reliant, legalistic, law-abiding, performance-enhancing life. Whether or not there was any real intention to gain human esteem on my part (I am self-deceived like all humans), God’s Grace had already set me free from that life, but I had not embraced it or rested in it. And that life started to choke me to death. But God’s Grace showed up stronger than ever and rescued me all over again… even though I fell from grace, humanly speaking.

Thank You, Jesus. Thank You! You will never allow me to fall so far away that Your Grace can’t or won’t retrieve me. There’s no way that I can fall from Your Love and Grace. Thank You, Lord.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Hope of the World!

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3: 16-17 (NIV Bible)

It is written in Luke 2:10-11; But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” I did this design at the request of our church worship leader at Northwest Presbyterian Church in Dublin, Paul Vertucci. He wanted a Christmas design for the annual benefit dinner/concert and asked if I could produce a design with the theme, “Hope of the World.” I said I would pray about it and this design is the result of prayer.

The design has been done in the “traditional” Christmas colors. The Cross is at the center and is surrounded by wreaths and holly, and, if you will, Christmas ornaments. The colors are bright greens and reds which enhance the Cross in the center. Jesus, and the empty cross, are indeed, the Hope of the World! Continuing in the Gospel of Luke, 2: 13-14 it is written; “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” The hope of the world!

It never ceases to amaze me how we people get all wrapped up in the secular activities of the season and forget Jesus. Christmas becomes a time of making sure we have the right gift for the right person regardless of the cost. And, we have to check, and then check again, to make sure we don’t forget someone! And, don’t forget we have to make sure we are seen at just the right holiday party! We seem to forget that “Jesus is the reason for the season.” It would do us all well to remember Luke 2:20, “The shepherds returned, glorifying God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” During all of the holiday celebrations, let us keep Jesus foremost in our thoughts amongst all the glitter and confusion. Remember, after everything is put away in early January, our Lord remains with us in our hearts! Christmas comes not once a year, but everyday for believers! And when you are in the marketplace, say “Merry Christmas” to all!

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Star In the East

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” Matthew 2:1-2 (NIV Bible)

Now, before someone makes a comment, I know this does not look like a typical star. It is not meant to be a typical star. This star is bursting with colors, joy and excitement! As you gaze into it, different colors and shapes come toward you. It appears to be in motion. And after all, the star the wise men followed must have been unique. It was unique and very special and it guided them to the Christ child. It is written in Matthew 2:9-11, “After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.”

Let’s think about this for a minute. Let’s take our focus off of the star. Let’s take our focus off of the wise men. Let’s take our focus off of the treasures, the gifts. Instead, let us focus on “they bowed down and worshiped him.” Now, put this in present time. Let’s take our focus off of the bright lights. Let’s take our focus off of the parties. Let’s take our focus off of the gifts. How are we worshiping him now? What are you giving Jesus for Christmas?
Some people give gifts to get something in return. Some people give gifts to keep score and make sure they spend more than the other person did. And some people give gifts from their own hands - if you will, gifts of craft, filled with grace. One of my annual Christmas pet peeves is when people ask, “what did you get for Christmas?” This Christmas may we all focus on Jesus and give him our allegiance, our obedience, our worship, our praise, and our adoration! Remember this from Luke 2:11, “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ, the Lord.” Now when you get asked the big question, “what’d cha get?” you can tell them, “I got the greatest gift of all - I have received Jesus into my heart as my Lord and Savior.” Oh, I almost forgot - see you in church!