One of the pastors that I work with at Grace recently shared with me a theme for one of her upcoming ministry areas in 2019 and it was so good that I have to share it with you. Her inspired ministry theme is messy but magnificent.
Don’t you love it? That is both who and what we are. We are messy but magnificent, broken but beautiful, vessels of clay but possessing the brilliance of heaven. When God’s grace reached us and we responded to the Holy Spirit’s work in our life, He began sculpting a masterpiece out of the mess and the murkiness of our personal histories.
As a pastor, I have witnessed this more times than I can count. I have seen wounded people begin to heal people. I have seen fragile people become unshakably strong, and I have seen extremely gifted people add humility and grace to the strength and power of their gifts. It has been an amazing thing to behold, and I am sure I will see it again in 2019.
The Apostle Paul described it this way: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” (2 Corinthians 4:7-10)
Let’s swap prayers for each other in 2019. Let’s pray that wherever our lives feel messy or out of control, God’s magnificence would shine through, bringing life, hope, brilliance, and love to the world around us.
You have certainly discovered how dangerous life can be right? Surely, by this point in your story, you have faced both demons and human treachery. You have had your back against some walls, and you have found ways to break through other ones. You have won and you have been defeated. You have been both elated and filled with despair. You have made good decisions that moved you forward like the ladder square in the children’s Chutes and Ladders game, and you have made other decisions that made you slip back to square one.
You have fought for the liberation of people’s hearts, and you have been awarded both trophies and scars. There is quite a bit at stake in this faith life of ours.
Sometimes, in our dizzying journeys through life the wisest counsel is the simplest. Indeed, true wisdom is usually not profound; it is so painfully obvious that anyone could dispense it. The challenge is in following it.
Psalm 119:110 presents wisdom that is powerful enough to save your life, and yet it is simple enough for a child to understand. It says, “The wicked have laid a snare for me, but I do not stray from your precepts.” Said differently, you will never get snared if you do not stray.
It’s true isn’t it? If we stick to our commitments…if we honor our promises…if we do what is right…if we retain our integrity at all costs, we won’t get snared. The snares are set a half step outside of the right path, and if we stick to the path we will avoid nearly all of them.
Are you on your right path today, or are you straying from it? If you are straying, beware of snares. They will take you out, and you will be remembered for your failure, instead of your exploits. It may seem difficult to walk the right path, but it will cost you vastly less than your forays off the path will.
Now, if you have strayed, and if you have been snared there is still good news. There is a way back! You won’t always be colored by your failure, and you will be able to start again. Lamentations 3:40 says, “Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord.” Psalm 119:59-60 says, “I have considered my ways and have turned my steps to your statutes. I will hasten and not delay to obey your commands.”
Let’s stay on the path. Let’s pile up victory after victory in our life of faith. Then let’s cross the finish line together with our consciences clean and our heads held high.
I know it is Christmas time and we are supposed to be thinking about the birth of Jesus, but this past week, I have been gripped with a thought concerning His death. His death decreed our pardon, our forgiveness, and our release from sin.
Isaiah said, “He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).
I have needed that, have you? I have transgressed, I have been caught in iniquity, I have failed my loved ones, and I have needed pardon.
Pardon is amazing. To be guilty and then to be set free is a gift of immeasurable proportions, and it changes everything for the freed. Life is sweeter when it gets returned to us. Decisions matter more when we actually have the freedom to make them. Our blessings are more potent when we know we don’t fully deserve them.
Exiting presidents often issue presidential pardons in their final moments in office, and the recipients of those pardons get a second chance to begin again. How amazing to have received something greater than the forgiveness of a human president, how amazing to be forgiven by God!
It did not come cheaply. Although we call God’s forgiveness a free gift, it did not come to us easily or casually. It was purchased by the ultimate act of love, a love that absorbed unthinkable pain and stared down death itself.
Let’s exult in our forgiveness. Let’s strive to live lives that never need to ask for it again. Let’s be quick to extend pardon to the people who fail us, and let’s grow into God’s beautiful blend of truth, justice, and unquenchable grace. Your pardon has been written in the wounds of Jesus, and the life you are dreaming of is found in Him.