Category Archives: Destiny

There is always a rescue scene

Every great epic story has a rescue scene. Whether it is evil wizards being defeated, dragons being slain, or Death Stars getting blown out of the universe, there is always a scene where the tide turns, justice and truth are finally upheld, and the heroes eventually win the day.

Have you ever wondered why?

Why does every great story have a rescue scene? For that matter, why does every great story start out with paradise being lost, evil setting up shop, and then a small band of heroes getting called upon to fight against nearly overwhelming odds? Why is there is always a moment when the beauty—there is always a beauty—gets captured and seems lost forever? Why does every epic tale have a moment when all hope is lost until someone mounts a rescue scene to finally save the day?

Because yours does.

The story of Scripture—the story in which you and I are living—is a story of paradise lost and then found; it is a story of sin’s death swallowing the world before life and love win the day. The Bible begins in Genesis with paradise lost and it ends in Revelation with paradise found and restored.

1 Corinthians 15:54 tells us the outcome of the biblical narrative: through Jesus Christ “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” The Bible is the archetype—it is the original, true-life narrative that gives form and substance to every lesser story that replays its central themes. This Easter as we re-imagine and re-engage with the Bible’s central theme let’s remember that there is a larger story—scholars call it a metanarrative—that you and I have been born into.

If hope seems lost today—if beauty seems vanquished forever—please hold steady. There is always a rescue scene.

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The Temptation of St. Patrick

Hi everyone! On the Eve of St. Patrick’s Day I thought I would share an insightful, helpful article from author Stephen Mansfield about a generally unknown, but profoundly powerful scene from the life of St. Patrick. Enjoy!

“St. Patrick’s Day is approaching. There will be much beer-drinking and green-wearing to mark it. I’m moved by all of Patrick’s life but there is one episode in particular that comes back to me again and again, particularly at this time of year. It helps me. Perhaps it will help you as well.

Patrick was born in Britain late in the fourth century. Though his father was a Christian deacon and his grandfather was a priest, Patrick admitted that he was not yet a Christian when, at the age of sixteen, he was kidnapped by Irish raiders. For six years he worked as a captive herdsman, miserable and ill fed in the often-chilly pastures of Ireland. During this time, he turned to his family’s Christian faith. When he finally escaped, he returned to Britain determined to become a priest.

He was ordained in 417 A.D. and he immediately astonished his friends by deciding to return to Ireland—the land where he had been a slave so many years. He explained that God had spoken to him in a series of dreams and had instructed him to “set the captives free” in Ireland. In the years that followed, Patrick’s fearlessness, his many miracles, and his earthy ways of expressing spiritual truth won the Irish chieftains to his God and led to the conversion of thousands.

It was just at the height of his success that a nasty, undermining church fight threatened to end his important work. Reading of it these years later we can hardly believe how such a small matter nearly overthrew the progress of this heroic man.

It seems that while Patrick was studying for the priesthood in Britain, he confessed a sin to a friend. This was the standard practice among clergymen in training and it was understood that anything confessed in private was meant to stay that way. Thirty years later, the friend to whom Patrick confessed decided to make the matter known to the church. Those who were jealous of Patrick or who were grasping for control of his work viciously used this confession against him.

Patrick was clearly wounded by this betrayal and disgusted at the valuable time he lost in defending himself—time that would have been better spent changing a nation. Patrick’s famous Confession is filled with the details of this controversy. We can hear his surprise and his hurt in the words.

They brought up against me after thirty years an occurrence I had confessed before becoming a deacon. On account of the anxiety in my sorrowful mind, I laid before my close friend what I had perpetrated on a day—nay, rather in one hour—in my boyhood because I was not yet proof against sin. God knows—I do not—whether I was fifteen years old at the time, and I did not then believe in the living God, nor had I believed, since my infancy; but I remained in death and unbelief until I was severely rebuked, and in truth I was humbled every day by hunger and nakedness.

Hence, therefore, I say boldly that my conscience is clear now and hereafter. God is my witness that I have not lied in these words to you.

But rather, I am grieved for my very close friend, that because of him we deserved to hear such a prophecy. The one to whom I entrusted my soul! And I found out from a goodly number of brethren, before the case was made in my defense (in which I did not take part, nor was I in Britain, nor was it pleaded by me), that in my absence he would fight in my behalf. Besides, he told me himself: ‘See, the rank of bishop goes to you’—of which I was not worthy. But how did it come to him, shortly afterwards, to disgrace me publicly, in the presence of all, good and bad, because previously, gladly and of his own free will, he pardoned me, as did the Lord, who is greater than all?

We can imagine how deflating this must have been. We can picture the frustration; almost feel Patrick’s pain. He had risked his life daily for his God and his church only to have the bureaucrats back home debate and nitpick every detail of his life. He was questioned about his basic morality after displaying nothing but good character for decades. He was humiliated and even considered abandoning his mission to Ireland.

In time, though, Patrick rose above the enemies of his soul. As we read his story, we find that he forgave his accusers, that he became deeply concerned for his betraying friend’s soul, and that ultimately he appealed to being forgiven by Jesus Christ. Though the church leaders would spend years astir in this matter, Patrick lovingly left them to their pitiful debates. He returned to his Irish mission in peace and became, in time, the greatest name in that land.

Here is the lesson: Leaders are not exempt from episodes of pain and offense. Instead, one of the traits of great leadership is the willingness to rise above the bitterness and strife that all leaders face and to do so in pursuit of a higher purpose.  This lesson is part of the legacy of St. Patrick and we should remember it—and seek to live out its meaning–on the day set aside to honor ‘the lion of Ireland.'”

Note: for more from Stephen Mansfiel check out his blog at: https://stephenmansfield.tv/

Why isn’t goodness more satisfying?

Stolen water is sweet; bread eaten in secret is delicious!

That’s what the ancient proverbs writer said, and it still rings true today. We, humans, love the illicit and the forbidden.

Why is this?

Why is forbidden fruit so tempting? Why do we crave the things that aren’t healthy for us? Why do we want what we probably shouldn’t have?

The answer is…we actually don’t. We don’t want the illicit; we don’t want the counterfeit—we actually DO want the authentic and the good.

The problem is that goodness usually requires some up-front payment, whereas the illicit doesn’t charge us until a little later on—it’s like a quick and easy credit card transaction that satisfies today but makes us pay tomorrow. Goodness and beauty make us work for it on the front end, and if we aren’t willing to pay that price we’ll turn to lesser substitutes that can hurt us on the back side.

King David understood this. Throughout his life, he walked both paths: the illicit and legitimate, and his conclusion was clear. True satisfaction (the kind that lets you sleep at night and brings life to your soul) only comes from what is good. In fact, David said that when our desires touch God’s goodness it’s so satisfying that it’s almost like we start aging in reverse. He said that God “satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagles” (Psalm 103:5).

Jesus agreed with David. He said the Kingdom of God—the reality of the goodness of life in God—was like a treasure buried in a field. It took some work and it cost a life to find it, but once found, it was worth every cent of payment.

Meanwhile we groan

At Grace Church we just finished a church-wide 90-day reading campaign where we read all of the words of Jesus Christ in the New Testament. The unique thing about this reading plan was that we only read Jesus’ words—we ignored the entire surrounding context.

I know. I know.

We’re not supposed to read the Bible that way. We’re supposed to understand the Scripture’s context so that we don’t misinterpret or misapply its message. We’re not supposed to lift an isolated passage out of context or we run the risk of “proof-texting”. Even so, it was very powerful for me to read Jesus’ words all by themselves. Hearing Him say, “I am willing; be clean” or “I have chosen you” or “Take heart, my son, your sins are forgiven” and just absorbing those words was exhilarating.

Although I don’t generally advocate a “proof-texting” context-less reading of Scripture, I had another experience today where a single phrase of Scripture lifted up off the page and spoke to me. In 2 Corinthians 5, the Apostle Paul was painting a vivid picture of our promised eternal state with God, and then he said, “Meanwhile we groan” (verse 2).

For some reason that phrase spoke to me on multiple levels:

  • Our ultimate hope is secure…but meanwhile we groan.
  • The Gospel keeps advancing in our lives…but meanwhile we still groan.
  • God will finish what He has begun in us…but in the mean time we still endure some groaning.

This isn’t pessimism! This isn’t a gloomy, Eeyore perspective on life. It’s a validation of our groaning. It’s recognition that sometimes—even amidst God’s potent promises—there is a groaning in this life that has to be endured.

Please be assured that our groaning isn’t the final word—rejoicing is. Victory is. But in the meantime, we groan. We groan as we wait for His unveiling…we groan as we wrestle with sin, temptation, and compromise…we groan as we fight for the liberation of the human soul…and we groan, knowing that He is beside us in our groaning.

The ministry of standing

When Nazi Germany bombed London in the direst moments of WWII, Prime Minister Winston Churchill would routinely climb onto a roof (or on top of his car if he was on the ground) to stand and watch the bombs fall. His defiant silhouette—no doubt replete with his famous Churchillian cigar—was a reminder to anyone who saw him that Great Britain was not defeated yet. His ministry of standing in the face of insurmountable odds injected the citizens of the British Isles with hope and won him the nickname “Lion.”

Did you know that’s your ministry too? Ephesians 6 tells us that there are moments in our lives when we’ve done everything that we know to do and all that remains is for us to climb onto a rooftop and take our stand.

Standing isn’t the most glamorous ministry you will ever have. It’s not the most enjoyable of assignments—indeed, we usually don’t engage in this task until most other options have failed us—however, there is something in the standing that releases the power of God.

And after you have done everything…stand.”

Are you standing today? Are you holding your ground despite overwhelming circumstances? Is your rooftop silhouette a silent reminder that you haven’t lost all faith and that the outcome of your battle is far from over?

History tells us that when England was standing America was stirring. Who knows what heavenly forces are stirring on your behalf as you continue to take your stand?

 

 

Read the red and pray for the power!

red-lettersRead the red and pray for the power.

These were the instructions that Dr. Fuchsia Pickett gave to our class when Jessica and I were in Bible school in the early 90s, and I think they are the perfect marching orders for each of us as we start a New Year together.

Yesterday, Grace Church committed to three New Year resolutions, and I would love for you to join us as well.

  1. We set a human goal. This is an area of our lives that can be changed solely through the efforts of our determined humanity. We don’t need God’s help to accomplish this goal—we simply need some leverage and true resolve.
  2. We set a supernatural goal. This is an area that will require some divine intervention—we will not be able to accomplish this goal unless God gets involved.
  3. In order to position ourselves for our supernatural goals, we committed to a 90-day “Read the red and pray for the power” New Year campaign.

Our “Read the red and pray for the power” campaign includes two elements: we are going to read a 90-day Bible reading schedule called “Read the red stuff” that will take us through all of the written words of Jesus Christ in 90 days, and we are going to engage in focused prayer around three areas. If you aren’t a part of Grace Church, your three prayer targets will differ slightly from these, but here are the items we are praying for at Grace:

  1. We are praying for each others’ supernatural goals.
  2. We are praying for our “becoming”—we want to step more fully into our individual and collective destinies in 2017.
  3. We are praying for resolution regarding a permanent church facility.

Please join us. Let’s work hard and pray hard this year. Let’s live 2017 to the best of our human abilities and then let’s pray for some things that are dependent on an amazing God. My daily prayer book, The Valley of Vision, includes the following prayer: “May my desires be enlarged and my hopes emboldened, that I may honor you by the greatness of my request.” Let’s not focus on trivia this year; let’s ask some great things of a great God.

You can download a copy of the “Read the red stuff” Bible reading schedule here, and join our campaign today.

Happy New Year! Know you are loved.

Important guest post about leadership in our tumultuous political times

Hi everyone!

Earlier this week I was preparing some thoughts for a perspective blog in light of our upcoming presidential election when I saw this article from Stephen Mansfield, addressing the noble, courageous Christian leadership that we need to manifest amid our tumultuous political times.[1] His words were so good that I decided to forego my own and instead share some of his thoughts here. I hope you don’t mind! 🙂

Stephen writes:

This is my last Leading Thoughts (leadership email) before the November 8 election, and so I would like to talk about leading in the era that is about to dawn.

This has been an election like no other in American history. You’ve heard this many times in recent months, I’m sure. Never before have the two leading candidates for president been as disliked and as distrusted by the American people. Never before have Americans been as disillusioned or as disappointed in the nation’s institutions.

We are entering a time in which fear, uncertainty, and despair are going to reign in many an American heart. We will get through this tumultuous season, of course, but only if there are leaders who know how to navigate such times.

We will have to remind people that times have been worse.
There is nothing as terrifying as believing that you live in the worst of times. This certainly isn’t true of our current era and we should remind people of this. When Thomas Jefferson was elected leading pundits predicted the apocalypse. When Lincoln was elected, the nation split in two. When Truman took office, some members of Congress had to be treated for depression. There have been worse times than now. We survived.

Difficult times are often when great advances happen.
We forget that during the Great Depression, ten thousand people became millionaires. We forget that times of hardship are often our most stunning times of creative and cultural advance. This same progress is possible now if we don’t despair and if we hold to the faith that tomorrow can be better than today.

We were born for this.
Since ninety percent of Americans believe in God, then it isn’t too much of a stretch to say that the vast majority of Americans see themselves as destined to live in the times they do. This means that when we face difficult seasons, we must have the attitude, “I was born for this.” Courage comes from this. Reliance on divine help comes from this. Strength to thrive comes from this.

Politics is not everything.
Our founding fathers wanted limited federal government since they believed that the meaningful things of life are what happens in the human heart, the human family, in communities, and in the common things of life. We are experiencing a tumultuous federal election. This is not the same thing as the earth spinning out of its orbit. We’ll get through it. There will be other elections. We’ll be more on guard as a nation for the corruptions and follies of our leaders. Good days are ahead. Hug your kids. Love your spouse. Do your job. Make your community better. Trust God.

That’s it. Lead and lead well. We need you in these gut-wrenching times.

[1] Stephen Mansfield’s work can be accessed at http://www.stephenmansfield.tv. This essay was from Stephen’s weekly Leading Thoughts leadership email.