Category Archives: Grace

It’s Real and It Hurts: The Pain and the Glory

The world just ain’t like it should be.  Now I’m not a complainer.  Wasn’t raised that way.  But, if God is good and He is powerful, why are things the way they are?  Why did an eleven year old boy have to die this past week in a car wreck?  When did countless people lose their homes after Hurricane Harvey hit Texas?  Why is their still racial unrest in the United States?  Why? Why? Why?

If God is all powerful and all good, why hasn’t he done something about all of this?  Why do the good suffer and the evil seem to prosper?  Why do children in Nueva Vida in Ciudad Sandino, Nicaragua, suffer so much that they literally dig through trash to survive?  Why are there beautiful families living on $30 a month in rural areas all around Managua, Nicaragua?

The Gospel of Christ doesn’t ask us to ignore these questions.  In fact, you may never really get to the gospel if you don’t face this reality:  The world ain’t like it should be.

One of my favorite passages in the Bible is couched in this very reality.  It’s Romans 1 where Paul says that he’s not ashamed of the Gospel because it’s the power of God for salvation.  Then, in the next verse (17), he says that in it the righteousness of God is reveal from faithfulness to faithfulness, and then he quotes the prophet Habakkuk, “The righteous one will live by faithfulness.”

Now, you might just skim over that, but if you do, you might miss something very powerful about the gospel.

It turns out the you can’t really hear the good news until you’ve faced the bad news that the world is messed up.

In Habakkuk, the prophet asks God why he hasn’t done something about the messed up situation Israel is in.  God replies that he is doing something about it, in fact, something that the prophet doesn’t understand.  And, in the middle of all that, there is the scripture that Paul references, “The righteous one will live by faithfulness,” Habakkuk 2:4.

Here’s the way I read all of that.

Yes, the world is messed up.

Yes, God is doing something about it.

Just like in Habakkuk’s days, people may not understand it.  The good news is that the secret of God’s work to fix the world has been revealed.  The good news is that God is fixing everything that is broken.

Don’t deny the brokenness.

Only when you realize the darkness can you appreciate the light.

The light is this:  God is doing something in the world to put it back together again.  He’s making everything right.  And, we get to be a part of it.

God is faithful to his creation.  He’s faithful to redeem this world.  And, he is faithful to his promise to love you.  It may not seem like it right now, for all you may be going through, but God loves you.  And, he’s turning this situation around.

And, you know what?  He will succeed.  But, you know the beautiful part of it is?  We get to be his co-laborers.  We get to be involved in fixing this world.

His faithfulness leads to ours.

His grace leads to our love.

His resurrection leads to our new life.

And, we get to change the world together.

No hurricane can stop us.  No unfaithfulness can deter us.   Because we’re not at the helm.  The creator is.  And, that’s good news.

More Than Performance: Amazing Grace

There once was a violin.  It was tightly gripped by a frustrated 14 year old, who  was playing Vivaldi’s Concerto in A Minor.  He had practiced this song over and over to get it right.  In his practice, he would play and stop.  Then, he’d look back at the music to find  see his mistakes and try to fix the errors.  He didn’t really like the practice, but by doing this, he had eliminated most all of the mistakes.   If he was careful, he could make it through without any of the feared mess-ups.  Then, the day arrived.  He was to play before an important violin teacher in Birmingham at a special Suzuki meeting.  So, he played.  He didn’t make any mistakes.  Then, just as he was finishing, and as the antique wood still pressed into his meaty shoulder, the instructor said, “You should play this harder.  You’re a strong looking boy.  Why aren’t you playing with more feeling?”  They didn’t really love his playing that day.  This was the last time he would really play much classical violin music for quite some time.

There once was another violin.  It was held lovingly by a plump 8 year old as he played the most free form Alabama improve Japan has ever witnessed.  He had just been told that there was a special program being filmed for the Suzuki organization in Japan.  They were interested in what Americans were doing with their method for learning music.  His teacher, who was a genius with kids, had encouraged him to learn to improvise.   She wanted him to learn to have fun with it.  And, he did.  Sometimes, his parents would have tell him to go to bed at night because he would lose track of time, playing for the sheer joy of it.  Enthusiasm was not lacking, and when he was asked to play for the Japanese TV program, he let fly a version of Amazing Grace that was something you wouldn’t soon forget.   They loved it.   And, he played the violin, and he improvised for many years to come.

What was the difference?

One was done out of fun, the other out of fear.

One was done out of love, the other out of duty.

Let me ask you this one question:  Which one do you want to be? Well, of course, you want to be have joy, fun, and love, right?

 The question, then is, how do I do that?

Think about the little boy.  It’s about really getting into the song, into the music.   It’s about getting into the story that can become the music of our lives.  And, there is a story that you need to hear.  There is a story in which you can live.

It turns out that story is all about Amazing Grace.