Grace for the Sinner Series

Grace for the Sinner

Yesterday, I lost my temper with my son, Philip.

 

After that brief moment where I lost all sense of calm and cool and acted like the child to whom I was directing my frustration, I felt very, very low. I was ashamed. Sad. Broken. Broken-hearted. Upset with myself. I couldn’t lift my head out of my hands to face the shame that I felt and the depth of my sin.

 

This wasn’t the first time I had been to that place of deep sorrow over my sin, and sadly probably not the last. It took recitation of Scripture, tearful praying to God for forgiveness, and apologizing to Philip before I was able to find the strength to leave that place.

 

Have you been to that place as well? To the place where you are broken over your sin? To the place where you feel so ashamed of your sin you don’t know how to face God, others or yourself? To the place that David described in Psalm 32 where because of his sin God’s hand was heavy upon him? “For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity.” (Ps. 32:4-5)

 

It is in these moments of realization of sin and confession that God so graciously meets us to offer forgiveness. Yet, most of us still struggle to accept God’s forgiveness. Forgiveness is clouded often times by misunderstandings and lies that Satan would have us to believe. The portrait of God as seen in Scripture is many times in conflict with the portrait that we have of God in our minds, and it often comes to a head when we are in that place of deep shame and remorse over sin. (“I know Scripture says that God offers forgiveness to the repentant but [fill in the blank].”)

 

This is where I hope Grace for the Sinner series will be a blessing. In this new series, I want to explore Scripture’s teaching on forgiveness and grace. These will be (or at least should be) short devotionals/reflections that I hope will bring you in deeper conversation with and understanding of God and the gifts of grace and forgiveness that He makes available to the repentant.

 

In this series I hope you will find grace, whether you find yourself as the impatient parent, the self-centered spouse, the disrespectful child, the unforgiving friend, the wannabe perfectionist, the over-controlling individual, the gossiper or [fill in the blank]. Here I also hope you will be reminded of and will find a perfect God who loves and redeems imperfect people.

 

I was first introduced to the song below at our church in England, and I immediately took to the lyrics. The message of the song is to come as you are — a sinner — to Jesus and discover the love and grace he has to offer. “Come, all you vagabonds, come all you don’t-belongs, winners and losers, come people like me.” Jesus offers grace to the sinner.

 

Come all you vagabonds, come all you don’t-belongs
winners and losers, come people like me;
come all you travelers, tired from the journey
wait a while, stay a while, welcomed you’ll be.

Come all you questioners, looking for answers
and searching for reason and sense in it all;
come all you fallen, and come all you broken,
find strength for your body and food for your soul.

Come, those who worry about houses and money
and all those who don’t have a care in the world,
from every station and orientation
the helpless, the hopeless, the young and the old.

Come all believers, and dreamers, and schemers,
and come all you restless and searching for home;
movers and shakers, and givers and takers,
the happy, the sad, the lost and alone.

Come self-sufficient with wearied ambition
and come those who feel at the end of the road;
fiery debaters, and religion haters,
accusers, abusers, the hurt and ignored.

Chorus: Come to the feast, there is room at the table!
Come, let us meet in this place

with the king of all kindness who welcomes us in
with the wonder of love and the power of grace,
the wonder of love and the power of grace. 

(Stuart Townend)

 

 

Advice to Prospective Seminary Students

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Dear Readers,

Happy 2015! I have lots of things to tell you and discuss with you this year. The past month I have been silent because my hard drive crashed on my computer. However, this time has allowed me to think through some topics, posts and discussions I would like to see happen this year. More on that later.

Today, I want to share with you a short video from a former professor of mine at Beeson Divinity School. If you or someone you know is interested in a theological education, Dr. Mark Gignilliat gives some excellent advice before entering seminary. Theological education is not just a discipline for the head. Rather, the best kind of theological education is one that involves both the head and the heart.

You can watch the video here.

I would love to hear your thoughts on what Mark has to say!

Forever and Ever and Ever: Reflections on eternity

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Today is a day that we mark the passing of time and the hope of time to come. It is precisely because we are thinking about time in the form of a new year today that I want to offer some reflections on when time will be no more. We call this eternity.

 

Humans are obsessed with time. One recent example can be seen in the movie Interstellar. We are bound by time. And, we have a love-hate relationship with it. Time moves us toward the end of our days on earth. We hate it. Time moves us past hurtful and painful pasts. We love it. With time comes aging bodies. With time comes new birth. We know no other reality than that which is time-bound.

 

So when we think of a place where time is nonexistent, it can be difficult to grasp. At least this has been my experience.

 

From the time I was a little girl the concept of eternity, living forever and ever and ever, made me upset. I could not wrap my mind around this other reality and it scared me. If you ask my parents they will tell you that many nights I would come into their bedroom crying and afraid because I had been pondering on the idea of eternity.

 

As I grew I taught myself not to think about it and to reign in my thoughts so that I wouldn’t upset myself. Although I was a Christian and looked forward to the day when I would be united with my God who loves me, I still struggled with the idea of living in a world where time did not exist.

 

At some point in our dating or engagement period, the conversation came up with my now husband. He said to me, “Kristen, here is how I think about it. Imagine a moment or moments in your life when you were enjoying something so much you lost all track of time. Perhaps there is a moment in which you said to yourself, ‘I don’t want this moment to ever end.’ I believe eternity with God will be like that but better. It will be a place where you lose all track of time (so to speak because time won’t exist) and where you will enjoy it so much that you wouldn’t want it to end.”

 

What he said was immensely helpful to me. For I realized that even in a time-bound-world I had already experienced many glimpses of eternity, glimpses of what it is like to enjoy something or someone so much that even for a moment time could seemingly stand still or stop.

 

These glimpses were there in the perfect sunrise in the mountains. In the beautiful sunset at the beach. In the first holding of my son. In the embrace of my spouse. In the arms of my mother. In the hands of my father. In the laughter with close friends. In the California weather. In the Spring. In the saying of my wedding vows. In my first kiss with my spouse. In the singing of worship songs to Christ. In these moments where time was forgotten, where I was thoroughly enjoying myself, and where I didn’t want it to ever end, I was given glimpses into what eternity will be like with the Triune God.

 

I say these things by way of analogy to help us reflect on a concept that is in some ways completely foreign to us.

 

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Rev. 21:1-4 (cf. Isaiah 65:17-19)

 

For those in Christ, those who have believed upon Jesus and have found forgiveness of sins, eternity with him is our greatest reward. For Christians, eternity is nothing to fear. We will have never experienced so much enjoyment as we will when we are with him. And oh what joy to know that time will not be able to steal that moment away from us — ever.

 

A few days ago I was sitting on the front porch of my mother-in-law’s home in south Florida at that golden hour leading up to the sunset where the sky has turned to hues of purples, pinks and golds. The weather was perfect, with the temperature sitting at somewhere in the mid-70s, humidity low, and a steady breeze. Her front porch overlooks a small lake surrounded by typical foliage you’d expect to see in south Florida: palm trees, bougainvilleas, bright pinks and oranges. Ducks were paddling in the lake leaving little ripples behind as they swam from one side to the other. I sat there for a long time enjoying the tranquility of the moment including the feast that had been rolled out for my five senses. I worshipped God in that moment and didn’t want it to end. Another glimpse into eternity.

 

I’m no longer afraid of eternity, a world without time. Rather, these moments I’ve mentioned have helped me to look forward to that glorious day “when Christ Jesus I shall see, and I shall look upon his face, the One who saved me by his grace. … What a day, what a glorious day it shall be!” And that day, my friends, will never end.

 

“There is coming a day,
When no heart aches shall come,
No more clouds in the sky,
No more tears to dim the eye,
All is peace forever more,
On that happy golden shore,
What a day, glorious day that will be.

What a day that will be,
When my Jesus I shall see,
And I look upon His face,
The One who saved me by His grace;
When He takes me by the hand,
And leads me through the Promised Land,
What a day, glorious day that will be.

There’ll be no sorrow there,
No more burdens to bear,
No more sickness, no pain,
No more parting over there;
And forever I will be,
With the One who died for me,
What a day, glorious day that will be.

What a day that will be,
When my Jesus I shall see,
And I look upon His face,
The One who saved me by His grace;
When He takes me by the hand,
And leads me through the Promised Land,
What a day, glorious day that will be.”

(Song: What A Day That Will Be; Written by: Jim Hill)