The question we must ask

“…or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk?”  – Peter (Acts 3:12)

The nature of Peter’s question reveals that he never considered himself as the source of the miracle just performed.  He is only giving what he has received.  He has no concern about his role in the work.  He did not ask, “What if I cannot do it?” or say  “Look what I did!”  He is perfectly assured of the power of God working through him and is  perplexed by the questions of onlookers.

This is precisely where many of us go wrong.  We believe we must be the source of the works of God and as such we trust in ourselves instead of His power.  We desire for people to be astonished by our power and our piety.  The words of Peter remind us that a focus on our ability will not yield true spiritual fruit.

Peter’s simple question also reminds us that onlookers will always wonder at the power of God manifested in his people.  They will look for character traits that make them different.  They will not see clearly.  The servant of God, the conduit of His love and power, must always be prepared to articulate the true Source of spiritual power.

When we begin to see God work through our lives, we must ask, just as Peter does, “Why on earth do you believe this good comes from me?”

A dispenser of grace

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Make me a dispenser as well as a partaker of grace…. — The Valley of Vision

This phrase has consumed my thoughts this week. It’s been a powerful reminder of how far we all have to go.

My husband said it again this week, “The one thing I would like to do here is cultivate a culture of grace.”

I think about what that means, what it would look like in the flesh-and-blood, broken community of the church. The church could become a place where love replaces shame, where joy replaces fear, where acceptance trumps judgement.

What if every conflict, every disagreement, every bad decision or thoughtless action was first covered in a blanket of grace?

But there’s a problem. The problem is me.

As much as I long to be part of a community that is marked by grace, I struggle to demonstrate grace to those who struggle to demonstrate grace.

The words of Jesus echo in my ears, “If you love only those who love you how are you any different from the rest of them?”

An internal struggle bubbles to the surface:

“They were wrong,” I say.

Grace says, “So what if they were? You’ve been wrong before too.”

“But they should have the maturity to handle the situation differently!”

Grace asks, “Haven’t your ever mishandled a delicate situation?”

“They always look at the externals, the outward appearance, can’t they see with more than their eyes?”

Grace pleads, “If you think they are hard on everyone else, imagine how they talk to themselves?”

These questions — they are the beginning of grace.

Death, Life, and the In Between

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We stood quietly at the edges of the room as she slept. Monitors blinked secret codes and tubes dripped liquid life under paper-thin skin. Children, now grown with children and grandchildren of their own, spoke in whispered tones and wiped moist eyes as they measured the weight of her life.

Her body, now unable to tend to its most basic needs, once delivered wrinkled, squalling babies into the world. Her arms held them tight to her breast, her hips rocked, her eyes twinkled.

I wonder what it must be like to open your eyes, bleary and disoriented, to a room of unfamiliar faces. The indignity of age and faltering health are upon her.

At the same moment, I know something they don’t. A small seed has been planted. Just days before it took root and began to grow. Cells are dividing, soul and spirit are being joined with flesh in the mysterious dark and new life is taking shape — its presence is imperceptible to everyone but me.

Birth and death. Both are a passing from one world to the next. Both are fraught with fear and indignity. Both open a portal from heaven to earth and join the physical with the spiritual.

These moments remind us that we were known long before our tiny blastocyst buried its way into our mother’s uterine lining, yet we are also a fading vapor snuffed out by the wind. We are of infinite value in the kingdom of heaven and yet on earth, we are forgotten in a few short generations. Life in the spiritual realm has eternal significance while life in this physical realm often feels painful and seems pointless.

How are we to respond? We can affirm the words of the wise King Solomon who declared that life in our physical world seems meaningless while at the same time worshiping a God who works all things together for our good. We can accept apparent futility while we acknowledge a sovereign God who wastes none of our experiences. We can see spiritual realities in the shadows of our physical experiences and know that this broken world will one day be made right. We can cling to the God of heaven, the maker of all things spiritual and physical, and trust that everything we know now is light and momentary.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

Linking today with Jennifer and Emily

When you don’t understand why

… but that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God … — 2 Corinthians 1:9

There are times when we cannot understand our lives. Challenges arise and we feel like Paul — as though we have received a death sentence.

Yet, like Paul, when we say that we are beyond our strength and we despair of life itself, we can say these things have happened to keep us from relying on ourselves and instead on God.

For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many. (2 Corinthians 1:8-11)

When some questions really don’t matter

IMG_0048Once I realized that thinking people could embrace the Christian faith, I began to look for God in the Bible. This search has been the greatest quest of my life.

The Bible is not just a book to be read and understood. If we come to it looking for God, He will breath on us through its pages and reveal Himself in all his beautiful and terrifying glory. Not only that, he will show us our true and unvarnished selves if we are willing to see.

He will open our eyes to our sin and our gifts through the lens of his perfect and majestic love. We will come face to face with our utter otherness, our pride, our selfishness, and our rebellion (even our rebellion through efforts to do good). But we will also find a sacrificial and selfless love that transcends our comprehension. We will find a God who stepped into our reality and offered himself in our place.

We will find grace that says, “Come to me” for freedom’s sake. We will see unconditional devotion personified in Jesus as he welcomes the unwelcome-able and dines with the outcasts. We will see ourselves as either the prodigal or his spiteful older brother who share a Father that invites us both to a feast of celebration. We will find a God who writes the story of his glory and love in the pages of history and through a wandering people. We will see that his heart’s desire has always been to be our God.

And when we are confronted with this unfathomable God we will long to fall at his feet in gratitude and to live a life that proclaims His greatness and wonder not out of fear but in response to love.

And the questions we had when we started, they won’t matter much anymore because we will have found God. He will no longer be an idea, a religious system, or a moral code. He will be a person, a redeemer, a creator, and friend.

Can a thinking person be a Christian?

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In my early 20′s, I was grappling with the Christian faith. I’d grown up in church and tried to follow its moral requirements. But, my faith wasn’t robust and I began to see inconsistencies with what I believed and the world around me. Before I could even seek answers from the Christian perspective, I had to answer an important question, “Can a thinking person even be a Christian?” I had to know if a believer could maintain intellectual integrity and still hold to the Christian faith.

Initially, the answers came by way of C.S. Lewis. In his book Mere Christianity, Lewis never quotes the Bible. He talks about our universal understanding of a moral law and how it requires a moral law-giver. He aligns astute observations regarding morality, sex, and human nature with the Christian worldview in a compelling way. He evaluates human pride and says,”It is pride which has been the chief cause of misery in every nation and every family. Since time began.”

In Lewis’ descriptions, I saw reason and logic but I also saw myself. He didn’t prove the reality of God to me, but he demonstrated that you could believe in the reality of God and see the world for how it really is. His arguments gave me intellectual permission to seek the God of Christianity. As I began to read and seek through the Bible and other teachers, God revealed himself.

I realized when we begin to seek God, we don’t have to be fully convinced. We can still have doubts and questions and reservations. But if we have the slightest inclination that there might be a God and then genuinely look for him, he will meet us in our quest and push open the door of our hearts. He will reveal the true source of all that is grand and good in the universe.

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13)


This post is part of the #ThisIKnow series. This month, I’m going to focus on the life-breathing, joy-fostering truths that I’ve come to know — not because I’ve been taught them but because I’ve experienced them, because there is a God in my every day who makes them known to me and because these are the things worth talking about. I invite you to join in the conversation. Post in the comments, share on Facebook, or tweet with #ThisIKnow. We’ll discuss together.

This I Know: Work Matters {How to respond to a bad day}

Last week, I had a late night work project to replace core networking gear for a group of facilities. The details don’t really matter much — except that it was a significant change that had to be coordinated with helpers in the field, the business, and with all team members. It was important that it go well.

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Photo Credit Peter Werkman http://www.peterwerkman.nl (Creative Commons)

I executed my carefully planned list and completed all tests successfully. As I closed my laptop and climbed into bed after midnight, I allowed myself a rare accolade. “That’s why I’m awesome,” I said to myself.

The next morning started well but a few hours in I received reports of problems. A quick check revealed a straightforward issue with some very old equipment we inherited. I reported the issue, scheduled the fix, made the change and all was working up to speed again with a 30 second outage — no big deal.

Unfortunately, at the same time another unrelated problem occurred. There were additional errors outside of my area of responsiblity and by the time it all got reported to leadership, it appeared like one big messy pile. The litany of questions began, many of them reasonable, to get to the bottom of the problems of the day. Regardless of my planning and very good execution, it wasn’t the smooth transition for which I’d hoped. My frustration rose with every phone call as the perception of the problem escalated.

What surprised me most was my level of frustration when the problems began to escalate. I wasn’t frustrated because I did something wrong. My plan was solid and our tests went well. I have a good reputation within the organization so I wasn’t afraid of retribution. Even some of the more thoughtless remarks, while unnecessary, didn’t cause me much angst. But still, I was very irritated with the fallout.

I thought through my emotional response and realized I was bothered because the project didn’t go as well as I expected. My idealism had run amok and I momentarily believed that since I had done well the whole project would go well. Reality, and the Christian worldview, tell a different story.

As a Christian, I view my work through a cosmic lens. My role isn’t just to do my tasks well but to contribute to the overall wellbeing of my coworkers and the organization as a whole. My daily grind isn’t just a way to earn a living. It’s more than a 9 to 5, ladder-climbing, self-exalting exercise. My work matters because God has given me gifts to be exercised to their fullest. The creativity and glory of God is revealed as people, both believers and non believers, use their talents to the fullest.

Christians are ministers of reconciliation and my life ought to be about reconciliation in every sphere, not just in the church or my home, but at work as well.

But, we are never promised that our good performance will yield the great results we anticipate. In fact, as we come to understand the vast impacts of the fall and we understand that sin not only affects individuals but the entire created order, we realize that full reconciliation will not occur until Jesus makes all things new.

Tim Keller explains this in his book Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work:

Everyone imagines accomplishing things, and everyone finds him- or herself largely incapable of producing them. Everyone wants to be successful rather than forgotten, and everyone wants to make a difference in life. But that is beyond the control of any of us. If this life is all there is, then everything will eventually burn up in the death of the sun and no one will even be around to remember anything that has ever happened. Everyone will be forgotten, nothing we do will make any difference, and all good endeavors, even the best, will come to naught.

Unless there is God. If the God of the Bible exists, and there is a True Reality beneath and behind this one, and this life is not the only life, then every good endeavor, even the simplest ones, pursued in response to God’s calling, can matter forever.

Keller, Timothy (2012-11-13). Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work (p. 29).

Ultimately, my work matters not because of my visible accomplishments now but because there is a good God who planted me at this time in history and has gifted me to do a particular work. The world I see today is only a partial reality. The truth of all things has not yet been revealed. But since God is trustworthy, and because he has already offered redemption and reconciliation through Jesus, I can do my work to its fullest with abandon and without fear even when things don’t go well.

Keller says it best here:

Christians have, through their hope in God’s story of redemption for the world he created, a deep consolation that enables them to work with all their being and never be ultimately discouraged by the frustrating present reality of this world, in which thorns grow up when they are trying to coax up other things. We accept the fact that in this world our work will always fall short, just as we sinners always “fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3: 23) because we know that our work in this life is not the final word.

Keller, Timothy (2012-11-13). Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work (p. 96).

So on Monday, I will climb out of bed and make my way to the office. I will do my work with hope and energy, not because I believe it will all go well, but because God is good and my apparent success or failure today isn’t the final word.


This post is part of the #ThisIKnow series. This month, I’m going to focus on the life-breathing, joy-fostering truths that I’ve come to know — not because I’ve been taught them but because I’ve experienced them, because there is a God in my every day who makes them known to me and because these are the things worth talking about. I invite you to join in the conversation. Post in the comments, share on Facebook, or tweet with #ThisIKnow. We’ll discuss together.