Tag Archives: love

Amazing Is What Real Grace Always Is

“Amazing grace.”

Amazing is exactly what real grace always is.

On the other hand, the many counterfeits are pretty much what we should expect—“do-it-yourself” schemes focused on our power to occasionally strike a tiny spark rather than on God’s power to always create a nuclear reaction. Do-it-yourself “grace” is an impostor every bit as dangerous as the real thing is amazing.

The Apostle Paul points to real grace in everything he writes, most notably Romans and Galatians, pounding the point home. If we feel we must earn it in any way, it’s not real grace. If we imagine that we can pay for it at all, it’s bogus. If we think we can deserve it even a little, it’s a sham. And perhaps worst of all, if we reckon that we might need less of it than someone we consider morally below us, we’re dishonoring Christ and denying his Cross.

God’s grace is amazing, astounding, marvelous, incomprehensible, eternal, and so much more. And as we pile up adjectives, we should never forget this one: “scandalous.”

Read the Gospels with eyes wide open, and notice how many of Jesus’ healings, miracles, teachings were offensive to those who could never imagine God’s grace reaching so far, so low, so wide. A woman caught in the wrong bed in the embrace of the wrong guy. A gal who’d been through way too many husbands and was living with a guy she’d forgotten to marry. An acknowledged loser hanging on a cross, a failed thief unable to steal any more earthly chances. And the list goes on. Right down to us. The real grace of Christ always has within it a serious element of scandal. It seems reckless. It seems “over the top.” Too good to be a true.

We can never plumb its depths or exhaust its powers. We’ll never fully comprehend it, but even what we can see rocks us on our heels as Jesus reaches down to forgive those we can’t imagine even God ever forgiving. Certainly not without some lengthy probation. Maybe a written self-improvement plan. And a short leash, for sure.

But Christ just keeps on forgiving, his only requirement being that, having given our lives to him, we keep on accepting the gift he keeps on giving. How reckless is that!? Good luck trying to find that kind of grace in any other world religion—or in the world anywhere else.

Real grace both forgives and empowers even as it refuses to allow us to focus on ourselves. When we do poorly, fall flat on our faces yet again in attitude or action, grace turns our focus back to Christ, forgives, and gives him glory, reminding us that Christ at Calvary has literally taken all of our “badness” away from us. When we do well, grace reminds us that everything good we could possibly do comes through Christ’s power at work in our lives and that what we might once have considered our own goodness is not our own at all.

When we’ve accepted real grace, the focus is never again to be on us; the focus is on God and joyfully giving him glory for what he has done and is doing—all by grace, all through his Son. All for us, and not at all by us.

 

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2018 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

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“Sensdistra Is Good for What Ails Ya!”

A good commercial can be a lot of fun. I’m thinking about the TV sort. You know—cave men, lizards with British accents. That sort of thing.

But I am full to overflowing (yea, verily, to nausea) with two other TV ad-types—those pumped out by slime-oozing lawyers and those peddled by drug pushers. Let’s tackle the latter.

I am very thankful indeed for the availability of needed medications that make our lives much better. But whatever side of the political spectrum you find yourself on, is it hard to figure out that our medical system is messed up, wasteful, unaffordable, and in need of massive change?

Case in point: drugs. How helpful are drugs if you can’t afford them? And just a few of the reasons you may have a hard time affording them are legitimately high costs in research and development, much higher costs because attorneys are involved, and the kind of stinky skullduggery that always attaches itself to big bucks and big institutions.

Ah, yes, and the cost of commercials. The commercials must work, or the folks spending big bucks on them wouldn’t spend big bucks on them. They can’t be targeted just at doctors, but I liked it better when my physician just told me what medicine I needed. If it might cause “oily discharge” or gruesome death as a side effect, he’d probably mention it. It’s laughable that company lawyers, who’d rather their clients not get out of bed and thus manage “risk,” force half of the stupid commercials to be devoted to listing atrocious side effects. Just stuff it! I mean, the brochure. Into the box. Just get off my TV! Your commercials make that vast mind-numbing wasteland even more vapid.

Alas, the never-ending drug ads just keep piling up. Lest they drive me nuts, I just laugh at them. (Is it possible to be amorous to much effect in two separate bathtubs?)

As word guy, I can’t help but wonder how much money the drug companies spend naming their concoctions. I can help them, I think, and for less than a cool million.

I’ve started keeping a list of drug trade names. Filled a page of a yellow pad with just 78 of the better-known. (You can easily find around 4000 on the web at lists such as http://www.needymed.com.)

Most (not all) are three syllables. The emphasis is usually on the first. Some make sense. Allegra® has to do with allergies. Some are take-offs on the chemical name. Paxil® is Latin “pax” for peace and sounds a little like paroxetine. Where they got Xeljanz® for tofacitinib, Jardiance® for empagliflozin or Kystrexxa® for pegloticase, I don’t have a clue. (Those are all patented trade names; leave ’em alone or the lawyers will be after you.)

I wrote drug names on slips of paper, put them in three bowls, one for each syllable, and then drew, combined, and laughed. So here ya go, drug pushers. These are free for the taking, and there are scads of combinations. But I’d accept a check.

Spitavtyx. Crestoppa. Lotaflo. Humnocol. Oproqura. Vyervo. Tretilor. Lipfexty. Orrevia. Wellfypro. Valuvia. Neudivnax. Elitrin. Migcardya. Celtrudgrix. Levlasmax. Sensdistra. Litavtor. Shinazi. Alvanpril. Glalartik. Eljanztix. Trexlicort. Viliquin. Remdaxia. And on we could go. (If I’ve stumbled onto any real names, it’s accidental!)

The real fun might come if we were to try to postulate what maladies might be connected with each of my cobbled together drug names. At least one needs to be for “oily discharge.”

The Creator of our universe has lots of names. I’m particularly fond of Lord, Father, Abba. Whatever the number of syllables, the emphasis—first, last, and forever—is on love.

 

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2018 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

 


When Dust Returns to Dust, What Kind of Wealth Matters?

Wealth. How varied and strange are the uses of that word.

More often than not, when we use the word “wealth,” we’re talking about money, a necessary commodity, for sure. But measuring wealth is not as easy as it might seem. A boatload of financial wealth, if allowed to possess us, may amount to less than a nanoparticle of the wealth that matters, the sort that frees us. (Oh, and this is tricky. A grasping, greedy soul can be throttled by much or by little.)

Surely you don’t have to think long to call to mind some folks the world labels “successful” simply and only because they have money but who are utterly pathetic and appalling by any other standard. Wealthy, are they? Well.

If you have more dollars or dinars, more pesos or pounds, more shekels or shillings, more francs or marks or rupees or yen, than anyone else in the world, you will most certainly be called wealthy. Your life will be quite different from that of the poorest person on the planet—right up until one millisecond after both hearts stop and both souls are launched toward the only accounting that really matters.

But back in this world, some other accounting may actually continue for a bit.

The first spreadsheet will be a short one. “Amount of money dead filthy rich guy (or gal) or dead pitifully poor guy (or gal) takes to grave” will be zero. Naught. Zilch. Nada. May I press that truth home? The zero for deep pockets guy will look exactly the same as the zero for no pockets guy.

The heirs of our hypothetical not-breathing folks may be arranging for their bodily passage to putrefaction to be first class or coach, but it won’t matter a worm’s eyelash to the honoree whether he’s boxed in hand-waxed cedar (cushioned in comfort) or Amazon-recycled cardboard (stowed in a bag amidst those white packing “ghost farts”). Eventually, dust is dust is dust and pretty much just dust. Beautiful cemetery or pauper’s field, million-dollar mausoleum or a fish’s belly in the bottom of the sea, the location will matter not in the least to the deceased.

But another inventory and another sort of spreadsheet will be left behind in hearts that remain beating. Perhaps this inventory will be counted by tears of gratitude. By warm memories. By smiles. By a life well-lived. By a large soul that valued relationships far more than things and planted seeds of joy and love, mercy and trust, in all the good hearts it touched, seeds that will bear sweet fruit for generations to come.

In God’s economy, rich folks and poor folks and all the many more folks in between can all possess the wealth that truly matters and lasts beyond the grave. “Treasures in heaven” begin to be accumulated when we treasure what truly matters right here. If we’ve not given ourselves away to our Creator and to those we love before we leave, what we leave behind will only be dust.

It will matter not whether kings and queens attend our send-off. The sweet tear of a grandchild we taught to love the One who will bring us together again forever, and the “well done” of the Author of life who walked with us all of our life and receives us now, will be worth immeasurably more. Wealth indeed.

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2018 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


God Comes to Us Not As We Wish We Were But As We Are

 

 

At first the quotation I’m about to share may sound a bit cynical, but when you have a little time to think about it, I think you’ll agree with me that it is not only realistic and true, it is filled with hope.

You see, when God came into this world “in the flesh,” he was laid in a manger, a feed trough, in a stable surrounded by everything anyone in first century Palestine would expect to find in such a place—including the very thing you can find in ample supply in almost all stables today—a serious and almost unending supply of manure.

So a gentleman named Morse has written, “That the treasure of God’s grace reaches us surrounded by garbage will not seem surprising to anyone who is personally familiar with life in the church. . . . Grace comes to us, so Martin Luther argues, hidden sub contrario, beneath its opposite. From this perspective, any idealized view of the church as only treasure is as faulty a vision of reality as any cynical view that the church is only garbage. Mangers, by definition, are found where there is manure.”

You see, God comes to us “while we were yet sinners”—while we are as we always are—not what we wish we were, but what we are.

God comes to us as the angels sing “Glory to God in the highest!”

God comes to us as as those shining and mighty heralds proclaim the amazing message that the Savior has been born—and with that wonderful news comes the accompanying note that is almost as surprising—that we common mortals whom God’s Son has been born to save are those “on whom his favor rests.”

When the God of the universe comes to us, the amazing paradox is most fitting: He comes as the heavenly hosts sing, as heavens lit up with splendor declare the glory of God, but he comes in a tiny helpless form, lying in a manger, God in a most unlikely situation and shape, but having entered that situation and taken that shape, most likely crying just like any other of a thousand little babies, even those lying in far more appropriate cribs. And he comes surrounded by manure that smells, I think you can be sure, just like the manure in any of a thousand other stables.

In that manner of coming, we see God’s grace shining even more brightly than the Christmas star, and in that paradox of his coming, we find our best, our truest, our only, our highest hope.

God comes to us not as we wish we were, but as we are.

 

       You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

Copyright 2018 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Some Clues That the Holidays Are on the Way

Well, it’s official! The holidays are on the way. The calendar says so, of course, but other clues abound.

I just spent a day singing Christmas songs for folks at a great Christmas craft bazaar. I’ve often fussed about “rushing the season” and worried that Halloween goblins and Thanksgiving turkeys are increasingly at risk of being run down by out of control and out of season Christmas sleighs, but a Christmas bazaar in early November is not rushing the season; it’s right on time.

So I got a chance to tune up, sing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Thanksgiving” (just kidding), and get myself ready for the soon-to-come prime time Yuletide crooning. Fun!  (I could only, that early, bring myself to sing “Christmas Must Be Tonight” once, but I’ll be singing it with gusto a good many days before it becomes literal!)

You don’t need a calendar to see leaves turning. It seems to me that our area foliage has never been more deeply crimson and glittery gold. Do your leaf-looking early in the afternoon, though. Daylight Saving Time is gone again, and it’ll be getting dark ten minutes or so after lunch. (Still kidding, but DST’s demise is indeed another clue.)

Ah, and here’s a clue. The toughest flowers of all have arrived. When other plants retreat, seek shelter, and hide in the greenhouse, here come the pansies in full bloom, daring the frost and snow.

Not much fun, but a clue nonetheless . . . flies are relentlessly trying to become houseflies indeed. They can’t freeze fast enough to suit me, but the soon-to-be-deadsters are mounting a full-on autumn assault.

Yes, but the best clue of all at our house is that the candles have been banished from the fireplace, and we’ve just had the first fire of the season. I love it! I like living in an area and at an altitude where fireplaces are much more than decorative. I know that in lots of homes, the fireplace and the TV are battling for “focal point” status. My vote is firmly cast for the former, and it’s one of my favorite features of this time of year. It’s burning now! Big clue!

Along that line, my wife and I are like most couples thermostatically speaking—wired differently. She likes thin bed covers and a fast-moving ceiling fan; I like cover that’s six inches thick and right up to my nose, the better to help me seek refuge from the ever-present fan. I’ll wait another month (for an ice storm and/or snow) before my seasonal plea for the down comforter has any chance for a fair hearing. But, the annual comforter kerfuffle notwithstanding, I take comfort in the fact that life has a way of balancing out. She can turn on the fan; I can build a fire.

All of this—thermostatic skirmishes and all—is as predictable as the seasons themselves.

Calendars are fine. But I like these additional clues that, right around the chronological corner, seasons are coming in which we’ll thank Someone larger than our turkey-gorged selves and rejoice that a Heaven-filled manger proclaims that love and hope are always in season.

 

      You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


“What About Folks on the Other Side of the Fence?”

“Teacher,” John the Apostle said to Jesus, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us” (see Mark 9:38).

The disciples were royally ticked. They were absolutely indignant, and who can blame them? They’d discovered a fellow casting out demons without a license. They’d uncovered a do-gooder doing good without a permit.

Now John was reporting the infraction and evidently looking for an “Attaboy!” from the Lord for putting a stop to this unlicensed demon-removal.

You’ve gotta give it to John—he was absolutely ahead of his time and thoroughly modern. How could he have known? The time would come when Christians would take morbid delight in dividing and subdividing, walling themselves off, separating one group from another behind massive walls built of the bricks and mortar of hatred and ignorance.

The walls would not only effectively obscure their view of any good being done by folks on the other side of the particular wall obscuring their own field of vision, those walls would also keep them from seeing anything that others who also love the Lord might even be seeing more clearly.

If he’d been allowed to keep that walled-off attitude, the Apostle John could have become the patron saint of any number of modern folks whose toxic approach to religion motivates them to be absolutely proud of small-minded divisiveness and who expect an “Attaboy!” from Christ for doggedly clinging to incredibly stunted and spirit-withering views of the folks they barely acknowledge on the other sides of the unholy walls they’ve built.

But John didn’t get a pat on the back. Instead he got a word of correction from the Lord: “Don’t stop him!” Jesus said, and (I’m paraphrasing), here’s why:

1) No one who does good works in my name is likely to say anything bad about me in the next breath.

2) Anyone who is not against us is for us, and that’s a very good thing!

3)  And, in fact, anyone who does good to my people will be sure to be rewarded.

“Don’t stop him!” Be glad for the good being done.

John learned a lesson that day, and he seems to have learned it well because it is in John’s Gospel that Jesus’ beautiful prayer, truly “the Lord’s Prayer,” a prayer that Christ’s modern disciples have largely ignored, is recorded. John recalls Jesus’ deep desire for his disciples as Christ prays to the Father, “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:23).

What is Christ’s attitude toward other groups of his people outside of our own doing good in his name?

We don’t have to wonder.

 

       You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

 

 


Only Broken Disciples Find Grace to Be Whole

“You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus,” said the servant girl.

Peter, standing near the fire, startled, began backtracking. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said, and slinked over out into the entryway.

But the girl is speaking again, not keeping her opinion to herself: “This fellow is one of them.” Again Peter denies it, but the meddlesome girl has struck the match, and the flames are spreading. Others chime in, “Of course, you’re one of them, for you’re a Galilean.”

Yes, a Galilean fisherman, to be exact. He certainly knew some knots, and he didn’t have to reach all that far back to pull up some “nautical” terms. He cursed and swore, “I do not know the man!”

When his Lord needed him the most, Rocky crumbled, and he thundered about the man he loved more than anyone else in the world, “I tell you, I don’t even know who this man is!”

Then the sound of a rooster crowing struck his ears for the second time, even as the words attesting to his cowardice hung in the air, and he was assailed by the memory of Jesus’ words at the Last Supper, “You will all deny me.”

As the whole bunch indignantly protested, one loud voice had rung out above the rest. “Lord,” Peter had opined, “even if all the rest of these deny you, I never will!”

Oh, be careful, Peter! Tread lightly, disciples then and now! We are never more dangerous or more in danger than when we’re feeling more “spiritual” than others nearby.

In that courtyard, Peter remembered Jesus’ words to him: “I tell you the truth, today—this very night—before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.”

As the rooster’s raucous call echoed away, another sound replaced it. Peter’s own sobbing. Tears rolled down his cheeks, and the rock was crushed.

On the miserable scale of human foul-ups and faithlessness, this was no small failure.  But Christ does his best work not when we’re fat and sassy and so “spiritual” we have to tie rocks to our feet to keep from ascending prematurely. No, he lifts us up when we’re broken, and we know it.

After the resurrection, Peter and crew have gone back to fishing. The risen Lord has given them a miraculous catch and cooked breakfast for them.

Then Jesus gazes at Peter. Three times he asks, “Do you love me?” Three times Peter answers, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.”

Three denials by the fire in that wretched courtyard. Three affirmations by the campfire by the sea. And three times Jesus tells Peter, “Feed my sheep.” And, yes, Peter would.

Jesus loves this broken disciple far too much to let him wallow in his woundedness. Healed with a kind of wholeness he could never know when he was cocksure of his own strength, he was filled with new gratitude, new love, new wisdom, and mercy enough to share.

Now rolling down his cheeks are tears of joy as his Lord has lifted him higher than he could ever rise when he was sure he’d never fall.

 

You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com! And special news: An amazing, exciting, and inspirational story written by Capt. Red McDaniel, Scars and Stripes: The True Story of One Man’s Courage Facing Death as a POW in Vietnam, has now been narrated by Curtis as an audiobook. You can purchase and download the book, or listen to free sample, on Audible.com, Amazon.com, or iTunes.com. 

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


In a World Full of Questions, a Few Answers Matter Most

 

It is no proof of superior intelligence, but even as a young man I was theoretically sure that I would not always be a young man.

As I (rarely) contemplated middle or old age, though they seemed light years away, I figured that a major consolation of being old and crotchety, say, 45, would be that by then I would probably have found answers to a great many of life’s most vexing questions.

I’m an incredibly vibrant 60 years old now. Since I can’t imagine much worse than living to be 120, I’ll admit that 60 may, at the very least, bump the outer range of middle age.

The bad news (which is not really bad since it means I’m still seeking and inquisitive) is that I have more questions than ever. The good news is that the older I get, the more I realize how few of those questions really matter much. In fact, I’d say that life’s biggest questions could be numbered without getting much past the fingers of one hand. (I can probably do with five, if you would later let me add a related question or two beneath a couple of these.)

Does God exist?

What kind of God is he?

Has he revealed himself to mankind and how?

Is he absolutely good, absolutely powerful, and absolutely loving?

And, if the answer to that last one is yes, then why does God allow pain and suffering?

These are questions of belief. That does not at all mean they can’t be approached rationally; it does mean we will always, even when we’ve seriously and diligently sought their answers, still have to say, “I believe that . . .”

And, it seems to me, even after we’ve come to confident peace about the first four, and even the fifth, we will repeatedly face situations in our own lives and the lives of others that bring us back pretty regularly, and sometimes poignantly, to that last one.

Two words are “the answer.” Free will. Of this, I am sure.

And two more points here, one of which I know, and one of which I believe. 1) “Knowing” the philosophical answer to the “problem of pain,” does not take away pain. Agonizing pain is still agonizing. 2) With all of my heart, I believe that our deepest pain hurts our Father even more than it hurts us.

In The Cross of Christ, John R. W. Stott asks, “In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?”

He writes, “I have entered many Buddhist temples in different Asian countries and stood respectfully before the statue of the Buddha, his legs crossed, arms folded, eyes closed, . . . detached from the agonies of the world.”

But he continues, “Each time after a while I have had to turn away . . . to that lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, . . . plunged in Godforsaken darkness. That is the God for me! He laid aside his immunity to pain. He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death. He suffered for us.”

God suffers to one day end all suffering.

 

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


“My Kingdom for a Real Recipe!”

“My kingdom for a real recipe!” I finally boiled over.

I’d Googled it, YouTubed it, searched it, researched it, boggled my mind about it—a process I’ve often used with moderate success.

Give me a good Wikipedia article, a few good hits from Google, a nicely done YouTube video, and I’d be tempted to try anything from building a jet-powered go-cart to performing a “simple” appendectomy.

Using this procedure, I’ve more or less successfully done all sorts of household fix-it jobs plus some fun stuff. I’ve concocted beeswax furniture polish (beeswax, turpentine, carnauba wax, and a homemade Bunsen burner), made a few Celtic flutes with PVC pipe, fashioned some simple tools to help “whip” some tree swing ropes in sailmaker’s style, and learned how to French braid my granddaughters’ hair. I even built a snow-making machine by attaching plumbing fittings to a water hose, an air compressor, and freezing my toes off outside at 28 degrees in a blizzard. My wife blew a fuse over that last adventure when my machine blew more sand back into our washing machine than it blew snow out into the atmosphere.

Last Saturday, it was back to the lab. A grandkid adventure weekend at the house is on the horizon, so I was looking for the perfect recipe for . . . slime!

Slime’s a big deal right now for kids and thus for grandparents. I found myself imagining how much fun my younger brother and I could’ve had if, back when we were furthering our education by conducting experiments in the family garage, slime had been available. Back then kids could get really cool stuff in chemistry sets which could be supplemented nicely by a trip to the local pharmacy. If slime research had been as far along as it is now, well, I’m pretty sure Jim and I could’ve chemically engineered some slime with gratifying pyrotechnic properties.

Honestly, I’m more careful now. It’d suit me fine if my grandkids didn’t play with fireworks. But I do want for them the best slime available. Unfortunately, I hit a snag.

Various lists of ingredients are easily found, along with scary Internet warnings about some ingredients (which I’m not too worried about but won’t use). Watching videos, you’ll see the ingredients as they’re dumped into a bowl: slime! But I wanted a good old-fashioned slime recipe listing tablespoons, cups, numbers of squirts, etc. Lacking such, my goo misfired until I found a real recipe complete with amounts. It works!

To a couple of slime connoisseur grandkids, I sent a pic of myself with some gratifyingly gooey purple slime dripping from my face and beard. Fine. Except that a pretty serious 5:00 purple beard shadow remained after the slime slid off. And, yes, it was Saturday. Research shows that preachers who look like purple smurfs on Sundays do hold folks’ attention, but it’s not the kind of attention most pastors want. To my relief, I found some soap that also worked.

One of the best recipes you’ll ever find is God’s, given in 1 Corinthians 13:13. It simply includes large amounts of faith, hope, and love, with a heaping load of the latter.

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


That God Loves Ordinary People Is Extraordinary Indeed!

God loves ordinary people, and that is one of the most amazing and hope-filled truths of the Christian faith.

It is a truth no other world religion is strong enough to handle. What kind of God would so lower himself?

It is a truth that religion of the self-centered, do-it-yourself, toxic type, as opposed to that which focuses on a real relationship with God, can hardly afford to consider lest its true colors show.

God loves ordinary people.

That frightening truth was Exhibit A in the Pharisees’ case against Jesus. Pharisees are hard people to make happy. As Jesus noted, “John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners’” (Matthew 11:18-19).

Maybe we still find the Lord’s choice of friends a bit troubling. We worry about his reputation.

We shouldn’t.

I don’t believe Christ was a glutton. But I’m glad he evidently enjoyed good food as one of God’s excellent gifts.

I don’t believe he was a drunkard, but I’m glad that when the time came to make wine, Christ made the best and shared it as a good gift from God.

I doubt it’s the Almighty who is in question when we catch ourselves being “nicer” or more scrupulous than God.

Did you hear about the old gentleman who, when he learned that Jesus turned water into wine, said, “Well, the Bible says he did, and so I believe it, but I’d have thought more of him if he hadn’t.” (Hmm. Maybe that’s why the hallmark of some misguided “religion” is that it spends so much time trying to turn wine back into water. To change the metaphor, it’s far more comfortable with cold tables of stone than with the living Spirit of God.)

Similarly, I suppose we can make allowances for Christ’s choice of companions. The Pharisees once scowled and pointed to a party that took place when Jesus was calling Matthew the tax collector to be an apostle. He had to go where Matthew was, right? Even if he wasn’t comfortable there, right?

Well, yes. So the Lord has a good excuse. We can be okay with Christ eating and drinking with “sinners” as long as he doesn’t enjoy it, right?

I could be wrong, but I’m afraid the truth is far more scandalous—and wonderful—than that. I’m afraid the Pharisees, wrong as they were, were right: God not only loves ordinary folks, he likes them! He actually prefers their company to that of the “high and holy.” What kind of God is that?!

If that is true, and if God is completely good, then genuine “goodness” is not the cold and scrupulous, thin and sterile, thing many folks, religious or not, have often thought it to be.

Maybe real goodness is not all about “Do this, but don’t do this,” the kind of rules that keep religious folks feeling religious and non-religious folks glad they aren’t religious.

Maybe the real purity and holiness God wants is something far deeper than either group thinks. Maybe real goodness is deep and full and rich, filled to the brim with joy and life, the very life of God, and a person truly in love with God is filled up with the wine of God’s genuine joy in a way that folks truly in love just with themselves as they center either on their “religion” or on their own earthly appetites and desires, can never be.

 

      You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

 


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