Tag Archives: love

“Thank You, Mom, for Being Glad That God Made Me”

Sunday is Mother’s Day. May I hasten to say that having a Mother’s Day is a good thing. I am sincerely pro-Mother’s Day and pro-moms. Good ones deserve far and away more honor than they receive, and I’m happy to have some part in helping bestow some of that honor.

But as a preacher who has stood in the same pulpit now for 34 years, I’m finding that preaching on Mother’s Days is getting a bit harder. It’s my own lack of imagination, I know, but I quickly preached most of the really obvious Mother’s Day-type Bible texts, and so I’ve been floundering on Mother’s Days for, say, twenty-two years or so.

It’s a little late this year, but what I’d suggest for the future is that each of the local pastors nail together about five minutes’ worth of a potential Mother’s Day sermon. Then we’ll get these clergy-types together, have a “preach off,” and let the assembled clerics vote on the winner who will then be commissioned to finish his sermon.

Then, you see, when Mother’s Day rolls around, all the churches and preachers could meet somewhere for worship together (which is probably what we ought to be doing all the time anyway if we weren’t so faithful to Scripture and theologically careful—which being translated means “terminally near-sighted, biblically illiterate, capsized by our sinful natures, and incredibly pig-headed”), and the winner of the Muleshoe Area Mother’s Day Sermon Contest can preach his masterful homily to the whole wad of us. I guess it will never happen, but it makes perfectly good sense to me.

Anyway, what I’ll share with you now, in a Mother’s Day vein, is a little piece I once wrote for a gift book on moms (that never found a publisher). It’s entitled “Glad That God Made Me”:

“Asked why he loves God, a little fellow named Nick standing in a little church opened his mouth and gushed simple little words all wrapped up in truth and laced in the most lovely way with unaffected and natural praise, ‘I love God for making me!’

“Mom, when I’m with you, I’m a little child again, and again I remember some deep truths, truths that children know so easily and so naturally, truths that adults spend most of their lives relearning. And were Nick’s proffered question mine, well, what might I say?

“I might say, ‘I love God for making this beautiful world.’

“I might say, ‘I love God for making mountains and trees and streams.’

“I might say, ‘I love God for making the people he’s put around me.’

But were Nick’s question mine, I hope the little child in me—given life and love and laughter through your love—for I’m still your little child, you see—would open his little mouth and gush the simple words all wrapped up in truth and laced in the most lovely way with still unaffected and natural praise, ‘I love God for making me!’

“Thank you, Mom, for giving me birth, for giving me love, for being glad that God made me.”

 

 

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

 

 

Copyright 2019 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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Two Men. Two Failures. Different Tears.

 

Here’s a riddle for you. It’s one that intrigues and gives me pause at about this same time every year.

Two men, two mouths,

    both tongues betray,

almost but not quite

    on the same day.

One fails and weeps,

   shinnies up and up

       and falls putrescently;

one fails and weeps,

    bows down and down

       and rises taller, finally,

           than before his perfidy.

   Love’s victory!

       Who are they?

I’m neither a poet nor the son of a poet, and not much riddle-writer at all. But onward I hint.

Two men. Two world-class failures. Two very different endings.

When I say “failures,” I mean deeds, not men, though a failure one of these men certainly was.

Though in our society, all it takes to be called a “success” is a lot of money—even if you’re sad, pathetic, miserable, dishonorable, unfaithful, cowardly, brutish, and completely lacking in every other aspect of life and character—the first fellow I’m thinking of who fixated on money and had more of it, for a time, than the other individual, is the failure.

Both of these men failed miserably. Both betrayed the same man. One betrayed for money. One betrayed to save his skin. Both betrayals were predicted by the same man betrayed.

You’ve already cracked the riddle, right? Apostles both. Judas and Peter.

Judas, of course, betrayed his Lord for thirty pieces of silver. Many have postulated that a significant motive may have been his desire to rush the Lord into quickly and powerfully inaugurating an earthly kingdom. I think they’re probably right, though the Bible never says that.

Scripture does tell us that the man was a thief, a thief who whined about his concern for the poor. Maybe he did want to rush Jesus to take up the throne—he was not alone among the disciples in looking for an earthly kingdom—but I’m quite sure he also wanted to take his place in that kingdom thirty pieces of silver richer.

When it all goes wrong, Judas tries to cast away his guilt by slinging the silver at the priests’ feet. But the guilt covering his hands and heart is gangrenous and won’t be flung away. Fatally self-centered even in his sorrow over failure, Judas ends up focused completely on Judas.

And Peter? Ever impetuous, though Jesus has warned him and that famous rooster is already calibrated and cocked to crow, Peter blubbers and blusters, “I don’t even know the man!” He punctuates his denials with sea-salt curses before rushing away and weeping bitterly, wondering in anguish how everything could have gone so wrong.

But though his flesh is weak, Peter’s heart—before, during, and after his failure—is the Lord’s. When Jesus later asks Peter three times, “Do you love me?” they both know the answer. Blood-cleansed, Peter is not centered on Peter; his focus is on his Lord.

Two men fail; two men weep. Since we fail, too, we do well to consider the two very different types of tears.

 

 

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

 

 

2019 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

 


“I See Dead People”

“I see dead people.”

So said the cute little boy in the memorable line and creepy “confession” from the 1999 movie The Sixth Sense. I hope you don’t find it disturbing when I affirm that I do, too. See dead people, I mean.

For me, it happens pretty often and worries me not at all; in fact, it warms my heart. It gives me real hope. And I find it genuinely encouraging to know that I’ll one day join them.

In our small town, it’s not that unusual for me, a pastor here for almost 34 years, to do a “double-take” at a restaurant or store as I think I see a particular person, only to realize that I attended or officiated at their funeral. Oops! A resemblance. A mistaken identity. But no mistake: I miss them.

Most often, it happens at church. As I stand in the pulpit, look out into the sanctuary, and glance across the faces of worshipers I love, it’s not uncommon for my mind’s eye to “see” among them faces of many dear loved ones and friends, members of our little flock and God’s much larger kingdom, who have gone on to be with our Father.

No, it doesn’t bother me; quite the opposite.

Yes, for over three decades I’ve loved and worshiped with this little part of God’s much larger family. Not large, we’re “mega” only in love. Come to think of it, our little bunch may be a lot like Christ’s church universal in that we have more members who have gone on to be with the Lord than we have members who are presently breathing this earth’s air. They’ve died. “Most people have, you know,” C. S. Lewis, once wrote. Died, that is. Humans who are presently living are in the minority compared to humans who have already passed on. And surely that’s also true of God’s people of faith, of whom Jesus said, “Whoever believes in me will live, even though he dies” (John 11:25).

So, if loving God’s people means to live life with them, walk with them, weep with them, laugh with them, believe with them, and share genuine hope with them for life eternal—why should that hope do anything but come closer to full-flower when they go on to be with the Lord?

“Treasure in heaven.” Jesus once said that sort of lasting treasure is the only kind worth “storing up.” I’m not the first to mention that, the older we get, the more precious that treasure in heaven becomes because our most valuable treasures there have faces.

I spoke recently with two friends who are also pastors, faithful workers who have served God’s people in the same local churches for decades. Their experience is the same as mine. They see dead people, too. They look out into the pews, thankful for those who are there, but so very thankful also for those who have gone on but whose influence is still here and who worship now in the presence of the Lord.

We worship. They worship. One eternal day believers will all worship together. One day we’ll close our eyes and wake to find that we’re finally as fully alive as those who’ve gone before us, and our time in the shadows is over.

 

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

 

 

Copyright 2019 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Praising God Launches a Delightful Chain Reaction

“Come,” invites the Psalmist of old, “let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song” (95:1-2).

C. S. Lewis writes, “I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation.”

Some years ago my wife and I were in New Orleans where she was attending a training conference. I went along to provide pastoral care. When she went to training sessions in search of knowledge, I went in search of seafood.

At one point, we ran into a fellow reading a book in an outdoor courtyard and struck up a conversation. He waxed rhapsodic about a little hole in the wall, Coop’s Place, down toward the river, describing the delectable crawfish étouffée he’d found there. Not only was he enjoying the memory of that fine food, he was enjoying it yet again as he described it to us.

I soon found out for myself that it was remarkably fine stuff. I enjoyed telling my wife about it, taking her there later, and now I’m telling you about it and resisting the impulse to describe it in a great deal more detail. Part of the joy of the whole experience is in telling about it.

Lewis goes on to say that “to praise God fully we must suppose ourselves to be in perfect love with God, drowned in, dissolved by that delight which, far from remaining pent up within ourselves as incommunicable bliss, flows out from us incessantly again in effortless and perfect expression.” He says you can no more separate your joy from the praise it frees and releases from your soul than you can separate the “brightness a mirror receives . . . from the brightness it sheds.”

When we praise God, not only is our joy made more complete, our praise itself issues in deeper praise and worship.

So the Psalmist invites us to praise God, to worship him, to thank him as the praise in our hearts builds and overflows the banks of our hearts in rivers of joy, the most wonderful sort of chain reaction. Once started, thank God, it’s almost impossible to stop unless something becomes wrong with our hearts.

God’s people can no more refuse to praise God than living people can will themselves to cease breathing. We praise God because we have breath to live and to praise and God is the One who gives it.

We praise God because God made us.

We praise God because God is worthy and deserving of all praise.

We praise God because there are songs to sing and God is the music.

We praise God because there are colors to see and God is the Painter.

We praise God because we are deeply loved and he is the Lover.

We praise God! How can we not? Why would we not?

We praise God because it is our joy to praise Him, and praising Him completes and magnifies our joy.

 

 

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

 

 

Copyright 2019 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Unselfish Love: A Real Gift That Matters

Uh oh. It seems that the date for this column should probably indicate its content. Rats! If the whole thing reads like it was written by a Valentine’s Day grinch, I should just plead guilty.

It’s almost certainly good for husbands like me to have a deadline that calls for something on the order of flowers, gifts, candy, seriously over-priced cards, etc. I have difficulty appreciating the Madison Avenue manipulation, but I don’t doubt that clods like me need the shove.

It’s not particularly what the pseudo-holiday has turned into that bugs me; what really bothers me is the reminder that so much in our society that masquerades in second-rate song lyrics and steamy TV as “luuuuuv” bears no resemblance to the real thing.

I listened as a famous singer on a TV morning show opined that he and his wife had just split up because “the sparkle wasn’t there anymore.” He was way past fifteen, so “puppy love” was no excuse. He evidently had actually believed too many of his own songs and was confusing love with “warm fuzzies” and body heat, the kind of “luuuuv” that bears precious little resemblance to genuine commitment that really means “in sickness and in health, for richer, for poorer.” The love god was originally an old Greek one, Eros, as Sheldon Vanauken (“The False Sanction or Eros”), C. S. Lewis, and I’m sure others, have noted. Eros has never lacked for worshipers.

Bowing before this god, our society has unleashed a demon who offers easy sanction for anyone wishing to commit almost any wrong, shatter any vow, break faith with God and society, and, in the sordid process, break the hearts of countless spouses and children. And the “luuuuv” god blesses the whole mess brought on by unvarnished selfishness.

How does our society respond? When we should turn away in nausea or shed tears, we turn to tabloids and gossip magazines that glamorize the carnage.

God help us to be both wise and merciful. When we fail in our marriages to love as we should—and we fail often—may we turn contrite hearts to our spouses and our God as we seek his grace and seek renewed power to share with each other our Lord’s genuine mercy and forgiveness and love. If we can’t share those things with our mates, I doubt that what we’ll share with others will be worth very much.

Oh, and let’s be merciful, too, to those who have fallen and failed seriously in this regard, and whose genuine sorrow shows that they know it, lest we find ourselves looking down our noses when we need to look inside and realize that we too are totally dependent upon mercy and grace every moment.

Fellows, you really ought to invest in a card and maybe some flowers or candy, too. (My wife prefers cash.) But your gift will mean a whole lot more if your beloved knows that behind it is the kind of genuine, unselfish love that helps with dishes and diaper-changing before it forks over the flowers.

 

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

 

 

Copyright 2019 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Christmas Is Only as Strong as Its Weakest Link

I don’t usually think of Christmas and chains as going together, unless I’m reading about the ponderously-chained Ghost of Christmas Past who so terrorized old Ebenezer Scrooge! But I believe this to be true: Christmas is a “chain” which is only as strong as its weakest link.

If Christmas deals only with lights and tinsel, egg nog and poinsettias (all of which I enjoy very much, I hope you understand), and the Yuletide joy and peace, love and good will, we sing about are just artificial twinkles and largely illusory light, then Christmas is a weak and pathetic thing which can’t possibly stand the test of life and time and which will fade a long time before the January sales (and credit card bills) end.

If Christmas has to do only with parties and good times, but nothing to do with hospital rooms and disgusting diagnoses . . .

If Christmas has to do only with smiles and “Merry Christmases” and nothing to do with hope at a graveside . . .

If Christmas has to do only with sales and not souls, presents and not His Presence, holiday cheer but not lifelong Joy . . .

If Christmas has to do only with Jingle Bells and nothing to do with “God with us,” well, then, Christmas is not up to the task of making a real difference in our lives, and it’s just one more momentary diversion for the despairing, one more false hope for people who know no hope, and it certainly won’t make much difference in life, or in death, or in anything at all very real or substantial.

But if Christmas, and all that is best about this good season, points to real light and hope, glimmering reflections from the Father of Lights, the Giver of Joy, the Sender of the very best Gift, then the Christ of Christmas can use this time of celebration to point us to light that truly is stronger than darkness, hope that is genuinely stronger than despair, and life that is ultimately and infinitely stronger than death.

Then we discover that the Light of Christmas is real indeed because He is real, and life is far more substantial than death.

Then Christmas means something beautiful and wonderful and real. And Christmas joy can and will last forever.

 

 

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

 

 

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.


The Song of Christmas Is a Song of Hope

Hope. One of the most beautiful of words, hope is very near the heart of this season.

For me, the Christmas-singing season usually starts in earnest about the second week in December. I start listening to Christmas music sooner than that, and I’ll usually sing one or two Christmas programs earlier, but the sleigh really gets moving in that second week. And whenever I sing those songs, at the center of the music is hope.

I hope I won’t mess up by forgetting the words or, worse, playing fast and loose with the pitch. I hope nobody’s ears will begin bleeding before I’m done. I hope nobody will throw anything.

But the hope I have in mind is much deeper than that.

From the time I set up the equipment, climb onto the stool, and start filling the mike, it is hope itself that I really want to start flowing from the speakers. I know that sad songs have their place in this world. I’ve not forgotten that the writers of the Psalms at times wrote songs of lament.

Even as we sing “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel!” we know Christ comes as our ransom; a heavy price will be paid. But we still sing his coming, and our tears are mixed with joy and sorrow, sorrow and joy.

You see, sad songs and hopeless songs are not the same. The “psalms of lament” always end on a note of hope: “We cry now, and for very good reasons. Hear us, O Lord! But we know where to bring our tears, and we know who will wipe them away. We know that joy comes in the morning, and we know from whence it comes!” In that is real hope, and genuine hope is always stronger and longer-lasting than meaninglessness and despair.

If you want to find a “singer” to continually wail about the ugliness of life or wallow as a victim and scream about life’s unfairness, spreading bile and accusation and even filth, you’ll need to find someone with no hope. Sadly, they’ll not be hard to find.

Hope is my reason to sing, and nothing is more hopeful, more joyful, more full of love, than the Child who entered our world in that tiny form at Bethlehem. If His light is within us, then every twinkle on every tree, or glimmer of every icicle, or sparkle of every child’s wide eyes bears witness to Bethlehem’s eternal joy.

Sometimes during a Christmas performance, I’ll introduce and sing some special songs, some (I hope) beautiful music perhaps new to my listeners’ ears to help them see yet other glimmers of His hope and joy, and that’s fun.

Sometimes I’ll talk to an audience about a song they’ve long known and tell them its story that they probably didn’t, and then I’ll sing it anew.

But often I think my favorite part is simply to sing in the background of the conversation and food and laughter the songs folks know and love, the songs that wrap softly around each of us, warm us up, and quietly say to our souls, “It’s back, that lovely Christmas hope, and if I’m not home quite yet, this music tells my soul, I’m closer, and I’m loved.”

And so I sing. You’d be surprised how easy it is to watch and revel in the hugs and smiles, laughter and warmth, hope and joy, to be thanking God for the blessing of filling these ears, and still be singing. The trick during those times is to let the music waft through unobtrusively, to sing mostly what they know and delight to welcome back, the old song-friends that hold hands with this Christmas and sweet Christmases before. They have a common Ancestor, these Christmases, singing His song of hope in His every son, every daughter.

 

 

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

 

 

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.


Epitaph: Love Is Always Greater Than Power

cross-sunset2

This morning in The Wall Street Journal I read a well-written obituary by James R. Hagerty focusing on a woman who so loved to be in the spotlight that her former husband—she had four and divorced four—simply said, “To say that [she] loved publicity would be a massive understatement. She lived for publicity.”

Hagerty wrote, “More than 30 years before she died, she had her own tombstone engraved,” noting on it that “her father was a prominent neurologist and that she was recognized at White House press conferences by several presidents.”

Hagerty says that in a 1996 People magazine article, she simply said, “The main thing is to keep my name out in front.”

I do not intend to mention her name. You won’t know it anyway, and it will soon be forgotten. But I admit that I’ll have a hard time forgetting what Hagerty says this woman wrote on her own memorial: “Power is greater than love, and I did not get where I am by standing in line, nor by being shy.”

I suppose when she wrote that pathetic line, she could hardly imagine that “where I am” could mean anything other than “in the spotlight.” For much of her 89 years, she lived for power and fame. Where did she get? She got to the place where “where I am” means “in the grave.” And then what happens to such a shriveled soul?

I read that obituary this morning. Then this afternoon I drove down to our little town’s First Baptist Church to attend the funeral of a man whose name I’m privileged to mention and whose service I felt it was an honor to attend, “Sonny” Byrd. Most of us just called him Mr. Byrd.

I didn’t know that Mr. Byrd’s first name was actually Levanather. I’ve still not heard anyone take a stab at pronouncing it, but, if I’m doing that right, I kind of like it. It has a dignity about it. Just like the man, married 57 years to his “sweetheart” and committed to his Lord.

I didn’t get to know Mr. Byrd nearly as well as I’d like to have, partly because he was such a quiet, gentle, “always there but never loud” presence in our community that I guess I thought he always would be. I figured he had many stories to tell, and I hoped one day to be able to sit down, drink coffee with him, and hear some of them. He was here for 60 years; me, for 33. Surely there was time. And then there wasn’t. Not in this life, but I hope in the next.

I felt almost presumptuous attending the funeral, mostly because—my own fault—I didn’t know him well enough. But what I knew, I respected. He cut a striking figure, a man carved out of rich ebony, clad in crisp coveralls and a cowboy hat. He worked so well, so hard, with dignity and the kind of soft-spoken gentleness that is only found in those who are genuinely strong with the kind of soul-strength that the loud will never understand, much less, possess. I can’t imagine anyone less interested in the limelight, but when I heard of Mr. Byrd’s passing, I knew our community had lost the kind of person to whom any community owes a debt that can’t be paid. At the funeral, it became clear that lots of folks felt that way.

It’s probably a mercy to him that he could not hear what was said at his service because the last thing in the universe he’d have wanted was for his name to be “out in front.” I have no idea what will be written on his tombstone, but it might well be this: “Love is always greater than power.”

And that is literally God’s truth.

 

 

     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.

 


“A True Friend . . . Continues a Friend Unchangeably”

friendship

If I ever write anything wise—you know, the kind of pithy one-sentence bit of proverb-like wisdom that shows up in quotation books and on Internet “great quotes” sites, I hope I can avoid using any one word in the string that is detrimental to my proverb’s multi-century shelf life.

Sometime over 300 years ago, the Quaker leader and founding father of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, William Penn (1644-1718) wrote these wise words about genuine friendship: “A true friend unbosoms freely, advises justly, assists readily, adventures boldly, takes all patiently, defends courageously, and continues a friend unchangeably.”

That is so good! I wish I’d said it. From the depths of my unbosomed soul, I sincerely believe it. It’s just sort of a shame that, though these sweet words have been conveying an even sweeter truth for several centuries and the English major in my soul says that the fourth word in is still a perfectly fine word, the third grade boy still alive in my head needs a swat in the tail section and the admonition, “Move on, lad!” lest he overindulge in snickers and mental immaturity.

Some morons just remove the one word from the quote, crippling the sentence. Others remove the word and its modifier and comma. To be fair to Penn, and accurate, they need to insert an ellipsis (formally known as the three dotty thing) to show they’ve snipped some words. But doing so, even that honestly, costs the sentence a little punch, color, and truth.

You see, a true friend is one to whom you can genuinely share your soul, whether unburdening your bosom of a deep sorrow, doubling up to find the “two is better than one” brain power to squeeze the juice out of a prickly or fascinating life question, or allowing a joy to flower more beautifully precisely because joys burst into fullest bloom when shared.

And, yes, indeed, a real friend will tell you the truth in tough love lest the momentary warmth of soft words and falsehood lure you into soul-chilling peril.

A real friend will help you lift a burden that would be crushing to one.

A real friend will ride a real roller coaster with you even if she hates roller coasters. She’ll ride an emotional roller coaster with you for a while but will be wise and loving enough to know when to tell you to get off of it, quit living addicted to drama, and grow up. And love you still.

A real friend’s love and faithfulness lifts you to be better even when you’re going through times that are your worst.

A real friend will be patient in strong kindness, will “have your back” always, will defend you when you deserve it and love you and stand up as your friend even when you don’t. A real friend would rather be ridiculed for remaining true to a friend than be praised by those who change friends like they change shoes.

A real friend shares your joy when you or yours reap public praise, your sorrow when you or yours are stung by public shame, and loves you all just the same in good times and bad.

Come to think of it, is it any surprise that our best Friend and the best pattern for true friendship is the One who once told his disciples, “I have called you friends” (John 15:15) and loved them always? He is still our very best Friend.

 

      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.

 


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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