Christian Living

I’m a walking contradiction

My life in a Bible verse:

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.” Romans 7:15-17

I’m a walking contradiction.

Outside of the sin world– and boy am I a sinner– this verse speaks into a lot of other areas of my life.

And in the gray areas of life, things where it isn’t abundantly clear it’s a sin issue, I’m literally a contradiction.

  • I love my kids, but boy do I love to spend time alone with Kristen.
  • I love spending time with the students in the youth group, but every Tuesday night I struggle to make time to go to youth group and hang with them.
  • I love my church, but I’m quick to wonder if we’re going to the right church.
  • I love the people of Haiti, but to live there? Not in this lifetime.
  • I hate big box stores, but when I need something in a pinch you’ll find me at Target, Home Depot, or Costco.
  • I hate disappointing my children, but I also know that if I give them whatever they want they won’t become the people we hope they become.
  • I hate discrimination against people, but if I’m honest I do it without thinking all the time.
  • I hate people who talk on their phones while driving… even with a headset on, but I do it all the time.

This is the problem I face every day. I want to be a person of integrity. I want to be a person who makes the right choice for the right reason every time. But life is full of so many contradictions that I’m often left feeling like a hypocrite. I intend to do everything based on my convictions… but I fail a whole lot.

I do the things I don’t want to do and I can’t stop myself. I even do the things I don’t want to do without thinking about if I want to do them or not. People say I’m a good person and I’m quick to say thank you. But when someone points out my faults I’m just as quick to try to justify myself.

What’s the moral of the story?

I’m no better than anyone else. I’m just as much a mess as the guy next door. I need to remind myself constantly that the Gospel is just as much for me as it is for my neighbor.

To take a stance that I’m somehow better or less a sinner only validates a position that I’m a hypocrite.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

Through Christ, I’m a walking contradiction, forgiven purely by grace.

hmm... thoughts

Grace vs. Karma

Without karma, how do you get stuff done in the church?

Yesterday’s message got me thinking about the mistake many people, even church people, make in regards to grace. Here’s what those two terms mean and why they are opposites.

Grace is receiving unmerited favor. In other words, you get what you don’t deserve.

Karma is the effects of your past deeds is your future experience. In other words, you get what you pay for.

The Karma Conspiracy. I’ll let you in on a little secret. Most people in ministry believe in grace but practice and perpetuate karma in their ministry. Not all, but nearly all.

1. I missed my kids soccer game because I was preparing for my message on Sunday.

2. Come be a part of God’s vision and serve at the spaghetti dinner.

3. Partner with God in the vision of our church by tithing.

4. Join a small group this fall and be a part of what we’re doing.

Now, you’ll see those statements and not see the karma connection. Since I’ve been guilty of all four of those let me translate into what most (nearly all) pastors are thinking when they say these things.

1. If I work hard good things will happen in my church.

2. I am capitalizing on your false belief that working in the church will merit favor in order to fill a job roster.

3. I am exploiting on your belief that if you give to God He will give more back to you.

4. By asking you to do something you don’t want to do, I am perpetuating your false belief in karma with the hope that you’ll discover grace.

See, this is a tricky thing. And I don’t think any pastor does it intentionally. Yet I think that karma is so engrained in our culture that we perpetuate it unknowingly.

Question: How do we stop this? How do we allow grace, true unmerited favor from God, to permeate everything we do in ministry and in life?

Hint: I think both the problem and the solution are found here.

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The injustice of grace

Define GraceHave you ever thought about what Jesus did and thought, “eh? I’ve been having this thought lately and I just can’t shake it:

It’s a complete injustice that I experience grace.

First of all, I need to be clear what I mean by grace since there are several definitions for this word… even the Bible uses it 5-6 different ways. By grace I mean “the active communication of divine blessings by the inworking of the Holy Spirit, out of the fullness of Him who is “full of grace and truth,”” (Louis Berkhof, 1949) In other words, grace is the good stuff we are blessed with because of our relationship with Jesus.

Have you ever been comped on something? You know, you show up to a place and because you are with “him” or “her” you get free stuff. That’s a practical expression of grace… and it’s a total injustice! In my life I’ve gotten comped on some very nice things. Rounds of golf, meals, retail stuff, vacations, stuff like that. It’s always a weird feeling as you of look at the person whom you’d normally pay and then flash a glance over to the “big guy” and the need to pull out your wallet goes away. (Sometimes a half thumb pointing at the big guy helps.)

Why is that an injustice? Well, you get stuff you can’t afford for free! Other people have to pay big bucks for the round of golf I play for free… that’s really not fair to those who have to pay, is it?

It’s the same way in a lot of areas of my life right now. God is granting my family a lot of injustice lately. When I look my kids I can’t help thinking… what an injustice, I don’t deserve this awesome family. Even as a family, there is so much good stuff happening to us and all around us we’re kind of left simply shrugging our shoulders and pointing at the “big guy” and admitting… “we’re with Him.” God is comping us on little things (stuff) and big stuff (a family who choses to honor God with what they do) and the only word I can use to describe it is overwhelming injustice.