Grace You Can Ponder

set table“You are Invited to the table!”

Most of the definitions of the unspeakable gift of grace that we hear is insufficient.  It is truly unspeakable.  Grace is better described than defined.  The Greek mindset (Westernized Cultures) like to define everything.  The original Hebrew cultures and language was far more of a description than a definition.  Descriptions are solid pictures and therefore easier to ponder or meditate.

One very accurate flavor of a description of the Biblical reality of GRACE would be this:
“Your Are Invited To The Table.”  Ponder and pray on that and see how it affects your understanding of what you’ve been given in Christ.  Let it soak into the center of your being until it releases “joy bubbles” that drift right on up into your face 🙂

I encourage you to pass this on by sharing on your social media friendships.

I also would like to invite you to the table to comment on what this understanding does for your daily faith.

Gary

 

Auld Lang Syne Grace Thoughts

At this time of year, most are familiar with the term Auld Lang Syne but many don’t know what the words mean.  It’s originally from a Scottish song and means, “good old times.”

As you remember the year that was, you probably can think of some good old times.  Even if you think they are few, they are likely there.  There are also things that bring regret or disappointment.  I’d like to make a couple of suggestions on both levels.

At this time next year you may not have to think so hard about the good stuff…the blessed events.  The solution is to begin this year by keeping a “good on you” jar…or whatever else you may want to call it.  Maybe a “blessings jar.”

Every time something good happens (big or small), write it on a slip of paper and put it in the jar.  Then next year at this time empty the jar and read what you’ve written throughout the year.  I kinda think this is a good new years tradition to begin.

Self examination can be a painful thing if you are prone to feelings of guilt and remorse.  However, I’d like to make a self examination suggestion that could well help you advance in good places in 2013.  Here’s what you do. 

Take a sheet of paper.  Instead of listing your failures, write down those things that you’d like to do better this next year.  Commit it to the Lord.  Then keep the list in a visible place to remind yourself of your journey toward improvement.  The late T.L. Osborne used to say, “I don’t fail.  I just find ways that don’t work.”  I think that’s a better way to look at “failures.”

Someone said, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”  It’s one thing to think suggestions are a good idea.  It’s another to plan specifics on how and when you’re going to put them into practice.  If you find these two ideas worth merit, try them out and see how they work for you.

May blessing experiences increase for you in 2013!

Gary

 

Performance Anxiety by Gary Ellis

I didn’t have to do any big performance to get forgiveness for my sins (what many people call getting saved).  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not minimizing the need for forgiveness of sins.  It’s vital and totally available through Christ Jesus.  However…

The truth of “getting saved” is so much more that forgiveness of sins to guarantee a great after life!  In fact forgiveness of sins is just the doorway to a great and glorious banquet room!

Most Christians realize that you can not perform your way into receiving forgiveness of sins.  The performance anxiety many of us face has never been about the “initial step” of salvation.

The anxiety I’m referring to is fueled my a misunderstanding of the maturity process.  It’s true that we are instructed to “work out” our own salvation with fear and trembling (probably also a misunderstanding of Philippians 2:12-13)

You see we are not only initially brought into God’s family by His free gift of grace.  We are also kept, maintained, and watched over by grace though faith.

The flesh is bent on having to prove itself, it easily torments us with performance anxiety.  What do I have to do!  That’s one of the reasons that “self help” publications and conferences are so abundant – especially, it seems – “Christian” ones.

btw…as a side note…the Philippians verses say, “work out your OWN salvation, etc…”  We are not called to work out anyone elses salvation for them.  We are not called to even control others.  On our best days we have enough trouble controlling ourselves.

We so often see ourselves as servants, not sons (or daughters).  As paupers, not princes (or princesses).  As workers not yet worthy for rest in Him.

Do we do stuff?  Yes, as the grace of Jesus flows in our spiritual veins, we will be motivated to work His works.  But not as a performance lest He be unhappy.  Relax my brother or sister, you can’t gain one farthing of a miracle or anything else you need by the sweat of self performance. 

Growing in grace is rooted in grace!

Pillow your head on the promises of God!

btw…why do we try to let others (and ourselves) set a higher standard of performance than God, Himself?  Good question, eh?  Probably need to work out the answer on that one.

Here’s another one.  Why do we continue to be so driven by religious expectations of our past?  Even, when we see the error.

Gary


 

Standing Vs. Resting by Gary Ellis

The gospel song, “Standing On The Promises” was a favorite as I grew up.  Knowing and embracing the promises that God has made us is a great stabilizer in the days we are living in. 

“When all other ground is sinking sand, on Christ the solid rock I stand.”

Hannah Whitall Smith, a Quaker lay speaker and author of the last century,  made another discovery.  She put it this way in her writings:

“Once I knew what it was to rest upon the rock of God’s promises, and it was indeed a precious resting place, but now I rest in His grace. He is teaching me that the bosom of His love is a far sweeter resting-place than even the rock of His promises.”

 

Now I rest in His grace…

It’s not that we no longer consider His promises.  Those are always precious and always ours.  However, “standing” can be a very laborious activity that can easily slip into a kind of “works.”  Standing subtly slides into focusing on what I’m doing.  Instead, resting focuses on what He’s done for us. 

Grace is so much more than the concept of getting something we didn’t deserve.  Of course it can be described as God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.  But, that’s a single facet on a multi-faceted diamond.

Grace in it’s purest Hebraic understanding is the image of a family encampment at an oasis in the desert.  It’s idea includes that of beauty.  It’s a resting place safe from the wiles of the desert.  It’s a place of food, family, fellowship, peace, joy, love.  It’s the resting place of home after a hard days labor.

Grace is a name for God’s home.   His dwelling place.  His land of plenty.  It’s the original Graceland.  Grace is a location and quality of dwelling.  It’s not simply a doctrinal description.

Therefore, resting in His Grace Place is superior to struggling to stand on our intellectual understandings of promises.

Knowing the promises of God helps get us to the rest found in Graceland.  The promises of God are important to discover and embrace.  But they are signposts to the place of Grace where resting begins.

Gary

 

 

Christianity and The Titanic by Gary Ellis

Yep.  I know.  This is a very edgy title.  Let me say at the outset that I LOVE…I mean super-duper LOVE the Church and God’s plan for it.  But, what is too often represented as The Church is a system of beliefs called, “Christianity.”  They are not automatically the same.

It’s been said that what has often gone on in the last several decades – in various expressions of Christianity – is like “rearranging the chairs on the deck of the Titanic and calling it church.”

So…what is the church supposed to look like?  How is she supposed to express herself?

It’s very important that I point out here that, although a Senior Pastor of The Sanctuary Revival Center in Davenport, IA, I do not consider myself an expert on the subject.  I’ve been “in the ministry” for over 40 years, and I know I still understand precious little of the vast and magnificent plan and purpose of the God I am thrilled to walk and serve with.

However, I know that it’s not as complicated as religious systems of Christianity have – too often – made it.  I know it’s supposed to be an expression of safety, hope, life, grace, freedom, love, joy, power….(and more).  I know that it’s – too often – become more of a competitive business to build rather than a city of transformation.

I also know that systems of Christianity that carry the name “Church” have (again too many times) become an “Athens” of debate about chosen perspectives and interpretations of the Scriptures.  Rightly dividing the word of truth is very important.  Without it we would not enjoy what God is inviting us to experience.  However, in my opinion, the word “experience” has become a scary word in too many of Christianity’s hallowed halls.  All that’s left is a system of academic doctrinal preferences that are labeled “what we stand for.”

I know from a generation of years that Christianity/Church is, often, more about “appearances and reputations” than we even want to admit…unless we can dress it up in some kind of clothing that sounds spiritual and logical.

I believe that the Church is The Body of Christ and Christ doesn’t always wear Western cloths.  I believe the church (His Body) touches the leper and does something – in His power – about their condition.  Too much of systematized Christianity masquerading as a Church, is afraid to even touch the leper lest they become unclean.  That wasn’t Jesus’ way.

I believe the Church has her roots of faith in the soil with dirt under her fingernails. <forgive the mixed metaphor>

I also believe Christ’s Body/The Church is not fixated on sins and self effort to become or maintain a right relationship with God.  Sin is serious, but it’s not overcome by focusing on it.  Jesus paid every last penny to abolish the guilt of sin.  Focusing on sin and death (turn or burn) is not the focus of the Good News of Jesus Christ.  What He has done about it IS the Good News.

Jesus, by His Spirit, is fully capable of cleaning His fish after He catches them.  The fish will never be able to clean itself.   We, as believers, are receivers and responders.  Receiving His FREE gift and then Responding to the pulsing of His love within our hearts and minds has plenty of power to set us free from the toxic waste that keeps trying to trip us up.

The Church is about appropriating heaven in this age as well as the age to come.  The religious system of Christianity, too often, gets the ticket to the age to come, but struggles to survive in this one…and too many times does little for others who are also struggling in life.

The gift of grace through Jesus Christ is ours, by faith, for more than learning how to be nice.  The Church is designed to be a transformational force to be reckoned with that enjoys the journey of life.

What say you?

Gary Ellis
Sanctuary Revival Center
“Church Without Religion”
Davenport, IA




 

In Times of Lack and Failure – by Gary Ellis

Success…Victory…Overcoming.

These things are all embedded in the message of the Cross of Jesus Christ.

It’s about what Jesus completed…

…not about what we haven’t completed.

It’s about what He did…

Not what we failed to do!

For some reason we focus on failure, lack, mistakes, and imperfections in our living.  It only seems reasonable to do so, right?  It only strikes us as the responsible way to improve.

Except…it doesn’t work.  Focusing on our failures, lacks, and overall weaknesses never frees us to become better.  Instead it locks us behind the bars of defeat.

One time the disciples forgot to bring bread with them.  They thought Jesus was chiding them for their error.

Instead, he was instructing them in a very powerful reality.  He was giving them the way to think when their “imperfections” appeared.  And it was this…

“Remember what I can do in those times of lack.”

My friends, we are surrounded by our own weakness, failure, lack, and shortcomings.

The victory is all based on His grace.  Remember His victories!  Forget your failures.  THAT is the responsible thing to do.

Gary

 

God’s In Hot Pursuit

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Did you know that God is in hot pursuit of you?  He’s taking extreme and extraordinary measures to win you whole heart?

He’s on “your 6,” man!  He’s passionately pursuing you!  For such a long time I had it wrong…

I Thought I Was Pursuing Him

That’s what I’d assumed from everything I was taught.  That’s what I’d imagined from so many of the sermons I’d heard.  And…to be honest…In a special burst of commitment and (guilt) I’d head down the track “chasing” Him until…something else grabbed my attention.

Then I Discovered He Is In Pursuit of Me

Yep,  God (Through Jesus) has always been pursuing me…and He’s got the blood and scars to prove it.

And Now – Another Wonderful Definition of Grace

Here’s the thing…me pursuing Him ultimately gives me some credit for the victory.  Him pursuing me puts all the credit where it belongsa work of grace.

I know about the scriptures that say, “Seek Him while He may be found,” etc.  But, let me give you another way to look at that.  An approach that I believe is a better interpretation.

While He May Be Found

I don’t believe such a passionate Lover is playing an insipid game of “Hide and Seek,” when He knows our flesh wears out sooo fast, and we are sooo distracted.  I believe the good news is that He is always in hot pursuit.  Try looking at it this way, “If you seek Him while you are sensing the pursuit, respond.”  As well as, “When you hear the sound of His voice calling, respond.”  Here’s the reason.  Your natural, earthbound self is actually never in the habit of looking – let alone pursuing – the Lord.  It’s not in us to do so, by the natural man.

So, when there is a flicker on the meter of your heart that the Lord is near (someplace He always is…but you just happen to notice) WELCOME HIM.  Take advantage of the opportunity.  If you do so, allowing your heart to express praise and thanksgiving, the “flicker” will begin showing up more often, and stronger.

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