Monday, September 12, 2011

Grace for the Ungrateful

Luke 17:11-19 (The Message) says:

"It happened that as he made his way toward Jerusalem, he crossed over the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten men, all lepers, met him. They kept their distance but raised their voices, calling out, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!"

Taking a good look at them, he said, "Go, show yourselves to the priests."

=They went, and while still on their way, became clean. One of them, when he realized that he was healed, turned around and came back, shouting his gratitude, glorifying God. He kneeled at Jesus' feet, so grateful. He couldn't thank him enough -- and he was a Samaritan.

Jesus said, "Were not ten healed? Where are the nine? Can none be found to come back and give glory to God except this outsider?" Then he said to him, "Get up. On your way. Your faith has healed and saved you."

I was listening to a sermon on my Iphone this morning by Tullian Tchividjian, who is the grandson of Billy Graham and who pastors the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church. The sermon series is called "Pictures of Grace" and I was listening to the second sermon.

He points out that the most surprising thing about this story is that Jesus healed them all KNOWING that only one of them was going to say thank you. I was very convicted by what he said next.

He commented that all of us are more than willing to do nice things for people who we know will appreciate it and who will remember to say thank you. But we are reluctant to serve the ungrateful, especially those we know are not going to express any thanks at all for what we do.

It hit me how un-Christlike and ungracious I am in this area. For some reason when we adopted a bunch of kids we convinced ourselves that somehow they should be and would be grateful for what we had done for them. That couldn't have been farther from the truth. In fact the kids were the opposite of grateful -- they had a sense of entitlement and were rude and disrespectful. And so years ago I began to resent doing things for those who would not say thank you.

So it's time for me to re-frame my thinking. Identifying with Jesus in this aspect of his suffering might just be what it will take for me to move beyond myself and to recognize that grace is not fair and it is not about me.

When I fully understand grace and how undeserving I am of all that God has done for me, it should move me to extend grace to others, regardless of whether or not they will respond with gratitude or express their thanks.

I am challenging myself -- and you -- to make a point to do something nice for someone who you know won't let you know that the appreciate it. Think of one of the most ungrateful people you know and then make a point to extend grace to them, regardless of the results.

I am so glad that God doesn't choose to bless me only on the days that He knows I will remember to say thank you....

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

The Weaker I get the Stronger I Become.

2 Corinthians 12:7b-10 in the message says:

I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan's angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn't think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,

My grace is enough; it's all you need.

My strength comes into its own in your weakness.

Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ's strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size -- abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.

All of us have something -- in this post I refer to it as a Chair. It is something hard that God has given us. Paul refers to it as a handicap above.

But what amazing words Paul has about those things... he basically is saying that we need to embrace and appreciate hardship as a GIFT. Wow is that counter to all that we as humans want to do! We want to hate it. We want to complain about it. We tend to get bitter and resentful and critical because God has given us this hard thing (or sometimes, because we have unknowingly chosen it).

What an amazing concept -- the weaker I get, the stronger I become.

To me it is a mystery. One I think about in tears today. But I'm finding it to be true in my life and it is such a profound blessing.

The weaker I get, the stronger I become.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Hope Has No Data

For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

Romans 8:24-26

This morning before church I wrote in my adoption blog about how I was feeling a sense of hope about the coming school year. If you have followed my blogs you'll know why we have reason for disappointment -- there have been many times in the past where I have had hope that ends up not turning out so well.

So I went to church with this sense of a possibility of hope for our next year and sat down and began, as the service continued, to feel that same sense of hope in regards to our next year as a church as well.

And then my husband's voice chimed into my head. "Where's your data?"

For the past 15 years I have been telling him, "It's bound to get better." And yet it hasn't. In fact, most times it has gotten worse. And so he has began to ask me when I begin to express hope and anticipation about good possibilities ahead, "Where is your data?"

This morning I felt myself asking God that question and this is the response I kept getting over and over again. "Hope that is seen is no hope at all." Obviously this verse had been one I had memorized once a long time ago and God used it to help me realize something. Hope has no data.

It takes me back to this passage in Romans 5:1-5:

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

Maybe I've been through those stages long enough to realize that I have a hope that is not going to disappoint me. Sure, things may not turn out the way I had planned, but this hope -- this hope that is not seen -- is NOT going to disappoint.

I'm thankful that God had a response for me today.... I don't need data. I just need hope in the One who has promised to never disappoint....