If there is anything I have learned over the last thirty something years, its that the question of identity is not only the theme of Jesus’ story, it’s ours as well. My story and yours will continue to be one in which we discover our Dad and in turn ourselves. Discovering our Father is the most important thing we will ever do. It transforms us and sets us free to live as His sons and daughters. The good news is, Jesus was sure in his identity and because of this, we can also become sure in ours…
I believe that every insecurity we face is birthed in Fatherless-ness. Our insecurities are the direct result of misunderstanding our heavenly Fathers nature. The greater we know our Father and His love, the more sure we become in our own identity. It was Jesus view of, and relationship with, His Dad that released Him to fully be the Son.
While I was born into a crisis of identity, the moment I said yes to Love, the moment my heavenly Father was revealed, is the moment I stepped into my new identity. I have been discovering my Father in greater measure ever since and the more I know Him the more confident I become as His son.
I’m convinced that our sureness in our identity is found in believing in the absolute goodness of our Fathers love. This journey we are on, this story we are living, has its breath in that revelation. It is through encounters with our Father that we are released to become the full expression of his sons and daughters in the here and now. I believe it’s why we exist, to know our Fathers love and become sure as His sons and daughters. We are loved and becoming love. The crisis is resolved!
What’s that mean? Well, for a start, whether our natural father or mother is amazing, destructive, or non-existent, there is available to us a relationship with a perfect loving always-good Father. And as we become more aware of His perfect love for us we are set free to live like Jesus did, sure as sons and daughters.
Like Jesus, we can know our Dad and live as the evidence of His love. When we know our Heavenly Father we become transformed into good earthly fathers and mothers. We become good brothers and sister, good neighbors, good co-workers, good sons and daughters. We become world changers, living in miraculous fashion, discovering the wonders of His Kingdom in every area of life.
Below is an excerpt from my book Surrendered & Untamed, Chapter Nine – Learning To Dance
A Matter Of Trust
“Simon (Peter) I’ve prayed for you in particular that you not give in or give out. When you have come through your time of testing, turn to your friends and give them a fresh start.” (3)
Peter gave the typical Peter response: “I will, even if the other disciples don’t.” Then Jesus, just after telling Peter that he is praying for him to keep faith, says the craziest thing “…before the rooster crows you will have three times denied that you know me.” (4) Essentially, “Hey Pete, you will deny me, you will fail me.”
What?! It’s hard for me to wrap my head around this. It seems cruel and it feels cruel. Why set Peter up to fail? Jesus was already going to the cross. Wasn’t it already painful and confusing enough for Peter? Wasn’t the test big enough just to be a disciple of Jesus during this time? Why add to the trauma?
In the midst of writing this, with tears in my eyes, I asked God to please show me why this was necessary. I feel He gave me this revelation – Jesus wasn’t expecting Peter to understand or even “pass” the time of testing. Whether he passed or understood was irrelevant; it was simply that he experience and endure, and learn to dance.
“Never give a man a sword who can’t dance.”
- Celtic proverb
I believe Peter had to have this painful testing experience. It was an absolutely essential part of his story. It was never about his understanding the situation. It could be said Peter failed during his time of testing but it wasn’t about his success, it was about his experience. Jesus already knew Peter would deny Him. Yet the experience was essential to Peter’s journey. His ownership of that experience from denial to redemption was what allowed him to be life to his friends.
After Jesus has risen from the grave and all was said and done, He met with the disciples out on the beach. Jesus and Peter went for a walk and then Jesus asked Peter the same question three times: “Do you love me, Peter?”
I think you could also phrase the question this way, “Peter, can I trust you with a sword?”
Peter can only respond, “Yes Lord. Lord you know I love you.”
Jesus says, “Feed my sheep.” And with that commission, Peter was released to live his promise fully untamed. And with that commission, Jesus released an anointing on Peter that any believer would envy.
That day on the beach Peter learned that the sword Jesus had told them about was not an extension of his arm but rather of his heart. – That the power of his sword was not found in determination but in surrender. It meant trading his self-consciousness for God-consciousness. When you’re not self-conscious, you’re free to dance, forgive, serve, and love.
I believe God was cultivating a profound revelation of surrender in Peter. You see, the Peter from the Garden couldn’t be trusted to live untamed. He couldn’t be trusted to swing a sword until he understood brokenness, until he had become intimate with surrender, until he had learned to dance. God was building the foundation of His church upon the truth of surrender he was birthing in Peter.
Three days earlier, Peter boldly knew he loved Jesus. You couldn’t have convinced him otherwise. He was willing to murder for Jesus. A man who doesn’t know how to dance is a dangerous man, even if he’s a disciple. He might just kill you. However, now on the other side of the disillusionment, Peter not only loved Jesus in brash boldness but in pure brokenness.
And that is where our promise lives, within the marriage of surrendered and untamed. Jesus said it is not by might and not by power, but by His spirit.
Amazingly, because of the cross, because of grace, we can fail Jesus and not be failures. In fact to think otherwise belittles what He did at Calvary. Outside of His grace we are not capable of loving Jesus. Inside of His grace we are not capable of failing him. We can get it wrong, but in believing get it right. We wont always understand the journey, and that’s the point. We have to learn the dance steps of disillusionment. God shatters our illusions until our hearts are in full alignment with His. Then it’s our joy to run after Jesus and it’s His joy to work it all to His glory.
You see, the wilder God wants to use us, the larger His invitation of our surrender to Him. And God is thorough in His preparation of us when releasing His power and authority. God doesn’t think small. God’s plans for us are big. He has plans so big that to engage them we must step into a greater revelation of who God is. And for that, we’ll need a sword. But first we have to learn to dance…
I spent the weekend of the 10th and 11th at DreamHouse in Newport
News. Scott and Charrisa Crowder are the pastors there and are amazing friends to us Clarks! We so love them and our whole DreamHouse family!
This blog is a an adaption from my book The Open Table, An Invitation
to Walk with God. I gave
this message on Sat night at DreamHouse and I was once again reminded of how good our God is.
If you enjoy the blog and want to hear more, check out THIS LINK to the church’s website where you can download my Saturday message. You can also download Scott and Charrisa’s messages. I recommend last weeks Kingdom Economy.
I think this journey we are on is like a story. I think all of us want to live a good story, one filled with love, wonder and promise; a story that is inspired, a story that one-day our kids will read to their kids.
I am convinced of two things; first, the best stories end happily ever after. And second, before they end “happily ever after,” they are filled with conflict and risk and sometimes even death…
Jesus lived the best story. His was full of wonder and friendship, mercy and grace – a true love story. It was also a story with conflict and risk, even unto death. And if there was a crisis in His story, it was a crisis of identity. Not with Jesus, He never doubted who He was, but those around Him certainly did. If you think about it, the question of His identity followed Him everywhere He went.
I would like to suggest that the question of identity is not only the theme of Jesus’ story but it’s ours as well. The good news is, Jesus was sure in His identity and because of this, we can also become sure in ours…
Jesus was actually born into a crisis of identity. As far as public perception was concerned, his birth was a little sketchy. His inception was miraculous. He was born of a virgin. The Bible refers to Him as “God with us” (Matt 1:18) and as “The Son of God” (Luke 1:31). However, that part of the Bible was unavailable at the time of Jesus as it hadn’t been written yet.
Most likely, Jesus grew up with the stigma of “bastard.” Outside of a few shepherds and some Wise Men who knew the story, His birth appeared scandalous as Mary conceived before she was married. But Jesus was not insecure. He knew who He was. He was sure in His Fathers love and in His identity.
We know this because of the one story of Jesus in His youth. When He was twelve, His family journeyed to Jerusalem. As they were heading home, His parents lost track of Him and for three days they searched the streets of Jerusalem. They finally found Him at the temple. When His mother asked Him where He had been He replied, “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house” (Luke 2:49). Jesus was sure in His Fathers love and in His identity.
We don’t hear about Him again until He turns 30. The story is picked back up with Jesus baptism. The Bible says that when He came up out of the water, He was filled with the Holy Spirit. A dove descended and God spoke in a thunderous voice. And in case anyone was unsure, the Father made it perfectly clear saying, “This is my Son with whom I am well pleased” (Matt 3:17). At that moment it went public; Jesus was the Son of God. We heard it from an angel, we heard it from the child, and now we’ve heard from the mouth of God.
I would have expected Jesus to start his public ministry upon this proclamation, but instead, He is led into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. (Matt 4:1)
Forty days Jesus went without food or water. Three times Satan tempted Him and twice Satan went after Jesus’ identity. “If you are the son of God,” he challenged. But Jesus was sure in His Fathers love, He was sure in His identity.
If you keep reading the rest of His story you will find that everywhere He went, His identity was questioned and challenged; by the religious teachers, by entire towns and by government officials. And while all this is happening, Jesus is living a story of beauty and wonder. He is healing blind and def, lame and mute. He is raising the dead and making lots of food out of little food. He is walking on water and calming storms. He is releasing life to anyone who asks. Everything Jesus did confirmed He was His Fathers Son.
If the story of Jesus life had a battle, it was a daily fight for identity. If His story had an antagonist it was doubt, better known as unbelief. And each time Jesus was confronted with the crisis of identity, He chose to believe what God had said about Him from the very beginning. Jesus was sure in His Fathers love and He was sure in His identity.
Three years after Jesus baptism we read about how He rides into Jerusalem being worshiped. Finally, He is received by the people as He truly is – the King of Kings, love in human form, the Son of God. And for a moment in His story we exhale… and then…
Jesus is betrayed.
Only three days after His triumphant arrival to Jerusalem He finds Himself bound and standing in front of the religious rulers. His identity is officially questioned. Standing in front of Herod Jesus is asked, “Are you then the Son of God?” (Luke 22:70a)
And Jesus, knowing what lay ahead, knowing He faced a brutal beating and then a cross… And Jesus, sure in His Fathers love and sure in His identity, said, “You are right in saying I am” (Luke 22:70b).
To be honest, my entire life has been a search for my Father, a journey into my identity. And I am becoming sure. Daily I come into a greater understanding regarding the fact that this faith journey I am on is about revelation. Its been a discovery of my Fathers always-good love, and who I am in Christ. I too have been at war with an antagonist and unbelief.
And all along the way my Father has invited me, and you as well, to believe – to believe that He is love, that His love is aways good, that He works on our behalf toward good and that we are His sons and daughters with a powerful inheritance. I am confidant that our faith journey is about daily deciding to be sure in His love and sure in our identity.
I would like to suggest that though we were born into a crisis of identity, the moment we invited God to be Dad the crisis was resolved. The moment we surrendered our life to Jesus, the moment He became Lord and Savior, the moment we received His love, is the moment we stepped into a new identity. Through believing, Jesus not only confirmed and revealed His identity but ultimately He won our identity for us as well. Jesus rose from the grave and forever answered that question for those who choose to believe and receive We are sons and daughters of an always good Father. We are loved and becoming love!
Our Identity is found in believing in the absolute goodness of our Fathers love. This journey we are on has its breath in that revelation. To the extent we know this truth is to the extent we can engage this life giving adventure story. Like all good stories there will be mountains and valleys, there will be scary moments and wonder. And always it ends happily ever after. And that’s what I’m getting at. Following God is risky, absolutely. It might even lead to death. But because Jesus went first, we can be sure in His love and our identity and therefore know that our story always ends with a “well done” – always.
I’m not saying I’m old, but I’m getting older…
When I was young I had vision. I thought they were dreams but most of the time it was vision…
As a young man I lived in the ache, compelled by the longing; I chased vision down with reckless abandon… and time and again I fell short only to cast greater vision, to struggle, to taste love, intimacy, and then again, failure…
Acts 2:17 “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.”
It’s only been in the last few years that I have begun to quote that verse correctly. In the past I always got it backwards. You see, when I was younger, it made more sense that young men would dream dreams and old men see visions. However, I’ve come to understand that there is a difference between dreams and visions.
I’m not saying I am old by the way, but I am getting older…
Vision is defined as “the act or power of anticipating that which will or may come to be.” At eighteen and over the following 15 or so years, I tested every projection, prodding and discovering both His and my heart. I was anticipating all the possible futures and in so doing, I was learning both who my Father was and my identity as His son. When I was a young man, every exciting possibility that popped into my head would have been categorized as a dream. But looking back, I now understand that most of those “dreams” would be better defined as vision.
I think the difference between vision and dreams is this, dreams are hidden in our Fathers heart and vision is how we discover them. Dreams are way bigger and more powerful than any words could express. In fact, they are above and beyond imagination, and yet we’ve been invited to imagine, to en-vision, to search them out.
And it’s a scary and all consuming journey; a journey that develops faith; a journey for the faithful, a journey of discovering and believing He loves.
It’s a journey of vision and failure, vision and failure, vision and failure…
It’s a journey where young men become old…
…Because dreaming is an old mans game.
You see, “old men” have the most scars; “old men” have the hardest memories, of war and death. “Old men” carry the pain of loss and brokenness. “Old men” have given their life to the King and His cause time and again, they have waited, and when they couldn’t wait anymore, they’ve waited.
“Old men” have done all to stand and when they couldn’t stand any longer, they stood. “Old men” have died, been reborn, and died again. “Old men” have failed and when they didn’t think they could fail worse, they did. “Old men” have lost, everything… more than once. “Old men” have chased vision into the valley of the shadow of death.
And “old men” have chased vision into the heart of the Fathers perfect love until their every heartbeat can be trusted.
And then, with the full understanding of what it cost, “old men,” well, they dream dreams!
And the authority and power of their dreams pulls heaven to earth in ways never before seen. Their dreams empower generations to live heaven on earth.
I’m not saying I’m old, but by the goodness of God, I’m getting older…
And isn’t that the promise He’s given us all’ that we could dream life transforming, world changing, saints empowering “old men” dreams?
This months chapter Well Done for my new book Lets Go Find This Kingdom Come is now up.
Thirty Years Becoming Sure
Jesus walked the planet the last three years telling people who He was and backing it up with signs and wonders. He actually told us we didn’t have to believe that He was the Son of God if He didn’t back it up this way… But for His first thirty years, Jesus, the Father revealed, perfect theology, Love in human form, lived among humanity and only a handful of people knew it.
Some might be tempted to think that Jesus first thirty years were not as significant as the last three years simply because we have no miracles to measure Him by. However, I think that those first thirty years are the reason He lived like He did the last three.
And so we find Jesus at the age of thirty on the shores of the Jordan River where He meets John the Baptist and is submerged under the water. The heavens open and a dove descends, and a voice like thunder rumbles, “This is my Son, whom I love. With Him I am well pleased”
In other words, “well done.”
The question has to be asked. Why was the Father pleased? What had Jesus done?
I would like to suggest that the first thirty years of Jesus time on earth was spent becoming sure in His Fathers always-good love. For thirty years Jesus saw His Fathers nature, and then saw more of His Fathers nature, and then saw more of His Fathers nature. For thirty years Jesus knew His Fathers love, and then knew more of His love, and more of His love. For thirty years Jesus grew in wisdom and favor until the absolute goodness of His Father was so deeply interwoven into His heart it was the only reality He knew. For thirty years Jesus became surer, and surer, and surer…
AND then, after thirty years, and in the fullness of time, God with us, perfect love, gets a “Well pleased.” He gets a “well done Son.”
This is absolutely amazing! Jesus got a “well pleased” before He did anything! He got a “well done” without any earthly evidence of doing.
Think about it, He got the well done before He turned water into wine, before He walked on water, before He made more food out of less. He got the well done before He healed the blind eye, the def ear, the lame, before He cleansed the leper. He got the well done before He cast out demons and set people free. He got the well done before He raised the dead.
He got the well done before He went into a wilderness, before He went to a cross, before He rose, before He saved all of humanity and set us free from slavery to need. He got a well done before He ascended and then descended in the form of the Holy Spirit to release us into a brand new one of a kind intimate revelation of His perfect love.
As far as we know, Jesus got a “well done,” before He did anything. And I think this “well done” is what empowered Him to “do.” I believe all the beautiful works He did over the last three years of His life was the evidence of the first thirty years of becoming sure in His Fathers always-good love.
I would like to suggest that those thirty years of seeming obscurity had nothing to do with doing and everything to do with becoming sure in His Fathers love. It was about intimacy. It was about seeing the Father and becoming sure as His Son.
I would like to suggest that when we get to heaven and we get a well done, it wont be for what we did, it will be for how sure we became in our Fathers love. The doing will simply be the evidence that we believed He loved us.
I continue to edit this months chapter Grace for my new book Lets Go Find This Kingdom Come. However, at this point I don’t see it being ready to be fully posted by months end. So instead I will continue to post excerpts and leave last months chapter seven Prone to Love up. Below is two sections I’ve edited together for the blog.
Zacchaeus was short. He was also a sinner – no relation. Zacchaeus was a man who was unfamiliar with Love as evidenced by how he lived his life. He was a thief and he was also a tax collector – no relation. However, it seems he used his position of power to steal from the people in his hometown of Jericho.
One day, while sitting in a tree in order to catch a glimpse of the arriving famous fella from Nazareth, Zacchaeus encountered the good news. He met Jesus, who loves both sinners and tax collectors.
I imagine you know the story. It’s found in Luke. It’s also been wonderfully preserved in a children’s song that employs the words wee and little. As Jesus is walking through the crowded street past Zacchaeus’ tree, He looks up and greets the short man by name. “Zacchaeus, I must come to your house tonight!” He says. And then Jesus, Love in human form, the Father perfectly revealed, goes to the wee little sinner’s place for dinner.
I’m sure you remember what happened next?
Jesus made sure that Zacchaeus knew he was desperately wicked. He pointed out a number of Zacchaeus’ sins and informed him that if he didn’t change his ways he was on the fast train to hell. Then, just in case Zacchaeus didn’t understand, Jesus described hell. Finally, after Zacchaeus was convinced of his shame and unworthiness, Jesus told him God loved him.
My favorite part of this fictional version of the story is when the disciples handed out tracks to the passer-bys. The tracks were pretty clever. One side looked like money while the other had some inspirational writing on it, about hell and how much God loves us.
Is my sarcasm too strong?
The fact is, not once did Jesus mention Zacchaeus’ sinful ways. Not once did He chastise him, correct him, or challenge him. There was no shameful insinuation, no demeaning eye rolling, no suggestive mothering tone in Jesus voice, quite the opposite. Jesus actions were loud and clear. “I love you and I am going to treat you the way my Father see’s you.”
I would like to suggest that mercy and grace are two sides of the same coin, both expressions of our Fathers always-good love.
I have heard mercy and grace described like this, “Mercy is not getting what you deserve, and grace is getting what you don’t deserve.” I like that. I also think you could say it this way, mercy reveals our Father and settles the issue of sin. Grace reveals our Father and settles the issue of identity.
Zacchaeus was a thief and a liar, he had a sinful nature, he was prone to wander. But one encounter with Love changed everything. When he saw and encountered Love, the sinner was transformed into a saint.
How did this happen? It’s simple; Jesus was the Fathers love revealed. Zacchaeus saw his Fathers nature and embraced mercy. And then Zacchaeus saw himself through His Fathers eyes and stepped into grace. And he was transformed.
One evening with perfect love and the sinner, now saint, declared that he would give more than half of what he owned to the poor and return four times what he stole. It was immediate transformation, the miraculous that follows revelation.
Suddenly the sinner who had lived under the reproachful title of thief, the sinner who had lived under the shame of greed, and the sinner who had been unmoved by the condemnation of an entire town was forever changed. One evening with perfect love…
Zacchaeus was living in one reality when he was introduced to a greater revelation – Love.
He encountered Love, saw Himself from Loves perspective, and decided to agree with how Love saw him.
Through mans eyes, Zacchaeus was a self-centered, small-minded, thieving, liar. Through Loves eyes he was a generous, large-hearted believer who was capable of giving more than half of what he owned away. From his heavenly Fathers perspective, Zacchaeus was supernaturally generous; he was prone to love. The moment he realized God saw him as generous he became generous.
This was a miracle as big as blind eyes opening, as cancer leaving. Jesus said this kind of miracle would be akin to a camel crawling through the eye of a needle. A rich man who moments earlier lived his entire life for money, suddenly is transformed into a generous man completely free from the shackles of greed.
It’s not in the nature of a sinner to give like he gave. But it is in the nature of a saint. Saints are generous and have the capacity to give supernaturally.
I am learning that
what I think about me should always be determined by what my heavenly Father thinks about me. I must see myself from my His perspective. And I’m discovering that when I see myself through Gods eyes, I become a saint, capable of all the things that a sinner isn’t.
I would like to suggest that this is how we become world changers. We simply encounter Gods nature and agree with it. We simply experience a revelation of our Fathers love and surrender. If He is generous and He see’s us as generous, then we become generous, and kind, and patient, and merciful and full of grace…
In His perfect love, His mercy and His grace, we are transformed, we are prone to love!
I continue to edit this months chapter Grace for my new book Lets Go Find This Kingdom Come. However, at this point I don’t see it being ready to be fully posted by months end. So instead I will continue to post excerpts and leave last months chapter seven Prone to Love up…
I was hanging out with a friend the other day. He is in his mid sixties. He is coming into such a wonderful revelation regarding our Fathers love. He has lived his whole life enslaved to a harsh master, need, but He is beginning to discover an always good and loving Father. This beautiful revelation has entered his life in the form of Grace.
For twenty minutes he spoke excitedly about how miraculously astonishing Grace is. As he shared, I whole-heartedly encouraged and agreed with him. When he told me about the incredible freedom he was discovering through amazing Grace, I laughed with him, reveling in the wonder. When he described how Grace was setting him free from sins that had haunted him his whole life, I grinned and nodded my head enthusiastically and said, “Grace is good like that!”
He was well into praising how Grace was changing the way he saw people when it happened. I’ve seen it before, heck, I’ve done it myself. Suddenly, like a fist to the jaw, he balanced it.
While describing the most beautiful revelation, while speaking with more passion and freedom than I had encountered in my 18 years of knowing the man, suddenly, and at absolute odds with what he had been sharing, he blurted, “I know you can abuse it, grace.”
He balanced it.
I could almost hear his thoughts “maybe I have gone too far, this grace thing is starting to sound too good to be true.” And I understood what happened. Grace can be a scary thing, especially when no one balances it. You see, I had been agreeing with him without reservation and I think that ugly religious muscle spasmed.
It’s not his fault. That ugly religious grace has been dished out and taught by those who have a greater fear of the world we live in than revelation of the kingdom of heaven; those who focus more on need than Love, on not sinning instead of becoming His righteousness (2nd Cor 5:21). When need trumps love, grace is a cheap parlor trick – empty rhetoric.
Those that teach us that we can abuse grace don’t fully know Grace. That teaching looks at Grace through the lens of need. It dumbs Grace down to a commodity that can be traded for freedom, or forgiveness, or favor. Balanced grace is a lie that enslaves us to live in the reality of need. A balanced grace is simply another way to control. If Grace can be balanced, its power is neutered. And a powerless Grace is a cruelty greater than no grace at all.
Grace wont be balanced! He is too perfect, too whole, too free, too just, too pure, too kind, too strong, too wild, too holy… Grace won’t be belittled, Grace can’t ever go bad or run out, He is the good news – always.
After my friend attempted to balance it, there was a dark silence that threatened to ruin everything. For just a moment we teetered on the brink of a faith crisis, but Grace would have none of it. Right there on the verge of hopelessness, I told my friend the beautiful truth I am always growing in, “You can’t abuse Grace.”
I went on to tell him that Grace isn’t too good to be true, just the opposite, its too good not to be true. Grace is unmerited favor. We can’t do anything to earn it and we can’t do anything to abuse it. It’s the gift of His nature given through Jesus. Its one of the most beautiful expressions of His always-good love for us. Grace releases us to see ourselves from His perspective and empowers us to live in agreement with how He sees us, as saints of the highest One…
…I would like to suggest that this journey we are on is about discovering unbalanced Grace.
This week my book Surrendered & Untamed is featured with Christianity Today’s mens magazine Men of Integrity. For the whole week chapter six entitled, Giant Killers, is being broken down into daily devotionals.
Check it out!
Excerpt taken from Let’s Go Find This Kingdom Come – Chapter Seven –
I have just posted chapter seven, Prone to Love. For the month of JULY this whole chapter will be online at the link above. As I try to make each blog a cohesive thought, I will often skip around the chapter. I’ve done that here. So if you want to read it in its entirety click the link above.
Prone to love You, Lord, I feel it, prone to serve the God I love;
Here’s my heart, take and seal it, seal it for Thy courts above.
Grandma’s lips always moved. If you were close enough you could sometimes catch a few phrases.
“Thank-you Jesus. I love you Jesus. You are so precious.”
Elmer and Eva were the kindest and most gracious people on the planet. I am not exaggerating. They never spoke harshly of anyone; they were never critical and always giving. What they had was yours. My dad tells stories from his childhood about how the neighbor boys referred to Grandma as the “God Lady.” They would sneak into the Clark house anytime of the day and help themselves to the cookies in the cookie jar. Apparently one day Grandma caught them red handed. Then kindly she said, “Now boys, you can have cookies whenever you want, all you need do is ask.”
There is a verse in Daniel that describes my grandparents. “But the saints of the Highest One will receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, for all ages to come.” My grandma and grandpa, they were those saints. When you were around them you could almost taste it, smell it, feel it – heaven was that close.
My grandparents lived in Gods love. They gave over half their income to missions; their home was open to everyone. A holy hostel of sorts, a safe place for the wanderer, the hurting, and hungry. There was almost always someone living with them. In my twenties I often wondered if some of these people took advantage of their generosity. But looking back, I realize now that it’s impossible to take advantage of love.
Grandpa lived to be 95; he went home first. Grandma followed at the age of 100. After Grandma died, I miraculously found myself in possession of an amazing, holy, historical, Clark birthright – her Bible. I remember helping pack up some of my grandparent’s things at their house. Somehow, I ended up with the box containing grandpa’s cool Sinatra hat and grandma’s bible.
It honestly wasn’t intentional. But when I realized I had Grandma’s Bible, and that no one in my family knew it, well, lets just say, I was almost tempted beyond what I could bear. I’m not proud of this but it took me weeks to let the cat out of the bag. Personally, I thought it was God ordained. My family thought otherwise.
Dad finally sequestered it, but not before I had a chance to read through and scan some of the contents. That said, I still have grandpas hat and it’s the way he wanted it, so leave off!
I realize I am going on about this Bible but you have to understand, this was her bible for over 50 years! Some of my heritage as a lover of God has been documented and preserved in its pages. It was like having a personalized road map to my inheritance. This bible is marked on nearly every page and in every ink color you can imagine. It is filled with intimate notes in the margins about Gods grace, and mercy, and kindness, and most of all, His love.
In fact, Gods love seemed to be the singular pursuit of my Grandmother. There were several hand written notes, and poems she had cut out of papers, and magazines.
“For the love of God is broader than the measure of mans mind. And the heart of the Eternal is most wonderfully kind.”
“He drew a circle that shut me out, heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win, we drew a circle that took him in!”
Honestly, while writing this, I am overwhelmed and infinitely grateful by how my grandparents lived. They truly were world changers, heroes in the faith, saints. They lived in such an intimate friendship with Jesus and their prayers never ceased; for their kids, their grand kids, their great grand kids…
Even though they are now in heaven, I still feel the echoes of their prayers; I see the evidence in my life and the lives of my kids. I am their legacy, as are my kids and so on. And that’s the way it’s supposed to be. You see, when saints pray, the Kingdom is possessed, today, and for the ages that come.
My cousins, Chris and Jonathan, had the privilege of growing up in the same town as my grandparents. Since my grandparents passed I have heard many stories about their lives. Recently, however, I heard a new story about grandma Eva as told by my cousin Jonathan that just absolutely amazed me. I recognized it immediately because it is my story as well, it was a mile marker on a road map to my inheritance in my Fathers always-good love. But its not just for me, I believe I am meant to share with you as well.
Grandma and Grandpa went to their church whenever there was a service. They participated in every way. Jonathan was with Grandma one Sunday morning. During worship Jonathan noticed she was not singing the words. Grandma was a worshiper; she always sang.
The congregation was well into the famous and beautiful Hymn “Come Thou Fount.” As Jonathan tells it, Grandma was not only not singing, she seemed slightly agitated.
The piano led the voices,
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter; bind my wandering heart to Thee.
To Jonathan, Grandma’s lack of participation was almost stubborn.
Prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.
Grandma seemed perturbed by this line. Grandma was the most patient and kind woman on the planet. Perturbed was so out of character for her that Jonathan became concerned. Finally, he leaned over.
“Grandma, what’s wrong?” He whispered.
Grandma said, “I’m not prone to wander Jonathan. I love Him!
Come Thou Fount
Robert Robinson was born in 1735. He lost his father at the age of ten. His mother, believed to have been a strong Christian, had a desire to see her son grow to become a minister. However, Robert was willfully lost. When he turned fourteen his mother sent him to London to apprentice with a barber. For the next several years Robert lived a life of drinking and gambling. Robert was prone to wander.
At the age of seventeen, he and his drinking buddies went to a meeting where evangelist George Whitfield was preaching. Apparently they were planning on mocking those in attendance but upon hearing the message, Robert’s heart was assaulted by Love.
The following three years Robert wrestled with God. In 1755, at the age of twenty, He won by surrendering. As a side note, God won too! It’s what we in the Kingdom call, a “win/win.”
Three years after Robert said yes to Love, he composed a song. This song is stunning in its revelation.
Come, Thou Fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet, sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it, mount of Thy redeeming love.
The song has four stanzas in total and for the last 250 years it has captured hearts with the authority of its revelation. The lyrics and melody coalesce beautifully to reveal and release the wonder of grace and the power of Love. Many have sung this song while in their own wrestling match with God. There have been many win/win’s because of Roberts revelation.
This song was Roberts story. It was a testimony of one sinner’s journey to the “mount of Thy redeeming love!” It’s the prodigal son epic. Its one of the most stunning stories in the universe because its not just Roberts, its ours. Every one of us who have said yes to Love, have tasted and touched, been immersed and redeemed, restored and made whole.
All of us are on a journey like Roberts. We live to discover our Fathers Love. And while this song is powerful in that revelation, I would also like to suggest that the journey doesn’t end at the discovery; that’s just the beginning…
To continue reading click HERE. The entire chapter will be available for the month of July.
Excerpt taken from Let’s Go Find This Kingdom Come – Chapter Five – God Is Not In Control
For the month of MAY this chapter, in it’s entirety, will be online at the link above. There are some references to the chapter in this blog, so if you missed last weeks, you may want to go read the chapter
The Skill Saw
There were a couple years when my family lived in Western NY. We had a house on Cedar St, which was located just a few blocks from the church school we attended. At that time I was around eleven years old, my sister Aimee was ten, and my brother Joel was eight. Because we lived so close, we often walked to and from school. We had many adventures along the way. Snowball fights, yelling fights, pushing fights, slapping fights, and one time there was even a peeing fight… well, kinda.
I really loved them, but sometimes my brother and sister just wouldn’t do what I told wanted. I was the oldest, I was in charge, I knew best. One day after a good bit of yelling, we got home and found the house locked. Mom was gone so we had to wait outside for her return. After a couple of minutes, Aimee announced that she had to pee. I told her she would have to wait for Mom to get back. A couple minutes after that she said, “I’m going to go pee in the bushes.”
I thought that this was grossly inappropriate. Now if Joel had needed to pee, I would have told him to go pee in the bushes. But Aimee was a girl and so, well, it was just different, that’s all. Plus, I had already told her she would have to wait. I had made myself clear.
“Aimee, you will not pee in the bushes!” I said firmly.
She glared at me and said, “I will pee in the bushes if I want to!”
“I’m in charge and you have to listen to me!” I shot back. I was losing control of her.
Aimee became enraged; yeah that’s the word. I think she said the first thing that came to her mind, the only thing she really could have said at that moment,
“Then I’ll pee in my pants!!” She screamed.
It worked. Now I was enraged as well. You see, if it was unladylike to pee in the bushes, it was definitely worse to pee in your pants. Like any good dictator, I didn’t appreciate being questioned and if peeing in the bushes challenged my control, peeing in her pants was practically like spitting in my face. “You are not going to pee in your pants” I yelled.
“I will too!” she screamed back.
And then…she did.
Mom literally pulled into the driveway as Aimee’s jeans began to change from blue to wet. Needless to say, while Aimee may have been the true victim that day, Mom didn’t see it that way. She wasn’t impressed. I still remember that look on her face; slightly angry and a little confused.
We were greeted with that face a few weeks later. Coming home from school, we discovered not only Moms car but also Dads truck in the driveway. Dad’s truck was never in the driveway before 5PM. We ran into the house excitedly looking for him. Mom met us at the door. Dad had been in an accident.
My dad had a construction company at the time and had been on a job site. Apparently while cutting a 2×4, the skill saw snagged on the wood, bounced out of his right hand and landed on the left. Then the saw proceeded to crawl up his arm. He had several deep gashes. The worst was his thumb, which he almost severed.
I walked into the bedroom with my brother and sister. Dad was in bed, his hand bandaged. He had been sleeping but was now awake and sitting up. He smiled at us. Then he showed us his bandages and told us how it happened, and how he should have been more careful, and how the doctors barely saved his thumb. Yes, it hurt, but he had medicine now and felt better. Yes, lots of blood…
When my dad finished explaining the accident, my brother and sister’s interest waned. Not me, I moved to the next – to me – obvious question. “Why did it happen?” I asked. I didn’t just want to know how; I had to know why. “Why” was one of my favorite questions as a kid. …It still seems to come up from time to time.
As a kid I put my dad in some tough situations with that question. “Dad, why did God let Keith Green die?” , “Dad, why does God let African children go hungry” And finally, “Dad, why do you think you nearly cut your thumb off, why would God let it happen?”
My dad would have a completely different answer to that question if it were asked today. But at the time, my Dad had been fed bad hamburguesa, a lie. And it caused him see and say things that weren’t true… so he responded,
“I think God may be trying to get my attention.”
It was a lie. But at the time, my dad believed it, and so did I. Its not that I made an intentional theological decision regarding the nature of God, I was eleven, but my subconscious bought it. The idea that my Heavenly Father uses Skill saws, that He either orchestrates or just allows bad things to happen to people so He might get their attention, or teach them a lesson, or to get them to do His will- it became a part of my spiritual DNA.
It’s bad hamburguesa; if you eat it, you get sick. It’s a lie that is as old as humankind. It’s a lie that was birthed in the Garden of Eden. Everyday, both believers and unbelievers buy into it. Like me, they swallow it down and then pass it along. In my opinion, it’s the worst kind of lie. It’s the worst because it distorts the true nature of our Heavenly Father. It implies that God is in control…
To continue reading click HERE