Prone To Love, Chapter Three – Bigger Than The Future
Excerpt – Love Trumps
“If I could give one hope, new breath to an old song. It’s a yes that births a more that never ends.”
Jesus didn’t come to set us straight on how much we needed Him. That was abundantly clear from the moment Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. He came to give us access to love—receiving and giving, beholding and becoming.
While the seen world operates around the measurements of need, the unseen world, the one we are invited to live in by faith, is about measureless love. The Kingdom of heaven operates in the context of love. Our Father does not need us nor is it His greatest desire that we need Him. He is not looking for slaves but for sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, friends.
Need is not a reality in the Kingdom of heaven. We are called to live heaven here, now. The Christian life is about knowing and becoming love, and then meeting the needs of those around us with the love we have received from God. It’s a journey into a mature love that has the power of all of heaven at its back.
Need is self-focused. If it’s our foundation, then in every interaction we will protect our right to need. If need is the foundation of our relationship with God, we relegate ourselves to a poverty existence. For those consumed by need, God’s love is a limited resource, heaven is a remote future, and life, hope, and peace are distant realities that must be striven for.
In the measureless generosity of our Father’s love, needs are not just met, they are miraculously redeemed. The reality of heaven transforms the reality on earth. Fear, insecurity, shame, condemnation, every life-taxing fruit of need bends the knee and love trumps. These moments become rally points for revival, testimonies of His nature.
…If you want to hear a message where I unpack this thought click HERE
My dad and mom are my hero’s. Prone to Love is as much their message as it is Karen, the kids, and mine. Their faith and love have empowered us to trust and lived loved. There was no one else on the planet I wanted to write the Forward but my dad.
Prone to Love - FORWARD
Growing up in Canada as a boy automatically made you a hockey player. It was in your blood. My friends and I (the poor kids) played on the streets and ponds while the more affluent children played in organized clubs with all the bells and whistles. But pond or rink, we all dreamed of becoming the next Gordy Howe or Bobby Hull.
So growing up in a “Pentecostal revival” as a boy automatically made me a preacher. Church was as exciting as hockey. The deaf hear- ing, the blind seeing, the lame walking—I saw it with my own eyes. It was amazing, all the promises of God alive in our church. My pastor was my hero and the glossy magazines in my house were filled with pictures of “men of faith and power.” As a boy, I knew God’s love, and I also knew I wanted to be a preacher. I spent hours standing in front of the mirror preaching up a storm. My dream was to be a revivalist like my pastor and maybe even have my own glossy magazine cover one day.
As a kid, church was every night of the week and the source of some of my best adventures. Over my past sixty-three years, I have adventured in the church deep and wide—charismatic, Baptist, Methodist, nondenominational—the persuasions and movements have all added to my story.
I’ve tasted and seen that the Lord is good. And I love the church— the bride of Christ. But over the years, the wide-eyed dreams of a boy were beaten and bloodied in the trenches of the church. Over the years, my passion was muddied as I experienced the carnage and cannibal- ism of power hungry men who dreamed of having their own magazine some day. Church disappointed me. I became disillusioned with her.
Equally disappointing was that I became disillusioned with myself as well. I was convinced that I too was flawed. I would never be truly trustworthy and thus would never see the power of God flowing through my fingertips. And somewhere along the way I accidentally swore off on ever being a revivalist.
As I grew older, the lie was reinforced by my own failures. I was not trustworthy and worse, I was unlovely and unworthy. Who was I to be cynical with the church when my own life looked nothing like the promises of my youth? I became more and more reluctant to risk. My dreams of the church, a beautiful bride, were fading and I began to settle for the routine, the mundane, and the safe.
I have since learned that a lie is the only thing that can remove us from our promise, the only thing that can separate us from the tangible experience of a revived life. The only power Satan has is the power of the lie. The enemy of our souls only purpose is to conceal, distort, and destroy our true identity. He wants us to believe that we are untrust- worthy, unlovely, and unworthy.
But His light has come! And light changes everything! Because of the cross, the lie no longer has a voice—unless I decide to give it one. In the last several years, I have discovered that my promise, the true dream of my youth, wasn’t a glossy magazine or the title of pastor. It wasn’t even the power of His presence or revival. My promise is sim- ple—to know He loves me and is entirely captivated by my loveliness. And I have become so filled with anticipation that I can’t wait till morn- ing. I am in the biggest learning curve of my life! He loves me!
It gets sweeter as the days go by,
It gets sweeter as the moments fly.
His love is richer, deeper, fuller, sweeter,
Sweeter, sweeter, sweeter as the days goes by.
I sang this as a boy, and it’s truer still!
I am learning that “He loves me” isn’t just an introduction or even a chapter in our story; it’s the book. And every new chapter is a spin-off of this one central revelation. From creation to the cross, and from the cross onward, “He loves me” is the center and focal point of both this life and the life to come. His love for me is what gives me value, it’s what makes me trustworthy and lovely.
I think heaven will be an eternity of “ahs and ahas” of amazement at how deep, how wide, and how high His love really is—beautiful vis- tas at every new bend in the road. But what I am coming to learn is that we don’t have to wait! We can know this love and live heaven here and now!
Since the days when the fullest revelation of Love walked the earth in the form of a man, light has continued to dawn. As Jesus was leaving the earth, those closest to Him were in the biggest learning curve of their lives. And at the end of John’s apostolic journey, he was still in amazement at how much better and bigger God actually was.
John and the apostles were “getting it” in increasing measures as their capacity for “getting it” increased.
Earth may still seem a long way from heaven. But Jesus’s prayer in Matthew 6 was that earth would be transformed in the light of heaven. And this is the story of heaven, this is heaven’s song, “We are loved.”
Occasionally someone comes along who puts things into words that expose the lies and cause my heart to pitter-patter. My mind may be struggling to grasp what is going on while my heart is burning within me, for it is with the heart, not the head, that we “get it.” And Jason is “getting it!”
As Jason’s parents, we’ve had front row seats in his story. Mary and I get to watch up close. We have actually been strapped to the front of this transformation, watching the gory turn into glory, and we get to declare, although the ride is far from over and nothing short of delightful, that our hearts are burning within us!
He loves me! Jason has been living with a reckless abandon and discovering our truly good Father along the way. In this book, Jason is bringing hidden things to light, exposing lies that have kept us in bond- age, and offering us more tools for transformation. And as he puts truths into stories I can understand and relate with, I find myself overwhelmed again and again at how much bigger and how much better my Father is. I never imagined He would be this accessible and good—really good.
Prone to Love is filled with fresh insights where you will discover you are as near to Him right now as you will ever be, and that access to everything He is has already been granted.
God willing, over the next forty years or so that Mary and I will still be on this side of eternity, we are living with joyful anticipation as we dream, explore, and continue to discover the deep love of our Father. And His love will continue to dawn in the lives of our grandkids and great-grandkids as they expound on and expand the truths of what was won for us at Calvary. He loves us!
I love the church and I see something fresh and beautiful on the horizon. And I find myself running after it with reckless abandon, will- ing to believe once more for brighter, better, and bolder expressions in His beautiful bride.
In the writing process I often hit one revelation from twenty different angles. In the editing process I often have to pull out entire sections so as not to lose the reader. Below is one of the sections that was edited out, a B-side if you will, from my forthcoming book, Prone To Love
Tell Her How I See Her
I was just about to pack up to leave Starbucks. I had been writing. Anthony Skinners song, Wide Open, was playing through my headphones.
“Lord we come to you, with hearts wide open…”
“Hey Jason!” A friend was walking in the door.
“How are ya?” I smiled as I pulled the phones away from my ears.
“I’m good,” she said, as she made her way to where I was standing. She is one of my coffee shop friends; a young, hip, always-encouraged believer.
But she wasn’t good. I could see it in every line on her face and every shift of her shoulders.
“Really?” I asked with a clear question.
“No, I guess not” Her distress slipped past her attempt at a smile. She began to share. She was facing some serious life challenges, sickness in her family, a financial hardship, and a relationship question. It was altogether overwhelming.
Anthony’s song was running through my spirit, “Lord we come to you, with hearts wide open…”
“Can I pray for you?” I asked.
“Please.” She said.
I took a breath and was about to pray for all the needs she had just brought to my attention when God interrupted me. Speaking to my heart in a strong commanding way He asked, “Jason, what are you doing?”
I was a little confused. I thought it was obvious. She had made it pretty clear, she had some serious needs…” Gods question seemed odd.
While the young woman stood with her eyes closed waiting for me to pray, I spoke to God in my heart. “I am praying for her needs, You know, Thy Kingdom come.”
God responded immediately, “Your relationship with others can’t be determined by their needs.”
Wow, “that’s profound” I thought. He continued. “Tell her how I see her.”
I began to laugh. “Thats a great idea God!” I thought.
So I changed course and while she stood waiting, I asked our Father how He saw her. It was good and I laughed again. At this point about a minute had passed. When I started laughing the second time my hipster friend opened her eyes and looked at me strangely.
As I began to pray out loud her expression became confused. Probably because she had been expecting a prayer that would cover her needs but instead I was telling her that our Father saw her as pure and righteous and all together lovely. While I’m sure it was a nice thing to hear, at first it seemed out place – odd.
As I faithfully relayed our Fathers perspective she began to cry. And when I told her how God saw her as faithful and trustworthy with the greater longings of His heart, she began to weep.
I smiled to tears. There is no greater privilege than revealing to another person how the Father loves them.
After about twenty minutes she was able to talk. Her whole persona was different, she was bright eyed, cheerful, and filled with expectation. That was when our Father invited us to pray for her needs. I listened as she prayed powerful prayers, the kind of prayers that spiritual giants pray.
“All our love wide open, open for you…”
Anthony sang heaven over us while we reveled in the goodness of God.
I hide food. You might find a bag of Sweet and Spicy Jalapeño Cape Cod chips under the seat of my car. You might discover a Coffee Crisp chocolate bar, courtesy of my mom’s latest visit to Canada, in the back of my nightstand drawer. You might discover a can of Coke in the cupboard above the fridge.
And yes, sometimes I act surprised that I bought the hot salsa even when I knew it was the hot salsa. Why, because I am the only person in the house that likes the salsa hot and because I have a son who is always “starving.”
Many years ago, when Ethan was four, he woke Karen and me up in the morning to tell us, “Stay in bed, I won’t eat all the sticky buns.” He lied.
Hypothetically: If I where to come home with four donuts, any or all of my three amazing and generous children might act as if there were a worldwide donut crisis. Including myself, there are five people who live in my house but, “Seriously, Dad, four donuts?”
Earth revolves around need; earth’s math is solid, its measurements true. If you have five people and everyone wants their own donut, you either need five donuts or someone has to go without…and that’s why I hide things.
But there is a greater truth, a greater revelation that trumps the math of need.
Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, He gave thanks and broke them. Then He gave them to the disciples to set before the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over (Luke 9:16-17).
I bet Jesus didn’t hide stuff. He didn’t need to. He lived from heaven to earth where need was a foreign concept. He lived in the measureless need-trumping love of His Father.
I don’t know about you, but I have lived a great portion of my life from earth to heaven. My understanding of my need has been, for the most part, greater then my revelation of His love. I have done most of my thinking, talking, praying, and worshiping in the limitations of need, both with God and the world around me.
I have related to my Father in heaven and others through the lens of limited resources. I have confined heaven to the measurements of earth and I have discovered that if the reality of need, the limited resources of earth, is my compass, insecurity is a daily companion.
Insecurity can lead to strange bedfellows, so to speak. Insecurity is often the invitation to a wrestling match with feelings of hopelessness, envy, greed, lust, and all the other desperations of need. When need is bigger than love, dysfunction will worm its way into every relationship.
When we live from the limited resources of earth, we will intrinsically believe that for one person to have, another must go without; for one to be blessed, another must be cursed; for one to experience joy, another must know sorrow; for one to have peace, another must be oppressed; for one to be rich, another must be poor, and so on.
It’s the exact opposite of what Jesus revealed. In the measureless revelation of heaven, the last are also first, the weak are also strong, and those that give,
There were no limited resources in Jesus’s reality; there were no limits to His love, generosity, mercy, grace, healing, hope, and life. There were no needs Love couldn’t trump, no measurements that couldn’t be surpassed.
Jesus taught us a new language. Jesus was a new language. He walked the earth as the Father’s love perfectly revealed. He was surrounded by the question of need and lived as the answer—Love. He taught us a new language—the measureless perfection of our Father’s need trumping always-good love…
Excerpt from Prone To Love which releases Feb 18.
Below is the final of three excerpts from chapter eleven of my forthcoming book Prone To Love. The chapter is entitled Sin. You can pre-order it on Amazon now. It releases February 18th and I can hardly wait!
Identity > Behavior
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”
These are some of the last instructions Jesus gives before going to the cross.
Peter’s response? “Lord, I am ready to go with You to prison and to death” (Luke 22:33).
I love Peter’s response—it’s beautiful. Peter was ready to die for Jesus. You know, many years later Peter actually does die for Jesus. But he wasn’t truly ready yet.
Jesus responds, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me” (Luke 22:34).
This conversation fascinated and confused me for years until I realized that Jesus said one thing and Peter heard something else. Jesus essentially said, “Pete, I’m praying your faith won’t fail,” and Peter heard, “Pete, I am praying that you don’t fail.”
Jesus wasn’t praying Peter wouldn’t sin or fail, that wasn’t His focus. Jesus was praying that after Peter gave his life in his own strength, after Peter radically misunderstood the situation, after Peter tried to murder someone in Jesus’s name, after Peter lived through the pain of three times denying the One he loved, after Peter lived through the death of his Teacher and Friend, after Peter lived under the soul-crushing guilt, the life-threatening shame, the horror of condemnation, the misery of anxiety, and the power of fear, after Peter sinned and absolutely failed, that he would still believe Jesus loved him.
Faith believes His love is greater still.
This interaction between Jesus and Peter was not about Peter’s capacity to sin; it was about Peter’s capacity to believe that Jesus’s love was greater than any sin. The focus was changing, the story was shifting, the reality of heaven was invading the reality of earth. Sinners were being given access to His righteousness, slaves where being transformed into sons and daughters.
Jesus was going to the cross so Peter could know the Father like He did and have access to the absolute power and authority of love. The cross would become the door through which Peter could know the redemption of mercy and the transformative power of grace.
Please get this: Jesus was praying and contending for Peter’s identity, not his behavior. I’m convinced the Christian life is not a measurement of good behavior, but instead is full access to a measureless love that transforms. It’s not about our failures, it’s not even about our sin; it’s about love, knowing and becoming.
Many days later, the resurrected Jesus walked a beach with His good friend Peter. Faith was restored through a revelation of love and Peter was transformed. On that beach, Jesus told Peter he would one day die for him. Peter was ready now, his salvation secured and his revelation true.
If we aren’t sure in the perfection of our Father’s always-good love, we can’t become sure in our new identity as saints. If we can’t become sure in our new identity as saints, then we will need to have our behavior monitored. If we need to have our behavior monitored, we will need to serve a controlling God. This completely undermines the cross. I kid you not.
In a world were sin is greater than love, there have to be laws and rules and police and armies and prisons to enforce and control behavior. Need demands that our whole society be structured around agreed-upon behavior.
When our focus is on not sinning, our understanding of the enemy is greater than our revelation of God’s love. Christians should never live more afraid of failing God than revealing love. If our ability to sin is greater than His ability to make us righteous, we have undermined the power of the cross.
When we live in a rule-based relationship with God, we will feel insecure by the truth that in Christ we aren’t sinners. When our relationship with Love is behavior-based, we will become apprehensive by the idea that sin is not the focus.
“If you smoke, don’t be shocked when you get cancer.” The fact is that has to be said when sin is the focus. But you know, our Father’s love trumps cancer, even when the cancer is the result of the sin of smoking.
Below is the second of three excerpts from chapter eleven of my forthcoming book Prone To Love. The chapter is entitled Sin. You can pre-order on Amazon now. It releases February 18th and I can hardly wait!
A Series of Coffee Shop Adventures. That would have been a good title for this book. By now some of you might think my life revolves around coffee and that’s not far from the truth…
I was sitting at a Starbucks, happily drinking magic bean juice with a pastor friend. We were talking about mercy and grace and what Jesus’s death and resurrection meant for our new nature when he pointedly asked me a question: “Are you saying you can go a day without sinning?” Hidden behind the healing sounds of pulled espresso shots and milk steaming, Mumford & Sons was setting the mood.
Love; it will not betray you,
Dismay or enslave you, it will set you free,
Be more like the man you were meant to be.
Without hesitation I answered his question, “I haven’t thought about it, but I sure hope so.”
Oh, man! The look on his face…you would have thought I’d told him I was the love child of Hitler and Bin Laden.
Before his shock could turn to anger, I said, “I think your question is flawed—the premise is wrong. Your question suggests that the point of my life is to not sin. But I believe the point of my life is to know His love and become transformed. I am not saying I can’t sin, I am not even saying I haven’t sinned today, I’m just saying that it’s the wrong focus.”
Then I told him the same Jesus story I had shared months earlier at another coffee shop with some college students, one who was particularity concerned about smoking.
Jesus was walking down the street with His disciples when they came across a blind fella. His disciples asked,
“Rabbi, who sinned: this man or his parents, causing him to be born blind?”
Jesus said, “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do… (John 9:1-3 MSG).
It wasn’t that Jesus didn’t acknowledge sin; He just knew that the answer to the issue of sin didn’t lie in the study of who sinned, but in a revelation of Dad.
The New International Version reads, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.”
I’m convinced that Jesus sees every question raised by sin and death as an opportunity for love to be revealed. Every tragedy and every bondage is an opportunity for the Father’s love to trump need.
Please understand me: Jesus was not saying that sin isn’t a problem or that it doesn’t lead to death. Nor was He suggesting that the blind fella had lived a perfect life or that his parents hadn’t fallen short. He was simply saying that the focus is no longer on who had sinned, but instead on “Who loves you? That’s right—God.”
Everyone knows sin is a problem. The handful of people with Jesus and the millions who have read this story since know that the blind fella and his parents weren’t without sin. More than likely, they had even sinned that day. But Jesus wasn’t focused on the problem. He was the living, walking, talking measureless solution.
Think about it like this. Adam and Eve were both born perfect. As perfect, I imagine they had perfect 20/20 vision. The point is that we were created to see, it’s in our original design. Blindness is the result of the fall. It didn’t exist before sin and death entered the world.
For the blind fella, the result of sin in the world was devastating. In the day and culture he lived, blindness was directly connected to sin. In the day and culture he lived, blindness was a shame that stranded you as a hopeless beggar. Blindness was a life-and-death problem.
The question of sin dominated the reality and conversation of Jesus’s day. It was the focus, it was the problem, and it was the separation from our Father’s always-good transforming love.
Unfortunately, even after Jesus died and rose, even after Jesus declared, “It is finished,” even after the veil was torn, even after we have been seated with Him in heavenly places to live from the measureless, even after we have been invited to change the focus, most believers still want to know who sinned so they can pin the tail on the appropriate donkey.
For some reason, we like that pinning stuff…
It was bedtime and I was snuggling Eva. I told a story about a bunny princess named Gertrude who only wore plaid, and a squirrel prince named Hank who only wore pajamas. I paused for the expected interruption and then listened, smiling to tears, as Eva made her revisions. Gertrude became Lizzy with a beautiful pink dress. Hank became Lizzy’s best friend Molly. She too had a beautiful dress, hers was purple; and they also had ponies. And as Eva imagined out loud, I thanked my Father for the wonder of this girl. In that moment, I knew love like I never had before.
We transitioned from story time into our closing goodnight communion.
“Eva, you’re my favorite. I love you best.”
I say this to all my kids. It’s become a Clark family way to express our love. And its true, every time.
“I love you best too daddy” She responded and the game began.
“I love you to the tops of the trees.” I grinned.
“I love you to the tops of the tree’s and the moon, times a hundred.” She knows how to play.
“I love you to the moon, and stars, and universe and back, times a hundred and five.” I said as I gave her nose kisses.
She giggled, “I love you to the moon, the stars, the universe and back, times a hundred and ten!”
We continued for a few more beautiful minutes, each taking turns surpassing the last statement, a million, billion, gazillion, eternity, to infinity and beyond.
Many of you know the pure joy of this game. You have played it with your loved one. It never loses its wonder.
I don’t know if you have ever thought of it this way but this is a game of measurements. The stunning thing is, love is immeasurable. Every time Eva and I play this game we do our best to measure love and discover to our immense joy that it can’t be done.
Eva always ends our competition with an amazing statement. The first time she said it I was astonished by its brilliance. Now it’s become the phrase that suspends our conversation until next time…
“I love you bigger than the future…”
“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Eph 3:17-19)
I can’t imagine how Paul felt trying to describe a love that is bigger than the future – a love that surpasses knowledge. But I bet it felt a little like the game Eva and I play at bedtime.
Paul starts by using the language of earth. Its as if he is saying Christ love is wider than forever, longer than eternity, higher than a million, billion, gazillion, and deeper than infinity, times a hundred.
Paul invites us into an encounter with Gods love that we may be filled to the full measure of the fullness of God.
Measurements are the stuff of earth. To measure, we use words like wide, long, high, and deep – words like filled and fullness.
But once Paul has done his absolute best to measure the love of God, he shifts into the language of heaven. In the next breath Paul expands our revelation.
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…” (Eph 3:17-20)
Paul essentially says, “I want you to be filled to the full measure of the immeasurable.” And just in case we might be tempted to apply measurements to the “immeasurable” Paul added, “beyond” and “all” as if to say, “Stop it, you can’t measure Love, He is bigger than the future”!
Measurements are something that make perfect sense on earth but are a foreign concept in heaven. Heaven sits outside of time, its infinite and operates in the economy of a love that is bigger than the future. I believe this scripture is an invitation to move from the measurable reality of earth to the immeasurable revelation of heaven.
And I would like to suggest that’s why Jesus came. Jesus didn’t live simply to reveal a destination, He showed us the foundation – our Fathers perfect love.
Jesus never lived for the immeasurable, He lived from it. Jesus demonstrated what a bigger than the future love could look like. And He invited us to know and live it like He did. Immeasurable was never meant to be simply a description of the destination, it’s always been His heart that it would be our foundation.
Need is measurable; it’s the stuff of earth. Love is immeasurable; it’s the economy of heaven. Love trumps need. This life is the only time we will ever be given the opportunity to live from heaven while on earth.
Thy Kingdom come…bigger than the future.
I have offended a couple hundred someones…
So I have made a few revisions to the song Come Thou Fount, I have changed the lyrics ”prone to wander” to “prone to love.” For those who have never read why I feel free to change those lyrics, you can read My Grandma was Prone to Love or Adam & Eve – Minty Fresh. I have been writing and living out this message for several years now. Its been an awesome journey!
Whenever I write or talk about our new nature in Christ there are always some Christians that seem to get a little irritated, maybe even a lot irritated. I recently read a blog by a fella who was very offended by those particular lyrics being changed. He insisted that anyone who believes we aren’t prone to sin is a fake, insincere Christian – more or less an idiot who gives Christianity a bad name. Last I checked, there were nearly 250 responses to his blog, most emphatically agreeing with the authors assessment, both that we are dirty rotten sinners who are helpless to our ‘sin nature” and that anyone who would change the lyrics of Come Thou Fount is an insincere moron.
It made me a little sad. Not that strangers might think I’m a moron, I’m not a moron. Neither was I saddened by the fact that so many believers are convinced they are prone to sin, I understand that, I have lived it and still am walking out my faith regarding my new nature. But the thick condescending tone of hundreds of believers who are convinced that defending a proclivity to sin is somehow a badge to prove their authenticity was heart breaking.
I think its just the oposite by the way, authenticity isn’t just about confession but also transformation. In my opinion, confession without transformation is whats inauthentic, in fact I’d go so far as to call it hypocrisy. As a Christian, to admit I sin is only authentic if its followed by transformation through the power of His mercy and grace. But thats a rabbit trail for another day, or if you want to read it today, you can go to this blog Mercy & Grace…
What is really on my heart is that on more occasions than I can count, the same scripture is used to support our wandering ways. I saw it again in the responses supporting this fella’s claim of our sinful nature. You have probably read it, 2 Corinthians 2:7-10 “To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.”
I think the temptation is to read this section of scripture through the lens of our own experiences and determine that Paul was acquiescing, tolerating, or even licensing sin, which is what was suggested by many responding to the fellas blog. That was the furthest thing from the truth! More than likely it wasn’t even sin Paul was talking about. Most biblical scholars believe the “thorn” was an illness. Paul mentions an illness in Galatians 4:13 and without going into detail there is enough other references to suggest that Paul may have had an issue with his eyes. Of course the thorn could also be the trials Paul was facing which he mentions just a couple verses later as, “insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties.”
Whether it was illness, persecution, or even sin, Paul never acquiesced; he never suggested that the thorn had any right to him, or control of him, or that somehow it was sent of God to test him. In fact, he writes just the opposite – the thorn was “a messenger of satan. So even if the thorn was sin, it wasn’t a part of Pauls DNA or nature, it came from satan.
Paul continues, “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it (the thorn) away from me. But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’”
Later in this same letter to the Corinthians Paul describes the power of this “sufficient” grace. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.” ( 2 Corinthians 8:9)
So Paul prays three times for God to take away the “thorn,” affliction, illness, or sin. And then in the very next verse, God does something absolutely amazing, he answers Pauls prayer! God says, “My grace is sufficient.”
Here is a thought, the grace that was sufficient for Paul was the same grace Jesus operated in; the same grace in which Jesus become poor that His rich power would be available to all of us. Its the same “grace of God that brings salvation” Paul wrote about in Titus 2:11.
Could it be that the power of this grace is the whole point of Paul’s message? Of course it is! All you have to do is read anything else written by Paul to know that Grace is not a Band-Aid, Grace is a Person more powerful than any thorn.
Regarding the “thorn”, could it be that, just like all of us, Paul lived in the tension and mystery of unanswered prayer? And yet even there, God answers and says “My grace is enough.”
Is it possible that Paul wasn’t contradicting everything else he had ever written and the very life of Jesus by suggesting that just this once the grace of God didn’t bring salvation? Of course not!
When we read this scripture and use it to license sin or a nature prone to sin, we miss the one key phrase in this section of scripture that is the whole point, His “grace is sufficient.” His grace is the power that is evidenced through weakness; the same weakness Jesus humbled himself in that we would be raised up.
But there’s more, Paul continues, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
I love this scripture because Paul doesn’t say when I am weak, He is strong. Which, by the way, is another song I may lyrically edit some day…
Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so
Little ones to Him belong, when I’m weak then I am strong.”
That’s what Paul writes, “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” That’s what Grace does, it makes us strong. Even in the questions, the seeming unanswered prayers, the struggles not with flesh and blood but with the principalities and powers of darkness, even in the midst of loss or confusion, even when we do fall short, even when we don’t act like the saints His righteousness has transformed us to, His grace is sufficient, His grace is the power of the Gospel to bring salvation.
I would like to suggest that this “thorn” scripture is not about a weak and hopeless Paul who just can’t seem to overcome this one thing, no, this scripture is about Paul running the race in the power of Grace that makes us strong in weakness. We aren’t prone to wander, Grace says so. When we face unanswered prayers, Grace is sufficient. When we fail, Grace picks us up. When we tire, Grace strengthens. And when we repent, Grace transforms.
Its just the good news! Its the good news always getting better – even when it offends…
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!
Excerpt taken from Let’s Go Find This Kingdom Come – Chapter Seven –
Prone to Love. Chapter seven is posted 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 or edit a section of the chapter. I’ve done that here. If you would like to read the chapter in its entirety just click the link above.
Change The Way You Think
Eva, my youngest, was named after my grandmother. Eva is stunning! She is a firebrand of Gods love. A couple days after her fitfh birthday party Karen and I were lying in bed telling Maddy, Ethan, and Eva stories. Like all amazing parents, our amazing kids mesmerize us. We are overjoyed with how cute, and caring, and kind, and sweet, and loving, and giving, and… they are brilliant! As far as we are concerned, they are the best kids that have ever walked the planet.
While Karen was reliving an Eva moment, I realized just how much our parenting had matured over the years, especially in how we discipline. We have grown in our understanding that discipline is about revealing and releasing identity.
For instance, if Eva lies about something, my greatest desire is not for her to learn and understand the consequences of lying. My greatest desire is for her to know that she is not a liar.
You see, our heavenly Father doesn’t see her as a liar. So if she lies, she is not acting like how our Father sees her. He sees her as stunningly honest. As a parent, it is my privilege and charge to release her into that truth.
It doesn’t mean we don’t teach repentance; it’s just that repentance isn’t a form of punishment, it’s a privilege. Repent simply means to change the way you think; it’s an about face. Repentance is about changing your mind until you are in agreement with Gods.
In fact, that’s what we tell our kids. When there is an issue where their hearts are self-focused, you will often hear Karen or myself say, “Change the way you think.” And because we have had the talk many times, our kids understand that what we are saying is, “start thinking about yourself like your heavenly Father thinks about you.” Here’s the thing, if we learn to agree with how our heavenly Father sees us, we will start acting like He see’s us. Behavior follows identity.
So while Karen and I lay in bed, she told me how Eva recently had an intentionally forgetful moment and threw a tantrum. Karen sat down on the floor with her and kindly said “Eva, change… what?” Eva, who had just been given a necklace from her Aunt Aimee that read, “I’m a world changer,” looked at her mom and with a sudden sunny attitude and a mischievous grin said, “the world?”
Change the world. Yep, that will work too! In fact, if you become brilliant at changing the way you think, you can’t help but change the world…
I laughed with Karen as she told the story and then we both agreed again, our kids are brilliant! And Eva is correct; she is a world changer, that’s how her heavenly Father see’s her. I would like to suggest that’s how he sees you as well. You are prone to love. The trick is learning to agree with Him, go ahead, try it, change the way you think…