Sunday, September 26, 2010

Just One More Thing ...

A ruler questioned Him, saying, "Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. "You know the commandments, 'DO NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, DO NOT MURDER, DO NOT STEAL, DO NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS, HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER.'" And he said, "All these things I have kept from my youth." When Jesus heard this, He said to him, "One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." But when he had heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. (Luke 18:18-23; Matthew 5:8, NASB)


I recently read an article (or at least noticed the headline) that talked about the TV shows and such from our past shaping things we remember and even sometimes do. The imagery of Lucy crying, Archie in his chair, or Klinger in a dress is a familiar thing. The sounds of the theme songs and catch phrases echo in our heads. After all, who among us can't sing both versions of the theme from Gilligan's Island? Among these is Detective Colombo's often heard line as he was about to exit a room, "Just one more thing." And then, he would ask the question that would pin the suspect to the wall and solve the case ... all in less than an hour!

I can hear that same phrase as spoken by the Rabbi in this passage from Luke. A young man, one of considerable wealth, has been hanging around the periphery of Jesus' ministry. He's been listening to what has been said and has heard much about some Eternal Kingdom. He has grown up in a position to obtain whatever he puts his mind to getting and has never lacked for the smallest thing. Yet, through all he has heard, he has not quite figured out what is required to participate in what this Teacher is talking about. Swallowing hard (and maybe a little pride), he approaches the Master. He asks the question ... and the exchange surprises him, and then shakes him to his very core.

Christ almost "baits" him with the obvious. Follow the law; be a good Jew. He smiles, confident that he has measured up to that standard since he was knee high. He has this in the proverbial bag, but then the hammer hits. It's that Colombo "one more thing" line and the thing isn't a what was expected. He has to give it all away - everything he's worked so hard to get (or inherit). The Master is telling him to walk away from everything he has ever known and follow ... follow like one of these common disciples. "No!" he thinks to himself, "That price is too high." And he walks away, shaking his head at the very thought of it all. Whatever he thought he had heard, the price just isn't worth what was asked of him.

But what he didn't hear is what Jesus really said. Jesus wanted him to change his heart, his very way of thinking. He wanted the man to gain a new perspective, one that would allow him to trust to the point where he could walk away from all the externals and prestige he had known all his life. The Savior wanted commitment from his soul and not his wallet or rule book. Then again, this is the same message He had been preaching since His Sermon on the Mount ... the pure in heart are the ones who are in the unique position to see God at His fullest and most powerful. And you can't buy that stuff at any price.

Then again, the message is echoed throughout the Gospels and other letters (especially Paul's letter to the Galatians). We have a very human habit of focusing on something external, be it an act or creed on our part or something we can buy or earn. Basically, we are seeking something on our terms and we think we've heard that is possible ... right up until that "one more thing" comes into view. And, if our hearts are in tune with the Spirit, we see that God wants us to renew our inside first and everything else will flow from the heart He will give us.

As I travel this Crooked Path, I need a constant reminder that God is most interested in my heart. He wants me to cooperate with His plan to renew it and let His Spirit be released through my own. He wants me to know that the "one more thing" is, in fact, the only thing that matters. If my heart is pitched toward Him, I can confidently follow His lead and know that He is in complete control. I can rest assured that He has made my heart pure and that at the end of the path, I will see Him. That is the ultimate blessing anyway.


  1. Are you looking for some formula, some pre-defined plan that you can follow step by step in order to earn your spot in eternity?
  2. Do you find yourself comparing what you do to what others do, or even to what you used to do? And are you a little bit proud when you can give yourself a "higher grade" than you give others?
  3. What will it take for you to completely give in to the idea that God wants your heart and that all the externals don't really mean anything to Him? Are you longing to be that one who is pure in heart that the Savior spoke of in the Beatitudes?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Truckload of Grace

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. (Ephesians 1:3-10, NIV)


It started as I've so often seen it of late. I was talking on the phone with a good friend of mine. He's been struggling of late with some issues and trying to listen to what God is saying, trying to grow based on what he is learning. During this particular conversation, while we were talking about the common struggles we have, always wanting some predictable set of steps to achieve a specific outcome and get us out of our current state of discomfort. In the course of the conversation, he asked me to pray that God would give him "a truckload of grace" to deal with it all. And right there is when it dawned on me.

Many of us, and I'm including myself here, tend to think of grace in terms of quantity. I've prayed that God would grant "an extra measure of grace" to somebody having trouble as I'm sure you have. I've asked for "more grace" and sung songs that say the same thing. But as I talked with my friend after he'd made his statement, I began thinking differently. God doesn't increase or decrease the grace offered to us based on some circumstance or prayer. It is already provided beyond measure ("lavished" as today's passage notes) and we have access to all of it all the time. Perhaps what we really should be asking for in these cases is that God reveal the depth and wonder of His grace to us in a new and fresh way.

If we consider God's answer to Paul, when the apostle asked for his physical infirmity to be removed, is right along this line of thinking. Paul practically begged God a total of three times to be relieved of it, but God's clear and supportive answer was something else - grace. God's grace, in its immeasurable wonder was "sufficient" to sustain Paul through this current issue and through everything he was to face in the future. Paul didn't have to ask for God to "fill up his grace tank" again. No, that same grace that knocked him down on the road to Damascus, that same grace that he preached across Asia and Europe, that same grace that would be offered in lieu of healing would constantly wash over his soul and keep him. When you think of it that way, it's like trying to measure the ocean with a one-cup scoop.

My travels on the Crooked Path will take me through hills and valleys, plain paths and rocky ones, times of struggle and times of quiet. As I've said all along, God didn't promise and easy journey, He just promised to be right there with us, watching and guiding. His grace, always available beyond any possible human measure, comforts and sustains me in ways I may never quite comprehend. And while I may think about "getting more grace" at times, the reality is that God has made complete provision once and for all in Jesus. When I focus on that, I know that a "truckload of grace" isn't the point at all. It's the One who gave the grace in the first place.


  1. Are you feeling a little "grace deficiency" right now? Is it perhaps because you can't see just how much is available to you every minute of every day?
  2. When you see God's grace, do you find it sufficient in the way it was presented to Paul? If so, why do you go seeking for "more" instead of basking in the glow of the grace given?
  3. Are you constantly struggling, feeling like you just can't keep up with it all? Are you willing to sit back and let grace wash over you and experience the completeness of what God has provided?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Known, Seen, Accepted

O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O LORD, You know it altogether. You have hedged me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it. Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me. If I say, "Surely the darkness shall fall on me," even the night shall be light about me; indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You, but the night shines as the day; the darkness and the light are both alike to You. For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them. (Psalm 139:1-16, NKJV)


There is no game of hide-and-seek with God ... and sometimes, that can be more than a little unnerving to me. If you are at all like me, there are times you really don't want anybody else to see what you are doing. There are things we believe we have hidden away, maybe even from ourselves, because to bring them up is to remember pain, sorrow, anger, and a host of other feelings we really don't care to deal with. And, ultimately, we feel like we need to hide them from God so we can hide our shame or perhaps because we don't really feel accepted and forgiven deep down in our souls.

Yet, this "hiding from God" is not only futile, it is a little silly and even seeks to diminish His omniscience. After all, if we can hide this from Him, then He can't really know everything. One of the most profound thoughts I've ever read on this comes from A.W. Tozer (Knowledge of the Holy). He writes,

"To say that God is omniscient is to say that He possesses perfect knowledge and therefore has no need to learn. But it is more: it is to say that God has never learned and cannot learn … He is never surprised, never amazed, He never wonders about anything … No talebearer can inform on us, no enemy can make an accusation stick … since he knew us utterly before we knew Him and called us to Himself in the full knowledge of everything that was against us."

If I take this to heart, rather than finding it disturbing I should take a great deal of comfort in it. The Psalmist certainly did when he acknowledged that he could never hide from God. Tozer drives home the point that God still chooses us knowing full well who we are and what we are capable of doing. That, my friends is complete love and acceptance. And rather than drive us to use our freedom to pursue evil, it should overwhelm us with His mercy and repeatedly call us to true repentance and service.

As I travel my Crooked Path, I will be tempted at times to fall deep into the believe that God has not really forgiven me because He knows just how bad I can be. When those thoughts come, I can take refuge in the Psalms and in thoughts from men like Tozer, thoughts that understand our God-out-of-time who sees it all just as if it were happening at that very moment. And in seeing, He still pursues and forgives. I take comfort in being completely known, constantly seen, and unconditionally accepted. I can come home again, much like the prodigal, knowing my Father is waiting to take me in. He won't be surprised ... in fact, He's always delighted to see me again!


  1. Are you hiding, or think you are hiding, from God? Do you find it to be exhausting and difficult?
  2. Your head tells you, based on what you have heard, that you are accepted completely. Do you have trouble getting your heart to understand and accept that idea?
  3. Does this God who knows, sees, and accepts scare you a bit? Or can you take comfort in knowing that you cannot surprise Him?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

A Quiet, Confident Faith

What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don't show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, "Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well"—but then you don't give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn't enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. Now someone may argue, "Some people have faith; others have good deeds." But I say, "How can you show me your faith if you don't have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds." You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. How foolish! Can't you see that faith without good deeds is useless?

Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works. (James 2:14-20;26, NLT)


I have a friend who I would describe as a man of quiet, confident faith. He doesn't teach Sunday School classes. He isn't on the Elder board. You won't find him speaking out much and if you didn't take the time to get to know him, you would miss the best part of him. To say he is loyal would be a gross understatement. If you were in a group with him and thought he either wasn't paying attention or wasn't "getting" what was being said, you would be sorely mistaken. You see, I believe he is a living example of what James was writing about. His faith runs so deep, that you can see it in the way he lives his everyday life.

That's a challenge to me and all of you who "talk a good game" at times, but don't often back up the words with sincere action. It would seem, from reading the second chapter of James' letter to the early church, that he had a particular distaste for that kind of person. Now, theologians and scholars and all manner of people over time keep wanting to carve up this message, piece it back together, and interpret it in a way that clearly states our salvation comes via grace alone with nothing added to it. And I'm not debating that at all, and frankly, that's why I chose the New Living Translation's version of this passage. It's a matter of our faith either being alive and moving or being dead and entirely useless. Nothing more; nothing less.

I suppose my real question, when thinking about this passage and my friend, is this. Have we become so programmed and busy in our practice of faith that we miss the God-given opportunities to demonstrate it in practical ways? Many of us love to discuss and debate things, but when was the last time we brought a "cup of cold water" to a thirsty person without expecting something in return? Or even worse, wouldn't think of bringing that cup in the first place. I think James was on that very track when he wrote about the hollow words the "faithful" spoke. To a lost and dying world who is living on the ragged edge, even our most eloquent words fall flat if we don't actually do something tangible for them.

My challenge, as I travel this Crooked Path, is to look around me as much as I look up and forward. To recognize that my Father has entrusted me with a wonderful gift and I should not be stingy in sharing it. It doesn't mean that I can answer every call for assistance, but it does mean I need to constantly re-evaluate how I demonstrate my faith. I need to realize that, at times, I even need to "earn" the right to share that faith based on how I've demonstrated Love in very practical ways. I must remember that I am not on this path alone ... God placed me in a society where relating to others is not only necessary, it is part of the joy that fuels my faith in Him. That quiet, confident faith of my friend will speak more loudly than anything I have to say.


  1. How are you doing in the "cups of cold water" department? Do you even look for those opportunities so you are ready when they appear?
  2. How would those who know you best describe your faith? Better yet, what would somebody in need who you met have to say?
  3. Are you willing to make the commitment to shift from words into actions? Do you see how faith without it is dead and useless as James described it?