Stop Faking Grace

T. S . Eliot once wrote, ‘humankind/Cannot bear very much reality.’  Not that people hate or despise reality, or that people constantly pursue reality, but that, in the end, too much reality, about ourselves, the world, God, is all just a bit too much.

It is especially the Ultimate that is a problem for people:  God.  Prayer.  Mercy.  Judgement.  Christ.

Hence much of church life, in typical human fashion, tends towards a moralism cloaked in religious language, with a ready arsenal of verses and well worn phrases designed to justify ourselves at the expense of others.

The Ultimate Reality though, God, is what almost every person who has ever lived is hiding from.  We are in a precarious state of existence living daily between the ever present deservedness of judgment and the ever present gift of grace.  Or to put it another way, we live suspended on the possibility of utter annihilation and the infinitude of divine care.

That’s why Martin Luther wrote in his commentary on Psalm 130: ‘Whoever, therefore, does not consider the judgment of God, does not fear; and whoever does not fear, does not cry out, and whoever does not cry out, finds no grace.’

Part of our ability to avoid the Ultimate is by pretending we no longer need to cry out, so we pretend therefore, we fear when we don’t which means we also fake how we have even considered the judgement of God.  We simply can’t bear too much reality, so we fake it, and this of course means, we fake grace.  A gross mistake.  Why don’t we just paint a great big clown smile on God’s face?

Scripture must be our guide here.  Not pithy devotional aids, but Scripture, the Psalms, the Prophets, the Gospels, the Letters and everything in between.  It is the Bible that offers us a way out of our religious banality; it offers us a much more dramatic and interesting narrative, whereby prayer, worship and the presence of God leads us ever onwards into an awareness of our sins and the gift of repentance.

Brian Brock writes, ‘Without God’s constant forgiveness, we do not see our own sin; and without the exposure of our sins and our repenting of them, we remain in the deadening byways down which other gods have enticed us.’

So without grace we become Christianised Pharisees: blind to the mercies of God, paraders of our own righteousness and thus trapped in a pathetic world of our own making, pathetic yes; mediocre certainly.  Grey, flat, one dimensional, airless, lifeless, godless.

Yet as Jesus repeatedly taught, it is the repentant sinner that goes away justified:  ‘God have mercy on me a sinner!’   The true mark of Christian spiritual vitality is not the absence of struggle, a settled smugness about our superiority, but the exact opposite:  the present reality and immediacy of prayer where we confess that if it were not for the mercies of God we would be dust and ashes.

A poem by William Countryman says just as much with much fewer words:

“Your choice of friends is broad

And (may we say?) unpredictable.

What did you see in Jacob?

Esau was bluff, hearty,

a man’s man – overconfident,

to be sure – even a minute

or two of seniority can grant

a certain status.  Jacob’s

only accomplishments were to cheat

his brother (with Esau’s rash

cooperation yes) and deceive

his father.  Piety suggests

you should have judged the scamp

and left him to stew in his guilt

till he repented.  Instead,

you showed him by night the ladder

to your throne.”

 

I love God’s grace!

A Resurrection Poem

IMG_6736LET THERE BE LIGHT

The stone has been rolled away,

Hell’s mouth silenced, it has no say;

Over who Christ will raise with Him,

A once dead people, now raised, to sing.

 

The transformation now complete,

From the head down to the feet;

The Alpha and the Omega,

Has changed everything forever.

 

Oh the marks of death are still there,

As a testimony to all who will see;

The nails, the spear, the thorny crown,

Not even these could keep Jesus down.

 

And so the confused, the broken, the weeping, the lost,

The empty, the dirty, those counting the cost;

Cast to the wind, afraid and alone,

A useless crowd, hiding at home.

 

The denier was there, “Peter the Great,”

The prostitute, his mum, awaiting their fate;

The door, the door, someone’s banging the door,

End of the story? But wait, there’s more….

 

What? He’s alive? Ridiculous. Dead men don’t rise.

Men on their cross, lifted into the skies! They die, they die, they stay dead!

They’ve stolen his body, the most obvious conclusion,

But this is resurrection morning, and no pathetic illusion.

 

So the denier and loved one ran to the tomb,

They went in; into the dark room;

The shroud was there, but He’s gone, He’s gone!

This is madness, are we losing our minds?

 

Don’t you remember, He spoke about this?

We didn’t listen, resurrection is silly, and easy to dismiss.

But Jesus said it; He’s not here, his words must be true,

And then it dawned on us, like the sun turning a dark night sky blue,

We’d been outwitted by the Saviour, as He so loved to do!

 

As in the first day of creation, up to today,

God has been speaking, “Let there be light!”

And to the tombstone these words were spoken,

“Let there be light,” to the hurting and broken.

 

This is about real life, people and sin,

And a God who loves and welcomes us in.

Easter’s been hijacked, a sloppy sentimental mush,

It’s not about chocolate, or bunnies and bunches of flowers,

It’s all about Christ, how He defeated the Powers.

 

 

Don’t get me wrong, these things are nice,

Just don’t forget who paid the price.

Bunnies and flowers?  Ah! How sweet.

But it’s hardly nails through God’s feet!

The cost of our sin, infinite indeed,

The Cross is our gateway declaring we’re free!

 

You see, over our hearts, lies a monstrous stone of sin,

Cry out to Jesus, to let His light in.

Confession, repentance, forgiveness, new birth.

Is ours through His death, He is redeeming the earth.

 

 

For unless there is within us that which is above us,

we shall soon yield to that which is about us.

 

So repent your sin and enter in.

Robes for rags, a gift of the King.

We were made for glory,

We were made to be part of God’s amazing story.

 

So come all you doubters and haters and loveless and lost.

The tired the weary, the broken and proud.

Sing and dance, whisper, be loud.

The stone has moved, there’s just a shroud.

 

He is alive. Outrageous but true,

God’s great plan to reach out to you;

We call it Gospel, because it’s good news –

Not a ruse to fill the pews – but a plan to proclaim a Man,

The Man from Heaven, God the Son, sent to save everyone!

 

It’s Resurrection morning, shout it out “LET THERE BE LIGHT!”

Goodbye darkness.

And . . . . . there . . . . . was . . . . . light!

 

 

(c)  Gralefrit

The Drugged Baby

THE DRUGGED BABY – a poem by Gralefrit

babyfaye

The Lord says to me, ‘Fight the fight’

Give up your right and step into the light.

Pick up your cross

Lose all that dross

Count it all loss

Again I say, ‘Pick up your cross.’

‘But Lord’ I stutter, ‘there is no way’

‘I must speak and have my say

What about my human right

To choose whether to pick up my cross and fight?’

The orphan and widow; the sick and poor

What will you say when they knock on your door?

‘Come in’ says I,  ‘I’ve a great speech to give!’

‘But only speak life’ they say, ‘we want to live!’

Human rights can be human wrongs

But the question is, for whom do you long?

‘You say you long for me,’ declares the Lord, ‘you even bend your knee’

But my Spirit knows when you don’t want to see.

A baby has been born this very day

Her mother’s on crack, she has no say

You had the call to provide a way

A way to make her life pay.

This new born baby, will you take her in?

Into your home, out of life’s bin

Will you take her, a gift from me?

To show her my love and help her to see?

‘Yes Lord, I will pick up your cross

and answer the door.

Let her invade our home our hearts

But only if you invade my heart and make it your home!’

I accept the call, this gift, this poor drugged up broken baby girl

To love ’til it hurts and then some more

To see her break free of drugs and pain

And pray all the while that in Christ, a new life she’ll gain.

Glory to Christ

I accept your gift.

Amen and amen.

(c) Gralefrit 2014

The Pilgrim – a John Bunyan poem

john-bunyan.jpg?w=640

Recently I had the great pleasure of buying an 1816 copy of the Puritan John Bunyan’s classic Pilgrim’s Progress.  A fragile and well worn book, held together now by the one remaining piece of bi-centenial string!  I intend to read it slowly and carefully sometime in the coming days, to feel the weight of years that it has existed, the burden it carries, and the heart of a prison-bound man who simply loved God and saw Him, despite his chains.  Pilgrim’s Progress is one of the most popular and reprinted books ever written.

Essentially, it is an allegorical story of a man, named Christian, and his journey through life, a kind of spiritual warfare lived out and experienced as he travels from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City.  It is a call to Christians everywhere to persevere, but more than that, to wage war against the forces of evil.  It is a story that highlights mankind’s desperate plight in the world and God’s redeeming grace.  Regeneration, faith, repentance, justification, sanctification, perseverance are all revealed in graphic allegorical detail. Continue reading “The Pilgrim – a John Bunyan poem”

Why Bother?

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I consider the brokenness of the world and I think, “Why bother?”

I look at the corruption all around me and I cry, “Why bother?”

I wonder at my inability to live with my neighbour and I ask, “Why bother?”

I face my war with sin inside and outside, and I ponder, “Why bother?”

I look at the problems of the culture around me and I lament, “Why bother?”

I scan my world, broken by disease and misuse, and in sadness I say, “Why bother?”

I consider the statistics of violence and abuse and I think, “Why bother?”

I am assaulted with the reality of endless wars between nations, and overwhelmed say, “Why bother?”

I am defeated by temptation’s power and cry, “Why bother?”

I ponder how good is called bad and bad good, and in frustration say, “Why bother?”

I search for hope like a parched man for water but end up thinking, “Why bother?”

I look to myself and see weakness and want, and in grief say, “Why bother?”

Perhaps I should live for leisure and comfort and give into “Why bother?”

Maybe I should exist for the hear and now, and forgetting forever say, “Why bother?”

I am tempted to live for power and control, and for greater things say, “Why bother?”

Perhaps personal pleasure in the here and now is what it’s all about; “Why bother?”

But in exhaustion I look up and not around and I say, “Why bother?”

Why bother?

Because You are and You are good.

Why bother?

Because You dispense goodness and grace.

Why bother?

Because You bring life out of death.

Why bother?

Because You have a plan and it will be done.

Why bother?

Because I have been welcomed into Your Kingdom of Life.

Why bother?

Because I am always with You.

It is true that my eyes don’t always see and my heart isn’t always confident.

It is true that darkness overwhelms me and fear leaves me weak.

But You come near.

You remind me once again that I can be confident because You were unwilling to say, “Why bother?”

 

Paul David Tripp, A Shelter in the Time of Storm, meditations of God and trouble (using Psalm 27), p. 139

The poem above comes out from verse 13.

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