C.H. Spurgeon: Grace Upon Grace

February 28

“Soar back through all your own experiences. Think of how the Lord has led you in the wilderness and has fed and clothed you every day. How God has borne with your ill manners, and put up with all your murmurings and all your longings after the ‘sensual pleasures of Egypt!’ Think of how the Lord’s grace has been sufficient for you in all your troubles.”      ~ Charles Spurgeon

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No one can truly comprehend the magnitude of God’s Grace. No one. We can accept it, bask in it, embrace it and even abide in it… but comprehend it? No. And yet God doesn’t merely Pour out His Grace upon us, God lavished us with His Grace. He is full of Grace, His Grace is as much apart of His fiber and DNA as the blood that pumps through our veins is to our own DNA. Giving of His Grace is literally Him giving Of Himself.

God pours out Himself on us. From His fullness we don’t just receive His Grace… we receive Grace upon Grace. Can you comprehend that? Of course you can’t. That’s the beauty of God’s Grace – He gives us such an abundance of something so magnificent and wonderful and He doesn’t expect us to understand it; He doesn’t expect us to even fully appreciate it; all God wants is for us to simply receive His Grace, and receive it and receive again and again and again. We don’t cheapen Grace by recording the fullness of it over and over. This is how He pours out himself upon us. And eventually we spill over that grace onto others. God’s grace is cheapened when we begin diluting it with ourselves and our flesh and our vaingloriously displayed humility.

He pours out His Grace; He pours out Himself on these weakened, leaky vessels. Yet never, though much seeps out from within these cracked pots of human clay, does God consider Himself or His grace wasted upon us.

Peace to you, today. Sean Gutteridge

Today’s Scripture:

John 1:16

“And from His fullness, we have received grace upon grace…”

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer: The Remarkable Cost

February 27

“Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: ‘Ye were bought at a price’, and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.”

                             ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

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That Remarkable Grace goes unseen but never un-felt. When I position myself before the throne, even partially so, Grace pierces this corruptible heart and I am forced to reconcile who I am and what Grace does. Where I struggle is when I walk out from underneath the comfort of God’s remarkable grace.

Have we ventured into the world without it? And doesn’t God say He will not leave us? So how is it that I can find myself in situations where I cannot seem to even feel grace let alone see it? Because I’m not even bothering to look to God in these moments. All I have to do is turn my heart and loft my eyes onto God and grace once more reveals itself. It was never hidden, I just wasn’t looking at it. If my dinner is in the fridge, what good does it do to look for it in the cabinets? It will not be found where it never intends to be! At my lowest moment, just acknowledging God’s very nature and praises Him with my lips unleashes that remarkable grace to be seen where it can already be felt. And in feeling and seeing God’s grace, I find an even more remarkably easier path straight into His presence. Personally, I DO find that… remarkable. 

Peace, Sean Gutteridge 

Today’s Scripture: Psalm 29:1-4

1 Ascribe to the LORD, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.

2 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness. 3 The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the LORD, over many waters. 4 The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty.

Bill Watterson: The Stinging (Wonderful) Taste of Grace

February 26

“When life gives you lemons, chunk it right back.” ~ Bill Watterson

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His Grace is like a bitter fruit that reminds us not of the stinging taste of His goodness but to remind us what He had to give up. Remember the bitter taste the next time you feel forsaken by God.

Do you like the taste of lemons? What about unsweetened grapefruits? Granted, not everyone does (though, actually… I do) but how many ways can something sour or tart be used to enhance other foods? Juices, fruit dishes or even some tart or sour taste to even out something overly sweet. A perfectly sugared grapefruit tastes pretty awesome but the grapefruit void of sugar is always more healthier for the body. Look, I know that God’s Grace is the sweetest thing we will ever experience, but there is a bitterness to it – not for you or me, but for what it costs The Lord. And I think that He isn’t beyond allowing us to experience that bitterness on occasion. It’s never a bad thing, just a different way to view and experience that Grace. Yet, never does it cease being the greatest, sweetest experience we could ever imagine.

The taste of God’s Grace is sweetened by His Mercy and His Love. He wants us to taste the sweetness of His Grace. But there are times when it seems necessary for God to let us taste His Grace in it’s purest form to know where it comes from. It doesn’t taste bad, it’s just not as sweet. Sometimes, that can be the BEST thing in the world for my soul to experience. 

 Peace, today. Sean Gutteridge

 

Today’s Scripture: Matthew 27:45-46

45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour.

46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Thomas Aquinas: Love’s Reality

February 25

To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.” 

~ Thomas Aquinas

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Beauty is a process. Love is not, at least where God is concerned. We make up ourselves to be presentable to the ones we love, those we admire. God simply presents Himself. His beauty is immediate and instantly overwhelming to our souls. More amazing then even God’s Love for me is how He chooses to see through the hideousness found within my wretchedness, looking beyond what is and seeing only what could be. The beauty of God’s Grace overwhelms me – if I will let it… transforming me into something worthy of His own beautiful Love. Wow…

Honestly, that is all I have today an though it’s not much, it is enough. Find comfort in the reality that His Love for us isn’t a process… His Love for us is just a simple… reality

Peace to you, today. Sean Gutteridge   

Today’s Scripture:

2 Corinthians 2:15-17

15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? 17 For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.

Bonhoeffer: This Subtle Reminder

February 25



I hadn’t intended to post two messages for today. This is a more spur of the moment, emotional posting – the kind that tend to get you in trouble and lose followers in a hurry. But I write late tonight, not to be read but to confess the heaviness of my heart. It is out of response to an article by fellow writer/blogger  Casey Hobbs. Oh man… what a great word to the church. (Do yourself a favor. Follow him. At the very least, read his post entitled “From Idealization to Reality: The Church as a Body: http://t.co/LFRL8m8iOI via @caseyhobbs”) I won’t bastardize his work… just read it and let the chips fall where they may. I’ll try my best not to take anything he said out of context and stick with just how profoundly his eloquence hit me and what it caused me to reflect upon. Apologies in advance…

I’m not in the habit of responding to articles nor am I one to try piggy-backing on another persons inspired word or work. I’m not writing to add to what Casey said. I can’t. He said it too well. But it hit me. Hard. And in my own season of disillusionment and discontent with the “Universal Church” as a whole, I looked into a mirror and saw in my disgust and anger… a hypocrite. A Pharisee. A charlatan and a con. Listen, I never set out to be these things. I started out a sinner. Still am, last time I checked. I started out fully aware that I was a wretch and my goodness and good deeds were but filthy rags to God. But what a humble and willing (and grateful) sinner I was when Grace found me and saved me. I knew what I was but what Joy to know that even in this state… the Love of Christ wanted me so badly as to die for me. Profound. When faced with this Truth and it’s reality, how could I not follow? How could I not serve? How could I not love? Somewhere along the twenty year path… I lost sight of how to love. Not once have I lost sight of my wretchedness… but ironically, I lost the basic ability to love. 

I travel to Africa because that’s an easy place to love and give myself to. I venture downtown to serve and assist others less fortunate because that’s an easy place to focus on others. I host a small, home group and lead weekly worship because these are easy places to use my talents and passions for people gathering together for short periods of time looking to be fed the table scraps of God’s Grace available. But I’ve forgotten that loving requires a measure of sacrifice and vulnerability. Loving means understanding that while in the midst of imperfection we aren’t meant to expect one group to be any less then they are… human. Even when we feel they should know better. I have forgotten to love Christians and that’s the most ironic thing of all… the very people I’ve been called to shepherd and lead have become the very people I’ve come to despise the most. I have far less Grace for anyone claiming to be a Christian then the worst, most obvious and blatant heathen. Why? I expect them to be better. And when this becomes the standard of my expectations… I have lost all meaning of Grace and what it has done for me. I have abused the precious gift Christ first bestowed upon me:

The idealism that becomes jaded skepticism has a chance at finally embracing the reality of what God names. If the God who calls forth realities into being names the church the body of Christ, then a new reality exists, even apart from what can be seen. The church- this collection of prideful, sinful, faithless people- also holds an identity of being the place where Christ can be found” – Casey Hobbs

Wow. It’s not just accepting that humans (those saved and those not) make mistakes,  it’s also accepting that believer and un-believer alike still share one commonality with each other… that BOTH are still at their core… sinner. I am that prideful, sinful, faithless person that will let you down. I will hurt you. I have harmed you – maybe intentionally, maybe on accident, maybe… well, it’s happened, hasn’t it. I am left to wonder that in my sinful state – as a minister, a pastor, a Christian brother – how many people have I caused to leave the church or even abandon the faith? Wow. That is a painful thought. But if God chose to use a broken vessel like me, then I am just as surely likely to be of some value to His plans and His great Will…in spite of this current state. For as Casey stated, I am just as capable tomorrow of being humble saint, faithful in all He asks of me even where I may have failed today. And that is the essence of His Grace, the Hope of what we can become despite what we currently may be even though we do not deserve any such consideration. 

Like I said before, I can’t elaborate on Casey’s eloquent and profound message. It just stirred my soul and has caused me a great amount to think upon. I hate even posting this for fear that the very people I’ve served for twenty years may misread what I’m trying to say so let me make one final stab at this: the futility lies in the most fundamental human flaw of all… forgetting what God has done for me, personally. In forgetting that, I forget all I was originally called to do and all HE expects of me: to forgive, to love, to serve. 

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:32

Be imitators of Christ. As He loved us, so are we expected to do likewise. Man, it’s not that difficult to grasp. So I will try to get back to being the grungy little guy with the shrug and the goofy smile and not the grumpy, frowning, bitter, Joy-less, un-fun to be around guy I turned into somewhere along the way. I use to make people laugh, I use to have an endless amount of compassion and grace for people – all people, regardless of where they were in Christ. I’ve become discriminate and intolerant of believers and that saddens God as much as if I acted that way towards the biggest God-basher. He calls me to love… Even when that love isn’t reciprocated. I love my own church. I can love better. I love the body of Christ… but I recognize that I have become a product of the very body that I’ve come to despise… and that is something that I can hopefully mend and change, with the help of the Holy Spirit. 

There is an apology that should probably go right here, in this spot. But actions must prove equal to my words or they will ultimately be found as hollow as this clay pot that attempts to hold the love of Christ. For any misunderstanding that lies here, within, well… heck. I’m actually – and finally – at a loss for words. In the end, my intentions have always been my very best. That’s not too comforting tonight, but as Casey stated, perhaps as God calls things into being, I can begin seeing things (including myself) NOT for what they are or for what they SHOULD be… but as they one day WILL be. Hmmm. And there’s that beautiful word again. Grace. Just a subtle reminder that we are, none of us, no where near where we ought to be… but in full awareness of His Grace, in Christ, we are certainly on our way. 

A heart-felt and sincere thank you to Casey Hobbs for your incredible message, as well as to my own church family for allowing me to serve you (and often fail) in the midst of my own journey through my faith in Christ. My deepest ambition – even when flawed and misguided – has always been to be a Joy and a Light for His Love and His Grace for you. I am, and remain, your humble servant.  Peace and blessings to you, today. Sean Gutteridge

D.L. Moody: Keep Marching

February 24

“Obedience means marching right on whether we feel like it or not”

~ D.L. Moody

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I found myself so angry this morning, as I lifted weights and tried following doctor’s orders for a change. I despise working out… the problem is, I love my family so something’s gotta give. I think it’s important that I stick around for as long as I possibly can. But when I dwell on how insufficiently I seem to be providing for them, sometimes I wonder. Can’t help it. Look, there are people worse off then us. I get that. But knowing that doesn’t make the financial burdens any less easier. Medical bills that pile up, a mortgage that I struggle justifying to myself, very little life insurance and absolutely no college or retirement money saved up. And a bill due each month for $1500 to pay for our “great” health insurance plan. It gets to a guy. I just wanted my kids to be happy. I only want my wife to be satisfied in her writing freed from any burden or pressure to help pay this impossible bill. I just want to be effectively used by God to my dying breath. And… periodically have something left over to put gas in the car or a steak on the table. So when I wrap my mind around how to fix these things, I understand that this is my life. It’s not a question of giving up the physical fight, but a matter of yielding in the spiritual one. God provides. What, exactly, isn’t always as easy to define. His word just tells me “all of your needs according to my riches and glory through Christ Jesus.”

Isn’t that what we celebrate in a Risen Savior? The very fact that I am here to ask these questions only proves my need of Him. Every selfish thought, every little sin has been thought and committed against God and Him alone. It is a fair question to ask “Is this all, Lord? Am I in Your Will? What more am I to do? Have I missed anything?” But am I prepared for His fair reply? Can I accept that it is my destiny to be exactly where He has me? What if God actually came down and said to me “Sean, this IS where I need you. Yes… you will struggle. You will never have enough but what you need today. And the only time you miss anything is when you take your eyes off me.” Can I handle that kind of honesty or does God know me well enough to understand He has to ease me into His Will? The problem for me, personally, is that I am not sure that I really want to hear that reply, I only want to voice my discomfort and frustration. Thankfully, God patiently hears me out and eventually responds to each plea that I make. I must be sure, however; that I am able to hear His response in Love. Remember: I am the sinner and He, the forgiver and sender of Grace. All that I have and all that I am is due to His graciousness. Even in these struggles which never seem to end, I have more then I deserve. And I certainly have more then I could ever hope for a part from Him. Let me struggle and be found deep within His Grace then thrive and never know the sweet essence found in that presence of righteousness underserved.

Peace, Sean G.

Today’s Scripture:

Psalm 51:4

4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.

Matt Chandler: The Flourishing Relationship

February 23

“The relationship with God flourishes when prayer with God flourishes.”

~ Matt Chandler

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I enjoy lunch with my son, I really do. Even when he eats and runs, it doesn’t matter – it is still time well spent. The greatest purpose in spending time with John and Cate is to strengthen the relationships that I have with them. If I hope to establish an open bridge with my children, one in which they always feel safe and free to bring any troubles or questions to me, I must work hard now to be sure that this bridge remains stable and in great condition. Ultimately, they will have to cross it and approach me but that will never happen if the bridge doesn’t seem safe to cross.

God has built a bridge very similar to the one I just described, only it is an unshakable structure, secure and mighty. The strength of the structure isn’t in doubt but only by knowing God intimately are we comfortable enough to cross the bridge and go before Him. How can I bring my sins before God and seek the forgiveness and correction that I need without being sure of God’s love and mercy? He won’t cast us away but how will our hearts truly know that? By seeking God and asking Him to continue reshaping our hearts into something pleasing to his sight is our act of confidence in faith that we have been worth Him sacrificing His son for us. When I ask this of God, the established relationship that He has crafted is vindicated and He hears my spirit requesting Him to do the very thing that He has been waiting so long to do. There is forgiveness across the bridge. More then that, there is a new life and power that He holds for us within the newness of the heart He desires to create within us and for us. This relationship flourishes and will be strengthened as we continue to seek Him more and more.

God loves to have lunch with us. He loves it even more when we don’t just eat and run. But even when we do, He still cherishes every moment He has with us.

Peace to you, today. Sean Gutteridge

Today’s Scripture:

Psalm 51:9-11

9 Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. 11 Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.

Aldous Huxley: Battling Through Experience

February 22

“Experience is not what happens to you; it’s what you do with what happens to you.”

~ Aldous Huxley

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I battle resentment and frustration, seeing all patience slip away while trying to keep at bay the building anger welling up inside. I am smart enough and experienced enough in life to understand that I will not be successful in this battle… on my own.

Outside of the Power of my God, on my own, I will lose this battle just as I will lose every battle I find myself in without Him by my side. So as I draw myself upward in searching Him out I contemplate a few things: where dies compassion and what is the source of my anger? Am I angry at God? At myself? At anyone? Or why am I choosing to give in again so easily to this frustrating rage which leads such a destructive path in it’s wake? It does not feel satisfying or good, not even for a brief season. Yet I often feel compelled to yield to the surge that springs forth, sometimes surprisingly unexpected. Perhaps it is because it is easier to give in and give up without a fight. The fight takes so much out of us but we must resist. Even when defeated, we learn so much more then we do when surrendering. The only time I should ever yield is to the power of his Spirit. I must abdicate my throne to the true King. Only then can I find the resources I will need to not merely suppress but completely master and dominate any emotional uprising against the Spirit of God.

Today’s Scripture: Proverbs 16:3

Commit your work to the Lord,
    and your plans will be established.

William Shakespeare: What We May Be

February 21

“We know what we are, but know not what we may be.” ~ William Shakespeare

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Take a step back and look at your life: we are all bordering on two things – epic failure and miraculous victory. We are a step from doing great things but a step, too, from walking away from the blessed life of Joy, Peace and Power God has given us. So step back… not left, not right, just… back. And take a deep breath. Push the pause button and pray. Ask God to give you fresh eyes to see the mountains and the valley’s ahead. And then proceed – not with caution but with confidence, confidence in Him. Where we have no idea, God sees our future self.

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Why do I fear? What do I believe? Where have I turned? When have I failed to trust God implicitly? In the moment I turn to myself, from that moment on fear is given a foothold as I begin to crumble and cower in fear and doubt. He has lifted me up and called me to a life of bold courage and confidence… not in my abilities but in His strength and power. I will not be undone if I will cling to this. If I am to remember that, I must daily saturate myself in His presence and be about walking every step in every moment, stride by stride, with Him. He does not suggest that I be strong in Him, He demands it. Courage will always be found – in even the darkest places – with Him.

Peace, Sean G.

Today’s Scripture: Deuteronomy 31:6

Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”

Alfred Tennyson: Hope Whispers

February 20

“Hope…

Smiles from the threshold of the year to come,

Whispering ‘it will be happier’…” ~ Alfred Tennyson

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I am overwhelmed to the point of despair. But it is for the love and pain of someone that I love at seeing them in such an intense struggle. Lord, I do not pray for Your deliverance for them out of the struggle but that you would have your way with them and get them to the other side safely. There is growth and strength in these times and renewal is found only after the muscles have been stretched and adapted to what the heart and soul must go through to find themselves that much deeper within You.

I cannot walk that path for them. Indeed, walking it is difficult enough for myself and I struggle to fight myself out of the darkness. But I can pray for their strength in these moments. How do you break it to those you love that life will never be easy nor will we find blessings where our human minds tend to believe it resides? I struggle to convince myself… and that is when my faith – which is the only thing that remains – emerges holding my belief in God.

I understand. There are days when hope dissipates before my eyes and the sadness envelopes me in it’s warmth like a blanket on a cold night. “God is with us” I whisper to my soul and it thankfully responds… “I know…” Hope whispers to for me; Hope whispers to me for them; Hope… whispers. It’s alright to weep. Don’t stop the tears, just don’t let them wash you away. I have to rise up and this is where I trust most in the Lord, to wake up my soul to fight the battle that has so bloodied me. I must get back in the fight. I must show my resiliency in these moments, regardless if these circumstances. There are good days ahead and though the heart is broken and will shattered, my soul remains intact. I thank my God, the I Am, the everlasting Mighty One who is with me. Peace to you, Sean Gutteridge

Today’s Scripture:

Philippians 4:19

19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.