The Ladder of Grace

Friedrich Nietzsche accused the Christian church as having “taken the side of everything weak, base, ill-constituted.” He scorned a religion of pity that thwarted the law of evolution and its rule favoring power and competition. Nietzsche put his finger on the scandal of grace, a scandal that he traced back to “God on the cross.”

Nietzsche was right. In Jesus’ parables, the rich and healthy never seem to make it to the wedding feast, while the poor and the weak come running. And through the ages, Christian saints have chosen the most un-Darwinian objects for their love. Mother Teresa’s nuns lavish care on homeless wretches who have mere days if not hours left to live. …Dorothy Day of the Catholic Worker Movement admitted to the folly of her soup kitchen: “What a delightful thing it is,” she said, “to be boldly profligate, to ignore the price of coffee and go on serving the long line of destitute men who come to us, good coffee, and the finest of bread.”

The Christian knows to serve the weak not because they deserve it but because God extended his love to us when we deserved the opposite. Christ came down from heaven, and whenever his disciples entertained dreams of prestige and power he reminded them that the greatest is the one who serves. The ladder of power reaches up, the ladder of grace reaches down. – Philip Yancey, What’s So Amazing about Grace?

A Colony of Heaven

“In the world the Christians are a colony of the true home,” said Bonhoeffer. Perhaps Christians should work harder toward establishing colonies of the kingdom that point to our true home. All too often the church holds up a mirror reflecting back the society around it, rather than a window revealing a different way.

If the world despises a notorious sinner, the church will love her. If the world cuts off aid to the poor and the suffering, the church will offer food and healing. If the world oppresses, the church will raise up the oppressed. If the world shames a social outcast, the church will proclaim God’s reconciling love. If the world seeks profit and self-fulfillment, the church seeks sacrifice and service. If the world demands retribution, the church dispenses grace. If the world splinters into factions, the church joins together in unity. If the world destroys its enemies, the church loves them.

That, at least, is the vision of the church in the New Testament: a colony of heaven in a hostile world.

Finding Faith in Prison

By Marjorie Holmes, in How Can I Find You, God?

Lord, Lord, could I do as much for you if put to the test?

Would I be able to endure what today’s martyrs are still enduring? … Tortured for their faith, brutally tortured, I’m afraid I wouldn’t bear up long.

I didn’t think I could even read about torture until In God’s Underground came into my hands. But I had to, something drove me into it, past the jacket that told me its author, Richard Wurmbrand, a converted Jew, had spent fourteen years in Romanian prisons because he would not collaborate with the conquering Communists. And there, starved, beaten, savagely tortured, his faith actually grew. He determined to use suffering as an opportunity to win souls for Christ — and did!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FOA8iJ9YZWQ

Glorious Hope

Sometimes we look out at our lives and it seems the garden is empty – plans dead as withered leaves, dreams laid waste. Could we rejoice in the season of waiting, believing that God who brought Jesus out of the black tomb and brings green shoots out of hard earth will bring new life out of all dark seasons too? Could we know that beauty is in this whole process, the waiting part too, not just the end result?

This year, I have beheld exquisite flowers, glorious outcomes that could have only been designed by God himself. I have watched Him make family out of strangers. I have watched Him sell a book that I never intended to write. I have watched my little girl walk with her foot flat on the ground for the first time in all five years of her life. I have watched alcoholics become moms who work hard to provide for their families. I have watched my 16 year old walk through processing the abuse in her past and learn to jump rope and have her childhood finally restored to her after nearly 4 years of living in a family. I have watched God answer prayers that I hadn’t even spoken yet.

As I gaze in wonder, I remember how He brought us out of the dark and the hard. I remember how He protected us from the pounding rain and the scorching sun, baby green shoots clinging to Him for dear life. I remember that as we reached high to the Son, He came down and pulled us closer. We turn out heads up in awe and we know what is around the corner, but we look expectantly to the bowing and the bending and the death of all we had planned because we know – in Him, there will always be more. Glorious hope.

By Katie Davis, from her blog on January 16, 2012

Ready for Christ

Behold, the Savior.

And in this moment God fulfils every promise and every prophecy. This, God’s perfect time. God does not wait for the world to get ready, He enters right into the mess.

He makes Himself very least, no more status or opportunity than an easily overlooked infant in the slums where I spend so many hard hours. Very least so that He can commune with the very most desperate – you and me. He doesn’t mind that I am not ready yet and He doesn’t mind the wretched condition of my heart or the stench of my sin. God’s time is now and He enters into the mess, ready or not.

His perfect timing, now. Now is where He has called us. And we are just not ready yet. We need to clean up the house a bit and pray a little more and seek more counsel and we don’t know how to do that yet and oh, we have our excuses. And God says, “I’m here now, and I am ok with the mess because I am here for the messy.”

God doesn’t need us to be ready for Him; He has been ready for us since the beginning of time and the Messiah is here calling us to commune with the Holy One, to eat at His table.

I want the house to be organized and kids to be clean and nicely dressed and I want dinner to come out of the oven on time, but at the end of the day they laundry still piles and there are still crumbs in the corner and can anyone remember if I brushed my teeth today? And it can’t be the New Year yet because I am just not ready for it to be a new year yet.

But I remember when I wasn’t ready to move to Uganda. I remember when I wasn’t ready to kiss the people I loved the most goodbye. I remember when I didn’t have enough money to start a ministry, and I remember when I wasn’t old enough to be a mother, and I remember when I didn’t know how to parent. I remember when I couldn’t cook for fifteen people and when I didn’t want to share my house and my things and my life with sick people and addicts. I remember when I was afraid of the slum community that now holds hundreds of friends and when I was terrified that my daughter would never walk and when I was scared that we would never heal after tragic loss. And I remember that never, not once, was I really as ready as I wanted to be. And I remember that God kept all His promises, every last one, in His perfect time.

This new season looms and I don’t know what is next. But He doesn’t need me to be ready for this season because He is ready. He just needs me to be clinging to His feet.

Now, God’s perfect time.

By Katie Davis, reposted from her blog on January 18, 2012

Singing in the Dark

Just one little bird.

She’s up when the stillness of 5:30 nudges me awake and I struggle to peel back heavy eyelids. She’s up and she sings. I wonder how she can even tell that it’s almost morning. I wonder why she sings yet. I tip-toe to the coffee pot and flick on barely enough lights as to not wake my children, and this is my quiet time and I briefly just wish that one little bird would be quiet.

“It’s not light yet. Shhhh. It’s not light yet.”

I lift my eyes from the worn pages of Isaiah and my gaze falls on Sarah’s notebook, left haphazardly on the table after yesterday’s writing assignment. She wrote that I was brave. That I had courage. But as I sit there in the dark, I think that I am not.

… Maybe courage is not at all about the absence of fear but about obedience even when we are afraid. Courage is trusting when we don’t know what is next, leaning into the hard and knowing that it will be hard, but more, God will be near.  Maybe bravery is just looking fear in the face and telling it that is dos not win because I have known The Lord here. I have known The Lord in the long, dark night.

The little bird sings loud in the dark. And slowly, the sun peaks over the horizon.

At school I ask Joyce what her definition of courage is, and she says, “to have faith.” Maybe that is just it. That we still tremble, but more than that we have faith. That even though we feel uncertain, we press into a God who is so certain, so sure, so steady. He carries us, He lifts our heads. And His unfailing love and comfort becomes our courage and our hope.

It is days later and it is raining. The huge drops pelt our tin roof so hard that we can hardly hear a thing, but as the rain slows, I make out a familiar noise and I laugh. It is the same little bird that cannot contain her song too early in the morning. I wonder where she is and how she can keep singing in this storm. I wonder why she sings. But the rain slows to a trickle and the sun peaks from behind the clouds and suddenly all I can hear is her glorious song.

“To have faith, “I think. And I wonder, does she sing because she knows the sun is coming?

And I want to be just like that little bird.

Hope is a crazy thing, a courageous thing. That little bird, she feels the sun coming, knows with certainty that it will come, even when she can’t quite see it yet.

We live in a world where innocent people suffer and good friends die and stories don’t have the endings we prayed for, and the pain and the hurt, it is everywhere. But the Joy and the Hope that we find in our Savior? It is everywhere, too.  I do not have all the answers; in fact, I don’t have many at all. But this is what I know: God is who He says He is. And in the hurt and the pain and the suffering, God is near, and He is good, even when the ending isn’t.

And I can sing, because I know what is coming. I can hope, because I know Who is coming.

In the dark of the night, I have seen His face, and I have known His promises to be true, and I know the Light is coming.

And I want to be brave enough to hold out the hope of the Gospel to a world that is hurting and alone and afraid. Not a hope that is the absence of pain or heartache or suffering, not optimism disguised as hope that waits for the best-case scenario or happy ending, but a Hope that is the knowledge and full assurance that our Savior is on His way.

It’s not light yet, but I know Him, the One who is the Light.

And so in the dark, I will sing.

By Katie Davis, author of Kisses from Katie, posted on her blog on November 7, 2013