The story behind the song “Grace Has Become Your New Home”

We live in a transitional neighborhood. Several years ago, on the evening before a bulky trash pick-up, we set out on the curb a variety of items we could no longer use. Most of these items were broken. An hour later, everything was gone! People had driven by and picked everything up. Since then, I have tested this phenomenon several times. A broken aquarium…GONE. A vacuum cleaner that no longer sucked…GONE. A rusted out shower caddy…GONE. One person’s trash is another person’s treasure!

A song lyric came to me as I was staring at our empty front yard after the latest round – “When the curb you’ve been kicked to is where Jesus grabs you, then grace has become your new home.”

Here is how Paul puts it. “Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else. But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus. God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (Ephesians 2:1-10 New Living Translation)

Blessings,

Rick Jordan (one of Jesus’ ongoing reclamation projects)

https://youtu.be/dguOy_d55j8

 

New Song – “Grace Has Become Your New Home”

Here is my brand new song – “When the curb you’ve been kicked to is where Jesus grabs you, then GRACE HAS BECOME YOUR NEW HOME!!!” Words & Music by Rick Jordan 07/18/2018, Copyright #bx8TM7XWSPirwG7b.

Here is where you can watch it, listen to it, “like” it, and share it – https://youtu.be/dguOy_d55j8

THANKS!!!

Rick Jordan

“When God Says NO in Light of a Better YES” (2 Corinthians 12:2-10)

Parents in every culture can relate to this common sequence…

  1. The child makes an urgent and impassioned request.
  2. Due to the experience and perspective gained by higher mileage on planet earth, the parent knows that what the child is requesting is not in the child’s best interest.
  3. The parent says NO to the request, disappointing and frustrating the child.
  4. The child pushes back.
  5. If the relationship is functional, the parent uses this NO to guide the child into a better alternative, a better YES. In effect, the parent is saying, “No, but….”
  6. The child usually cannot appreciate the wisdom of this “No, but…” response until the child becomes a parent and must dance to the same tune.

God goes through this sequence with us all the time.

2 Corinthians 12:2-10 finds Paul the apostle defending himself. Paul spent years of his life traveling throughout the Roman Empire, introducing Christ to a diverse mixture of  people who had no exposure to the Gospel. They also were not Jewish. During these journeys Paul was at odds with a group of people called legalists. Legalism is the name for any brand of Christianity that decides God’s grace and our faith are not enough, that a surplus of do’s and don’ts must be added to the life of faith in order for that life to pass inspection. The legalists, of course, are the self-appointed inspectors.

A pack of these legalists (called Judaizers) followed Paul from place to place. When the Judaizers entered a town or city Paul had just left, they would locate the brand new Christians and ask them what Paul had taught them. When the brand new Christians answered by describing the breathtaking simplicity of relationship with Jesus, the Judaizers would sadly shake their heads and tell them Paul had left out some important information. In order to follow Christ, these brand new Christian also had to start living by Jewish laws. Grace and faith were not enough. The Judaizers tried to convince these new Christ-followers that Paul was a fake and that Paul had no authority to be doing what he was doing. These legalistic Judaizers had come in the nick of time. They had come, in fact, to help the new Christians become more like Jesus AND become more like them.

Yikes.

In 2 Corinthians chapters 10 through 12, Paul defended himself and his calling from these opponents. Toward the end of this defense, Paul enhanced his credibility by recalling an ecstatic spiritual experience. Years earlier Paul found himself swept into the highest heaven, in the very presence of Almighty God. During this heavenly encounter, God confided in Paul! In order to counterbalance this ecstatic experience and in order to prevent Paul from developing an over-inflated ego, Paul wrote that he was given what he called “a thorn in the flesh,” a chronic and harassing attack from Satan. It might have been poor eyesight. It might have been recurring malaria or epilepsy. It might have been the residual effects of being stoned to death and surviving. The passage’s context tells us it most certainly included the people problems referenced earlier.

God would not remove this thorn even though Paul begged God on three occasions to remove it. In essence, God responded by saying, “No, but….” The chronic condition (the thorn) was going to remain in Paul’s life because God had something better than relief in mind. God’s grace was more than enough for Paul. In fact, God’s power would show up best in and would even be fulfilled in Paul’s chronic weaknesses.

The Wuest translation renders 2 Corinthians 12:8 this way – “My grace is enough for you, for My power is moment by moment coming to its full energy and complete operation in the sphere of weakness.”

Ever the extremist, Paul reacted to this answer from God by becoming a fan of his chronic condition, boasting that when he was weak he was actually strong. Carla showed me 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 in The Voice Translation, which says, “So ask me about my thorn, inquire about my weaknesses, and I will gladly go on and on – I would rather stake my claim in these weaknesses and have the power of the Anointed One (Jesus) at home within me. I am at peace and even take pleasure in any weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and afflictions for the sake of the Anointed (Jesus) because when I am at my weakest, He makes me strong.”

Many of us contend with something I call a theology of evacuation. We come to believe God’s primary role in our lives is relief, that God is obligated to always say YES to us by getting us out of unpleasantries or by getting unpleasantries out of us. Eavesdrop in on your prayer life and you may catch yourself in the act. But with God, evacuation is more the exception than the rule. God loves us too much to give in to our emotionally charged appeals for relief. Instead of removing the hardship, God may leave the hardship in us or God may leave us in the hardship. Why? Because it is the ideal environment for God to become our strength. The sufficiency of God’s grace is the BETTER YES. With the thorn still imbedded, we discover that God’s grace is more than enough.

Isn’t Jesus Himself the ultimate example of this truth? In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus writhed on the ground praying for evacuation three times. The Father said “NO, but….” Jesus emerged from the garden strong and proceeded to become vulnerable and helpless, all the way to an unspeakably brutal death.

God’s power was more than enough to raise Jesus from the dead. That being the case, is there any chance God might have what it takes to be more than enough for us in our area of greatest weakness?

Catholic author and speaker Brennan Manning (1934-2013) once said, “Jesus comes not for the super-spiritual but for the wobbly and the weak-kneed who know they don’t have it all together and who are not too proud to accept the handout of amazing grace.” (The NIV Ragamuffin Bible, page 1330)

Brennan Manning also said, “…the question no longer is: Can I do it? Am I able? Can I overcome my moodiness, my laziness, my sensuality, my grudges and my resentments? The only question is: Is Jesus Christ able? Can my Savior, the Lord of my life, revive my drooping spirit and transform me?” (The NIV Ragamuffin Bible, page 1331)

What are your strengths?

What are your weaknesses (or challenges)?

How do you typically handle a “no” answer?

What is your “thorn in the flesh?” Do you have more than one “thorn in the flesh?”

When has God answered your prayer with “no” in favor of a better “yes?”

What would it look like for Christ to show up strong in your greatest weakness?

What would it look like for Christ’s grace to be perfected (fulfilled) in your weaknesses?

Are you willing to embrace the miracle you were not seeking, the miracle where God gives you more grace instead of less discomfort?

Grace and peace,

Rick Jordan (www.rickcarlajordan.com, rickjordankcmo@gmail.com)  

 

 

Wiener Dogs and the Love of God (2 Thessalonians 3:5)

I grew up with a dachshund, so several years ago we decided to adopt one of these little tubular canine entertainment centers. One Sunday we found a dachshund advertised in the newspaper (which tells you how long ago this happened). My wife Carla and our daughter Amanda drove to the home of the sellers and returned with a 3 year-old miniature wiener dog named Ringo. I could not go with them because I had pastoral obligations, but I returned home before they did and opened the door to greet our new furry friend. Carla and Amanda were walking up the sidewalk with Ringo on a leash. Ringo took one look at me and went maniacally berzerk. He was terrified of me but also wanted to tear me from limb to limb. He was unmanageable, or at least as unmanageable as an eight pound dog can be.

We learned the back story. Ringo’s family of origin had bought him as a companion for their little baby girl. As babies do, she loved to grab Ringo by the ear or tail. As dachshunds do, Ringo would react by snapping at her or biting at her. The baby’s dad would instantly grab Ringo and harshly punish him. This routine went on and on until finally they could not control Ringo anymore and decided to find another home for him.

That dad and I happened to resemble each other.

I’ve always loved a challenge, so I decided to win Ringo over. I quietly sat down on the floor in the middle of the living room with my hands at my side. Ringo stayed as far away from me as possible, screaming at me in an ear-splitting bark while I softly spoke to him, a screwball dialogue that continued for hours with no progress. Finally Carla put Ringo in a kennel and we all went to bed.

The next day was a holiday so we resumed this shrill standoff. By late morning Ringo was inching closer to me without decreasing his volume. By early afternoon he was within touching distance. I continued softly talking to him and keeping my arms down as he screamed at me. By the end of the afternoon Ringo was standing on my lap screaming at me. He needed a mint. By early evening he was all barked out, and if I moved slowly I could carry him.

Overnight we became inseparable. Ringo had to be wherever I was and he tried to do whatever I was doing. For example, we decided to pull up the ancient green carpet that came with the house. Ringo decided to help. You haven’t lived until you have watched an eight pound dog grab carpet in his teeth and jump straight up in the air with it. We had to work fast, with tools, to match his pace.

I’ve never had a dog bond with me like Ringo did. I am glad I waited for him to come around. That 30-hour period with Ringo has countless times reminded me how similarly God in Christ has waited for me to come around.

In 2 Thessalonians 3:5, Paul says, “Now may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ.” Paul was instructing the Christ followers in Thessalonica to be like Christ in the way they related to broken and unredeemed people around them. We cannot patiently love people like Jesus does until we have responded to the patient love of Jesus ourselves. I am completely in awe of Christ’s willingness to wait for me to wear myself out, or to hit bottom, while all the while Christ never moved; Christ was in fact closer than my next heartbeat.

Christ loves us enough to accept us exactly as we are. Christ loves us too much to leave us as we are. And Christ does not give up on us.

Now may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ.

Rick Jordan

www.rickcarlajordan.com

“Hope for People Who Have Tried Everything” (Mark 5:25-34)

Mark 5:25-34 chronicles an account about a woman who had been bleeding internally for twelve years. She was afflicted with a beastly medical condition for which she had tried everything, but she kept worsening for reasons that were not her fault. This disorder was a chronic physical drain, a financial disaster, a social disease, an identity assault, and a shaming pile-on. She was shunned, and who knows what else, because mean people have always preferred stationary targets.

Jesus was in the area, so she somehow summoned another round of spunk, snuck through the crowd she wasn’t supposed to be anywhere near, squirmed through all of the bodies, and brushed the edge of His robe or tassel.

In a crowd like this all manners of people would have been bumping into Jesus, but He experienced a power drain from her negligible touch and the woman felt her bleeding instantly dry up and stop. After twelve years, what was that like? Was it an electric jolt, or maybe a delicious stab of healing pain?

She began reversing course out of the crowd. Then Jesus halted everything and insisted on looking for her. Was this another vicious disappointment? Was He going to take the healing back because she wasn’t supposed to be in the crowd? Was He like the others she had tried?

After twelve years the woman would have become an expert at avoiding eye contact, at being invisible. But she could not dodge His gaze. She fell down in front of Jesus and her story spilled out of her. Jesus responded, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction.” (Mark 5:34)

What? She had already been healed, and Jesus knew it because He had felt it happen. What did she receive during the second encounter that she had not received during the first encounter? Initially she was healed physically, but she had not been healed from everything the sickness did to her socially and emotionally. Face to face now, Jesus called her by a family name and gave her credit for trusting Him and healed her shame and made her whole.

Don’t you love it that Jesus could sense the faith in her puny touch of His garment? Don’t you love it that Jesus insisted on looking for her and continuing what had begun a few moments earlier? Welcome to the heart of our crucified and risen Christ. He has not changed. God in Christ always has more for us than we are experiencing. Jesus seeks you out because He has so much to offer you. Like He felt her brush of desperate faith against His clothing that day, Christ picks up on your faintest cry for help. And He responds.

The best thing you can ever do is move toward Him in prayer, placing your own story between you and Jesus so that He can demonstrate, face to face, how fond He is of you and how ready, willing, and able He is to liberate you. I do not know what it will feel like, or what form it will take. But I know your hope is in good hands with Jesus, because I too have been indescribably jolted by His wild love in response to my despairing and grasping prayer.

May you and I know the grace that is definitely not out of reach,

Rick Jordan

www.rickcarlajordan.com

post