Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Full Spectrum of Grace

Last Saturday I wrote some thoughts about the color of grace. My conclusion was that grace is gray. Not because that is how God intended it to be, but because we are all recipients of something that is much greater than our sin, failures and the collective perversion of our flesh.

In other words, in a perfect world, the grace of God would be reflected back to a lost, dark and dying world as pure white, because the only thing that would inhabit fully sanctified believers is the Spirit of God.

Here’s the kicker, few among us have remained submitted to that divine process of sanctification. I say submitted because our justification occurs with no effort on our part, but the sanctification process occurs only with the willingness of the one being sanctified. A willingness to operate in the full Spirit and Wisdom of God’s guidance, i.e. what’s best for us as given by Him.

The darker the grace appears in the life of a believer, the less sanctification is occurring. Where and when the grace of God runs out in a scenario like that, seems to be predicated upon ones doctrinal position regarding the reformation. Armenian or Calvinist the choice is yours. Or maybe we should offer a neo-reformation view; Calmenian. Who knows?

Regardless of what we were taught and what we believe, somewhere in the mix of our doctrine, the Living Truth of God and His intentions for redemption here on earth are hidden. Like an enigmatic ocean the things of God are received by humanity only because of the grace of His revelations given to the willing and obedient. So what that really means is; we’ll get it when we fully get Him. And most of us don’t have as much of Him as we really could have.

Pardon me for being blunt, but most of the ministers that I’ve know, once I’ve gotten to know them, were far less saintly than I had imagined. As a matter of fact, two years spent as a presbyter here in the Iowa Ministry Network many years ago, was about as rude of an awakening as it was when I found out Jimmy Swaggart was doing porn and the prostitute thing; very disillusioning.

My point is this: Salvation comes to those who BELIEVE. Beyond that, only the Holy Spirit knows how much a person is trying to follow the principles of the Bible, let alone the precepts. More often than not, the Pentecostal / Holiness church have taken the tack of precept over principle. We’ve used LAW as the bench mark of not only ones personal holiness, but often as a reflection of the collective soul of the church. Anyone remember Carry Nation? Probably not, but she was part of the seed bed of our early beginnings as a holiness movement.

But the amazing thing is; LAW never brought salvation to anyone, but only the revelation that we are law breakers. So why do we have laws? I mean within our fellowship [e.g. the blank 2010 Credential Renewal Questionnaire collecting dust on my desk]. I can’t speak for anyone else but, but I think I’m miles from the full revelation of truth on this matter.

If you don’t want to think of Grace as a thing with the nanometer electromagnetic spectrum of light, that’s fine. Then how about thinking about it as a pendulum?

On the far left is LAW, then moving toward the right is FOLLY, and then moving from right center is WISDOM, finally ending the radius of the pendulum swing all the way to the right at SPIRIT.

Since we know that the Letter of the Law brings death, but the Spirit produces life; somewhere in between these two extremes is where most of us live. Since we are saved by Grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone, the ideal is to live in Wisdom and Spirit. But most religious folks tend to live in Law and Folly.

The opposite of law is spirit. The opposite of wisdom is folly. The life goal of every believer should be to live in Wisdom and Spirit. For therein lies the secret of Christian discretion. As the Spirit speaks to the heart of a willing disciple, He will speak the reason WHY behind what is “right or wrong” in any given thing we face in this life. Remember, all things are lawful, but not all things are wise or advisable to engage in. So we can be saved, but operate stupidly in folly, rejecting the wisdom or the why behind what we should or should not do.

The only reason I don’t do certain things in this life is because I don’t want to offend some religious folks. Especially those who hold sway over my present career choice [i.e. my credentials].

On the other hand there are things I would never do, not because it jeopardizes my credentials, but because I’m aware of the limitations on my weaknesses and therefore I don’t want to ruin relationships, the testimony of God, and possibly my very own soul. All of which we run the risk of loosing when we reject the wisdom of doing or not doing something.

Make sense?

Let me put it this way, behind everything that is recorded in the Bible, and behind everything that is genuinely spoken or done in the name of the Lord, by His servants [his people], has dynamic or very powerful meaning. God’s not kidding around, albeit He is a God of joy and laughter, He is no fool.

In 1 Corinthians 14:11 [a favorite passage of mine] Paul states the following: “If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and he is a foreigner to me.” (NIV)

Now granted, most of you reading this should by now understand that only the renewed spirit of a man can fully understand the things of the Spirit, they are spiritually discerned or understood. To the uninitiated or the pre-believer, the teachings of scripture and even the preaching of the cross are simply foolish and very confusing.

So understanding from a spirit standpoint is critical to following the guidance of God in this life. But here’s the curious thing about the passage above [I know the context is orderly worship with minimal messages in tongues]. Paul uses the same word choice for “meaning” as Luke uses for “power” when the Holy Ghost comes upon a person [Spirit baptism]. That’s right, dynamis, is the word we’ve translated as MEANING.

Don’t MISS THIS! If and when we don’t know the Spirit power behind the guidance being given, we will NOT GET IT! We will look like a calf at a new gate. We won’t have a clue. We will be dumbfounded. And if that dumbfounding continues on, we will turn against the guidance. We will view it as LAW and therefore we will move toward folly. And once we move toward folly, the end result is rebellion.

Rebels are not born; they are cultivated in the ignorance of folly. So too with believers who are not give the divine WHY behind what they should or should not do.

Now here’s the real hurdle: Who among us can be trusted to have the WORD OF THE LORD on any given matter [beyond what is written in black and white of the Scriptures]? We’ve rejected the 5 fold office, thereby rejecting the apostolic authority necessary for genuine influence.

Example: I had a nice chat with our Network Superintendent and two nice chats with our Network Youth Director about the use of secular music at our Network youth events. Reason being, we’ve taken great pains to teach our students the WHY behind NOT listening to secular music. As a matter of fact, in the Kinney household we’ve taught our two kids that most secular stuff is to be suspect [T.V., movies, music, pop culture, etc.]. When the use of AC/DC Back in Black is used at a Network Youth convention, and a visiting unbeliever friend of my son said; “Hey I’ve got that album… why did you tell me that I shouldn’t listen to that kind of music if they’re using it at a church thing?” [Paraphrased sic]

Mind you, that brought a great deal of confusion to this young man that we’d been working with for over a year. He never came back and told my son we were all just hypocrites. When I approached my leaders about my concerns, I was tacitly patronized regarding their values, the use of secular music and the need to teach the use of Christian conscience and not legalism to our students.

I wasn’t asking that we resurrect some “born with a bun” legalism, but I simply could not understand the mixing of secular and sacred [if you believe that there is a difference].

My Superintendent told me he listened to secular music [jazz or something I can’t remember], but his inference was that we needed to develop mature students who knew how to navigate the waters of culture and be able to discern what is right and wrong for themselves. I know his intentions are good, but that sounded like relativism to me. He stated that he didn’t have a problem with the use of secular music [neither did our Network Youth Director].

I can understand the use of secular media as an illustration as to what NOT to do or be involved with, but not used as bumper music prior to our worship time.

Anyway, I told my Superintendent that I liked beer so why can’t I drink a few here and there? Or maybe wine with my steak? He reminded me that I could not operate in that liberty, because I signed a paper and agreed not to do such things as part of my credentialing requirements; argument over. The paper is LAW not SPIRIT.

In my thinking, the use of secular [very Satanic at that] music as a hook or entertainment at youth convention is FOLLY and not WISDOM.

Now my writing could go on for pages and pages, but I’ll end with this. Law, folly, wisdom and Spirit are all part of the grace cycle or pendulum. At any given time, we tend to swing left or right, all according to who is CALLING THE SHOTS. That’s not necessarily bad, unless those calling the shots have LOST the MEANING behind the VOICE. Ergo our need that each one purposes in his heart as to what GOD is telling him; according to nothing less than Scripture.

If we miss the powerful message and meaning behind what God is trying to say [wisdom] then we will end up in law and folly. Maybe we should let the Holy Spirit set the boundaries, not a group of men or women. Presuming we are willing to accept the natural boundaries and consequences that God tends to set, even within GRACE.

Well… all my love to the brethren. I love my leaders and would not want their job. On the other had, we’re still not where we need to be as a fellowship, but if He gives us another century, maybe we’ll finally see the “perfecting of the saints”.

I know… let’s bring back Carry Nation. What do you think?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

If Grace Were a Color

If grace were a color, what color would it be? Some might say red, because of the shed blood of Jesus Christ that cleanses us from all our sin. Others might say white, because of the cleansing work of Jesus’ blood, we are made spotless and white as snow. Again, another beautiful picture of what occurs because of the atonement, but really. If we had to use known principles and laws of physics and nanometer electromagnetic wave lengths, what color would grace be?

Today I woke up later than usual. Monday through Friday I’m usually up not long after 5:00 AM. Sunday’s my alarm goes off at 4:00 AM. Saturday’s I don’t set an alarm, but I usually wake up about six o’clock. Today I slept till just after eight o’clock. It felt good. I’ve been sick so maybe I needed a bit more rest.

Anyway, I woke up slowly. Nursing a cup of fresh coffee, I sat down to watch the Saturday morning news shows (magazines) on Fox News. They had a guest musical group called Sister Hazel. They were pretty good. At least what little bit I heard of them. I’m sure they’ve been around a while; I’m just out of the music loop these days.

Finding a good band that sings about life without using gratuitous sexual imagery or violence is a good thing. Maybe that’s what these guys do, but as I listened to the song they played, these words came to my mind. Grace is Gray.

By the time they finished, and I was on to my third cup of Joe, I couldn’t shake those words. So I Googled the question: Are black and white colors? I found a great link to a site called Color Matters. Lots of great info on the science and even the psychology of color, but it only furthered my curiosity about the color of Grace.

About a month ago while I was at a ministry conference, one of the speakers was using the text from the Gospel of John chapter one where Jesus is referred to as the Light. John further states that “darkness” cannot “comprehend” or “understand” the Light. It was during that message that I began to ponder what light really means in terms of our relationship with God. The subject is enormous.

The passages in John are all too familiar for most of us, but how often do we really take into consideration the concepts of darkness (black) and light (white) in terms of their relative relationship to the grace of God? If you’re like most, you probably have not given one hour of thought to the matter.

Here are my introductory thoughts. If black, when referring to color and pigment, is the absence of color, then white is the presence of all color in the spectrum. When referring to black and white when it comes to light, there is no true “black” light. Black or darkness is simply the absence of light.

When you shine a bright light into the dark, unless there is an object out in the darkness somewhere for the light to reflect off of, the light just seems to disappear into the black.

If and when light does find an object to reflect off of, the color of the object appears the way it does, because some portion of the light spectrum is penetrating the object, and the rest of the light is bouncing off the object. For instance when we see a red apple, the pigment in the apple skin that allows for everything in the light spectrum to penetrate except for red, that is what causes us to see the apple as red. In other words, that particular nanometer electromagnetic band width is thrown back at us and we see red. All the while the other color wave lengths of light are penetrating the object.

Here are the thoughts that flooded my mind weeks ago regarding darkness and light. If Jesus is the Light, and I believe what the Bible says that He is, and prior to our receiving Him as Savior and Lord, we were nothing but darkness. By saying yes to Him as Savior, He then places something in us.

That something is His Spirit, and that Spirit is the beginning work of grace in our lives. Yet upon initial examination of God’s work in the new believer, one might not fully see the white light of God’s complete atoning work and sanctification in that person. God must first fill that person with objects of His grace, Spirit and renewal before more and more light can be reflected back out from that person. And that sometimes takes time.

We know from our study of scripture that there are at least three types of soil that receive the seed of God’s Word, but the quality of the soil is predicated upon the amount of God stuff a person accepts into their life. Or for that matter Jesus spoke about a spiritual analogy of a person being cleansed from demonic influence, yet not furnishing their soul house with new God stuff and the demons came back all the more powerful and destructive, because new God stuff was not put in the house.

You see, the more of God and God stuff we have inside of us, the more we will reflect His glory. The less of God and God stuff we have inside of us, the less we will reflect His glory. Ergo our ongoing need to be filled up with God and emptied out of us.

Anything that is not of God is dark and light just simply penetrates it. God’s light is not reflected off. But since God IS the substance of all things, the more of God one has in their life, the more light will be reflected from that life.

Here’s where my idea of grace being gray comes into play. The color gray is a color that is allowing only half of the light spectrum to penetrate, and the other half reflects back.

Since I without Christ am nothing but black, not able to reflect anything what so ever, the very beginnings of God’s presence in my life, a little bit of God substance in me, may very well reflect back an image that appears slightly gray. You know, not fully sanctified and reflecting all of God that is possible, but only reflecting measured amounts of God’s handy work.

I think this way because, the times that I need more of God’s grace, are the times I need less of me and more of Him. So my life kind of looks gray from the outside looking in. Not entirely black and doomed for all eternity, but not entirely illuminated to the place of pure white light. Just kind of, well you know, gray.

And the funny thing is, most religious people can’t accept the color gray when it comes to grace. They cite Jesus’ words to the Laodicean church about being “lukewarm” and stuff like that. They say (I’ve said it too) we are too be “hot” or “cold”. And with that I would agree, but the truth is that most Christians are simply lukewarm. They’re gray. Not black as the ace of spades nor white and pure as the driven snow. Just gray!

Yet we’re condemned (I’ve condemned) for being noncommittal or apathetic. We’re called carnal, even sinful. Still my contention is that most of us who are recipients of God’s grace are kind of tweedy gray.

Granted, we all know and love the party line about Christian growth and victory, but when it comes down to it, most of the Christians that I know (even ministers) are just plain gray. They’re not setting the world on fire for Jesus, because they’re too caught up on this week’s episode of The Office. Or they not out setting the world on fire for Jesus, because they’re too caught up working as much over time as they can, because they live above they’re means. Or simply put, they’re just spiritually lazy.

Now I ask you, are you the powerhouse Christian you should be? Are you the mover and shaker you should be? Are you saving the planet like you should be? Right, me too, we’re not. So what color is grace?

What color is this beautiful element that God so richly and freely gives to us all? I say it’s gray. Because that’s what it looks like to me. That’s what it really appears to look like, in all reality.

I had lunch Friday with a dear pastor friend of mine. We’ve known each other for many years. It had been a while since we talked. He’s moved away to a different part of the state, but had business in town this week so we shared a meal together.

We talked about the church he was pastoring and the challenges that he was facing. But more than that, we talked about the “grayness” of our fellowship. We talked about the lack of integrity and purity in the pulpit today. We talked about the pain pastors are feeling these days.

Frankly, it was a heavy conversation, but it all the more emphasized what I’m trying to hash out. Grace is gray. Because if grace is not gray then, lot’s of ministers are heading for hell. And millions of congregants with them!

Screw the sinners who don’t know Jesus, what about the “Christians” that are nothing more than gray when it comes to grace? Either they’re all lost or grace really is gray. And if that’s the case, if integrity and purity really don’t matter, then let’s just get drunk and forget the whole thing.

I know the Father probably weeps over the brokenness of His Church, but either grace works or it doesn’t. If it does, then we’re all safe. If it doesn’t, there will be hell to pay on judgment day.

At this writing, I think Grace is Gray. Oh I’ll probably get some negative feed back, but that’s okay. Hell, I don’t know anyone who is able to tell me they are pure as the driven snow while here on earth, so I’m thinking gray is the color.

I know that by faith we are 100% justified in the Father’s sight, but look around. Find me one person that’s 100% sanctified and I’ll show you pure white grace. Most of us are simply just gray.

My advice, get a tie that looks nice and contrasts with the color gray. Don’t worry, almost every color works with gray.

Well there’s my thinking on the Color of Grace. Oh I know more could be said, but I’m feeling kind of gray right now so I’ll let you go.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Last week I got hit with the flu. Not sure if it was H1N1, but they gave me Tamiflu, Zpac and lots of rest. It’s no fun being sick.

Now this week rolls around and I’m back into my regular routine, but still feeling a bit sick and tired. Oh not sick and tired like “I’m really sick and tired of the mess in Washington” or “I’m sick and tired of eating leftovers”, but still just a little sick and a little bit tired by the end of the day.

I was pondering that statement and wondered how many people go through life sick and tired. I mean beyond just a little flu bug and fatigue. But I mean people who are really sick and tired of life, job, family, spouse, church, etc. all the while not knowing what to do about their feelings?

I believe there are lots of people in this world, especially here in America, that are sick and tired of their lot in life. Now granted, most of us Americans live cushy lives compared to two thirds of the rest of the planet, but even right here in the good ol’ US of A, I think people are pretty sick and tired.

Paul the Apostle tells us that “godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6), but really, how many people live that charge? We have been seduced into discontentment.

We are plied with two lies that most find inescapable. Lie #1: you’ll never be good enough or happy enough. Lie #2: if you buy this or have this or wear this or live here or there, you will be. The unfortunate thing is lie #2 is just that… a lie. And lie #1 is so ingrained into our psyche that we just keep running on that crazy treadmill and we’re getting pretty sick and tired of it all.

So what’s the answer? A new job? A new car? A new house? A new spouse? A new faith? A new church? A new TV? I don’t think so.

The answer is this: Accept the fact that you never will measure up, but in Christ you have all you need and there is no working or earning your place in that relationship. Relax… find that Rest you read about in Hebrews. Secondly, take a look at how great your life really is. At any given moment in time, there are thousands and even millions of individuals that are far worse off than you are. Give thanks for crying out loud.

So the next time you’re just sick and tired, thank God that you’re NOT really sick or so tire that you can’t make it another day, because the cancer has overwhelmed you or you’ve been evicted from your home or worse yet you’re just bored and discontented.

I’m thankful to have been sick and just fatigued. And nothing worse.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Worthy of a Blog

Many of my blogs are just random thoughts about life and God, but this one may be different. Not that there won’t be the random interjection of my brain damaged thinking (you should see the CT scan of my head – Dr. said lots of head trauma), but my hope is that I can express what God did this last Sunday morning (October 4, 2009). And the best thing was it had nothing to do with my orchestration, but all about my abdication. Hey, there’s a novel idea… being Spirit led. How scary might that be?

All during my Saturday afternoon preparation time and my bright and early (okay groggy) Sunday morning prep time I was struggling with direction as to what I should preach. Now mind you, it wasn’t the normal “sermon block” that I was experiencing. Something was very different.

On the contrary, what I felt was as if all my gallant efforts to establish an outline and subject matter were noble, but unnecessary. That’s right noble, but unnecessary.

All too often we who stand at the sacred desk, week in and week out, somehow believe that we are a critical key to what God wants to “do” in the lives of people. How sorely mistaken we are.

The New Testament is relatively clear as to how church was done in the first century. Gathering was fundamental. Eating was usually part of the gathering. Communion and prayer were included too. Impromptu singing and psalm making were also part of the make up. And finally as the Spirit led, someone brought a Word. That’s right someone (Acts 2:42-47; 1 Corinthians 14:26; Colossians 3:15-17). Not necessarily the pastor or teacher, maybe, but not necessarily.

Now here’s the amazing part. Upon arriving at church with “my” agenda for the day, a struggle ensued. I had many things that I believed were important to “say” to the congregation, but God had another idea. As I labored through my Sunday school lesson, something was cooking inside me. You know, that feeling like something was wrong – in a right way.

By the time we were all upstairs in the sanctuary, singing praises to the Lord and taking communion, I knew my agenda would be shelved. The new plan, or rather God’s plan, was to be led by the Spirit.

When the appointed time for my “sermon” came, I could not move forward. I could not initiate the things I had planned. So I did what any self-respecting neo-Pentecostal pastor should do… I did nothing.

That’s right. I took the microphone stand and a live mic and put it down in front and essentially said, with all the love and sincerity I could express… you do it. Yep, “You do it!”

Oh I gave some direction as to what I believe the Spirit was leading, but one of the most amazing moments happened in twenty years of ministry. We saw Jesus appear, we heard Jesus speak, entirely through the Body and not through an Office.

I obeyed what the Spirit had spoken to my spirit and Unity happened. Continuity flooded the place. Numerous individuals began to share and weep as to what God had been speaking to their hearts. And not surprisingly, a theme was emerging. (Hmmm… could it be The Mystery? You know the one that we’re supposed to be administrators of?)

God began to speak to us, through His Body. And the message was VERY CLEAR. I could not have planned it better and thank God I didn’t.

At the beginning of the year the Lord spoke very clearly to my heart, and I passed it along to the congregation. In essence, I was done “planning” or “casting” vision for THEM. Because in twenty years of being a pastor, I’ve set out many vision plans for many people over many years. And I’ve spent lots of energy and time trying to convince or cajole people into “doing” what I thought they should be “doing” to advance “my” vision for the church, usually to my chagrin. This year the Lord told me… “Just teach them to hear Me.”

Last Sunday was that day. It was a day when God spoke and there was continuity in Spirit and in Truth. Could I say it this way… we were all on the SAME PAGE.

My hope is that we can continue with this “Open Source” of leading, this Body inclusive leading that emanates from the Spirit alone and not from man. May God help me to yield the floor to His Body and His presence.

For all of you holding onto traditional means of leading and doing church, get ready because your paradigm is about to shift. And the only thing stopping it is YOU.

Power to His people! I’ll keep you posted.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Granite's Great But...

It was about ten years ago that my dad died. His passing was nothing less than typical of a cardiac patient with many related health issues. I think it was a stroke that finally took him. That’s what they said.

The winter following his death was challenging and took a bit of time to absorb the fact that he was gone and it wouldn’t be until we are united in heaven someday that I would get another hug. Love you dad. Now I wear Skin Bracer. Maybe my kids will remember that smell too.

We buried him in a small cemetery on the north side of Urbandale, Iowa. It took many months for the headstone marker to be placed. The caretakers of the cemetery told us that they had to let the grave settle. As a matter of fact it was just a dirt pile for the longest time. No grass or anything. That kind of bugged me. It seemed disrespectful in some way, but I finally understood their rationale.

Eventually the stone was set in its proper place. Dad’s name, date of birth and date of death on one side and mom’s name and date of birth on the other. She’s yet living so the date of death is yet to be inscribed. Plus, what do you do with her new married name? I’m happy for you mom and Glenn. Viva Wisconsin!

Anyway, I was thinking about our lives and how when it’s all said and done, there is usually more said than done. Jesus told us to live our lives so that we produced fruit that lasts. That thought has haunted me today.

Not withstanding a wonderful piece of fruit like Chad Schlak, I wonder how much fruit from my dad’s life is still hanging around. By the way, Chad’s on the cusp of his second career as a missionary teacher. Now there’s some lasting fruit. Love to you Edmund, dad would be exceedingly proud.

But really, do any of us have that great of a lasting impact on very many people? In light of how many people live and have lived on this planet, most of us simply pass into eternity with little to no ripples. In just ten short years the concentric circles of my dad’s 67 have all but settled out to a glassy sea that once reflected the mark he was making while alive.

We use granite and stuff like that to make headstones. I guess because it’s supposed to last a long time. But you know what? If no one comes to the stone to clean it or trim the weeds around it, mildew and foliage overcome the only vestige many of us can hope for. Sorry dad, I’ve not stopped by lately.

My point is this: Most of us live our lives not knowing how the story will end. What will our legacy bear? Since our lives are like stories unfolding week in and week out, a question surfaces in my mind. Who’s writing your story? Will our lives be the kind of stories that must be told or read over and over, or will they just be shelved with all the other dime-store-paper-back novels or end up in the “only a nickel” box at an estate sale someday?

I ask my Father to help me write a better story. I ask Him to develop the characters that come and go in my life so that my story becomes a rich and lasting one, because mildew and foliage can’t grow on a good story. As a matter of fact, good stories have a tendency to grow into great stories. Time and poor memories tend to achieve this phenomenon. But in reality, good stories affect how we think and often how we act. Think about that for a moment.

May God help me to leave more than a chunk of granite as my legacy, because granite’s great but… a good living Life story makes far more sense to me. How’s your story coming along?