Boundary and Grace

I was exploring the less-traveled side of a nearby mountain town - a beautiful bedroom community that, like much of Colorado's front range, is turning all-too-quickly into a bustling city.  In the middle of the mountains, museums and monuments that make the town special - I found this street sign.

What significance might be found at the corner of Boundary and Grace?

As I stared at this lonely sign ignored by the locals and only useful to the rare tourist without a GPS, I remembered the way God has related to people throughout the Bible.


Now there's a word that inspires!  For me, "boundaries" always meant lines and limitations and longings to linger where I was forbidden to do so.  But boundaries are so much a part of how God relates to us, and how he expects us to relate with others.

God relates to humanity through covenants.  Covenants are much like contracts, where God says "You do this, and I'll do that."  Covenants contain promises that God makes to us (great promises, in fact!) and rules that create boundaries for our thoughts and actions.

Rules - another way of saying boundaries - are an integral part of God's way of dealing with us.  And so, boundaries are really quite good for us in life and in relationship with God,

Think of the Adamic Covenant - the agreement that God made with Adam in Genesis.  In street terms, God basically said "Adam, you and your kin can eat from any tree in this garden.  And that's no small thing sir, because the produce from one of these trees in particular will keep you alive forever!".

That was the great promise of the Adamic Covenant.  Eat from that tree and have Eternal Life?  I'm sure that sounded really good to Adam, as it would have to me.

But the Adamic Covenant also contained one very important rule, or boundary, that ended up making all the difference in the world.  "Eat from any tree," said God, "except that one...".

And you know the rest of the story.  Adam and his wife stepped over the boundary.  Sin and it's ugly brother Death came into God's beautiful world and we've never been the same since.

Every other covenant God has made with human beings follows the same structure - promises and boundaries, boundaries and promises.  It's just the way it is with our God.

But boundaries aren't the only thing we see in the scriptures.  We see, almost like we're looking into the sun, the powerful Grace that God has always given to his children, and nowhere is this grace more evident than in the person and work of Jesus, and in his New Covenant.


I've heard it defined as "unmerited favor".  And grace is well-understood in that way.  But here, I'd like to call out grace as "the ability to do something hard, and make it look easy".

Take, for example, a world-class figure skater, or sculptor or violinist.  These individuals have all mastered some complicated and difficult skills.  And when they're at the top of their game, they make it look easy.

When I watch a graceful ballet dancer, or downhill skier or high-level rock climber - a master in the middle of practicing their art, I'd swear that "I could do that!".

Well, not so much.

But the grace bestowed by our Father come to us in the person of his Spirit - who lives in us.  In Ezekiel 36:27, God promised that in the New Covenant he would put his "Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.".  By his Spirit, God gives us the grace to do what seems hard, and even make it look easy.  

Every once in awhile I find myself in the Jeep up in that town - brakes squeaking to a stop there at the junction of Boundary and Grace.  
Father, thank you for the deposit of your Spirit in me.  Please grant me the grace to follow your lead, maybe even to make something tough look easy.


Andrew Murray was a missionary pastor in South Africa during the 19th century, and he wrote a devotional book on the subject of humility that's been a part of my personal transformation process lately.

At first, his laser focus on humility as the secret sauce of all Christian living seemed to me a bit over-wrought.  

I mean - come on - every author and every speaker will tell you that the subject of the book they're promoting or the talk they're giving is the one thing you really need and of course the one thing you're truly missing.

But surely humility, among all the other virtues, isn't the most important, is it?

Well, after spending about 3 months of my team devotions (with men I so greatly respect) going through this book, I'm ready to agree with Mr. Murray.

On many pages I found the temptation to highlight almost every sentence.  My friends and I found multiple discussion points in every chapter - challenging us to think differently, to act differently and ultimately to seek to become a totally different kind of man.

With that said, there's no way to comprehensively review Humility without taking more of your time today than you bargained for - so I'll leave you with just one passage from chapter 12 that has set so clear a direction for my heart.
"In the faith of the grace that is already working in you;
in the assurance of the grace for the victory is yet to be;
stand persistently under the unchanging command:

humble yourself.

Accept with gratitude everything that God allows
from within or without,
from friend or enemy,
in nature or in grace,
to remind you of your need for humbling and to help you in it.

Reckon humility to be the mother-virtue,
your very first duty before God,
the one perpetual safeguard of the soul,
and set your heart upon it as the source of all blessing."
I recommend you get a few copies of this little book and a spend some time with a few close friends looking deeply into it.  I think you'll be happy you did.

"Father, I think I'm ready at least to point my days toward living in humility before you.  Please guide me and my friends in more humble choices and moments - that we may know you and come ever closer to your heart alone." 

Lord, Remember Me

One of God's weekly smiles comes in the gathering of believers that meets in my home.  We've become like family to one another in many ways.  We eat together, we study the scriptures together and we recreate together.  Best of all we find that we're growing together in fits and starts to better bear God's image in the world.

Last night we talked a bit about grieving loss and pain.  Each of us have lost some things in our lives that were dear to us - perhaps some things we held too dear - but whatever, we've lost some things, some influence, some possessions, some relationships, some vocations or some dreams.  We've been hurt and we've hurt others.

We talked a bit about how to process grief, and how the ancient Jewish poets reckoned losses and hurts they were experiencing with God's great promises to them.  We call those songs "laments".  

A lament simply starts with expression of deep sorrow or grief.  No holds barred and nothing held back.  All the hurt, all the pain - get it out on the table for God and the world to see.  The great lament Psalms as well as many of the prophetic books are beautiful examples of how real people got real with God - no sugar coatings or trite happy sayings or giddy denials of reality.

But because of their great God, and his saving work in their lives in the past - they had faith.  Even still, given their pain and loss - those folks held on to some core beliefs in their all-powerful-always-good God and his great promises of a bright Kingdom future for them.

So their laments ended not in some nihilistic abyss, but with hopeful expressions of their faith.  And thus their souls were soothed.  They made sense of their lives and after the mourning and grieving - they got up.  They got up with the strength of heart and mind to build and rebuild and go back at life again in hope.

That's how laments worked for them, and I'm finding that's how they work for me.

Here's a beautiful lament song that I can't stop tearfully singing.  Andrew Peterson's Remember Me comes from the place of the thief on the cross hanging next to Jesus.

Check out how the song begins in grief.  
"There is none righteous, no not one,
We are prodigal daughters and wayward sons
We don't know the half of the hurt we've done
The countless we have killed"
But then, look how it ends...
"But before the breath there in the tomb,
before our joy sprang from the womb,
You saw a day that's coming soon.

When the Son will stand on the mount again,
with an army of angels at His command,
and the earth will split like the hull of a seed,
wherever Jesus plants his feet.

And up from the earth, the dead will rise,
like spring trees robed in petals of white,
singing the song of the radiant bride..."

Oh man - that's gonna be a good day indeed...

The Greatest Play Ever Written

"What was from the beginningwhat we have heardwhat we have seen with our eyeswhat we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life and the life was manifestedand we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life..."  - 1 John 1:1-2
Have you ever wondered why John listed seeing Jesus three times?

Is He Worthy?

I've spent much of my life subtly and sometimes not so subtly trying to avoid pain and loss.

I tend to narrow my focus to what I think are my problems, and I tend to compulsively lurch toward supposed solutions that let me believe and behave however I want or that require no loss on my part.

I tend to avoid judgment at all costs.

In the fifth chapter of Revelation we find John in deep distress as he's witnessing a vision of the great Day of the Lord - the final judgment God's prophets and poets had known for centuries would come.  

The Day when evildoers would be put to rights.  
The Day when the oppressed would be set free.  
The Day when ugly, despotic power structures would be unmade.    
The Day when Yahweh would set everything straight.  

But John's not agonizing like I might be - scared silly of what I might lose or of some pain I might face.  No, he's weeping because no one can be found worthy to break the seals of that great judgment scroll.  No one can be found worthy to read it's pronouncements and no one can be found worthy to render them.     

John saw what I'm coming to see.  That is, that God's judgment is nothing to be afraid of if we're following Jesus as Lord.  If we are following after Messiah, then the Day of the Lord is for us that great day when we and the whole wide world are ridden completely of the effects of evil.  

John was weeping because if no one could open the scroll, then nothing in this world of pain could ever be changed.  Nothing could ever be made truly and deeply and forever Good again.

If no one could open the scroll, then pain and sorrow and sadness and lack and loss would always be the cruel taskmasters of what God had made to be so beautiful in the beginning.

But of course, John then heard what he'd so been waiting to hear:
"Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals."
So rather than fear that Day - we can know deep in our hearts as did John - that's the Day we've all been waiting for...

On that Day, we'll finally be rid of the nasty bent to protect ourselves at any cost, to grab for ourselves whatever we can and to hurt others whenever we are hurt.

On that Day, we'll be rid forever of fear, doubt, selfishness, greed and all their ugly siblings.  We, and the whole wide world, will all be made totally and completely New.

Andrew Peterson has put this grandest of all scenes to gorgeous melody - to which I cannot stop listening.  It's truly beautiful.

In fact, his Resurrection Letters: Prologue and Resurrection Letters: Volume 1 are now on constant play in my ears and in my heart.