The island life….picture of grace

I am writing this blog here in Mauritius a small island in the Indian Ocean. It is 27°C, humid, and a bit rainy. Jenny is lying on the bed “reading” (she is actually looking at properties here in Mauritius like we could afford it. Come to think of it though. We could afford to buy a property here. Our Father owns all the earth. C’mon) We are here for a short ten day holiday and to also celebrate Jenny’s milestone birthday.

There are some things about island life that are so familiar with the idea of grace and rest. 

One of the things we’ve noticed is the relaxed manner in which everyone does their thing. Apparently, it is the same with many island nations. We have just been to two of these. Last year, Jenny and I were gifted with a holiday to Phuket Island in Thailand and the similarities between the two islands couldn’t be starker. The island people are very rested. Nothing is rushed. People are kind to each other. People are helpful. No long traffic jams. Most people are walking or riding on scooters. It is slow- snail slow. Shops open from around 10am. The streets are less crowded in the morning (I usually do my running in the morning). It’s beautiful. It’s quiet. You feel the breeze from the ocean. It’s really amazing.

Mauritius has been ranked the second happiest country in Africa by the World Happiness Report 2016 (http://blog.airmauritius.com/tag/world-happiness-report/)

Could happiness be related to how slow you are are? Literally? Snail slow..

Could the “hassle”as we city folks call it actually reduce our sense of happiness and joy?

Are we in the cities so rushed that we forget to enjoy our lives?
Heaven 
Another thing we’ve noticed is how different people from all over the world come to these islands. We usually boast that cities are cosmopolitan in the sense that people from all over come to work, do business, and live. But the difference is this- In cities we are too busy to notice the cosmos that is all around us. Here at the island, the diversity is in full view. It is a small island therefore it’s hard not to bump into each other. 

Isn’t this a picture of heaven perhaps? Won’t heaven be full of people from every nation, tribe, people and language? (Revelation 7:9)

Shades of grace (sounds very familiar like shades of …)

I also think that all these diversity reveals the different shades of grace. Peter talks about the manifold grace of God in 1 Peter 4:16. Grace is many-varied, multi-faceted, many-folds etc. Grace is not a one dimensional, bespoke, and cut to size item that can be manufactured and sold in supermarkets. No ways! Grace manifests itself in many sizes, shapes, and forms. Here at the island, you get to see the many-varied, multi-faceted, many-fold variations of grace. 

See, traveling exposes you to all kinds and types of people. When you travel you suddenly realize that you are not that important. Oh really? Yes! Your small world is blown away by the different shades of grace. Many times we think we are the best thing in town because we live and interact with only our own. Our lives are not irrigated by the different shades of grace that are around us. Hey, the world is full of people of all sizes, shapes, and forms and you are not at at the center of it.

Benched by grace

It is the no-hurried bit of island life that gets me. I used to be rushed and hurried. I probably am still hurried to a degree. I was busy pursuing “purpose and destiny” and trying “hard” to fulfill my calling. I was all in man. I was focused. I was deep. I was in it to win it. But when I stumbled on the gospel, the gospel slowed me down. Jesus literally benched me and slowed me down to the tee. It’s been five years since I “did anything for the Lord” and yet these have been the best most productive years of my entire life and yet there has been little or no action. I had to slow down otherwise I would have suffered a nervous breakdown because of my gung ho attitude towards life. 

I believe rest and snail slowness is what Jesus is calling us to. Come to me those who are heavy laden and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28) When Jesus spoke those words, He wasn’t speaking to unbelievers. He was speaking to good religious people that were encumbered with busyness – running up and down trying to do and fulfill the commands of God. In our case, we are trying to fulfill our purpose and destiny, maximizing our potential, applying steps to greatness, developing habits of highly effective people, raising godly kids, developing effective leadership principles, tithing your way to success, pray until something happens, serve and submit until you are released, connect to a spiritual father for your success and the list goes on and on. All these when done outside of grace become task masters that command us to make bricks without straw. 

Grace will slow you down. Grace will then give your life meaning. Jesus full of grace takes it even further and bears you on His shoulders. (Luke 15:5) He’s not left you to do it on your own. He’s got you. 

Eugene Peterson tweets “busyness is an illness of the spirit.” He also tweets to leaders, “How can I lead people into the quiet place beside still waters if I am in perpetual motion?”

Jenny and I come from the city. We love being in the city. After ten days we will go back to the city. But we also love the island. We love the simplicity. We love the rest. We love the anonymity. We love the peace. We love the breeze. We love the air. We love the hush. We also know that we are loved by Jesus. 

That’s what grace looks like

The storm…working for you perhaps?

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Mark 6:45-52 (NKJV)

Immediately He made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while He sent the multitude away. And when He had sent them away, He departed to the mountain to pray. Now when evening came, the boat was in the middle of the sea; and He was alone on the land. Then He saw them straining at rowing, for the wind was against them. Now about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea, and would have passed them by. And when they saw Him walking on the sea, they supposed it was a ghost, and cried out; for they all saw Him and were troubled. But immediately He talked with them and said to them, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.” Then He went up into the boat to them, and the wind ceased. And they were greatly amazed in themselves beyond measure, and marveled.

The KJV version says that Jesus constrained or forced His disciples to get into the boat and head out to sea. This is so unlike Jesus. He is not forceful at all but in this case He was. The command almost had a sense of urgency to it.

While at sea, the disciples experienced a fierce storm but kept on rowing. You should know that among these disciples were expert fishermen. Peter, James and John were fishermen before Jesus called them into the ministry. I am sure they were the ones in charge of the whole operation. You wouldn’t let Matthew the tax collector or  Judas the money grabber run the show wouldn’t you? haha..

These experienced fishermen kept on rowing. Mark you they were experienced enough to know that it is futile to row in a stormy sea. Actually, you expend too much energy doing nothing. You row hard but the storms are too fierce for the boat to make headway. At this point, the disciples were now depending on their own “abilities or expertise” to keep the boat afloat.

Rowing in this story is a picture of self-righteousness. Self-righteousness morphs itself in these ways – I can save myself, I am my own savior, I can do it myself, I can produce results, it all depends on me, I trust myself to do it, I can take care of this myself, I am self-made, I got what it takes, I am the master of my own destiny, I am the captain of my ship, DIY perhaps. Notice the recurring “I”.

It is funny how Jesus would have passed them (Vs. 49). As long as they rowed, (I can save myself, I am my own savior, I can do it myself, I can produce results, it all depends on me, I trust myself to do it, I can take care of this myself, I am self-made, I got what it takes, I am the master of my own destiny, I am the captain of my ship, DIY perhaps) Jesus was like, “you are on your own.”

I was just thinking…

Could it be that Jesus has “forced” you into that “storm” to expose your self-righteousness AKA I can save myself, I am my own savior, I can do it myself, I can produce results, it all depends on me, I trust myself to do it, I can take care of this myself, I am self-made, I got what it takes, I am the master of my own destiny, I am the captain of my ship, DIY perhaps.

Could it be that the “storm” has been allowed so that you can experience His saving power? Because without the storm you do not need Him to save you.

Could it be that the “storm” is an opportunity for you to invite Jesus into your boat i.e. life, ministry, business, career, marriage, parenting, health, finances, relationships, education, etc.? So that He can save you before He calms the storm.

Could it be that actually the “storm” is working for you?

Stop cursing your storms, challenges, or even your enemies. Jesus has allowed them so that you can experience His saving power. Without those, you would never know His amazing power to save. The storm was a perfect set-up for them to know that He saves and rescues us in every single moment of our lives. Your storms, challenges, or even your enemies are a perfect set-up for you to know that He saves and rescues you all the time.  

Jesus even saves us from storms of our own making. He does. In this case, the storm was caused by outside forces. But He also saves us when we are the cause of the storms. 

One other thing happens when you experience His saving power – you will be greatly amazed and marvel. (Vs.51) Your awe for God goes into another level because of what you He does for you. Do you want those “aha” “out of your mind moments”? Stop rowing and let Jesus save you. Stop depending on your “I’s” and let Him do His thing.

That’s what grace looks like

Shut up and dance with me…

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I was walking through our local mall and the song Shut up and Dance by the artist Walk the Moon was playing in the background. If you know my wifey, shopping and in particular window shopping is her therapy. So during the course of our marriage I’ve had my share of “therapy” sessions. If you know what I mean. Well, every time I hear this song playing, this particular line always gets to me.

She said Oh oh oh shut up dance with me
Oh oh oh shut up dance with me

When I survey the church world especially the charismatic tribe (of which am proud to be a part) I think we are too burdened by our faith that we rarely get to dance with and enjoy our God. And even if we do, it’s just twenty or thirty minutes on Sunday as prep before the preacher steps up to preach.

We also have erroneously believed the fact that we are soldiers of the kingdom. We are workers in the vineyard. We are disciples and followers of Jesus Christ and thus the implication is we are not allowed to enjoy our faith and most importantly our God.

No wonder we have many sullen, distraught, depressed, and tired Christians because all we know about our faith is WORK, WORK and WORK some more. DO, DO AND DO some more. Nothing could be further from the truth.

This is where this song comes in.
I think because we are too stodgy and serious about ourselves and about our faith we need to hear Jesus say to us SHUT AND DANCE WITH ME. I was one of them that needed to shut up and dance because I was too serious and busy trying to fulfill my purpose and destiny. (sounds familiar). I grew up in the church and did all church things right. However, I forgot to laugh. I forgot to dance. I was too serious. I grew old literally. You should have seen me a few years ago. I WAS INTENSE and DEEP my wife used to tell me…

Only since I was found by Jesus and stumbled on the gospel did I start to dance, laugh, and go easy on myself and others. Time and time again I revert to my old self but I usually keep on hearing from Jesus, shut up and dance. Now prayer and devotion time for me is usually dancing time. No more gritting my teeth and dozing off as I pray and read my bible. I have discovered that Jesus redeemed me to dance and party. His invitation is that I come to him, eat and be merry aka party (Luke 15:23)

Steve Brown of Keylife.org says it’s easier to fake religion than to fake laughter.

Gosh, Jesus loves a party. He loves to sing. He loves to dance. He rejoices over us with singing (Zephaniah 3:17) Angels even join in heaven’s celebrations (Luke 15:10)

Hey, Jesus says to you… oh, oh, oh shut up and dance with me.

Insane? that’s who our God is

Albert Einstein once said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

If this is the definition of insanity then our God is insane. He is bonkers. He is out of his mind. He is mad. He is crazy. He is cuckoo. He has a screw loose somewhere.

Why do I say that?

He keeps loving us, providing, fighting, protecting, directing us YET we keep failing, sinning, messing up, rejecting, ignoring, and frustrating Him. He keeps on doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. Sometimes I think He is like that person that stays in an abusive relationship hoping things will change. I know this is too simplistic but it is true of our God.

It actually seems as if the more we do crazy stuff, the more insane He becomes. Where sin abounds, grace superabounds. (Romans 5:20). In whichever area of your life where there is sins, weaknesses, failings, doubts watch carefully. Those are the same areas where you experience tremendous overflow of grace. 

He is loyal to us.
He fights for us.
He defends us.
He provides for us.
He loves us.
He guides us.
He is faithful to us.

Grace is insane. Grace is counterintuitive. Grace doesn’t make sense. 

That’s what grace looks like.

I am who Jesus is

I refuse to be defined by my experiences — whether good or bad
I am not my education level.
I am not my career achievements.
I am not my relationship status — single, married or complicated
I am not my sexual orientation — straight, gay or queer.
I am not my title – Dr/Mr/M.D/Founder/Apostle/Chairman/Bishop/Honorable etc
I am not the color of my skin.
I am not my back account balance.
I am not my years of spiritual duties and activities — church attendance, tithing, leading worship, speaking in tongues, all night prayer vigils, fasting etc
I am not my vision, purpose and destiny.
I am not my dieting and exercise.
I am not my gender — male, female or transgender.

I am who Jesus is and His finished work on the cross for me — the gospel – Grace

When that is in perspective, everything else makes sense.

that’s what grace looks like 

Grace is not intimidated by your “fits or mood swings”

I’ve been reading the book of Jonah and I could not help myself from laughing out loud when Jonah developed this serious fit because God would not destroy Nineveh. It actually looks like a serious mood swing to the point where Jonah asks God to let him die. Yet our gracious God prepared a plant and then made the plant provide shade for Jonah. Can you believe it? That is what grace looks like. Grace  gave Jonah what he did not deserve. If I were God I would have left Jonah to burn in the scorching heat. Grace gives you what you do not deserve. That is why it is unmerited and unearned.

So the next morning God sent a worm that ate the plant and as a result, Jonah encountered the full wrath of the sun. Hahahaha…. Still in all these, Jonah has this full-blown fit. You should read the discourse between Jonah and God. You would want to smack Jonah on his head. Like “dude what is up with you? You are talking to God. He could just snuff you out.” Still God explains to Jonah why He had pity on Nineveh. 

This is the same Jonah that God had to organize some means of transport aka “whale carriers” for Jonah to get to his destination. I mean… C’mon Jonah. you weren’t that obedient in the first place.

Hey, Grace is not intimidated by your fits or by what you have been taught to believe that you have “missed your season” (you know that teaching). Actually, I think your fits and mood swings are what attract God’s grace. Grace is for us that God has called to do one thing and we went the other way and still had a “fit” when we did what we were called to do. 

Hey, rest easy… Your Daddy is bigger than you think and He can take it.

that’s what grace looks like