grace

Music and Song, Theology, Worship

Mercy Mercy


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Occasionally I’ll hear a lyric in a song of worship that will make me wince. Brooke Fraser’s bridge section from Hosanna is a good example of this where she pens,

“Heal my heart and make it clean…break my heart for what breaks Yours”.

We sing, we follow suit, we play…but, really? Break my heart – really? Lord, I want to feel deep heart-break…really?

I winced recently when I heard a lyric clearly from the costly, private world of Matt Crocker and Joel Houston from the Zion track Mercy Mercy – and I wince every time I hear it and wince even more when I have the courage to sing it.
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Culture, Family, Theology

Taken In


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One of the Bible’s highlights for me is Psalm 27 – it contains some the most beautiful verses anywhere in its pages. I’m thinking of sweeping, lyrical crescendos like verse 4, “One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.”

Another verse that stuns me, particularly because of the brokenness I constantly see in society where families  (more…)

Theology

Easter Paradidomi – Why is Good Friday good?


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I’m colour blind – i.e. I can’t always discern between shades of brown and red and green. This means very little to me except that I can’t be an RAF pilot or a bomb disposal expert. It also means that I occasionally foul in snooker by playing a brown by mistake.

And it means that I can’t always see patterns, like the boat, below:

Only seeing messy, indiscernible patterns because of colour blindness is a great visual aid pointing to what the cross of Christ looks like if we are spiritually blind.

Perhaps the cross is simply brown to you this Easter and all you see is a religious symbol and nothing more. Or perhaps you are seeing the red of His sacrificial blood, the green of His humanity as the Son of Man and the yellow of His divinity as the saving Messiah.

In either case, God wants you (us) to see more and to see better – to see the cross in higher definition than ever before.

For most of Great Britain today, it isn’t actually a Good Friday. Today is Beige Friday, or Low Definition Friday. It’s 2d Friday or it’s just Any-Other-Friday-Except-That-We-Have-A-Day-Off-Work Friday. There’s nothing exceptional about it. We live in a non-Christian Nation and so Good Friday for millions of people is not Good. In fact, for billions of people it’s a non-event – the excuse for a big night out on Thursday.

And so spiritual blindness is pandemic.

Not being able to see the goodness, the beauty, the significance, the glory of Good Friday and Easter Sunday is because of a profound spiritual blindness that we are all victim to until the Spirit of God breathes in our inner-man. Every single human being, regardless of their post-code, is born spiritually blind/dead. The Bible says that,

“the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Cor.4)

John’s Light

The gospel of John is full of this blindness. It hangs over the gospel like a stifling short-sightedness that borders on the absurd. Time and time again Jesus spoke and was met with ignorant blindness:

1) CHAPTER 2:20 – When Jesus clears the temple and then references the temple that will be rebuilt within three days
2) CHAPTER 3:3 – Nicodemus not understanding Jesus’ words re being born again
3) CHAPTER 4:15 – The woman at the well doesn’t understand Jesus’ living water is the water of His Spirit
4) CHAPTER 4: 33 – Jesus talking to the disciples about the heavenly food
5) CHAPTER 7: 33 – Jesus announcing that He will be going back to heaven

So, if blindness is the illness, then what’s the vaccination?

Light.

In John 8 Jesus stands before the Jews and the entire Universe and announces that,

“I am the Light of the world”.

The answer to spiritual blindness is trusting Jesus to help you see by His Spirit. You can’t perceive spiritual things with physical eyes any more than you can see the complexity of someone’s heart by looking at their face alone.

For you to see the ‘light of the gospel of the glory of Christ’ you need spiritual sight and Jesus offers it, freely, to those who would believe.


The Light comes for us all in the moment of Paradidomi – a Greek word – when Jesus  in John 19:30 breathed His last and ‘gave up’ His Spirit. The word is in two halves: Para and Dido – “to give up” and “with close personal involvement”.

This is exactly what Jesus did as He threw Himself into the arms of His Father and committed His Spirit (ruach/pneuma) to Him.

“Yet not my will but Your will be done”.

Good Friday is good precisely because Jesus gave up His Spirit on that day so in order that we might be able to do just the same. He gave up His Spirit in the most radical expression of trust possible – into the hands of His unseen Father amidst His own indescribable anguish morphing into sin, His physical pain and separation from the Father.

But Jesus gave up His spirit in the close, intimate flow that comes from knowing that God really is there.

This being possible by God’s grace for you and I, flowing from faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus, for anyone who would come as a child and believe, is what makes Good Friday and Easter Sunday so spectacularly good.

Theology, Worship, Music and Song

All Is Grace


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If we really believe the gospel we proclaim, we’ll be honest about our own beauty and brokenness, and the beautiful broken One will make Himself known to our neighbours through the chinks in our armour – and in theirs”

In September I wrote about The Furious Longing of God, by Brennan Manning, whose revelation expresses the mind-bending truth that Abba “loves us as we are not as we should be”. The full truth of course is that none of us are as we should be.

“All Is Grace” is a moving autobiographical account of Manning’s life including his deep struggle with alcohol addiction. The account is so transparent that it served to kindle again the fire of grace in my life. Sometimes this fire might simmer down in all of us to something more resembling a glowing ember, and so it needs the stoking of testimony and of revelation.

There are three absolute gems that I’d like to make a note of from the book and then let you hear/see a song I wrote and recorded earlier this year that gives a voice of worship to these glowing, but ignitable, embers of the fire of grace.

All Is Grace

Gem One – “God Loves Us As We Are Not As We Should Be”

This inexhaustible phrase is a statement of truth that seeps through the human psyche only by faith. When it does, it begins to permeate all of our living as the reality of His unconditional love becomes our felt experience. I have been the kind of Christian who says that I believe in a love like this but who rarely feels it by personal experience. But this is changing – I am ‘Daddy’s little boy’ – period. Let us be aware of this sounding to us like a wooly emotional crutch for the weak or the ‘needy’. This is the gospel and, I’m convinced, the key to all of our living. As Mike Bickle says, “I am loved by God therefore I am profoundly successful”

Gem Two – “Gulping and Sipping”

In the foreward of the book, Philip Yancey refers to Manning’s ‘gulping of grace’ as his way of life. It caught my attention because all too often I know that my drinking (or receiving) of His grace is much more like a sipping. In Jesus, Abba has made provision for our constant gulping of these waters and we honour Him as we do so in every single minute of every hour of every day. We need to and He is glorified as we do. There is a tendency for all of us to default back to a surveying of our ‘track records’ or ‘current performances’ as the true indicator of our standing with God – there is something very strong within us that wants to be justifiable by ourselves not justified by a Saviour. We must resist this to grow in grace.

Gem Three – “Banana Peels and Fairy Tales”

Right at the end of the book, Manning highlights that this kind of grace will be like a ‘banana peel for the orthodox foot‘ and ‘a fairy tale for the grown up sensibility‘ – in other words, something that makes them fall on their butts or something that they reject as a made-up story. This makes me want to be neither orthodox or grown up! Why? Because I don’t want to waste my life sipping nervously or uncertainly from the infinite grace of Abba by labelling it as ‘cheap’ if I fall. Or wasting my life worrying about my weaknesses and all the while not experiencing the fulness of the Father’s love. It’s not cheap grace, says Manning, it’s free grace! Instead of a person who is gulping from grace being called a ‘cop out’ couldn’t we live increasingly with the understanding that when we do sin we have an Advocate in heaven interceding on our behalf and that, regardless, we have an Abba who loves us furiously? But God does mean that our gulping will result in our healing from sin (1 John 2:1).

“It’s Your Grace”

is a response from my life to the reality of being constantly touched and kept by grace every minute of every hour of every day that I’m alive. I’d like to think that if Brennan was to hear it that he’d worship Jesus along with me. I hope you will too.

© Nick Franks 2011


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