God’s Fun Side

As my bike tires sped along the gray asphalt path, spring green leaves canopied above and drizzly mist tickled my skin. I smiled, as the first-time-this-year pleasantly warm temperatures filled me with joy, inside and out.

All of the sudden, the skies ruptured open, flinging sheets of rain downward. I watched as large drops of water splattered onto every dry corner of my clothing, making it tie-dyed, then solid, until every ounce of me was solidly soaked. While other street-goers scampered for shelter, my legs continued pedaling, the water separating around my bike like the parting of the Red Sea. I actually enjoyed getting wet in a warm summer rain, and really, once you’re wet, you’re still wet.

I had been thinking about a lot of things that day, and came to understand that I had lost a bit of my sense of wonder of following Jesus. Somehow, amidst all the ministry meetings, bible studies, and Sunday services, following Jesus had become a bit dry – which is a sign that something needed to change, as Jesus is never boring.

So I prayed, “God, can you show me your fun side?”

A burst of lightning flashed above me, simultaneous with a deafening clap of thunder.

A few seconds later, my bike tire nearly ran over a red rose right in the road in front of me.

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What a cool way for Jesus to answer that prayer! He is so fun, such a romancer.

Yet the most ironic part about this story is that when I got home and checked my email, my friend had written me, saying, “This morning I saw this beautiful red flower all by itself in this abandoned parking lot with lots of garbage everywhere. For some reason I thought of you. You are that beautiful red flower in all its greatness and glory among the world. Keep shining bright Kelly!”

Wow! Isn’t that cool? Yes, God most definitely has a fun side. I dried and hung the rose on my wall to remember that we must never lose our sense of wonder in following Jesus.

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Sermon: Grace is Getting the Good We Don’t Deserve

When you think of grace, what do you think of?

I think of a couple things, like the way ballroom dancers move around the room, or the way my family bows our heads to thank God before a meal.

But grace in the bible is totally different – the word literally means a free gift or favor. It’s an unearned, undeserved blessing of ridiculous and extravagant proportions. I want to define God’s grace today as “Getting the good we don’t deserve.” We don’t deserve unconditional love, but God gives it anyways, and the core of Christianity is receiving and extending this favor of God towards others.

It’s important to notice the distinction between grace, justice, and mercy.

  • Justice is getting what you deserve. You’re worthy of condemnation, and the judge gives it to you.
  • Mercy is not being punished you for what you deserve. If someone has mercy on you, that means you deserve punishment, but they are delivering you from that judgment.
  • Grace extends it further – Grace is God blessing us despite the fact that we do not deserve it.

For example, if you’re speeding on the road, the police pulls you over, and he doesn’t give you a ticket – that’s mercy. If the same officer then writes you a check for $1000 for speeding, that’s grace.

I wrote a sermon on grace, based on the story of the woman caught in adultery. I’d encourage you to watch the movie here, and read John 8:1-11.

After watching the movie, who do you identify with in this story?

Are you the woman, or the people holding the rocks? Are you in a place where you need to receive grace, or extend it to others?

Maybe you feel like you’re the woman here, all too aware of her guilt and sin and shame. You might think that God would say to you, “You’re awful; you deserve to be punished severly.” Yet listen how Jesus responds – “Neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.”

“Neither do I condemn you” – that phrase makes my heart skip a beat. She was absolutely guilty, a sinner with no defense yet the sinless one looks at her, as well as me and you and says “there is grace even for this.”

Jesus is the only one who has the right to condemn her, the only one who hasn’t one ounce of evil or sin within him, and yet he sets her free.

That’s grace, an undeserved gift of God for each of us.

But we also must understand that Jesus didn’t say, “It’s fine that you sin.” God never waves his hand and dismisses sin as though it is of no account. Before God we all have mistakes, things that we’ve done that are short of what He has for us – Romans 3:10 says that there is no one righteous, not even one. Really, we all have to see ourselves as sinners before we can receive His grace.

His character demands that any deviation from righteousness be punished. All world religions answer this question of how we can get right with God, and while other religions say you should do this, that, or the other, only Jesus came down to get to us, bearing our condemnation on the cross so we can be one with Him.

It is God’s unmerited, undeserved favor that he took our sin on the cross. His whole self is built on positioning himself with us, bearing what was ours & lifting us up instead. So when he forgives the woman, telling her, “Go and sin no more,” it mirrors how He said on the cross – “Father, Forgive them for they know not what they do.”

If this is you, I want to encourage you this week to pick a scripture and dwell on the grace that he has given you for a specific area. For example, God has given you grace to overcome addictions, so you can pick a scripture such as John 8:36 “if the son sets you free, you will be free indeed. You can use that scripture to fight back the enemy in the moments of temptation.

But maybe you don’t really relate to the woman in the story. Instead, you resonate with the religious leaders – You see yourself here in the story as the person who is bringing the woman before Jesus. In this, you’re always aiming to throw stones at others.

I’ve definitely been in that place before – yet I’ve also found that what irks me most about others is actually want I need to work on. I need to get the plank out of my own eye first! (Matthew 7:1-5) I also have the tendency to put people into boxes – the “just like me” box – people I like and gravitate towards, whom I give a lot of grace; and then there’s the “not like me” box – people whom I don’t understand and stay away from. I always tend to judge these people, instead of giving them grace.

You can see that Jesus’ first response here is to bend down low – I believe that’s really significant. The real issue is pride. If this is you, ask that you would lay your rock down.

If this is you, this week, ask God to show you a person or situation that you need to extend grace to. And ask God how you can do this in a practical way, such as by having a conversation with them, writing a note of forgiveness or engaging in an act of service. In extending grace towards them, know that you’re not condoning their sin but rather giving them mercy, because that’s what Christ did for you.

This is just the beginning! You can listen or download my full sermon here

There’s also a great story about grace involving a professor, donuts, and a whole bunch of push-ups – click here to read that story

Have a great day!

Arise & Shine: A Message for Boston

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Above: Sunrise over the Charles River

Do you like watching the sunrise? I sure do.

Whether or not you prefer to wake up that early in the morning, we are in an amazing time where God is rising over this city, awakening hearts and calling people to the place of prayer.

Isaiah wrote this message to the city of Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, and I believe it’s also a representation of what God wants to do in here in the city of Boston.

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you.
Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.” (Isaiah 60:1)

I want to specifically draw your attention to verse 3: “Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.” This is actually strikingly familiar to a sermon preached by John Winthrop on his way to America, where he spoke that the new community they would form would be “a city upon a hill, that the eyes of all people are on us…We shall be made a story and a by-word throughout the world.”

You see, Boston’s destiny is to be a beacon of the nations.

Thus, the question becomes: what do we want to be known for?

Currently, Boston is one of the smallest world-class cities, known for its rich history and being an intellectual hub. With over 300,000 college students, Boston is a popular place to come to pursue high-class education.

But I believe that God has so much more for us – This is only the beginning.

What if Boston were to be known for the way the Christian community works together? As a city where people pray? As a place where love is displayed?

If you’re intrigued by this, I’d encourage you to listen to the short message that I shared on Easter at the first Awaken Winchester service.

We all cry out for revival but don’t realize that what brings revival is repentance. Two weeks ago, Dr. Paul Jehle gave a lecture on the spiritual history of Massachusetts – he said that the Great Awakening was a direct result of the repentance that happened after the Salem witch trials.

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Above: Pastors and leaders gathering to pray for Boston at the New England Regional Leaders meeting

I’m convinced that God wants to bring revival to Boston, we’re not ready for it. Our light shines brightest when we extinguish the darkness, so my prayer is for conviction and changed hearts, that we might be capable for the revival God seeks to pour out.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, may we arise and shine, so that the glory of the Lord can come upon us, that Boston might be awakened to its destiny as a city on a hill and a light to the nations.

Below: A photo of His Eminence Sean O’Malley of the Boston Catholic Archdiocese and His Eminence Methodios of the Metropolitan of Boston of the Greek Orthodox Church joining together to light the first candle of Easter night. Photo taken by Alexander Mavradis.

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