Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Grace-filled Gap

As we march into 2014 there is something I want to remind all of us of that is a game-changer.   Listen up, grab a seat, hold onto your soda and turn off your electronic devices.  

Here it is. 

For some of us 2013 was a less than stellar year.  We had more fumbles than follow-thru.  We tripped and slipped through much of the year perhaps.  In a word – we could have done better, been better, and achieved better.

Okay, enough of that.  Now, here’s what I want you to take away.

In the Old Testament, Psalm 103:12, we find some amazing hope.

“As far as the east is from the west, that far has he removed our transgressions from us and he will never throw them back in our faces – ever.”

Now that is a paraphrase but the full and accurate meaning is there as best as I can deliver it.

Our job – yes we have to do one thing.  Our job is to bring all of those slips, trips, failures, mistakes, miscues, malicious thoughts, evil inclinations, and dumb flops before God - lay them down at his feet in a figurative way, and simply say ‘Help?”  

Those four letters say it all. 

I’ve failed.
I’ve sinned.
I’ve fallen off the wagon.
I’ve done a bad deed or thirteen.

Or anything else you want and need to include in that big pile of stuff. 

And when we do look what happens.  In one quick motion, the God of the universe comes riding in on a brilliant white steed and sweeps every one of those confessions off the floor and takes them from you.

Where do they go?

I don’t know.  All I know is that my God’s promise is “He removes them from us as far as the east is from the west.”

That is one big gap that now is filled with the most amazing grace we could ever want to experience.  There is so much grace in that space that we could go swimming. 

Imagine that.  Your life is set right. 
You start again with a clean sheet of paper.
You start with a ledger that begins “In balance”.

How long has it been since you felt “in balance”?

Step up, my friend.  Receive your pardon.

The King is ready to hand you one.



P Michael Biggs
Offering Hope
Encouragement Inspiration
One Word at a Time


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Is There Room

Is There Room?


A vivid memory of one of my childhood Christmases was when all ten kids and grandkids came home.  That was such an exciting Christmas.  There were twenty-eight of us gathered together that year.

And through some magic we managed for all of us to stay under the same roof.  Amazing.

We tease about eating in shifts and scheduling bathroom time, and we managed all of it with grace, laughter and unity.

There was room for everyone.  Did you catch that? 

The Christ-child left a cozy spot by the fire in Heaven to come to a town called Bethlehem.  Unfortunately there was no room, even for the Son of God, so his parents stayed in a barn. 

A barn – for the Son of God 

Are we making any more room for Him today than we did over two-thousand years ago? 

Are we still crowding Him out?
Do we still say “No Vacancy” just because it is inconvenient?

Throw open the doors, turn on the lights.  Welcome Christ back into our world. 

We’ve tried for a few years now to eject him from our schools. 
     Are we better off?
We’ve tried to keep him out of government. 
     How is that working?

The most spacious places around?  Our hearts – yours and mine.

Here is a lyric from a Christmas carol that captures my prayer.

O come to my heart, Lord Jesus;
There is room in my heart for Thee!”


P Michael Biggs
Words of Hope
Encouragement Inspiration
One Word at a Time

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Visit

Christmas is a time for excited expectations. 

As a child I was so excited every Christmas as I awaited the arrival of my siblings who lived far away.  We are a large family and there was always much laughter and joy to be experienced at Christmastime. 

The anticipation of the coming of The Messiah was a much anticipated event too.  Let me borrow a few lyrics from a Charles Wesley lyric.

Come, Thou long expected Jesus,
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us;
Let us find our rest in Thee.

Refrain:
Israel’s strength and consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart

The coming of the Redeemer/Messiah had been forecast for centuries.  And we in this modern age still anticipate His coming in fresh and new ways.  We want to rediscover the idea of the Christ-child, the babe in the manger.  What might He want to accomplish in us and in our world today?

Our hope is in the Christ, the promised one.

And what do we seek in His coming?

We seek rest – we seek to be set free.
Free from our woes
Free from our angst
Free from our ills
Free from our fears

Come, long-expected Jesus.

You were born to set us free. 

P Michael  Biggs
Offering Hope
Encouragement Inspiration
One Word at a Time

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Who Me?

As I reflect on the Christmas story I think of Mary and her response when the angel told her what was about to happen to rock her world.

Her response: “How can this be, since I am just a virgin?”

In today’s vernacular, that conversation would go something like this:

“Who me?  I’m just …
  A loser
  A misfit
  A weakling
  Out-of-shape

I never graduated
   I can’t speak very well
      I don’t know that language
         I can’t do that

I don’t have that kind of money
  I’m tired
    I’m too old
      I’m too young

The call of God comes with special equipment to fulfill the plan.

Mary had not a clue at that moment in time, yet she had the right answer. 

In a paraphrase she said:

“I am your servant.  I’ll do as you have asked.”

A worthy response for any calling.


P Michael Biggs
Offering Hope
Encouragement Inspiration
One Word at a Time


Saturday, November 30, 2013

Hope and Fear

(Welcome to our Christmas season for Internet Church.  Enjoy and have a wonderful and rich Merry Christmas.)

Hope and Fear seem diametrically opposed to each other don’t they?  Some would say “we hope for the best and fear the worst.” 

Well, for our purposes, they belong together. 

We human beings are contradictions within ourselves.  We have many hopes and we have many fears that those hopes will not be met. 

Sounds like we are chasing our tails, doesn’t it?

In the beloved Christmas carol O Little Town of Bethlehem we find this phrase:

The hopes and fears 
of all the years 
are met in Thee tonight.

The coming of the Messiah, the one who will deliver, was foretold for many centuries before the birth of Christ actually happened.  For the children of Israel, during their wandering in the desert for forty years, I’m sure many of the old-timers in that great throng invoked this prophesy many times and prayed out “Come promised one and deliver us from our woes.”

The hope we all seek is for redemption.  We seek a fixer for our woes.  We want reconciliation, forgiveness, and a benefit plan that is the ultimate.

That is our hope.

What we fear is hardship, sadness, despair, loss and lack.

Do you see how the coming of Christ to Bethlehem meets both our hopes and fears?  Do you see the hope mixed with our fears being met in the Christ of the manger?

He never promised a quick fix, a panacea that works overnight.  However, in the long run, He wins.  We win with Christ, our champion riding in on a white steed, flaming sword in hand at the end of the age. 

Meanwhile … we hang onto hope. 

We trust his promises.  What are they?

I will never leave you or forsake you. 
~Hebrews 13:5

I have called you by name.  You are mine.
~Isaiah 43:1-2

That sounds like a great place to store my fears.  How about you?


P Michael Biggs
Offering Hope 
Encouragement Inspiration
One Word at a Time
Merry Christmas 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Thanksgiving Tribute

On this Sunday before Thanksgiving let me offer you a word of hope. 

In a world of diversity, distractions, abundance and apathy, I cannot let this day go by without a simple observation on Thanksgiving.

I’m taking my cue from the lyrics to a loved gospel song by Andre Crouch. 

How can I say thanks
For the things you have done for me
Things so underserved
Yet you give to prove your love for me

The voices of a thousand angels
Could not express my gratitude
All that I am or ever hope to be
I give it all to you

To God be the glory
To God be the glory
To God be the glory
For the things he has done

With his blood he has saved me
With his power he has raised me
To God be the glory
For the things he has done

Just let me live my life
Let it be pleasing Lord to Thee
And if I gain any praise
Let it flow to Calvary

With his blood he has saved me
With his power he has raised me
To God be the glory
For the things he has done

Ladies and gentlemen, this is the summation of how I want to conduct my life.  I want to find opportunities to express praise and great thanks to the one who knows me at my worst and best, and loves me in both extremes equally.

May you and those close to you find expressions of thanks and praise for one another and for the Great God of the Universe.
  
P Michael Biggs
Offering Hope
Encouragement Inspiration
One Word at a Time


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Forget Your Perfect Self

I hate perfect, probably because I am so full of imperfect.  Is anything in life perfect?  Is anyone perfect? 

On my best days I still miss “perfect” by a mile.  Can you relate? 

Is your life perfect?
Are you perfect? 

Perfect means – well put together, no room for mistakes, no room for improvement. 

Ah, that is an interesting thought – no room for improvement.

The search for perfect abounds. 
Products promise to make us perfect.
  Schooling promises to make us perfect.
    Seminars promise this.
      Training courses promise perfection to the hilt.

Perfect!
               Perfect!
                              Perfect!


This idea had to grow on me.  See what it does for you.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in
~Leonard Cohen


Instead of being perfect and having all of the answers, I seem to be in constant search for more light.  I say – “Let the light get in.”

I've known a few “perfect” followers of God in my lifetime.  They made me sick.  If you want to know everything wrong with you, hang around someone like that for a day or two.  They will set you straight, believe you me. 

Today, a more liberal view works just fine.  The cry for some is this … “More light.  We need more light in here.”

Let the light shine in. 

Here is a scripture to consider.

2 Corinthians 12:9
Paul, a follower of Christ, prayed three times for a certain infliction (of unknown origin) to be removed from his life.  And the answer came back loud and clear.

“No, but I (God) will be with you.  That is all you need to know.  My power shows up best in weak people.”

Now there is a picture of an imperfect man.  He had a problem.  He prayed for its removal.  He was denied and told he was still useful anyway. 

There is amazing hope for those of us who are still imperfect. 

That is worth a shout out – to God. 
Some say ‘Hallelujah’.
Some say ‘Praise the Lord’.

Some, like me, just grin.  We just grin and smile, and inwardly we’re saying something like:  “This is amazing.  You love me, warts and all, and you say you’re going to use those warts, imperfect as they are?”

Amazing! 

Thank you Paul, for being vulnerable in the middle of your misery.  You give us great hope.

And look how the light shined through Paul’s life.  He is credited with being one of the great proclaimers of the faith and gospel of Jesus Christ.  Fourteen of the twenty-seven books in the New Testament are credited to Paul as the author.  Talk about letting the light in through the cracks.  That is amazing.

On the days when you are feeling all cracked up, perhaps those are the days when God is letting the light really flow through you.  Just be okay with being imperfect enough that God finds us useful.

I do.

P Michael Biggs
Offering Hope
Encouragement Inspiration
One Word at a Time


Saturday, November 9, 2013

Loved As You Are

My, how we love to put on airs.  We love to appear better than we are, skinnier, more ambitious, more loving, more experienced and the list goes on.

The striving for bigger and better is at worst a cat chasing its tail.  And if, on the rare occasion the cat does finally catch his tail, what great disappointment.

When are we ever completely at rest with who we are, warts and all?  When do we embrace the unique individual we are and celebrate ourselves? 

The whole concept of being at rest with ourselves is a difficult one to embrace.  We are conditioned from early on to compare, contrast, view and review our lives by a scorecard that is idealistic and unreasonable at best. 

We wonder often if there is anyone who can appreciate us as we are.  Are we ever acceptable in and of ourselves?  If someone dared to get to know us at our core, would they hang around? 

In the middle of all of this madness and tail-chasing there is some tremendous hope, and it has it beginnings in this thought: 

“In order to grow in trust,
we must allow God to see us
and love us precisely as we are.”
~Brennan Manning

The words “see us and love us” jump out.  And those very words are the hallmark concepts on which God’s great love is based.

He doesn't expect perfection.
He actually expects us to be worse than we are.
He knows us and loves us anyway.

And he loves us precisely as we are.

That means he knows my stupid moments, my silly whims, my secret fantasies, and my most horrid thoughts. 

He knows all of that, yet He still loves me “precisely as I am”?

I sometimes have a hard time getting my mind around all of that.  Who am I that God could love me in my precise state of being.  I don’t even like myself in this state some times. 

The beginning phrase needs repeating.  It says this …

“In order to grow in trust”

The whole concept of God is based on trust.  We can’t see Him, touch Him, or hear an audible voice.  Our whole experiencing of God is based on faith. 

Faith is trust.  We reach the point of trusting God’s love for us precisely as we are. 

But I want to be Prince Charming.
I want to have a full head of hair.
I want to weigh 170 lbs.
I want to be a giant in Christian circles.
I want to boast of my Christian ethics and Christian disciplines.

I want to … but I can’t. 

What I am is this …
My back is hairy
I need to lose a few pounds
I sometimes sing flat
I don’t win every ping pong game
I eat chocolate when I’m not supposed to

And a dozen or more greater sins that I’m too chicken to mention.

I would dearly love to believe in a God like this – one who sees me as I am and loves me anyway.

And it is all wrapped up in that little word TRUST.


“In order to grow in trust,
we must allow God to see us
and love us precisely as we are.”
~Brennan Manning


This thought comes to mind.  God’s love is never based on performance. 
Remember this one? 

“While we were still sinners Christ died for us.”
~Romans 5:8

Remember the woman caught in adultery?  Her performance was less than admirable, yet Christ said “Neither do I condemn you.  Go and sin no more.”

The thief on the cross received pardon.  He was offered a place in paradise that very same day. 

These are incredibly lovely views of God loving us precisely as we are.  He loves us in the moment, and in every moment of our lives.

Have you ever seen any more marvelous views that represent amazing grace?

Perhaps it is time to step up our game – allow our trust to grow toward the one who loves us more than we deserve, and He loves us in whatever state of grace or disgrace in which we find ourselves.

And now, offer up your own prayer of thanksgiving to the one who loves you through every season of your life.


P Michael Biggs
Offering Hope
Encouragement Inspiration
One Word at a Time


Saturday, November 2, 2013

God Is Tilted toward Underdogs

Finally, someone is on the side of the underdog.  Don’t we love it when the underdog comes out as a winner?  I do.

And so it is with God.  That is perhaps the strongest reason to give for often writing and speaking to those who are in a world of hurt and a world of great need.

A great thought …

“The world may be tilted
toward the
rich and powerful,
but God is tilted
toward the underdog.”
~Philip Yancey


God loves the down-and-out.
He loves the bedraggled, the beat up, the burnt out, the discouraged, and the ragamuffin.  The whole gospel of hope is for mankind who is facing the dark side of life. 

     God loves the rich and successful.
He adores the poor and down-on-his-luck.

     God rejoices over the winner.
He cheers victory chants for the struggling cripple, whether crippled physically or mentally.

God is on our side, no matter in what state of grace or disgrace we find ourselves.  

Has your cheese fallen off the cracker?  God knows.  He saw it fall, and He has a better slice waiting for you.

Again, let me state our premise:




Have you considered some of the underdogs God has used in the past?

He used a drunken sailor once.  That man went on to write the lyrics to Amazing Grace.

He used a man in an insane asylum.  That man left behind the great lyrics to The Love of God.  Here are some of those lyrics.

     To write the love of God above
     Would drain the ocean dry;
     Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
     Though stretched from sky to sky

He redeemed a rich and successful political power player once.  That man was Chuck Colson, who went on to found Prison Fellowship, which made huge impacts in helping redeem and reform many men and women who were incarcerated.

Even in the Christmas story, the angels of God appeared first to some seedy shepherds on a hillside outside of Bethlehem.  They were not the esteemed elite of their day, yet they got a front row seat and an early preview to the Savior of the World.

There have been others, lesser in our eyes perhaps, yet God saw something in them that was redeemable and remarkable.

~The woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her hair

~A couple of tax collectors – Matthew and Zacchaeus

~The thief on one of the crosses

Do you see that God is in the redemption business?  People who stand in need of redemption are usually considered ‘underdogs’.

What is your story?

Have you ever …
  Stolen
    Lied
      Lusted
        Slandered another’s reputation

Has your cheese fallen off the cracker a few times in your life?

Come to the one who loves you regardless. 

He is tilted toward those of us who, more than a few times, have slipped, fallen, stumbled, failed and lost it all on a whim.

God, the forgiving one, wants nothing more than a moment of your time to change your life for a lifetime.


A Prayer for You

God
There are so many times when I feel like such a loser.  Can you redeem one such as me?  Do you offer grace and mercy to the likes of me?

How I want to believe that. 

So if you can, then I reach out to you as you reach for me.  Let the wedding of our hands outstretched begin the beginning of the story of redemption in my own life.

Amen.


P Michael Biggs
Offering Hope
Encouragement Inspiration
One Word at a Time


Saturday, October 26, 2013

God's Soft Spot

Does God have a soft spot or a blind side?  According to some research I've been doing, it appears He does indeed have a blind side. 

If we consider some of the individuals He has used on occasion, we might believe that He is a really lousy judge of people.

Just look at some of the characters He has chosen to use down through history.

David was an adulterer.  

Jonah was a chicken who ran away.  
Peter was a traitor.  

Zacchaeus, an IRS agent, was a thief.  

Rahab was a prostitute.  


Can you believe that list of losers?  Ah, but the good news is coming.

Philip Yancey reminds us of this.

“I have come to know a God whose Son made prodigals the heroes of His stories and the trophies of his ministry.”
~Philip Yancey

Trophies of his ministry …

The absolutely incredible news is this … God takes us as we are, sees what we can be, and then helps bring about that transformation when we allow His hand to guide us, His voice to speak to us, and His light to shine through us. 

And the amazing news – God can use anybody, anywhere, anytime.

What have you done?
   What are you doing?
      Where have you been?
         Where are you going?

The answers aren't important.  What is important is your response to God’s call.  Will you follow Him?

Will you follow Him? 

THAT is the ultimate question.  In every case listed above, the participant made a radical turn from their wayward life TO the invitation of God.  They placed their destinies into the hands of the God of their understanding. 

They allowed God!

They allowed God full access to their will and their destinies.  They allowed Him to change their direction, their agenda for a day or for a lifetime.

And look what happened.

They all went down in history as heroes – trophies in God’s trophy case as examples of loyalty and obedience. 

That is what God wants from each of us - obedience. 

And the most encouraging news of all is this … He uses the high and mighty, and he uses the meek and lowly. 

Is God a bad judge of character? 

Not at all.  He takes our bad character and changes and redeems it for His purposes. 

If God has a soft spot, it is for one who can be used in His work.  He sees our proclivities, our personalities, our innate skill set and He finds worthy work for each of us. 

He simply wants every one of us in His trophy case.  He wants to put us on display as a recipient of the grace and mercy that is abundantly available to every person – EVERY PERSON!

Does God have a soft spot for you and me?

You bet.  He is very, very fond of us.


Please watch this.
Sung by Trophies of Grace

 My Prayer for You!

God:
What an amazing thought.  You take the low life, the down and out, the rebellious, and the wayward and you use them in amazing ways. 

That really is an amazing thought.

I suppose that means you can use the likes of one like me.  Do I dare believe that?  Can you do something with my life, my past and my present and make a future for me? 

Can you God?

I want that more than anything.  So, here I come.  I come to you asking for all of this redemption stuff and life-change stuff we've been talking about and reading about.

Use me too, God.

Amen


P Michael Biggs
Offering Hope
Encouragement Inspiration
One Word at a Time


Saturday, October 19, 2013

When Grace Moves In

The great theme of grace continually captivates my heart.  It is a topic that is essential for every person to understand, for we are all in need of great grace from God almighty. 

It seems that when we talk about grace, guilt comes along for a ride, and takes over the wheel. 

Perhaps we can find some encouragement in the middle of this maze.

When we ponder the words GRACE and GUILT, we have to break them down.

Grace is all about …
Help
  Forgiveness
    Tolerance
      Kindliness
        Mercy
          Benevolence
            Leniency
              Decency.


Guilt speaks of …
  Blame
    Guiltiness
      Remorse
        Shame
          Self-reproach.

So what do we do?  How do we accept the GRACE of God without the guilt that our minds dump on us?

I found something today that may jump-start us.

“When grace moves in… guilt moves out”
~Max Lucado

We claim to be under the grace of God.  We tell others that we are living in grace, and we actually start believing in this grace thing, and that is good.

And then along comes guilt.  Just when we think we've got it all together, we come up with guilt over all sorts of issues.

I’m ashamed of what I did.
I’m to blame for my actions.
I am at fault.
How can I be declared worthy?  If you only knew the real me.

Visit Max’s quote again – “When grace comes in, guilt moves out.”

Now that is an empowering thought.  That is what God intended all along, I think. 

Let’s revisit the list of synonyms for “grace”.
Help
Forgiveness
Tolerance
Kindliness
Mercy
Benevolence
Leniency
Decency

I don’t see “guilt" in that list. 

Let’s re-work our own sense of worthiness when it comes to grace and acceptance. 

Grace frees
     Guilt binds

Grace tolerates
     Guilt is impatient

Grace is lenient
     Guilt is harsh and demanding

Grace is decent
     Guilt is mean-spirited

Grace is forgiving
     Guilt is condemning

“Oh for grace to trust him more” - wise words from the old hymn. 

I can hear the cries about now … “Then give us some weapons to fight the guilt and help move it along so we can live in grace.”

2 Corinthians 2:8-9
“My grace is sufficient for you, 
for my power shows up best in weak people.”

Romans 4:15-16
“The law brings wrath, but where there is 
no law there is no infraction.  
That is why it depends on faith, 
so that we can take confidence 
in the grace that is offered 
for all his offspring.”

Romans 5:19-21
“By one man’s obedience 
many will receive grace 
and righteousness.  
The law came about 
to highlight the sin, 
but where sin increased, 
grace abounded all the more.” 


We can see with amazing clarity exactly what Max’s comment means.



We are under grace, the great grace of God Almighty. 

As a final reminder, let’s revisit this well-known chestnut of a Bible verse.

John 3:16-17
“God loved the world so much that He gave his one and only Son, and whoever believes in him shall not perish, but enjoy eternal life.  God did not send His Son to condemn us, but to save us.

That sounds like a lot of love and grace to me.  We can do a top-to-bottom house-cleaning, for guilt has moved out.

To God be the glory!
  
P Michael Biggs
Offering Hope
Encouragement Inspiration
One Word at a Time