Because Grace is the Point

by DanWolgemuth on August 15, 2014

Imagine the mayhem that would exist in corporate boardrooms and executive suites when one of the primary spokespeople for the organization completely discredits and disconnects from the cause they have agreed to support.  Imagine.

That’s Michael Jordan, in his prime, saying that he doesn’t know anything about Nike and he doesn’t want anything to do with them.  That’s Peyton Manning saying that a frozen pizza is as good as Papa John’s.  It’s Tiger Woods saying that it doesn’t matter what golf ball or golf club you use.  It’s Jennifer Aniston saying that a store branded skin cream product is just as good as Aveeno.

Enter the key endorser of the mission of Jesus… enter Peter.

Three years of understanding the mission and message and minister, and when the lights of the camera are at their most intense, Peter says:

“I don’t know him.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.” And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” (Luke 22:56-60)

Ouch.

But not so fast, and not too harsh.  What if the product that God ultimately wanted Peter to endorse wasn’t the power of Jesus’ earthly ministry?  What if grace was what God wanted Peter to endorse, and not miracles?

If grace was the product, then Peter was perfect.
If grace is the gift, then who better to authentically endorse it?

On second thought, Peter was the perfect spokesperson… and so am I.

Grace and mercy on display.  Love in action.  In spite of us.  At work in us.

When it counted most, and in the face of fierce opposition, Peter endorsed the message with clarity and power:

“… there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

Because grace is the point.

Peter was perfect.

And so am I.

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Fifty-One Verses

by DanWolgemuth on August 8, 2014

The room was filled and hearts were hungry.  Wednesday night was when young people would be invited to respond to the message of confession, grace, mercy, hope and transformation.

Ray Villegas, our YFC staff member from Harlem, was bringing the message.  Although Ray’s address was 3,000 miles from most of the kids in the room, he had connected like a trusted neighbor.

With focus Ray pointed nearly 400 of us toward 1 Samuel 17… without fanfare he began to read the story of David and Goliath.  The text had been a catalyst in Ray’s personal journey of faith and transformation.

“Now the Philistines gathered their armies for battle.  And they were gathered at Socoh, which belongs to Judah…”

The context of the reading was stunning and bold.  Ray was reading this historic account of the conflict between Israel and the Philistines to an audience that was largely biblically unfamiliar.  These were high school students that felt more comfortable on the roughest corner of an urban intersection than in a Sunday school classroom.

Ray read on.  Yes, he read on.  He didn’t “tell” the story, or avoid certain verses… he read.  Verse after verse after verse.  51 verses.  51!

He read with passion and power and enormous energy.  The story needed no embellishment.  Kids responded immediately and intensely with candid reactions.  They cheered and roared and clapped.  They hung on every word.  For 51 verses.

When Ray closed the story of David, he bridged to the story of the conquest of Jesus over sin.  Again, he read the Bible.  Verse after verse.  This time from the Gospels.

The intensity and clarity of his reading didn’t wane, and neither did the attention.

God moved.  His Spirit swept over the room like a powerful and unstoppable wind.

It was scripture that won the day.  God’s Word was on display without restraint.

I assure you that my heart was a part of the windswept target.

I wondered…

Have we pulled the megaphone away from the Word of God?  Are we so distracted by technology, so addicted to its appeal that we have come to believe that God’s Word needs a little help?  A YouTube video; a movie trailer; a creatively-shaped PowerPoint or Prezi?

I assure you, God isn’t scrambling to find a great AV guy.  He’s looking for men and women who are bold and brave enough to hold the microphone to the words of scripture.

Make no mistake… Ray wasn’t reading any of these verses in a monotone, inflectionless manner.  He moved, he paced, he roared and he whispered… but it was God’s words he was declaring.

The clubroom erupted in cheers of victory.  They celebrated the fact that Jesus had faced down, with undaunted courage and love, the relentless taunts and insults of Satan, just as David had bravely confronted the arrogant attack on God’s people.  VICTORY.

This was battle… and it was God’s Word that told the account of a rock that found its mark and a Savior who defeated sin.

Unvarnished and unleashed.

No props.  No pyro techniques.

An evangelist from Harlem pointed the spotlight on the Bible… and I witnessed a move of God like nothing I’ve ever seen.

God’s Word never returns empty handed.  Never.  (Isaiah 55:11)

Time to rethink my approach… time to magnify what God Himself magnifies.

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It Should Have Been Easy

August 1, 2014

This is the tenth summer that I’ve been a part of the mission of Youth for Christ/USA.  I’ve come to understand the varied rhythms that reflect the realities of my calendar year.  There are seasons of operational intensity, of mission focus, of leadership development, of fund raising, and of staff communication.  There also is a […]

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A Roundabout Way

July 25, 2014

(As Dan is away from the office, please enjoy this classic Fragment.) It seems to me that when Jesus taught His disciples an important lesson, He rarely took the shortest route. For instance, in Matthew 16 Jesus warns His followers about the teaching of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. It was clear that Jesus was […]

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Be Strong and Courageous

July 18, 2014

(As Dan is away from the office, please enjoy this classic Fragment.) That’s right Joshua. The baton is now in your hand. The Promised Land is in front of you and the emergency brake has been released. The expansive resources of this land are now available… to you and to my people. That’s right Joshua. […]

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Even as the Grinder Blared On

July 11, 2014

Two blocks from our home is a stand of Ponderosa pine trees.  These wonderful trees are esteemed enough to escalate the value of any home that is fortunate enough to share an address with them. As much as homeowners esteem this cohabitation, the trees themselves don’t welcome disruptive intruders.  Over the years I’ve watched as […]

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The Extravagant Promise of Grace

July 3, 2014

In a small Oregon town a 13­-year-­old named “E” recoils from the cascading impact of years of unhealthy relationships. The chasm in her life is relational, but her inability to process any of these feelings takes her to a place of deep disappointment and abandonment. Two weeks after her 14th birthday, E gives birth to […]

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Only in Virginia

June 27, 2014

In the Mesabi Iron Range the town of Virginia, Minnesota looms large.  It’s a town that hit its population prime between 1950 and 1960. It was during this period of time that transplanted Michiganders by the name of Don and Eunice Cargo welcomed their third child into the world, a daughter.  Don was an electrical […]

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There Were Four, Not Three

June 20, 2014

Often, when asked about the “friends of Job” in the Old Testament account of bad advice giving and gridlock, there are three names mentioned.  I confess that under the pressure of a million dollar question on Jeopardy I would have answered incorrectly.  “Three!” In Chapter 32 of the book, we’re introduced to a new character.  […]

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Somebody Else’s Cowbell

June 13, 2014

My ride started innocently enough, but without premeditation, I had merged into the cycling route of a local triathlon.  Saturday at the Aurora Reservoir was a noteworthy adventure, and as I pulled onto east bound Quincy Avenue, I was the fortunate benefactor of a road closed to motor traffic and a sweeping flow of riders. […]

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