Sinners “R” them (or us?)

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This has been a tough week for me. I’ve been trying to grasp and write about mercy but it’s been alluding me. Twice I’ve had to abandon my first attempt at a Catch because it didn’t get by my first critic — my wife — sending me writing well into the afternoon, which I can’t afford the time to do. I think I may have to admit I’m far more of a Pharisee than I thought. My book 12 Steps for the Recovering Pharisee (like me) comes to mind. We had to add “like me” to the title to announce a personal connection with this struggle. Once a drunk, always a drunk, they say, you just stop drinking. So, once a Pharisee, always a Pharisee, you just stop judging and separating yourself from sinners.

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Love and mercy

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Brian Wilson, mastermind of the famous Beach Boy sound, says he was in his piano room playing “What the World Needs Now” when he got the idea for his 1988 song, “Love and Mercy.” He went on to say that he poured his heart into this song and that it was the most spiritual song he has ever written. Marti and I have been thinking about that song ever since we started thinking about mercy this week. As in, “I desire mercy more than sacrifice.” I want to share that song with you today.

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Getting inside out, and letting outside in

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Thanks to Catch citizen John Fagliano for the following quote from Tim Keller in line with yesterday’s Catch about God desiring mercy over sacrifice.

Jesus’s teaching consistently attracted the irreligious while offending the Bible-believing, religious people of his day. However, in the main, our churches today do not have this effect. The kind of outsiders Jesus attracted are not attracted to contemporary churches, even our most avant-garde ones. We tend to draw conservative, buttoned-down, moralistic people. The licentious and liberated or the broken and marginal avoid church.

That can only mean one thing. If the preaching of our ministers and the practice of our parishioners do not have the same effect on people that Jesus had, then we must not be declaring the same message that Jesus did.

Hearing Keller’s comments brought to mind an experience I had last summer attending a concert at Hollywood Presbyterian Church in Hollywood, California by a singer/songwriter friend of mine from early Jesus Music days. I thought it would be a fun surprise reunion having not seen him for years. I took with me a professor from Biola University whom I knew loved that era of music. It turned out to be everything I hoped but there was a unique twist to the evening as well.

As we drove into the church campus, we passed under a freeway overpass that had been turned into tent city for the homeless. There must have been 20 or 30 people camped there less than a block from the church. It created a stark contrast — the juxtaposition of tent city next to the staid brick Gothic structure established in 1923. It was the broken and marginalized up against the buttoned-down.

On our way home that night, the prof and I talked about what it would have been like to invite the homeless people outside to the free concert inside. They would have loved it, and the people inside would have loved them. Barriers would have been broken down. Us/them thinking would have been defeated. The stereotypes Keller spoke of would have evaporated. But why didn’t we? Why didn’t I? I thought of it, but talked myself out of it by not wanting to disrupt my friend’s concert. However, the real reason was fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of hostility from people less fortunate than me. Fear of crossing the line.

We’ve got to get over this, people. We are all one big “We.” There is no “us” and “them.”  We are all in need — the people in the tents, and the people in the pews. We are all much more the same than we are different. We need to get the inside out and let the outside in. Let the church truly be the church of saved sinners — diverse but so much the same.

In a poignant commentary on this situation, one of my favorite songs by the songwriter from that concert is about Jesus clearing the temple of hucksters of religious wares and it ends with these words: “Jesus, He came on through here today and asked everyone to leave.”

Jesus drove the religious hypocrites out and brought in the needy, the sinners and the marginalized. When we welcome these, we welcome everyone.

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Mercy, not sacrifice

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“But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matthew 9:13

Do you ever find yourself wishing someone would get theirs? Maybe you’ve been wronged and you wish someone would even the score. Or maybe someone’s done something wrong that harmed a number of people and you merely want to see justice done. There’s a slight problem with that. When you do, you are setting yourself up to get yours as well. You are basically announcing in your heart and mind how you want God to treat everyone (except you!). You see, we always need to have that exception clause in there, because you and I are just as guilty as the next guy. Either there is mercy for you and me and mercy for everybody else, or pay up time for everyone else and for us as well. You can’t have it both ways.

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A reason for the hope

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The picture above is taken from the dining room table where I work in the early morning. This is what I see right now. As you can tell, it’s still Christmas at my house. The tree’s still up. The lights outside are still on. In our neighborhood, our decorations were the last to go up and they’ll be the last to come down.  

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Coffee with John

Let’s face it, we’re all caffeinated Christians. Well, maybe you aren’t, but everyone else with a cup of coffee nearby is. I even woke up with an acid stomach this morning, and still, the first thing in my mouth was a sip of Starbucks French Roast. That’s because I’m a creature of habit and I needed my routine to feel better about feeling bad. And I do feel better. There’s some security in these little morning. rituals. I can’t even tell how I am without a half a cup of coffee in me. And don’t preach at me. For every ten articles about how bad coffee is for you, there’s one that points out actual benefits. I have all those articles in a drawer somewhere.

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Grace Against Time campaign

The newly remastered album, Cold Cathedral, is yours free when participating in our Grace Against Time campaign today. The album is a time-related but out of print rendition of Contemporary Christian Music’s first official album and John Fischer’s first recorded music.
While containing John’s first songs, his prophetic message remains as relevant today as it was then … as you will soon discover. Please accept Cold Cathedral as our gift to you for your gracious gift that activates the Catch Ministry today.   
Together with our Board of Directors and the Accountability Commission, the many volunteers world wide, and those who, given their circumstances, are not expected to contribute, Thank You for Coming Alongside Us today, as we seek to wrap up this campaign by tomorrow at midnight.   
Yours for this journey,
John and Marti 
Tick Tock … The time to contribute is now.
(To learn how to do that, click any clock on this page.)  
 
About “The Road of Life”:
All roads to heaven lead through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. This is what makes our faith real, human, personal and welcoming. We are introducing people to the person of Jesus, not a religion.
Everything begins with an encounter with Christ. And He has done everything possible to get to us, and left the door open on a relationship with Him. 
This is the essence of the Gospel of Welcome – He meets us anywhere along our journey on the road of life when we turn to Him, and we get to turn the grace we receive outward to everyone, everywhere.
The Road of Life was my first song of faith.

 

THE ROAD OF LIFE
Words and Music by John Fischer 
Walking on down the road called the road of life
Walking down the road of life leading to my death
Well it just doesn’t make any sense
I’m living just to die
And it really doesn’t matter at all
If I’m happy or if I cry.
Someone help me if you can I’m lost
Don’t where to go
Don’t what to do
Don’t know why I’m here
 
Walking down the road of life heard about a man
Claimed to be the Son of God claimed to be a man
Well He said He loved me so much
He died so I could live
And He still is loving me now
And wants me to be His
Is it possibly true?
Could it be the way?
Is it what I need?
Will it give me life?
Will it set me free?
Walking down the road of life took Him at His word
Told Him I believed in Him then I knew He heard
‘Cause He gave me a reason for life
A life just living with Him
And He gave me all of His love
And promised to help me on
While I’m walking down the road of life
He lifts me when I fall
Hears me when I call
Keeps me in the road
In the road of life
 
Tick Tock … The time to contribute is now.
When you go to contribute, check out our entertaining video of Captain Hook and his fellow pirates who offer you reasons why time is running out for them but not for you and me in 2020. Then stay on the page to contribute. Help us make goal by tomorrow night!
Tick Tock … Click on any Clock!
 
Join these who have made Grace Turned Outward a priority in this New Year
Kristin, Chesterfield, Missouri
Larry
John
Margaret, Midland, Texas
Andrew, North Richland Hills, Texas
Gary, Rathdrum, Idaho
Merlyn, Goodyear, Arizona
Allen, Exton, Pennsylvania
Mark, Raleigh, North Carolina
Mayre, Santa Cruz, California
Priscilla, Spencerport, New York
Sandy, Englewood, Colorado
John, Coralville, Iowa
Arthur, Arlington, Virginia
Robert, Miami, Florida
Keith, Portland, Oregon
Markus, Koln, Germany
Frank, Las Vegas, Nevada
Ralph, La Habra Heights, California
Sara, Boerne, Texas
Victor, New Castle, Pennsylvania
George, Barefoot Bay, Florida
Chan, Hong Kong
Shari, Laguna Beach, California
Laura, Phoenix, Arizona
Mark, Garden City, Michigan
Merlyn, Goodyear, Arizona
Mike, Sacramento, California
Hal, Lititz, Pennsylvania
Noel, Blue Hill, Maine
Neil, Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Lyn
David, Lakeville, Minnesota
Laura, Lubbock, Texas
David, Kati Kati, New Zealand
Darin, Cozad, Nebraska
Linda, Rugby Warwickshire, U.K.
Kent, Bryan, Ohio
Christopher, Edwardsville, Illinois
David, Liberty Lake, Washington
Roger, Whittier, California
Laura, Phoenix, Arizona
Paul, Wayne, Pennsylvania
Daryl
Paula, Decatur, Alabama
Linda, Bainbridge Island, Washington
William, Huntsville, Alabama
John, Cupertino, California
John, Chicago, Illinois
Tom, Washington, D.C.
Patrick, Dundee, Michigan
Lisa, Sunland, California
Joe, Sugar Land, Texas
Cynthia, Harlingen, Texas
Garry, Ozark, Arkansas
Pat & Dave, Normandy Park, Washington
Christina, Columbia, Maryland
Michael, Tucson, Arizona
Dick, East Amhurst, New York
Lewis
Mike, Cambria, California
The clock’s still running. 
Join them now.
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Grace against time

If you have been following our end-of-the-year emails, you have no doubt become familiar with the contradictions and complications surrounding the nefarious and dastardly but suave Captain Hook from the classic story of Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie. The many adaptations on stage and screen are a tribute to the entertaining staying power of the story, and the many psychological studies such as The Peter Pan Syndrome by Dan Kiley and in-depth discussions in countless other books attest to the deeper, adult issues imbedded in this story that speak to universal problems that face every generation.
Captain Hook is a seriously conflicted individual. Caught between good form and bad form and driven by his hatred of Peter Pan and fear of the crocodile chasing him, he takes the form of a vulnerable villain. He can be at one point a fierce, threatening pirate, and yet he can be suddenly reduced to a grimacing, fleeing child by the mere sound of a ticking clock. You see, he lost his hand in a sword fight with Peter Pan, and Peter fed his hand to a crocodile who liked the taste of it so much he is ever seeking Hook so he can feed on the rest of him. The only thing keeping Hook alive is the fact that the crocodile has also swallowed a clock whose loud ticking is what warns him that the croc is in the vicinity and he had better hightail it out of there.
But what happens when the clock winds down? Poor Hook won’t have any way of knowing where his nemesis is. Which is a true picture of all of us who have no idea when the clock will run out on our own lives. It could happen now, tomorrow, or years from now. Who knows? Only God. That’s why Hook becomes an unlikely character for us to identify with. He’s a comical representative of us all, which is why we chose him.
Take myself – I think of myself as all good form until my feet go on the floor in the morning and I look in the mirror and see a classic representation of bad form. I can’t even get the hairs on my head to go in the right direction after a few hours in bed. And how about my sin? As one of our Catch members puts it, “I’m not really aware of any sin in my life until my feet hit the floor in the morning!” 
Captain Hook exemplifies our race against time, but in reality, thank God if you know Jesus, because then it’s God’s grace against time. God’s grace – His undeserved favor – accompanies us through the heartache and the disappointment we face. God’s grace takes us through everything. And when it’s time for our clock to stop, God’s grace will be there to take us to where we will live forever with Christ in a timeless eternity.
So it’s the fictitious Hook who has allowed us to have some fun with what is for us a very serious but brief, two-day end-of-the-year fundraising campaign. We kept it brief because we did not want to compete with those organizations, including our own, who attend to the needs of the hungry, the homeless and the hurting especially at this time of year. 
 
But wait – we aren’t done yet. Our campaign was a little too brief. We haven’t finished our count until last minute checks arrive in the mail, but so far we are still about $5,000 short of our goal, so we are asking those of you who may have missed our campaign, and others who might want to give more, to give into 2020 now that we are here. The croc is still chasing Hook and our time to expand is here. Thank the Lord the clock is still running on our opportunity to introduce the Gospel of Welcome – Grace Turned Outward – to everyone, everywhere thru this worldwide ministry. This is not a pipe dream. Because of the global reach of the internet, it is reachable. Reach everyone? The Catch can.
A word about matches. We are still $500 short of completing our $2,000 match, plus, one of our Accountability Commission members has just offered another $500 match, so meeting these two matches will almost guarantee our goal. Won’t you take the opportunity to cooperate with these Catch partners by making the most of their generous gifts to double your donation today?
The clocks still ticking.  There’s still time to add your name to this list below, or like Merlyn from Arizona, still time to give again. Our “Thank you” gift of a Cold Cathedral remastered download – John’s groundbreaking first album – is still offered to all who participate. 
The Catch, which began as a mere blog in 2008, thanks to our chairman in 2012  is the first online community that now belongs to you and your growing influence in the world. You are our boots on the ground, and our commitment to you is to immerse you in the Gospel of Welcome – Grace Turned Outward – so you can spread grace around to those with whom you walk in the world. Look for many more opportunities in the New Year to learn about this grace and how to live it out in the marketplace.
Hook is still running. So are we. But our race against time is also grace against time because everything comes from God and nothing from us.
A click on the clock
Gives a lick to the croc
(The croc of time, that is. Help us reach our goal in 2020!)
 
A big THANK YOU to all those who have donated!
Come one, come all, let’s finish this!
Gary, Rathdrum, Idaho
Merlyn, Goodyear, Arizona
Allen, Exton, Pennsylvania
Mark, Raleigh, North Carolina
Mayre, Santa Cruz, California
Priscilla, Spencerport, New York
Sandy, Englewood, Colorado
John, Coralville, Iowa
Arthur, Arlington, Virginia
Robert, Miami, Florida
Keith, Portland, Oregon
Markus, Koln, Germany
Frank, Las Vegas, Nevada
Ralph, La Habra Heights, California
Sara, Boerne, Texas
Victor, New Castle, Pennsylvania
George, Barefoot Bay, Florida
Chan, Hong Kong
Shari, Laguna Beach, California
Laura, Phoenix, Arizona
Mark, Garden City, Michigan
Merlyn, Goodyear, Arizona
Mike, Sacramento, California
Hal, Lititz, Pennsylvania
Noel, Blue Hill, Maine
Neil, Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Lyn
David, Lakeville, Minnesota
Laura, Lubbock, Texas
David, Kati Kati, New Zealand
Darin, Cozad, Nebraska
Linda, Rugby Warwickshire, U.K.
Kent, Bryan, Ohio
Christopher, Edwardsville, Illinois
David, Liberty Lake, Washington
Roger, Whittier, California
Laura, Phoenix, Arizona
Paul, Wayne, Pennsylvania
Daryl
Paula, Decatur, Alabama
Linda, Bainbridge Island, Washington
William, Huntsville, Alabama
John, Cupertino, California
John, Chicago, Illinois
Tom, Washington, D.C.
Patrick, Dundee, Michigan
Lisa, Sunland, California
Joe, Sugar Land, Texas
Cynthia, Harlingen, Texas
Garry, Ozark, Arkansas
Pat & Dave, Normandy Park, Washington
Christina, Columbia, Maryland
Michael, Tucson, Arizona
Dick, East Amhurst, New York
Lewis
Mike, Cambria, California
The clock’s still running. 
Join them now.
Posted in Uncategorized, Year End Giving | Tagged | 1 Comment