I’m a Grace-Amnesiac

Hi.  My name is Sam and I’m a grace-amnesiac.*

Recently, I’ve realized that I forget so much of the time.  I forget how sinful I am.  I forget how holy God is.  I forget how much grace I’m given every day.  I forget how much that grace cost.  And because I forget, I think that I’m better than other people I meet who fail and fall short.  They are just like me, but like I said, I’m a grace-amnesiac.  I forget.

The beautiful thing is that when I am reminded of God’s grace and live inside that same grace, my whole life is changed.  My whole life becomes an act of worship.  Author Mike Cosper writes,

…it all happens in union with Jesus, before the eyes and presence of a loving God, who by a miracle of boundless grace receives each and every act, though offered with mixed motives or frailty of heart, as a pleasant and acceptable offering…The whole mess of our lives is transformed in Christ, from corrupted to glorious, from ashes to beauty.**

So this week, look and see God’s grace in your life.  Don’t forget.

Extend that grace to others all around you.  Don’t forget.

Know that your whole life is now an act of worship because of receiving and giving grace.  Don’t forget.

This week, don’t be like me.  Don’t forget.

My name is Sam and I’m a grace-amnesiac.


* The phrase “grace-amnesiac” is from Paul David Tripp’s New Morning Mercies.

** Quote from Mike Cosper in Rhythms of Grace, 77.


When I move toward the Table of the Lord, I say yes to all that Jesus Christ has done for me. And, when I stretch forth my hand to receive the broken bread, I confess that I cannot live by bread alone, that I am in great need of my Lord. When the cup is lifted to my lips and I hear the words, “The blood of Christ, the cup of salvation,” I say aloud, “Amen.” I affirm Christ with my heart, my mind, and my whole body; and all my senses—touch taste, smell, sight, and hearing—are evoked into worship

-Robert Webber, Who Gets to Narrate the World? Contending for the Christian Story in an Age of Rivals


The other morning, the Christmas tree was twinkling as the darkness slowly lifted.  I had gotten ready for the day and was making a sandwich in the kitchen.  Sara was reading her Bible in the living room while our son played on the floor.  And then I heard it…

“Zion, don’t mess with the Christmas tree…”

Now we knew that the “little man” would want to mess with the tree.  So this year, we purchased a 4′ tree and put it on a full size table.  We also put the ornaments a little higher up the tree so he couldn’t reach them.  However, this doesn’t stop him from trying to grab the lowest branches and lights to put them in his mouth.  I know.  Why would you put pine tree branches and Christmas lights in your mouth?  I don’t know.  The kid is 11 months so…whatever.

“Zion!  NO!”

I put down the Mayo and started walking towards the living room because I knew this wasn’t going to end well.  I arrived in the living room to discover that the “little man” was in a heap of trouble.  He had managed to distract his mom by messing with the Christmas tree, crawl to the other side of the room, where she had left her Bible, and rip a page out of the gospel of John.

This kind of thing happens all the time on a cosmic scale as we mess up God’s world.  Why doesn’t he just destroy us all and start over?  It’s the same reason that my wife cares for her son more than any book she owns.  Love.

Love makes people do crazy things.  The stories we tell in literature and film are full of examples of the crazy things people will do for love…It’s the motive behind a thousand songs and poems.  It’s woven into the fabric of our universe because it’s reflective of the very heart of God.  Love is what sends Jesus into the humble estate of Mary’s womb.  It leads him through his quiet life, his rambunctious public ministry and his agony at Golgotha.*

This Christmas, let’s enter into the love song of Jesus.  It’s a song of suffering as he hung on the cross, but also one of praise.  He invites us to sing this Christmas carol of praise to the God who saves through his sacrificial love.  As we sing in the carol, “What Child Is This?”

Vs2: Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and lamb are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spear shall pierce Him through,
The cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.**


*Quote from “Rhythms of Grace” by Mike Cosper.

**Lyrics by Will­iam C. DixThe Man­ger Throne, 1865.

God’s goal in history, so to speak, is to win back his world by his own two hands—the incarnate Word and the Holy Spirit—and to unite humanity with the community of God.  His original creational purpose will be fulfilled at the end of history.

-Robert Webber, Who Gets to Narrate the World? Contending for the Christian Story in an Age of Rivals


Have you ever sung a song that had a long rest in the middle of it?

Have you ever sung a song that changed time signatures?

Sometimes it works and sometimes you really have to practice it to make it work.  That is the worship song sung when we are waiting.  It’s a song of stops and starts.  It’s a song of death and sacrifice.

Doesn’t sound much like Christmas, does it?

The problem is that most of our worship songs are about our emotional response to God.  They are songs with a lot of emotional language.  They are songs that are “heavy on the Spirit (and it’s accompanying imagery of flames, wind, and doves), but usually thin on (if not bereft of) the topic of bleeding birds and beasts.”*  In other words, our songs don’t deal with bloody sacrifice.

I admit, it’s a hard concept for us in the modern world.  Most of us don’t even go deer hunting!  We buy our meat at the grocery store wrapped in clear plastic and with little blood.  We don’t think much about blood or sacrifice.

The other problem is that we forget two crucial facts:  the holiness of God and the sinfulness of fallen man.  We tend to forget how holy God is and we discount how sinful we are.  Let me tell you a Christmas story to illustrate it…

Once upon a time, there was a King.  This Good King David (not Wenceslas!) wanted to bring the Ark of God up to Jerusalem so God would be close to his people and could live in a house, not at tent.  Sounds like a good idea, right?  Anyway, despite what God had previously commanded, Good King David decided to put the Ark on a cart pulled by two oxen.  When one of the oxen stumbled, a man walking beside the cart, named Uzzah, reached out to keep the Ark from falling in the dirt.  When he touched the Ark, God struck him down and he died.

Ok, that wasn’t really a Christmas story.  But it illustrates what happens when sinful man comes in contact with the holy God.  Writer R.C. Sproul once said,

“Uzzah presumed his hands were cleaner than the dirt.  God said no.”

But all is not lost.  This IS about a Christmas song after all!  The good news is that God comes down into history and redeems.  He did that through the bloody sacrifices of Israel.  He did that through sending his son as a baby who would die a bloody death for the sins of the world.

It’s a song of sacrifice from Abraham that becomes a song of freedom from the chains of Egypt with a bridge that sounds like the song of the road through the desert.  The last verse is the a song from the Promised Land that God is with us.  It’s the song of Israel…it is a hopeful song of waiting through the stops and starts and changing time signatures.

The amazing thing is that this song was started by God.

It wasn’t started by us.

It doesn’t end with us.

It was started and ended by God.  So the song always comes back to the hope of a baby who is the Prince of Peace.

That sounds like a Christmas carol I could sing.


**Many of these ideas and the metaphor of the “song” come from “Rhythms of Grace” by Mike Cosper.

“I make all things new.”  Here is the narrative in its fullness. The world and its history belongs to God, and he has been, is now, and will be making all things new. 

-Robert Webber, Who Gets to Narrate the World? Contending for the Christian Story in an Age of Rivals


Worship in the wilderness of our world is hard.

This past weekend, I led singing for a baptism service.  It was for a man named Troy.  Troy wanted to make a profession of faith about his love for Jesus, above all else. He also wanted to tell his kids that God is a better Father than he will ever be.  “So when I’m gone,” Troy said, “remember this day.”

Troy has an in-operable cancer in his esophagus and doesn’t know how much time he has.  And what time he does have left, he wants to live for Christ.

Yes.  Worship in the wilderness of our world is hard.

Worship isn’t just what we do on the weekend when we sing and listen to a sermon.  Remember when I wrote that our whole lives should be worship to the Lord?  Here is the reality of worship in the wilderness:   our lives DO reveal our worship, but many times it’s the worship of idols.  As the singer/songwriter, Bob Dylan, wrote,

“It may be the devil, or it may be the Lord, but you’re gonna have to serve somebody…”

We serve our work…grasping for status and money.

We serve the idea of “love”…with someone who “completes me”.

We serve our kids…hoping they prove our parenthood.

And while those things are good gifts from God, they make terrible idols.  They promise the world and give you nothing in return.

So this Advent season, I’m following the example of Troy.  I want to serve God now.  I want to worship God now, instead of idols, in the wilderness of our world.

So I am listening for another song.  It’s the song of God that he sings over his children.  It’s a song I long to sing…a song I’m waiting to sing…

…but that’s for next week.

God chooses to restore humanity not by a decree of reconciliation, not by a sentimental forgiveness, not by a soft love, but by entering into union with humanity. In Jesus, God comes in human skin to reverse the human condition and reconcile humanity to the Father. . .

-Robert Webber, Who Gets to Narrate the World? Contending for the Christian Story in an Age of Rivals


Who was the world’s first human worship leader?

Take a moment to think it through.

If you said, “David”, you need to go back a bit further to just after the beginning of time.

If you said, “Adam and Eve”, you got it right!  Adam and Eve were not only the first people created, but also the first worship leaders of all creation.  God made this place called Eden and then a king and queen in place to rule over it.

“But how were Adam and Eve worship leaders?” you ask.

I’m glad you asked.  Because God’s word tells us, but it might not be the way you think.  First, Eden wasn’t just a garden.  It was a special place where God and man could live together.  Genesis tells us that God “walked” in the garden with Adam and Eve.

Secondly, Adam was not just the king, he was also a priest.  But it wasn’t leading worship services or sing-a-longs.  There was no need for any of that.  All of life was acceptable to God because sin hadn’t entered the world.  AND, everything that Adam and Eve did was an act of worship.  It was all a loving response to what God had made.  Author Mike Cosper writes that

“it was as if they drew all of creation’s praise into a single and unified ‘hallelujah’ and ‘amen’.”

And this is how it was meant to be.  Worship is supposed to be all of our lives.  This idea that we come together for one hour once a week to worship in a way that is separate from the rest of our lives isn’t apart of the worship in Eden.  The idea that we need to sing certain songs or take part in certain rituals is also not apart of the worship in Eden.  Cosper continues, “if someone were to ask Adam, ‘When do you worship?’ he might reply, ‘When do we not!'”

For us during the Advent season, may we have more of this attitude.  May our worship be like the worship in Eden.  We aren’t perfect, but it’s a worthy goal to have all of our lives be an act of worship to God even when we are worshiping in the wilderness.

But more on that, next week…


*Multiple quotes from “Rhythms of Grace” by Mike Cosper here.  Thanks, Mike!