Grace Before Law

Initially, the law was good. It still is! It says we’re not supposed to lie, cheat, or steal. We’re not supposed to serve any other god but God. We’re not supposed to commit adultery. We’re not supposed to go around murdering each other. These are all good things. There’s nothing wrong with the law.

The problem is not the law, but sin. Sin comes in and the next thing you know, it’s causing chaos. That’s why sin went after the law. It looked at the law, a good and benevolent gift, and said, “Perfect! I’m going to twist this into chaos.”

It began going around and saying to people, “You know what? If you lie, you broke the law. That means you’re evil and you deserve to go to hell. And you know what else? If you cheat, then you’re not a good person. God’s going to frown on you. Do you know how much work you will have to do in order to be worthy of heaven? You’ll never be able to do it! I’ll bet you’re not even saved!”

That’s what sin does. It shames you. And when you live in shame, you live in darkness. You’re frightened. You think you don’t add up. Sin is such a good liar that you start to believe you’re not good enough. Sin has shamed you into thinking that you will never be worthy of God. Now you’re thinking, “I need to act in a righteous way. I need to make sure I’m doing righteous things. So what does a righteous person do? Let’s see, I can’t lie, I can’t cheat, I can’t steal, I can’t…,” and so on. Sin has fooled you into thinking that the law comes before grace.

This is why Paul says the law stinks. The law is not good when it becomes legalism! Legalism stresses performance. It says you can’t receive God’s love and forgiveness until you stop messing up. Does that make sense? What were the crucifixion and the resurrection for, if they didn’t save us from sin and death?

The Bible says no to sin. It says no to sin’s lies. The Bible says no to chaos, fear, and darkness. Don’t be afraid. You don’t live in darkness. You live in the light! That’s the Bible’s promise.

In the light, you will find trust. In trust, we find joy in each other. Living in joy is scriptural. Hebrews 11:6 is just mind-blowing for me:

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6)

Let’s think about this. What is faith? Faith is trust. So you please God when you trust Him. You don’t have to perform for Him first, by adding up, or being perfect, or cleaning up the messes you make. You don’t have to do any of that to please Him. He loves you! Trust Him. That’s it. That’s what God wants. He wants you to trust Him.

I don’t think churches have done a very good job counseling believers in this area. I think that all too often, despite their good intentions, churches do not trust God. That’s why you hear so much legalism in churches. They trust in God, yes. And they trust that there is a God. But they don’t trust that God is who He says He is. And they don’t trust in who God says they are.

Who does God say you are? God says, “Because of your faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, you are holy and righteous in everything that you do. You might look in the mirror and see a sinner, but I’ve already forgiven you. You are my precious child and I am going to help you.”

Do you trust God in that?

What If You Could Ask For Help?

I want to talk to you about shame because I love you and I want you to be free. When you live in shame you are not free! When you live in shame you live in darkness and fear.

The Bible says no to darkness and fear. It says no to shame. The Bible says yes to grace! It says yes to light and freedom!

There is trust in the light. There has to be. But a lot of men in the church, a lot of Christians, are covered by their shame. They think, “Man, I can’t tell anybody that I am suffering with sin. I can’t tell anybody that I’m a drunk.” Or they think, “I can’t tell anybody that I have a sex addiction.” Or they think, “I can’t tell anybody that I verbally abuse my family.”

They don’t tell anybody about the demon in their closet because they are deeply afraid of their shame. They fear the judgment of other Christians. But if you live in darkness and sit in shame, then sin will continually grab and crush you. This can happen in any area that causes you shame. You get stuck in suffering. There has to be a solution because this is a terrifying downward spiral. This kills people. It kills them.

Jesus says no to shame. Jesus says, “I love you. I know all about your sin and shame and I love you, so trust me. You can trust me. I don’t want you to live in darkness where sin and shame abound, so give your trust to me. I’m inviting you into the light, where grace and trust abound.”

You are not alone! You have Jesus.

Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

Sin can’t live in the light. Shame says, “Man, I’m addicted to pornography. I have to hide this so I won’t get judged.” Let Jesus, the light of the world, shine into your life. Then you will be able to say, “I’m addicted to pornography and I need help, because I don’t want to live in this addiction anymore.”

What if you could ask for help and have twenty people look at you and say, “Let’s go. We’re going to help you out.” What would happen then?

This would free you! Imagine being embraced in your fear by a circle of people, loving on you and helping you. This would free you because you would have trust.

In the company of people who know your shame and then love on you, you wouldn’t have to hide anymore. You wouldn’t live in guilt and darkness any longer. You would be free, because the people you opened up to helped you. You opened up and they said, “We know you are good, a child of God who bears His image, and you trusted us to ask for help. You know what we’re going to do? We’re going to love on you. We’re going to help you with this. You are not alone! Do you think you’re the only guy in the whole universe that has an issue? There are so many guys in the same shoes. Sex, porn, alcohol, drugs, whatever, these are billion dollar industries! You don’t have to be ashamed. Let’s shine the light on it. Sin can’t live in the light.”

There is so much we can do to help each other. Be comforted, because Jesus Himself invites you into the light. You can be free.

Confession, Adoration, Gratitude

The mighty and living God wants a relationship with you. One of the ways He relates to you is through prayer. There are different kinds of prayer because each one brings you closer to Him in different ways. Each one creates different opportunities to experience His love. A.C.T.S. is a simple acronym to help you remember several key elements of prayer, which include adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication.

You can see these elements in a marriage. I adore my wife, so I tell her all the reasons why she’s beautiful. That’s adoration.

I also confess things to my wife. I’ll tell her, ”Honey, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have done that.” Or I acknowledge where I’ve offended her, and I apologize. That’s confession.

I thank my wife for everything she does for me and our family. “Honey,” I say, “I’m thankful to you for raising our kids. I’m so thankful for how good you are to me. Thank you so much for how you serve this family.” That’s thanksgiving.

Finally, I will ask her for things. I’ll say, “Honey, this is what I need from you right now.” That’s supplication.

In our marriage, we regularly give adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication. This is relationship.

If we want to be in a relationship with God, we need to do the same thing with Him. Prayer is conversation with God. In prayer, we adore, confess, give thanks, and supplicate.

David adored God.“God,” he said, “you are so good. Look at all the wonderful things you’ve done!” David listed them in beautiful songs that we still use today, just to adore God.

David also confessed. Look at Psalm 51, where he said, “God, man, I messed up. I tanked it. I killed this woman’s husband so I could be with her. I blew it. Please do not take your Spirit from me in my stupidity.”

David was also very thankful. “Thank you, God! I can see how you rescued me from my enemies. You let me hide in the cave of Adullam. I was in a cave of all places! But you still rescued me from Saul and his mighty army. Thank you, God.”

David also asked for the things he needed, and we can do that, too. We can say, “God, I need you to provide for my needs. I need you to show me the things I need to know. I need you, in your goodness, to talk to me, teach me, and encourage me. God, I need wisdom. I can’t do this on my own.”

It’s important to ask God for the things you need, but it’s too easy to go straight to prayers of supplication and forget about other ways of praying. We’re only human after all, and life is tough! We need a lot of help! But if we don’t pray beyond asking for things, we miss out on a much more complete relationship with God. God is our wisdom, our strength, our shield, and our fortress. So let us adore Him, confess to Him, and thank Him. That’s relationship!

God is the ultimate giver of life, right? So let’s give Him thanks and adoration today. Let’s go to Him and say, ”We adore you, God, for giving us life. Thank you!”

And then, let’s experience His love.

Making Room

Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them. Matthew 18:19-20

When you meet Jesus, the first thing you learn is that He loves you. He loves you so much that it blows your mind. His love is amazing! He redeemed us! He is our brother!

Love as deep and faithful as His is so life-changing that you start reading about Him. That’s how you find out what an incredible life He lived. You learn about all the things He did, all the things He said, and all the wisdom He taught. Once you know this, you just want to be wherever He is. You want to follow Jesus. You want to run after Him! And you want to do what He did. You want to take care of people. You want to bring them life, and faith, and health. You want to meet their needs and comfort them.

So you go out in order to help people, and you find out right away that the world is difficult. It’s a really complicated place. It is really wounded. And it can be scary. You want to help people and you discover that their needs are pressing, urgent, and overwhelming.

How do you know what to do?

You ask God. He will give you wisdom. You find a quiet place to pray, like a prayer closet. You can sit there and just talk to God. We all need to do this.

I also really like prayer rooms. Prayer rooms are so cool because they are all about intercessory prayer. When you go to a prayer room, you pray the prayers that other people have requested. You pray for people you don’t even know!

I started one of these in Spokane one time, and the energy was unbelievable. People were putting their sins in a shredder right in front of a cross, because that’s what the cross did. It shredded our sins. We told people, write what you’ve sinned about, and put it through that shredder. We wound up with a bucket spilling over with shredded paper.

We also invited people to write their prayer requests on the walls, and everyone honored these requests. We prayed. We created a place where people got away from focusing on their own needs, and began praying on behalf of others. We created a place dedicated to intercessory prayer.

Later, we heard stories about healing. We heard about a woman who needed people to pray for her so she wrote it on the wall. She wrote her anger and she asked for release. Everybody that came into that prayer room was praying for that girl. And all of a sudden, that week, she was reunited with her father. In joy and forgiveness!

Prayer rooms get you outside of your personal needs. When you get outside of yourself, you begin to ask, “What do other people need right now?” You see all these different prayer requests and you start praying. You start praying for people you’ve never met, and maybe never will.

Intercession is very powerful. You will see all kinds of good things come out of intercessory prayers. You’ll see empowerment, reconciliation, and healing. You will see revival! Let’s pray!

Ask For Healing

The power of prayer is huge. This is not news! But there are more kinds of prayer than prayers of supplication. It’s easy to get caught up in supplication, especially when we’re feeling troubled, and that’s okay. But think of the power of confession!

You can sit there all day and say, “God, give me this, give me that, and give me this other thing, too. This is what I need, God.” You can do that. But what if God is saying, “I can give you all of that, but it’s not what you need.”

What if God is saying, “That’s not going to help you with your anger issue. It’s not going to make you feel less fearful. It won’t make you feel less alone. I can give you everything you are asking for, but it won’t help me heal your pain. It won’t let me heal the wound that I see gaping in your soul right now. Ask me for healing. That’s what you really need.”

Of course God could heal all our wounds out of His own initiative, but why would He? Something so precious is lost when we don’t ask. Prayer is relationship, and when we go to God with our pain, we experience His power and grace in the most awesome way. Confession is a prayer of yearning. You open up your heart, all the way. Maybe all you can say is, “God. God!” But when He hears that, He smiles. He says, “Ahhhh. Now you’re real. Now you’re alive. Now I pour into you. Let’s release that pain. These are the wounds that I want to heal.”

You need to release your deepest hurt because it’s good for you.

It’s okay to go to God and ask Him, “Give me this, this, this, and this.” But all that stuff you ask for could pile up on that wound and you won’t be able to feel the pain. That’s when a little gaping wound can become a stronghold. “Give me this,” you’ve said, but all you’ve done is ask God to put a Band-aid on your soul so you can just keep going.

So sometimes God says no, because He doesn’t want you to be in pain. Satan’s just pulling at that wound. He’s ripping it open more and more, and the pain is going deep. Next thing you know, your internal world is a world of pain. That’s just what the Devil wants.

That’s why Jesus says, “Your wound needs to be healed. Come to me. Show me. Say, ‘This is my wound.’ We’re going to heal that wound together, but first I need you to feel it. You’ve got to know it’s there. You’ve got to confess it, so you know it’s there.”

Jesus isn’t telling you to confess because it’s the only way to be good enough for Him. He doesn’t tell you to confess so that He can forgive you. Confession is for you, not for God. God has already forgiven you. You’re forgiven!

Jesus tells you to confess so that you will know your wounds. He wants you to ask Him to heal you. Confession is for you. It empowers you. It’s your release. Jesus sets you free.

Yearn for God, because He hears your cries. Confess to God, and let Him pour into you. That’s when you will see how much His healing means. We just need to let Him heal that wound.

An Easter Message of Grace

We want control. We’re only human!

We want control over what we do and what happens to us. We want control over the future. In our flesh, we experience hunger, so we have to provide for ourselves and our families. We have to eat, so it’s natural to want control.

But we also want control over other people. We try to control how they react to us. Some of us try to control how they behave in our presence! This isn’t about the hunger our bodies experience or the food we need to stay alive. This is about something else. It’s about avoiding shame.

The thought process is something like this: “I want people to act a certain way when I’m around because that will make me feel better.”

For some of us, our greatest need for control involves the people closest to us, like our families. How many of us have said, “If my spouse and my kids look or act in a certain way, then people will think that our family is good.” Does that sound familiar?

There’s no shame in wanting control. It’s just being human.

As a baseball player, I was very control-oriented. When I went out on that field, I didn’t control where a hitter hit the ball. I didn’t control when a hitter took a swing. So I had to control everything before that. I controlled my environment at the field. I controlled my workouts and the development of my technique. I controlled the delivery of the pitch. All of this helped me succeed.

But when it comes to family and relationships, control won’t work. You cannot control other people.

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word “grace”? How many times have you heard someone say, “Oh, I’ll give them grace this time.” It’s like saying, “I’ll just let it slide.” In some ways, grace has acquired a casual quality.

Maybe we hear grace and think mercy. We say, “Grace? That is the crucifixion. That is Jesus dying for us. Grace is salvation through faith. Grace is allowing us into His kingdom. It’s allowing us into His family.” Grace is mercy and all these things, yet there’s even more to grace than this.

I finally started to truly understand grace when I heard the definition from the Oxford English Dictionary. The OED defines grace as “the free and unmerited favor of God.” Think about that. How do we get God’s grace? We don’t! Grace is free. It is unmerited. We can’t earn it. God just gives it to us.

In some ways that is such a foreign concept! God just gives us His grace, even though we don’t deserve it! We don’t usually expect to receive good things that we don’t deserve, especially something as awesome as an unbreakable relationship with God. But truly, that’s what God does. He simply gives us His favor, no strings attached, and when God gives us grace He allows us to live in it.

When we are ready, God takes us on a journey into grace. This is a big part of the Christian life. Going on this journey, and understanding what grace means, has been a very big deal for me. It has allowed me to see scripture in a new way. God has led me to work with Biblical principles in new ways and gain fresh insight.

I’ve been learning what the Bible really means when it says, “Don’t live by the law,” and this is leading me to freedom. I can see now that surrendering control and living by grace frees us. It frees the people around us. Giving and receiving grace is the purest and most satisfying thing. It is living free in Christ.

Happy Easter!

 

 

The Blog Post You Need Right Now

Someone asked me the other day, “What is grace?” That one is really hard to define for me because it’s so big! I think grace is a lot of things. Grace is an action. It’s a way of being in relationship. It’s the opposite of shame. It’s the power to transform. Grace is a really big idea because grace is Jesus.

People will often say, “Grace is that Jesus died for you.” But actually, that’s not grace. That’s mercy.

Grace is the essence of our relationship with God. It’s the gift of understanding that you’re a human being so you’re going to mess up. Through His grace, God says, “You’re going to mess up and it’s okay.” Grace is our second chance with Him. And since God is infinite, He gives us infinite second chances.

When we allow grace into our relationships, we give each other the same gift that God gives us. It comes from our hearts. We look at each other and we say, “I know you’re going to mess up. I’m going to mess up, too. It’s okay. Let’s talk about it. Let’s try to understand how we affect each other. And then let’s work through it.”

Suppose a friend or someone in your family says something to you that you don’t like. Maybe they say something mean to you, or maybe you just take it the wrong way. Either way, you react. You get angry, or you get hurt. Or both!

Grace moves in and says, “Hold on! That person needs grace from you.” Grace shows you what your relationship needs. It shows you that sometimes your family and friends need you to step aside and say, “You affected me deeply by that comment. It’s okay. Let’s take a timeout. Let’s talk about it. Can you explain what you meant by that? I don’t want to get wounded or react to you in anger.”

Grace also moves in when you don’t take that timeout. Sometimes a friend or someone in your family says something to you and you react immediately. We all react out of our wounds sometimes. You know what? It’s okay. Grace shows your friends and family how to look at you and say, “Hold on. You reacted very quickly to what I said. What did you hear me say? Let’s talk about it.”

If what they said is truly what you heard, and it still hurts you, then grace shows them how to say, “I’m sorry. How could I have said it differently?”

If you misunderstood what they said, then grace says, “Let’s take time and open up to each other. I would like to be able to explain what I said because what you heard is not what I meant.”

So you see, grace to me is such a very big thing. It’s so rewarding to live in it. Don’t get me wrong. It’s very hard to do. I mean, most things are not black and white.

Sometimes we need grace in order to say, “Hold on, I love you, and I’m going to let that one go.” Other times we need grace in order to say, “I love you, and I’m willing to let that go. But we need to talk about it because I want to tell you how it affected me.”

I need grace when my children are acting out and making mistakes or getting in trouble. I look at them and say, “Look, I don’t want you to do that again. I’m going to extend grace to you right here and now. I’m going to tell you why I don’t want you to do that again. Then if you do it again, I’m going to give you a discipline. But right now, I want to talk through why it’s not okay to do that. That way, if you do it again and you are disciplined, you’ll understand why.”

I don’t want to just say to my boys, “You did something wrong so go to your room.” I want them to understand that their words and actions affect me and other people. I don’t want them to go to their room with no idea why they’re being sent there.

This is grace in action. It’s being in relationship with an understanding that there are always going to be second chances. Grace is liberating. Grace is without judgment. Grace is without condemnation. When the Bible says there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus, it is saying that there is grace.

Saying there is no condemnation is not the same as saying, “Do whatever you want.” No. Saying there is no condemnation is saying, “Now there is grace. You are going to mess up, but it’s okay. You get grace.”