Love is Alive

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear!…Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, “Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!” and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you? Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?

I can already hear one of you agreeing by saying, “Sounds good. You take care of the faith department, I’ll handle the works department.”

Not so fast. You can no more show me your works apart from your faith than I can show you my faith apart from my works. Faith and works, works and faith, fit together hand in glove. (James 1:22, 2:14-18)

Let me tell you what I hear James saying here. James is worried about the converts in the churches who say they accept Jesus, but don’t do anything. Maybe they are just quiet, meaning they aren’t out taking care of their neighbor. Maybe they are showing favoritism (2:1-7). They are still reflecting the values and concerns of the world, instead of doing what Jesus asked us to do: renounce the world in order to live with the mentality of God’s Kingdom. To these people James is saying, “You say you’re a Christian, but you act like the world. I say I’m a Christian, and I will act like the Kingdom of God. The world is flesh, and the Kingdom is spirit. You show me what’s more alive.”

James is also worried about people who might say, “I love Jesus. I’m saved,” and then they act in ways that contradict the life we enjoy in God’s Kingdom. They hate, or commit adultery, or lie, or cheat, or steal (2:8-13). When you do that, no one is going to see that you are saved. Do you know what’s going to come out of that? Not the fruits of the Spirit. Not love, joy, patience, kindness, goodness and self-control. There is a lot of other stuff that’s going to come out of it, obviously. James also says that sin eventually gives birth to death. So you’ll die, inwardly. You’ll be a shadow person, dead inside, and you won’t reflect Christ at all.

This part of James is controversial, and we sometimes worry about a disagreement between James and Paul. But that’s because we put too much focus on performance. Paul and James see things the same way. God’s grace, freely offered to us, saves us. We can’t save ourselves. Think about the whole New Testament’s message on grace. Think about what Paul says: “The Law is rubbish. I no longer want to perform. It doesn’t make sense.”

You can’t achieve salvation by works (Greek: erga, works, acts, deeds). James knows that. But there will be a judgment. God will look at us and see sheep and goats. If you love your neighbor as Jesus described in Matthew 25, then you’re a sheep. But that’s not performance. That’s living in the Kingdom of God, not performing in order to get in. Love is alive, and where there is life, there is action. That’s why James says, “Faith without works is dead. I’ll show you my faith with works, and you’ll see that it’s alive.”

See you Thursday.

Wounded Prayer

The power of prayer is huge. I’ve mentioned the ACTS method of prayer: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication. It’s so easy to get caught up in supplication, especially when we’re feeling troubled. 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 going to help your anger issue. It’s not going to make you less fearful. It won’t make you feel less alone. All those things you’re asking for? I can give them to you, but they 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 on His own, 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, give me this, give me this, give me this.” It’s okay. But all that stuff you ask for will pile up on that wound and you won’t be able to feel the pain. Then a little gaping wound can become a stronghold. “Give me this,” you’ve said, but all you’ve done is ask God to put something on top of your wound. You’ve asked Him to put a Band-aid on your soul so you can 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 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 it so that He can forgive you. Confession is for you, not for God. He’s 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. It’s for you. It empowers you. It’s your release. Jesus sets you free.

The power of prayer is huge. Yearn for Him, because He hears your cries. Confess to God, and let Him pour into you. Then everything will mean something. We just need to heal that wound.

See you Monday.

Intercessory Prayer Is Power

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

Intercession is very powerful. Intercession is hugely powerful! The scriptures will tell you how powerful it is. It creates revival. It really does.

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

Love this deep and faithful is so life-changing that you start reading about Him. When you do, 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 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 go out to help people and you find out right away that their needs are pressing, and urgent, and overwhelming. How do you know what to do?

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

But 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 it blew up. It was unbelievable. People were putting their sins in a shredder right in front of a cross, because that’s essentially 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 daughter reuniting with her father because of forgiveness. She needed people to pray for her, and 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!

I like the prayer rooms because they get you outside of your selfish needs. When you get outside of yourself, you begin to ask, “What do other people need right now?” Then you see all these different prayer requests and you start praying these prayers. You start praying for people you’ve never met, and maybe never will. You’ll see all kinds of good things come out of it. Intercessory prayer will release you. It’s empowering!

More on prayer next time. See you Thursday.

Prayer is Relationship

Last time, I talked about grace. Those who understand what Jesus did for them live a Spirit-led life in grace. It is a life conceived by God. We live in His kingdom already and not yet. I was very emphatic about this! So you might ask, “Well then, Jeremy, what is prayer for?”

To begin with, prayer is seeking wisdom. The Bible says, if you want to know what to do, then ask. I think prayer is also to encourage. If you use the ACTS method of prayer, you’ll understand. Prayer is for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. Above all, prayer is relationship.

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 give adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication. This is relationship.

God is our wisdom, our strength, our shield, and our fortress. If we want to be in a relationship with God, we need to do the same thing with Him that we do with our loved ones. Prayer is conversation with God. In prayer, we adore, confess, give thanks, and supplicate. It’s the ACTS method of prayer.

Sometimes I just look up and say, ‘You are good, God. You are so good. Here’s why. Here’s what reminds me how good you are. Here are all the things you’ve done.” I list everything I see that reflects His goodness. That’s adoration.

David did it all the time. “God, he said, “you are good.” 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.” In prayer, David confessed.

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

And David asked for the things he needed. 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. God, I need wisdom. I can’t do this on my own. I need these things.”

It’s easy to go straight to the S part of ACTS. Sometimes people just ask for things and forget the rest. Why don’t you adore Him? Confess to Him? Thank Him? That’s relationship!

God is the ultimate, man. He’s the giver of life. Go to Him and tell Him, ”I adore you God, just for that. Thank you!”

That’s what prayer is for. See you Monday.

A Rhythm of Faith and Works

Grace is free and unmerited! It costs you nothing, and you do not have to earn it. You can’t earn it! Only Jesus could give you a gift this huge.

When you understand what Jesus did for you, you can’t help but confess it. The joy of it spills out of you! Your sins are forgiven! No more shame!

Through grace, you walk in the Spirit. Grace is the key to the Spirit-led life. Grace is the reason you don’t have to perform a role, or live in a works mentality, or sink into legalism. Grace empowers you through God’s love. Grace lifts your heart to share His love with all His children!

So when I see a homeless person, grace is the lens I’m looking through. I see the need and I want to help. I don’t respond to the needs of the homeless because I have to. Wanting to help and having to help are two different things. My heart does not say, “Man, if I walk by this guy and I don’t help him, I’m going to feel guilty.” That’s not love, that’s fear. No, my heart says, “This guy is in need. What can I do?” My heart says that because that’s what the Spirit says.

I’ve walked by people who are homeless and yet not helped them. The Spirit did not lead me to help. I don’t know why. Maybe the money they wanted was for drugs. We’re not supposed to fund that habit. Or maybe the Spirit had other plans.

There have also been times when I’ve said, “I’m not helping that guy, because it doesn’t look to me like he’s going to use the money for good.” But in my heart, the Spirit said, “No, you need to help.” When that happens, I listen to the Spirit, and I help.

Grace doesn’t allow you to be legalistic. Grace doesn’t allow you to have a works mentality. Paul says we’re justified by faith alone, and James says faith without works is dead, but there’s no contradiction there. It simply means that if you live by the Spirit, you’re going to act by the Spirit. You come alive with the Spirit! You bear His fruit. You are alive with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and self-control. You walk down the street and you see needs and you meet them, because that’s what Jesus did.

Jesus didn’t have to do good works to get to Heaven. But He did them. He did them all the time. And He was not tied up in a legalistic mentality. He came to fulfill the law. That means there is no law. So you don’t feed a hungry person out of fear. You don’t think, “If I don’t do this then I’ll be struck down.” You don’t worry, “If I don’t do this, then God won’t bless me.”

You’re already blessed! That’s what grace is! You’re in the Kingdom of God, a grace-filled, blessings-filled kingdom. You are full of blessings and grace. That’s why Jesus said, “Don’t you want what’s best for your children? How much more do you think God wants for you?” He definitely wants what’s best for you. He’s going to give you what you need, just like you would give your children what they need. Does that mean God has works mentality? No! It means God loves you.

That’s why you long to do good for others when you live in grace. Feeding the hungry and clothing the naked does not contradict God’s grace. It expresses God’s love. Faith and good works don’t contradict. They are one, in rhythm with each other.

More on this next time. See you Thursday.

Spirit-Led

We want control. We want to control what we do. We want to control how people react to us. Some of us even want to control the way people act when we’re around them! We want all this control because we imagine that it will make us feel better.

We might want the most control over the people closest to us, like our families. How many of us have said, “If only my husband (or wife) and my kids would look like this or act like this, then people would think that our family is good.” Sound familiar?

As a baseball player, I had to work very hard to develop my control. But it’s not just an issue in baseball. We all feel it. Wanting control is just part of being human.

Still, as a pitcher, I was very control-oriented. When I went out on that field, I couldn’t control when a hitter would take a swing at a pitch or where he would hit the ball. 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.

Controlling the baseball is one thing. It was critical to my success. But when it comes to family and relationships, control won’t work. You cannot control people. Off the mound, I had to learn to give up control.

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.” It’s kind of a non-spiritual way of looking at it. Grace has acquired an almost casual quality. Or we hear the word “grace” and we say, “Grace? That is Jesus dying for us. Grace is allowing us into His kingdom. It’s allowing us into His family.”

I think that perspective has merit, but there’s more to it. How often do you hear the word “grace,” and think, “mercy”? 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.” How do we get God’s grace? Grace is free and unmerited. We can’t earn it. God just gives it to us.

In some ways that is so foreign! He just gives it to us? Who does that? Well, God does! Truly, that’s what He does. He just gives it to us. He simply gives us favor. And when God gives us grace, He allows us to live in it.

God took me on a journey into grace. Going on this journey, and understanding what it meant, was a big deal for me. It completely changed the way I read scripture. I began working in brand new ways with Biblical principles, and through that, I began enjoying fresh new insights. I’ve been learning what it really means when the scripture says, “Don’t live by the law.”

It means living in the Spirit! More on the Spirit-led life next time. See you Monday.

Sheep, Goats, and Grace

“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’

“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ Matthew 25:31-40

This passage has had a huge impact on my life. Jesus says, “You did it to Me.” The first time I truly thought about that, I realized that when I feed someone who is hungry, I have fed Jesus. That’s awesome! When you feed somebody who’s hungry, or clothe somebody in need, or visit somebody in prison, or do anything to help the hurting, the dying, or anyone in pain, you take care of Jesus. He says, “You have done that to Me, because they are a part of Me. Whether they are living for Me or not, they’re still a part of Me. I created them.”

God created man and woman in His own image. When He did that it was as if He said, ‘I’ve created you with me in you.’

You have God’s spirit inside of you. When you were in your mother’s womb, God said, ‘I created you, in my own image. You are a part of me. Though you may sin, and though you may fail, you will be fulfilled in me.’

If some part of you, something that you love, is under attack, you feel like you’re being attacked. Don’t you? If you attacked one of my sons, I would feel like you attacked me. If you attacked my wife, I would feel attacked. In the same way, if you show my family love and care, then I feel like you love me.

We’re creations of the Almighty God and I think He feels the same way. We are part of His family. So when He sees someone that is hungry, He’s hungry. That’s what He means when He says, “If you do this for the least of these, then you’ve done this for Me.” That’s why He loves the righteous, set at His right hand.

What about those at His left hand? Here’s what He says to them:

‘Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’

“Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Matthew 25:41-46

I can hear you now. “But Jeremy,” you say. “You always talk about grace. You always talk about the free and unmerited favor of God. This sounds a lot like a performance evaluation to me. Is there a contradiction here?”

That’s a great question, and I aim to answer it in my next few blogs. See you Thursday.