When Kids Can’t Dream

I have so much to be grateful for. So much! I want to show my gratitude by inspiring you to dream the biggest dream you possibly can, and then work for it.

A really big part of our energy and success lies in our ability to dream. There’s a great line in the movie Grey Owl starring Pierce Brosnan, where the Ojibwe elders tell Archie Grey Owl, “A man becomes what he dreams. You have dreamed well.”

When moms and dads at the ballpark would ask me for advice, I always told them to help their kids dream, and dream big. That’s what I did as a kid. I didn’t know if I could be a professional ballplayer! But I dreamed about it anyway. You see, back then I could dream any dream I liked! I had no idea what a privilege that is. It’s not the same for every kid.

Some of the kids that we rescue from slavery have awesome talents. But those talents have been squandered by the people that were slaving them out. These kids never enjoyed the chance to use their talents or challenge themselves. They didn’t dare to dream, not even small dreams.

Imagine not being able to dream at all! It’s shocking! Instead of dreaming and telling their parents, “Some day I’m going to…,” these kids were saying, “I just want to wake up one day, and not be a slave. I just want to wake up one day, and know that I’m not chained to the floor, that someone won’t come take the chains off just to tell me to go have sex with some guy.”

Think of the children out there who never dream for anything more than release, maybe even death. They are tired. “I’m tired of going in these fields and working hard. Every day I work. I don’t play. I don’t go to school. I don’t see my mother. At the end, I get hooked to the floor in a dark room, and I get a thing of bread thrown in front of me as my food.”  Kids. This is happening to kids.

That’s why we have to dream as big as we possibly can. It’s through our dreams and determination that we can rescue these kids from slavery and restore them to their talents and their dreams. These kids are suffering and I promise you that Jesus is with them, waiting for you and everyone else to come and love these kids just the way He did: by saving their lives.

Everyone can help, no matter how old they are. I’ll tell you more about this next time. See you Monday.

By Grace Alone

Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. And Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him down there. The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. (Genesis 39:1-2)

Why is Romans such a key text? Why is Galatians key? Why are Corinthians and Colossians key? It’s because they teach us so much about grace!

The Christian life is not about rules. It’s not about laws. Our lives are about grace. That’s what these letters teach us.

We wanted laws, so God gave them to us. But we don’t need laws, we need grace. Think about it. The entire book of Genesis took place before God gave us laws. If we need laws to be made righteous, then no one in Genesis was righteous.

And we know that’s not true!

When Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce Joseph, he ran. Why? God hadn’t told us yet that “thou shalt not sleep with another man’s wife.” There was no law about that. Still Joseph said, “I cannot sin against God.” How did he know? This was 400 years before God handed down the Ten Commandments.

Joseph knew because he lived in grace. Abraham, Sarah, and all the others lived in grace. I think this is because the Spirit of God was alive on the earth, talking to us and telling us what was good in God’s eyes. I really believe this. Before the time of the law, people lived in grace. They lived by faith.

By the Spirit of God, Joseph knew that adultery is not right. By the Spirit, Joseph refused to sin against God. God was with Joseph. It says so right there. God was with him, and Joseph succeeded in everything he did.

I think the law separated us from God. Once we had the law, the only time we could be with God was when we sacrificed a lamb. A sacrifice would justify our sins for awhile, but it wouldn’t last. We just couldn’t handle the Ten Commandments. Right? We messed up all the time! So over and over, year in and year out, we had to make the same sacrifice, just to make up for all of our sins.

Prophetically, David looked up to heaven and said, “God, you really don’t care about sacrifices, do you. You only care about the heart.” And God said, ”Right. You brought the law in. You guys wanted the law. So I gave it to you. And now you’re in a never-ending circle of death.”

We had no chance! You cannot live up to the Ten Commandments. You will fail. And when you do, you’ll feel like a failure. You’ll think, “I’m never going to add up.” That opens to door to shame. We’ve all been there. We’ve all had a time when we’ve looked at ourselves and said, “Ouch. I can’t. I’m not good enough.”

And then what does God say? He says, “You’re right. You can’t. That’s why I sent my son Jesus. He made you good enough. He fulfilled the law.”

Now by faith you are made righteous! By faith you are justified! You believe in Jesus and you know what He did, and guess what? That makes you good enough. Now God says, “Live in my Son! If you live in Him, you do not need the law.”

This message can be a struggle for people. If we don’t have laws from God, won’t we have anarchy? No, we won’t! We don’t need law to tell us what to do. Just like our ancestors in Genesis, we have the Spirit of God. We don’t need a “Thou Shalt Not.” We have relationship! And the Spirit will lead you to what you need to do.

Trust Issues

When He taught, Jesus used the paradigm of God’s kingdom, because the people gathered around Him understood monarchies. We have to try a little harder to form a kingdom mentality, but we can do it. It’s in our past, and it’s in our movies, TV shows, and books. We can learn to trust that the King has made us His sons and daughters, princes and princesses of the realm. We can learn to trust that when we represent Him in the world and need help, we can send word. He will help.

Still, it seems like it can be difficult for us to trust God the King. We already have a lot of trust issues with government. Our representatives in government make deals without regard to morality. They’ll actually sacrifice their own morals to make sure their agenda gets done. That’s what we have in government. No wonder we don’t understand what it means to trust!

Imagine living in the 17th century and the King says to you, “Come and be my son.” What do you think someone back then would have said? Obviously, they would have said, “Really? I’m in!” But now, we hesitate. Now we say, “I don’t know, I kind of like living out here, outside the gates of the kingdom.” Why? Because when we look at government, we don’t see trust. We don’t get trust.

So we don’t understand that we can trust God the King.

We’ve lost so much trust that we love Jesus and thank Him for saving us, but we still struggle to trust God. We don’t trust that He accepts us as His sons and daughters. We go out into the world, but we don’t really believe that we’ll be allowed back into the kingdom. We think God will shut the gate behind us.

So we get into a works mentality. We’re not perfect, so we sin, and then we feel like we have to cover for how we acted. We feel like we have to perform for God. “I judged somebody, so I have to read five psalms today.” Or, “I had a lustful thought, so I have to put in two extra hours at the food pantry.” Or, “I thought I was a better Christian than my neighbor, so now I have to go to Nicaragua and help build a new school.” With this mentality, fulfilling the royal law becomes work. Honestly, it becomes an ordeal.

When you start doing stuff to make yourself feel better because you sinned, then you have a works mentality. This is legalism. It misses the point. It misses the fact that we live in grace now, because of the sacrifice Jesus made, and then His resurrection. Now we live in God’s life. We walk in His Spirit and love with His love. When we sin, we can work it out on the spot with Him. He works all day every day for us. He loves us!

If you do something in order to show people what you’ve done, you’ll be dissatisfied. You won’t feel very good when you’re done. But if you do something to help a struggling neighbor simply because you love her, you’ll feel so good and fulfilled. Your heart will be right where it needs to be.

So trust the King! And when you struggle, send word to Him. Tell Him, “I need some help here.” Trust Him. Help will come.

See you Monday.

Multiplying Grace

I am constantly stressing that grace is the unmerited favor of God. I like to stress this point because it’s so amazing. Grace is God’s favor! God smiles on you and delights in you just as you are. You don’t have to worry about whether you deserve it or not. God’s grace is unmerited.

But that’s not all you get with grace. God’s grace brings with it the ability to let God work through you. Because of His grace, you can walk in His Spirit. Take a minute to think about that, because it’s awesome. Grace makes more grace possible!

For example, suppose I get home from work and I discover that my family is experiencing some chaos. We do have three young boys, after all. What should I do? Should I get angry? Well, is that what God would do?

Walking in grace means asking God to give me the ability to say and do what is needed to make my family feel loved in a time of chaos.  That’s what Jesus does. He makes us feel loved in our time of chaos. He doesn’t love us for who or what we should be. He loves us for who we are, right now. That’s who He loves. He loves you. And then in that love, He nurtures you. He loves and nurtures you into becoming more like Him.

This is what grace allows us to do for each other! When we let God work through us, we let Him turn grace into more grace. When we ask what we as Christians should be doing, that’s our answer. Let God work through you. Let Him compound His grace, multiplying it everywhere. Let Him make you more like Him.

Realizing that I have favor with God gives me so much joy. It frees me! It frees me up to do what I can for others. It frees me up to think about other people. Walking in the Spirit allows me to ease their pain, and bring Christ into their lives. My joy is so motivating!

You might say, “Look, I don’t have much money. I can’t just give money away.” But that’s not the point. If you want to give money, and you can, then that’s one thing you can do. But that’s not even close to all that you can do in Christ. Walking in grace isn’t about giving money away. It’s about reflecting Jesus!

Loving your neighbor as yourself doesn’t cost any money at all. You meet people all day long. What do they see when they see you? Do they see Jesus? This is as simple as looking at somebody who is having a bad day and saying, “Man, I hope your day gets better.” It’s as simple as asking, “Are you okay?”

Let people know that you are there, and that they are not alone. That is Jesus. Let Him nurture each of you through each other. And then grace will multiply in abundance, everywhere!

See you Monday.

You’ve Got to Show Who Jesus Is

There are times when celebrities or public figures get involved with a charity, and through it, they do so much good. You see it and think, “Man, they are doing so much good in the world!” You really get a sense of appreciation for their good works.

But do you ask yourself why they do it? Is it so that they can be on TV? Is it so that they can push their name? Maybe even be in People magazine? If they do a lot of good, they can get their face in a lot of magazines. Is that why they are doing it, so that we’ll say, “Look at him! Look at her! She did this event. He funded that cause.”

Sometimes we need to ask ourselves the same question. What is our heart behind the good that we are doing? Why are we doing what is good? Are we doing it because we are led by the Spirit of God? Or are we led by the spirit of fame? We need to ask, because we can get pretty famous for doing good things.

I don’t think Jesus did anything for the sake of fame. Everything He did, He did to show the glory of God. Even though He showed no interest in fame and did nothing for the sake of fame, there have been more books and songs written about Him than any other person, ever. People who don’t even think He’s really God still write about Him. They still talk about Him. They still sing about Him.

It’s His name that gets used in vain! I don’t see anyone using my name in vain. Nobody is getting mad and saying, “Jeremy Affeldt! That sucked!” I don’t hear that! Right? But people use His name all the time!

I’m not saying that doing good works to get (or perpetuate) fame is a common or widespread activity. I’m not thinking about anyone in particular. I just want us to direct our thoughts to our hearts. Doing good brings a lot of attention, so be sure you’re in the right place when you do it. Do it because the Spirit of God is behind it. Don’t do it for the wrong reasons.

Now, if you say, “I love Jesus, but I don’t do anything,” then I would probably challenge you on that. I wouldn’t judge you. I wouldn’t tell you that without doing good, you’re going to go to hell. No. I would want to challenge you to think about it, because I don’t know if that’s what He would want for you.

In Christ, you can do all things. In Him, through Him, and by Him, we are new creations. In Him, we are made new. So to become a new creation who can do all things, and then sit and do nothing, just doesn’t seem possible to me. I don’t see how that could be your calling.

There are times to be quiet. There are times when you need to just be still and know that He is God. There’s a need to listen to Him, and let Him fill you. Let Him talk to you. Let Him hear you and be heard by you.

But there’s also going to come a time when you’ve got to show who Jesus is. He is in you, and you are in Him. So what are you going to do?

More on this next time. See you Thursday.

Our Way to Heaven

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (Matthew 7:21-23)

I think there are a lot of good people that will not go to heaven. I really do think so. They can do good things their whole lives, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they will go to heaven. What would keep them out? Just one thing: rejecting the only thing that matters. And that is Jesus. Grace! Just doing good things isn’t enough. They have to be done from the graced idea of living by the Spirit of God.

Think about it. None of Jesus’s works happened before the Spirit came upon him. He only started doing miracles, signs, and wonders when the Spirit came upon Him. He only started speaking in the Temple when the Spirit came upon Him. God came to Jesus and said, “This is what I need you to do.” And that’s when His work began.

It’s the same for us. If the Spirit is in you, then you’re going to live by the Spirit. But if you live in the flesh, you’re going to do things in the flesh. What is the flesh? It is selfish. It has no sense of service. It’s all about me and what can I have. As long as we live on earth, we will do things of the flesh. But with the Spirit upon us, we are forgiven. We live in grace, and we do the things that God wants us to do.

So when someone tells me that they said the prayer and were saved, but their lives didn’t change, I wonder. Have they asked God to send His Spirit?

The Bible says there will be people who say, “I cast out demons in your name,” and yet Jesus will say, “I never knew you.” You have to get into grace. That means you have to get to a point where you realize what Jesus did. He didn’t just die for us. He resurrected! He didn’t just die to works. He resurrected to grace! That’s what He did!

He said, “I have not come to break the law. I have come to fulfill it. I’m going to die, so you will know that the law has been satisfied. The law will become the old covenant. Then I’m going to resurrect, and this will be to new grace. That’s the way this comes into play.”

And did you notice? It was after the resurrection that we stopped needing to make animal sacrifices. It was after the resurrection that we quit stoning our wives for disobedience. Jesus put a whole new deal in place. The curtain was ripped, and the Holy of Holies was accessible to all. Because of Jesus, we all have access to the kingdom of heaven.

So no matter how good you are, if you’re not willing to go and access God, then all your works mean nothing. They mean nothing because they are not done with the backing of the Spirit.

In 2010, the Giants made a clerical error and accidentally added an extra half million dollars to my contract. I reported the error, and got the contract fixed. People said to me,”Oh, man, you could do a lot of good with that $500,000.” But I couldn’t have done any good with it, even if all my works were really good. It wasn’t my money! Right? This is what I’m talking about. You can do all the good you want. But if you do not carry the Spirit of grace, which is Jesus, I don’t know what it’s going to get you.

You Are Holy

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. Romans 6:1-4

The church tends to misinterpret righteousness. It teaches that we are righteous and holy only when we don’t sin, and that makes us perform to avoid sin. As a result, we have all kinds of rules that we follow in order to make ourselves righteous. If you do this you’re sinning. If you do that you’re sinning. If you don’t act like this you’re sinning. If you don’t talk like that you’re sinning. If you drink you’re sinning. Don’t do any of those things, because you have to be righteous.

But that’s not it. We are righteous and holy because of the blood, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “It is finished. I’ve done everything. Now you are righteous and now you are holy.”

If your parents told you that you’re a princess, every single day, you would grow up thinking, “I’m a princess.” Then you would act as a princess, dress as a princess, and talk as a princess. You would be a princess, because that’s what you were told you are. Now, suppose the church said, “Did you know that because of who you are in Christ, you are holy and righteous, all the time?” What if we did that? What if we taught that in church? What if we got people to think that way? Then people would be righteous and holy. All the time!

This is hard to wrap our minds around, and you can see evidence in the Bible that people had some questions for Paul about this. They asked him, “You’re saying grace abounds over sin, so you can just do whatever you want to do and grace will abound?” Paul said, “No, that’s not what I’m saying. The spirit gives birth to spirit, but the flesh gives birth to flesh. So I’m not saying you can do whatever you want. I’m saying that if you understand grace, and you understand that you are holy and righteous, then you will do holy and righteous things.”

Your identity as a Christian counts. If you think of yourself as a sinner, then your flesh will run your life with guilt and shame. But if you think of yourself as holy and righteous because of your identity in Christ, then you will be free. You will make holy and righteous choices, simply because that’s how you think of yourself. This is what the church should emphasize, every single day.