Rest in God

And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the LORD your God:
“Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the country.
“Blessed shall be the fruit of your body, the produce of your ground and the increase of your herds, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flocks.
“Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl.
“Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.
“The LORD will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before your face; they shall come out against you one way and flee before you seven ways.
“The LORD will command the blessing on you in your storehouses and in all to which you set your hand, and He will bless you in the land which the LORD your God is giving you. Deuteronomy 28:2-8

If you live in legalism, then you eliminate God. “But Jeremy,” you say, “I’m righteous.” And maybe you are! For example, maybe you don’t tell lies. That is consistent with a righteous life. But what if the only reason you don’t lie is because the Bible tells you not to do it?  Then you aren’t depending on God. You’re depending on rules. And what happens when you depend on rules? Things fall apart.

What if you were able to just rest in God and understand that His grace will show you the way? What if you could believe that God gives you His favor, even though you didn’t earn it? As the scripture says, in obedience to God, whatever you say, whatever you do, wherever you walk, and wherever you go, you will be blessed. Your basket will be full. Everything your hand touches will prosper. To put it as simply as possible: in grace, you will find success.

Now, success may not happen exactly the way you want it to happen. In fact, you may be surprised by the form success takes in your life. I sure was! And that’s okay. It’s better, in fact! Let God decide what your success will be. Let God show you what to do. He will show you exactly what to do so that your family will thrive. He will show you what to do so that everyone you meet will thrive. You’re on a journey, you know. You’ve just got to believe that your journey will be one of success.

What happens when you walk and talk with the people you meet? If you let Jesus guide your steps and tell you what to say, then the people you meet will feel really good. You don’t have to be super spiritual and legalistic. You don’t have to quote Bible verses at them. Resting in God is not about soapbox Christianity. It’s not about telling people to accept Christ or else rot in hell. It’s not about telling people that they’re bad. You are here to love. That is your purpose. So ask God to tell you how to love people. He will! He’s our faithful God!

What do you suppose happens when you do that? Man, the people you meet on your journey will love on you! They’ll be inspired to live a righteous life because of you! So listen to Jesus. He will help you tell people exactly what they need to hear. And when you do that, they’ll want to be around you! Maybe they don’t believe in God. Maybe they don’t do all the same things that Christians do. But you’re the one they’ll hang out with, because you won’t judge them. You’ll live with them, in grace.

Allow Jesus to guide your steps. Allow the Spirit to give you wisdom. Do this, and you will find so much love and joy. And guess what? That will be your success.

See you Thursday.

Prison to Palace

I’ve been writing a lot about grace in family life, but God gives us grace in our work too. Make yourself available to hear His wisdom, and He’ll show you where to focus your efforts. The next thing you know, you’ll succeed in everything you do.

Just look at what the story of Joseph can teach us. What a good story! But it’s more than that. There is so much wisdom in it. There is so much to Joseph.

The story goes like this: Joseph’s brothers were jealous of him, so they sold him to some traders who took him to Egypt. In Egypt, Joseph was sold to the household of Potiphar, who managed the Pharaoh’s household.

Potiphar was impressed with Joseph and put him in charge, and even grew very fond of him. But Potiphar’s wife wanted to seduce him. When Joseph refused her advances, she framed him for attempted rape, and Potiphar threw him in prison.

Like Abraham, Joseph lived in grace. It was before God gave Moses the Ten Commandments. It was before God gave us the law against adultery. Nevertheless, when Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him, Joseph said no. Potiphar’s wife said to him, “Sleep with me.” And Joseph said, “My master has been so good to me, and you’re his wife! How could I violate his trust and sin against God?”

Joseph didn’t need a commandment that would tell him what to do. He already knew right from wrong! He called adultery a “sin against God” long before we had a commandment that said, “Don’t do that.”

When the Bible talks about Joseph, it says, “The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man.” (See for example Genesis 39:2.) The Lord wasn’t with Joseph because of Joseph’s legalism. We didn’t have the law yet! Joseph did not do anything to merit God’s favor, but God was with him nonetheless. That’s why Joseph succeeded in everything he did. When Potiphar put him to work in his home, not only did Joseph succeed, but the whole house of Potiphar was blessed because Joseph was there.

Now you might object and say, “Sure, Jeremy, the Bible says Joseph was successful, but he was sold into slavery and then got thrown into prison for a crime he didn’t commit! You see goodness in this story?”

Well, just look at God’s plan! Joseph resisted Potiphar’s wife and was thrown in prison, but he had to be in that exact prison for God’s plan for him to unfold. The warden liked him so much that he put Joseph in charge of the whole operation. Joseph went right on succeeding! And in that exact prison, Joseph met Pharaoh’s head baker, and Pharaoh’s cupbearer. His successful interpretation of their dreams led Joseph to Pharaoh. And when Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dream, he was put in control of the kingdom! So you see, when the Lord is with you, even the bad things are part of His good redemption story. A good journey is unfolding. God is good, and good things are happening. Trust Him!

When the Bible talks about Joseph, it says, “The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man.” Now the Bible talks about us, and it says, “Because of grace, Jesus is in you and with you and through you.” In other words, just as the Lord was with Joseph, now He is with you. You have His free and unmerited favor. You don’t have to do anything to earn it in advance. Just live in it. Let God bless you and work through you, and you will be successful in your journey!

I have more to say on this next time, so see you Monday.

They Don’t Like Christianity

I learned about grace from my family by receiving it from them. My oldest son was living in a grace-based mentality even when he was really little. He has been a voice for God in my life, teaching me how to be a dad.

I’m so thankful for this! Now I know what it’s like to lead my family as the head of the home. The head of the home does not say, “I’m the head, you’re the tail, do what I ask.” The head of the home says, “I’m going to serve you. I’m going to love on you. I’m going to take good care of you. I’m going to nurture you into becoming the fullness that you are asked to become.”

I do that for my family because that’s what Jesus does for me. He serves me, loves me, takes care of me, sustains me, and is nurturing me into the fullness that He has called me to become.

Jesus does that for everybody. That’s why we naturally put ourselves under Him. We trust Him so much! We know how much He loves us.

The Bible talks about the sinners around Jesus. Before they met Jesus, they weren’t following God. But as soon as they saw Jesus, they followed Him. They said, “Lord, we’ll follow you.” Why did they do that? Well, Jesus didn’t say, “Look people, I am the Messiah. I am the son of the Almighty God, so if you don’t act a certain way I’ll strike you down.” He didn’t say that. It wasn’t His message!

People followed Jesus because He nurtured them and loved on them.

Now the church wonders why it’s losing people. Why don’t people want to follow Jesus anymore? Why don’t people want to be in church? I’ll tell you why. The church teaches grace, but expects legalism. The church says to people, “Jesus saved us by grace, so let’s live in joy and peace! BUT, you need to do this, and you need to do that, and you have to tithe this, and you have to give that, and by the way, you’re not allowed to drink in public, and if you use certain words…” It goes on and on. Rule, after rule, after rule.

That’s why people don’t like Christianity. Jesus lived in grace and people loved Him, but we are living in legalism and people don’t like us. We’re telling them what to do. We’re telling them what not to do. We’re making them feel bad about everything. We’re judging everybody!

And so we are falling apart.

It’s hard for us to avoid living in legalism, because we feel like we need boundaries. We feel like we need to have laws so that we won’t go off course. But it’s making us miss the whole point! Jesus took that all away! We don’t need to fear law and judgment anymore. Now we can give grace to each other and love on each other, and nurture each other to the fullness that we know we are called to become.

See you Thursday.

New Wine in New Wineskins

No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; or else the new piece pulls away from the old, and the tear is made worse. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine bursts the wineskins, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins. Mark 2:21-22

I think Christian families are mired in legalism. I think churches are too. They want to be in control. Legalism might not actually result in control, but at least it can give the appearance of it. I think control is what lies behind the pervasiveness of legalism.

The crazy thing is, we hear them teach grace within legalism! Essentially this is saying, “Okay, if you stay within my rules, you will have grace. You will have freedom. But when you get outside of my rules, I will get angry. I’ll use that anger to pull you back in and control you. I will drop the law on you.”

This is pouring the new wine of grace into the old wineskins of legalism. It creates conflict. I’ve been exposed to it, and I’ll bet you have too.

There was a time when I learned to love on my teammates instead of judging them. I wanted them to see Jesus, so I would say, “They are only human, so of course they’re going to mess up. The important thing is to give them grace.” This was something I had to learn. The problem was, I didn’t learn the same lesson about my family. My wife had to wake me up to it. One day she said, “Jeremy, at work you give ballplayers grace, but at home, you give your family law. We’re your family, and you judge us!”

I heard that, and it crushed me. It absolutely crushed me. My wife was right! I was mixing grace and legalism in my life. And do you know what? My life was in conflict! I was frustrated and stressed at home, but I would get to the ballpark and feel no stress at all. At the ballpark, I was so relaxed. I felt free. I didn’t feel bound up. I didn’t feel frustrated or angry. It was so confusing. I couldn’t figure out why I felt so stressed at home and so relaxed at work.

Then my wife helped me see it. I was living in contradiction. I was creating conflict for myself and my family by living in legalism at home. Legalism is a mentality that I oppose, and I didn’t even know that I was living in it!

It was such a blessing when my wife pointed it out. When she did, God took me on a journey from legalism to grace. Once I learned to give my family grace instead of law, I became so happy at home. I’m so happy to be a family man. My kids are happy and we play. My wife is happy and confident. I’m watching my family thrive!

Grace is the new wine. If you try to pour it into the old skins of legalism, your family or your church might be ruined. Put the new wine into new wineskins. Make it a skin of grace. Then see what happens. Your life will not only be saved by grace, it will be based in grace! It’s awesome!

See you Monday.

Happy in Grace

Freedom in grace is freedom from anger.

How often do you feel angry when someone reacts to you in a way that you don’t like? Maybe they speak sharply to you, or do something mean. It’s natural to feel angry when that happens, but it’s not necessary. There could be something troubling them and they need to talk about it.

This is so important to me as a dad. We want to let our kids have emotions, right? But we tend to prefer the emotions that feel good to us. We don’t get mad at our kids for being happy. We don’t get mad at them for laughing. We don’t get mad at them for being joyful. We don’t even get mad at them when they’re sad and crying. That makes us feel tender.

But when they get angry, we get mad at them! How much sense does that make? They get angry, and what do they see? They see us get angry! We’re telling our kids, “I’m going to get angry at you for being angry!”

That does not help them learn. Instead it’s a vicious cycle.

Getting angry at their anger comes from trying to control them. We try to control our children’s anger so that we can control our own. This is typical of legalism in the home.

Why not simply accept them and be with them? Grace says, “I can see that you’re having a bad day. How can I help you? How can I love on you? How can I make you feel better?” When you do that for your child, then all of a sudden, a bad day can become a good day. Now, in their bad day, you’re not just someone else continuing to pound on them. You’re especially not a legalistic father who wants to drop a Bible verse on them when they’re not doing right! Instead, you’ve made yourself a loving help to them.

I’m far from perfect, but I try not to get angry at my sons for getting angry at me. I let them be angry. And we talk about it.

We have a lot of issues today in Christian homes. Christian families experience the same divorce rate as non-Christian families. I suspect legalism is the problem. If you’re living the life of legalism, then you’re not living in grace. If your family is not living in grace, then the mentality in your home isn’t any different than the mentality in a home that isn’t founded in God. That means you’re going to get the same issues.

When you live in a home founded in grace, your kids are truly happy. So is your husband or wife! Everybody is growing and thriving, and they live righteous and loving lives.

People will look at your family and say, “Man! What are you doing? What rule did you make? What law did you give them, that they live so well?” That’s not the right question, of course. When people don’t understand grace, they think about dropping a Bible verse and making a rule with it. The point is that my family loves and laughs and thrives because I didn’t give them a rule. I didn’t give them a law to live by. I gave my family freedom. My wife and I brought grace into our home. In grace, we are happy.

See you Thursday.

Can’t Do It Without Him

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10

In a Spirit-led life, our deeds are righteous. But they don’t belong to us. If I am a righteous man, it’s only because I have the blood of Jesus on me. If I live a righteous life and make the right decisions, it will be because Jesus is in me and works through me. I can’t boast about that.

I can’t do this without Him.

We feel like we need to control things. Maybe we even want to control other people. And as we know, when we try to do that, things go wrong.

I’ve given that up. In fact, I’ve given up my life — to Jesus Christ. You have to do that in order to live in grace. I don’t try to control my family. I prefer to live with them in grace. This is the basis for a true relationship with Jesus.

The Bible says that we love Jesus because He first loved us. So I don’t go to my wife and children and tell them to love and respect me. They will love and respect me when I first love and respect them.

If you try to control your family, they will fight you. If you only love them when they do certain things, or when they live a certain way, then you’ll have a battle on your hands. I think that is why it was so hard for us before Jesus came. You see the battle in the Old Testament. We had to live a certain way and act a certain way. We had to follow the Ten Commandments. It was too hard, and we could never do it, so we always had to make sacrifices to make up for our transgressions.

I think there was a plan all along. God saw that we wanted rules. We sent Moses up to Mt. Sinai because we wanted rules. Rules cause problems, but we wanted them, so God gave them to us. Then we had the law, and we couldn’t follow it. We broke it all the time! Then we had to offer sacrifices all the time, to make things right with Him. There were a lot of sacrifices!

To free us, God sent His Son to make the ultimate sacrifice. After that one perfect sacrifice, there was only one commandment. Love your neighbor as yourself, and love God. But we can only fulfill that one commandment through the blood of Jesus Christ. That’s why you can’t boast about the good things you do. You can’t say, “Look at me! I did this, and I did that.” Jesus is the only reason that you can do the good things you do.

When you can give up legalism and give your life up to Jesus, then His Spirit will live in you and through you. Then you will walk in grace. You won’t walk in condemnation. You won’t walk in judgment. You won’t walk in expectation. You’ll live your life in freedom, not bound by all those laws. You’ll be free to do the work God has prepared for you. You can truly love.

See you Monday.

Attitude of Leadership

My job as a husband and father is to nurture my family into becoming the fullness of who they are. I can only do this by living with them in grace. I have to let them be free.

Trying to control them is like pushing them down. They cannot grow if I’m pushing them down. They need to be free. They shouldn’t have to worry that I’ll judge them. They shouldn’t have to fear that I’ll get angry. We all need to live in grace. There is so much freedom in grace! It is absolutely amazing to me.

And I realize this seems like a simple concept, but most of us deal with it on some level every day. It’s part of life.

For example, how often do you come home and find out that your husband or your wife has disciplined the kids in a certain way, and you want to change the rules? You might have a completely different idea of how to discipline them when they talk back, or fight with each other.

I used to come home and try to change the rules. My attitude was, “Hey, I’m the dad here, so I should lead. It’s important that I lead.” Then I realized something.

The Bible says the husband is the head of the family, as Christ is the head of the church. It’s a funny thing, though. When I look at Jesus, I don’t see someone standing on a pedestal and dictating to the church. I don’t see that at all!

Jesus led by becoming a servant. He served us, and He loved us, and He died for us. Because He served us, we respond by putting ourselves under Him. We naturally make Him the leader, because of how He served us, His family.

If you go to your family and say, “Listen up! I’m the head of the family, and you will do what I say,” then you put your family under you. That’s legalism. Do that to your family, and you will get resistance. They will shut you down, and they will quit listening to you. They will rebel against you, because you forced them under you. You’ll be out in the emotional cold.

But if you love your family, and serve them as Jesus served, then they will naturally put themselves under you. They’ll draw near to you. They’ll trust you to lead them. They will trust you because you love them in grace, and you love them with understanding.

I don’t want to be in control of everything. It stresses me out. It stressed me out for years trying to control everything, trying to make my family be a certain way, and act a certain way. I no longer tell my family, “I’m the head of the family, so do what I say.”

Instead, I co-lead. I am not the only leader of the family. My wife and I are co-leaders, as Eve and Adam were intended to be, and as Paul reminded the Ephesians. We co-lead in grace. When she needs me, my first question is, “How can I help?” I ask, “How can I be available? What can I do?” I’m not here to judge her, or to tell her how I would do things, or to tell her to act this way or that way. I just ask, “How can I help?”

And since my wife doesn’t feel judged, she can tell me. She can express herself to me. Then I can love on her. And man, it is amazing how free and happy my wife is. It’s the same thing with my kids. They’re just happy! We’re growing!

We can learn, as men, to lead from the attitude of servant leadership, not dictatorship. If you do that, your family will look to you to lead. You and your wife will find partnership and love, and your family will grow in happiness and grace.

See you Thursday. Happy Easter! He is risen!