The Royal Law

Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well…James 2:5, 8

When Jesus described the kingdom of God, the people listening to Him understood the paradigm. Kingdoms were very common in their day, so they understood the mentality. Rule by kings continued in Europe until the 20th century in some places, and some parts of the world continue to have monarchies today. Americans had a revolution in the 18th century, so it’s a little harder for us to understand the paradigm. But we can do it, since it’s in our history. We can understand how kingdoms work.

Child of GodIf you use a kingdom mentality to understand the royal law, you will realize that when you accept Christ, you are no longer a pauper. You are royalty, rich in faith and an heir of His kingdom. Think about that! The King is going out, and looking over the land saying, “Whoever wants to be a part my kingdom, I’m adopting you. Now you are my son. Now you are my daughter. You are now a prince, or a princess.”

That is a really good way to live! You were poor before. You were lost. But now you’re found.

When Jesus died, He rose again. Because of what He did, the gate to the kingdom is unlocked for everyone. Because of what He did, anyone who wants to come to the King can come. The drawbridge never closes. You want to come in, come in. And when God adopts you, you don’t have to stay in the castle. You can come and go as you please.

When you go, understand that you are holy and righteous. That is your identity. No matter where you came from, no matter who you were, you are now no longer a pauper. Where you came from is over. That life is over. God gives you a new life in His kingdom, and you leave His kingdom as His son or daughter. You are a prince or princess of the realm.

People are going to ask you, “What did you have to do, to become a member of His family?” You can tell them, “It is simple. I know what His son did for me. I believe it. And I love that He’s my savior! I love that there are no strings attached. I gave my life over to Him and said, ‘Jesus, thank you.’ Now, because of that, the drawbridge is open. I walked right in. I went before the King, and I said, ‘I’d like to be your royal child.’ And He said, ‘Come on in!’”

As His royal child, you represent God to the world. You represent His kingdom to the world. So go, and invite people in. Love on them. Encourage them. Tell them, “You can trust the King. He wants you with Him. He’s not going to destroy you. He’s not going to execute you. He’s not going to put you in prison. He’s not going to treat you as a traitor or a spy. He’s going to love you! Simply love you!”

This is freedom! See you Thursday.

Taking a Stand for Righteousness

The Holy Spirit sees everything, because He is with you all the time. He’s the voice inside of you, that intuition cautioning you when you’re contemplating a poor decision. He looks at you and says, “Man, I know what you’re doing, and here’s why I don’t think you should.”

What if you could get this from the people in your life? What if you could expose some of your sins and some of your issues, and the community would come around you and say, “Man, we’ve got you. And we’re going to walk with you through this. We’re going to give you advice and help. We’re going to give you a plan, because we’ve got some ideas for you. Here’s how you can refrain from making the wrong choice. The path you’re considering is not a good idea, and here’s why.” You could be reminded without being condemned.

That’s what a unified church does!

And I think this is what Jesus is waiting for. He’s waiting for people to mature, and be like-minded.

This is what He prayed for. He prayed that we would be like-minded because that’s the only way. If we’re always against each other, then how are we going to be for each other? God is for you, so He wouldn’t be against you. We need to be just like that. For each other.

In fact, if we’re going to be the community of people that represents God, we have to be for all kinds of righteous things. We have to be for each other. We have to be for a value-driven life. We have to be for forgiveness. We have to be for helping people become nearer to Christ.

This a key issue right now for a church that is not unified. We’re against more things than we’re for! But we can’t be the ones against righteousness! We have to get to a point where we are for all kinds of things. We’ve got to be for human life. We’ve got to be for the heart. We’ve got to be for understanding what it means to live in the grace of God.

Not against. Not against someone’s sin. Not against their theology. Not against their denomination.

We’re getting it backwards here. We’re control freaks by nature, so we’re trying to control people by getting them to believe exactly what we believe. This can’t be us, not any more. This can’t be the focus of the Christian. It’s time to change our focus, and be for each other. Let’s be for others and for understanding who they are in Christ.

More on this next time. See you Monday.

Bring Jesus Back!

I’m praying not only for them
But also for those who will believe in me
Because of them and their witness about me.
The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind—
Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you,
So they might be one heart and mind with us.
Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me.
The same glory you gave me, I gave them,
So they’ll be as unified and together as we are—
I in them and you in me.
Then they’ll be mature in this oneness,
And give the godless world evidence
That you’ve sent me and loved them
In the same way you’ve loved me.
John 17:20-23

Before he was taken away to be crucified, Jesus prayed to His Father, asking that His followers would be one, just as Jesus and the Father are one. And this prayer was not only for the disciples that were with Him then, but for everyone who would eventually believe in Jesus because of their witness. In other words, Jesus prayed for you and me. He prayed that we would be unified as one heart and mind in God, just as Jesus was in His Father, and His Father was in Him.

Jesus prayed that everybody would see His heart, and unify in it. He prayed that we would become one because He is in us. “I in them and you in me.” His heart and His love come directly from His Father. “God gave that to me,” He said, “and I’m giving it to you.”

He prayed that we would mature in unity, becoming like-minded. Jesus says, “I need all of you to be like-minded, so that the world will believe that my Father sent me.”

If Christians are going to unify and become like-minded, then we have to key in more on not condemning one another. We have to key in more on loving one another.

Jesus did not say, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and judge each other by your sins.” That is not what He said! Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love one another. Love each other as you would love yourselves. Forgive each other as you would forgive yourselves.”

Now that is a huge deal. Imagine what could happen if we got into that place, creating a community of people that are willing to help each other in trials and tribulations. Imagine what could happen if we helped each other make decisions that are good and wise. Imagine what could happen in a community that gives advice and also accepts it, where everyone helps each other avoid the wrong road. Imagine what could happen in a community that shares love and wisdom, not condemnation and judgment. Imagine what could happen! This is the unity of heart and mind that Jesus prayed for! This is the evidence of God’s love for us.

If that happened? I think Jesus would come back.

More on this next time. See you Thursday.

2015 Fellowship Day

Matt Baquiran came out to Giants Fellowship Day this year, and shared an awesome recording of the event on YouTube.  Thanks to Matt, you can see and hear testimony from me and my wife Larisa, and Jeremy Camp! Check it out here:

The Spirit Sees Everything – And Helps Us!

It’s a comical part of the child’s life when they get caught doing something, and they lie about it. The other night I put my son to bed and I asked him, “Did you brush your teeth?” He told me, “Yes.” So I asked him, “When? When did you brush your teeth? I’ve been downstairs with you all evening. I walked you up to your bedroom, I put you in your pajamas, and you jumped in bed. In all that time, you never brushed your teeth. So let me ask you again: Did you brush your teeth?”

“Yes!” he said. “I brushed my teeth!”

“Now,” I said, “I highly advise you not to lie! I’m going to give you a few minutes. I want you to think about whether you should lie to me, because I know you didn’t brush your teeth. If you lie to me, there’s going to be a consequence. You know I don’t want you to lie! So think about it.”

My sons know there are consequences to lying. They also know that the consequences don’t come from anger. I just don’t want them to lie. Lying is breaking trust, so I have to teach them to be truthful. I will take away an iPad, or whatever else I’ve got to do, to let them know that they can’t break trust. We have to trust each other here.

After a few minutes, my son said, “Dad, I didn’t brush my teeth.” So I said, “Okay! And remember, you don’t have to lie. You’re not in trouble. I just want you to brush your teeth.”

When it comes to our children, it’s best if we’re able to encourage them. We don’t have to condemn them. We don’t have to judge them. We don’t have to use fear tactics to manage or control them. We can just encourage them. I try to constantly remind my sons of the leaders I think they are. I tell them I’m proud of them. And I try to teach them that they don’t have to lie. They can be truthful, and they need to be. A truthful leader will attract more followers than a liar.

I think encouragement is what the Holy Spirit gives us. You might be looking at something you shouldn’t look at, or wanting something you shouldn’t want, or thinking about doing something you shouldn’t do, and there’s a feeling or an intuition inside of you saying, “Hey, I wouldn’t do that. And here’s why.” That’s the Holy Spirit.

Obviously the Holy Spirit sees everything, because He’s with you the whole time. You’re not going to be able to get away with something, because He will see it. My son couldn’t get away with not brushing his teeth, because I was there the whole time.

The Spirit sees everything, and He also forgives. And I think that is what people inside the church can do for each other. Help and encouragement is what it’s all about.

See you Thursday.

The New Country of Grace

So what do we do? Keep on sinning so God can keep on forgiving? I should hope not! If we’ve left the country where sin is sovereign, how can we still live in our old house there? Or didn’t you realize we packed up and left there for good? That is what happened in baptism. When we went under the water, we left the old country of sin behind; when we came up out of the water, we entered into the new country of grace—a new life in a new land! Romans 6:1-3

I blog a lot about grace, but it’s because I hope that the message will reach your heart. I hope your heart says, “This is it. This is what I need to hear. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is going to help me get out of my issues.”

His grace is going to help you today and every day. You might have messed up, but it’s all going to be okay. Jesus loves you and He smiles on you.

You, me, the Apostle Paul — we all have the same experience. We do not want to sin. It is not our intention to sin. And yet, we still do. We sin. How are we going to get out of it? It’s only by grace!

The church is an agent of grace. It helps to hang out with other people that can honestly say, “I sin just like you.” People who have been where you are can understand what you’re experiencing. They can say, “I know that Jesus walks with me. He’s encouraging me! So I know He’ll walk with you through your issue. You can lean on Him. You’ve got to know that we are righteous and holy, and you’ve also got to know that sometimes, righteous and holy people act out of the flesh.”

Just remember what Paul says: grace abounds over sin. Because of Christ, there is now no condemnation. His grace will always cover our sin. People challenged Paul when they heard that. They said, “Does that mean we can sin whenever we want?” And Paul said, “Of course not! Once you’re of the Spirit, you will do things of the Spirit. You are living a new life now, in the new country of grace!”

You see? Once you’re of the Spirit, you won’t want to sin. You’ll want to do the things of the Spirit, like love unconditionally. You’ll want to! You won’t want to gossip or tell lies. Now at times, you will. You still have flesh on your bone. And that’s not going to change until Christ returns.

So you might mess up. You will mess up. I know. I understand. And you will want to hide in your sin, because that’s what the flesh wants to do.

But when you understand the grace of God, then you will know that you can go boldly before His throne in Heaven, and He will smile at you. He will say, “My child, I don’t see that sin. I see you for who you are. And this is who you are.” And then He’ll point out all the good in your life. He’ll show you all the good of who you are. He’ll say, “This is your heart! Your heart is good! This is how I want you to see yourself – as I see you. And I’ll free you, by exposing your sin. Bring it into the light, and it will die.”

More on this next time. See you Monday.

Asking for Wisdom

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. James 1:5-6

Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Romans 8:26

How are we supposed to do justice without judging? I think it becomes clear once we think about what it means to do justice. To do justice doesn’t mean to make judgment calls – and then alienate people with them. To do justice means to make things right. When we see that something is wrong, we have to make it right.

But we have to use wisdom. Think about how many people you’ve met who are angry at the church. I’m talking about the ones who are angry at the church because they’ve been wounded by the church. They aren’t angry because they never went to church. They aren’t angry because they hate God. They are angry because they’ve been wounded by people who claimed to love God, and then judged them. They’re angry because of Christians who pushed them away from God. Judgments came, and they came without wisdom.

I wish I could step in, and reassure them that that’s not who I am. That’s not who Jesus is. We need to ask God for wisdom before we open our mouths.

I think there are a lot of times when Christians intend to do justice and think that making a judgment call is the way to do it. They think they know the difference between right and wrong. Well, maybe they do! But it doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t ask for wisdom. If I know a person who is in the wrong, I still need wisdom. If I don’t ask, then how will I know how God wants me to handle that person? If it’s up to me to tell someone that he is wrong, then I need wisdom so that I’ll know how to handle him and make sure he feels loved. If you need to create justice in a situation in someone’s life, then you need to ask for wisdom on how to do that. When you don’t, you might say something to make that person mad – so mad that they push you away, and maybe God too.

We used to live in our flesh, but now we are Christians. Now we live by the Spirit. Our identity is in the Spirit of God. And it is God’s Spirit who brings us wisdom. Always. All we have to do is ask in faith.

It says in Romans that there are times when we don’t even know how to pray. We don’t even know what to pray for. But that’s okay, because the Spirit will help us. He will intercede, with groanings which cannot be uttered. So ask for wisdom, and believe.

See you Thursday.