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!

Children Loved in Grace and Freedom

In a life filled with grace, you receive such joy and fulfillment from loving your neighbor and doing the right thing that the law becomes unnecessary. You want to love, so that’s what you do. You love. You want to give, so that’s what you do. You give. You don’t need a set of rules to tell you to do it. It’s your lifestyle!

There are ways to teach our children about this. How often do we meet resistance when we say, “Clean your room!” When I tell one of my sons that he has to do something, the resistance can at times be incredible. There might be yelling, and jumping and stomping of feet. Doors might be slammed.

But what if I can look at him and say, “Hey bud, you know what? It’s your call.” What if I take my own son’s freedom into account? When I do, it is amazing. No one gets angry! I don’t yell at him and he doesn’t yell at me. If you can allow your children to make their own decisions, then you may not meet quite so much resistance.

I have learned to talk with my son, instead of making demands. I tell him, “You need to clean your room, because Mama has asked you to clean your room. I’m just letting you know that you can make your own call here. There are two roads you can take, and you’re the one who has to choose. If you take the wrong road, there will be consequences, but we’ll deal with them together. I’m going to help you, and I’m still going to love you. So it’s your call.”

So when it comes to doing his chores, my son knows it’s his choice. And I also tell him, “You can be angry. It’s okay to be angry. I’m not going to force you to clean your room. We’re living in grace here. I’m not going to tell you what you have to do. I’m going to help you understand what you should do. And then after that, it’s your call. If you make the wrong choice, we’ll handle it as we need to, in love. It’s up to you.” And then I just look at him, and he looks at me, and then he says, “Okay, I’ll clean my room.” And he does. He cleans his room and we go on with our day.

I’ve had to learn that my way of making decisions is not necessarily my son’s way of making decisions. My boys don’t have the same personality as mine. God has given each of them their own personalities. It’s tough to learn the personalities of your children and live in grace. It’s a challenge, but when we can do it, there’s freedom. There’s freedom in being able to allow our children to work in grace. There’s freedom in saying, “Hey, look, this is going to be better for you if you choose to do it, but it is your choice.”

I think God teaches us the same way. We have the freedom to choose between right and wrong, and when we choose wrong, there are consequences. But there is no condemnation. We’re living in grace here. God has brought us into His family, and He will help us deal with the consequences, in love. I’m going to love my son just as much if he doesn’t clean his room, even though my wife and I will discipline him. I will never love my son less. How much more does God love us?

More yet to come on grace.  See you Monday.

The Cheerful Giver

For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. Romans 6:14

If you allow the Spirit to lead you, you will be fulfilled. You won’t have to live by the law. You won’t have to live by dos and don’ts. You’ll never say, “I won’t steal, because the Ten Commandments tell me not to.” Instead, the Spirit of God, living in you, is going to speak to you. He will say, “Don’t steal. Stealing is not right. Not in a pure life with me.”

This is one of the foremost themes in Paul’s epistles. His letters are genius! In both Romans and Galatians, he tells the churches, “If you’re going to live by the law, you need to obey the law. Good luck with that!”

Take a minute to think about this in reverse. If you’re going to obey the law, then you need to live by it. Have you tried? It’s not possible! It’s hard enough to obey the law, but you’re doomed if you insist on living by it. Do you think it’s hard to avoid checking out your neighbor’s new car? Now, if you think that’s hard, try to avoid even thinking about looking at it! That’s what it takes to live by the law. The law says, “Don’t covet,” but you can’t help it! The flesh is sinful.

To live by the law is to live in condemnation. Legalism is a miserable place to be. Don’t do it. You don’t have to. Live in grace.

Those who live in grace, Paul says, will have freedom. Those who live in grace can take what’s dealt, and deal with it. They don’t have to live in a world boxed up by rules, where bad things happen when the rules get broken.

Tithing is a good example. If your church preaches that you have to tithe, you might not feel much enthusiasm for it. It might even feel like a burden. But if someone says, “Hey man, whatever you feel like giving,” then all of a sudden you’ll find yourself wanting to give more. It’s good to be able to do something because you want to do it, not because you have to do it. It’s very freeing!

In the life of grace, there is no rule about tithing. The Spirit just says, “Hey, be a cheerful giver.” That’s all it says. You don’t see the word “tithe” in the New Testament, because in the new covenant, there is no such thing.

When you allow the Spirit to lead you, will you want to tithe? Will you want to give? Yes! I truly believe you will. You will want to help support your church. You will want to help people in the ministry, or help people who are in poverty. You’ll see the redeeming work the Spirit is doing, and you’ll want to be a part of it. Then it will become a part of you. The righteous life will be deep inside of you, the Spirit at work.

But is this true when it comes to chores? What if you don’t want to clean your room? More on this next time. See you Thursday.

Marriage in Grace

Christian legalism says no. It says, “You’re not allowed to do that. Stay in the box.” Legalism is all about fear and control. That causes problems!

Sadly, it causes problems in a lot of marriages. I’ve been there, but I’ve learned to give up control and journey into grace. I’ve learned that if you try to control your wife or your husband, then things will get bad for your family. I’ve seen men say to their wives, “As long as you live the way I say to live, then everything’s going to be okay. But if you don’t, then I’m going to get angry, and you’re not going to like it when I’m angry.” When men start controlling, it gets really bad. You’ve got your family living at the address of misery.

What good could come of this? How does your family feel when you tell them that they can only make you happy if they live up to your standards? I can tell you exactly how they feel. Your family is miserable. It’s an impossible situation.

It’s the same in any relationship. Your friends don’t like it when you tell them that they have to do what you say. Right? Nobody likes it! And it doesn’t bring love. It doesn’t bring freedom.

God’s grace allows us to be free. God’s grace allows us to liberate each other. When I go home at the end of the day, I am not living in expectation. I don’t stake my happiness on what my wife is or isn’t doing. I don’t go home thinking, “Unless my wife is doing what I want her to do, then I’m going to be miserable.” As a result, I’m not making her worried or anxious. She isn’t wondering what to do, or how to make me happy. When I get home, I ask her what she needs. And then I say, “Okay! How can I help?”

When my wife has an opinion, I listen to it. When she wants to do something, I help her. I don’t try to stop her, and I don’t try to tell her how to do it. I don’t say, “Don’t do it that way. Do it this way, because that’s how I’d do it.” If she wants to do something a certain way, then that’s her call to make. She’s her own person, and she’s a great person! Why would I make obstacles for her?

Truly living in grace is an amazing experience. I feel so free, trusting God and living without expectation of how things have to be. And I love living in a grace-based marriage. I don’t have to demand that my wife live a certain way. I don’t have to control her demeanor or her behavior. I don’t have to control. God made everyone to be different. God gave us all different personalities. God made my wife to be just as she is, and loving on her is a good thing! Why would I try to control what God has made, or change what God has given?

When you have Christ in you, He works through you. When you live in His grace, then you live within the law fulfilled. You don’t have to focus on the dos and don’ts. You’re free.

More on grace next time. See you Monday.

Accepting Anger

“Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil. Ephesians 4:26-27

Living in grace frees me from all expectations. Learning about grace has freed me from trying to control my kids. Instead of saying, “don’t do that,” or “don’t act like that,” I have conversations with them.

In fact, I’m learning to understand grace just by trying to teach my kids how to live an awesome life!

Handling anger is a great example. Sometimes kids get angry when their parents ask them to do something they don’t want to do, or when they don’t get their way. It happens — they’re kids! When one of my sons gets angry, I don’t get mad at him. I don’t tell him, “Hey, you shouldn’t be angry.” Instead, I acknowledge that he’s angry. I look at him and say, “I realize you’re angry. You know what? It’s okay to be angry.”

I can tell him this because I know that his anger is not a sin. We see this in the Bible. God gets angry with sin, Moses gets angry with sin, and Jesus gets angry with sin. Not all anger is sin! In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul quotes the Psalms: “Be angry, and do not sin.” So you can be angry. But do not sin in your anger.

Also in Ephesians, Paul tells fathers, “Do not cause your children to be angry.” He means that we shouldn’t cause our children to sin in anger.

We have to make sure our children don’t let the sun go down on their anger. In other words, we have to make sure they don’t internalize their anger until it boils over. If we tell our kids, “Don’t get angry,” or if we tell them, “You’re not allowed to get angry,” then we’ve told them that anger is not okay. If our kids know they’ll get in trouble for getting angry, then they will hide their anger. They will internalize it. Eventually, they will act out on it. They might even develop rage, or turn their anger on themselves. This isn’t healthy, and it can cause a lot of problems.

Grace allows anger. Grace says, “It’s okay to be angry. Let’s talk about it.” If I say this to my sons, then they can say, “Well Dad, I’m angry because I don’t get to do what I want.” I can accept that. I can say, “Okay. That’s okay! I understand!” Then I can explain why I asked them to do something else. And I can say, “I know it’s frustrating when you can’t do what you want. You will be angry for a little while, and that’s okay. In the meantime, you still need to do what I asked you to do.”

Accepting anger brings freedom. What if someone were to tell you that it’s okay to be angry, and then they let you talk about it? How good would that feel? Pretty good, right? Well, that’s how good your kids will feel. You will free them to express themselves, and they will feel really good.

As you can imagine, this works just as well for parents as it does for kids!

More on this next time. See you Thursday.