Laws and Tithes

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

If you live a Spirit-led life, you will naturally do the right thing. 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 and say, “Don’t steal, because that is not right. Not in a pure life with me.” You will love the feeling of fulfillment that comes with that.

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!”

It’s impossible to live by the law. I’ll give you an example. The law says, “Do not covet.” Well, it’s hard to avoid checking out your neighbor’s shiny red sports car. Right? 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.

To live by the law is to live in condemnation. It’s a miserable place to be. Why not live in grace instead?

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

Tithing is a great example. If you give because you have to, it feels like a burden. It’s not going to feel good. In the life of grace, there is no rule about tithing. You don’t even see the word “tithe” in the New Testament. That’s because in the new covenant, there is no such thing as tithing.

In the Spirit-led life of grace, the Spirit says to be a cheerful giver, and you know what? You’ll feel it. You’ll want to tithe. You’ll want to give. You’ll want to support missions and projects. You’ll want to support your church, and help people in the ministry. You’ll want to help people in poverty.

You’ll be led by the Spirit into a Spirit-led life, and you will be so free! The righteous life will be inside of you, the Spirit at work. It’s so good to love your neighbor when you are led into it by the Spirit’s love. Let Him lead you into freedom!

Where Will You Throw Your Net?

It’s amazing to me how the whole Bible opens up and begins to live, I mean really live, once I look at it through the lens of grace.

The Gospel of John tells us a story about the day the resurrected Jesus miraculously filled the disciples’ net with fish (John 21:1-14). It’s a wonderful example of what happens when we choose to live and work in grace.

You see, the disciples had been fishing all night, but they hadn’t caught anything. That was discouraging! And yet when morning came, there was Jesus, on the shore — and cooking fish! You can imagine the conversation. The disciples said, “Hey, you caught fish!” And Jesus said, “Yeah! Where’s your fish?” “Well,” the disciples said, “We’ve been working all night, but we didn’t catch any fish.” So Jesus said, “Well, why don’t you throw your net over there?” And they said, “Jesus, didn’t you hear us? We already labored all night, and we didn’t catch anything!”

There it is. They labored all night. “Jesus,” they said, “we worked all night, but we didn’t succeed. We worked, and worked, and worked.” And Jesus said, “Yes, I know, but hold on a second. When you live with me, it’s different. I am grace! I am truth! So when I tell you to throw your net somewhere, believe me, you will catch fish!”

This is an awesome message! “Work in my wisdom,” Jesus says. “That’s where you will find your success. You tried to do it all on your own. You worked and worked and worked to get your fish, right? I saw you! But guess what? You don’t have any fish! So why not just do what I say? I’ll give you the wisdom you need.”

So what did the disciples do? They said, “Okay, Jesus, tell us where to throw the net.” “Throw it right there,” He said, and they did. Boom! There was so much fish that their boat almost sank! There was so much fish that their net should have broken! But Jesus even took care of the net for them. That’s grace! That is grace!

Jesus tells us, “Apart from me, you can do nothing. Work all you want. Live by the law all you want. But I’m telling you, you will not find what you need. Instead, why not live with me? Why not listen to me? I am grace! I am truth! You know what? I will set you free! Work in grace, and you will have abundance.”

Every single day, Jesus teaches us in grace and truth. “Come, live with me,” He says. “When you are apart from me, you can do nothing. But when you are with me, all things are possible.”

Think about that! John’s story is a lesson in grace. Work with Jesus. Let Him save you.

Love and Fire

The Lord your God will make you abound in all the work of your hand, in the fruit of your body, in the increase of your livestock, and in the produce of your land for good. For the Lord will again rejoice over you for good as He rejoiced over your fathers… (Deuteronomy 30:9)

It is God’s will to prosper us. The Bible is clear on this point. But prosperity doesn’t always come right away. There’s more to the lifestyle of Jesus than taking that first step. Yes, you start by loving Jesus. Yes, you embrace what He stands for. Yes, you accept His sacrifice for you. But the time still comes when you have to figure out who you want to be, in Christ. You have a decision to make.

God calls all kinds of people. There are the Pauls in Christ and the Peters in Christ. The Doubting Thomases are in Christ. There are the Marthas in Christ, and the Marys, the Davids, the Josephs, and the Joshuas. They all represent a different skill set in Christ. The church needs them all. Some are teachers and some are preachers. Some are evangelists and some are counselors. They’re different people, just like the parts of the body are different. (1 Corinthians 12:4-12) We all come together to make the church body work.

Everybody can be who they want to be in Christ. God will prosper you with giftings, too. Ask Him! He’ll show you. But you have to be open to becoming the person you’re going to be in Him. It can be a hard and even scary decision, because once you open yourself to God, there’s a fire you have to go through. God doesn’t simply allow you to be whoever you want to be. You have to become who you want to be. In Christ. It takes fire.

That’s why some people are fearful of saying, “Okay, I’m ready. Make me who you need me to be.” I understand! I don’t wish trials and tribulations on anybody.

But God’s love stirs in your soul. It stirs and calls to you. When that happens, you will ask Him to change you. You won’t be able to help yourself. You’ll want Him to make you into whoever you are going to be in Christ, fire or no fire. You will ask and He will take you up on it.

I’ve heard people say that they look forward to the fire. They say, “I welcome the trials and tribulations, because I know I need them to get to my next level.” I’m not one of those people. I don’t look forward to the fire. I just know that when I come out of it, I’m going to be better.

Paul said, “Be joyful in trials and tribulations because it makes your faith stronger.” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10) For me, this means that I can find joy in the midst of trials. I can ask God to give me joy while I’m going through the fire. I know He will! I’m confident that even in times of trial and tribulation, I will be joyful.

So when you’re ready, take this step. God has so much for you. He’s only waiting for you to ask.

Taking Up Your Cross

Not everyone takes up their cross, not right away. It’s a hard thing to do. It’s easier – and more natural – to ask God for the things we want. But we also draw close to Him hoping that He will change us. We have a picture of what the life of a believer should look like, and we want it. We want to be fulfilled in God.

Maybe you’re not there yet. You believe in Jesus Christ and you have accepted Him as your Lord and Savior, and that was a huge deal. Now you might be asking, “Will God do something huge in my life? Will He speak to me?”

Yes. But we have to ask Him. We have to say, “God, I’m open.” We must take up our cross. We must say, “God, I’m ready to be changed.”

To let God change you, you have to truly give yourself up to Him. You have to let go of everything and surrender. You have to go to God and say, wholeheartedly, “I’m in, Lord, I’m in! I’m yours, and I’m willing. Mold me!”

It’s scary to do that! It can bring a lot of turmoil, and it may last a long time. Just look at David. God told David he was going to be king, but then waited decades to make it happen. The time did not pass easy for David. King Saul sent an entire army after him, with orders to kill him. David had to run for his life. He was hiding in caves, not sitting on a throne!

That wasn’t even the limit of the bad things that happened. Afraid for his life, David lied to Abimelech. Because of that lie, Abimelech and all the priests of the city were massacred!

Your pain and confusion will not come with a price like that, but picking up your cross does lead to tough times. I did it because I truly wanted it. I wanted to live the life that God wants for me, fully and completely dedicated to Him. So I asked Him. I said, “Okay God, I’m ready to change. Make me who you need me to be. I am your clay, ready to be molded.”

“Mold me.” I asked, and that’s what I got. And I went through fire. If you are hesitant to ask, I completely understand. Who wouldn’t be scared of going through fire? But fear is not from God, so go ahead and ask. Jesus is the Savior of your life. He’s got you. He has invited you to pick up your cross and follow Him. In other words, you get to be with Him.

It is totally worth it.


Those Things You Can’t Control

I read a story about a couple who wound up in their parish’s counseling office. The husband complained that his wife was forcing him to go to church. When the counselor asked the wife why she was doing that, she complained that her husband preferred to stay at home to watch cartoons. “But,” the counselor said, “you’re forcing him to go. It’s making him miserable.”

She said, “He has to come with me! What am I supposed to tell people when they ask me where he is?” And the counselor said, “You tell them he’s home watching cartoons.”

She protested. “How am I supposed to tell people that? What will people think of him?” And the counselor said, “They’ll think he’d rather watch cartoons than go to church. Big deal!”*

This floored her. She had been trying to control what other people thought of her and her husband and it hadn’t occurred to her that she didn’t need to. It was making them both miserable and the thing is, it was unnecessary. You can’t control the thoughts and opinions of other people. Trying to do so is an incredibly tough way to live. How many times do you walk into church, worrying in the back of your mind about what everyone thinks of you? It’s so draining, and in the end, you feel like a failure. You think, “Man, I’m failing as a Christian. I’m just not happy. The fruit of the Spirit is joy, and I’m miserable.”

The answer is grace, God’s wonderful gift that frees us! Grace frees us from fear-driven control and the shame of feeling like you failed. In grace, you don’t have to worry about other people’s opinions. You don’t have to be miserable. You don’t have to feel like a failure. You know you can’t control the thoughts and perceptions of others, and it doesn’t trouble you. You’re relying on Jesus! You can ask Jesus for wisdom and He’ll come through. That’s what He said He would do.

Legalism comes with long lists of things you can and can’t do, and even longer lists of things you should and shouldn’t do. It’s a constant struggle to try and meet all of those expectations. And it’s so unnecessary! You can’t control everything and everyone, and you shouldn’t try. There’s no need for it. You don’t have to worry about what people think of you. Not when you’re in the care of the One who loves you most of all.

Don’t live in shame. Don’t live in fear. Never mind about that person over there who is frowning on you. You don’t live for him. You live for Jesus! That’s all that matters. God is smiling on you, you know. He loves you so much. That’s where you will find your joy.

*Jeff VanVonderen, Families Where Grace Is in Place

When You Marry Your Wife

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her… Eph. 5: 22-25

Do I think that I’m the head of my family? Yes. That’s scripture. As Jesus is the head of the church, so the man is the head of his family and the home. But men have someone to answer to. God says, “You answer to me.”

When I stand before God, He will say, “I viewed you as the head of your family. Did you love them as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her?”

This is a powerful message for a Christian man. How you treat your wife and how your treat your kids is very, very important. How are you loving on them? How are you giving yourself for them? How your marriage is going is on you. When it comes to my marriage, when it comes to my wife, it’s on me.

If the husband is head of his wife just as Jesus is head of the church, then in order to understand this scripture we need to look at what Jesus did. Well, He died on a cross for us. Some people take this to mean that you have to be willing to die for your family.

Well, of course I’d die for my family! But I don’t think that’s what this scripture means. I don’t think that’s the correlation. When Jesus died on the cross, He took our shame. He took our shame, our embarrassment, our terrible decisions, all of our sin, and He said, “It’s on me.” And so He died.

That’s the correlation. That’s what husbands take on. When you marry your wife you say, “I will love you as Jesus loves us. I will take the embarrassment. I will try to provide a shameless environment.”

I don’t think we do that now. I don’t think that men look at marriage that way. I don’t think men fully understand what it means to be a husband, or what it means to be the head of a family, or what it means to be in a marriage.

So many men say, “My wife just doesn’t want to submit. She never listens to me. She never wants to submit to me.” They shame their wives. To those men, I say this: “If you want your wife to submit to your decisions, then make sure you take on the responsibility to create a shameless environment when the decision is wrong. We as husbands need to create a shameless environment where they feel loved and accepted even when they are wrong. To protect her heart is more important then being right and making her feel shame in her faults.”

What if a man goes to his wife and says, “I will bend over backwards for you. I will take your shame and I will take your embarrassment. Any situation that you have, I will step in and I will take it for you.” What happens then? Something beautiful. You will see a woman who is very satisfied in the marriage. The wife reflects the marriage, right? She will tell you how the marriage is going. All you have to do is look at her.

I Want to Love on You, Man

It can be uncomfortable hanging out with Christians. I might feel like having a beer, but I don’t know if they’ll accept that. Sometimes I’m not even sure if my thoughts will be acceptable to them, much less my frustrations. I might literally say to myself, “Is it okay to have this thought, or to be frustrated in this area around these people?”

My non-Christian friends don’t judge me. They don’t really care if I have a beer or not. They don’t judge me for my thoughts, or for my frustrations. If I’m feeling frustrated about something and I talk about it, they really don’t care. They just accept it. They’ll just tell me, “I know what you mean. I’ve been frustrated that way too.” Their attitude is, “Yeah. You’re normal. Just like everybody else.”

Just like that, I can sympathize with people in my life who are struggling with something. A guy can come to me in struggle and in pain, and he can confide in me without fear of judgment. He can say, “Hey Jeremy, I’m struggling with something right now, and I want to tell my wife, but I’m afraid to. I feel like a bad person.” I feel really comfortable with this. I can say, “Yeah, I understand. I could probably go there too. And if I made the choices you made, I would be in the exact same spot.”

I don’t have to fear becoming like anyone else in their sin, just like they don’t have to fear it around me. We have Jesus! There’s always going to be more grace than sin. And if I live by the Spirit, then I will act by the Spirit. So I can say to that guy, “Let’s figure out a way to help each other. I don’t want you to feel condemned around me. I want to love on you, man. I want to help you.”

I look at everybody, believers and non-believers, the same way. We all sin. We all struggle. We all feel pain. I want to understand people’s pain. I want to understand their struggles. I want to be able to say, “You know what? I’ve been there, or I could easily go there.” And I want to help. How many more people would feel comfortable around followers of Jesus if they were treated that way?

The night before Jesus was arrested, He celebrated Passover with the apostles, and then He washed their feet, telling them,

You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. John 13:13-15

Listen, do not judge. Jesus is our judge, and yet He came as a servant king. When He knew His time with His beloved followers was ending, He did a job reserved for the lowest servant of the house. Why? He lowered himself to show humility. He told us, “I have given you an example. Do as I have done.” He showed us that the last shall be first and the first shall be last.

Serve. Reach out, empathize, dialogue, be constructive. People will see us loving on each other, no matter what pain, no matter what struggle, and they will seek to be around Christians, where they will be loved, not judged.