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.

Precious in God’s Eyes

When you live in righteousness, you are right before the eyes of God. You might have trouble trusting this. You might say, “Wait a minute, I sinned.” Well, yes you did. You live in your flesh. But you’re sinless before the eyes of God. Every day, Jesus is your advocate. He goes before God and He says, “Yes, Jeremy did sin, but he has a defense. I am his defense. I died for that sin. Jeremy’s sin is covered by my blood.” As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us (Psalm 103:12), because we walk in His righteousness and holiness.

When your flesh sins, is that a real sin? Yes. And you need to confess it, either to other believers or to God. That confession is for you. It sets you free from your shame. It allows you to come in the light so you don’t live in the darkness. Darkness will kill you! Ah, but righteousness allows you to live in the light.

Nouwen on Trust

I know this can be a confusing concept. I know it’s hard to understand how it is that God looks at us and sees His righteous children, when all along we know that we are sinning. Does this mean that we can go ahead and do anything we want to do? Paul says no! When you live by the Spirit, you act by the Spirit. You live by the Spirit of God. You don’t sin because you don’t want to sin. His Spirit is in you, so you love people! You don’t want to hurt them or make them feel bad. You don’t want to yell at your kids or drink to drunkenness. You don’t have to perform a certain way. You can just be. You don’t have to control your family or your employees. You can just love on them and encourage them. Figure out what makes them thrive, and bring out the best in them. What do they need? Find out, and make it happen.

This is the effect. When you know how God sees you, you will rise to His image of you. He sees you as holy and righteous, and when you understand that, you will be holy and righteous. He frees you.

Think about it this way. Suppose you knew that tomorrow, no matter what you have on the schedule, God will smile on you. Knowing that, would you just sit back and do nothing at all? No! You would play or work or serve with all-out freedom. You’d show up saying, “I’m going to nail this thing!” And you’d have fun! When you know who you are, your confidence just shoots up. So God is saying, “I’m telling you, you’re righteous and holy! Live like it! Be holy. I am holy. You are in me and I am in you, and therefore, you are holy!”

God is literally saying to you, “Because of Jesus, and your faith in Him, you are right in my eyes. You don’t have to live in shame. You don’t have to fear that you are not worthy enough. You are worthy! You are worthy to come before my throne. So come. Live in joy, open and free.”

Friends We Can Trust

I’ve been blogging a lot lately about how good it feels to relate to people in trust. Trust allows you to freely accept and love others. When you trust people, you don’t judge or condemn them. You don’t react negatively to the way they act. You’ll see them do things that you don’t necessarily admire, sure, but they’re only human, just like you. So you love them with the same trust and mercy that God gives you.

tworoadstworoomsI have to tell you, I did not live this way for a long time. I wanted to! And I had the knowledge to do it. But I just didn’t put it all together. Now, after sitting with the TrueFaced guys and taking their courses, it’s all come together for me. In my relationships, I feel so free, and people feel free around me. This is true in my family and in my friendships. My wife and I have Christian friends that live with this trust mentality, and we have a great time together.

Do you have Christian friends who are always correcting you or judging you? Do they disapprove of what you say or do? I’ve been around people like that before. They keep me from being fully honest when I’m with them, because I don’t want to expose myself. I see how judgmental they are, so I don’t trust them with my whole self. I think we’ve all met someone like that. It’s exhausting, right?

But my wife and I have friends who live in trust, and they can come over to our house every day if they want to. We’re never exhausted. I think people who live in trust also live in freedom, and so it’s relaxing and energizing to be around them. We talk and we share our frustrations. We help each other. We say things like, “Yeah, I’ve been through that.” Or, “Here’s an idea. How about approaching it this way?” We never chide or chastise each other. We don’t say, “You need to do this better.” We say, “Let’s help each other. Let’s get a game plan together.”

That’s what friendship is all about. That’s what relationship is all about. And I think that’s what God is all about. God says, “Look, I know you’re going to mess up. I’m here to walk through it with you. When you mess up, I’ll say, ‘Jeremy. Okay. Let’s strategize. You know you have my Spirit in you, so you have the ability to not sin. You have the ability to live in righteousness and holiness. So all we have to do is figure this out together. How can we do this? How can I walk with you through this? And how can I encourage you through this?’”

That’s the God that I feel close to! I’m so happy! I get to say that He is my Savior and my Lord and my God and my King. I’m not talking about a God who is a dictator. My Savior does not put me to shame. My Lord and King loves me and encourages me and helps me! And so that’s what I’m going to do for my friends.

See you Thursday.

I Love Sinners!

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Hebrews 11:6

It is impossible to please God without trusting Him. And without trust, it’s impossible for your wife to please you. It’s impossible for you to please your wife. It’s impossible for you to please your kids, and it’s impossible for your kids to please you. You can go down the line with this. You need trust in your family. You have to be able to look at them and say, “You’re going to mess up. I know that, and I still love you. Thank you for trusting me. I’m glad you can come to me and tell me how you messed up. I trust you too, so I’m going to tell you how I messed up. I don’t necessarily do everything right, so I’m going to need some grace here. I’m going to need some forgiveness. I’m going to need some mercy. Can you extend that to me? I am a good person. I am holy and righteous in Jesus Christ.”

This is what should be happening in the church. This is the culture that the church should nourish, if it wants to thrive. Why do so many kids leave the church before they get to college? Why is the Christian church getting smaller by the day? It’s because people don’t trust each other. They judge each other. It is a drag. You have to perform, acting like everything is always great and you never make any mistakes. It is very, very exhausting.

Hanging out with non-believers can be a pretty different experience. They’re not living a moral life, so they don’t condemn you. Sometimes you feel more freedom around them than around believers, because you’re not being judged. You’re trusted. You’re just being. It’s refreshing!

I am righteous and holy, and I like to sit with non-believers. I’m not going to say, “Oh, I can’t hang around those people. They’re not righteous and holy.” You know what? I believe the aroma of Christ can flow off of them. So I’m going to make sure that they feel loved by me. I won’t partake in their lifestyle choices, and they will see that. But I’m still going to love on them and have fun with them. I’m going to make them feel comfortable. They’re going to trust me, and I’m going to trust them. We’re going to talk, and we’re going to be real.

And the next thing you know, they’re going to say, “Man, it is really a joy to be around you! I don’t have to get drunk, and I don’t have to sleep with you. I don’t have to do all that to be accepted. I can just be around you and I’m comfortable!” Or they might say, “I don’t have to brag about how many girls I’ve slept with, or how many guys I’ve slept with, or how drunk I can get on the weekends. I don’t have to brag about all of that stuff to you to feel accepted. You just accept me for who I am!” And then I can say, “Yeah! I love you man!”

When I say that, they’re going to ask why. “Why do you love me?” And I can say, “Because I’ve got Jesus, man. And I love you with the love of Jesus. And Jesus loved the sinners. He loved them!”

Back in the day, that’s how the church grew. It grew daily because of all the trust. People said, “We’re serving each other, man. You have a problem? We’re going to love on you. We’ll pray about it. We’ll ask God what to do. We’ll talk about it. But we’re not going to hide from it. We’re not going to make you hide from it. We’re not going to cause you to live in shame, and we don’t want to be ashamed of you. We live in freedom!”

And I’m telling you, this is what we are called to do. This is what the church is called to do. This is relationship.

Next time, I’ll tell you a little bit about how this looks in friendship. See you Monday.

Jesus Loves Sinners

Jesus was the epitome of self-control. He could hang with drunks and all kinds of sinners and not get angry with them.

Think about it. When Jesus got angry, it was not with sinners. Jesus got angry with the people that claimed to be followers of God, and yet deceived other people. That was when Jesus had zeal and righteous anger. He said, “You people are the ones who caused me to get angry. Not the sinners. You. Why am I angry? You go around saying that all these people are not worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven because they’re not as good as you. Not as good as you? You are evil! You’re more evil than the sinners are. You’re whitewashed tombs. You’re a brood of vipers. You know those sinners you look down on? At least they admit that they stink. Those sinners I hang out with say, ‘You know, I am a drunk.’ Or, ‘Yes, I did commit adultery.’”

woman-at-the-wellLook at what happened when Jesus met the woman at the well. He asked her, “Where’s your husband?” And she replied, “Well, I don’t have one.” And He said to her, ‘Well, you’ve had five. And the one you’re living with now? You don’t even know his name.” And what did she say to Him? She said, “You’re right!” She didn’t run in shame! She just admitted it. She came right out and said, “Yeah, that’s who I am.” And God said, “Now, here’s where I can love on you.”

You see? I used to think that Jesus could hang out with sinners because He’s God, so He’s loving and forgiving. He knew their sins before they did, so He was able to work with it. That is true, but now I realize that the real reason He could hang with sinners isn’t all that complicated. Jesus just flat out loved His neighbor as Himself.

The only way you can love your neighbor as yourself is to love on him with grace and trust. You cannot love your neighbor if you don’t trust him. You can’t! And I’m not talking about blind, foolish trust. I don’t think you should say, “Hey, I don’t know you, Joe Blow, but I’m going to tell you my deepest, darkest secrets, and here’s the code to my house, and my bank account number.” That’s not the kind of trust I’m talking about. I’m talking about trusting that your neighbors are human beings. They will fail like human beings. They will not add up. That’s what people do. That’s what we all do. Human beings don’t add up, and we fail. We mess up, because we don’t all live by the Spirit all of the time.

Being able to trust people is difficult. Giving grace to people instead of burying them in judgment is very difficult, but it becomes easy when you trust God. Trust pleases Him. Without faith, it is impossible to please him!

More on this next time. See you Thursday.

How Trust Releases Us From Shame

When you live in shame, you live in darkness. And the Bible says no to darkness. It says no to shame. We don’t live in darkness, we live in the light. And in the light, there’s trust.

But think about this: a lot of people in the church, a lot of Christians, feel these good intentions. They think, “Man, I can’t tell anybody that I am suffering with sin. I can’t tell anybody that I’m a drunk.” Or, “I can’t tell anybody that I have a sex addiction.” Or, “I can’t tell anybody that I verbally abuse my family.”

Jesus, light of the world

Jesus, Light of the World, 1854 William Holman Hunt

Basically they feel that they can’t tell anybody that they’ve got a demon in their closet. They feel so ashamed, and they fear the shame they will feel if they tell someone. They live in shame because they fear the shame of coming out!

This kills people. It kills them. And it happens because there are not enough people that we can actually trust with our shame and our fear.

If you live in the darkness and sit in that shame, sin will continue to grab you and continue to crush you. It could be in any area that causes you shame. As you continue to live in your shame, you continue in darkness. Jesus says, “No, no, no, no. Trust me when I say this. If you live in darkness, you live where sin and shame abound. You don’t want to be there. You cannot please me unless you trust me. And I’m inviting you to live in the light where grace and trust abound.”

We have Jesus! Jesus is the light, and the light exposes everything. The light frees us from shame, because sin can’t live in the light. Shame says, “Man, I’m addicted to pornography.” But then the light shines in and instead you say, “I’m addicted to pornography, and I need help, because I don’t want to live this addiction anymore.”

Obviously people are afraid to say anything like that, because they fear the judgment of other Christians. What if you could ask for help and have twenty people look at you and say, “Let’s go. We’re going to help you out.”

That would free you! Then you wouldn’t have to hide your shame. You wouldn’t live in guilt and darkness. You would be free, because the people that you turned to and opened up to helped you. They looked at you and said, “We trust you as a human being, and you trust us to ask for help. You know what we’re going to do? We’re going to love on you. We’re going to help you with this. You are not alone! Do you think you’re the only guy in the whole universe that has an issue? There are so many guys in the same shoes. Sex, porn, alcohol, drugs, whatever, these are billion dollar industries! You don’t have to be ashamed! Let’s shine the light on it. Sin can’t live in the light!”

There is so much we can do to help each other. More on this next time. See you Thursday.

Freedom From Expectation

I’ve been reflecting on the many ways that grace is our ticket to freedom. Here’s another one. Living in the room of grace, we aren’t controlled by our expectations. Not only can we stop trying to manage our sins, we can also stop trying to manage the sins of others.

Grace frees us from the expectations that we place on our relationships. In the room of grace, we don’t say things like, “Listen, in order for you to be my friend, or husband, or wife, I expect you to do certain things and behave a certain way.” And we don’t hear parents saying, “Kids, if you want to be in my good graces, and if you want to live and function and be happy in my home, then these are the things I expect out of you.”

People really struggle under our expectations. They hear our lists of do’s and don’ts and they say, “I can’t live up to all of that.” When we “sin manage” our relationships, we make our loved ones miserable. We can’t perform all the time, and neither can they.

Think about your kids. Your expectations can crush your kids. And what happens? All of a sudden, at 16 or 17 years of age, they rebel and stop talking to you. They stop loving you, because they’ve never been able to make you happy.

I see so strongly the gifts that grace will bring to my boys. My boys are going to mess up. There is no doubt about it. Maybe it will be an accident when they first start driving. You know what? I intend to handle it with grace. I’ll say, “Let me tell you something son. You messed up. You wrecked the car. They said you were speeding when you wrecked it. So you were driving recklessly and you were driving a little crazy, and now you’ve ruined the car.

“But son, guess what? I know how it goes. I got in two wrecks before I was seventeen. One of them happened because I was driving recklessly. The other one happened because I hit some ice. I’ve been where you are right now, and I understand the situation. There are consequences. You’ll have to take responsibility. You’ll have to go to work and save enough money to pay the difference in the car insurance bill. This is how it is when you wreck a car. You have to get another car and the insurance goes up, and you have to pay the bill. This is not a punishment! It’s just what happens when you wreck a car.”

I will never say to one of my sons, “You idiot. How could you be so dumb?” I will not do that! I’ll talk to him. I’ll explain how the world works. He’ll have to take responsibility for his actions. But he will never have to fear me. He’ll never have to think, “Oh my gosh, my Dad’s going to kill me if I get in a wreck.” No, it won’t be like that. There’s grace there. I love my boys, and they will make mistakes, because we all do.

To my mind, that is a free home. And that is how God regards us, living in that room of grace.

More on this next time. See you Monday.