Bring Grace Home

There are so many wonderful things to say about grace. I frequently write about the freedom that comes with grace because it’s awesome. Grace frees us from sin! Grace frees us from slavish obedience to rules! We are free, because Jesus helps us with our sin. We are free, because the Spirit guides us and advises us. Do you see what this means? We don’t have to be afraid. We have help!

Think about that. Grace frees us from fear!

When your family is founded in grace, there is no fear in your home. Instead there’s freedom. Your kids are happy, your husband or wife is happy, everyone is growing and thriving, and you are living righteous and loving lives. People will look at your family and say, “Man! What are you doing? We want that too!”

I mean, who wouldn’t?

But then they ask, “What rule did you make? What law did you give them, that they live so well?”

That’s not the right question! That’s legalism. When people don’t understand grace, they think about dropping a Bible verse and making a rule with it. But that’s not me. I’m not a legalistic father who wants to drop a Bible verse on my sons when they’re not doing right. I want them to know grace.

I can hear you saying, “But Jeremy, does that mean you never discipline your children?” Not at all. It means I don’t use anger to control them.

We parents want so much to let our kids express their emotions. But have you noticed that we only really encourage it when those emotions feel good to us? We don’t get mad at them 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.

But when they get angry, we get mad at them!

This is backwards. It makes no sense to tell them, “I’m going to get angry at you for being angry.”

Obviously we don’t want our kids to be angry. But it happens. What do they learn from us if we respond with anger? Nothing! It’s a vicious cycle.

I think our anger comes from trying to control our children. We want to control them so that we can control how we react to them. This is typical of legalism in the home. An angry child is not a reason to get angry. In fact, I think responding with anger is the worst thing you could possibly do.

Why not just accept them and be with them? You can acknowledge that there’s something going on. Maybe it’s something that you don’t know about. Maybe there’s something troubling them. Whatever it is, getting angry with them won’t help either of you. But grace can transform the situation. Grace says, “How can I help you? How can I love on you? How can I make you feel better? I can see that you’re having a bad time. How can I be here for you?”

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 pounding on them. You are with them as a loving help to them.

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

This is the difference between grace and legalism. 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 and we are happy. With God’s grace, we are really truly free!

See you Friday.

We Can’t Do This 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, even though we know that things will go wrong when we try.

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. Now 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 perform, then you’ll have a battle on your hands. I think that’s 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 — burnt offerings — all the time, in order to make things right with Him. There were a lot of burnt offerings!

God wanted to free us from this, so He 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.

The only way that we can possibly fulfill that commandment is through the blood of Jesus Christ. You can’t do it without Him. That’s why you can’t boast about the good things you do. You can’t say, “Look at me! Look at what I did!” Instead, say, “Look at Jesus! Look at what He did!” Jesus is the only reason that we can love as God has commanded us to 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.

And what is that work? God’s work is love. With Him, you can truly love.

See you Tuesday.

Head of the Family

The Bible says men should love their wives just as Christ loved the church. It also says that the husband is the head of the family, just as Christ is the head of the church.

So as men, our families look to us for leadership.

It’s a funny thing, though. When I look at Jesus, I don’t see someone standing on a pedestal and dictating. I don’t see that at all! When I look at Jesus, I see Him leading by becoming a servant. He served us, and He serves us still. We respond by following Him. We made Jesus our leader because we wanted to.

I didn’t always understand this. I used to come home and insist that my family follow my rules. My attitude was, “Hey, I’m the Dad here, so I should lead. It’s important that I lead.” So I would go to my family and say, “Listen up! I’m the head of the family, so you will do what I say.” In other words, I put my family under me. That was my legalism. And it stressed me out! It stressed me out for years, always trying to make my family be a certain way and act a certain way.

You know what? Do that to your family, and you will get resistance. They will shut you down, they will quit listening to you, and they will rebel against you. That’s what happens when you force them under you.

Then where will you be? You’ll be out in the emotional cold.

Your family doesn’t want a dictatorship. They can’t thrive in a dictatorship. Trying to control them is like pushing them down. They cannot grow if you’re pushing them down. My job as a husband and a father is to nurture each member of my family into becoming the fullness of who they are, and I can only do this by living with them in grace. I have to let them be free, and to deal with situations as they arise.

So I no longer tell my family, “I’m the head of the family, so do what I say.” In fact, I don’t want to be in control of everything! It’s so much better to co-lead my family with my wife. My wife and I are co-leaders, as Eve and Adam were intended to be.

How do we do this? We co-lead in grace. If my wife needs me, my first question is, “How can I help?” I ask, “How can I be available? What can I do?” I don’t judge her. I don’t tell her how I would do things, or tell her how to act. 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, and I get to just love on her. Man, it is amazing how free and happy my wife is now.

It’s the same thing with my kids. They’re just happy! They don’t have to worry that I’ll judge them. They don’t have to fear that I’ll get angry. You should see how they are growing! Free from judgment and fear, they are thriving. There is so much freedom in grace! It is absolutely amazing to me.

Our families need us to lead as Jesus led. They need us to be servant leaders. When we lead with an attitude of servant leadership, our families will look to us. They will trust us. We won’t have to put them under us. When we serve them, they will respond by following us.

I love my family, and I am learning more every day to serve them as Jesus served us. I am learning to love them in grace, and to love them with understanding. If, as men, we can learn to lead our families with an attitude of servant leadership, then we’ll experience something wonderful. Our families will trust us, and draw near.

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, and I’m about to blog about it a lot more. I truly hope that the message of God’s grace 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 do. We sin. How are we going to get out of it? It’s only by grace!

The church is an agent of grace. In church, you can hang out with other people that can honestly say, “I sin just like you.” It helps! 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. 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? Seriously? We can just run around and sin, and there will be no consequences?”

And Paul replied, “That is not what I mean! I mean that once you’re of the Spirit, you will do things of the Spirit. In fact, you are living a new life now. You’re living in the new country of grace!”

That’s what Paul said. Through our baptism, we have actually moved to a whole new country.

In the new country of grace, 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.

Okay. At times, you will want to sin. After all, you still have flesh on your bone. That’s not going to change until Christ returns. So you might mess up. You will mess up. I know. I understand.

When you mess up, you will want to hide in your sin. That’s what the flesh wants to do. But that’s not what God wants. He wants to free you. His grace says, “Take my hand, and I will help you. We’ll expose your sin, because in the light, it will die.”

When you understand the grace of God, then you will know that you do not have to hide. You can go boldly before His throne in Heaven. Do you know what will happen? He won’t yell at you, or punish you. He will smile at you! He will free you! He will say, “My child, I don’t see that sin. I see you for who you are.”

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 who you are! I want you to see yourself as I see you.”

God is with you, so don’t be afraid. Build your home in the new country of grace. When you sin, He will be right beside you, and He will restore you. He has made you, and you are good.

See you Friday.

Jesus the Lion, the King!

When you carry something on your back, it’s a sign of strength. I’ve cheerfully taken up my cross to follow Jesus. I’m glad to do it. I seek opportunities to serve like Christ served. I’ve learned that discipleship is a source of joy. It’s the truest joy! I’ve even literally put it on my back.

Paradoxically, though, there are those days when being a Christian itself feels like a burden. Sometimes we’re faced with challenges that seem insurmountable. We may not know what to do. We’re asking, “What does it mean to stand for Jesus?” And we really don’t know.

We might even ask, “Do I want to stand for Jesus?” As shocking as it sounds, sometimes we aren’t all that sure! Living like a Christian can be hard. It can be really frustrating. Sometimes we can be profoundly selfish. Even when our spirit is willing, our flesh can get rebellious.

What do you do when your heavy burden, the one Jesus offered to carry, is the burden of following Him?

Times like these do not feel good. You need courage, grace, and understanding while you’re asking, “This is so hard! How am I supposed to represent Christ today, when it is so hard?”

In times like these, maybe especially in times like these, our spirits long for Christ. We need reminders of who He is.

That’s why I got a lion tattooed on my shoulder.

lion-tattoo

You’ve seen a lion walk. He walks like he carries the world on his shoulders. But he does it with confidence. He’s strong. And when he looks at you, you see how brave he is. He’s full of courage. He is not afraid.

Why should he fear? He knows he’s the king of everything he sees.

Jesus is the lion. He’s the Lion of Judah. Jesus is the king! He’s the king of everything! And he gives us His lion mentality.

The lion mentality says, “You don’t have to fear. Don’t worry about what anyone thinks of you. Walk in who you are. Be who you are. You represent Christ! Be brave in that.”

Think about hanging out with lions. Watch what they do. Walking or laying down, the lion is very calm. He’s looking around. He’s just observing. But he can move into attack mode in the blink of an eye.

We need that calm, that strength, that ability to act in an instant. This is the lion mentality. Jesus is my savior who carries my heavy burdens and gives me rest, but He is also the lion. Sometimes I need that presence, too. Sometimes I need Jesus, my king.

There are days when I need a lion’s confidence, but I don’t feel it. There are days when I need a lion’s courage, but I don’t feel it. There are days when I need a lion’s strength, but I don’t feel it. Does it matter? No, because I know that Jesus has perfect confidence, perfect courage, and perfect strength. Always.

That’s why the tattoo says sola fide, faith alone, and sola gratia, grace alone. I know that when I need it, Jesus will give me a brave heart. He will give me the strength of a lion. And when I walk with the strength of a lion, so I walk with the grace of a lion. Jesus leads me to walk in His grace.

I know those days will come when it actually feels like a burden to live like Jesus. There will be days when the temptation to feel frustrated, angry, and selfish is almost overwhelming. I know. But when that happens, don’t surrender. Remember the lion, and receive Him.

Bless you. See you Tuesday.

A Lighter Burden

How do you know when you’re living in grace? Well, how much do you enjoy loving on people? If you’re enjoying it, then you’re probably living in grace.

Living in grace is awesome. It’s joyful!

On the other hand, if loving on people is hard work, then you’re struggling. It can be hard to find that place of joy. Even when you do find it, it can be hard to stay there. Trust me, I know. It’s easy to turn grace into struggle. Maybe you’ve been wounded. Even if you haven’t, people can still hurt your feelings. Or those wounds can get more painful. No matter what, we can all get triggered by something.

When that happens, we try to use our own power. We say, “I don’t want to talk about it.” We don’t want to be transparent and vulnerable. So we resolve to deal with it on our own. We hide our feelings. We try to move on. We just want to get back to living in grace, back to that awesome, joyful place, where we’re loving on people and it feels wonderful.

Of course, hiding our feelings doesn’t help us get back to that joyful place. Hiding our feelings means that it’s only a matter of time before everything boils up and we explode. Boom! It happens! And when it does, the people around us are shocked. To them, it seems like it came out of nowhere. They’re confused. “Why did he just get so angry at me?” They don’t understand.

How could they? This is what happens when we hide how we feel. It definitely doesn’t help us find grace.

When I’m afraid to be vulnerable, I try to work things out by myself. I shut everybody else out. You know what? It’s hard. It’s exhausting.

The harder you have to work at something, the more likely it is that you’re trying to do it on your own. If you’re working so hard at something that you’re exhausted, it’s a really good sign that you’re trying to handle it all by yourself.

And the truth is, all you’re doing is trying to control things that you can’t control. This is especially the case when it comes to other people. To hide and protect ourselves, we try to control other people.

I’m sure you’re familiar with the thought process. “Man, if this person would just be like this, then it would be so much easier for me to live in grace. So I’m going to make these little comments, or try to tell him or her to live in a certain way. Then it will be easier for me.”

You know, you kind of get selfish!

In some churches, we say we’re trying to “sin manage.” It doesn’t work. The more we try to sin manage, the more we fail. The Bible says we can’t do this on our own. That’s why it says, “Don’t boast about what you can do.”

The good news is that God sees us struggling. He sees us trying to handle everything on our own. He knows it’s lonely and hard. So He reminds us that we aren’t alone.

The Bible also says, “Boast instead about what Christ has done!” What did He do? Nothing less than this: He made you who you are. You’re in grace already. You don’t have to crush yourself in struggle.

I’m very familiar with this. We all are. When I’m trying to do something, and I’m failing, I tell myself I’m failing because I’m not trying hard enough. So I try harder. Then I fail more. And then I just get frustrated.

What if I’m wrong? What if I’m failing because I’m trying too hard?

The letters in the New Testament talk about this. The harder you try to live in grace, the more you’re going to fail. The harder you try, the more you’re going to let yourself down.

You can’t do this on your own. I’ve learned! Turn to God. Go to Him and say, “Hey, I really need faith that I can walk in grace. Right now, I’m not doing very well. I need you. Please, do whatever you’ve got to do to allow me to be free.”

Now that’s a prayer! Because when you’re free, you can stop trying, and start living.

When you have Christ, you aren’t alone. You don’t have to try to handle things by yourself. You have Him, and there is no weakness in Christ. Christ is strength, and He is strong in our weakness.

One of the hardest lessons to learn is that it’s not all about you. You are not alone. So it’s not about you. It’s about Christ in you. It’s about Christ in me. Outside of Him, we fall to all kinds of temptations. But when we live out of our identity in Him, His strength conquers it all.

Living in grace is not about trying. It’s about understanding. He is in you. Grace is in you! Let Him live through you.

I’ll give you a simple prayer, one you can use every day. “God, give me strength to represent you today.” And then just live. Because the stronger you are in Christ, the less you’re going to react. The stronger you are in Christ, the less you’re going to be wounded.

That strength is going to make it easier for you to be transparent and vulnerable. You can let people know when you’re hurting, because you can be confident in who you are in Jesus. You don’t have to hide. Not in your sin, and not in your wounds. You don’t have to worry about being weak.

You can tell people, “This is where I can be hurt.” You can safely say, “This is where I can be wounded.” It’s a strength to be able to say that. Do you know why? Because it allows Jesus to love you through those people.

There’s no “trying” to live in grace. Just live out who you are. In Christ.

Christ in Jeremy means that I’m going to live in servanthood. Christ in Jeremy means I’m going to live with grace for people. I trust that God is going to allow me to live this way. When I feel I’m failing, I will pray. I will ask for His strength, because that’s the only way.

God is always saying, “Give me your burdens. My yoke is easy. And it’s light.” Life with Him is not necessarily going to be easy, not in worldly terms. But if you trust and lean on Him, it will seem easier.

Take the time you need. Tell Him, “Look, God, I’m not feeling like I can do this right now. I need you. Help me, so that this will be less of a burden.” He’ll be strong in you, and you won’t believe the relief.

Receive the lighter burden.

Bless you. See you Friday.

Breaking Free of Fear and Shame

Are you doing good works so that God will smile on you?

How’s that working out for you?

When I meet people motivated by a works mentality and ask them how it’s going, they invariably say, ”Ugh. I’m exhausted.” Yes, you are. The works mentality will exhaust you. It will burn you out.

You will never be able to do enough to feel like you’re righteous!

Bottom line: a works mentality doesn’t work.

Don’t weary yourself this way. Jesus died so that we would be made holy and righteous. That was His sacrifice for you. Let Him in.

The Bible says that the power of the cross is meaningless to those who don’t understand. So let’s understand. Why did Jesus sacrifice Himself?

He did it so that you, in your human flesh, wouldn’t have to make yourself righteous. He did it so you wouldn’t have to perform this impossible task. That was the concept. Jesus earned your place in heaven. He did it for you! He knew you could never do it for yourself. Jesus, the only man that walked the Earth with perfect thoughts, did it for you.

Now you never have to say, “God, look what I did to receive the Kingdom of Heaven.” You don’t have to work to exhaustion, failing yourself every day, being ashamed of who you are.

I know it’s hard to come to grips with that, but when you do, you are transformed. Man, Jesus! You did that! You did that to eliminate sin from our lives! Now we don’t have to be afraid of God!

And if that wasn’t enough, you resurrected! You conquered death. Now we don’t have to fear that either!

Jesus, thank you. You brought me into the Kingdom, to dine with the King. Every day there is a wedding feast because of all the new people coming in, and I get to go. Every day! I’m allowed at the banquet table no matter what I’ve done, because Jesus has stood in for me, and by His death, made me holy and righteous. The blood of Jesus has been poured over me. I confess that. Now God doesn’t see my sins. He doesn’t see my sins! He sees me! And He loves me. We are all precious in His sight.

Jesus broke your bonds of sin and shame, fear and failure. Now you are welcomed and loved for who you are: His beloved and precious child.

That’s freedom!

See you Tuesday.