Be There in Five Minutes

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” (Revelation 3:20)

Last time I discussed the importance of understanding that Jesus Christ, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, requests your permission to enter your heart. He doesn’t just barge in! He wants your permission to come in and love on you. Without your permission, He can’t protect you.

As my Father, God looks at me and asks, “What’s the best way for me to parent Jeremy?” Obviously He does a lot for me, but He doesn’t ever enter without knocking. He waits for me to open the door.

I want to parent my sons the same way that God parents me. I knock at the doors of their hearts and wait for their permission to enter.

When one of my sons gets sent to his room, I have to literally stand at the door and knock!

I haven’t always done this. I’ve sent my son to his room and then stormed in without asking and shouted, “I don’t care if you give me permission or not! I am so mad! So I’m going to tell it to you how it is.” Just like him, I’m upset and reacting. I’ve let a nine year-old, or six year-old, or even four year-old child get into my head. That shows you that I have some immaturities!

Now I’m learning to do things differently. I’m learning to say, “Hey, have I got your permission to tell you why I sent you to your room? I have an idea for what we can do about it, and I’d like to hear your ideas too. Let’s talk about it.”

To do things differently, I start by saying, “You need to go to your room now. I’ll be down in five minutes.”

I’m doing two things here. First, I’m letting him calm down. I mean, he is not going to his room because he’s being such a good kid. He’s not going to his room because he’s talking nice to his mom or dad. He’s probably going to his room because he’s wound up, and he is reacting out of his anger or frustration. He’s going to his room because his attitude is causing problems. If I send him to his room, then he has a quiet place where he can calm down.

Second, I’m creating an opportunity for dialogue. I want to sit with my sons and talk to them. That’s why I promise to be down in five minutes. And I keep that promise. In five minutes, I walk down to his room, and I knock. I ask him if it’s okay for me to come in.

Sometimes he’ll say, “No!” I’m okay with that. I just say to him, through the door, “Okay. That’s okay. I’m going to leave, and I’m going to come back in five minutes and ask again.”

Nine times out of ten, when I come back the second time and knock, he gives me permission to enter. Then I can sit with him and we can talk. I say, “Do I have your permission to talk with you? Are you ready?” As soon as we’re at this point, he says yes. Then we have a great conversation. He talks to me, I talk to him, and we listen to each other. We dialogue about what happened.

Then I explain that I’m the grown-up. I tell him, “Hey, I understand what you’re saying, but you can’t do what you did. You can’t because I’ve told you not to.” I explain why he needs to do as I say. I tell him, “I understand how you’re feeling, and your mom and I take that very seriously. It means so much to us to know how you’re feeling. But that doesn’t mean that you can disrespect us, or talk to us the way you just did. We need you to understand that. Speaking disrespectfully is going to land you in a lot of trouble every time you do it. We need you to think about that.”

Every time, he hears me.

More on this next time. See you Wednesday.

Opening the Door

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” (Revelation 3:20)

Relationship is a process. And man, it is not easy! Enduring relationships are really hard. They always have been.

Friendships are hard. Everyone seems to agree that marriage is hard, and it is. But why assume that marriage is any harder than raising kids? Raising kids is hard!

Friends, spouses, kids, no matter what, relationships take work and commitment. Everyone has their own mind, their own reactions, their own weaknesses, and their own trigger points. Relationships have history, and that can be a huge factor, especially in families. Once you have family history, you can have a whole chain of trigger points. Say just one thing and it can trigger something, which in turn triggers something else, and then tugs out a whole complicated reaction. It’s messy.

All relationships are messy. Marriage, friends, kids, parents, aunts and uncles, cousins, and so on — messy. That’s why we need so much grace. It’s through grace alone that we can truly take care of the people in our lives, because grace is the source of the permission we need to protect them and love on them.

Every relationship needs permission, and yet it’s rarely given. I think that’s why you see so much dysfunction in society. The dysfunction we see hurts Christians and non-Christians alike. It doesn’t matter. There’s a lot of dysfunction everywhere.

Permission is rarely given because it’s rarely asked for. Permission only comes from asking for it. This is true in all relationships, including the ones we have with our kids. I know some people will say I’m crazy. Why would I ask my kids for permission? They should be asking me for permission. I’m the Dad!

In Revelations 3, Jesus says, “I stand at the door and knock. If you open the door I’ll come in.” Think about that. Jesus is the King of Kings! He is the Lord of Lords! He died on the cross! He’s the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega, and He asks for permission. He says, “I’m asking for permission to come into your heart.”

If that’s how the King of Kings and Lord of Lords is going to love on me, then I’m going to love on my own kids the same way. I’m going to ask them for permission.

This isn’t a one-and-done thing, either. Relationship is ongoing, so it takes work to build and sustain trust. When you give Jesus permission to enter your heart, you say, “I trust you, Jesus.” When you trust Him, you will hear Him. Without trust, you’ll never give Him permission to speak into your life, and He won’t be able to come in and dine with you. He wants to! But He can’t protect you without your permission. No matter how much He wants to, He can’t if you can’t receive Him. To receive Him, you have to give Him permission to enter.

Maybe you said the prayer and let Him into your life to save you. If so, that’s awesome. That’s a start. You asked Him to save you, and He did and will. That scenario will work for you.

But when it comes to an ongoing relationship with Him, He cannot protect you unless you let Him in. You have to give Him permission to know who you are. Then He can protect you and love on you. Relationships like that only flourish in trust.

You’ve said the prayer, but now He is knocking. Give Him permission to enter. Let Him in.

More on this next time. See you Friday.

Hiding in Shame

The consequences of hiding in shame are deep and damaging.

When you hide in shame, you don’t reveal who you truly are. You don’t let your husband in. You don’t let your wife in. You don’t let your children in and you don’t let your friends in. This is very serious. If you don’t let them in, then they can’t protect you.

You will fall.

Eventually you’ll get to the point where you won’t even let Jesus in.

That’s when you get entrenched in addiction, whether it be alcohol, gossip, porn, lying, negative thoughts, anger, rage, or something else. Whatever it is, it all comes from the absence of grace. In the absence of grace, shame moves in.

If you can extend grace to other people, then you can give them permission to speak into your life and protect you.

People who affect you deeply are the hardest to give grace to. I’ve seen it. It can create a nasty cycle of anger, fear, despair, and distrust. And it all happens because of shame. So the one thing I never want to hear in my home is, “How dare you do that? You should be ashamed of yourself!”

That is not said in my home. But in how many homes is it said? I was raised in it. I had it said to me. And I’m sure my parents had it said to them. “You should be ashamed of yourself.”

I’ve heard it from the pulpit! “You should be ashamed of yourself for doing that.” No I shouldn’t! I shouldn’t be ashamed. None of us should be ashamed of our weaknesses. We should recognize them and ask for help. 

When you ask for help, you give your loved ones permission to protect you in the areas where you are weak. If you don’t ask them to help you, then you will hurt them, because you’ll react out of the weakness you are trying to hide. You can avoid this. You only have to reveal your true self. That includes your weakness.

It’s not easy! I know it’s not. It’s very hard to reveal our weaknesses when we have been shamed. Shame makes it very hard to ask for help. But we have to ask. If we can’t overcome shame, then we will die in our weakness, and we can’t let this happen! It contradicts what Jesus did on the cross. He hung on a cross to take away our sin and our shame! 

And yet Christians shame each other all the time. We can’t seem to acknowledge that everybody will react out of weakness now and then. We are shamed so much that we end up hiding in it.

No matter how hard it seems, it’s okay. We already have all the help we need. We have Jesus. Jesus loves us! We are so precious to Him! We can give Him permission to protect us, because He longs to do it. Then through Him, we can give permission to our loved ones. We can allow them to love us as we truly are, and they will allow us to love and protect them in return.

Jesus will help us before we react out of weakness, whether it be anger, rage, fear, pride, greed, laziness, envy, or something else. Other people can protect us too. They can stop us when they see what we are doing, or are about to do. They can protect us from circumstances that trigger our weakness, either by intervening directly with us or running interference for us.

In your shame, you might ask, why would they do this for me? Easy! They’ll do it because they love you.

A lot of things go into relationships. A lot of things go into marriage, and parenting, and friendships. These relationships are very important and we need them to be healthy. But a relationship is only healthy when the people in it protect each other. You have to allow this. You have to protect others and allow them to protect you. It takes a lot of patience, but it honors what Jesus did for us on the cross. His sacrifice was for our sake. It was for the forgiveness of our sins. Look at what He did! He took away our shame, and gave us the gift of life!

This is a big deal. It’s a deep deal. It needs to be addressed, and very quickly among Christians. Grace is the way to Christian unity, and our unity in love and fellowship is something that Jesus deeply desires for us.

So let’s love one another in truth. Let’s love each other openly, not hiding in shame. “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)

See you Tuesday.

Grace is not a Chore

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 you love. You want to give, so you give. You don’t need a set of rules to tell you to do it!

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 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.”

In other words, what if I take my 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 sons, instead of making demands. I tell them, “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.”

That way, when it comes to doing chores, my sons knows it’s their choice. And I also tell them, “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.”

After explaining it to one of my sons this way, I just look at him. 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. My way of making decisions is not necessarily the way any of my sons make 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 different personalities of your children. It’s a challenge! But when we can do it, there’s freedom. There’s freedom in being able to allow our children to live in grace. There’s freedom in saying, “Hey, look, it’s going to be better for you if you choose to do right, but it is your choice.”

I think God treats 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 of our choices. He will help us 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. I couldn’t!

How much more does God love us?

See you Tuesday.

The Difference Between Joy and Hell

Jesus is grace. This is a very, very big idea. It’s huge. It’s almost too big to fully grasp, because it sums everything up.

Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, “Which is the first commandment of all?”

Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:28-31)

“No other commandment greater than these.” Love is the golden rule of relationships. Our lives happen in relationship. God is a relational God. He dwells within and among us. He teaches us, heals us, and loves us, in relationship. And the key to relationship is grace. That’s the big idea.

To love God with all your heart, soul, and mind is to love the One whose grace is infinite. Our love for Him brings us into the community of grace. Our love for our neighbor reflects His grace. Grace is It! Without grace, there is chaos.

Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”…And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.

Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many. (Matthew 27:45-46, 50-53)

Just for a moment, Jesus felt forsaken. The world was devoid of grace, and there was chaos. There was darkness in the middle of the day! The temple curtain was torn in two. There was an earthquake that split rocks and opened tombs. The bodies of saints rose from their graves and went into the city!

If this is what happens when grace leaves, then oh, my goodness! God, don’t turn your back!

No grace. That’s hell.

People ask, “Is hell a real place?” I don’t know, but I can tell you this: hell is devoid of God. When there is a lack of God, there is a lack of grace. That’s why there is gnashing of teeth, arguing, bitterness, shaming, judgments, and fighting. It’s hell. A relationship without grace is hell.

Can you be in a living hell? Yes, if you have no grace. Relationships without grace become relationships without trust.

When there’s no grace in a marriage, it’s a hellacious marriage. When there’s no grace with your children, it’s a hellacious life for you and them. When you don’t have a relationship of grace with your family, you will not have them, and they will not be yours. 

This is not what I want! This is how huge grace is. It’s the difference between joy and hell.

See you Friday.

Legalism Breeds Shame

There is an unbreakable connection between legalism and shame.

In our story as Christians, this goes all the way back to the fear and doubt that the Israelites experienced in the desert. They followed Moses out of Egypt after witnessing miracle after miracle. God even parted the sea to help them escape, and then drowned the entire Egyptian army! But they still said, “Moses, we need structure. We can’t live without structure.”

That’s when God summoned Moses to the mountain. But Moses was gone for over a month, and the people didn’t know when he was coming back! So they built the golden calf. They were thinking, “We can see an idol, and we can touch an idol. If we worship a god that we can see, then all our problems will be solved.”

Moses was so angry when he saw this that he punished everyone. And it was severe!

Moses turned around and came down from the mountain, carrying the two tablets of The Testimony. The tablets were written on both sides, front and back. God made the tablets and God wrote the tablets—engraved them.

When Joshua heard the sound of the people shouting noisily, he said to Moses, “That’s the sound of war in the camp!”

But Moses said,

Those aren’t songs of victory,
And those aren’t songs of defeat,
I hear songs of people throwing a party.

And that’s what it was. When Moses came near to the camp and saw the calf and the people dancing, his anger flared. He threw down the tablets and smashed them to pieces at the foot of the mountain. He took the calf that they had made, melted it down with fire, pulverized it to powder, then scattered it on the water and made the Israelites drink it. (Ex 32:15-20, MSG)

Later the Israelites said, “We need a king.” So God gave them Saul, and Saul tanked it. He really did.

All of this happened because we believe we need structure, and structure includes rules. For example, we want something written down that says it’s wrong to kill somebody. We know it’s wrong, inherently in our souls. You can’t take a human life that you didn’t create, because it’s not yours to take. You don’t need a rule to tell you that. But we crave structure, so God said, “You want a rule, okay. Here’s your rule.”

Do you think the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” brought the murder rate down? No! There was all kinds of killing after the Israelites followed Joshua into the land of the Canaanites. You might say that establishing the rule increases the behavior. This is how sin corrupts.

It’s like the pink elephant. Suppose someone told you, “Don’t think of a pink elephant. It’s illegal.” What’s the first thing that happens? You start thinking about a pink elephant! That’s just how the human brain works.

Now look at how this leads to shame. Someone knows that you thought about the pink elephant and calls you out. “Man, what a wretched person you are for thinking of a pink elephant. How dare you think that way?”

Now you feel crappy and shamed. You tell yourself, “I’m never going to add up, because I can’t help thinking of a pink elephant.” See how sin corrupts?

And it doesn’t stop there. How about the guy that just shamed you? What do you think he was just thinking about? He calls you wretched, but he’s thinking about a pink elephant too. Maybe he tells himself that he hasn’t thought of it as much as you. He tells himself, “I’m not as bad as you, because you’ve thought of the pink elephant four times, but I’ve only thought of it twice. You’re way worse than me!” He’s going to shame you to make you feel bad because he’s hoping to feel better.

We’re in a chaotic mess based on shame. Based on shame.

So God says, “No! We are going to end this. I’m going to bring my son, and with Him, my grace. Then you will find that my grace is sufficient for you.”

More on this next time. See you Tuesday.

The Crucifixion of Shame

After they had finished nailing him to the cross and were waiting for him to die, they whiled away the time by throwing dice for his clothes. Above his head they had posted the criminal charge against him: THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS. Along with him, they also crucified two criminals, one to his right, the other to his left. People passing along the road jeered, shaking their heads in mock lament: “You bragged that you could tear down the Temple and then rebuild it in three days—so show us your stuff! Save yourself! If you’re really God’s Son, come down from that cross!”

The high priests, along with the religion scholars and leaders, were right there mixing it up with the rest of them, having a great time poking fun at him: “He saved others—he can’t save himself! King of Israel, is he? Then let him get down from that cross. We’ll all become believers then! He was so sure of God—well, let him rescue his ‘Son’ now—if he wants him! He did claim to be God’s Son, didn’t he?” Even the two criminals crucified next to him joined in the mockery.

From noon to three, the whole earth was dark. Around midafternoon Jesus groaned out of the depths, crying loudly, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

Some bystanders who heard him said, “He’s calling for Elijah.” One of them ran and got a sponge soaked in sour wine and lifted it on a stick so he could drink. The others joked, “Don’t be in such a hurry. Let’s see if Elijah comes and saves him.”

But Jesus, again crying out loudly, breathed his last.

At that moment, the Temple curtain was ripped in two, top to bottom. There was an earthquake, and rocks were split in pieces. What’s more, tombs were opened up, and many bodies of believers asleep in their graves were raised. (After Jesus’ resurrection, they left the tombs, entered the holy city, and appeared to many.) (Matthew 27: 35-53 MSG)

Grace is huge. It’s the huge hard-to-define. It’s an awesome and beautiful gift. It’s an action and a way of being. Being in a state of grace is a way of being in relationship, because relationship is where we give and receive.

Maybe giving someone grace is the opposite of giving them shame.

We live in a culture where we shame each other a lot. We do it to each other a lot. But in the crucifixion, Jesus allowed Himself to be shamed by everybody. Matthew describes it in heartbreaking detail. All and sundry joined in shaming Him — even the two criminals who were crucified with Him!

In this way, Jesus shared in shame with us. I think He did it to free us from it. He died a shameful death, naked on a cross, while people literally mocked Him. He could have taken Himself off that cross, but His grace for us said, “Nope. I’m going to go through with this, and I’m going to say, ‘Father, forgive them.’ The whole purpose of me coming down here for 33 years was to die today, and I’m not going to take myself off this cross just to prove a point. I’m going to die, naked, abandoned, and suffering.

“Then I’m going to resurrect! That way, people can actually live in freedom!”

Shame is a big deal, man. It is a big deal. That’s why Jesus shared in it with us. He crucified shame. He did it for us! Now there is no condemnation. We don’t have to live in shame.

And we can give grace in place of shame. That is freedom!

But because of our flesh, we seem to need a set of rules to live by. This stems from our immaturity. I’ll tell you more about this next time.

See you Friday.