Two Roads, Two Rooms

I’ve been with the Truefaced guys for two or three years now. In that time, I’ve learned a lot from them about sin, grace, and freedom. And I’ve written a lot about it here!

John Lynch is one of these guys. He’s a former high school teacher that got saved by his students. He has an interest in the performing arts, so he delivers his messages with Broadway theatricality. You’ll like him! He’s very funny and really passionate. He’s a great storyteller.

His “Two Roads” message is on YouTube, and it’s incredible. I know a guy that calls it “the .44 Magnum for life,” since the video is just about 44 minutes long.

Watch it! You’ll be so refreshed. It will change your life! My life’s already been changed, and still I could listen to this video every day. You’ll say, “I really have permission to see life like this?”

You’ll say, “This is awesome!”

From Good Intentions to Grace

I hang out a bit with a group called Truefaced. One of their leaders, John Lynch, has co-authored a book called The Cure. He tells a great story about a fork in the road.

We all hit a fork in the road, at least once in our lives. It often comes without warning. There you are, walking along in your journey through life, and whatever you’ve been doing, it’s been working for you. But next thing you know the road forks. Maybe you’re mad, maybe not, but whatever else is going on, you have to choose a direction. Which way will you go? Left or right?

Well, as Lynch tells it, the sign says that if you go to the left, you’ll find the room of good intentions. If you go to the right, you’ll find the room of grace. You don’t need long to decide. To begin with, you don’t really understand grace, so you think, “I have no idea what lies in that direction. Not a good choice!” Besides, that road doesn’t look very well traveled.

The road to good intentions looks really well traveled. Obviously everyone is going that way. Plus, we like good intentions! So that’s the road you choose.

When you arrive, the lobby is pretty crowded. A woman greets you and says, “Welcome to the room of good intentions. How are you today?” Well, you’ve been feeling pretty confused about life, especially since running into that fork in the road. “I’m feeling a bit confused,” you say.

When you do that, she gets this weird, scared look on her face. You can see that she doesn’t know how to handle your answer. In fact, that crowded room gets pretty quiet. Everybody comes to a stop, and they all look over at you, staring at you. And you realize something creepy. They’re all wearing masks, masquerade ball masks, with fake smiley faces. They all wear the same look. They all smile the same smile. And they don’t know how to react to you.

The woman who greeted you slips you a mask. “Just put that on,” she advises. So you do. You put it on and you tell everybody, “I’m fine.”

“I’m fine.” This is all you say, because you realize that this is all that anyone wants to hear.

Eventually you go to your room. And guess what? You feel really weird in your room. Your bed is there, but it’s piled high with your sin. On the other side of all that sin is Jesus. Every day you work hard and you try to remove your sin, but every day, there’s even more sin piled on that bed. You keep trying to remove your sin, but you can’t. How are you ever going to get to God?

You start to feel bad about yourself. You start to feel like you’re not worthy. Look at all that sin and shame. You’ll never get it cleared away. He’s never going to like you.

After trying as long and as hard as you can, you quit. You’re out. You’re drained. So you leave. Despite your good intentions – no, your very best intentions – you have failed.

Back out on the road, you see that there are a lot of people living on the wayside. Like you, they are drained. They are tired. But they are afraid to try that other room, the room of grace. They don’t understand grace, so all they can think is that they don’t want to be let down again. So they just camp out where they are, families and everything. They are nomads, hanging out on the side of the road, too burned out to try again. It was the room of good intentions that burned them out. They could never be who they thought God wanted them to be. They couldn’t add up!

You don’t want to end up like them, so you go back to the fork in the road. But this time, you go to the right. You walk that road to the room of grace, and you walk in. A woman greets you, and you ask her, “How are you?” And she says, “Meh. I’ve had better days. How are you?”

You reply, “Um, fine?”

And she looks at you and says, “You don’t sound fine.”

“Well,” you say, “I’m confused. And I’m so tired. And I’m afraid I can’t add up.”

“I’m not worthy,” you say. “I don’t think God will ever like me.”

And she hears all of that and smiles, and then says, “Welcome home!”

Next time, I’ll tell you what the room of grace feels like. See you Thursday.

The Price of Telling Lies

Recently a friend confessed to me that she fears that God does not want her.

She fears that God does not want her.

I don’t think it was easy for her to tell me this. She might never have said it, except that she’d already told me that she needed my help. When we sat down together, I asked her, “How are you?” She stared at me and I could see the debate in her eyes. You know what she said? “I don’t want to lie to you.”

She actually debated telling me that she was hurting! But that didn’t surprise me. In my experience, people often cover up their real feelings and just say that they’re okay. ”I’m fine,” they say. “I’m fine.” I’m not talking about routine exchanges at cash registers or the car wash. I’m talking about people who should be able to confide in each other, but instead they say, “I’m fine.” Ask your friends, “How are you?” See how many of them say, “I’m fine.” How often do they lie to you, covering up their fear and everything else because they don’t know grace — or think they don’t deserve it?

How often do you tell the same lie?

We’re not even comfortable being honest in church. Hurting? Confused? Frightened? In pain? No one wants to say it. Just say you’re fine. What do you hear at church when people ask each other, “How are you doing today?” You hear people say, “I’m fine! I’m blessed!” Seriously, no one is having a bad day? No challenges? No disappointments? Not even a headache? No one?

“I’m fine. I’m fine. I’m fine.” That’s what you hear, even though I think that many people in church feel exactly like my friend does. Maybe sometimes, like her, they debate telling the truth. But when they get asked, they end up telling the same old lie. “I’m fine.”

My biggest question to the church is why? Why should I have to debate whether to tell somebody the truth when I’m not okay? We’re expected to wear masks and pretend that we’re fine, and it makes me angry. It makes me angry because people in pain are trying to get through life without ever being honest about it. And so they die. They die. They think God is disappointed in them, but they don’t want to tell anybody.

A lot of people, a lot of people, dealing with tragedy and wounds from the past, tend to project the lessons of those wounds or tragedies onto God. Maybe they were hurt in the past when a human being has failed them, and they fear the same from God. “Well, that person rejected me, so God will reject me.” Right? It’s really common to project our views of life onto God.

And so I think people are afraid to share their issues in honest dialogue because they are afraid to disappoint people. They take that human disappointment and they project it onto God. When we see that someone is disappointed in us, we think, “This is how God sees me too.”

No. Unequivocally, no. That is not how God sees you. When you called Him Almighty God, He called you holy and righteous. When God looks at you, that’s what he sees: His precious child, holy and righteous. And nothing could ever make Him stop wanting you.

I told my friend a story that helped me, and I think it will help you too. I’ll share it next time. See you Monday.

 

The Royal Law, Part 1

Whitworth University came to Generation Alive and said, “We want to package a ton of meals. We want to make a million meals for Spokane!” And I said, “Alright! Tell them to work on raising the funds.” And those students did something incredible. On May 3, they packaged over 600,000 meals for hungry people in Spokane!

I trust God. I live in a mentality of trust. When we show our love for our neighbor, we’re trying to meet a need. And we’re reflecting God’s Kingdom while we do it, because our motives are pure: we simply trust God. We’re not going to do something like this because we want to say, “Oh, I feel like a better Christian for doing this.” If you think about it, that doesn’t even make sense. I already am a Christian. I am a holy and blameless, righteous person. I’m just living in that identity.

Whitworth students didn’t take on this challenge because they wanted to make God look on them with favor. They were just trying to feed somebody! In fact, I think that for a lot of the young people who got involved, that was all they wanted. They might not even know who God is. Their mission was simply to get food, up to a million meals, into an area that really needs food. One in six people in Spokane are hungry! So they said, “We need to figure out a way to give our hungry neighbors something to eat.”

photo credit: KREM Spokane http://www.krem.com/news/local

photo credit: KREM Spokane http://www.krem.com/news/local

When you tackle the job of loving your neighbor as yourself, trust God. Trust Him to provide you with what you need. If you’re coming up short on donations, just say, “Hey God, we need more money.” Send word to the King. “We need more of something.” Then trust Him to provide it. If He says, “No, my provision is sufficient for you,” then use whatever you have. The Whitworth students made as many meals as they could. Use what you have, even if it’s a couple of loaves and a few fish, and get started. You might get to watch Him do a miracle.

Jesus said, “You need to help those who are hurting.” Well, everybody’s hurting. Your ability to meet a need doesn’t necessarily mean an actual physical need. It could be a mental need. It could be an emotional need. Figure out what is wrong with your neighbors, and love on them. Whether they need food, water, or clothing, emotional support, a friend, or someone who can love without judging, trust God and get started! That’s all you have to do. And if you need help, send word to the King. Let Him know, and He’ll provide what He needs to provide.

More on this next time. See you Thursday.

Love in Action

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear!…Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, “Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!” and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you? Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?

I can already hear one of you agreeing by saying, “Sounds good. You take care of the faith department, I’ll handle the works department.”

Not so fast. You can no more show me your works apart from your faith than I can show you my faith apart from my works. Faith and works, works and faith, fit together hand in glove. (James 1:22, 2:14-18)

Love in ActionLet me tell you what I hear James saying here. James is worried about the converts in the churches who say they accept Jesus, but don’t do anything. Maybe they are just quiet, meaning they aren’t out taking care of their neighbor. Maybe they are showing favoritism (2:1-7). They are still reflecting the values and concerns of the world, instead of doing what Jesus asked us to do: renounce the world in order to live with the mentality of God’s Kingdom. To these people James is saying, “You say you’re a Christian, but you act like the world. I say I’m a Christian, and I will act like the Kingdom of God. The world is flesh, and the Kingdom is spirit. You show me what’s more alive.”

James is also worried about people who might say, “I love Jesus. I’m saved,” and then they act in ways that contradict the life we enjoy in God’s Kingdom. They hate, or commit adultery, or lie, or cheat, or steal (2:8-13). When you do that, no one is going to see that you are saved. Do you know what’s going to come out of that? Not the fruits of the Spirit. Not love, joy, patience, kindness, goodness and self-control. There is a lot of other stuff that’s going to come out of it, obviously. James also says that sin eventually gives birth to death. So you’ll die, inwardly. You’ll be a shadow person, dead inside, and you won’t reflect Christ at all.

This part of James is controversial, and we sometimes worry about a disagreement between James and Paul. But that’s because we put too much focus on performance. Paul and James see things the same way. God’s grace, freely offered to us, saves us. We can’t save ourselves. Think about the whole New Testament’s message on grace. Think about what Paul says: “The Law is rubbish. I no longer want to perform. It doesn’t make sense.”

You can’t achieve salvation by works (Greek: erga, works, acts, deeds). James knows that. But there will be a judgment. God will look at us and see sheep and goats. If you love your neighbor as Jesus described in Matthew 25, then you’re a sheep. But that’s not performance. That’s living in the Kingdom of God, not performing in order to get in. Love is alive, and where there is life, there is action. That’s why James says, “Faith without works is dead. I’ll show you my faith with works, and you’ll see that it’s alive.”

See you Thursday.

 

 

A Full Basket

As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.” Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” Matthew 14:15-16

You show me someone living in faith, based on the living Kingdom of God, and I’ll show you someone that’s happy and joyful. I’ll show you someone working to receive money to put in wells in places that don’t have clean water, and you will see the joy on that person’s face. And I will tell you, “That is faith with works.” This isn’t about performing in order to get into the Kingdom. This is about already being in the Kingdom, and thinking with that mindset. Someone like this doesn’t say, “I want to do that too, but I don’t have enough money just now.” Instead she says, “I’ll get another job and raise the money to be able to put in wells.” This is just what we do.

The money’s not going to drop down from heaven and land on your nose. God doesn’t expect you to have it already. But He’ll get it to you. God says, “You are in my family. This is who you are. Your neighbor needs your love. How are you going to get it done?”

loaves and fishesThink about Jesus feeding the five thousand. The disciples came to Him and said, “These people are hungry!” And Jesus said, “You feed them.” But they said, “We can’t feed all these people! We only have two loaves and a fish.” Then Jesus said, “Well, don’t tell them to go in the village to find food. They’re sitting here waiting. They want to hang out. They want to commune. I’ll feed them.” The disciples said, “How are you going to do that?” And Jesus said, “I’m going to do something flat-out amazing. That’s how.”

Now He was Jesus, so He worked a little differently than we do. He did a miracle. But he showed us that we don’t have to give up. We don’t just say, “Oh, that’s not much food. I guess we’re not feeding them!” That’s what the apostles were going to do. That’s what most people do. “Well, I don’t have the means to help, so I won’t.”

But Jesus says, figure out a way to get the means. Because He will provide, if you actually take that step.

Everything Jesus did reflected on how awesome God is. He figured out a way to feed multitudes of hungry people. And when He did that, He showed us how to get it done. It’s all about servant leadership. We go to God in love and we say, “Lord, people are hungry. People are sick. They don’t have any clean water. Children are homeless. They don’t have moms or dads. Someone is going to traffic them and put them in slavery.” And the Lord says, “Help them. You give them something to eat. You give them clean water. You find them homes and liberate and protect them.” And when we say, “But Lord, I can’t. I don’t have enough,” then He says, “You’re going to figure out a way. You’re going to figure out a way to get them what they need. You’re not going to tell them to go help themselves. You serve them.”

I don’t even know if the crowd knew what Jesus did that day. But the disciples knew. He told them, “Hey, just start passing the basket. It’ll stay full. It’ll stay full.” You know? And He fed them. And when He did that, they stayed and listened.

That’s walking in the Kingdom of God.

Trusting Each Other Like God Trusts Us

I trust God that I am holy and righteous. Holy and righteous in His eyes, I am free to do whatever I want and feel good about it. And my freedom to do whatever I want and feel good about it makes me who I am.

People hear this Good News and they are incredulous. They ask, “So this means you can just do whatever you want?” No, it doesn’t mean that. That question comes from the flesh, and the things it wants to do. The flesh thinks, “I have fire insurance. I can literally do whatever I want, no consequences! I’m saved!”

I can see how the message might sound that way. But think about this from a different mindset. Don’t think from your flesh. Think from within God’s family and Kingdom, because that’s where you live now.

In the world of the flesh, doing whatever you want seems fun at the time. But there are a lot of consequences right away. There’s a lot of pain. A lot of people get hurt because we let the flesh do the thinking. But at the very moment that you recognize what Jesus did, you are saved by the Spirit of God. Now your identity is in Christ. That identity is holy and righteous. Holy and righteous simply loves its neighbor.

You see, that’s what God does, man, He goes into you and He transforms you. He makes you a new creature in Christ. He creates within you a new Spirit, and Spirit thinks with the mindset of God’s Kingdom. The Kingdom of God is grace and mercy. So that’s what we reflect.

Is there a vengeful God? I believe so. You’ll see that at the end of time. I do believe that. God’s wrath will come. But that is not who God is for us right now. I think that right now, to reflect God is to serve. The Kingdom mentality is a servant mentality, so we reflect God by serving. We love our neighbors as ourselves.

That’s how I understand my identity in Christ. This is who I am. I don’t perform acts of service in order to receive acceptance from God. Performance is trying to get acceptance, but God has already accepted me. I serve because I’m a member of His family!

Performance kills families. It eats away at marriages. You expect a certain image of perfection from your husband or your wife and you judge them when they fall short. And they say, “Wait a minute. If you trust me and you love me, I shouldn’t have to perform for you in order to be accepted by you. I should already be accepted. I should be able to mess up, and trust you to love and help me.” The same thing applies to parents and children. Your children should hear you say, “I accept you and I love you. You don’t have to perform to be my child.”

There’s no performance in God’s family. God trusts you and accepts you even when you mess up. When you mess up, God says, “Let’s talk about this. What can I do to help you? Not fix you, help you.” That’s what a trusting relationship looks like, and we can reflect this in our own families. Our families can reflect God’s family.

See you Monday.