Archive for the ‘Freedom’ category

The Right Idea – The Wrong Idea

May 5, 2014

Grace is under-appreciated and abused. But, protecting grace from being abused turns some into self-righteous rule-makers.

wondering

I was reminded yesterday that people might get the wrong idea when they hear a graceful message from the Bible. The “wrong” idea is that sin doesn’t matter.

Paul was concerned the Roman believers might get the wrong idea.

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? Romans 6:1 (ESV)

What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? Romans 6:15 (ESV)

10 Observations:

  1. You haven’t taught grace until people start asking, “Does sinning matter?”
  2. Grace always goes one step beyond your sin, regardless of how much you sin (Rom. 5:20).
  3. Don’t solve your concerns about abuse by re-instituting the law. We aren’t under law (Rom 6:15)
  4. Sin has negative consequences, even for people under grace.
  5. Believers who fall into sin need more grace not less.
  6. Grace changes us from the inside out.
  7. Laws don’t have power to change us. Telling people what not to do never changes their heart.
  8. Freedom in grace is freedom to love and be loved.
  9. The standards of grace are higher and nobler than law. We live by the law of love.
  10. Holy living must be freely embraced.

Source of concern:

Why was Paul concerned that believers might get the wrong idea about grace? Because he was teaching in a way that might give people the “wrong” idea.

The question, “Does behavior matter,” only comes up when you teach that people are made right with God by faith, apart from behaviors. (Rom 4:5).

The idea that someone could be righteous before God and have unrighteousness in their life is astonishing. Grace is astonishing.

Can grace be abused? You abuse it everyday.

Should we remind people that sin matters? Paul did.

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Rahab the Believer

December 18, 2013

plungers

Rahab, the Canaanite prostitute from Jericho, was a believer. She didn’t know much but she knew enough.

Joshua 2:8-11 Before the men lay down, she came up to them on the roof 9 and said to the men, “I know that the Lord has given you the land, … for the Lord your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.

Rahab refers to God as LORD. Most Bibles use lord in all capital letters to indicate the personal name of God, Yahweh. Rahab called God by his personal name.

Second she identifies him as the God of the universe, “heaven and earth.” She said, “Yahweh is God.”

The writer of Hebrews includes Rahab in his great hall of faith, chapter 11. The names in Hebrews 11 appear in this order:

  1. Abel
  2. Enoch
  3. Noah
  4. Abraham
  5. Sarah
  6. Isaac
  7. Jacob
  8. Joseph
  9. Moses
  10. Rahab

Others are mentioned in Hebrews 11, the parents of Moses, for example. But they aren’t named. The last person named is Rahab.

The footnote section concludes Hebrews 11 in verses 32 – 40. Individuals like Gideon and David are mentioned. But their stories aren’t developed like the 10 people listed above.

The people in the great Hall of Faith are messy. Abraham lied about his relationship with Sarah and puts her and himself in mortal peril. Moses had an anger problem. Jacob was a shady business man all his life. Rahab carries the label “prostitute” right into the New Testament.

Rahab has another label, one she had even when a prostitute, Rahab the woman of faith.

Acceptable Service

December 13, 2013

bowing flower

The “why” of service matters more than the service itself.

Christian service is an expression of love and gratitude, nothing more, nothing less, nothing else.

Ungrateful service is arrogance in disguise.

Arrogant servants think:

  1. I deserve better.
  2. I’m not appreciated.
  3. What about them?
  4. Whose serving me?

Ungrateful servants whine and complain. Grateful service, on the other hand, frees us.

Service as response is privilege and opportunity.

Service as obligation is a burden.

Focus:

The focus of grateful service is Jesus, not the people you serve.

Arrogant service focuses more on results than response. Results matter. Serve where you have impact. But, results come second to response.

Engaged:

Those who aren’t serving haven’t seen grace. Law may pressure into service. But, law never produces acceptable service.

Perfect gratefulness:

How grateful is grateful enough?

We all always falling short. Sometimes you serve out of obligation, other times out of love and gratitude.

When you see the signs of arrogance I listed above, don’t try to be humble. Instead, refocus on Jesus. Remember his grace.

Give yourself space to respond.

Gratitude can’t be demanded or manipulated. But, you can let it happen. When it’s absent, keep on serving. But at the same time acknowledge your brokenness and believe in his grace.

Let gratitude rise in you. If it doesn’t, know you have forgotten how Jesus served you.

Clothes Matter

December 10, 2013

Bow Tie

Getting dressed up for church makes outsiders feel uncomfortable. Fancy clothes exclude.

A few years back I quit dressing up for church. Some said I was trying to be hip. Others didn’t care. I’m glad I made the choice to “dress down.”

Uncomfortable:

What if you dropped into my house and my wife and I were in formal dress clothes, but you were in jeans? How would you feel?

We’d say, “Oh! It doesn’t matter. Make yourself at home.”

Would you feel at home? Probably not.

For you to be comfortable, we’d need to change into casual clothing.

Respect:

One reason people dress up for Church is it shows respect for God. I don’t doubt that some feel that way. But, others get dressed up to impress fellow church members.

If your church is in an upper class suburb, maybe you should dress up. But, if you’re like the rest of us, just wear casual clothes.

One reason to dress casually for church is it shows respect for guests. Wear normal cloths to church so that normal people will feel comfortable.

Adapt to the people around you just like Jesus adapted to us when He arrived. Fit into culture just like you expect missionaries to fit into the cultures where they serve.

Adapt and fit in:

Jesus adapted to us when He arrived. Feel free to follow His example. Adapt to the people around you. Just wear what normal people wear. We aren’t in a culture war. We’re here to bring Jesus into any culture.

Diversity:

Some people will never dress casually for Church. It doesn’t matter as long as your church has diversity.

We’ve come to the place in the Church where I lead, that clothes really don’t matter. (As long as you’re wearing some.) We have some young people who have fun dressing up with ties or dresses. We even have an occasional suit. It’s fun. Diversity and variety take all the pressure off Christian fashion. Diversity is inviting. It shows we can adapt.

Whatever

November 3, 2013

uncertainty

It sounds spiritual to pray, “God please show me what you want me to do.” It’s also safe.

Believers pray for God to show them His will and then slip under the covers for a snooze.

Fake Spirituality:

Praying without taking action is fake spirituality. I hear someone cry, “Don’t be so harsh. I’m waiting on God.”

If waiting on God is doing nothing, then stop waiting on God! Waiting on God, in reality, is doing everything you can while waiting for further guidance in one area.

Waiting on God isn’t an excuse for self-indulgent spiritual.

How not what:

“But what,” you ask, “Should I do?”

You’re too concerned about “what.” God is concerned about “how.”

Colossians 3:23 (NIV84) “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men,”

Worry less about “what.” Go do “whatever.” Worry more about “how” – “with all your heart.”

Excuses:

Uncertainty is the excuse of fake spirituality. “I’m not sure what God wants me to do, so I’ll do nothing.” Excuse makers:

  1. Believe certainty indicates God’s guidance.
  2. Know what they don’t want to do.
  3. Feel spiritual doing nothing.

Whatever:

Doing nothing takes you nowhere.

Stop making excuses and go do “whatever.”

Do:

  1. Good for another.
  2. Meet a need, the bigger the better.
  3. Act on your point of highest certainty. Forget perfect certainty.

Most importantly, whatever you do… “Do it with all your heart.” Uncertainty is an opportunity to trust God. Perfect service opportunities don’t exist. Go all-in on an imperfect opportunity.

Under grace you are free to do good to others
as much as you want!

New prayer:

Rather than praying for God to tell you what to do, pray for an opportunity to serve. “God give me an opportunity to serve someone.” Get up off your knees and get busy. That’s real spirituality.

Half-hearted Christians are unhappy Christians.

When you focus more on wholeheartedness and forget about perfect answers and opportunities, life grows bright. You become happier and more useful.

My prayer is, “God, give us more ‘whatever’ Believers.”

Free to Dance with Elephants

October 14, 2013

elephants

Churches who dance around the feelings of people who are easily upset are run by people who are easily upset.

Grace ends the need to pretend. Grace says, “I accept you. Now let’s move forward.” Jesus was full of grace and confronted hard issues at the same time. He accepted Peter and also looked him in the eye and called him the devil.

Being easily upset is a manipulators way of controlling others. Dancing around drama queens/kings plays into their strategy.

You can tell when drama runs your church when people are afraid to bring up certain “taboo” topics. People say things like, “I don’t want to bring that up because it might upset Betty or Bob.” This means Betty and Bob are the cap on the church.

Pastors use drama as much as others. They get indignant, for example, when they are confronted. In the end they are saying, “I’m above being corrected. I’m right.”

Any pastor who can’t be confronted is the lid on the Church.

Grace frees us from dancing around elephants. Taboo topics can be addressed when:

  1. We’re all in this together.
  2. We’re committed to do what’s best for others.
  3. We acknowledge our own frailties.
  4. Candor is exercised with kindness.
  5. The focus remains more on the future than the past. Bringing up the past only adds to drama. Grace frees us from the past and makes a future possible.
  6. The mission of spreading the gospel is bigger than individuals.

Grace frees us from drama, hidden agendas, and easily hurt feelings. Grace frees us to dance with elephants.

Rethink Glorifying God

January 16, 2013

smile

The trouble with saying, “Glorify God” is the language doesn’t fit everyday life. It’s the language of religion. Churchy people love religious mumbo jumbo. But saying, “Glorify God,” doesn’t sound liberating and vibrant to average folk.

But how:

Glorify God by enjoying his provision. Include everything from colors to sensations. Persistently miserable people can’t and don’t glorify God, regardless of what they say.

Those without joy, can’t glorify God.

You powerfully glorify God when you enjoy life even when life hurts. James 1:2 says; consider it joy when adversity or suffering invades (paraphrase). Joyful hearts glorify God.

Respectful language, apart from joyful hearts, dishonors God.

God’s provision reveals Him. Nature, relationships, human capacity, art, and imagination tell us who God is. See His splendor in the snow, for example. But, of course, if you hate life, you hate the one who made you and it’s impossible to glorify Him.

Glorify God by enjoying his person. If you believe God is a heavenly kill-joy, it’s impossible to enjoy Him and impossible to glorify Him.

If you’re a miserable Christian, please find joy or practice some other religion, for God’s sake.

  • Take a breath and enjoy it.
  • Hold a loved one and find God, again.
  • Believe life has purpose even during chaos.

Accept Him:

Joy bubbles up when you accept God for who he is. One way to accept God is to acknowledge His control. Joy drains when you play the role of controller. Perhaps you want to be God, Adam did. But you aren’t. The sooner you get clear on that, the sooner you’ll find joy.

Joy spills into everyday life when you enjoy God’s provision and person. Let’s toss out religious hocus pocus and live joyfully.

Then next time someone says, Glorify God, thinking about living joyfully. Go one step more, let others know you enjoy Him.

P.S. I’m not suggesting that Christians must always be happy. 1Peter 1:6 acknowledges seasons when believers may be in heaviness, to use the KJV translation.