Legalism Versus False Grace Versus Authentic Grace

grate

(FreeImages.com/Krishken)

Legalism/Religion sees a person stuck in a pit and points out all the wrong choices that got them there, what they are doing wrong that is keeping them from getting out of the pit, and then instructs them on techniques and the best effort to get themselves out of the pit. It watches to see the repeatedly failed attempts and then tells the person in the pit why they (the person watching) never fell in the pit, reminding the person in the pit of their shame and failure and emphasizing their own (the person watching) “success.” Legalism/religion focuses on personal effort.

False grace sees the person stuck in the pit and says, “I don’t think you are in a pit. I think you look really good where you are. It’s no one’s right to tell you you are in a pit. That sounds like judgment! Let’s host a party and celebrate and show all of those religious people how wrong they are!” False grace never produces true freedom.

Authentic grace sees the person in the pit and says, “Hey, you want a hand up? It’s no fun being stuck in a pit; I should know — done that plenty of times. No more pits!!! You and me, we don’t belong there any more. Pits are too smelly, too confining, too soul-estrangling, too lacking in air. We were meant to be free!!!” Authentic grace is the hand reaching down to pull the imprisoned soul from the snare of bondage.

The Brave Voice

shadows

(FreeImages.com/GerardoAlvarez)

The woman, brushed back her brown hair, pensively looked at the computer screen one more time, and bravely wrote the words.  With a simple click of the mouse, her words were posted.  They were words, expressing something that she cared about and appreciated.  She had asked for feedback on her post, and she was not disappointed by the amount of comments she received.  They poured in.  The post had definitely “plucked a few strings.”

The feedback was very honest.  Some was super positive, some was very doubtful, some was skeptical, and some was clearly negative.  She had asked for honest feedback, and she had received it.

At first, some of the feedback stung.  The words were raw in their honesty.

As the woman read all of the comments, she realized that she could view the responses two ways: she could take them as rejection and/or harsh criticism, but that wouldn’t be fair because she had asked for honesty.  The other choice would be to feel honored that people felt safe enough to voice their opinions to her.

One commentator even apologized for voicing some skepticism, and she quickly assured that person that they should never apologize for having a voice.

Every day, we have these moments — these encounters with others — when we choose how we will respond to the voices around us…

Over the past year, I have been feeling called into this place of freedom — a place where I can have the courage to speak and to not feel it necessary to apologize for my voice.  …apologizing for my existence.

It is not a matter of being offensive with my voice because that would be a different matter.

It is a matter of answering this defining question: 

“How will you respond when the temptation is to shut down, to hide, to walk away from freedom because of the fear of the risk and the fear of rejection?”

Here are thoughts that I recently wrote:

“There is an enemy that wants us to apologize for existing, wants us to fade into the background, wants us to hide behind our fears and insecurities and rejection, wants us to not exist…

There is a Lover/Creator who keeps telling me to not apologize for being, thinking, believing, and feeling.

He keeps telling me that He placed His voice inside me, and that regardless of who agrees or doesn’t or who likes me or not, that I am to stand bravely and securely because I am unfathomably, completely, lavishly loved!

This entire past year, the Lord kept telling me, “[…], you know your freedom; now walk in it.”

It brings tears to my eyes every time I am made aware of how He is changing me, making me brave, helping me to become His warrior-princess!

Am I perfect? Far from it!

Do I make mistakes? Daily.

BUT, this I know: I am learning the freedom of being completely secure in eternal, unceasing, undeserved Love!

…and I am learning the beautiful humbling merits of His grace!

Grace… The Great Exchange!

Grace

(FreeImages.com/KaiNorneby)

It’s easier to talk grace more than live it, and living it is also about recognizing that God wants to use us now — even when we aren’t perfect.

We often want to wait until everything is scrubbed “clean,” but God wants to use us now. He says, “Give me your brokenness, and I will give you my wholeness.”

Grace is the great exchange.

It’s the recognition that I can’t, will never be enough, but I don’t have to. …because He was and is enough!

Grace is the freedom and security in knowing we don’t stand in our own merits and appearance of perfection. We stand in His merits and therein lies grace.

Grace is a position of victory because it is the supremacy of the cross over everything — every sin, every wound, every weakness.

Grace doesn’t excuse sin. It cancels sin’s power, and it cancels Satan’s burdens of shame and guilt. It puts it all where it belongs: at the foot of the cross.

So amazing and so beautiful!

The Soundtrack Of Our Minds

The grass is always greener on the other side

(FreeImages.com/KatinkaKober)

I have been reading through Me, Myself, and Lies by Jennifer Rothschild.  I knew it would be good, and I haven’t been disappointed.

In her book, Jennifer Rothschild said the following statement that really grabbed my attention:

The soundtrack in my thought closet wasn’t a running “Top 20” of God’s wonders and Word; it was my worries.

In her study book, Jennifer Rothschild asks the question, “What do worrying and meditating have in common?”

My answer was, “They are a thought process or consistent refrain that you reflect upon repeatedly.”

JR (Jennifer Rothschild) then asks the reader to describe worry.  I wrote the following:

“Worry is a fixation on  your circumstances, possible problems, and future, without fully considering the influence of God upon them.”

JR (Jennifer Rothschild) then says the following quote:

Worry is fixating or meditating on what if rather than what is Our English word worry comes from the Old English wyrgan and the Old High German wurgen.  Both mean “to strangle.”  When we worry, we choke out the life-giving truth that should be filling our thought closets.

One more powerful statement JR said is:

“Ruminating on the what ifs is an unhealthy way of meditating that invites fear.”

What is the anecdote to a soundtrack, filled with discordant sounds of turmoil and fear?  It is a soundtrack that is filled with the glories of God, His kindness, His compassion, His grace, His love…

Philippians 4:8 gives us some clear guidance as to what our thoughts should look like.  In summary (taken from a study guide from Me, Myself, and Lies by Jennifer Rothschild):

If it is true, I will meditate on it.

If it is honest, I will think about it today.

If it is just, I will dwell on it today.

If it is pure, I will fix my thoughts on it today.

If it is lovely, I will give it shelf space in my thought closet.

If it is of good report, I will meditate on it today.

If it is virtuous, I will let it be the soundtrack in my thought closet.

If it is full of praise, I will deliberate on it today.

So how should our soundtrack sound?  See the following verses:

Luke 4:22

22 So all bore witness to Him, and marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth. And they said, “Is this not Joseph’s son?”

John 1:14

The Word Becomes Flesh

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:17

17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

Our soundtrack should be permeated with grace and truth.

If I want to be like Christ, then I will be full of grace and truth.  If I am finding this to be a greater challenge than I anticipated, perhaps it’s time to ask myself how much I understand God — His nature and His thoughts towards me.

I leave us with one final thought:

We can look at our circumstances through the eyes of God, or we can look at God through the eyes of our circumstances.

The one view gives leads to peace and stability.  The other view leads to fear, insecurity, doubt, and lies.

Failing To Win

Life

(FreeImages.com/BobSmith)

I have been reading the book, Go For No.  What an incredibly powerful book and so very eye-opening!

I, personally, have a side-business with sales.  I never thought I would see the day that I would be in sales.  In fact, in the past,  I turned down numerous opportunities to sell for several reasons: never thought it was “me,” never wanted to be seen as superficial (which a lot of sales’ people seem to be), and never wanted my business to get in between relationships with people.

All that changed when I joined a company that had products to help my son.  Desperate mommies do desperate things so I joined just for him to get some healthy products.  Over time, the business sort of found me.  People heard about how these products were helping my son, and before long, I had a small team.

Recognizing my team needed a strong leader, I dove into growing as a leader so I could be what my team needed.  Before long, I discovered I loved leading my team!  I loved supporting my team and helping them to realize and develop their strengths.

Then, I realized that my teaching skills could be put to use in teaching people about amazing products that do help people and that they need.  It became more than “selling” to people.  It became about helping people, and I was able to step out of my comfort zone and personal prejudices against selling.

As I grow within my business, I am learning some very important lessons about failing and success.  I am learning that failing is very much linked to our success.  In fact, in order to succeed, we have to first be willing to fail.

This is so powerful that I am going to restate it:

In order to succeed, we have to first be willing to fail.

The key to success is the tenacity to never give up, to understand that you have to fail and fail many times before you succeed. This is true for us with all of our humanness.

We are going to fail, but the difference between the winners and the losers is the winners never quit.

The failings don’t define the winners. On the other hand, the “losers” allow the failings to define them.  As a result, they live the life of failure instead of living the life of victory, as God intended.

Winners though understand that failings are opportunities to learn and grow, and failings are often necessary to win.

These truths are so powerful in a business, but what about in life?  How many times do we give up on people, on prayer, on God’s callings for our lives because we allow the “failings” of life to define life for us — rather than allowing the life God has given to us to define the failings? 

I know this can get complicated, but grace is the opportunity God gives to us to have a fresh start every day and throughout our day.  It is God’s opportunity for us to get up and to quit allowing our failings to define us.

Grace is the power of God to claim the victorious life that Grace already won for us on the cross!

Don’t let your failings define you; let grace — God’s grace — define you.  Grace means triumph.  It means triumph over sin, our brokenness, our weakness, our failings, and our fears.

Save

Do It Broken

YMCA Horse Mosaic 1

(FreeImages.com/MichelleRau)

As I was sitting in bed this morning with my journal, Bible, and a devotional, the words began to pour out, and the tears began to fall.  Before long, I was scrambling for my pen to jot down the thoughts God was giving me — thoughts about brokenness and grace…

I was reflecting back on how so many times I have wondered why God would entrust me with five precious children to raise when I am far from perfect.  I am not the most patient person.  Loud noises and lots of activity stress me.  Chaos and messes annoy me.  I get easily stressed over crazy busyness and never-ending activities.  The humor in this is all the above often describes my life.

I seem like the most unlikely choice to being a mom of five kids.  Was it all one big cosmic mistake, or ignorance on my part?  Does that mean my kids and I are relegated to just “muck through” the rest of life until they are out of the home, and I can be back in my comfy place again?

In answer to those questions, I will share thoughts God has been teaching me and what I want to share with you today…

Religion often teaches us that God waits until we get it all right before He uses us.

Grace is about God using us — not even in spite of our imperfections — but sometimes because of them.  Why?  Because when we are broken, we are pliable — more apt to be yielded and teachable.

Grace is God taking our brokenness and making something beautiful with the pieces.  He puts the pieces of our lives together, and it forms a beautiful piece of art.  It tells a whole new story.

I wrote the following words to the leaders on my business team.  Within our business, we are often required to stretch beyond our feelings, and the following words were to encourage them: (I think they just might encourage a few of you.)

I wanted to share some words of encouragement to you this Tuesday morning. We all go through times when we doubt ourselves and when we don’t feel completely “on top of our game.” The tendency is to then “hang back” and wait for that future time when we feel more successful or like we have it together before attempting to pursue our dreams. In other words, we want our dream before we pursue it. The truth is we have to pursue our dream before we find it.

I am going to blog about this shortly, but I wanted to post this note I wrote to an ambassador for all of you. I am hoping there might be a word of encouragement in it for you…

“I want to tell you, it’s okay to do life ‘broken.’ You don’t have to wait to live life or pursue your dreams until you ‘feel’ them. The best advice I can give you is to ‘do it scared’ and do it broken.

Grace acknowledges our brokenness — not to worship the brokenness — but to give glory to the Supremacy of the cross over our brokenness.

The power of the cross is the fact that God sees you not as you are but as Christ is!!!

Grace is the cross!

Grace is God’s ability to take our anguish, our brokenness, and our failings and to use us still. It is God’s ability to use imperfection and make it perfect because of the User.

The key is our surrender. We surrender to Him and quit trying to be all perfect before He can use us.

He uses us not in spite of our brokenness, but He uses even through and because of our brokenness itself to accomplish His purposes.”

And I want to cry right there…!

I am going to repeat this powerful statement once again:

Grace acknowledges our brokenness — not to worship the brokenness — but to give glory to the Supremacy of the cross over our brokenness.

So often, we get this idea that grace is slapping a “happy face” sticker over the world’s ills and telling everyone, “You’re great where you are.  Just be happy.”

The reality is Grace sees the depths of our anguish and brokenness and then says, “Give it to me, and I will take your brokenness and give you My Wholeness.  Your brokenness will become My wholeness because I will take those broken pieces, and I will bring healing to them and make them whole.”

Today, as you return to your chaotic world and the reminders of your own brokenness, I want to encourage you to stop looking at the brokenness and start looking at the cross.

The cross is a picture of brokenness and wholeness that melded into One Perfect Being so that you and I have a future, a calling, a tangible peace, an inexplicable joy, and an eternal hope that is a reality!!!

Give God your brokenness because He wants to weld His wholeness to it.

What The Cross Really Represents…

Dirty Fingerprints

(FreeImages.com/StephenDavies)

This struck me so powerfully this morning:

Unfathomable evil intersected with unfathomable grace at the cross.

And I am undone… because this. challenges me. to forgive. to love, even the unlovable. to “fellowship” with those who don’t yet understand their value to God. to be patient. because what looks like too far or too low looks like something completely different to God.

Sometimes, it means I need to get a little dirty because grace takes the ugly and wraps it up in the garments of love.

A Letter To The New Mom…

Momma and baby 2

(This is a revision of a letter I recently wrote to a new mom.  I decided to post it as I am sure that there are many new moms that are feeling overwhelmed and may need this encouragement today.)

Dear New Mommy,

I remember those early days with three little boys, ages 3 and under. I tried so hard to put on a brave front, to be cheerful, patient with my boys, and hopeful, but I remember at times, I was screaming on the inside.

How could I meet all of their needs — when they needed me all at the same time?  They were too young to understand the need to be patient and to wait.

I didn’t know motherhood could be so incredibly difficult! I didn’t know it would bring me to the “end of myself” and would make me wonder if I would ever find myself again — whoever that might be.

BUT GOD…

God was not immune to my struggles…

Later, I asked God about those dark days. I asked Him with trembling and tearful words, “God, where were you when I felt so alone?” God answered me with this picture of me sitting in the rocking chair, holding my two babies (a time I remember very well when I felt so alone and overwhelmed). I was not sitting there alone though because what I didn’t realize at the time was that He was there, right there with me, and holding me. My little boys and I were cradled in His arms.

I asked God about this picture He was giving me: “Lord, I have a great imagination. How can I be sure this is You and not me?” God then brought these words to my mind, “As a mother comforts her children so I will comfort you.” I looked it up, and sure enough, there is a verse in the Bible that mentions this.

Isaiah 66:13: “As one whom his mother comforts,
So I will comfort you…”

These days are overwhelming, but as a mother who has been through a lot of the same struggles, may I tell, “You can survive.”  

Why?  Because you have courage, a heart of love for your kids, and you have a God who does see, care, and hear. He doesn’t ask you to walk this alone. His grace truly is grace for the moment…

Someday, you will look back on these days, and you will remember the lisping voices of your toddler, the toothless baby grins that melt your heart, and the inquisitive questions of a child that believes you know all the answers to the universe.  Someday, you will truly know that it was all worth it.  Yes, even the most soul-wrenching and physically-draining day was worth those moments when you had the privilege of being someone’s mother… to hold the heart of a child within the embrace of your arms.

Hugs, dear one…

What We Fear Reveals Truth About Ourselves

Sunset

(FreeImages.com/Tatyana Khramtsova)

As I was studying God’s Word today, spending time in prayer, and journaling what God was teaching me, God began once again to convict me and to show me some truths concerning a present battle I am facing.

I am facing the battle of fear concerning a particular situation.  Without relaying more details, let’s just say that this situation has been discouraging.  In fact, in referring to the situation, I have used hopeless terms to describe it.

This morning, God began to speak to me concerning this battle.  He began to reveal to me that the battle I am called to fight requires a long-term commitment and perseverance.  It’s not a battle that is going to be won with a few “skirmishes.”  Another way of putting it is that it’s not a “sprint” that I am called to run but a “marathon.”

God was reminding me that so often when God’s timing differs from mine, I begin to look to others, try to “help” God out by “fixing” the problem by my own methods or means, or begin to accept failure and mentally “check” the situation off as being a losing one and then try to find something else that appears to possibly be more successful.

God was speaking to my heart that the reason why I am not having victory is because I have written “failure” across the situation.  I have assumed the battle is lost or losing so I begin to “back pedal,” compromising my belief in God and His promises and as a result, compromising my actions.  Before long, what I fear comes to pass.

I believe God was prompting me to look at the significance of what I fear.

The question is, “What are we fearing today?”

What you and I fear will reveal the true condition of our heart and beliefs.  They will also be a good indicator of where we are headed.

If our faith in God is solid, we will be able to see past the temporary discouraging distractions of our present situations to the eternal or “bigger picture” of God’s purposes and plans.

Faith is the “key” that unlocks our “spiritual eyes.” 

We can know the truth, but until we believe/embrace it, we’ll never recognize or experience the reality of it personally.

Our relationship with God consists not in what we know about God but in Who He is to us.  What is He to you?

You may say and know that God is gracious, just, righteous, compassionate, etc…, but is He your grace, your righteousness, your compassion today?

Who is He to you?

How Understanding Our Position Secures Our Victory

(http://www.freeimages.com/photo/conqueror-1410207)

As Christians, we have this amazing opportunity to walk in victory and freedom — in Christ!  So often though, we do the opposite.  Why is that?

I believe it’s because we don’t understand our position in Christ.  We lose perspective, and we begin to falter.

The truth is quite simple.

We are overcomers because He overcame!

Our position is in Christ, and as such, we inherit what He has! 

Jesus said the disciples should get excited that their names were registered in heaven, because that meant the grounds of their authority were secured through God’s throne — His kingdom — and that’s why the power of hell could not prevail against them.

— Jack Hayford

We can speak with “authority” so long as we are speaking His words.

We can walk in confidence, which means in faith, because He is completely trustworthy.

The following verses are some great words of encouragement, reminding us of who we are in Him and what we have in Him:

Ephesians 1:14

14 who[a] is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

Ephesians 1:18

18 the eyes of your understanding[a] being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,

Colossians 1:12

12 giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light.

Hebrews 1:4

having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.

Hebrews 9:15

15 And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.

1 Peter 1:3-4

A Heavenly Inheritance

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you,

Let’s walk in the victory Christ won for us and in faith because Faithful is He who called us!