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.

Is Religion The Only Offender Against Women?

praying woman

(FreeImages.com/BrendaMihalko)

I recently saw a friend’s comment on Facebook about how a lot of issues within the church are based on gender issues.  I understand the validity and even pain of what she is saying because I certainly saw the reality of some of this personally.  Yes, the Church has allowed some of those false ideas and lies from the past to remain.  They are just labeled with “religious-sounding” terms so it sounds better or more Biblical.

Just because I call a dandelion a flower doesn’t make it so.

So often, terms have been falsely defined, and so we reject the term without understanding that within every lie, there is often a nugget of truth.

When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, he took God’s Word but twisted it and misapplied it in the wrong context, making it a lie.

There is the term submission mentioned in the Bible, but it has been often twisted and misapplied in the wrong context.  Within the same passage as submission is also God commanding husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the Church.

How did Christ love the Church?

How did Christ love the Church?  By domineering, forcing submission, commanding their service while lording His position over them, devaluing them, ruling with harshness and unrelenting pride…?  No!  Rather, Christ served.  He laid down His life.  He listened.  He healed.  He cried.  He restored.  He forgave.  Everything He did, He did for them.  Christ did not come to the Earth to be served and but instead to serve.  His was an example of humble, servant leadership, always seeking the best for the other person.  He saw the value of the weakest, most vulnerable in society and acknowledged them and gave them His time and attention.

What Scripture shows is not one ruling, and the other serving and submissive/subdued.  What Scripture shows is both husbands and wives are called to lay down their lives to love/serve another one.  Both are called to put the others needs first.  Both are called to Christ’s example of Agape love, which is the most selfless and humble love of all.  Both are required to lay down their life for the other.

I wrote the following in response to my friend’s FB post, with some additional thoughts:

It is sad the way religion has abused women. It is also sad the way the world abuses women. One tells us that we are inferior to men. The other often continues to promote the same thing by taking it from a different angle, telling us that to be important we have to prove we are like men or better than men, which only says, “We are only important if we can prove our worth by being like a man or better than a man.”

What if the truth is, our uniqueness is part of our amazing, beautiful package of worth?!!! It’s not in being like a man or better than a man, because that actually feeds into the lie; it’s merely a reaction to the lie rather than the authenticity of the truth.

It’s also not about us being a sub-category, inferior, subdued, oppressed, or dominated.

The truth of what I see in Scripture is God restoring the broken image — the bad rap. women got at the Fall (false teaching, BTW). In religious circles, women are often blamed for the Fall.

God always noticed the down-trodden, the wounded, the vulnerable, the oppressed, and the undervalued.  That is why I believe He made sure He restored that broken image by how He demonstrated His thoughts concerning women in His life on Earth.

Jesus revealed Himself to women who in that society often felt unnoticed, unloved, undervalued. He demonstrated that He saw, heard, and honored them.

Jesus allowed women to be the first ones present to testify of His resurrection. Women were the first ones to see and hear Jesus in His resurrected state.  Interesting how the very things that women seem to feel within in religion — not seen or heard — are the very things Jesus did for them.  He saw them and revealed Himself to them.  He spoke to them and heard their cries.

God speaks of many women in the Bible whom He showed He valued, regardless of how society at the time regarded them. By lifting these women up and telling their stories, God shows that He heard and saw their worth. (See Abigail, Hannah, Sarah, Rebekah, Eve, Esther, Miriam, Jochebed, Rahab, Bathsheba, Deborah, Lydia, Priscilla, Dorcas, Mary Magdalene, Mary, Elisabeth, Mary and Martha, Samaritan Woman, woman caught in adultery, Tabitha, Damaris, Naomi, Ruth, and the list goes on.)  Entire books of the Bible were dedicated to telling some of these women’s stories.

He showed in the Proverbs 31 woman a woman of amazing dignity, strength, resourcefulness, honor, and trust. She made the decisions for the running of her household, for doing business, for buying land. By sitting with the elders, her husband demonstrated great trust and respect in her abilities. She had freedom, responsibility, and the trust of her husband.

That’s the kind of woman God has called me to be, and I am thankful that His picture is of strength, dignity, honor, trust, resourcefulness, intelligence, wisdom, etc…!

God has restored in me so much of the image that was broken. God alone knows what our purpose looks like — religious doesn’t, and the world doesn’t. Each are just vying to react against each other — too busy pitting against one another.

The authentic image steps out and away from the mess and is secure in knowing her worth.

Religion rejects our image and undermines it.  It says we are inferior and meant to be controlled and dominated by men.

The world rejects our image and tells us there is no value in the way we were created unless we compete to be like a man.  This is nothing more than once again undermining our image.

Christ shows the Father’s heart, and what we see is that women are unique, a glory to God, they are clothed with strength and honor, virtuous, and our voices are heard.  We are seen, we are heard, and we, as women, are valued.  We don’t have just a place in God’s Kingdom.  We are an integral part of His Kingdom!

If we want to know our value, we won’t find it in the world, and we won’t find it in religion.  We will find it in the God who made us, who loves us, and who shows the greatest servant-leadership by lifting us up and calling us into positions of amazing influence and honor.

We don’t have to be more or different to be validated!  We already are of infinite worth!

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.

Finding The Real Deal This Year

My Prrrreeeciousssss... 
*LOL*

Foto que eu fiz para uma campanha publicitária para o mês dos namorados.

<i>Photo I took for an advertisement at Valentine's Day</i>

(http://www.everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=10728&searchId=449de323485c7ad045f6af2e284cd81b&npos=20)

 

This short story is taken from The Pearl by Angela Hunt:

“There was once a king who had three sons.  He also had one ring of pure gold.  Concerned about rivalry among his sons after his death, he had two rings fashioned from false gold and upon his deathbed, he ordered his wise men to give the three rings to his sons.  Calling his sons near, he told them the truth: one ring was real, two were false, but the person with the pure ring would always be kind, good, and blessed of God…

All three sons strove to be kind and good because each of them wanted the people to believe he had been blessed with the real ring.

…Anyone who practices good will be regarded as good by those who can’t see the secrets of the human heart … But all the good in the world won’t change the truth — only one son had the real ring.  The other two were living a lie.  Think about it.”

Matthew 13:45-46

The Parable of the Pearl of Great Price

45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, 46 who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.

An Act Of Worship

this would be a sweet background!

(http://www.everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=358948&searchId=f7b0e354b768a2e09b31aa55744ef613&npos=16)

Sometimes, it’s easier to “do” church, to “do” worship then it is to really worship. 

Ever been there? 

I have been there before, thinking I was so “righteous” in my worship because I could state certain “Church-ese” phrases so eloquently.  I have thought in the past that I was worshiping God because my manner was so “holy”.  I have thought I was worshiping God because I was in a place that appeared to be worshipful.

The truth is worship is never about the outward.  It’s not about the look or feel of a place.  It’s not about the people in the place.  It’s not about the appearance of the other worshipers — their sobriety or their demonstrative expressions of worship.  Worship isn’t limited to a specific emotion.  Worship isn’t limited to a place or a group of people.

Worship is about a Person.  It’s about Jesus.  It’s about God the Father who sacrificed His very Son to give us a tangible example of what love really is.

I Googled the definition of worship off Thesaurus.com.  The following list includes other words that describe worship:

According to these other words, worship expresses a heart attitude (awe, love, veneration, adulation, adoration, glory, praise, etc…).

Worship describes a heart attitude that then expresses itself in adoration, praise, service, love, prayer, devotion, etc…

Exodus 20:3

Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

God is to be the object of our worship.  Ultimately, He has the right to ask this of us as He is the One to Whom we owe our very lives, life, and eternity. 

Atheists refuse to recognize that there is a Sovereign Power that holds this universe together.  Yet, there is a “Force” keeping atoms from flying apart.  There is a Force that started matter/life in the beginning.

Even our very breaths pay homage to our Creator.  Here’s a quote from Jason Gray’s blog http://www.rabbitroom.com/2011/08/is-the-name-of-god-the-sound-of-our-breathing:

“…God’s name, YHWH, is comprised of aspirated consonants that, spoken, are the sound of breathing.”

So every time we breathe, our bodies literally say God’s name!  Is this just “happenstance,” or is it not significant to know that the God who created us would put His very name within each breath we take to remind us that our lives are truly and literally dependent upon His life within us?

Worship occurs every time we place ourselves in full surrender to God and hand over the reigns of control to Him.

So often we want everything on our terms — even our so-called “worship”.  We want to think God is limited to specific places, people, positions, practices, phrases, etc… The reality is God is worshiped among any and all who are surrendered to Him.

Every time, personal ambitions are put aside and we are surrendered to God’s working in and through our lives, God is worshiped.

Today, maybe you are feeling overwhelmed by the drudgery of your current affairs.  Perhaps, life feels bitterly cruel to you today because of current trials you are experiencing.  Perhaps, you are lonely or alone.  Perhaps, you are living in a home with an unsaved spouse or unsaved parents and siblings.  Perhaps, you are the only individual at your work who is saved or appears to be saved.

This is for you, my friend.  No matter where you are, with whom you are, how you are feeling today, you have something to offer to God.  You have yourself!

The gift God asks and wants more than anything else is You!  Yes, You! 

God doesn’t ask you to wait to come to Him or to wait to be used by Him until you are “all-beautified” or “perfected”.   God wants us to come as we are to Him.  God asks us to give ourselves to Him — just as we are. 

Dear friends, He will take the rubbish.  He will take the wounds.  He will take the sickness.  He will take the hurts.  He will take the past.  He will take us just as we are, and He will transform and redeem what we give to Him.

Yes, dear friends, this is grace!  Jesus just wants you.  It means though that you have to surrender to Him, offer yourself to Him, and stop trying to fix what you can’t fix.

It’s all about the holy act of surrender — that is the essence of worship.

Surrender to God, and allow yourself to be a gift of worship to Him, revealing the matchless grace and power of Jesus!

The glory is and always has been His all along.

He is the reason we live and breathe and hope!

Job 33:4

“The Spirit of God has made me, And the breath of the Almighty gives me life.”

Am I Narcissistic?

No idea what the ladies was like, but I just thought these were more or less the coolest sinks I've ever seen.

(http://www.everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=47486&searchId=fbe322a89bc0ba531c3f0050e3935f28&npos=134)

When you see narcissism in the title of an article, does it immediately attract your attention?  Do you wonder if perhaps you might have those tendencies?  Maybe because someone, something, your conscience, God has prompted this awareness that perhaps there might be something to it in relation to you.

The definition for “narcissism” is the following:

nar·cis·sism
ˈnärsəˌsizəm/
noun
noun: narcissism
  1. excessive or erotic interest in oneself and one’s physical appearance.
    synonyms: vanity, self-love, self-admiration, self-absorption, self-obsession, conceit, self-centeredness, self-regard, egotism, egoism

    “his emotional development was hindered by his mother’s narcissism”
    antonyms: modesty
    • Psychology
      extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one’s own talents and a craving for admiration, as characterizing a personality type.
    • Psychoanalysis
      self-centeredness arising from failure to distinguish the self from external objects, either in very young babies or as a feature of mental disorder.

Narcissism is an extreme form of self-absorption and self-obsession.  It is classified as an actual personality disorder: NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder).

Selfishness though is what leads to the downward spiral into narcissism.  Selfishness is something towards which all humans have a tendency.  What is “selfishness”?  According to dictionary.com, it is the following:

[sel-fish]
adjective

1.

devoted to or caring only for oneself; concerned primarily with one’s own interests, benefits, welfare, etc., regardless of others.

2.

characterized by or manifesting concern or care only for oneself:

selfish motives.

Narcissism isn’t a word that any of us want to have associated with us.  Yet, I believe its main cause, selfishness, is something that all of us can struggle with at times — some on a large scale and then others perhaps on a lesser scale.

When we look at our motives, truly look at them — why we do the things we do — we find that often our actions are prompted more for self-gratification, avoidance of that which would “hurt” ourselves, escape, self-fulfillment. 

Even our “love” can be very self-motivated. That’s why when our relationships start requiring more work then pleasure, interactions become “ugly”.

Our parenting can be motivated out of what we “get” from our kids — the fulfillment they give us.

Watch out though when those “sweet” little cuties rebel or publicly act in a way that brings humiliation.  Watch out when there is more work involved then self-gratification.  That’s when we see our true motives and heart revealed.

God has a way of gently convicting me when self begins to take precedence.  It’s always humbling to see the ugliness of ulterior motives, the insincerity of prideful accomplishments, the judgmentalism of self-centered “righteousness” and religion.

A lot of “good” things can be accomplished with nice-sounding labels but with a heart that is full of selfishness at its core.  Because these things are “good” things they may look attractive, receive approval, and even appear to be blessed for a time.

But the things “sown” in the flesh will ultimately reap fleshly results.

Self-centered religion does not glorify God.  It seeks to glorify self, to establish self as the god who is “good enough”, a “moral” citizen, accepted by all.

The truth is we have no merits, no true righteousness, no pure motives, no sacrificial love, no selflessness, except in Christ.

It is impossible to not seek to please or worship self without the all-consuming Gospel power of grace.

It is Christ alone and His grace at work in our lives that convicts and compels us to look outside of self, to serve in joyful abandonment of self, and to find the freedom that comes when we are no longer chained to the all-consuming ugliness of the god of self.

We can do all kinds of things to attempt to avoid being consumed by narcissism.  We can fool ourselves into thinking we are selfless when we do good works, but if we do them to avoid confronting the true state of our hearts, then self is still our god.

It is God alone who can reveal the true intentions of our hearts.  His Word and Spirit have a way of “cutting” through the pretty words, the artificial works, the commercial-worthy smiles, the accolades, the religious phrases to the true conditions of our hearts.

In a time-suspending, illuminating moment, God has a way of removing our blinders.  He does it not to shame us but to bring us into freedom — freedom from the imprisoning, debilitating clutches of self. 

Freedom from self enables us to serve others with sincerity.  Freedom from self frees us from preoccupation with our own needs, hurts, goals, passions in order to be able to truly see the hearts, wounds, needs of others.  Freedom from self humbles us enough to be able to respond to others with forgiveness and grace.  Freedom from self gives us the courage to do what is right rather than to live in fear of others.

As humbling and convicting as it may be, let’s allow God’s Spirit to remove our “blinders” and to purify our hearts so that we can be free to live a life that is God-centered and not self-centered.