Tag Archives: grace

Would You Pray With Me? 

Dear Lord, you know who I’m praying for at this moment. You know who she is, her name, everything she’s going through, and even her real hair color. Father, you even know every hair out of her head, as you said in your Word. Now, God, I’m coming to you, along with all those who will pray with me, and interceding on her behalf.

Lord, she says she doesn’t believe in you, But so often that’s nothing about a denial of the truth. She knows you’re there, she just doesn’t want you to be there. God, soften her heart, break her heart, do whatever you need to do to open her eyes to the truth. You were there, and you were waiting, draw her to Yourself.

Lord, I know of many people who have been hurt by those who call themselves Christians. I know this young girl has been hurt, too. But I also know that there have been many who you have broken through the hardness of the walls they have built around their hearts. Break down the walls around this young woman’s heart. 

Jesus, I know you are glorified whenever anyone gives his or her heart to you. Lord, I pray that you would be glorified when this young woman turns from her sin, repents, and gives her heart and life to you.

Continue, or God, to break our hearts for the lost!

In the name of Jesus Christ I pray this, amen.

14 Comments

Filed under Faith, grace, Love of God, Prayer

Hair Today, Grace Tomorrow

Battles

You have probably heard it said before, but sometimes you have to pick your battles. At least that’s a common saying when it comes to parenting. Of course, there are sometimes when the battle chooses you, but for the most part, we can decide which battle should take priority. When it comes to my daughter getting her hair cut, well, I’ve decided that is a battle I am willing to invest few resources.

The other day my youngest, Haley, came to me and told me that she wanted to have her hair cut – and I mean CUT! I must admit, the idea of my beautiful little girl having her pretty hair scissored from her head made me sad. On the other hand, I was not as mournfully brokenhearted as Katie, Haley’s older sister. But, when she explained to me why she wanted it cut, and what she wanted it to look like, I just said, “OK, whatever makes you happy.”

However, since we are talking “battles,” don’t think “whatever makes you happy” will always be my response – no sir! Like I said, there are some battles worth fighting, it’s just that this one was not it. I mean, should she have come to me and asked if she could get her hair nearly shaved off and spiked and colored purple? Uhh, no. That wouldn’t have happened. And should she have come to me and asked for a tongue stud, or a tramp stamp… you get the picture… NO! And I would fight those battles.

Believe me, there are FAR more battles worth waging on behalf of our children, far more than ones over how short their hair should be!

But all Haley wanted was to have her pretty hair cut and styled shorter…and I wanted her to be happy…and there was really nothing wrong with what she was wanting to do. It was just hair – it can grow back.

Grace

But here’s the thing, folks. Should my little Haley gone out and done something that made me angry, something of which I would have strongly disapproved, would that have changed the fact that she is my daughter?

NO! Absolutely not!

If Haley had gone and got that tattoo on her back, or the nose ring, or the spiked hair…or far worse…yes, I still would have loved her, even though, as her dad, I would have been ticked. I would have been disappointed for my own reasons, but I wouldn’t have kicked her out of the house; she’s my daughter.

And that’s the thing about real grace. God loves us enough to let us live, even if our life choices prove to be out of step with the norm, or not what others would like. We are not talking about sin, but individual choices and decisions of life, where there is no real right or wrong, just the opportunity to offend or hurt. God’s grace allows us to be ourselves, within his boundaries, because He actually DOES want us to be happy.

Thankfully, though, when the choices of a believer DO cross the line and become sin, our Heavenly Father may be quick to discipline us, but He never stops loving us…we are family…we are His children.

So, the hair may be gone today, but grace isn’t.

How It Happened – In Pictures

 

Here is Haley, hair intact, with the Follicle Vampire about to strike.

Here is Haley, hair intact, with the Follicle Vampire about to strike.

img_5393

I had to keep reminding myself it could grow back. On the other hand, I could make a wig out of that!

img_5405

The finished product: A selfie-worthy cut on a beautiful daughter.

 

 

 

7 Comments

Filed under grace, legalism, Parenting, Relationships and Family

Debris and Grace

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. – 2 Corinthians 12:9

The Move

As I have mentioned on numerous occasions before, we have been in the process of moving – in all things praise the Lord. Unfortunately, as you might imagine, we’ve gained a lot of “stuff” over the last eight years of living in the parsonage.

The next time you take a long, hot shower (if you do that kind of thing) in order to ease your aching joints, think of me; there’s not a joint or muscle that doesn’t ache after all of this! As a matter of fact, it is almost impossible to scratch the back of my shiny head with my right hand…my shoulder is just too messed up.

Essentially, moving contributes to less movement.

The Debris

img_5265I am not going to try to fool you; we are not the best at keeping a spotless house. I can truthfully say that our home never has bugs and it is sanitary; however, don’t expect every square inch to be dust-free…ever.

But as I was l looking at the floor in the empty living room where all of our comfy furniture used to be, I noticed some bits of debris on the floor. It seems that even after a sweeping of the imitation hard wood there were still tiny pieces of stuff like grass, a crumb or two, etc. I guess a little piece of us will always be there somewhere.

It just goes to prove that no matter how often we cleaned, there were always going to be places where we missed…places like under a cabinet, in between a cushion seam, or against the baseboard in a corner.

Grace

Aren’t you glad our salvation is not based on getting rid of every little bit of debris in our lives? I mean, seriously, there are some people who believe that we can become, through a life of total sanctification, clean from all the debris of sin. Some people think that unless every sin is confess before one dies, then one’s salvation is lost. What they don’t realize is that there’s always going to be something somewhere, something hidden and forgotten, that never gets swept away.

That’s why we need grace.

 

 

9 Comments

Filed under Christian Living, Christianity, legalism

How Am I Doing?

The Question

It came from Africa.

No, it wasn’t an animal trying to eat me, or a disease for which no one has a cure (which is more scary). It was a question, one asked by a Facebook friend in Uganda.

Pastor Ndahayo Shine asked: “How are you?”

imageHow am I? How does an American answer that question? I mean, seriously? What do I have to complain about?

Honestly, at the very moment Pastor Shine’s question popped up on Facebook Messenger I was eating a warmed-up piece of apple pie (as American as it gets).

Pie, I tell you!

I’m eating pie, and I get a question regarding how I’m doing from a man in Uganda. Africa! The place where famines kill more people than the NRA is blamed for!

So, I replied with the following answer:

“I am alive, not hungry, and not hurting. I have a roof over my head, a car in the driveway, and children who love me. My wife is faithful, the police are not after me, and the dog hasn’t chewed anything important in a long, long time. I guess you could say I’m doing better than I deserve.”

Am I Blessed?

So many times we answer questions like “How are you doing?” with things like, “I’m fine,” or “I’m blessed.” However, to be honest – which I try to be most of the time – I’d rather admit to being “fine” than “blessed.”

Why is that? 

Saying that I’m blessed has a sneaky way of implying that those in other places – like Africa – are NOT blessed, at least not as much as me. I mean, what does it say about Christianity and the character of God when those who are “abundantly blessed” are the ones who rarely feel the need to trust God for their next meal? What I own or what’s parked in my driveway is not a mark of spirituality, nor should it insinuate I’ve live a life more worthy of blessing than my brothers and sisters living in poverty.

If I am blessed at all, it’s not because of anything I’ve done or deserve; I am simply the recipient of God’s grace. I have been allowed according to God’s sovereignty to live in a country where leftover pie in a running refrigerator is commonplace.

Jesus made it pretty clear who the “blessed” really are. They are the poor in spirit, the meek, the merciful, the pure in heart, and the peacemakers (Matthew 5:3-9). And if that’s not enough, “…Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord…” (Revelation 14:13).

What I Don’t Deserve

While saying “fine,” I’d bet the temptation to answer the question “How are you doing?” with complaints is almost overwhelming for most. Oh, admit it – you say you’re “fine” because you don’t think the person asking is really that interested in hearing your list of ailments, worries, and irritations.

You probably answer with “fine” because you don’t want to sound like a cry baby or a hypochondriac, right? Because, admit it, you feel you deserve better than what you have; you don’t really feel “blessed,” do you?

Well, I don’t know about you, but I don’t deserve anything but hell. Yet, for some reason God has allowed me to be the recipient of many good things which I don’t deserve, even if I have worked for a lot of it.

I don’t deserve a faithful wife, loving children, and a devoted dog. I don’t deserve to be a pastor, have a regular job, or to be respected in my community.

I don’t deserve electric appliances that make life easier, or even the split-level brick home in which I live. I don’t deserve the freedom to come and go as I please, not having to rely on public transportation or worry about being stopped by thugs demanding to search my car.

How am I doing? What can I say? I just ate pie…because it was there…and I wasn’t even hungry! If I’m blessed, it’s above and beyond what I need.

God is good, but His grace is Amazing! 

 

3 Comments

Filed under America, Christian Living, Life Lessons, Thanksgiving

Shined Shoes

Several years ago (three, to be exact) a reader named Anne gave me a suggestion that got me to thinking. She said,

“More writing having to do with legalism, and the recovery process would be greatly appreciated!”

Then, I wrote the following post and saved it as a “draft.” I don’t know why I never published it, but I’m going to do so right now – 3 years late.


Thank you, Anne, for the call to refocus.

So, in an effort to encourage more debate on legalism, I am going to share a story with you. It is a story I heard from a really neat guy I met yesterday. His name – Dr. Shine.

Dr. Shine

Yesterday, I went on a service call in downtown Chattanooga (a client had questions regarding his credit card service). While waiting for the business owner to show up, I stood outside on the sidewalk under a shade tree, right next door to a shoe repair shop.

Dr. Shine (I don’t know his real name), who was also standing outside, was greeting people as they walked by. It didn’t take long for me to strike up a conversation, and before long I was invited into his shop to have my shoes shined. “C’mon in,” he said, as he led me to his specially built chair. “Jus step on up dare, and I’ll fix you right up.”

The great doctor did a great job shining my shoes, even though they hadn’t been polished much since I bought them. As he was buffing away I looked down and said, “Good-looking shoes make a difference, don’t they?”

That’s when he told me about a lawyer.

The Story

Dr. Shine told me that twice a week an attorney comes into his shop, climbs up into his chair, and pays to have his shoes shined. “Five hundred dollar suites don’t mean nothin’ if your shoes look bad,” the doctor said. “People notice.”

Evidently what happened is this lawyer had dared go to court all dressed up, but his shoes must have looked bad. According to Dr. Shine, the judge in the courtroom said, “The next time you want to bring your a** in my courtroom, you’d better shine your shoes!”

The lawyer has had polished shoes ever since.

What about Church?

Why is it that people will show the utmost respect for a judge in an earthly court, but so little for the holiness of God?

After talking with Dr. Shine, the shoeshine man, I thought about how many times I’ve seen people dress up for a court appearance, but dress down for church.

We talk “grace” and all, but what about respect? We talk about “entering into His presence,” but do we really mean it?

Clothing has nothing to do with one’s spirituality, so don’t misunderstand me. However, here’s something to think about: How would your shoes look if you were literally about to enter into the Courtroom of the Judge of all the Universe?

I’d shine my shoes.

3 Comments

Filed under legalism, Life Lessons

5 Reasons for Being a Legalist

1. Ignorance

Some people don’t know any differently.

When I was growing up, I did not know anything different than what I was exposed to in our small churches, missionary conferences, revivals, or Christian schools. Even though I believe that most of what I was taught was doctrinally sound, I was not allowed to examine different viewpoints, even those of other Baptists (specifically if they were anything other than “Independent, Fundamental,” etc.) Many are still in this situation. Tragically, they are content with their ignorance. They refuse to consider the fact that they may be wrong on a particular point.

Even when Scripture is plain and simple, because of the secluded nature of certain groups, legalists would rather stick their heads in the sand than risk being wrong. Being wrong might make someone else, even another denomination, right about something. Heaven forbid!

2. Indignation

Some came from an unholy lifestyle and now seek to redeem themselves (or their consciences).

Some people are so ashamed of their past that they go overboard in trying to live a life of holiness. They see in their past a link between so-called “worldly activities” and their fall into depravity. In an effort to show they are no longer the person they used to be, and in order to avoid temptation, they strictly avoid certain activities deemed “worldly.”

Sadly, even though they mean well, they project their own weaknesses onto others, therefore expecting others to abide by the same level of austere living, or be seen as worldly. However, in many cases, appearances are not what they seem.

The very ones who are so legalistic in some areas of life wind up being the ones with the biggest weakness in that area. Their overbearing attitudes, in many cases, may only be the big doors hiding skeletons in their closet.

3. Immaturity 

Some desire to be controlled, to be told what to do.

As strange as it may sound, some people don’t like to think for themselves, nor do they like being responsible for their own choices. It is sort of like people whom I have seen that were once under a totalitarian government: when they no longer had a dictatorial system telling them what to do, they either lost all control, or had no motivation to do any good.

Legalistic churches provide the lazy or immature Christian a list of “do’s and don’ts” so that he/she doesn’t have to search the Scripture for guidance. It is much easier this way. If the pastor says something is wrong and that God would not approve, then that’s it – end of discussion. Having a list is safe and doesn’t require much thought. Essentially, the legalist would rather be a marionette than mature.

4. Inadequacies 

Some want to control others.

Freedom is dangerous. Freedom allows for movement and change. Freedom allows for the individual to be led by God in a specific direction that may or may not be God’s will for another. Freedom takes power away from those who would want to control others for their own edification or gratification. On the other hand, legalism keeps the sheep under strict control by encouraging tattling and fear of being ostracized.

There are pastors, well-intended men, who would rather their people live under a specific set of guidelines than question long-held, man-made traditions. These leaders are afraid to lose their congregations to the world, but also to other churches. They may even find comfort in controlling others due to their own inadequacies. Much like emperors and dictators, they manipulate weak Christians in order to maintain their little kingdoms. Rarely do they admit weakness and often micro-manage every aspect of ministry. Legalistic leaders have to be in control.

5. Insecurity

Some people are more afraid of God than in love with Him.

So many people that I have known (and used to be like) were more afraid of losing their relational standing with God than anything else. Legalism tends to give some the assurance that God is please with them.

I wonder how it really was for Enoch as he walked with God. Many modern preachers are quick to make the application of Enoch’s walk with God to the way we act in this world, but they make little of the relationship implied by the narrative (Genesis 5:24). In reality, very few lists would even be needed if one had an abiding relationship with Jesus Christ.

angry godTo the legalist, God is not a friend: He doesn’t laugh…He speaks in Old English…and He holds a grudge because of what it took to buy the sinner’s salvation. When one thinks of God as always looking for an opportunity to send judgment, then being legalistic is the safest way to go. No one wants to be hit with a lightening bolt, you understand.

So, are you a legalist? Why, or why not? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

10 Comments

Filed under legalism, Theology

Grace Party Wins!

If you want to live a genuine Christian life, expect to feel like you’re in a presidential election cycle.

Satan will try to destroy you with every imaginable trick, even getting your friends to do his dirty work, accusing you of everything under the sun.

Expect to have your past and all your weaknesses exposed. Expect setbacks. Expect bad press. Expect the unexpected.

Nevertheless, be encouraged! Stay in the race! What the enemy chooses to ignore is that your victory is already assured!

Yes, the Electoral College of Heaven cast their ballot before you entered the contest – all 3 votes are in your camp.

“…for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.” – Rev. 12:10b

The Grace Party wins!

3 Comments

Filed under Christian Living, Christianity, politics, voting