Tag Archives: God’s love

Performance Spirituality

In nearly every part of life, performance is vitally important.  In school, in sports, at work—performance is what it’s all about.  When we don’t perform well, we wish our acceptance was based on something else.  Yet, we accept the judgment and rejection that comes with poor performance.  We understand the system and yield to its values.  Football players, business employees, factory workers, medical personnel, and so many more, expect to be judged and accepted on performance.

Then, when we consider our spiritual life, we are so used to the performance system that we assume it must be the same thing.  When the Law is added to the church’s message, we get the idea that we must measure up or we will not remain part of the church.  Manipulative churches and teachers add their own items to the Law’s list (and take away ones they don’t like) in order to control their people.  The sad thing is that it seems so normal, so natural, that we don’t question whether it is right.  Performance spirituality is just the way the system works.

But here’s the good news: your spiritual life is not based on your performance; it is based on your relationship with Jesus!  He loves you and has called you to Himself.  He has offered the only sacrifice necessary and sufficient for your reconciliation with God.  He is Himself your eternal life.  He has initiated the relationship, made it possible, and has committed Himself to keep it secure.

You can’t perform well enough to be acceptable to Him.  You can only be acceptable to Him because of His love.  This isn’t a football team or any kind of business.  Your performance is not the measuring tool for determining your acceptance.  He has already decided to accept you. The question is whether you can accept that you are accepted.

When the accuser comes to challenge your faith and reminds you of your sin or your lack of performance, do you crumble in shame and feel unacceptable?  Do you agree with him that God should kick you out of His family?  Do you worry whether God has already rejected you?  Well, you don’t have to have these feelings.  Jesus wants you to know that you are acceptable and accepted, just because of His love.  He won’t reject you if you fail or if your performance is less than best.  That’s the world’s way, not His.  He has chosen to cover your sin with His own blood.

I am convinced that the primary compromise of the church has been to look at spirituality through the grid of performance.  The people are discouraged, defeated, and depressed—because they know they can never measure up to the ever-changing standards that are placed on them.  Their work will never be enough and their sin will always be too much.  We tell people about Jesus and His love and then force them under the bondage of performance and take away their joy and peace.

This ministry, for the past nine years, has helped hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people who have felt trapped under the burdens of performance spirituality.  Our goal for the future is to reach even more with the truly Good News of the gospel.  The grace of God in the person and work of Jesus is enough.


Filed under grace, Legalism, Relationship

I am Blameless

Words of Grace


Okay, it’s a new year.  Everything starts off with a clean slate, right?  The past is gone.  The holidays are over.  Now the work and the life begins again.

Wouldn’t it be something to truly start again?  No debts.  No regrets.  No broken and painful relationships.  Just a chance to start over.  Nothing hanging over us from the past.

Of course, there’s one problem.  If we didn’t remember our mistakes, we would simply make them again.  So we have to allow for growth and change.  Who would want to live the same year over and over, making the same foolish decisions and gathering the same regrets?  Not me!

Someone said, “Good decisions come from experience, and experience comes from bad decisions.”  It isn’t the wisdom we want to get rid of as we begin again, it’s the shame.  The condemnation that comes with our regrets seems to drag behind us like a weight.  We find it so hard to move into anything new because of the anchor we pull.

Yet, the Lord says we are blameless.  He has washed away the guilt and shame of our sins.  We do have that clean slate.  In fact, nothing will ever stick to that slate again.  It will always be clean, because His forgiveness is active in us.  He has set us free from the power and the guilt of sin and He has made us clean.

How much condemnation is there for a believer, even one who sins?  Well, the Scripture says “there is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  None!  Our slate is clean.

Well, you say, I haven’t kept myself clean and blameless.  I have done wrong things.   Sure, but He has kept you clean and blameless.  He does that for you.  Do you deserve it?  Of course not, but He does it for Himself.  You belong to Him and He takes care of you.

Paul had some hard words for the church in Corinth.  They had compromised and made some foolish and fleshly decisions.  Yet, notice what he says about them.

 I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge, even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  1 Corinthians 1:4-9 (NKJV)


Why was this true of them, in spite of what they had done?  Because God was faithful.  Not because they were faithful.  God does His work.

So, yes, those who are in Christ are blameless.  That’s God’s assessment, whether you agree or not.  He has done this in you and for you.

Those regrets from the past don’t have to carry any weight in your new year.  Release the anchor that holds you back.  Release even the memories into the hands of the Lord.  He will carry what needs to be carried.  And you can start every day brand new, free and blameless.


Through the LORD’S mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.
“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I hope in Him!”
The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, To the soul who seeks Him. Lamentations 3:22-25 (NKJV)

I am blameless.

The Lord has forgiven me.

He has washed my regrets away and healed me.

He keeps me close to His heart.

I am blameless.


Filed under Words of Grace

I am valued

Words of Grace

What are you worth?  From time to time that question comes up in our lives and it usually hurts.  So many people and things can make us feel devalued or undervalued.

The boss rejects your raise.  The client fails to show up for the appointment.  The friend doesn’t call.  The child won’t talk.  The spouse hasn’t the time.  No one notices your extra effort.  No one cares about your pain.  It isn’t hard to begin to think you have no value.

I have been there.  Work hard and get only criticism.  Work late and no one cares.  Work faithfully and people walk away.  Carry the burdens of others and have no one who walks with you.

Someone once said, “Everybody wants to be somebody to somebody.”  We need to know that someone notices, that someone values us.

You are valued!  There is One who suffered for you because He loved you.  To Him, you are the pearl of great price, the apple of His eye, the treasure of His heart.    God has not forgotten you.  To Him you are very special.

Jesus told His disciples to trust in the Lord.

Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God.
But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. Luke 12:6-7 (NKJV)

It may not seem like much to be compared with sparrows, but the point is that God knows you.  He knows all about you and He loves you.  Jesus went to the cross for you.

So, no matter what happens around you, you are valued.  You can shrug off the insensitivity of others by reminding yourself of the truth.  You can stand up and give yourself words of affirmation based on the truth of the Word of God.  He loves you.  He values you.

I am valued.

The God of the Universe loves me.

He has gone to great lengths to reach out and connect with me.

He has forgiven me and welcomed me.

I am valued.



Filed under Relationship, Words of Grace

The Anti-Narcissist

It’s Narcissist Friday!    

He left the comfort and glory of Heaven, which had rightfully been His for all eternity, to come to our world as a baby.  He humbled Himself, became dependent on others.  They were weak and untrustworthy and unkind.  They struggled to survive and didn’t know how to love.  But He trusted Himself into their hands.  He, who had made the worlds and sustained the Universe, made Himself weak and vulnerable. 

Even though He knew their hearts, He let them make decisions for Him.  They fed Him and cleaned Him and taught Him.  He, who was the King of kings and Lord of lords, grew among the people as one of them.  He knew that He could never trust them, but He gave Himself to them.

He walked among the people patiently and with kindness, no matter how their petty manipulations affected Him.  He listened to their concerns, valued them, and comforted them.  He taught them gently and graciously.  And when they decided they didn’t want to hear Him anymore, He yielded Himself to their will.

He loved them.  He did it all because of love.  The Master of empathy, He entered into our world and our lives.  He felt our limitations and weaknesses.  He experienced our temptations and our pain.  He set His life aside to enter ours.  Because of love.

Jesus is the anti-narcissist.  I don’t mean that He is against the narcissist, but that He is against narcissism and exhibited to us a life without narcissism.  Everything we know of Jesus is centered on His love for us.  The gift of love, given by God Himself, was a gift of understanding and empathy.

And He didn’t come just to understand, but to show us that He understands.  He didn’t come to live the perfect life in our world, but to give us that perfect life so we can live in our world and in His.  He didn’t come just to show us His love, but to let that love overcome our bondage and pain and give us victory.  He didn’t come to die, but to conquer death and set us free forever.

That’s what Christmas is all about.  The anti-narcissist.


Filed under Narcissism

I am Strong

Words of Grace  

Life is filled with challenges.  Sometimes they are battles we have to fight.  Sometimes they are burdens we have to carry.  Sometimes they are fears we have to push through.  And sometimes we don’t know what they are yet.

To face these challenges, we are supposed to be strong.  But what if we are not strong?  What happens then?  What if I look around at all the confusing challenges I face and I feel very weak?  What if I have no idea how I could possibly do what I am expected to do?  Sometimes we don’t feel very strong.

Perhaps you find yourself alone and you feel weak.  Perhaps things are expected of you that you don’t know how to do.  Perhaps others have taken away what little strength you had.  And now you are afraid.  You don’t want to admit it to anyone, but you just don’t see how you can do what you are expected to do.

Once again, the word comes to us from outside.  We don’t have to gather up our strength when it isn’t there.  We don’t have to pretend to be strong.  We don’t have to lie to ourselves or others.  The Lord tells us that we are strong because He is our strength.

David understood this as much as anyone ever has.  He said, in 2 Samuel 22:33, “God is my strength and power.”  How strong are you if God is your strength?  The Psalms are full of affirmations regarding the strength of the believer.  God is our strength.

The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. Psalm 18:2 (NKJV)


If the Lord is your strength—and He says He is—then you are strong enough to do all that you must do.  Then your strength is great and will overwhelm your enemies.

Paul understood.

 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13 (NKJV)


I am strong.

God is my strength.

I can do anything He calls me to do.

He is my Power

I am strong.

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Filed under Uncategorized, Words of Grace

I am Good

Words of Grace   


The problem with words of affirmation is that you can’t just make them up.  Telling yourself good things to believe about you might feel good for a little while, but it usually sounds phony.  Many motivational teachers use self-produced words of affirmation to move us to some change; but, if we don’t really believe those words, how can the change be real?

Real words of affirmation, those that make a difference in us, are those that come from the outside.  We might still doubt the words, but we can’t control them and we are not producing them.  You can tell yourself that you did a good job; but, when the boss tells you or the client tells you, that makes a difference.

It isn’t bad to affirm yourself.  In fact, there may be times when you are the only one and you have to believe your words to keep going.  But words of self-affirmation are most effective when they are in agreement with the words from outside.

So, when I say the words, “I am good,” it matters where I get them.  If I just produce them out of my own desire to feel good, then I remember the things I regret and know the words are not true.  If others say them about me, that feels better, but I still know things about myself they don’t know and I still doubt the words.  But when the One who truly knows me and knows the only standards of goodness that matter, when He says I am good, that’s something I can hold onto.

Yes, sin has been a part of all our lives and we were taught that sin made us bad.  That’s why we needed a Savior.  But once the Savior came into our lives, He brought His goodness into us.  He washed away the stain of the sins and filled us with His love and His life.  We are good because He is good.

The idea of goodness is hard to apply to our lives because of what we were taught about ourselves.  We feel that we must reject any affirmation of goodness in us because of what we have done.  But if our goodness is not judged by what we have done, if it is judged by who He is in us, then we are truly good.  Those who belong to Jesus, who are filled with His life, are good.


So Paul could say with assurance:

Now I myself am confident concerning you, my brethren, that you also are full of goodness… Romans 15:14 (NKJV)

I am good.

Jesus is good and He is my life.

Because He is in me and I am in Him, I am good.

God has given me goodness.

I am good.


Filed under Words of Grace

I Feel What I Feel!

It’s Narcissist Friday!   


You open the door of your house and walk outside into the dark.  It’s one of those nights when clouds cover the moon and stars and even the street lights are subdued.  You don’t have far to walk, but the bushes and trees and parked cars present an ominous gathering of places for someone to hide.  What do you feel?

You are supposed to meet a friend at the corner.  As you approach the corner, you hear laughter and you see your friend talking with another person.  When they see you, they stop talking and the other person walks quickly away.  Your friend stands and waits for you to get there.  What do you feel?

Feelings come from deep places within us.  Memories, shadows of memories, suspicions, doubts, weaknesses—all contribute to our feelings in certain situations.  There are classic triggers to our feelings: darkness, unexplained silence, sudden anger, secrecy, lies.  These bring out negative feelings in us.  And all of this is normal.

The fact that we have feelings is simple.  At least it should be.  To deny our feelings is to attempt to lie to ourselves.  For others to deny our feelings is just plain mean.

Narcissistic relationships abound with feelings.  I wish I could say that stronger.  Narcissistic relationships bombard us with feelings.  Conflicting, confusing, intense, weird, unwelcome, inexpressible feelings.  Feelings others find hard to understand or accept.  Feelings you find hard to understand or accept.  But they are there.

Something about a narcissist causes people to experience unfamiliar and often unwelcome feelings.  Those feelings are real.  Narcissists can be secretive, manipulative, angry, deceitful, and insensitive.  It is natural for us to have certain negative feelings when we encounter such a person.  Yes, there are times when the narcissist makes us feel good, but those feelings are often accompanied by a confusing fear or suspicion.

It may be that the narcissist has a desire to produce these feelings in us, perhaps to manipulate or just to experience our emotions.  It may be that the narcissist is so out of touch with the feelings of others that he/she doesn’t understand how words or actions produce those feelings.  Or it may be that the narcissist simply doesn’t care.

But it doesn’t help to say, “Don’t feel that way.”  Listen: no one has the right to tell you not to feel a certain way!  You feel what you feel.

I know that feelings can be unfounded.  The dark street may hold no danger.  The secretive conversation may be completely innocent.  Your suspicions may be off base.  But denying the feeling is not the way to make it disappear.  Shine the light in the dark place.  Look behind the bushes.  Let the truth be revealed.  Then the feeling can go away.

And sometimes there’s a reason for your feelings.  Maybe something is wrong.  You may not know what it is, but you feel something isn’t right.  If you can, shine some light on the situation.  See if you can find out what’s happening.  Or just keep your eyes open to see what is revealed when the light does shine.

A good counselor will help you find ways to shine light on your feelings.  Maybe they are unfounded and triggered by memories or pains from the past.  Maybe they are right on and you need to see the truth.  But a counselor shouldn’t try to talk you out of your feelings.  If a counselor tells you not to feel a certain way, find another counselor.

A good friend will walk with you through the feelings.  He/she might walk into the darkness with you, stand with you in the place of your fear, give words of courage and love in times of pain, and offer affirmation and assurance in the midst of worry.  A friend doesn’t deny your feelings.

And, in your own heart, embrace your feelings.  Fear is in you for a reason.  It doesn’t have to control you, but you can use it to stay alert.  Suspicion doesn’t have to destroy a relationship, but it might help to prepare you for something.  And it might move you to seek the truth you need to know.  Your feelings are important, a part of you that has been developed to guide you through life.  No, they are not always trustworthy, but they shouldn’t be denied.

When I struggle with my feelings, it helps to pray.  There is One who knows the truth.  He may be warning me.  Or He may help me to see that my feelings come from another place and my current situation is okay.  In the darkness, I look to Him and tell Him of my feelings.  Then I can let Him shine His light into my life.

David said, “When I am afraid, I will trust in You.”  So don’t deny my feelings.  They might be moving me closer to my Lord.

I feel what I feel.


Filed under Narcissism

I am Accepted!

Words of Grace 

(This morning begins a simple and important series of posts that will offer words of encouragement to begin the week.  The weeks of the holidays and winter can be discouraging, even depressing, as we struggle to find the joy.   We all seem to have negative words stuck in our heads, telling us lies about ourselves.  These “Words of Grace” will be for believers, those who have come to God through faith in Jesus.  Watch for these posts each Monday.  I hope you are lifted up!)


When identity is based on performance, you can never do enough.  When identity is based on appearance or talent, you can never be good enough.  The most successful people often feel as though they lack something to be accepted.  The most beautiful people or popular people think of their flaws.  So how could the rest of us have any hope?

We strive not so much to better ourselves, but to feel better about ourselves.  Perhaps because of the way we were raised, perhaps because of the competitive world into which we were thrust, or perhaps because of the betrayal and rejection we have experienced—we can find it very hard to believe that we are finally accepted.  The negative words ring in our ears.

Where do you go to find acceptance, real acceptance that settles the matter in your heart?  To work?  To your family?  To your friends?  We want to be accepted in all those groups; but, even if we are, we can still feel that something is lacking.  There is only one opinion that brings the satisfaction and closure we need.

So many go to church on Sunday and hear all about what they have done wrong.  They come away believing that God does not accept them, that they will never be good enough.  Their sin and weakness lie heavy on their hearts, made even heavier by the preacher’s words.  Surely acceptance is not to be found with God, they think.

But the good news is that we are accepted!  One of the basic definitions of grace is to make someone or something accepted, to accept someone.  God accepts you!  When your identity is based on His love, you are finally good enough.

We have learned through experience that love is not quite the same as acceptance, so we might believe God loves us and still doubt that He accepts us.  We have learned that He has saved us, but we have been taught that He does so in spite of His feelings about us.  Some people think that God will tolerate them because of Jesus.  They believe that they are “dirty rotten sinners” in His sight and that He must look at Jesus to receive them into His presence.  But the truth is that God accepts you and me, as individuals, because of Jesus.

Paul understood.  He said:

3  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4  just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5  having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6  to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved Ephesians 1:3-6 (NKJV) 

“He has made us accepted.”  Notice that it does not say He will accept us.  Nor does it say He has made us acceptable.  He has made us accepted.  It’s a done deal.  It doesn’t even say that He accepts us.  That would feel weaker to us.  Yes, God accepts us, but that’s because He has to, we might think.  No, He has made us accepted.  His grace has been sufficient in us.

This is a big deal!  You can stop trying to measure up.  You can stop striving to find acceptance in the world around you.  Whether it is the negative voices that come from your past, the rejection of a loved one or friend, or the fear of failure in spiritual things—the decision has been made.  You are accepted.  You are good enough.

So, through this week, tell yourself the truth:

I am accepted.

I am good enough.

God has said it.

All because of Jesus.

I am accepted.

It is finished.


Filed under Words of Grace

Grace makes the difference

Grace 101

When I talk about grace, I usually mean the whole message of God’s love and provision.  Grace is the activity of God’s love.  Because God loves us, He reaches out to us and brings us in.  He provides all we need for salvation, sanctification, justification and more.  Forgiveness, victory, and Heaven are ours because of His initiative and His work.

If we remember that God loves us and acts for our good, then prayer becomes a positive thing in our lives.

Many of us were led to believe that confession was the most important part of prayer.  Whenever we prayed, even if it was an emergency, we were supposed to stop to confess our sins first.  We had to confess that there was no reason God should hear us because we were so evil in our hearts.

So, think about that.  How easy is it for you to go to someone and apologize?  How easy is it to ask forgiveness?  It’s hard work, isn’t it?  I am not saying it isn’t important, but it certainly isn’t easy or pleasant.  And how easy is it to build a relationship when you constantly have to apologize?  Especially when you believe the other person is angry with you?

When many people pray, they feel they have to come to Lord groveling and shamed.  They are supposed to recount as many of their sins as they can remember since the last time they prayed and always know that they have missed some.  Then they have to ask God for mercy and hope that He doesn’t hate them as they ask for what they need.  How sad!

Grace tells us that God already loves us.  Grace tells us that He has already forgiven us.  Grace tells us that we are already accepted.  It is good to come to Him.  Grace turns prayer into something positive.

You see, God already knows about your sins and He has already forgiven them as you trusted Christ.  Those who belong to Him never have to worry about their sins separating them from Him.  We don’t have to confess in order to be forgiven.  In those times when we feel the need to talk about what we have done, we simply agree with Him that it was wrong and thank Him for working in our lives to move past it.  Forgiveness of sins—past, present, and future—was accomplished at the cross.

So you and I can come to the Lord as we would come to our very best friend.  We know that He loves us and it is good to focus on our heart connection again.  We will never be separate from Him, but sometimes we let ourselves get distracted.  Then we talk with Him again and feel His love and peace.

No wonder Paul encouraged us to pray without ceasing.  This is walking with Jesus.  It isn’t a difficult thing at all.  Prayer is a wonderful lifeline that keeps us connected to the Lord who loves us.


Filed under Grace 101, Relationship

What to do?

Grace 101

What do you do when God is silent?

Yes, I think there are times when God is silent.  I really don’t think that happens often, but I think it does happen.  So let me put in my caveat first and then talk about God’s silence.

You see, most of the time God is not silent.  We are just not listening.  I wrote about that before.  Sometimes we just need to shut up and listen.  We go to Him with our problems and dump the load on Him, almost as though we expect Him to jump at our command.  In those times, His silence is our own fault.

And sometimes we try to paint God into a corner.  He has to solve our problem in a certain way.  Anything else would be unacceptable or unrecognized.  Maybe healing is what we want, but healing isn’t the only good option.  Maybe that new job or new love seems the best to us, but there is a better one out there.  By telling God what He must do, we set ourselves up for missing His answer.

But there are those times when we pray in submission and come to Him in quietness and we still hear nothing.  In those times we are to wait.  Trust that something is happening.

Sometimes children come to their parents in tears, maybe even screaming, and parents are supposed to help.  But, in order to help, the child has to stop screaming, stop hyperventilating, and simply calm down.  We tell them to “take a deep breath,” and we do nothing until they are ready to receive.  There is great value in that deep breath.  The world gets crazy.  Evil and danger press in, trying to overwhelm us.  Yet, it rarely is what we see; and taking a deep breath, pausing to settle our hearts, changes our perspective.

So, when God is silent, take a deep breath.  Calm your heart.  Yes, there is danger and you are worried.  Yes, you are upset.  Yes, you feel that you need an answer right away.  But you won’t be ready to hear until you settle into the rest He has already given you.

Then you may begin to understand that He has already given you the answer.  You haven’t been able to hear Him because you haven’t accepted the answer He has given.

Or you may see that your request is misguided.  Not wrong.  He knows your heart and your fears.  He understands what you ask, but His best is something different.

And maybe you will see that your heart has been wrong.  You have forgotten that He is God, wise and strong and wonderful.  The best thing that can happen is for you to step back and stop demanding your way.

In all of these, God may simply wait.  Your stress and confusion are stopping you from hearing Him or accepting His answer.  So He waits for you.  In fact, when you don’t hear from Him, ask Him if He is waiting for you.

The point in all of this is that grace allows us to find peace when God is silent.  Trust in His love and His power.  Trust in His wisdom and authority.  Trust that He is able to do what is needed and wise enough to know what is needed.  Believe that He hears your prayer and loves you.  Then rest.

No, it isn’t easy.  The craziness pushes and threatens.  But ask Him for peace, even though you don’t yet have your answer or your miracle.

Ask Him to help you rest in Him.


Filed under Grace 101, Relationship