Tag Archives: grace

Walk in the Light

O house of Jacob, come and let us walk In the light of the Lord.   Isaiah 2:5

I began to understand the ugliness of legalism when I realized that lying was such an important part of it.  So many people were so critical of others while doing many of the same things themselves.  One small example that happened several times was when the children of a family answered the door because mom happened to be wearing jeans.  Since women were always supposed to wear skirts (so they remained separate from the men 😉 ) mom couldn’t be seen in jeans.  Rules were important, but the importance was to pretend you kept them better than others.  Be sure to point out violations of rules when you see them, but cover up the fact that you bend the rules yourself.  So much of legalism happened in the darkness.

Of course, most of the examples I would share would be relatively tame.  Some of them were not tame at all.  Incest, adultery, abuse—these things happen in the darkness.   Once the lying starts, it provides a cover, a system, that allows sin to grow.  How different is it—really—from lying about having a television and lying about abuse?  The family structure that allows lying, the fear and the intimidation, is in place already because of legalism.  No wonder ugly things happen.

The Lord invites us to walk in the light.  Only under grace will we ever have the freedom to enjoy walking in the light.  It is uncomfortable sometimes to let others see our mistakes, to tell the truth about our struggles.  Under the law, we want so badly to look good.  But under grace, we can simply be thankful to know the One who is good.  We trust in Him, not in ourselves.

Remember that the difference between legalism and grace has nothing to do with sin.  We both sin.  Both those who are under the law and those who are under grace do things that God calls sin.  The difference is what we do about it.  Under law, we are stuck with trying to cover our sin, to hide it or atone for it somehow; under grace, we simply own the fact that we continue to struggle with the perspectives of the flesh and sometimes fall.  Then we praise God for His love and acceptance and forgiveness in Jesus.

Walking in the light is better!

Love to get your comments!

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Every once in a while I feel the need to stop and define grace.  When I do that, I try not to read what I have written before.  I just want to state again, for the record, what I believe grace to be.  I usually say that grace is what God does.  It is the activity of God’s love.  Because He loves us and because we need everything, He reaches out to us and supplies it all.  That’s grace.

Understanding grace is understanding our need and His love.  Living in grace is embracing our need and accepting His love.  Showing grace to others is admitting that we can never be better than they are and that the Lord who is so generous in love toward us loves them just the same.   

Grace is not just being kind to others, although God’s grace moves our hearts toward kindness.  Grace is not just forgiving others, although God’s grace permits us to forgive.  We have allowed our definitions of grace to be limited to the effects of grace.  Grace is more than a list of symptoms.  Grace is real and good and big.  Grace is as big as the heart of God. 

In fact, the best place or way for us to see grace is to look to Jesus.  He is God, in human flesh, reaching out in love to supply that which we could not supply for ourselves.  Jesus is the activity of the love of God.   Jesus is God’s grace for our hearts.

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Give It Up?

A woman wrote to me concerned about her enjoyment of fine clothes.  It wasn’t that she spent a lot of money on the clothing, but that she really liked to study the different designers and read books and magazines on beautiful clothes.  Someone had told her that this was sinful and she should get rid of all her magazines and books and stop this fascination.  She wavered between wanting to keep her hobby and feeling guilty for not giving it up.

 Here’s my response:

 Sometimes the reason a thing is difficult to give up is because the wrong person is asking.  Your heart knows that God is not asking you to give up your interests, but you hear someone suggesting that you should.  Who is that?  I am convinced that the evil one uses legalistic teachings to bind God’s people so that they cannot enjoy a relationship with the Lord. 

 There are things in our lives that are not sin.  Some people need to remember that.  Reading novels, watching decent TV, enjoying non-Christian friends or family—these are not wrong things.  Yet some teachers try to convince us that they are bad.  These guys have long lists to which they add almost anything they don’t like, but the things on their lists aren’t declared to be sin in the Bible.  If God doesn’t call it sin, neither should we.

 So how should you deal with these things that are not clearly sinful?  Make it simple.  Tell the Lord that if He wants you to get rid of something, you invite Him just to take it away.  He has ways of removing things from our lives.  Ask Him to remove anything He doesn’t want in your life.  Trust Him to do that.  If He does, you will know that it was what He wanted.  If He doesn’t remove something, then you know that He wasn’t asking you to do it. 

 You see, I believe that God does His work.  We set ourselves up for failure when we think we have to do things.  The harder something is for us, no matter who is asking, the more we feel guilty and ashamed.  But what if God is not asking?  Suppose God told you to step aside while He destroyed the things you have enjoyed.  If He told you, and you knew it was Him, you would do it willingly.  Maybe not joyfully, but willingly, because you trust Him.  That’s all He asks, that you trust His love for you. 

 Our faith is in a Person.  We can never trust in standards or actions or performance.  We trust in Jesus alone.  If Jesus doesn’t save us, then we will not be saved.  If Jesus in us is not enough to please God, then God will never be pleased with us.  It’s all about Jesus or none of it matters.  The goal of the Christian life is not to try to please God, nor to deserve His gifts.  The goal of the Christian life is to know Him.  Spend your time just basking in the love of Jesus.  Talk with Him.  Bounce ideas off Him.  Trust that He wants to lead you and communicate with you and then listen.  He will speak to you through your heart, if you belong to Him. 


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From Conviction to Rule

In the circle within which I used to walk it was popular to express one’s convictions.  In fact, we were taught to use the word, “conviction,” rather than “preference,” because it would be stronger when talking with others.   A conviction was considered to be a word from the Lord, after all.

You know, the Holy Spirit would convict someone of something.  The one I remember best is when one man told me that it was his conviction that he should not watch football on Sunday.  (I didn’t quite understand how someone who wasn’t supposed to own a television would have this problem, but I listened.)  He told me that he had been addicted to watching football and the Lord revealed to him that his addiction was unholy. 

Well, that was fine.  If he believed the Lord didn’t want him to watch football on Sunday, then he certainly shouldn’t do it.  With incredible ease, however, he added that he believed what the Lord revealed to him should apply to everyone.  In other words, since he couldn’t watch football on Sunday, neither could anyone else.  His conviction was to become my conviction—even though the Lord hadn’t told me anything of the sort.  And that’s how convictions become rules.

Now, most of the time in my experience, the convictions people express are really just preferences they feel strongly about.  The Holy Spirit had little to do with them.  Certain hairstyles, certain dress styles, reading certain types of books or magazines—these usually had something to do with the personal taste of the one making the rule.  No rock music, but country was okay.  No slacks, but tight sweaters were okay.  No pork, but chocolate cake was okay.  These became rules, based on someone’s convictions that were really just preferences.

Oh, I know that there was Scripture behind the convictions.  Keeping the Sabbath holy was used to prohibit watching football, but it didn’t seem to prohibit driving 50 miles each way to go to a certain church.  No pork because the Old Testament laws were still good for us, but nothing bad about having milk and beef at the same meal.  Scripture was handy for support when necessary, but not really taken seriously. 

So what should we do when we realize that someone is just promoting his or her own preferences as a “word from God”?  Ignore them.  If God wants to tell you the same thing, He will.  Otherwise, you don’t have to live by their “convictions.”  Sure, sometimes the ones making the rules are in authority over us and we don’t really have much choice but to live by what they tell us to do, but we don’t have to live in agreement.  We can obey in disagreement.  We will suffer much less stress if we allow ourselves to disagree, even while doing what we must. 

Legalism is about control.  Those who believe they have the right or responsibility to control others use rules and standards to support and enforce that control.  Because they ignore the fact that only the Lord has the right to control us (and He chooses not to almost all the time) they don’t really receive instructions and guidance from the Lord.  So they come up with their own ideas of what is right and wrong.  Then they push those ideas on the rest of us.

But we have a real and living Lord to whom we can go for guidance.  He will tell us what He wants us to know.  His grace is enough for us.  We don’t really need their convictions or their control. 


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Why America Prospers

Yesterday a mom was interviewed on the news.  Shayne Moore wants to change the world. 


The link is an ad for her book, rather than a news clip, but you get the idea.   Great!  There’s a lot of suffering that most of us know little or nothing about and if her book, Global Soccer Mom, can alert us to need that we can help, that’s good.  I truly hope she makes a difference. 

But then she explained her way of thinking.  She said that the only reason she wasn’t suffering and trying to get by on a dollar a day was because she “happened to be born in the right place”.  Oops!

How easily we forget the faith that guided those who went before us.  How easily we forget the sacrifice and the principles by which they lived.  I enjoy the life I live today, not because of the accident of my birth, but because my ancestors sought a freedom and prosperity they believed possible through Christian ideals.  The leaders of this nation once believed the teachings of the Bible and built a nation that attempted to conform to those teachings.  From those teachings come the valuing of human life, the ideas of private ownership and opportunity, and the willingness to make sacrifices for neighbors.  This is why we live in a prosperous nation and we ought not to forget. 

God, by His grace, told us how to live with one another.  If we do what He says, the blessing He has for us follows.  To love, to value others, to believe that something better is possible—these are Christian principles.


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There was a context for this paragraph, in the course of an email counseling exchange, but I thought this short excerpt might be of encouragement to someone.

I am not a psychologist, but I know that OCD (Obsessive-compulsive Disorder) is a desire to control life, usually because of deep fear.  It makes sense to me that legalism would lead to that kind of fear.  And, sadly, it makes sense that legalists would use those fears to try to control us.  We are taught that everything in our lives must be controlled or else we will be controlled by those things.  The truth is that we control nothing.  We were made to be dependent on  our Lord and we must learn to walk in faith with Jesus.  Remember His call?  Follow Me.  He didn’t say where He was going or what He was going to do, just that we should follow Him.  As we walk with Him, we learn that the rest of life isn’t quite so frightening or even so dangerous.  In fact, the more we walk with Him, the more we learn to relax and enjoy life. 



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I teach about Narcissism.  Unfortunately, it’s because I have experience with narcissists.  Unless they need something from you, these aren’t very nice people.  They are able to manipulate, deceive, and compromise others with amazing skill.  If you have ever had someone take credit for work you did, or try to control your life with comments and criticisms, or step in front of you at a moment when you were about to receive praise; you have probably met a narcissist.

I will write more about narcissism later and answer questions as they come.  My note for today is about teaching on narcissism.  One of the first times I taught on the subject, a man in the class (I’ll call him Mark) was simply overwhelmed.  He finally understood his former boss.  Mark’s boss had almost convinced him that he was incompetent, disloyal, and ungrateful.  Mark was beat-up and depressed from working with this guy.  Finally, he was out from under the boss’s control, but he was still under the influence of his words.  When Mark heard the teaching about narcissism, he finally understood how one person could be so cruel, so petty, and so controlling.  His boss really did believe that it was all about him!

Well, last night I taught on the subject again and this time it was a couple of the women.  One said that her dad was a narcissist.  The other was in the process of divorcing a narcissist.  Both felt that God was bringing this teaching to their hearts to set them free from the guilt and confusion life with a narcissist had caused. 

From time to time I will be sharing thoughts on narcissism here.  They might seem a little out of sync with my regular teaching on grace, but they really do connect.  Narcissism is all about me.  Grace is all about God.  The struggle to project a positive spiritual image has led many people to the bondage of performance spirituality.  In the process, they have become or have revealed themselves to be narcissists. 

So, watch for more or ask for more!

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Welcome to the ministry of Grace for the Heart!


I am grateful that you would be interested in this ministry and in the topic of God’s grace.  I am grateful that this ministry is touching lives around the world and bringing a message that will encourage hearts in a new way.

 So what’s in a name?  As the concepts of this ministry developed over the past few years, I became increasingly aware that the real issues for most of us are issues of the heart.  We are “heart people” whether we know it or not.  Our culture certainly reveals the truth.  Consider the issues of the day.  Whether you are talking about divorce, pornography, homosexuality, abortion, or gambling; you are speaking of heart issues.  Even in the church we struggle with things like music, authority, or comparisons… all issues of the heart. 

 James, in chapter four, acknowledges that the cause of strife in our lives is our desire, particularly unfulfilled desires.  We struggle to fill those desires but fail because we look in the wrong places.  We think we can fill the needs of our hearts through power or privilege or respect, but they are only filled through the grace of God.  And, when we do think of God, we ask for the wrong thing. 

 So many Christians have denied their heart needs.  They have made their faith into a system of mechanics and academics.  They create formulas and rituals that will, according to their system, guarantee spiritual progress.  Never mind that the formulas don’t work.  That’s just a signal to come up with different formulas. 

 Yet, sometimes the truth is revealed that formulas and rituals are not the answer.  The heart needs a person… another heart with which to connect.  The one true Heart, the One who loves beyond all understanding, is God Himself.  He has come to us in the Person of Jesus to show us His love and to invite us into a full and real relationship with Him.  This is the Grace of God for us.  He has reached out to us.  He has taken the initiative and He has done the work, all so we can live in relationship with Him forever.

 So, we have come to understand the truth of our lives and the truth of the gospel… that Jesus is God’s grace for the heart.  The heart of the believer needs Jesus, not in idea or system but, in Person.  The heart of the unbeliever needs this message from God’s people, the message of love and grace, rather than another system by which to fail. 

 This is our ministry, to proclaim the grace of God in Jesus!  This is Grace for the Heart!  Visit our website at www.gracefortheheart.org

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