3 Irresistible Reasons to Get Away with Anything

Let’s be honest. I really like to do what I want, when I want, the way I want. I don’t like to be told no. And I certainly don’t like someone to call my choices sinful. So I’ve developed these three irresistible reasons to help me get away with anything. Just read the headings and you’ll get the idea. But don’t stop there.

Read the explanation to discover why there’s more to it than meets the eye.

Irresistible Reason #1 | Don’t Judge Me

You can’t judge me. The Bible says so. “Judge not, that you be not judged.” (Matthew 7:1).

But that’s not all it says, and there’s a reason for it. You can’t live a healthy, happy life without good judgment. The principle being taught isn’t, “don’t judge”. It’s way better than that.

There’s a difference between being judgemental and practicing good judgment. 

For example, when I tell my son not to touch a hot stove because he’ll get burned, I’m teaching him to practice good judgment. When I tell him how stupid and moronic he is for even thinking about touching a hot stove, or when I tell him how much better I am than him because I would never touch a hot stove, that’s being judgmental. One is helpful, constructive, protective and teaches wisdom. The other is condemning, destructive and causes the kind of resentment that leads people to ignore legitimate warning signs.

We all need help learning good judgment. Sometimes others see the danger ahead before we do. No one needs the arrogance of self-righteousness thrown in their face.

Irresistible Reason #2 | Don’t Throw the First Stone

My sin isn’t any worse than yours. The Bible says so. “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” (John 8:7).

This is a pretty effective trump card. Someone takes a stand to identify something sinful. Someone else is quick to remind them, “But you sin too. Your sin is no worse than mine.” And then follows the silence.

Like the crowd that condemned the woman caught in adultery, when confronted by the truth of their own sin the crowd is silenced and one-by-one slips off into history. It’s true. We all sin. And your sin is no better than mine. But the principle being taught is so much better than that.

There’s a difference between being condemned for your sin and confronted because of your sin.

This crowd wasn’t confronting sin. They were condemning the woman. Like the difference between being judgmental and practicing good judgment, Jesus confronts their sin. But the crowd didn’t stick around long enough to hear the rest of the story. Instead, they left. They left alone, reminded of their failure, without hope of redemption.

We all sin. It’s true. But there is hope beyond condemnation. It’s a hope we’ll never know until someone confronts our sin.

Irresistible Reason #3 | Jesus Loves Everybody

Jesus loves me and accepts me as I am. You should too. The Bible says so. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 19:19).

Jesus does love you. He taught, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” He went further than that. He said, “Love your enemy.” But what does love do? If we finish the story of the woman caught in adultery we see what love does. After the crowd is silenced and slips off alone Jesus turns to the woman to ask a question, “Who condemns you?” She answers, “No one.” He responds, “Neither do I.”

Love wins.

Jesus, the only one truly worthy of being judgmental and casting condemnation, makes a loving choice. He chooses not to condemn. He gives her the very thing she needs. It’s the same thing the crowd needs. It’s the same thing you and I need.

Jesus forgives.

But it’s so much better than that.

Forgiveness isn’t the end of the thing. It’s the beginning. After forgiving, Jesus lovingly confronts the woman, without being judgmental he encourages her to practice good judgment. He says, “Go and sin no more.” (John 8:11).

The grace Jesus gives to forgive also empowers me to overcome sin.

All of this can be said a bit more plainly.

  • God loves people.
  • Sin hurts people.
  • Jesus died for my sin and rose from the dead.
  • Jesus forgives my sin.
  • The grace Jesus gives to forgive also empowers me to overcome sin.
  • It is my intention, out of gratitude for the sacrifice made for me and the knowledge that sin hurts me, to confess and overcome sin in my life.
  • The love of God compels me to share these truths with others. What truth?
  • God loves people. Sin hurts people. Jesus died for your sin and rose from the dead. Now you can be forgiven and overcome sin.

Next time you need a reason to do something sinful, remember these three, and remember the deeper truth behind them all.

Black Friday Hot Deals!

I hope you had a great Thanksgiving.

Did you notice? Today is Black Friday. We’ll brave the cold and crowds to win that amazing deal on a Christmas gift for our kids, friends and loved ones. We may even find a little something for ourselves.

This Christmas you’re going to give gifts. You might as well get the best deal possible. What if this Black Friday you could find a deal that actually changed someone’s quality of life? What if you could give a gift that had value beyond the surprise of the moment? What if, in giving this gift, you could become part of a story that lasts a lifetime…or beyond?

That’s what happens when you give to charity.

Have I got a Black Friday deal for you!? Give generously to the charity of your choice and become part of a story worth sharing.

Bad Things | Good People

Bad Things Good PeopleI’m often asked why bad things happen to good people.

Tornados have devastated much of my home town again. I have friends displaced by the tragedy and some whose lives will never be the same. Apart from the tragic, I have relatives who are getting older. Their bodies and minds don’t function like they once did. These friends and family are all good people. Why would a loving God allow something like this to happen?

Wiser minds than mine have explored this topic. Beyond this, I have a predisposition toward the simple answer. I don’t believe that just because something is painful, hard or difficult that it’s inherently ‘bad’ or that the answer to our question has to be complicated, incomprehensible or ponderously deep. I believe God challenges us to search for His answers. I believe He delights when we find them.

My bend toward the simple answer means I risk oversimplifying the issue. That’s not my intent. Some of you face deep hurts, genuine tragedy and life altering circumstances the likes of which I have never known. Please don’t allow the simplicity of my answer to cause you to believe I take lightly the situation you face.

I believe there are two reasons bad things happen to good people, two reasons a loving God would allow people to experience tragedy.

  1. Even good people make mistakes.
  2. In many circumstance, for God to keep you from experiencing tragedy, he would also have to take away your ability to choose for yourself. In essence, you would no longer be free. He would have to so directly control your life and choices that it wouldn’t be you choosing anymore. God, in his sovereignty, has decided to risk the probability that you will suffer for your bad choices rather than forcing you into obedience to his will.

Like I said, simple answers, but not necessarily satisfying.

Let’s dig a little deeper.

I meet with a group of friends every week to talk about how the Bible applies to our everyday lives. Recently, we’ve been talking about the book of Job. It’s the story of a man who is successful in every way. He has a strong, loving family. He is wealthy and influential. God points him out as a man who is ‘blameless’. That doesn’t mean perfect. It means that Job avoided willful disobedience.

You may know the story. Satan challenges God. Satan argues that the reason Job is a good guy is because God has so greatly blessed him. God takes the challenge. He gives Satan permission to test Job. In the process Job is left penniless, his children killed, his reputation tarnished and only his misguided friends and nagging wife to ‘comfort’ him. Job is the perfect example of someone who could ask the questions, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” and “How could a loving God let something that bad happen?”

The study guide we use identified seven reasons bad things happen to good people, seven reasons God allows tragedy to affect our lives. I’ve not added to the list, but I’ve broadened the explanation. When we face tragedy, understanding the reason can help us formulate our response. Knowing ‘why’ can help us make right choices in the future. So here’s the list:

JUDGEMENT | REPENTANCE

Sometimes people disobey God for so long his judgement falls. They’ve done worse than ignore him, they’ve willfully and deliberately rebelled against him. They’ve rejected his grace, mercy and forgiveness and chosen to do things their own way. They’ve gone past the point of no return. Sometimes our choices demand that justice be satisfied and judgement is the only option.

In the face of judgement the only appropriate response is repentance. Learn these eight words, “I’m sorry. I was wrong. Please forgive me.” It’s amazing what God can do through a penitent heart. It’s amazing how a marriage heals when you end an argument with your spouse with those eight words. When tragedy comes due to judgement repentance is the only option.

DISCIPLINE | RESPOND

My kids play sports. They discipline and condition their bodies so they will be ready when the coach trusts them with the ball. Be honest. Exercise hurts. Eating right requires a sacrifice. But the gain is worth the pain. The win is worth the effort. Sometimes the bad things that happen to good people are really preparation for something more significant in the future.

Discipline is the tool God uses to prepare us for the  next season in our journey. When discipline comes we have to respond. “Yes, Lord. Even if it hurts I will learn it. I will do it. I will follow you.”

PERSECUTION | FAITHFUL

God has made it clear that he values sacrifice more than survival. Sometimes the tragedy we face is the result of persecution. In the face of persecution we must remain faithful. Faithfulness gives us a front row seat to all the promises of God. Faithfulness says, “Because I trust God I will hold on. The story may not end as I expect, but it will end with a miracle like I could never imagine.” If the tragedy you face is persecution, hold on. God is giving you a front row seat to all the promises of His Word.

NECESSITY | ENDURE

Some things just have to be. Childbirth is going to hurt. Medication may minimize it. The end result may cause you to forget it, but when a woman goes through labor they will experience pain like they’ve never experienced before. There’s no real formula for instant gratification for anything in life. Some things just take time. Some take practice. Some hurt. If you face a tragedy of necessity, endure. God will walk with you through the whole thing.

CONSEQUENCES | LEARN WISDOM

You learned it in physics. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. There’s a spiritual truth here too. Every physical choice has a spiritual consequence. Every spiritual truth influences the choice we make. If you drop something. It will fall. If you hit someone they will get hurt – then mad – and likely punch back. Our choices have consequences. Those consequences are often unavoidable. If the tragedy you face is the consequence for your bad choices then learn wisdom. Don’t make that same choice again. Do it differently next time and watch the outcome change.

NATURAL | SERVE

Our bodies get old. Our minds slow down. There will come a day when my body will simply wear out. It’s natural. Being old isn’t a punishment. Suffering the inconvenience and pain of old age isn’t the price of a misspent youth. Natural disasters fall into this category as well. We live in a world affected by sin. Even nature. The earth will shake, the wind will blow, the water will rise and recede. It’s the natural rhythm of life. If the tragedy you face has to do with age or natural disaster our response is to serve. As long as God gives me breath I can use who I am and what I have for the benefit of others. I can help others through tragedy. I can serve those who are aging and when I’m the one struck down by age I can pray, I can bless, I can honor those who help me.

MYSTERY | BE PATIENT

Sometimes tragedy comes and we simply don’t know why. The miscarriage comes. The accident happens. The diagnosis is unexpected. We don’t always know the why, but we can trust the who. God understands. God loves us and cares for us. I may not be satisfied with the mystery, but I trust the one who holds that mystery in his hand. When you face this kind of tragedy be patient, God’s not finished yet.

I don’t know what tragedy you’ve faced. You may think of yourself as a good person stuck in a bad situation. You may be like Job.

Whatever the case, remember these things:

  1. God can be trusted.
  2. Remain faithful – faithfulness gives you a front row seat to all the promised of God.
  3. Explore these seven reasons. They can be the road map that helps you know how to take your next step.

Don’t Be Better – Be Remarkable

It’s not enough for the church to be ‘different’ from others. It’s not enough for our lives as Believers to be marginally better than the lives of non-Believers.

Jesus didn’t come to make us a little better. His plan for you isn’t for self-help, self-improvement, to create your best life now or to release You 2.0. He came to remake you from the inside out, to replace your old, sinful desires with a remarkable, holy life.

It’s not improvement.
It’s transformation.

That’s the message of our church. We believe Jesus Christ is the hope of the world and the church is His plan for sharing that hope with the world.

It’s not enough for us to be different. We are called and empowered, by his Spirit, to be remarkable.

2 Corinthians 5:17Galatians 5:22-23

Making Out or Working Out

Make the best out of itYou’ve heard about it. You’ve watched other people do it. You may have even experienced it yourself. You know what I’m talking about. It’s that moment when you stop to take inventory of where you are in life and how you got there. They say hindsight is 20/20 but I’m not so sure. I wonder if we are as self deceiving looking back over the defining moments of our lives as we are looking ahead at the choices we have yet to make. There’s a good way to know. It’s a cliche’ we use, “It all worked out for the best.”

“I’m glad I left that job. It all worked out for the best.”

“Looking back on it, my divorce was really a good thing. It all worked out for the best.”

“This house is a money pit. I’m deeper in debt than I’ve ever been, but it will all work out for the best.”

With dismissive nonchalance we reduce the defining moments of our lives to a few short sentences and declare them ‘the best’. There’s a difference between making the best out of bad situation and choosing that which is genuinely best in the first place. It’s important that we recognize the difference.

There’s an inherent contradiction in the idea that we would ‘make the best’ out of a situation. On one hand it’s admirable. Someone faces a series of unfortunate events, they make the best out of it. Now they’re on top of the world. In the Old Testament Joseph provides a great example. He’s hated by his brothers and sold into slavery. He makes the best out of it and becomes a ruler in his master’s home. He’s falsely accused of rape and sent to prison. He makes the best of it and becomes a leader within the prison. He’s called before Pharaoh, answers a few questions wisely and becomes the Prime Minister of Egypt. Joseph definitely made the best of it.

Being able to make the best out of an unexpected or uncontrollable situation is a quality of character worth learning. But that’s not always how this phrase is used. Too often we use that phrase as an excuse for our bad choices. Divorce and debt are easy targets to illustrate what I mean.

Someone cheats on their spouse. Gets caught. Gets divorced. Years later when they tell their story you hear them say, “It all worked out for the best.”

Someone chooses to purchase something they don’t really need with money they don’t really have. Now they face bankruptcy or are forced to work long, life-killing hours. “It’s tough. We’re in a rough economy,” they say. “I’ll just have to make the best of it.”

That’s not the same kind of ‘best’ as Joseph’s example. The difference is in the choosing.

It’s clear there are different kinds of best. There’s Olympic best and Para-Olympic best. There’s professional best and amateur best. There’s the best that comes from making right choices and the ‘best’ we settle for when things don’t go as planned.

Will your life be the best or will you have to make the best out of something that’s already broken? The choice is yours. Choose wisely and make the best out of today.

“Therefore, to him who knows to do good, but does not do it, to him it is sin.” James 4:17

Grace – I’m Free, So I Can

GraceGrace says, “I’m free, so I can.” This isn’t a license TO sin, but a license FROM sin. I’m free FROM sin, now I can practice righteousness. I’m free from sin, now I can do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God. Grace is not the casting off of restraint it is the catalyst that allows me to cast off the tyranny of my sinful nature and receive with meekness the implanted word which is able to save my soul. Before grace I had no choice but various shades of wrong. Because of grace I can choose wisely, do rightly and be eternally pleasing to God.

“Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?” Romans 6:1-2 (NLT)

“But if you look carefully into the perfect law of liberty that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.” James 1:25 (NLT)

Habitual Godliness

What 5 things could you do today to become more godly? Here’s my list for today:

  1. Read the Bible – One chapter – today, it’s John 6.
  2. Pray Scripture – As I read, ask God to give me uncommon wisdom, discernment and understanding regarding His Word, His world, His people and my place in His plan. Ask God to bring His Word alive in me.
  3. Memorize and Meditate on One VerseJohn 6:68, “But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
  4. Add value to one person who can do nothing for me in return.
  5. Strengths & Weaknesses – In my giftedness work on my strengths. In my choices work on my weaknesses. One of my strengths is strategic thinking. Today, I’ll work on part of a plan that will help organize how the people of our church work together to bring to life the vision God has given us. When it comes to choices, one of my weaknesses is attitude. I tend to lean naturally toward melancholy. I get uptight over deadlines, things that don’t work right, and having too many irons in the fire. I’ll try to relax. I’ll try to choose joy. There’s no question, I am incredibly blessed – I’ll try to act like it and enjoy it!

John Maxwell, says the key to success in anything is doing the right thing everyday, not all day, everyday. Godliness is the evidence of God in you. It’s not about being perfect. It’s about growing deeper in relationship and similarity to the one who is perfect.

Habitual godliness is a choice you can make today. What are your 5 things?

What Good is Nothing?

How do you feel about where you are in life? Are you where you expected to be doing what you expected to do? Have you fulfilled your hopes and dreams? Are you still working toward happily-ever-after? Have your plans been derailed? Did you have a pie-in-the-sky, change the world kind of vision? How’s that vision working for you?

Whether you feel big or small, whether you think of yourself as successful or an abismal failure, let me remind you of a simple, yet profound truth – I’ll work up to it:

  • Genesis – God creates the universe – out of nothing.
  • Exodus – God provides manna for the Israelites – out of nothing.
  • 1 Samuel – God anoints David. He makes a king out of a shepherd boy (out of nothing).
  • Gospels – Jesus serves a meal to 5000 people – out of nothing.
  • Peter, an ignorant and unlearned fisherman, meets Jesus and becomes a fisher of men. A no one becomes a someone and history changes forever – out of nothing.

Now read 1 Corinthians 1:26 – 29:

“For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.”

Regardless of how you feel about your life, what you think you have or don’t have, what you know or don’t know, what you believe you can or can’t do, in spite of every logical, perceivable, apparent limitation – here’s the simple truth:

If God can make something out of nothing then surely He can do anything with me.

I’ll Never Forgive

There are times in my life I’ve been hurt, disappointed or wounded by others. When compared to what’s normal for me, these hurts are bad. I get frustrated and mad at the person who hurt me. I harden my heart toward the one who caused the disappointment. I find it difficult, seemingly impossible, to forgive them.

So now let’s stop and get a dose of perspective. These wounds, compared to the rest of my life are bad. But how do they compare to the lives of others? No one is shooting at me. I’ve never really been spitefully mistreated. I’ve not experienced abuse of any kind at the hands of someone I trust. My marriage is strong. My kids are happy, healthy and, at the moment, sane. Compared to the stories of others my life is blessed.

Unlike me, some of you reading this have legitimate reasons to struggle with forgiving someone else.

At the heart of our struggle to forgive is a desire for justice. Whatever the wrong, we don’t really want to get over it. We want to get even. We don’t want to forgive. We want to avenge. That’s understandable. Some of you have been abused in ways no one should ever have to experience. You’ve been wronged. Justice demands satisfaction. The need for vengeance saturates every surface of your life. To forgive feels likes you’re letting them get away with it.

That thought reveals our basic misunderstanding about genuine forgiveness. We think forgiveness wipes the slate clean. We believe we must forgive and forget. But that’s not really true.

Biblical forgiveness is a deliberate choice to release someone into the hands of God.

Does that sound like a cop out? Does it leave your desire for vengeance unsatisfied? Consider this. In the hands of God every person who has ever wronged you will experience one of two possibilities. They will either receive God’s mercy and grace or  His judgement and justice.

What we want for those who have wronged us is His judgement and justice. We want God to ‘get ’em’. All the punishments of Scripture. All the curses of hell. We want them poured out on the one who wronged us. When we release someone into the hands of God that’s certainly a possibility. God could give them over to His judgement and justice. In Psalm 58 we see David pray that very thing, “Break their teeth in their mouth, oh God!” That’s a violent thought. It gets more descriptive, “The righteous shall rejoice when he sees the vengeance; He shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked…” This was a prayer of David, the man after God’s own heart. It was a prayer that reflects a kind of forgiveness, a kind of which we are unaccustomed. David released His enemies into the hands of God. He prayed, “God, get ’em.” He asked God to exert His judgement and justice, but David was satisfied to let God be the one to decide. He didn’t look to exact revenge himself. He gave the wicked over to God and said, “God, I trust you. Here’s what I want. Do with them as you will.” When we release someone into the hands of God they could receive His justice and judgement.

Or they could receive His mercy and grace. Here’s the thing about mercy and grace. It comes at a price. Mercy and grace are not free. If you are a God-follower the forgiveness you receive is a free gift to you, but it wasn’t free to God. It came at a terrible cost. The penalty for your sin and mine was paid for us by Jesus on the cross at Calvary. The Bible describes God trampling out the grapes of His wrath. The picture is clear. In His anger He crushes the guilty underneath His feet. For anyone to receive mercy and grace justice must be satisfied. Jesus took our place and received the penalty we deserved. He did the same for the person who has wronged you. If you give that person into the hands of God they only receive His mercy and grace because justice has been satisfied, the penalty of their sin paid when Christ hung cursed on that tree. When we pray, “God, get ’em.” We can be confident He will do just that. Sometimes, instead of pouring out His wrath on them He pours it out on His Son and in return gets their life and loyalty for all eternity. He ‘gets ’em’. In a way that transforms them from the inside out. When He ‘gets ’em’ the experience genuine remorse over their sin and a desire to make restitution. It’s justice that leads new life and restoration rather than justice that leads to destruction and death.

Jesus gave his life for the wrongs you have done and for the wrongs done to you. We can trust Him with those who have hurt us. Whether they receive from God judgement and justice or mercy and grace, justice is satisfied. The question is whether or not we will give up our desire for vengeance and release them into the hands of God. Will we trust God to deal justly with the one who wronged us?

This is a prayer I pray for myself and others, “God, grant me the gift of repentance and a capacity for forgiveness.” I ask for the gift of repentance because recognizing and confessing my sin doesn’t come naturally to me. I ask for the capacity for forgiveness because my desire for vengeance is strong. God can give me the courage and strength for both.

I don’t know who has wronged you. But I know you can forgive. Forgiveness isn’t about letting someone get away with it. It’s about releasing someone into the hands of God and trusting that one way or another, God’s going to ‘get ’em’.

Unintended Consequences

There is incalculable influence in the choices you make today.

Alexander Fleming, the scientist who discovered penicillin once said, “When I woke up just after dawn on September 28, 1928, I certainly didn’t plan to revolutionize all medicine by discovering the world’s first antibiotic…But I suppose that was exactly what I did.

According to Nestle, Mrs. Wakefield, owner of the Toll House Inn was making chocolate cookies and ran out of chocolate. She decided to substitute semisweet chocolate in her recipe thinking the chocolate would melt. It didn’t. She pulled from the oven the very first batch of chocolate chip cookies ever baked.

August 24, 1853, George Crum, a cook at Moon’s Lake House near Saratoga Springs, New York, was fed up with the complaints of a customer who kept sending back his potatoes saying they were too thick and soggy. Spitefully, he cut the potato so thin and fried it so crisp the customer couldn’t possibly eat it with a fork. It was the first batch of Potato Chips ever served.

For Peter it was another day of fishing. While his brother, Andrew, had gone once again to hear that preacher, John the Baptist. John introduces Andrew to Jesus, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” Andrew comes home to introduce Peter to Jesus. A fisherman is transformed into a fisher of men. These ignorant and unlearned men become the first disciples in a movement of God we’re still talking about today.

What will be the unintended consequences of the choices you make today? Will eternity echo with the sound of your influence? Will the next Billy Graham be affected by your actions? Is it possible that today you could be the inspiration for the next business leader, scientist, artist, politician or preacher who will reshape our culture?

Your words matter. Your choices make a difference. Every outburst of wrath, every expression of love, every thoughtful or thoughtless conversation carries unintended consequences.

Give your thoughts, motives, words and action to God. Ask Him to shape the unintended consequences of the choices you make today.

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.” Psalm 19:14