Law and Grace

When you realize you don't need to earn God's love through good behavior, your behavior starts to take care of itself.

If You’re Believing in Uncle George, Let Me Introduce You to My Abba Father

Recently, a friend of mine introduced me to a story he felt perfect explained the way he’d felt about God for some time. The more he shared it with me, the more I realized just how similar my own view of God had been for much of my life. I’m willing to bet many of you—if you’re being honest—will recognize some of your own views in the story that follows as well.

Good Old Uncle George

Source Unknown

God was a family relative, much admired by Mum and Dad, who described him as very loving, a great friend of the family, very powerful and interested in all of us. Eventually we are taken to visit ‘Good Old Uncle George.’ He lives in a formidable mansion, is bearded, gruff and threatening. We cannot share our parents’ professed admiration for this jewel in the family. At the end of the visit Uncle George turns to address us.

‘Now listen, dear,’ he begins, looking very severe, ‘I want to see you here once a week, and if you fail to come, let me just show you what will happen to you.’ He then leads us down to the mansion’s basement. It is dark, becomes hotter and hotter as we descend, and we begin to hear unearthly screams. In the basement there are steel doors. Uncle George opens one.

‘Now look there, dear,’ he says. We see a nightmare vision, an array of blazing furnaces with little demons in attendance, who hurl into the blaze those men, women and children who failed to visit Uncle George or to act in a way he approved.

‘And if you don’t visit me, dear, that is where you will most certainly go,’ says Uncle George. He then takes us upstairs again to meet Mum and Dad. As we go home, tightly clutching Dad with one hand and Mum with the other. Mum leans over us and says, ‘And now don’t you love Uncle George with all your heart and soul, mind and strength?’ And we, loathing the monster, say, ‘Yes, I do,’ because to say anything else would be to join the queue at the furnace. At a tender age religious schizophrenia has set in and we keep telling Uncle George how much we love him and how good he is and that we want to do only what pleases him. We observe what we are told are his wishes and dare not admit, even to ourselves, that we loathe him.

As I stated earlier, this was my view of God for much of my Christian life—and it wasn’t working for me at all. I hid from God, deeply afraid that He would reject me for my sins. I pretended to trust Him and love Him, secretly fearing His wrath and judgement.

Rarely (if ever) did I experience any of the peace, joy, or life I was promised in God’s Word—and now I can see why.

The God I was believing in, Good Old Uncle George, didn’t exist, and thus He would never be able to offer those blessings or change my life. As frightening as it was at first, I had to walk away from Uncle George before I could encounter the real God.

And the same is true for you.

When my friend told me about Uncle George, I knew I had to write my own version of the story. So I asked the Father, how would You like to be introduced to those who still think you’re like Uncle George?

“Tell them I am their Abba,” He replied.

Abba Father

One day I awoke to find myself trapped in pit of destruction so deep and dark there was no possible way I could ever escape. High above me I could see the rope I had spent years slipping down, inch by inch as I tried in vain to climb up it. It quickly became apparent to me that I had finally reached the end of that rope and had no choice but to let go.

Far above the rope I saw a light shining in through the opening of the pit, the same light, I assume, that I’d always sensed shown from where freedom and paradise would be found. The place where I would no longer have to climb using my own power, but could finally experience rest and relief in every fiber of my being.

As I continued to squint upwards, something moved in the light. No, not something… Someone. Eventually I could see that the Someone was the light. As this man moved, it became clear He was moving towards me. He reached His arm into the pit, wrapped it gently around my soul, and began to lift me up.

Instantly, something in me recoiled. It may have been from His glorious light against my eyes after they had grown so used to the darkness. Perhaps it was the shock of seeing all the mud and slime on me smearing against the whiteness of His garment. Whatever it was, it caused me to shout, “Stop! You don’t know who I am or what I’ve done. I’ve tried in vain to climb the rope but I’ve failed countless times. I so desperately want out of this pit, but I can’t let you take me like this. Please give me more time to clean myself up first and then I’ll climb up to meet you.”

The thing is, if I’m being honest, I knew I could never clean myself up. There was no water around with which to do so. I could smear the mud to different places perhaps, but I could never make myself clean. Furthermore, how was I supposed to reach that rope again? It was impossible. It always had been, and still was, impossible.

In that moment, I heard the man speak to me in the most loving, gentle, yet immensely powerful voice I had ever heard. “You are correct to recognize that you can’t clean yourself up or climb out on your own. What you are just beginning to realize though, is you were never asked to do any of that. I am the only One who can do those things for you. In fact, I already have. All those years you were hanging there, trying to climb up to paradise on your own, my hand was below you waiting for you to simply drop into it. Like many others though, you had to hit the bottom before you could look away from the rope and see me. But even though you’ve fallen and hit bottom, it’s not too late for you. It’s never to late.”

“Who are you?” I asked the man. “Why are you doing this?”

“I am life. I am love. I am light. I am not who you’ve been told that I am, yet I am infinitely more than you’ve ever dreamed I am. For now, you can rest simply knowing that I AM.

“As for my motive… I am doing this because I love you. I created you, and you are my favorite—my masterpiece—no matter how flawed you believe yourself to be. There is nothing in the universe I want more than to be with you, the real you, and I will do whatever it takes to ensure that we will be together—always.

“You may think the filth that clings to you will cause me to reject you, but I can assure you it never will. I have known every speck of dirt on your body from before you were born, including the muck that you haven’t even wallowed in yet. And knowing all of that, I still sent my Son, Jesus, to clean it off for you.”

As I listened to Him tell me the story of how His son gave his life to cleanse me, I began to believe that perhaps it was true. Not just in a general sense, but that this story was true specifically for me. It was then that I felt something new. I looked down at my waist and noticed the mud was completely gone, allowing my skin to breathe for the first time. As the man continued to speak, a pleasant wind swirled around me. I quickly realized this feeling was no breeze, but His breath filling my soul with abundant life for the first time.

“I see you are beginning to believe and receive my life, son.”

“Son?” I questioned. “Why did you just refer to me as your son?”

“Because from this day forward, you will always be my son and I will always be your Father. The very moment you trusted in my Jesus, you became united with Him. And for that reason you will never again be the man you used to be. You are a new creation, washed clean with His blood and filled with the very same Spirit that raised Him from the dead. You have been eternally adopted into My family, and nothing will ever change that. There is nothing you could ever do, think, say, or imagine that will cause me to love you any less than I love Jesus himself.”

As He spoke, these words of love and acceptance became like pure water to my parched soul. I realized the pit, even though I had always despised it, no longer felt like the place I was supposed to be. I now could see my true home was with Him.

“Please,” I asked the man. “Tell me your name so I will know how to call on you.”

“To you, my son, I am your Abba.” He replied to me in His now familiar voice of comfort. “And do call on me often. I am always with you and willing to talk, no matter what you’re going through. Like I said earlier, you are (and always have been) my favorite.”

As I reclined into the arms of my Abba, I finally understood what true peace felt like. Never again would I need to climb that rope in a desperate attempt to reach the freedom of paradise. Paradise, it turns out, had been reaching down to me this whole time.

Friends, Abba is real, and He loves you more than you can ever imagine. If you’re still believing in Good Old Uncle George, you already know he’s not working for you. Walk, no, RUN away from his lies and into the arms of your true creator who loves you with the exact same love He has for His son, Jesus.

I promise you, if you allow yourself to rest in the arms of Abba Father, you will find the peace, joy, and life you’ve been longing for all along.

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God Isn’t Mad At You So Stop Beating Yourself Up When You Relapse

I’m excited to announce that another post I wrote for went live this morning. If you aren’t familiar with xxxChurch, they’re an online ministry offering biblical help for those who struggle with porn addiction. I suggest you check out all the great resources they offer to help you on your journey to freedom. And, of course, check out my post on their site as well.

God isn't mad at you

I spend a fair amount of time on Reddit and other online communities interacting with people who are trying to find freedom from porn. One thing I’ve noticed, though, is there seems to be a tendency for folks to come down hard on themselves when they relapse.

“I looked at porn again after 30 days clean. God must be so mad at me.”

“I screwed up and masturbated last night, why am I such a horrible person?”

“Why can’t I fix myself? I suck at being a Christian.”

You get the idea.

I wish I had the time to respond to every one of these posts and let them know that God isn’t mad at them. Seriously. In fact, this whole idea that God becomes angry with us when we fall is likely one of the major factors in their ongoing struggle to find freedom from porn.

Read the rest of the article on

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Are You Viewing Recovery as an All-Star Game, or T-Ball?

I’m excited to announce that another post I wrote for went live this morning. If you aren’t familiar with xxxChurch, they’re the #1 site on the internet offering biblical help for those who struggle with porn addiction. I suggest you check out all the great resources they offer to help you on your journey to freedom. And, of course, check out my posts on their site as well.

t-ball-recoveryWhen I showed up to my first recovery group, I expected it to be like the MLB All-Star game. I just knew the other guys there were going to be so far ahead of me on their journey that I wouldn’t even fit in. What I soon discovered, though, was recovery is a lot more like T-ball than the majors.

If you’ve never witnessed a T-Ball game, they’re super-fun. Imagine a bunch of four-year-olds with no idea of what they’re supposed to be doing swinging bats and running around aimlessly. It doesn’t matter whether little Billy ever hits the ball or not—everyone watching the game will still cheer him on as if he hit a grand slam.

Most of the time, half the kids don’t even pay attention to the game—they’re off chasing bugs or picking flowers—but their coach never stops encouraging them from the sidelines. If one of those kids somehow does pick up the ball and toss it back to the right spot, the entire crowd goes wild. “Billy just did something right!” It’s a small victory, but a meaningful one.

What if we shared the same level of enthusiasm for the little victories in our own lives?

Read the rest of this post at

Living Your Life under Grace


I’ve got a simple but important question for you today: How do you view God the moment after you fall?

The way you answer that question may expose more about your relationship with Him than you may realize.

Let me explain…

I used to feel immense shame every time I gave in to the temptation to look at porn. Instead of running to God to help me overcome my sin, I would pull away from Him and hide. I kept trying to fix my sinfulness on my own rather than running to God—my only hope of overcoming sin at all.

But now, because I am beginning to understand what it means to be under His grace, I know that God doesn’t turn His back on me when I fall. I know my sin will never separate me from Him again. Understanding this allows me to come before God with thankfulness rather than hiding behind my shame.

Now, instead of running away from God, I run to Him—all because of His grace.

These days, whenever I mess up, I respond by praying in this way:

Father, thank you that this sin doesn’t separate me from you.

Thank you that Jesus already paid for this sin on the cross.

Thank you that you love me in spite of my failures.

Thank you that you still see me as righteous and holy because of Christ inside of me.

Please give me your strength so that I may better resist temptations in the future.

I cannot do this without you. Thank you Father.

When you respond to your mistakes this way, it does two very important things:

  1. It puts your focus back on God, allowing you recover through His power and not your own. When I was still trying to fix my own sin, my mind was constantly fixated on my sinfulness and all my failed attempts to overcome it, which only led to shame. Focusing on God’s power, however, leads to freedom.
  2. It’s a major victory in spiritual warfare. Satan is no fool. If he sees your sin drawing you closer to God, he’s going to focus his efforts elsewhere. He’s not going to keep tempting you in the same area once he realizes it’s providing opportunities for you to grow closer to Christ.

Isn’t it amazing how having the right perspective can make such a huge impact in your journey to freedom? Based on how I’ve seen this play out in my life, I definitely think so.

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Is the Fear of Being Found Out Contributing to Your Addiction?

What is your biggest fear?

Personally, I hate snakes. Even little, innocent, harmless, garter snakes. I know they can’t hurt me. I’ve been told they’re more afraid of me than I am of them. Whatever. I still hate them.

It still curls my nose hairs when I think of the woodpile in our backyard. My wife was an avid gardener and was constantly in need of more trellises and raised beds throughout the yard. I liked to swing a hammer, build stuff, and pretend to be manly, so it worked out great. My dad called me up one day and told me he had an old, weathered trellis that needed to be removed and hauled to the dump and figured he’d ask if we could use the wood. It wasn’t just any trellis though. It was over twenty feet long! Of course we jumped all over the prospect of free, pre-weathered wood and told him to go ahead and dump it in our yard instead. Over time, I built a few things out of it, but the majority of the pile sat untouched behind the shed.

There was one particular afternoon where I needed to use the tarp covering the woodpile to line the bed of my truck. I carefully removed it with one hand, casting it aside quickly so I could fight off any striking rattlers (garter snakes) with the pitchfork I was holding in my other hand like a spear. Seeing none, I relaxed, bunched up the tarp, and carried it over to my truck to spread it out.

As I unfolded the tarp I saw the most frightening thing I have ever seen in my entire life: Not just one, but TWO garter snakes had been curled up in the tarp. I had just carried these wretched creatures in my own arms! I instantly screamed like a little girl and did that freak-out dance where you jump and run in place at the same time while your whole body convulses in sheer terror. I’m sure I made my wife proud.

CobraAs ridiculous and exaggerated as this story sounds, I can assure you it is all true. Typing it out all these years later still brings a shiver to my spine. The crazy thing is, at one point in my life I had a fear that was significantly more crippling than my fear of snakes. If I were given the choice between facing this greater fear, and being a stand-in for Indiana Jones in the snake pit scene, I would have asked for the whip and fedora without hesitation.

The one thing that scared me even more than snakes was a fear that someday, someone might discover who I really was. I might let my guard down and allow my true self to be seen. Someone might discover that Steve, the upstanding, churchgoing, youth-group volunteering, hard-worker guy was actually Steve the porn addict. Steve the pathological liar. Steve the sinner.

You see, I believed I was the only man sitting in church fighting this battle—failing at this battle. If I allowed others to see that I wasn’t perfect, they might reject me. After all, I didn’t want anyone to think this whole Christianity thing wasn’t working for me. I lived my life in a state of constant fear—fear of getting caught, fear of being found out, fear of being rejected if people got to know the real me.

When you believe the real you is worse than everyone else, and you fear that God and others would be ashamed of you, the only option you will feel you have left is to clean yourself up and make yourself acceptable again. This plays right into the trap of the devil though, because your sin isn’t something you can actually clean up on your own. No matter how hard you try, you will continue to spin your wheels and get nowhere. Your sin and shortcomings, if anything, will become even more central in your day-to-day awareness because of how much time and effort you will be devoting to fixing them. They will become your focal point. And the more you focus on your sin, the more gasoline gets dumped on the fire of your shame.

But God’s desire is not for you to struggle in isolation. He wants you to reach out for help, both from Him and from others. We are told in James:

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results (James 5:16).

Did you catch that? If we confess our sins to each other, we will be healed. For some reason, God has decided He wants the healing of our habitual sins to be a team sport. It makes perfect sense when you think about it. Jesus tells us the defining characteristic of a believer that sets us apart from the world is our love (John 13:35), and nothing shows Christ like love to others more than coming alongside a brother who is struggling, sharing your life with him, praying for him, and accepting him regardless of his issues. It’s through these types of relationships that we can begin to experience what the unconditional love of Christ looks like.

It’s ironic—and heartbreaking—that so many men are hiding their struggles with porn in an attempt to protect themselves, when in reality, the hiding is contributing to their bondage. If you are in Christ, He has already set you free. All you need to do to experience that freedom is bring your hidden sin into the light so the blood of Jesus can cleanse you and set you free from it.

What is the biggest fear you have had to overcome?

cover-mockupThis post was an excerpt from my book, 10 Lies Men Believe About Porn, available wherever books are sold.

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Always Grace: A Poem about Being Loved in the Midst of Our Failures.

Grover CannonI’d like to introduce you all to my friend, and our newest contributor, Grover Cannon.

Grover spent more than a decade running from God with his finger in the air, trying to find happiness through outlaw motorcycle gangs, strip clubs, and heavy drinking. He was contemplating pulling the trigger on his own life when God got ahold of him, showing him how much he was loved even in the midst of his rebellion. Today, Grover preaches the love of Christ to everyone he meets and has one of the most personal relationships with Jesus I’ve ever witnessed.

Grover processes his walk with God through some of the most raw and heart-felt poetry I’ve read. Recently, I asked him if he would be willing to share some of these poems with all of you. As you can see, he agreed.

So, each month, I will post a new poem by Grover. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. In fact, if you really enjoy a certain poem, just click the image at the bottom and you will be able to print your own PDF poster to hang up wherever you wish.

If you want to contact Grover, you can reach him at [email protected].

Always Grace

Can you live with out His grace?
Can you walk with out His peace?
Can you understand one letter of His written Word
without first knowing His work on the cross?
What He has done for you…
The way He has loved you…
The freedom He has created you to walk in…

Do you know how to give it over?
Do you know how to turn to God and give in?
Can you close your eyes, take a breath, and submit?

We focus so hard on works, striving, struggling…
just trying to breathe for one more step.
We work so hard.
Constantly falling
Always stumbling
Forever failing
Letting our logic follow our pride
down the rabbit trails of struggle and strife.

We get so lost along the way.
We just can’t understand how it is possible
to even consider success.

It’s so easy to believe that we must do
We need to work
We need to strive
We need to keep pounding our heads
against the walls until we get it right.

We just can’t comprehend His love through our failures,
through our lack of success.
We feel Him slipping away.
We know His anger and doom are pending,
moving like a storm in the sky because
we never get it right.

If we could only see His grace for what it really is.
His love that gently embraces us in the night.
The way He sees our failures yet still wraps His arms around us.

He loves us so much.

We so need desperately to change our opinion of Abba God
from the angry, punishing, pissed-off father to the true view:

A God who is broken…
Forever saying I love you.
Because He does love you…
And will love you…
Standing by your side…


Click the image below to download a printable PDF poster of this poem:

Always Grace

What I Wish I Could Say to Morrissey

Morrissey I have forgiven JesusEvery now and then a song comes up on my iPod and it completely wrecks me.

Typically, it’s a worship song that reminds me of God’s love, making His presence seem even more intense in that moment.

Often, it’s my favorite Johnny Cash song, reminding me of the broken and pain-filled past Jesus has rescued me from.

Sometimes though, it’s a song that breaks my heart not out of happiness, but out of sadness.

Morrissey’s “I Have Forgiven Jesus” is one of these songs.

I’ve been hooked on Morrissey since my roommate introduced me to his music back in college. As much as I love his music though, the emotional honesty he puts into his lyrics makes it hard for me to listen at times. I can’t help but hurt for him when I hear him sing about the pain and rejection that has defined his life.

The sad part though, is some of that pain doesn’t need to be there. I don’t say this to minimize anything that may have happened to him in the past (after all, I do not actually know the man or what he has been through). What I do mean, is that some of Morrissey’s pain comes from a misunderstanding of how Jesus views him. If He came to know the truth in this area, his pain would be replaced by the freedom, joy, and peace that everyone is longing for.

I doubt I will ever get a chance to talk about these things with Morrissey, but if I did, I would want to share with him these three life-changing truths:

1. Jesus never has, and never will, desert you.

Forgive me any pain I may have brung to you
With God’s help I know I’ll always be near to you
But Jesus hurt me when He deserted me.
—I Have Forgiven Jesus—

Yes, we all make mistakes in life, and many of these mistakes will cause pain to others—even to Jesus. But as Jesus hung on the cross in agonizing emotional and physical pain, what did He say to God regarding the men who were causing Him pain in that moment? 

He offered them forgiveness. Not only that, He continued to go through with the plan to rescue these very men, even though it would cost Him His own life to do so.

If Jesus was willing to forgive these men and stick with them even as they were torturing and mocking Him, I’m pretty sure you can trust Him to stick with you no matter what sort of pain you may have caused Him.

37 Those the Father has given me will come to me, and I will never reject them (John 6:37).

2. Jesus loves you, and He made you to be a lover as well.

Why did you give me so much desire
When there is nowhere I can go to offload this desire?
And why did you give me so much love in a loveless world
When there’s no one I can turn to to unlock all this love?
—I Have Forgiven Jesus—

I could be wrong, but when I read these lyrics as one who has struggled with sexual addiction, I hear the same question I wrestled with for years: Why did God give me such a strong desire for love and intimacy and then tell me not to have sex until I was married? What a jerk move.

Unfortunately, these thoughts were actually pulling me away from the only thing that ever could truly satisfy the desires that consumed me.

If you believe that love, sex, and intimacy are all the same thing, you will inevitably begin to question God’s goodness. You will view Him as a cruel and controlling master, much like a man holding a carrot just beyond the reach of a donkey. It will seem as if God has put these desires in you and then forbids you to satisfy them.

The truth though, is God made you to be a lover, which is why you have this strong desire to love and to be loved. This love isn’t sexual though, it’s sacrificial. True love is always about what you can do for others, not what others can do for you. (Tweet this!)

This type of love isn’t something you can produce on our own. It’s something that is only unlocked when you trust Jesus to produce it though you.

19 We love each other because He loved us first (1 John 4:19).

If you can come to trust God’s unconditional love for you, your ability to love (and to be loved) will suddenly come alive.

3. Jesus doesn’t hate you.

And why did you stick me in self-deprecating bones and skin?
Jesus, do you hate me? Do you hate me? Do you hate me?
—I Have Forgiven Jesus—

You are correct in looking at your flesh and wondering why it controls you as it does. In fact, the Apostle Paul made the same observation about his own flesh:

15 What I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate… 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh (Romans 7:15,18).

Yes, nothing good can come from your flesh. No matter how hard any of us try, none of us can overcome the sinful desires within our bodies. But before we get too down on that reality, we need to also look at what Paul says next:

24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:24-25)

The truth is, Jesus doesn’t stick you in self-deprecating bones and sin—He wants to free you from them! He came to rescue you from your flesh, not condemn you for it. (Tweet this!)

In fact, the very next verse reminds us that “there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1)

How can Jesus hate you if He doesn’t even condemn you? The truth is, He can’t.

And why would He purchase your freedom from sin and death with His own life only to turn around and resent you? He won’t.

No matter what you have done, it will never separate you from the love of Jesus.

Nothing will ever cause Jesus to hate you. That’s the beauty of His undying love for you.


You have given all of us a gift, Morrissey, with your music and honesty. For that I thank you.

If you’re ever passing though Oregon, let me know. I’d love to buy you a cup of coffee.

Don’t worry, I won’t talk about Jesus the whole time. But I will remind you that Jesus doesn’t hate you, He hasn’t rejected you, and He loves you more than you know.

And I believe I can speak for all of your fans when I say we do as well.

Wherever you are…Don’t lose faith.
—I Know It’s Gonna Happen Someday—

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Jesus Loves Ragamuffins

I typically save videos such as this to feature in the Weekly Web (W)roundup. This one, however, deserves a post of its own. It’s one of the best presentations of the same message that set me free—not just from porn—but from everything that had been holding me back from experiencing Jesus fully, deeply, and intimately.

Please set aside 18 minutes and watch it. You will be glad you did.

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The Gospel According to Bono

I’ve been a fan of U2 ever since their Joshua Tree album. I’m not their only fan either, being that U2 is listed among the top-10 best-selling bands of all time.

BonoIt’s no secret that Bono, the lead singer of U2, believes in Jesus. He may be hesitant label his beliefs as “Christian,” claiming the word carries excessive baggage (which I fully understand), but he has never shied away from admitting to be a follower of Jesus Christ.

Which is why I’ve often wondered about the meaning behind U2’s hit song, “I Still Haven’t Found what I’m Looking for“—a song he frequently introduces as “a Gospel song for the doubters.”

Does Bono believe that Jesus is enough, or is he still looking for something more?

But then I noticed something interesting. When I looked at their lyrics through the decades, I saw the same paradigm shift that transformed my own faith:

It appears that Bono’s faith has shifted from one
of constant striving and doubt to one of peace and trust.

In order to illustrate this further, let’s take a look at some of these lyrics.

First, from “I Still Haven’t Found what I’m Looking for,” written in 1987:

I have climbed the highest mountains
I have run through the fields
Only to be with you
Only to be with you

I have run I have crawled
I have scaled these city walls
These city walls
Only to be with you
But I still haven’t found
What I’m looking for
But I still haven’t found
What I’m looking for

When I read these lyrics, I can’t help but think of the sin-management mentality that consumed the majority of my Christian life. I was trying to do everything I could to be a “good Christian,” to follow the rules and make God happy.

I wanted to be with God, but I was trying to orchestrate the relationship in my own power.

I tried to climb the mountain.

I tried to run through the fields.

I was trying to earn my way to God through my own goodness. But no matter how hard I tried, it never worked.

I never found what I was looking for.

Now, compare that to the song “Grace” from their 2001 album “All That You Can’t Leave Behind”:

She takes the blame
She covers the shame
Removes the stain
It could be her name

What once was hurt
What once was friction
What left a mark
No longer stings
Because grace makes beauty
Out of ugly things

Notice how there’s no longer any sense of striving. There’s no list of things Bono has accomplished in order to gain God’s blessing.

Everything in this song is about what Grace has offered to him.

Grace took his blame.

Grace covered his shame.

The sting of shame is gone, and it’s not because Bono finally climbed the highest mountains or scaled the city walls. It’s gone because the grace of God changed his heart, removing the stain of sin from his life.

This understanding of grace is what changed my paradigm, opening my eyes to the reality that following Jesus isn’t about trying to do the right things to please Him, it’s about learning how to trust what He has done for me.

That’s how Grace makes beauty out of ugly things.

Have you found whatever it is you’re looking for?

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Grace…What’s in a Name?

The following is an article I recently wrote for the men’s newsletter at my church. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Grace. It’s the name of our church, yes, but why? Have you ever stopped and thought what Grace actually is, what it means in your life, or why our church is named after this single word? Grace is mentioned 170 times in the Bible, the Apostle Paul ends every one of his letters offering a blessing of Grace, and above all, we are told that “it is by Grace that you have been saved…” (Ephesians 2:8). Obviously this is a hugely important word. But what is Grace?

Grace is a hard word to define because it encompasses so much meaning into one single word. My favorite definition of Grace is one I heard from a pastor in Portland a few years back:

[Grace is] the lavish, opulent, raw, untamed, scandalous blessing of God—unearned, undeserved, illogical, disproportionate—poured out through Christ, over every facet of your life, and the living presence of the Creator God deep inside you, poured out through the Spirit, in a flood of euphoric joy, transcendent peace, and limitless power, to be…and do…and live up to God’s calling on your life.

Wrapped up in this single word is so much life-giving truth: The fact that God loves us no matter how undeserving we all are…His desire to bless us beyond our wildest dreams…His presence and power within us, at all times, empowering us to live out the life He has called us to…His never ending, never stopping, always, and forever love.

Grace wordsWhen you start to understand God’s Grace not just in your head, but in your heart, everything in your life changes. There is an unbelievable amount of peace and joy that comes from knowing God has chosen to adopt you as His son, to love you regardless of how well you are measuring up (because none of us ever will measure up), and to enable you to walk in the path He has laid out for you through His power and not your own. When you realize you don’t need to strive to get your stuff together before you can walk with God, but start to see how He loves you right where you are (even at your lowest point), and is patiently waiting for you to invite Him to walk through your stuff with you—that is when freedom begins. Suddenly, all the self-effort you have been trying to muster up to manage your issues and control your life is freed up, giving you new energy to love others with the same love you are experiencing daily from your Father in Heaven.

My favorite aspect of God’s Grace—the part that has made the biggest impact in my daily life—is realizing that it’s okay to not be okay. I think deep down, every man is afraid that He’s not good enough or that he doesn’t have what it takes to live up to a certain standard. Often times, men will strive hard to meet this imaginary standard, frequently trying to hide the less-than-desirable parts about their lives from others so they can at least “appear” to have it all together. It’s exhausting, and they know it isn’t working. It usually results in one of two tragic outcomes: a life of shame that comes from feeling like a failure, or simply walking away from the church and from God because it doesn’t seem to be working. But if you realize God loves you just as you are…right now…no matter how “good” you are being today, and there is nothing you can do (or not do) to ever make Him love you any more or any less—it frees you from your fear of not measuring up. You start to realize that God knew all along you would be right where you are at this point in time, and He still chose to send Jesus to take care of your sins on the cross. God never expected perfection from us—He knew we would always be human and would desperately need a Savior. The only thing required of you is to trust that your sinful nature has in fact been crucified with Christ and you are now free to live life out of your new nature. And because none of us have it all together, it’s okay to be honest with one another about our struggles and come out of hiding and striving in isolation. Grace allows us come alongside our brothers, share our lives with them on a soul-level, and experiencing the love of Christ in our lives together.

So, if our actions have nothing to do with how much God loves us, I can just go ahead and sin all I want and still get into heaven because nothing can stop God’s love for me, right? Well, let me ask you this: If your wife told you she loved you so much she would be willing to forgive you of anything, no matter what, and it would never cause her to reject you or to stop loving you, would you respond by constantly sinning against her and taking advantage of her goodness, or would it cause you to want to love her back even more? When you start to experience God’s unconditional love for you, walking in the light becomes the natural response of your heart. “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). You no longer have to strive to manage your sin because your new heart will desire to follow God’s ways naturally. Your actions will flow from your love of God, not your attempt at controlling sin. This same love will also empower you to Love others where they’re at and help them follow Jesus. This is what it means to be “Men of Grace.”
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