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Trouble-Free Wasn’t Promised, Overwhelming Victory Was

A trouble-free life was never promised to any of us.

If you’re alive, you’re gonna face some troubles…

The Apostle Paul wrote, “Does it mean He no longer loves us if we have trouble? No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.” (Romans 8.35, 37).

Having troubles doesn’t mean God has stopped loving us.

He loves us – he always has and he always will.

Despite our troubles, overwhelming victory is ours through Jesus Christ.

Our current troubles will not have the final word.

We’ve been given a sneak peak and we know that the story ending is good: overwhelming victory is ours!

Here’s a really important truth: even in our troubles, we don’t have to be “troubled.”

Paul explained:

“We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed…

we are perplexed, but not driven to despair…

we are hunted down, but never abandoned by God…

we get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4.8-10).

Jesus said it this way: “Don’t let your hearts be troubled.”

We have a loving, compassionate, grace-giving God who knows what we’re going through. He does not abandon his kids.

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” (Romans 8.28)

A New View

On Saturday, I ran a half marathon – from Tukwila to Alki. After running a few miles through an industrial area, a new view came into sight: the Seattle skyline.

This new view was in sharp contrast to what I had been looking at. The old view was ugly and cluttered. The new view was majestic, clean and beautiful.

The city skyline was there all along.. I just wasn’t close enough to see it.

Proximity affects perspective.

Grace puts us right with God and makes us close to Him.

Grace changes our perspective.

Grace gives us a new view.

“Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ – that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective.” (Colossians 3.2 MSG)

See things from his perspective…

He’s not: stressed-out, depressed, angry, worried, overwhelmed, afraid, insecure, bitter or running on empty.

He is: victorious, life-giving, more than enough, our advocate, all-sufficient, loving, compassionate, our savior, our healer and our provider.

Remember, proximity affects perspective.

Get close to Jesus and you will have a new view.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it.” (Matthew 11.29 MSG)

A friend of mine recently said it this way: “Stress, strain, worry and fear does not flow from our Jesus. If we find ourselves in that place, we have found ourselves… not Jesus.” -Zac Gandara

Learning to Live Freely & Lightly

Listen to people talk… you’ll quickly notice themes (like your computer’s desktop wallpaper / theme):

“Things are really difficult right now.”

“It’s just challenging.”

“Life can be hard, you know?”


“Things are great!”

“I’m having the time of my life.”

“God has been good to me.”

There’s no question – life brings challenges, obstacles and difficulties. This is true for everyone.

However, for those who have experienced God’s grace, their outlook on life is different. Grace changes everything!

Jesus said, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it.

Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11.29-30 MSG).

I love this!

Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.

God won’t put anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.

Keep company with Jesus and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.

A Cult Waiting to Happen

Imagine an airplane that is just a few degrees off it’s course at the start. If it doesn’t adjust, with time and distance, it will end up at a completely different destination than originally intended.

If the church lacks grace – and it doesn’t adjust – with time, it will become something entirely different than originally intended.

A church without grace is a cult waiting to happen.

So many awful things have been done throughout history in the name of God.

Without grace, the church has excused / reasoned / produced: legalism, manipulation, control, slavery, hatred, violence, murder, wars, discrimination, sexism, oppression, abuse and bigotry.

The Gospel is the message of God’s grace revealed to us in the sending of his son, Jesus Christ.

Jesus is grace personified.

The message of grace is central to Christianity.

Take grace out of the church and you have taken the Gospel out of the church.

Take grace out of the church and you have taken Jesus out of the church.

The Apostle Paul sent a corrective letter to the church in Galatia because they had taken grace out of the church and replaced it with legalism…

“I am shocked that you are turning away so soon from God, who called you to himself through the loving mercy of Christ. You are following a different way that pretends to be the Good News but is not the Good News at all. You are being fooled…” (Galatians 1.6, 7 NLT)

If we emphasize something other than the Gospel of grace (the Good News about Jesus Christ), in one or two generations the church will end up completely off course.

If we emphasize “holiness” – in one or two generations the message becomes legalism.

If we emphasize “faith” – in one or two generations the message becomes “name it, claim it,” positive thinking and positive confession.

If we emphasize “theology” – in one or two generations the message becomes academic elitism.

If we emphasize “spiritual gifts” – in one or two generations the messages becomes goofy mysticism.

If we emphasize grace, we have made the Good News of Jesus Christ the central issue…. and maybe in one or two generations, the world will finally understand what the Gospel is all about.

The Signs are Obvious

When the church lacks grace, the signs are obvious:

“us” versus “them” language and attitude

finger-pointing, accusing, condemning and judging

fear of the future; desperately attempting to hold on to the past

defending how “we’re” right and other ministries or churches are wrong

becoming more and more out of touch with real hurts and needs

constantly bemoaning how bad things are in the world

A church that lacks grace is in serious trouble. Jesus is grace personified. A church without grace is a church that does not know Jesus…

“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.

God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.” -John 3.16, 17 MSG

Grace changes everything. Grace changes the church. When the church is full of grace, the signs are obvious:

compassionate language and attitude

loving, forgiving, accepting, and grace-giving

thankful for the past; full of faith for the future

recognizing all Gospel-preaching and teaching ministries as part of the same team

ministering to people with real hurts and needs

shining brightly for the world to see

Grace Changes the Church

The church is a cold, dark, cruel place without grace. Yuck!

Without grace…

- the church quickly becomes a place where “insiders” climb the religious ladder of success. From their elevated position, insiders look down on “outsiders” and cast judgement.

- the church points out all the reasons why others don’t measure up.

- the church withdraws from the culture in order to keep itself from being tainted by outsiders… it builds walls to keep the insiders in and the outsiders out.

- the church identifies outsiders as it’s enemies.

- the church is nit-picky, mean and hurtful.

- the church is mad at the world.

However, grace changes everything… grace changes the church!

Jesus said, “I’m after mercy, not religion – I’m here to invite outsiders not coddle insiders.” -Matthew 9.13 MSG.

With grace…

- the church comes down to where the people are at.

- the church becomes a place of hope, compassion and love.

- the church steps into the culture with Good News.

- the church tears down walls that keep people out.

- the church is kind, understanding and gracious.

- the church is mad at no one and loves everyone.

“As God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory.” -2 Corinthians 4.15

Some Guy’s Evil Toy

This will only make sense along with yesterday’s post: My Daughter’s Evil Toy…

I went to a movie with a friend last night. Good times. Late drive home.

We were on Petrovitsky – a 50mph road that connects Renton and Maple Valley. On a particularly dark stretch of the road, we noticed a wrecked motorcycle and helmet in the ditch.

We parked, got out and looked around. The bike was a mess – in pieces all over the side of the road.

Called 911.
?No sign of life anywhere. Weird.

We looked around.

About 150 feet from the bike, up on an embankment in the underbrush, I noticed something. I was prepared to see a badly disfigured corpse.

We called out to the body… and the man responded with a groan.

We stood there with the man, talking to him as we waited for emergency services. It was pretty obvious that the man was drunk. He also had severe injuries.

Eventually, the police, paramedics and fire department showed up.

We left. It was about 1:15am when I got home.

I had a difficult time getting to sleep – couldn’t get the images out of my mind.

I know God loves the guy who crashed his motorcycle.

God’s not mad at him.

I bet you God wants this guy to be free of his stinking, evil toys (getting drunk, riding a crotch rocket while intoxicated).

God wants what is best for his kids.

He never enjoys seeing us hurt or suffering.

He wants us to be free.

“He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins.” -Ephesians 1.7

Rather than waiting until we crash and burn to make important, life-changing decisions, maybe we should go ahead and make those decisions now.

Decide to trust Him.

Decide to live free.

My Daughter’s Evil Toy

Two weeks ago, my daughter was playing with her “Skip-it” – a simple looking toy that has a ball connected by a rope to a small hoop.

The hoop goes around your foot. The objective is to swing the ball around in a circular motion and jump over it with your free foot… kinda like jumping over a helicopter blade.

The toy is pink and cute and innocent looking.

It’s also evil.

A few seconds into her playing with the Skip-it, I hear screams. My wife runs outside. Soon, she is carrying our daughter, who has bloody hands and knees, inside.

What happened? She landed on the ball (instead of jumping over it) and fell face-down on the driveway.

A couple of days ago, my daughter has the Skip-it out again. She does a few rounds successfully… and a neighbor girl walks up. The neighbor asks if she can try.

Can you guess what happened?

Yup. Same story all over again. The neighbor girl does a face-plant in our driveway. Screams. Blood. Loose teeth…


Now I’m mad. Not at my daughter or the other girl. I’m mad at that stupid toy.

I tell my daughter that I think we should throw the evil Skip-it away. She cries.

I explain: I don’t want her to get injured anymore / I don’t want neighbor kids to get injured anymore / when I was a kid, we had a neighborhood slip-n-slide… until a neighbor kid was rushed off in an ambulance because of a neck injury that paralyzed him (temporarily) – we never had a slip-n-slide in our neighborhood again.

My explanation and story helped. She agreed to throw the Skip-it away. We went to the garage and threw it in the trash can together…

…then I told my daughter, “I think I need to take you shopping for a new toy this week.” She lit up like a Christmas tree. Rejoicing. Jumping. Cheers. Grins….

I took her shopping last night and got her a new toy (one that isn’t evil and won’t cause bodily harm). I don’t think she’s missing the Skip-it anymore.

Similarly… God loves his kids.

He is not mad at us. He doesn’t like the “evil toys” that cause us harm.

Trust Him.

Letting go of the bad stuff can be difficult.

Go ahead, do it anyway.

See what God does in your life.

Every good and perfect gift comes from Him.

God doesn’t empty your life of good things; He fills your life with good things!

“The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” – Jesus (John 10.10)

Something Beautiful

The root meaning of the word grace is “beauty.”

In the New Testament grace means, “God’s unmerited favor.”

Grace is God giving me something I cannot obtain on my own.

Grace is being accepted by God even though I do not deserve it and am not worthy of it.

God gives me grace because He loves me.

Grace removes the sin-stain and makes me right (pure and holy) before God.

Grace changes me.

Grace is (and does)…

something beautiful.

“Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us.

Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift.

He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be.” (Romans 3.23, 24 Message Bible)

Weekend Reflections

Random thoughts about this weekend…

We had 2 service dogs in church on Sunday. That’s pretty cool.

Our church is growing (with dogs). So far I’ve only met Fritz, but I’m looking forward to meeting the other dog as well. Both dogs paid attention, looked happy and were generally more well-behaved than some of the humans.

I wonder if they get counted in our attendance numbers?

We also had 2 Seagals in church on Sunday (go Seahawks!).

You can tell they’re used to being right up front where everything’s happening ‘cause they both sat in the front row. I was kinda hoping they’d cheer me on during the sermon…

The new song by Carlos Whittaker, Grace Already Won, was amaz-A-zing! I was still humming it at 10pm.

I am all fired up about our new series: Grace Changes Everything. In my opinion, this is the most important teaching I’ve ever shared. The Gospel is the Good News of God’s Grace. If we don’t get this, everything else is gonna be a waste of our time!

Grace was everywhere on Sunday… like in big letters on the stage. I love all the reminders around our building that Grace Changes Everything.

Baby/child dedications are so fun. Dedicating little August Ohashi in the 10am service was the highlight of my day.

During the dedication, I was talking about parents bringing their children to Jesus and the disciples attempted to stop them. Jesus scolded the disciples and invited the children to come – and he blessed them.

As I was telling this story, it occurred to me: Jesus wants to bless people we don’t think he wants to bless.

Sunday night, our two Fairwood softball teams played each other – it was Fairwood vs Fairwood. Congratulations Fairwood, you won!

It was a great weekend. I love what God is doing in our church.

Can’t wait for Sunday!