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!

The Stain on the Couch

Several years ago, we were at my sister-in-law’s home for a family gathering. Someone accidentally spilled grape juice on her denim couch.

Everyone sprung into action – trying to clean up the juice before it stained the couch.

My mother-in-law got a soapy dishtowel and started scrubbing the stain. At first, it seemed to be working – the dark purple color of the stain began to fade.

Then, we noticed that something else was fading… the denim fabric on the couch! All the scrubbing took the blue color of the denim out. Now, the couch had a big white circle with a pink stain in the middle of it.

What a disaster!

Soon, a slip-cover was purchased for that couch. The (double) stain was still there, but now it was hidden under the cover.

Eventually, they purchased a new couch. The old (stained) one was gone and a new (stain-free) couch replaced it.

This story reminds me of God’s grace in our lives.

We are all sin-stained.

Our best attempts at getting rid of the stains only seem to make things worse. We usually resort to “slip-covers” – hiding, faking, covering and pretending the stains aren’t there.

God has something better for us: a brand-new, stain-free life – paid for in full by Him. Out with the old, in with the new!

The Bible says, “Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person – the old life is gone; a new life has begun!” – 2 Corinthians 5.17

God’s grace provides us with what is impossible on our own: His grace makes us brand-new and stain-free.

New Song: Grace Already Won

We’re going to sing a new song this Sunday – “Grace Already Won” by Carlos Whittaker.

Wanna listen to it?

Here’s the lyrics:

Set your eyes on the cross
And your heart will see
There is freedom for us
And victory
Set your hope on this love
And your soul will sing forever sing

Grace already won
Grace has covered us
Grace runs deep it’s never ending
Grace is strong enough
Grace will overcome
Grace will be our Everlasting

Let your joy in this place
Break down these walls
He has shattered our chains
Once and for all
With the loudest of praise
Our song will be forever be

Sons and daughters of the living God
With rejoicing come and lift Him up
Come with dancing come and shout His praise

Out with the Old & in with the New!

My last home was in Yakima.

My new home is in Maple Valley.

The distance between them is about 130 miles – a little over 2 hours by car.

My old home no longer belongs to me.

The title deed for the new home has my name on it.

Driving to the old home in order to change my clothes or fix something to eat would be an exercise in futility. The locks have been changed. I don’t belong there anymore.

My old home is no longer a resource or refuge for me.

I have a new place now.

The old system of relating with God was based on law, works and sacrifices.

The new system of relating with God is based entirely upon the once-and-for-all sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Trying to establish or maintain a relationship with God based on the old system (of law, works and sacrifices) would be an exercise in futility. No matter how hard you work at it – you will fail.

This old system is not your home. The locks have been changed. You don’t belong there anymore. The old system is no longer a resource or refuge for you.

You have a new place now – a place where you belong – at home in God’s family based upon his grace.

Here’s how the Bible explains it:

“God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.” -Ephesians 2.8, 9

“For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace.” -Galatians 5.4

Out with the old and in with the new… come home to grace!

The Game-Changing Message of Grace

I’m sure you’ve heard the term “game-changing”.

Recently, “game-changing” was used to describe Apple’s new iPad.

Because it’s such a new product, the jury is still out on whether or not it is a real game-changer.

Will the iPad change how we use computers? Will it change the industry?

I don’t know… yet.

Here’s what I do know: the message of grace is game-changing.

It changes how we relate with God.

It makes the old system (of law, works and sacrifices) obsolete.

Grace has ushered in a new system of relating with God through the once-and-for-all sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Instead of depending on myself to be righteous (which always leads to failure and frustration), now I can depend on Him to make me righteous (which always leads to freedom and joy).

Grace has changed my failure to freedom and my frustration to joy.

The Bible describes the game-changing message of grace:

“But now Jesus, our High Priest, has been given a ministry that is far superior to the old priesthood, for he is the one who mediates for us a far better covenant with God, based on better promises. If the first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no need for a second covenant to replace it.” (Hebrews 8.6, 7)

“This same Good News… is bearing fruit everywhere by changing lives, just as it changed our lives from the day you first heard and understood the truth about God’s wonderful grace.” (Colossians 1.6)

Grace changes me and it changes you.

Grace has forever changed the game.

It changes how we relate with God.

It changes our motivation.

It changes our attitude.

It changes the rules.

It changes our fears.

It changes our focus.

It changes our mission.

It changes our agenda.

It changes the outcome.

It changes our outlook on life.

It changes the way we see others.

The truth is… grace changes everything!

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