Wisdom Wednesday: The Grace Problem

I came across an interesting article titled “The Danger of Abusing the Grace of God,” in Charisma Magazine a couple days ago.  In the article, David Ravenhill elucidates some very interesting facts concerning the perversion of God’s grace in our society today.

The theology of grace tends to be problematic for people who struggle with the commitment to doing things God’s way.  On one hand you have the ideology that through the blood of Christ, grace erases all of our sins, and gives us a perpetually clean slate (which is true).  On the other hand, however, you have scriptures like Romans 6:14 which states,

For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.

So what’s the real deal with grace?  Is it a license to sin, or is God holding us accountable for our actions?  Is it just a “get out of Hell free” card, or is it more than that?

When we fail to understand the purpose and the original intent of God’s grace, it leads to willful disobedience, and then to statements like, “God knows my heart.”

I believe grace is directional, and comes with great responsibility.  For all intents and purposes, God’s grace should lead us in the direction of holiness, not away from it.  It is the room and space to grow into the image of Christ, while daily going through the process of overcoming sin (yes..it is a process).  I believe God’s original intent in provisioning us with His grace was to cover us while we are actively engaged in the sanctification process.  This sanctification process is only perfected within us by living in His presence daily via prayer and Bible meditation.  As long as we are in this world, we will have to deal with sin and spiritual shortcomings.  However, the key to living above sin is our connection to Jesus Christ.  We must take this union seriously if we are to live victoriously.

At what point do we stop making excuses in the name of “grace” and start fighting the “good fight of faith?” (1 Tim. 6:12).

What do you think?  Is it possible to abuse the grace of God?  Have you ever witnessed grace abuse?  If so, how did it change you?

All dialogue welcomed…Let’s talk.

BE

 

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The Five P’s of Victory

One of the greatest fighters who ever lived, Muhammad Ali, once said:

“The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses…it’s won behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road long before I dance under those lights.”

 

We’re all familiar with the exuberant elation that comes from winning something.  We equate winning with being the best and the greatest within our league.  Let’s face it, there’s just something about the thrill of power that comes with the number one spot.

On the other hand, I’m sure most of us have had the experience of being served the bitter dish of defeat by an opponent.  This can conjure up emotions of agony that totally deflates our egos causing severe “pride-reversal.”

Although this paradigm exists, there are those that seem to have a knack for winning.  They always win the title belts, the gold medals, and the trophies.  They are the champions of our day.

What do those people do differently?  Some may argue that it’s strictly genetics.  Although this may be true on some level, I believe there is a system or a process for ensuring victory in our lives which can be summed up by the Five P’s of victory:

  1. Passion
  2. Process
  3. Power
  4. Performance
  5. Pay-Off

Passion

Passion is defined as a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something.  Passion is the engine deep down in your belly that keeps you doing what you love, even when you’re tired, nervous, or even hurting.  Passion is the power that pulls you through your process.  It’s the secret weapon of success.  What you are passionate about is often an indicator of your true calling.  Even though this is the most fundamental indicator of your intrinsic purpose, it is perhaps the most elusive.  God has placed within you certain abilities and giftings that set you apart from everyone else.  It’s up to you to accept the challenge of unlocking the God-given power within you by discovering and embracing your unique passions.

If you expect to be an overcomer, then you must be passionate about your purpose.  Passion is what locks you into the “why” of what you’re doing.  In the absence of passion, quitting becomes easy.  What’s pulling you into your purpose?

Process

All champions have one thing in common; on some level, they value training, coaching, and development.  Training is the process of conditioning via instruction, discipline, or drill.  It is the preparation for a test of skill.  Generally speaking, it is the passageway through which the ordinary walks to become extraordinary.

I am a Black Belt in Tae-Kwon-Do, and have received several awards and trophies in the categories of forms and sparring.  I recall the days leading up to a tournament or testing, and how physically and mentally demanding it was.  I never enjoyed the process that I had to endure to produce excellence, but when those trophies were in my hands, the pain of the process seemed to dissipate.

God’s plan for your life is worth your present pain.  Diamonds must be cut before their brilliance is truly revealed.  Gold must be liquified before its purest form is revealed.  In like manner, the treasure that is within you must endure a refining process before your true essence and beauty is manifested.   1 Peter 1:7 states:

That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ, [KJV].

Power

A very interesting phenomenon takes place during the training and developmental process.  Put very simply…you change.  If change does not happen on some level, then the efficacy of the process must be called into question.  You gradually become stronger, faster, wiser, and more confident.  The journey itself challenges you as you navigate the course required to reach your destination.  In turn, the obstacles that you encounter change you as they force you to reevaluate your current condition in relation to the desired goal.

When we pray for certain things, in most cases, God will answer with process.  For instance, you may pray for a spouse, but God may answer with a very difficult person that you have to work with on your job.  The process of working with that person sets you on a journey of self-discovery, where you learn that you are very impatient.  God’s message to you is this: before He brings that special someone into your life, you must learn patience.  The co-worker is just a pawn in the process.  When you learn to be patient with your co-worker, you’ll be better equipped to exercise that same muscle of patience with the person who will one day be your spouse.

The strength to bear the weight of what comes with your destiny is only acquired on the road to your destiny.  God is more concerned with your ability to maintain the demands that come with the next level, than the glory of crossing the finish line.

Performance

What do you do when it’s time to execute?  Can you handle the pressure of being on the grand stage, or do you experience the dreaded “performance anxiety?”

This phase of the process is where battles are either won or lost.  You can spend all your time training for the big day, but if you can’t fully execute, then all of your hard work will be in vain.  God always affords us opportunities to execute what we have learned in theory.  Hearing the word of God taught in church is like training on a punching bag.  The opponent isn’t real and it doesn’t punch back.  The real fight is in the ring of temptation and tribulation, when the real enemy, Satan, engages you on the battlefield of your mind.

When it’s time to perform, can you produce the will to execute what the drills were designed to teach?  The performance always reveals weaknesses in your training.  How you train is how you perform.  Any fighter worth his weight in gold knows that in order to perform at the highest level on fight day, he must push past his limits during his training.  If he skips training days and binges on Doritos and Honey Buns everyday, then fight day will reveal those weaknesses and punish them in like fashion.

Process is designed to reward diligence and punish indolence.  You get to choose the outcome of your performance based on how you handle your process.

Pay Off

In the world of sports, victory is never guranteed.  That’s what makes sports so magnetic.  It’s the charge of adrenaline that comes from witnessing the end result of training and its ensuing victory.  Champions aren’t champions just because they win, they are champions because of how they think.  A champion expects victory even though he knows that victory is never guaranteed.  The expectation of victory increases the probability of experiencing victory.

You should be jumping for joy now as you read this, because you live by a different law called the Law of the Spirit of Life (Romans 8: 2).  This law guarantees victory in your life when certain conditions are met.  1 John 5:4 states:

For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith, [KJV].

Beloved, if you have been born again, you are guaranteed victory.  You’re an overcomer, but you must have faith in the victory Christ has won.  Through him, you have already overcome your greatest struggles.  It’s not just about winning, it’s about overcoming through the blood of Jesus.

Your process has prepared you for the very battle that you are facing now.  The enemy is no match for you and your Lord Christ.  Victory in Christ is guaranteed.  Together with him, you can conquer every opponent that tries to take your crown.

Romans 8: 35, 37: Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us, [KJV]. 

As always, thank you for visiting Wisdom’s Quill.  See you soon.

BE

Editor: Jaime Evans

Your Struggle: The Gateway To Glory

If you are reading this post, there is one thing I can tell you about yourself without knowing anything about you.  With a reasonable amount of cerainty, I know that you have a struggle.  Not just any struggle, but one that plagues you perpetually like an opponent that just won’t fall.  The struggle that I’m referring to is the one that keeps reappearing at the most inopportune times, just to fight against all of your best laid plans and your most optomistic motivations.  Whether it’s persistent illness, addiction, a problematic personality flaw, a criminal record…(and the list goes on); these things can make us lose confidence and self-esteem. 

But wait…NOT SO FAST!

Before you tap out and throw in the towel, I’d like to submit to you a profound truth.  One that comes from an authority much higher than all of us.  Consider this:

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.  (2 Corinthians 4:17)

In essence, your struggle activates the perfect strength and ability of God, but only when you learn how to tap into it properly. 

 

God’s R.O.I.

God is proactive, not reactive.  In other words, nothing about you shocks or intimidates Him.  He knows everything, and I do mean everything, about you.  He knows all of your sins, struggles, and shortcomings (past, present, and future).  He knows the decisions you will make and your motives behind those decisions. He has even made provisions for you when you stray away from Him.  In fact, God has invested His most precious commodity in you…the Blood of Jesus His Son.  He did it because of your sins, and He is “banking” on your struggle becuase in your struggle is where He receives the R.O.I. (Return On Investment) from your life.  That return on investment is called GLORY. 

That’s right!

Right in the middle of your weakness and your struggle, God’s grace is standing by ready, willing, and able to make tremendous power available to you through the Holy Spirit.  The sooner you humble yourself, acknowledge God’s power, and receive His grace, that is when you qualify for more grace.

“But He gives more grace.  Therefore He says: God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:7)

 

God’s Glory Revealed

I have been ruminating a very interesting question.  As a matter of fact, that question combined with a powerful message entitled, “An Incredible Invitation,” taught by Pastor Shomari White (Senior Pastor of Have Life Church in Charlotte, NC), gave birth to this post.  Consider this:

Why didn’t God heal Moses of his speech impediment at the burning bush? (Exodus 3) 

We all know that God could have just touched Moses’ mouth like He did when He called Isaiah (Isaiah 6).  But He didn’t.  Instead, when Moses brought it up, God’s response was:

Now therefore go, I will be with thy mouth and teach thee what thou must say.  (Exodus 4:12)

Of course those who are familiar with the account know that He did allow Aaron to accompany Moses, but that was not God’s ideal plan.  Upon closer scrutiny, I realized that this wasn’t the only time God refused to be moved by a person’s weakness.  Let’s take a look at Paul and his infamous “thorn in the flesh.”  I believe it is by design that no one really knows for certain what Paul’s “thorn” was, because it is indicative of our “thorns.”  It’s not labeled specifically in the Bible, so that we all can label it ourseleves, and know that just like God’s grace was sufficient for Paul; His grace is certainly sufficient for us.  Some may say that Paul’s thorn was not significant, but I beg to differ.  It was significant enough for Paul to talk to God about it three times.  Eventually, God answered Paul’s request to remove it and take the thorn away by saying:

My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.  (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Finally, let’s take a look at Jesus, who was God incarnate.  One day as Jesus was heavily involved in his travelling ministry, he received a message that Lazarus, one of his good friends, who lived in Bethany, was sick and close to dying.  At that point you would imagine Jesus and his crew would have packed up and started the trip to Bethany.  Instead, Jesus took his time getting there.  Needless to say, his friend Lazarus died, and by the time he got to Bethany, Lazarus was four days in the grave.  Upon Jesus’ arrival, he was met with statements of disappointment from the grieving sisters of Lazarus (Mary and Martha) as they approached him and said, “If you had been here, our brother would not have died.”  I love Jesus’ response to their folly:

“Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.”  (John 11:25)

Then, he proceeded to call Lazarus forth from the dead.

AWESOME STUFF!

 

Fight the Right Fight

Many times the message of grace is misconstrued and misunderstood by the masses. People filter the message through perverted, itching ears, thereby disseminating wrong information.  In no way am I saying you should just lay down and succumb to your weaknesses.  When your struggle ceases to be a struggle, then it’s time for a reality check.  You’re a soldier and your battle is in the arena of your mind.  That’s where the battle is either won or lost.  The skirmish between flesh and spirit is a heated one at times, but we have been guaranteed victory through the name of Jesus.  Paul said it best:

“I keep under my body and bring it into subjection…” (1 Corinthians 9:27)

The friction that comes from this fight within us produces the spark that sets our lives on fire for Christ.   As we humble ourselves, acknowledge God, and fight the good fight of faith (1 Timothy 6:12), we open the gateway for God’s grace and glory to flood our lives and shine through us.  God’s grace works best in the presence of our frailty, and shines brightest in the dungeons of our deepest struggle, if we choose to acknowledge Him.  This is why Jesus came clothed in grace and truth, so that we may behold the perfection of his person.  Christ carried the burden of perfection so that we wouldn’t be required to. 

I encourage you to speak faith.  Say what God has already declared about you ,and let this be your confession:

“For when I am weak, then am I strong.”  (2Corinthians 12:10)

Now go forth, and expect to see God’s glory revealed in your life today.

 

 Acknowledgements:  I would like to thank Pastor Shomari White, Senior Pastor of Have Life Church (Charlotte, NC ) for allowing me to reference his inspirational words in this post.  Thank you for living a life that demonstrates the power of the Holy Spirit.  You are truly an inspiration to me.

As always, thank you for visiting Wisdom’s Quill.  See you soon.

BE

 

 

How Your Perception Impacts Your Success

Picture this:

My wife and I are at Starbucks (in a long line of course) in the airport waiting for our order, and right next to us is a woman patiently waiting for her order as well.  As I take a second glance, I noticed she was smiling.  Reflexively, I smiled back at her as she spoke to both my wife and I and asked how we were.  This small interaction led to a longer conversation that brightened the rest of our day.  As we walked away we recounted how nice it was to encounter such a nice person.  As I continued to think about our interaction, a question began to form in my mind:

“When did pleasant people become an endangered species in our society?” 

Think about it.  When was the last time you randomly encountered a nice, genuine person?

Exactly…it takes a second to recall, doesn’t it?

If we’re honest, it seems normal these days for people to walk around in a dark cloud of depression, self-loathing and self-pity.  Let’s not even mention the people who are just plain mad…at everyone.  They go to sleep angry and wake up angrier.  What caused this mass deterioration and dysfunction?  I believe it can all be summed up in one word…Perception.  Yes, our perceptions are the blueprints for how we look at life, and everyone had a different blueprint.  Think of it as our point of reference.  It’s the way we process everything around us as we look through the lenses of our personal experiences and biases.  If our lenses are dark, then our outlook will be dark and vice versa.  What if I told you the reason why you are not producing the results you desire in your life could be the result of your outlook?  One of my favorite quotes from Leonardo da Vinci states, “All our knowledge has its origins in our perceptions.”  Whether it’s work, home, relationships, or all of the above, how you view life can determine what you produce in your life.

Perception vs. Perspective

Ladies and gentlemen, I have good news and bad news.  First, the bad news (sorry):

Perception and perspective are two different things.  I know you’re asking, how is this bad news?  Well, the main reason is because so many people confuse the two.  They think the way they see and interpret things is the way things really are.  Have you ever encountered a habitually paranoid person who believes that everyone wants to harm them in some way?  How about a person that constantly feels that they have been purposely omitted from a communication or event because no one likes them.  Although these may seem extreme, they are examples of faulty perceptions, and are more commonplace than you think.  The difference between perception and perspective is the fact that perspective is the ability to place a singular event into its proper contextual construct.  In other words, seeing things from the proper point of reference within the framework of what really matters to you.

Here’s a little exercise that reinforces proper perspective.  So you wake up in the morning to encounter Murphy’s Law at work in your life.  Everything that can go wrong does go wrong.  You overslept, the kids are fighting in the car, you’re stuck in traffic because you left home later than usual (you get the point).  You finally make it to work, late of course, so you’re not in the best mood due to your dreadful morning.  However, when you walk into your office you discover that one of your co-workers was just diagnosed with cancer, and another co-worker’s mother died the night before.  Remember that dreadful morning of yours?  Doesn’t seem so dreadful now, does it?  That’s the power of proper perspective.

Now, I promised you some good news, didn’t I?  Here it is:  Perceptions are malleable and can be altered pretty quickly.  In turn, when your perception is positively altered, it places you in a better position for increased productivity.  I like to call it fruitfulness.  I came across an interesting fact that I’d like to lift from an article entitled “Well-Being, Success, and the Gallup Student Poll” conducted in 2009.  High school students who reported consistently experiencing a joyful outlook had better academic records overall.  This proves that people with an overall positive outlook are happier, which could be a precursor to success and impactful results.

Perception and Maturity

Did you know fruit trees only produce fruit after they have reached a certain level of maturity?  Just like fruit trees, our productivity is connected to our maturity, because in most cases our perceptions are rooted in our level of maturity.  Many times our actions are influenced by our perceptions, whether good or bad.  Arising from our actions are the consequences of those actions.  If we’re honest with ourselves we will admit that when we were younger and immature, we made some pretty dumb decisions that we would later live to regret.  What makes us see those actions for what they are (dumb)?  Could it be that time and experience placed those actions in perspective?  Our actions are the seeds that carry the genetic material that produces the offspring of consequence.  That’s why I believe that maturity is the force of proper perspective.  As we mature, we tend to focus more on the consequences of our actions.  Until we mature completely, we will always struggle to maximize our productivity.

So if you are struggling with negative perceptions, here are some effective tools that always work for me when I find myself in a bit of a conundrum.

  1. Diet–   You are what you eat, and food affects mood.  Try to make healthy eating a lifestyle.  When you eat great, you feel great, and when you feel great, you produce great things.
  2. Exercise–  Research consistently shows that exercise improves and hones all of our bodily functions, including perhaps the most important of all…brain activity.  When we’re sharp mentally, we pay attention to detail, which is a guaranteed gateway to increased productivity.
  3. Quiet Time–  Whether you pray, meditate, or just take a short nap, time spent in quiet solitude can relieve stress and change negative perceptions throughout your day.  I encourage you to take advantage of breaks in your day to silently recharge.
  4. Connect–  We all thrive on social interactions with others.  You may not be an extrovert or a social butterfly, but connection with like minds and significant others can greatly reinforce priorities and ideas that really matter to us.  There is nothing like spending time with the people we love to help bring proper perspective.
  5. Travel–  A change of scenery can go a long way when trying to change negative perceptions.  Never underestimate the power of “vacating the premises.”

Be encouraged today and remember, trees produce fruit; fruit contains seeds; seeds produce trees.

What will YOU produce today?

Thank you for visiting Wisdom’s Quill.

BE