Don’t Rush by Good Friday

jesuscross

Pretty gold crosses dangling on shiny chains have a narcotic effect on our thoughts about the Cross. So do two thousand years of time’s passage and five thousand miles of distance. Our sanitized crosses fall far short of the gut-wrenching realities of crucifixion. What the Gospels say in four icy words, “and they crucified Him” (Mark 15:25), would have been emotionally devastating to behold, much less endure.

Of all the big deals in theology, the biggest deal is the Cross of Christ and all it means. So Jesus gathered his ragtag followers and turned a Passover meal into an endless commemoration of that dark day soon to dawn.

Jesus is into commemorating because we are into forgetting. “Never forget,” he said.

As we move from Good Friday, into Easter, it’s crucial we re-calibrate our hearts to this mother of all theological messages.

Scripture contemplates the Cross in five little words: “Christ died for our sins.” Christ died — that’s history; we could have seen it with our eyes had we been there. For our sins — that’s theology. It requires a revelation of God. Let’s open our hearts this season to the brutal realities of these words.

Christ Died (History)

Medical experts have reconstructed the physiological effects of this horrific Roman death by torture. Though they don’t all agree on the various details, they all affirm agonies beyond comprehension.

Scourging. So Pilate too Jesus and scourged him, the Bible simply says (John 19:1). To scourge means to skin alive with a whip. The beating was made worse by bones or weights embedded in the whips tail. Deep bruising, rib fractures, and open lacerations would result.

The Crown of Thorns. Most likely, the crown of thorns would have been shaped more like a cap than a circlet, and would have covered the whole head. Matthew explains that soldiers “took the reed and struck Him on the head” (Matthew 27:30), in effect hammering the spikes into Christ’s scalp. Excruciating pain would have followed.

Never forget the price Jesus paid.

Nails. The spikes were made of iron and about four to five inches long. The force used in driving the nails would have caused searing pain throughout his body. Given what Jesus had already endured, shock was inevitable. As soon as the body’s full weight transferred to the nails through his hands and feet, Christ’s already horrific pain would have been magnified to levels beyond words.

Death. The two little words, “Christ died,” pack enough punch to send the devil tumbling head over heels across the cosmos forever. Christ died because his work was finished. He paid the price. He satisfied justice. He died the death we deserved.

In all this, He was nobody’s victim.

The next time you partake of the Communion cup and bread, stop and take a breath. Bring your mind back to that awful day. Block everything out long enough to remember the Lord’s brutal death.

This is the fountainhead of all grace. This is the Cross. This is what God did for you when Jesus died.

Yet, none of his physical sufferings compared to the pains about to come.

For Our Sins (Theology)

What could be more painful than the tortures, the beatings, the crown of thorns, and the nails through his hands and feet?

Our sins.

When our sins were laid upon him, that’s when Jesus cried out.

About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is, My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? (Matthew 27:46)

For Jesus, no physical suffering compared to being forsaken by God—a black-box mystery, a breach in the eternal fellowship between Christ on the cross and his Father in heaven. This is impenetrable darkness. Bow in wonder and keep silent.

Why did God forsake him?

Because God was judging him for the sin of the world. Damning him. Condemning him. Christ died for our sins. For my sins. For yours.

By the blood of His Cross, you’ve been redeemed (1 Peter 1:18–19), reconciled (Colossians 1:20), forgiven (Ephesians 1:7), brought near to God (Ephesians 2:13), cleansed in conscience (Hebrews 9:14), been made satisfactory to God (by propitiation, Romans 3:25), and declared good enough for God forever (by justification, Romans 5:9).

It was his death—not his life, not his teachings, not his miracles, not his love—that shoved darkness into a bottomless pit and rescued your sorry soul forever. Yes, these wonders of the life of Christ dazzle angels and demons, yet they were nothing if not a prelude to his death.

Let’s not rush through Good Friday. Let’s not forget the Ground Zero of our salvation — the birthplace of grace, and the foundation of the church.

Christ died for our sins.

Hallelujah.

[adapted from Grace Intervention]

 

Fifty Shades of No Way

The movie version of runaway best-seller Fifty Shades of Grey will soon hit the big screen. The movie, like the book, treads where only fallen angels dare to go: themes of sexual bondage, domination, and sado-masochism (BDSM). The Fifty Shades book series sold over 100 million copies worldwide and has been translated into 52 languages. The writing is generally considered marginal to poor, so there must be some other draw.

I wonder what that might be.

I have not read the books, I will not see the movie, and I urge you to spend your entertainment dollars elsewhere. This is not about picketing, boycotting, or trampling freedom of expression.

It’s about protecting your own soul from harm.

By playing fast and loose with sexuality, our culture has trapped itself in a bondage it never saw coming: a weakened ability to form lasting bonds of affection.

God designed you for bonding — to form emotional/spiritual attachments that bring a sense of love, acceptance, knowing, camaraderie, and support into your life. Dogs are world-champion bonders. They bond through touch, play, sight, sound, proximity, smell. What self-respecting canine wouldn’t jump at the chance to sleep on his best-friend’s dirty socks? Every time you walk in the door, there’s your mutt, beside himself with joy, renewing the bond, and ensuring your friendship stays tight.

Anyone who’s lost a dog knows the pain of that broken bond.

Bonds that form slowly go deepest. The Bible says, “But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection [spiritual maturity]” (Colossians 3:14, NKJV). This well-bonded love comes last. It’s the capstone of all other virtues. A mature bond forms last, at the end of a long process, and it holds the tightest. Those old married couples who still hold hands show the power of a lifetime bond. They’ve been through everything. They’ve argued their arguments. They’ve fought over money and kids and open toilet seats. Their bond has prevailed, for better or worse. To see a well-bonded couple like this is to see humanity’s finest hour. The bond has aged to ripe perfection. Slowly. Over time.

I am a grace-guy. I’m all for personal liberty under the wide open skies of amazing grace. I’m a do-what-you-want, follow your heart, walk with God and be free kind of guy. I continually fight my urge to judge others. So I’m not writing to judge or damn anybody here. I’m writing to encourage you — and the people I pastor — to deeper dimensions of grace, especially in this arena of sexual bonding.

Movies and books like Fifty Shades of Grey will not only damage your bond, they will damage your ABILITY to bond.

Every time you make and then break a bond, it’s harder to bond the next time. Like repeatedly attaching, and then ripping off, a bandage, sooner or later, the thing stops sticking. The trauma of repeatedly tearing apart bonds can result in attachment disorders, isolation, intimacy problems, and all kinds of heart-breaking patterns. You cross legitimate boundaries, feel the pain of it, excuse yourself, and ultimately become numb to it. You need ever-increasing stimulation for ever-diminishing returns. It takes more effort to achieve less satisfaction. Once you tear down the boundaries that protect your bond, you become vulnerable. You open yourself to wounds. You invite pain.

Protect your heart.

Protect your spouse’s heart. If you’re single, protect your own heart, and that of the person you or the other might someday marry.

You’ve been given this precious machinery of bonding. You possess this miraculous engine of attachment. Don’t break it. Don’t numb it.

The acts related to physical intimacy produce life’s fastest bonds. In God’s design, you bond mentally and emotionally first, then get to the chapel and get married, and then consummate your bond physically.

Why that order? Because God loves you too much to let you run down paths that will break your heart. Physical bonding works best in an atmosphere of exclusivity and lifetime commitment. Anything else leads to needless drama and lots of tears.

Fifty Shades of Grey is porn. Plus, it associates pain with pleasure — so it’s a double whammy. It will introduce images into your mind you won’t be able to erase. It will stimulate desires your spouse may not be interested in. It will cause comparisons that will only make you and your spouse feel inferior. It will judge you and your “lame” sex life as bland. It will damage your bond. It will damage your ability to maintain your bond. It will throw a wrench into that finely tuned engine of bonding that is the human spirit. It will bring other people into your marital bed through images you’ll find hard to erase. It will dilute your exclusive bond with your spouse — or, to use another word — it will adulterate your bond. To adulterate wine is to water it down. To adulterate a marital bond is to water it down by bringing in any other partner, even in the imagination (Matthew 5:28).

Strong bonds require focus. Ask your dog.

The more partners you have — whether physically or mentally — the harder it’s going to be to erase the others and focus on “the one.”

Broken bonds haunt you.

Even imaginary ones. Some things just can’t be unseen, even with God’s grace. To see this movie, or to read this book, is to turn your back to grace. You lose.

Can there be healing? Yes. Without doubt. Can there be forgiveness, restoration, and rehab? Yes. God’s grace is never out of reach. God’s redemptive grace goes clear down to your sexuality (John 8:11). But the emotional pain of distorted sexuality is still pain. Why choose it on purpose?

Grace provides supernatural power to resist temptation. Calvary-Love offers you a better way of life. Grace offers a satisfaction the world’s counterfeits can’t touch.

I think the question Christians need to ask themselves is simple: Is the grace of God enough? Can I find happiness and love and all that my heart cries out for by laying hold of God’s grace or not? Scripture paints a beautiful picture of a husband and wife as, “heirs together of the grace of life” (1 Peter 3:7). Heirs together — like millionaires without a care in the world. The grace of life — the most satisfying life with the most wonderful person you can imagine, as a by-product of God’s amazing grace.

Fifty Shades of Grey will deface that picture with a bucket of pain disguised as guilty pleasure.

Go out to a fancy dinner instead, order a nice wine, and actually talk about things you both care about.

Or just take the dog for a nice, long walk.

Fear Keeps the Faithful Faithful? pt. 2

Circuit Board

Today’s post is part 2 of a BONUS CHAPTER from Grace Intervention on Fear. There is a growing supply of free resources for you to do a Grace Intervention with your church, small group, or retreat: Click here.

If you missed it, here’s part one of today’s blog.


 

Breaking Bondage

For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15)

You’re always running on one of two operating systems, legalism or grace. The spirit of bondage or the Spirit of adoption. You need to switch operating systems. Make the change from legalism to grace. And as often as you fall into to legalism – either neo- or traditional – you need to switch back again. The burden of this book’s intervention is to motivate, hasten, enable, persuade, instruct, and celebrate that far-reaching switch.

To use a biblical term, you need to repent.

Biblical repentance is never a legalistic addition to the gospel. It is not the super-imposition of behavioral demands on the Walking Dead who are incapable of doing good. It does not consist of self-effort, self-will, or self-improvement.

Repentance is a radical change of mind – swapping out one worldview for another. Changing operating systems. Repentance is the work of God, by the Spirit of God, applying the Word of God to the child of God.

By it, you undergo a radical transformation of your whole way of looking at God, yourself, and your relationship with him. By it, you change your mind – your perspective on reality. It’s time to swap out your old, tired, self-serving worldview for God’s holy, life-giving worldview.

  • Do you harbor the delusion you are good enough for God? That if you are a sinner, you are only a sinner-lite? Repent.
  • Do you grade yourself on the curve? Do you justify yourself by comparing yourself to someone else – say a serial killer, or a “Bridezilla,” or a serial-killing Bridezilla – and conclude you’re just not that bad? Repent.
  • Have you swallowed “doctrines of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1), or have you suppressed the truth (Romans 1:18), elevating your own definitions of reality above the revealed declarations of God in the Scriptures? Repent.
  • Do you diminish the value and efficacy of the death of Christ on the Cross as sufficient payment for your sin? Have you pursued the demented fallacy of self-atonement? Or denied you need atonement at all? Repent.
  • Are you chasing the happiness-butterfly through activities the Bible calls sin? Or worldliness? Or foolishness? Or evil? Repent.
  • Do you honestly think you can reach God by climbing a latter of perfection? Do you have a solution for your sins apart from the finished work of Christ? Repent.

You can’t just add the grace app to legalism’s operating system and call it good. The whole thing is going to crash.

You need a whole new system, a grace-centric outlook on everything that matters.

Enter the most beautiful, coherent, logical, generous, all-encompassing Theory of Everything ever revealed in this cosmos or any other, humbly titled the Grace of God. There is nothing like it in the annals of world religion. Take history’s smartest philosophers, the world’s greatest religious leaders, and society’s most noble women and men, throw them in a room together for a thousand years with the directive to concoct a religion, and the smartest people in the room would never come up with a system of grace. They’d come up with yet another variation on the same old theme: humans by human effort seeking to merit the approval of God.

Legalism owns the human instinct. That’s because the Fall hardwired a lie into the soul. So Grace Deficit Disorder spreads like black mold beneath life’s happy exterior.

You need to swap out the old system for the new one. The old covenant for the new covenant. Legalism for grace.

That swap is surgical. It’s transformative. It’s repentance.

Always More To Do

Legalism is “a spirit of bondage” which produces “fear.” Under legalism, you can never be confident. You can never breathe easy. There’s always another law to obey, sin to conquer, good work to perform. Under the Old Testament system of sacrifices, there was no end to the blood flowing from the altar, as sacrifice followed upon sacrifice with no end in sight. You could never just sit down and rest in the abiding love of God. Fear of God. Fear of man. Fear of final judgment. Fear of exposure. Fear of people’s opinions. Fear of the disapproving frown. Fear of outsider status. Fear of death, hell, the devil, and the corruptions ever ready to erupt from your own lunatic heart.

The legalistic operating system is built on this fear. It’s what keeps the faithful faithful.

Thank God for the Cross.

And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God. (Hebrews 10:11,12)

He sat down because his work was complete. The age of bondage was over. Fear no longer owned mankind’s instinct. A new age had been inaugurated.

The Spirit of adoption. You are no longer a slave, but a son or a daughter in the royal household of God.

Under grace, the cry of your heart is no longer, “I’m scared,” but “Abba, Father.” Dad, I’m home.

Love now keeps the faithful faithful. Gratitude. Grace. The great mystery of Christ in you.

Repentance is that eye-opening moment of realization in which you finally get what a dummy you’ve been, trying to work your way to heaven instead of receiving a gift purchased by the blood of Christ.

It is the epiphany that your happiness lies in the hand of a Father who every day reaches toward you with a compassion that knows no bounds.

It is the discovery life’s anxieties are wasted in the presence of a throne of grace.

It is the stark realization of the stench rising up from your sins, and an urgent turning and returning unto the sufficiency of Christ’s blood to wash you white as snow.

Repentance switches operating systems from legalism to grace.

It’s epic.

Monumental.

By it, you switch from works to faith.

From earning it to receiving it.

From sweating over it to resting in it.

From earning a paycheck to accepting a gift.

From your efforts to Christ’s efforts.

From your dedication to Christ’s dedication.

From your sacrifice to Christ’s sacrifice.

From shadow to substance.

From image to reality.

From religion to relationship.

From despair to hope.

From fear to faith.

From hell to heaven.

And from self to God.

You can’t change your ways until you change your mind, and repentance is that change of mind.

Under grace, God has pre-positioned all your blessings for just-in-time delivery. There’s nothing you face that God hasn’t already seen, and having seen, provided for. If God is for you, who can be against you?

When God delivered me from my fear of judgment, he delivered me into a tremendous sense of peace. Whatever turmoil swirls around my life, whatever storms batter my ship of faith, I know my anchor holds, and one day, I’ll sail into the haven of rest and step into that glorious realm where fears are no more.

Bill Giovannetti, step forward.

I’m here, Father.

Welcome home, Son.

 

Fear Keeps the Faithful Faithful? pt. 1

nocondemnation

Today’s post is a BONUS CHAPTER from Grace Intervention on Fear. There is a growing supply of free resources for you to do a Grace Intervention with your church, small group, or retreat. Click here.


Chapter 7

Fear

Even the Christian must fear God. But it is another kind of fear. It is a fear rather of what might have been than of what is; it is a fear of what would come were we not in Christ. Without such fear there can be no true love; for love of the Saviour is proportioned to one’s horror of that from which man has been saved. And how strong are the lives that are suffused with such a love! They are lives brave, not because the realities of life have been ignored, but because they have first been faced – lives that are founded upon the solid foundation of God’s grace. May such lives be ours! ~J. Gresham Machen

Fear knocked at the door. Faith answered. No one was there. ~Author Unknown

Bill Giovannetti, step forward.

I stood there naked, in plain sight, head hanging down, mortified at the exposure. I faced humiliation as public as any I could imagine.

I am speaking of my fear of Judgment Day.

This fear defined me for decades. It lurked in the shadows of everything I did.

The legalist mantra says, “Fear helps keep the faithful faithful.”

Worked for me. I feared final judgment. I feared loss of salvation. I feared God’s disapproving frown. I feared the loss of status with my spiritual peers. I feared a remarkably unenthusiastic welcome into the heavenly realms. I feared failure. I feared I hadn’t done it right in the first place, and wasn’t really saved.

There was a Bible verse I heard a thousand times as a kid growing up: “What a man does in secret, he will one day shout from the rooftops.” No doubt, this was the Death Star spawning my last-days’ phobia.

It wasn’t till I was much older that I made a startling discovery: there’s no such verse in the Bible. Yes, some come close, but those words simply aren’t biblical, not, at least, when it comes to the believer’s final judgment.

Here’s the closest to it I can find:

Therefore do not fear them. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops. (Matthew 10:26,27)

Even if we apply this verse to the last judgment, it’s still debatable whether it applies to believers in Jesus or not. Otherwise, why would Jesus begin this saying with an exhortation not to fear? At any rate, this is certainly a far cry from the frightening prospect that a naked little me would be shouting my secret sins from any rooftops throughout this life or the next. That discovery blew my mind. Like an addict’s intervention, it changed the course of my life.

Here’s how God’s grace intervention took the stinger out of my life’s greatest fears.

The Guilt Trip

God used a book. The setting was my cavernous high school gym. I was a senior at Chicago’s massive Lane Technical High School, student body over 5,000 at the time. My gym coach was absent for the day, so we sat on hard wooden bleachers and used the hour as a study hall.

I’d brought a book with me about Satan.[i] Little did I know that the last quarter of that book shined a spotlight on guilt and the Cross of Christ. Growing up fundamentalist, as I did, I’d heard about the Cross a million times. But this time was different. It was the first time the death of Christ really clicked with me.

I suspect the reason is because the author framed the Cross within the topic of guilt – which happened to be my middle name. He explained how the devil’s favorite tool was guilt. And how the devil screwed guilt into our backs to slam us around every once in a while.

Who told this guy about me?

My little high school heart was pounding. Pick-up basketball games echoed in the background. The smell of old gym shoes, rubber basketballs, and sweat permeated my senses. My world narrowed to a single point – words on a page illuminated by God’s own Spirit. There, the message of the Cross pierced my guilt and shame. I learned how my sins were lifted out of me that they might be transferred to Christ. I discovered how this transfer was comprehensive – encompassing every moral failure, past, present, and future. I read in wonder how the hammer of heaven heaped justice on the head of Christ, punishing him for my sins instead of punishing me.

And then I read about those wonderful words, IT IS FINISHED, the best words ever uttered on planet earth.

What was finished?

Everything that ever had to happen to bring my sorry soul to heaven without the slightest whisper of my secret sin or shame.

Suddenly, the cosmic plasma screen shattered in a million pieces.

Behind it, I saw the smiling face of God, my Father, who approved of me, and delighted in me more than words could tell.

Grace was real.

It was stronger, far more beautiful, and infinitely more effective than I’d ever thought it was before.

That day, God converted a gym into a sanctuary, as he settled a stupendous promise into my dysfunctional soul: “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; / And I will not remember your sins” (Isaiah 43:25).

What an epiphany!

I didn’t need to fear the face of God for even one more nanosecond. He was eternally satisfied with me, just as I was.

I wanted to shout Hallelujah, but it felt weird in that setting.

Legalism’s germs proliferate in the dank cellars of fear. They thrive in the moisture of an implacable deity – a God who simply can’t be satisfied with a worm like me.

And yet, that day, God’s sun shined down into the cellars of my heart, and my fear and shame withered away.

I do not count that day as the day of my salvation; I was saved before that, and I’m convinced it “took” and it “stuck” with me forever. God is that faithful.

I do, however, count that day as the day of my assurance. A major healing of much of my Grace Deficit Disorder. I have never seriously doubted my salvation since then, and I have never again stooped beneath the burdensome anticipation of a humiliating entrance to God’s everlasting kingdom.

My guilt was gone, and with it the fear of judgment that fueled so much dysfunction in my life.


 

[i] Hal Lindsey. Satan is Alive and Well on Planet Earth (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1972).

Thank you for reading. Please share using the buttons below. Thanks.
Part 2 tomorrow.

 

Bible’s Top Ten Grace Interventions, pt 2

[Here’s the continuation from the last post…]

Grace is traumatic. Grace is a crisis. It’s a massive reversal of everything you thought about God. I use the word intervention on purpose. An intervention is an “in your face confrontation.” An intervention is a direct challenge to your status quo. In psychology, an intervention is a last ditch effort to persuade a person to deal with a blind spot that’s wrecking their lives.

Here are my Top Ten Grace Interventions in the Bible, part 2.

5. Esther

Grace Deficit Disorder: Our people have a huge problem and I have to solve it.

Grace Intervention: Problem solved in Esther 6, and she isn’t even in the room. Check it out for yourself. Herman’s downfall begins without one bit of help from Esther.

4. The Adulterous Woman

Grace Deficit Disorder: “they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. “Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?”” John 8:4, 5, NKJV.

Grace Intervention: “When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”” John 8:10, 11, NKJV.

Notice the order of Jesus’ statements to her. Until “neither do I condemn you” is hardwired into your psyche, “Go and sin no more” will be impossible.

3. The Four Lepers

Grace Deficit Disorder: “Now there were four leprous men at the entrance of the gate; and they said to one another, “Why are we sitting here until we die? “If we say, ‘We will enter the city,’ the famine is in the city, and we shall die there. And if we sit here, we die also. Now therefore, come, let us surrender to the army of the Syrians. If they keep us alive, we shall live; and if they kill us, we shall only die.”” 2 Kings 7:3, 4, NKJV.

Grace Intervention: “And when these lepers came to the outskirts of the camp, they went into one tent and ate and drank, and carried from it silver and gold and clothing, and went and hid them; then they came back and entered another tent, and carried some from there also, and went and hid it. Then they said to one another… This day is a day of good news…” 2 Kings 7:8, 9, NKJV.

2. The Jews at the Exodus

Grace Deficit Disorder: Is this not the word that we told you in Egypt, saying, ‘Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians?’ For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness.” Exodus 14:12, NKJV.

Grace Intervention: “And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever.” Exodus 14:13, NKJV.

1. Paul

Grace Deficit Disorder: “though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.” Philippians 3:4-6, NKJV.

Grace Intervention: ““Now it happened, as I journeyed and came near Damascus at about noon, suddenly a great light from heaven shone around me. “And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’” Acts 22:6, 7, NKJV.

and… 

“But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ” Philippians 3:7, 8, NKJV.

Bottom Line: Sometimes, it takes a kick in the seat of the pants to step up to new levels of grace. Human nature is terminally blind to grace. We need somebody to shake us awake. I pray that God will launch a Grace Revolution in our land. Not the insipid, bland, lenient version of grace currently popular, but the song, muscular, uncompromising grace of Jesus.

 

 

Bible’s Top Ten Grace Interventions, pt 1

Grace is traumatic. Grace is a crisis. It’s a massive reversal of everything you thought about God. I use the word intervention on purpose. An intervention is an “in your face confrontation.” An intervention is a direct challenge to your status quo. In psychology, an intervention is a last ditch effort to persuade a person to deal with a blind spot that’s wrecking their lives.

Do you realize that nobody in the Bible ever understood grace without an intervention? Without a smack upside the head, or a kick in the seat of the pants? Do you realize that, in the Bible, no Pharisee ever thought being a Pharisee was a problem?

By nature, people are blind to grace. We’re natural-born legalists. There’s a grace- blackout in the soul. So God has to come in an knock some grace into us. A Grace Intervention.

Here are my Top Ten Grace Interventions in the Bible.

10. Moses

Grace Deficit Disorder: I am not eloquent enough to persuade Pharaoh to let God’s people go.

Grace Intervention: ““Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say.”” Exodus 4:12, NKJV.

9. Jonah

Grace Deficit Disorder: I am so ticked off that God saved those nasty people of Nineveh that I wish I could die.

Grace Intervention: You’re more worried about a dying plant than about 120,000 spiritually dying people who don’t know their spiritual right hand from their spiritual left. “But the LORD said, “You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?”” Jonah 4:10, 11, NIV.

8. Mephibosheth

Grace Deficit Disorder: “Then he bowed himself, and said, “What is your servant, that you should look upon such a dead dog as I?”” 2 Samuel 9:8, NKJV.

Grace Intervention: “As for Mephibosheth,” said the king, “he shall eat at my table like one of the king’s sons.”” 2 Samuel 9:11, NKJV.

7. David

Grace Deficit Disorder: “Hey God, my house is better than your house, so I will build a house for you! Yes!” [The prophet Nathan: “You Go David!”]

Grace Intervention: “Hey David, did I ever ask you to build a house for me? Here’s the basic idea of your whole crazy life: I WILL BUILD A HOUSE FOR YOU.” [The prophet Nathan: “I guess I got the whole thing backwards.”]

“Then King David went in and sat before the LORD; and he said: “Who am I, O LORD God? And what is my house, that You have brought me this far?” 1 Chronicles 17:16, NKJV.

6. Naomi

Grace Deficit Disorder: “Woe is me. God is against me. Call me Misery.” “But she said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.” Ruth 1:20, NKJV.

Grace Intervention: “And may he be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you, who is better to you than seven sons, has borne him.” Ruth 4:15, NKJV.

I’ll save the top five Grace Interventions for tomorrow’s post, part 2.


This post goes along with the Grace Intervention Series at Neighborhood Church. You can watch that message here:

 

Grace Intervention Study Guide

Here’s a study guide for my latest book, GRACE INTERVENTION. This study guide provides questions for group interaction or personal reflection. It’s printable and it’s free. A great resource for your church, small group, youth group, or retreat.

How about a Grace Intervention for yourself, your church, and your friends?

Click the picture to start the free download.

Grace Intervention Discussion

God’s New Years Resolutions

I like New Years resolutions as much as I enjoy having my gums scraped. By mid-January, those resolutions mock me. The Bible-reading plan goes sideways, the bathroom scales audibly groan, and the personal organization collapses into chaos. So, rather than slogging through yet another depressing list of ways I will fail, I decided to flip this year’s resolutions on their head.

What if I shifted the focus from my resolve to God’s? What if instead of starting the year with my bound-to-fail determination, I instead recalibrated my heart to his never-failing grace? I think that’s a great way to start a new year.

A resolution is “a firm decision to do or not to do something,” and God’s resolve to lavish grace upon me is new every morning. So here are my top five divine resolutions for 2015. I will write them as God’s words to me.

GOD’S NEW YEARS RESOLUTIONS

1. I will provide all your need. 

“And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19, NKJV.

Yes, that’s my promise to you. And I always deliver right on time. Don’t be anxious. And don’t fear. Oh, one more thing. Be sure not to confuse your wants with your needs. There’s a difference you know. I am resolved with a infinite determination to meet all your need right on time. 

2. I will never throw your sins in your face. 

“Then He adds, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”” Hebrews 10:17, NKJV.

That’s the power of my Son’s Cross. His death cleansed you of every guilt, every shame, every condemnation, and every stain. He left nothing out. You have total forgiveness. Your record is clean; I have washed you white as snow, and that is how you shall stay. I promise. 

3. I will treat you better than you treat yourself. 

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28, NKJV.

All things. Nothing is too small, nothing too big. You matter to me. If I gave you the most costly gift imaginable when I gave you my Son, you can be confident I will care for the small things too. Trust me. Rest in my love. Grace means I will always set you at the convergence of your highest good and my highest glory. 

4. I will keep on keeping you saved. handofgrace

“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38, 39, NKJV.

You are secure in the arms of my love. I will see you safely home. You may feel you have much to worry about (not true), but please cross your eternal salvation off your list. Once you’re saved, you’re always saved. No matter what. Even if you fail. Even if you do something incredibly stupid. Even if anything. I promise. It’s my eternal resolution to you. 

5. I will protect you from more than you know. 

“The LORD is good, A stronghold in the day of trouble; And He knows those who trust in Him.” Nahum 1:7, NKJV.

Do not be afraid. I never sleep. I never slumber. I never let down my guard. I am watching over your like a hawk. No weapon formed against you will prosper. All those who rise against you will fall. That’s the power of my amazing grace. 

I’m glad my God can keep his resolutions. I’m feeling good about 2015. With God and his grace, it’s going to be a very good year.

Happy New Year! I hope and pray a richer, fuller, deeper experience of the matchless grace of God for you!


Grace Intervention Cover

Grace Intervention on Amazon.

You can start your New Year with your own personal grace reset. Grace Intervention is now available online and wherever books are sold. Click here for a downloadable study guide for small groups, classes, and personal reflection. Here are some snippets from early reviews:

  • Bill Giovannetti has given the church a fantastic treasure! On most every page I found myself vacillating between a heart-humbling gratitude for God’s total embrace and a heart-pounding desire to stand up and cheer! ~Jeremy White, Author of Grace unCut and senior pastor Valley Church, Vacaville, CA. 
  • In every church there’s usually some guy who’s been around the block long enough that he is no longer intimidated by the games religious people play. This is the guy you love to hang out with because he’s real and because he loves people the way Jesus loves people. Bill Giovannetti reminds me of that guy! In this insightful and daring analysis of the modern church, he sees through the hash-tagging, hipster appeal of neo-legalism and identifies the symptoms of Christianity’s worst disease: Grace Deficit Disorder. Grace Intervention is a breath of fresh air for Christians who are tired of playing games and doing their duty. It is an emphatic declaration of God’s good and gracious commitment to you! ~Paul Ellis, best selling author of The Big House and The Gospel in Twenty Questions
  • Bill addresses the various forms of legalism that destroy our freedom in Christ.  It is not dumbed-down or politically correct; it is written to help us talk with one another about our great God and his grace upon us — after all, isn’t that what theology is? To talk about God!  Take your time reading and reflecting on these fifteen chapters — They may just change your life addressing that “Grace Deficit Disorder” that so many of us have experienced! ~Rev. Patrick A. Blewett, D.Min., Ph.D., Dean, A.W. Tozer Theological Seminary
  • So often the “shoulds” and “should nots” in life threaten to overwhelm my joy and I get lost in a sea of guilt and hopelessness.  But God never intended that for us– and Bill Giovannetti’s beautiful look at grace empowered me to look to Him– instead of to a hopeless world– for the grace I so desperately need. Every person who has ever felt burdened by a legalistic Christian world, by hopelessness or guilt or even by the pain of feeling unforgiven will find hope and healing in Grace Intervention. ~Erin MacPherson, author of The Christian Mama’s Guide series

A Pastor’s Wife on Pastor Appreciation Month

You should know I count my dear wife, Margi, as the greatest gift God ever gave me besides salvation. Brave, strong, kind, true, generous, never quitting, dedicated, hard-working, smart, fun, funny, and beautiful. She asked me to share this with you… Please use the share buttons below if you’d like to encourage the pastors and ministers in your life.

October is pastor appreciation month. I am a pastor’s wife. I grew up in church. I came to hear the sermon, which sometimes I loved, sometimes I criticized and sometimes I daydreamed through. I came selfishly to hear what I needed to hear to carry me through the week. I actually never once gave a thought about what the person delivering the sermon had faced that week, that month or that year. Until I married a pastor.

I now know that my husband has to deliver his sermon extolling God’s goodness and grace, His provision, His love and kindness – no matter what.

  • When there is financial pressure and he wonders how he will ever retire, he still needs to preach that God will provide.
  • When there is bad news from the doctor for him or those he loves, he still needs to speak of God’s great love.
  • When illness hits and there seems to be no relief and no response to prayer, he still needs to teach God is the Great Healer, Jehovah Rapha.
  • When his wife cries and wonders why God doesn’t seemingly answer prayers, and his heart breaks watching her struggle with this, he still needs to preach that God answers prayers.
  • When he is sad, he must still declare the joy of the Lord.
  • When his children are hurt or wounded, he continues to preach that God loves the little children, even though it would be easy to not find love.
  • When unspeakable loss is suffered, he still proclaims that God will restore.
  • When it seems that God is taking forever to answer a prayer and he becomes impatient, he must still utter words declaring patience and longsuffering.
  • When he wants to be angry and bitter in spirit, he must reflect God’s kindness and caring.
  • When he has been hurt so deeply by someone, especially someone close to him or someone in his congregation, he must set aside pettiness and preach that vengeance is God’s and forgiveness is needed.
  • When his heart’s prayers for mercy seem to find no answer, he must still trumpet amazing grace.

Dear churchgoer, stop and take a moment to consider the person that feeds you from God’s Word. He is not a super human. He is human. He suffers the same losses, fears, sadness, uncertainties, questions that you face. He does not have a “you are godly” shield accorded to him so that the ills of life bounce off him or his family. He is not immune from the trials of life. Indeed, Satan would love nothing better than to see an effective leader stumble and fail.

In truth, I have learned that the man of God that stands before you week after week is a sensitive human being who silently faces the battles of life and bows his head and prostates himself on the mercies of God because sometimes he can no longer function under his own power. He is not immune from the battles of life that scar the soul and wrench the heart. He just needs to get up week after week and summon the Holy Spirit to speak through him to encourage, educate, challenge, mobilize, and yes, sometimes even amuse you.

This October please take a moment to thank your pastor for the incredible calling he/she answered. It is a calling that requires more than most of us would ever really give thought. It is an honor, and yet an incredible challenge. Pray for those men and women who serve God’s call. Show your love and care. Who knows? Maybe that person that has served you for years desperately needs to be encouraged and uplifted in prayer. Satan is a mighty adversary. Maybe that the man or woman that is called to meet your needs now needs your hand to lift him up and your shoulder to lean on.

And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves. (1 Thessalonians 5:12, 13, NKJV).

~ by Margi Giovannetti, Facebook.com/Margaret.Giovannetti

October is Pastor’s Appreciation Month and the 2nd Sunday of each October is Pastor Appreciation Sunday. Encourage those who encourage you. Sharing is appreciated.

 

11 Prayers for 9/11

911-memorialIn this life, there are villains and there are heroes. In the next life, God will sort them out. Until then, I pray this promise over our towns and cities and farmlands, over our families and neighbors and friends — over this incomparable land of the free and home of the brave:
“If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14, NKJV).
  1. I pray for FREEDOM, that we might live our lives as unique individuals, free to express our  talents and passions without hindrance from government, that freedom of speech and religion would go unrestrained, and that the liberating gospel of Christ might flow unobstructed to people who walk in darkness all around the world.
  2. I pray for RIGHTEOUSNESS, that a life of wholeness and joy would become the inheritance of my children and my children’s children and their children after them.
  3. I pray for BOLDNESS, that our land would roar like lions for that is true and right and good, and not bleat like sheep for a false and fleeting security.
  4. I pray for PEACE, that we would live quiet lives with mutual respect, neighbor for neighbor and nation for nation.
  5. I pray for WISDOM, that we would quit bashing ourselves against God’s unbreakable truth, and that the Word of God would truly become  a lamp to our feet and a light to our path.
  6. I pray for JUSTICE, that the Divine Hand would restrain and strike down evil wherever it is found.
  7. I pray for REPENTANCE, that God would break our hearts over a callous disregard for the sanctity of each human life, and over any willingness to build our lives on the sweat of our neighbor’s brow.
  8. I pray for HONOR, that we would love our neighbors as we love ourselves, and that both would flow from a sense of human dignity as created in the image of God.
  9. I pray for REVIVAL, that the people of God would be so transformed by the grace of God that an onlooking world would be smitten with Calvary’s love and flow into the family of God.
  10. I pray for PROSPERITY, that no one would go to sleep hungry or cold, and that great enterprise of world evangelization will flow from our land like a mighty river, leading millions to faith in Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World, and transforming nations into bastions of liberty and wholeness.
  11. I pray for HOPE, that the darkness of this present world would extinguish neither the preciousness of this life nor the incomparable promise of a coming life, in which there are no more sorrows and no more tears.

Lord, comfort this ache in our hearts today, and heal our land. God Bless the USA.

Through Christ, our Lord,

Amen.