Mother Failure?

by Margi Giovannetti

Happy Mother’s Day you “failure” of a mother.

On Mother’s Day, many celebrate, and rightly so, the wonderful mothers in their families. Hugs, kisses, accolades, flowers, cards, presents, breakfast in bed, brunch, lunch, dinner . . . and oh how you deserve it all.

But there are those mothers that will not feel celebratory. Instead, there are unacknowledged and unknown — shed and unshed — tears; a smile that doesn’t reach the eyes when greeted with “Happy Mother’s Day;” and an internal mental debate about the joy of the occasion. I speak to you.

You are a mom that believes she deserves an “F” in motherhood. Things have not worked out as you imagined and dreamed. You torture yourself with questions like: Did I not eat and drink the right things while pregnant? Did I discipline too much or too little? Did I love too much or too little? Did I socialize, prioritize, Ferberize the right way? Did I fail to educate, indoctrinate, incorporate values? Did I pray too little, pray wrong?

You are not the mom with the straight A student — whose kid also played three sports, oh and sat first violin in the orchestra, who cleaned up on debate team, pranced through the musicals, won the state science fair, ran in that touchdown, hit that homer, or cheerleaded to the nationals. You are not the mom whose kid was just accepted to an Ivy league school, or got that medical degree, or is the youngest partner of the law firm, or a founder of that new start up. You are not the heritage-seed-garden growing, all-organic cooking, essential-oil infusing, no-video-game policing mom.  You are a “failure”.

You torture yourself with Facebook posts where you see other moms with happy families, fit bodies, organized schedules, successful children, adorable dogs and adoring husbands and kids, where even the posts of their “failures” are somehow envy-producing, inspiring and cute.

To those mothers who shed tears in the solitude of the shower, the stillness of the night, the solace of a garden . . . you should not be measured by the success of your offspring. Sometimes, what we want just doesn’t come about. What we wish, just doesn’t happen. What we pour our souls and hearts into, and would give our last dying breath for, defies our sacrifice.

I don’t know why. I offer no answers. One day we can ask our Creator. Until then, I w
ant you to know, you “failure” of a mother, that if you tried YOUR best, if you loved YOUR best, if you gave YOUR best  – not what someone else’s definition of “best” is – YOU are to be celebrated and loved this day . . . even if that celebration only happens in your own heart.

Your worth is not measured on a balancing scale where you find yourself wanting because you do not measure up – at least not in your own eyes. Onlookers may see “failure” but God knows and sees your heart, He knows your pain, He knows of your unending efforts, He has heard your prayers and He holds your mother’s heart within His gentle hands.

So, to all the mothers that label themselves “failures” – I wish you a truly Happy Mother’s Day. You are loved.

[sharing is appreciated]

God’s New Years Resolutions

Christmas FB Cover

I understand that God never changes, and that his plan dates back to eternity past. In that sense, the turning of our earthly year means nothing to “the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity” (Isaiah 57:15). However, I also understand that God is gracious enough to stoop down and describe himself in human terms; this helps our puny brains keep up with him.

In that spirit, I humbly offer a dozen of God’s New Years Resolutions, followed by my single New Years Resolution at the end.

God says… “During this coming year…

  1. I RESOLVE to bless you better than you deserve. I don’t give paychecks for your good behavior; I give blessings because of Christ’s perfect behavior. You didn’t earn it; he did. My hand will supply more than you’ll ever realize.
  2. I RESOLVE to continue seeing you just as I see my son, Jesus. You’ve been joined to Christ, and as I label him, so I label you: beautiful, accepted, holy, pure, my child, spiritual royalty, complete.
  3. I RESOLVE to carry you safely through another year. I didn’t bring you this far to let you down now. Great is my faithfulness. I’ve got your hand and won’t let go.
  4. I RESOLVE to never throw your sins and failures back in your face. All your sin and shame was washed away once for all in the flood of Calvary Love. There’s no going back.
  5. I RESOLVE to continue loving you, even when you don’t love me back. I never loved you because of who and what you are or do anyway; my love flows for you because I AM love. I’m glad if you love me back, but never forget the biggest deal of all is that I love you and sent my Son for you (1 John 4:10).
  6. I RESOLVE to keep you safely wrapped in the bubble of eternal salvation. You may see a swarm of worrisome giants on the horizon in this coming year; but losing your salvation shouldn’t be one of them. You are mine. Bank on it.
  7. I RESOLVE to punch the devil and his minions in their ugly little noses as soon as they try to get close to you. You have no idea how many times I shield you each and every day — don’t worry, I won’t stop. And I will “crush Satan under your foot shortly” (Romans 16:20).
  8. I RESOLVE to surprise you with goodness you never saw coming. Your joy is my delight. If a fallen, broken-down race like yours finds joy in surprising your kids with good things, how much more does your Heavenly Father love to give good gifts to his children too!
  9. I RESOLVE to remain the same, yesterday, today, and forever, so you never have to wonder who you’re dealing with. I’m unchanging, and never fickle. As I loved my son, Jesus, so also I will love you forever and ever. You can count on me.
  10. I RESOLVE to keep furnishing your mansion in heaven. Even the tiniest faith in time creates extravagant supply in eternity. Your deepest heartaches will one day fade into oblivion, in the light of eternal joys.  You should see the design I have for you… you’re going to love it!
  11. I RESOLVE to draw close to you in your tough times. You never walk alone. No matter where you turn or what you do this year, I’ll be right there with you. You can’t shake me. I’m happily stuck with you.
  12. I RESOLVE to never shut off the lavish flow of grace coming your way. Even if you’re an idiot. Even if you turn your back on me. Even if anything. Trust me… This is going to be a great year!

So here’s my one and only New Resolution:

I say… “During this coming year…

  1. I RESOLVE to rest my heart and life more fully in the wonderful, infinite, matchless grace of God. “For it is good that the heart be established by grace…” (Hebrews 13:9).[Using the share buttons below makes you extra awesome! Thanks.]

 

GR Combo reduced[If you want to dig more deeply into the wonderful, infinite, matchless grace of God, check out Grace Rehab: The Power of Labeling Yourself the Way God Labels You, with a companion STUDY GUIDE, both on Amazon at www.GraceRehab.net ]

Grace Rehab

Introducing GRACE REHAB

GR Combo reducedMeet Grace Rehab, my latest book, and follow up to Grace Intervention.  I’d also like you to meet the Grace Rehab Study Guide, a companion book for groups or personal reflection. Since every author feels like their books are their babies, I’m excited for you to meet my latest.  I think this will give you a good idea of what’s inside.

From the Back Cover: 

You’re stupid. Ugly. Too short, tall, skinny, fat, dark, light, slow. You’ll never amount to anything.  you don’t measure up. You’re nothing. not good enough. I don’t way you. You’re a failure. Damaged goods. Dirty. Loser. Pervert. Unholy. Bad. 

Ouch! There are as many labels as there are abusive parents, schoolyard bullies, mean girls, and self-righteous preachers to slap them on you.

The two most important labels in your life are how you label yourself and how you label God. These labels create self-fulfilling prophecies. They determine how you relate to yourself, to others, and to God.

Who Are YouThe good news is that God stands ready to peel away a lifetime of demeaning labels. He wants to label you the exact same way he labels Jesus: Beautiful. Accepted. Beloved. Righteous. Powerful. Good.

In GRACE REHAB, Bill Giovannetti guides you through a total transformation of your inner labels. With humor and insight, he explores 17 Riches in Christ to help you shed your self-defeating labels and embrace with confidence the joyful person you were meant to be.

Also available: the GRACE REHAB STUDY GUIDE, with questions for personal reflection and group interaction, wherever books are sold.

From the Dedication: 

This book is dedicated to every survivor, every courageous soul, and every hero wiling to resist the world’s bullies, mean girls, abusers, users, exploiters, and unloving parents.

It is for every person who refuses to be a victim.

For all those struggling to shed the demeaning labels of the past.

For those great ones fighting to name themselves as God names them.

You inspire me.

You inspire us all.

Grace Rehab Table of Contents: 

CONTENTS (212 pages)

PART ONE: I Am in Christ…

  1. Labels
  2. Definitions
  3. Union
  4. Seed
  5. Identity
  6. Rehab

PART TWO: In Christ, I Am…

  1. New Family TreeI Am Forgiven
  2. I Am Justified
  3. I Am Reconciled
  4. I Am Adopted
  5. I Am Accepted
  6. I Am Redeemed
  7. I Am Blessed
  8. I Have An Advocate
  9. I Have Access
  10. I Am Complete In Him
  11. I Have Power
  12. I Have Dominion
  13. I Have a Superpower
  14. I Am Delivered from Darkness
  15. I Am An Heir of God
  16. I Am Being Sanctified
  17. I Am In Christ

Endnotes

Grace Rehab Study Guide Table of Contents: 

CONTENTS (104 pages)

PART ONE: I Am in Christ…

  1. Labels
  2. Definitions
  3. Union
  4. Seed
  5. Identity
  6. Rehab

PART TWO: In Christ, I Am…

  1. sample 23I Am Forgiven
  2. I Am Justified
  3. I Am Reconciled
  4. I Am Adopted
  5. I Am Accepted
  6. I Am Redeemed
  7. I Am Blessed
  8. I Have An Advocate
  9. I Have Access
  10. I Am Complete In Him
  11. I Have Power
  12. I Have Dominion
  13. I Have a Superpower
  14. I Am Delivered from Darkness
  15. I Am An Heir of God
  16. sample 24I Am Being Sanctified
  17. I Am In Christ
  18. My Daily Grace Rehab Prayer

BONUS MATERIALS

Grace Rehab Glossary
Bonus Chapter: I Am An Ambassador/Study Guide
How to Be Saved

 

 You can pick up copies here:
Click: Directly from the Author (signed copies)
Click: On Amazon
Ask your local bookseller
Sharing is appreciated using the buttons below.

 

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