Friday, October 18, 2019

Feeling Less Than

Yet to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.  John 1:12
Feeling Less Than
We have been talking a lot about how we as Christians are not supposed to judge and condemn others.  But maybe you are the one who has been judged. Or maybe you have judged yourself.  Maybe you, or someone else, has given you a label and that has become your identity. 
We cling to labels for ourselves like life preservers.  A diagnosis or a troubled area in our lives lead to labels like depressed, disabled, ADHD, OCD, and many more.  While these are all very real struggles in our lives, we have to be careful to not them become our identity.  Sometimes we like to let people know so they will give us a break, be patient with us, or give us extra time. If we are not careful, we can start to believe that the label completely defines us, spreading it into every area of our lives.

The world suggests that we look within to discover who we truly are.  But if we only look at ourselves to try to discover who we are, we will be left feeling disappointed and empty.  We can look inward and discover some truths about ourselves, but they don’t define us.  Those truths were meant to be taken by our creator and used for His goodness and glory in our lives. 

God desires that we be set free from feelings of condemnation we have encountered in the past, that we not pass condemnation to others, and that we become lovingly involved in helping others be set free.  In the life of a believer, this sense of worthlessness is not from God. There is no condemnation because Christ took the sentence, punishment, and judgment for our sin.  We have to fight hard to not let our humanness overcome our identity in Christ.  Satan loves it when that happens.  God’s standard is over and above all.  Satan has no authority to speak identity into your life, but he will try.  God has called you, adopted you and given you a new identity. 

The trials and struggles we go through and the labels we pick up along the way certainly play a part in who we become.  They change us and God uses those to His glory.  But our true identity is in God and who He says we are.  He alone is trustworthy and unchanging, and He is the only one worthy to determine who we are.  He created us and gave us specific characteristics that He will use in our story.  Labels come from our human traits, not our Heavenly Father.  Our Heavenly Father gives us our identity and it is as His son or daughter.  He calls us chosen, royal, forgiven, free, and victorious. We are who He says we are forever.  That identity cancels out all the negative labels we give ourselves – sinner, unworthy, no good, lazy, and so many more.  No matter what you did in the past, you are not that person anymore.  Let who you are in Christ wash all the other labels away.  


…and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. 1 Peter 2:24

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Inhale Grace, Exhale Grace

Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Matthew 7:1-2

Inhale Grace, Exhale Grace
Grace. For a Christian, grace is more important than the air we breathe.  Grace and mercy are beautiful gifts that we receive from our Heavenly Father in addition to forgiveness. I believe that God expects us to have grace and mercy on others as well.  
The verse above is not one that Christians should take lightly. The verse is about how we treat others. One of the most common faults in life is that so many of us demand standards from others that we have never reached ourselves.  We even condemn faults in others which are glaringly obvious in our own lives and act as if they are weak for their failure.  The qualification for judging is not knowledge.  It is righteousness; and none of us are righteous except God. He is the only one qualified to throw stones and He never did. The grace that is extended to us should be what we give out to others.  
Do you think about the way you judge others?  Sometimes it happens before we even realize it. I know that I need every ounce of grace I get from God, and I would not want to be judged the way I truly deserve to be judged by God.  This crosses my mind when I begin to criticize or judge others. I am so thankful for the grace He shows me, and I know I can’t stand to lose any of it. I need every ounce of grace that He promises.  None of us are without sin - we are all sinners.  We tend to think we are above whatever actions we are judging in others, but often we judge others for the same sins we struggle with in our own lives.  We look and see the other person with their flaws, but if we look carefully, the reflection we will see is our own face. None of us are perfect. No matter how much we think you know the heart of somebody else, we don't. We don't even know our own heart. 
Sometimes we don’t have to go very far to reach the outcasts and unlovable people.  Most of us have one or two in our family.  What if someone recorded you speaking?  What would that replay sound like?  Would your words be life giving or would they be hateful and cutting?  How do you talk about people when they are not with you?  How do you talk to them when they are with you?  Do you criticize and condemn?  Jesus loved the unlovable and He calls us to do the same. He calls us to be Him to them.  
Jesus did not judge or condemn others while He was here on earth.  He sought the outcasts and sinners and showed them amazing grace, mercy, and life changing forgiveness. This is the very same grace, mercy, and forgiveness He shows us.  It is to be doled out generously, the same as we have received and wish to keep receiving. 




Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye
and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 
Matthew 7: 3

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Tax Collectors…And Lepers

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him.  And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”  Luke 15:1-2
One thing Jesus was known for when He walked on this earth was associating with the people that no one else wanted to be with.  He sought out the lowly and outcasts.  Those were the ones looking for Him and usually much more open and grateful for His healing, acceptancemercy, and forgiveness.
Tax Collectors… Tax collectors were considered lowly and dishonest.  Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector for the vicinity of Jericho, was a dishonest man whose curiosity led him to Jesus and salvation. Ironically, his name means "pure one" or "innocent" in Hebrew. Because he was so short, Zacchaeus had to climb a tree to catch a glimpse of Jesus passing by. He was surprised when the Lord called him by name, telling him to come down from the tree. That very day, Jesus went home with Zacchaeus. 
Others noticed that Jesus was socializing with a sinner and began to whisper. Jewish people hated tax collectors because they were dishonest tools of the oppressive Roman government. The self-righteous people in the crowd were especially critical of Jesus’ interest in a man like Zacchaeus, but Christ was demonstrating his mission to seek and save the lost.
As Zacchaeus listened to Jesus, He promised to give half his money to the poor and repay fourfold anyone he had cheated. Jesus told Zacchaeus that salvation would come to his house that day. His repentance and his acceptance of Christ led to his salvation and the salvation of his whole household. 
And Lepers…
In Jesus’ day no disease was more feared than leprosy. It slowly eats away parts of the body leaving its victims deformed. Among the Jews, lepers lived in separate communities, away from the general population, so that others would not be infected. They lived solely on alms, leaving them poor. People, even their families, avoided them because they were considered “unclean,” cursed by God. 
One day when Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem, He came upon ten men who had leprosy.  They stayed at a distance as they were supposed to and called out, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!” By calling out to Jesus that way, they believed that He could do something about their leprosy. Jesus told them, “Go show yourselves to the priests” — as required by the law. As they went, they were healed. One of them, when he saw he was cured, came back to Jesus, threw himself at His feet and thanked him.
No one approached lepers or even got near them, yet Jesus took the time to stop and pay attention to them.  He paid attention to them and made them feel important, and then He delivered them from a terrible disease.  Jesus wants us to reach out and love the lepers in our lives.  We don’t know what seeds we are planting or how God is touching their hearts.  He changes people’s lives and heals their diseases - both physical and spiritual - and He uses us to change people’s lives in ways we may not even be aware.  
Jesus Christ came to save outcasts and lepers in His day and still today. Those who seek Jesus, in reality, are sought, seen, and saved by him. No one is beyond his help. His love is a constant call to repent and come to him. Accepting his invitation leads to forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.  Luke 19:10

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

A Satisfied Thirst

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.  Hebrews 4:16

Jesus and His disciples were on their way back to Galilee one day and they decided to go through Samaria since it was the quickest route.  They stopped at Jacob’s well and Jesus rested there while the disciples went into town to buy food.  
Normally they would not have taken the route through Samaria because Jews and Samaritans did not like each other so they avoided each other at all costs, which would be the longer route around Samaria.  But Jesus went the hard way, and took the path that was the least desirable, because He knew there would be woman coming to the well that day.  She would come at an odd time of the morning so that she would not likely see anyone else there.  She was an outcast, looked down upon by the other Samaritans because they know how she lived.  She had jumped from one relationship to another, married many times and currently living with a man that was not her husband.  She was avoiding the stares and whispers by coming to the well in the hottest part of the day. There she met Jesus.  He knew she was coming, and He had come to Samaria just for her – an outcast sinner.
The woman was shocked that Jesus even spoke with her.  Men generally did not address women, and a Jewish man would certainly not engage a Samaritan woman in conversation. He also asked her for a drink of water when using her cup or jar would have made him ceremonially unclean. Then He told the woman he could give her "living water" so that she would never thirst again. Jesus was talking about eternal life, the gift that would satisfy her soul's desire only available through Him. At first, the Samaritan woman did not fully understand Jesus' meaning. Although they had never met before, Jesus revealed that He knew she'd had five husbands and was now living with a man who was not her husband. He knew everything about her.  
As the woman began to understand the reality of her encounter with Jesus, the disciples returned. They were shocked to find him speaking to a woman, especially a Samaritan woman. Leaving behind her water jar, the woman returned to town, inviting the people to "Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did." John 4:29, ESV
Excited by what the woman told them, the Samaritans came from Sychar and begged Jesus to stay with them.  Jesus stayed two days, teaching the Samaritan people about the Kingdom of God. When he left, the people told the woman, ... we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the savior of the world. John 4:42 Many Samaritans believed because of what Jesus did for this outcast sinner. God used her story - past sins and mistakes - as part of His plan to bring others to Him.  
This is another story about how Jesus had the authority to judge and condemn, but He didn’t.  Instead He modeled loving the unlovable and going out of His way to find them. The Samaritan woman Jesus met faced prejudice from her own community, but for the first time in her life, this woman found someone who could care enough to reach out to her, to respect her, to love her with an unconditional love, a love that would never leave her longing for something else. God had a story for her life, and He has one for yours too.  Don’t ever feel like you, or anyone else, is too far gone to be redeemed. We need to be careful that we are not judging or discriminating towards someone about something that is part of God’s story for them.  He may be planning to use those very circumstances to reach others trapped in sin and to glorify His name.  

Monday, October 14, 2019

What Kind of a Man is This?

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him.  And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” Luke 15:1-2
What Kind of a Man is This?
When Jesus walked this earth, He always paid attention to the lowly, outcasts, and sinners that no one else wanted anything to do with.  These were the people that had been discarded.  They had been “put away” or they were looked down upon by society.  Jesus is the Son of God, the King of Kings, yet He never disregarded a person, no matter what their social standing, race, or morals were.  He modeled for us exactly how He wants us to treat others.  He showed love and acceptance to all and wanted everyone to know that what He had to offer was for all people.  
Jesus made it clear that He came for the broken.  If you are well, you don’t need a doctor.  The problem is that sometimes we don’t think we are sick.  All of us are sinners and need what Jesus has to offer.  Until we realize that we need Him, He cannot work in our lives.  And He also wants/expects us to do the same as He did when He walked this earth.  He loved the unlovable, who are not really unlovable.  The unlovable ones were the Pharisees who believed they were perfect and sinless because they followed the law.  But they knew nothing about love and grace and mercy.  
People come to church because they want what we have.  Sometimes they come in and right away feel like they don’t belong because they are not familiar with anything that goes on in church.  They don’t know the songs, they don’t know the stories, they don’t know the traditions, and they don’t look anything like the other people there.  Maybe they haven’t even had anyone smile at them or talk to them.  This is not what Jesus would want from the church today.  He wants us to welcome everyone with open arms.  He wants everyone who comes to be made to feel loved and wanted.  He himself ate with the sinners and tax collectors and people could not understand it.  
Jesus knew what if felt like to be judged.  He knows our human tendency is to judge others because of stereotypes, customs, or prejudices. Jesus treats people as individuals, accepting them with love and compassion, not labeling and categorizing them. Do you think of certain people as lost causes, or do you see them as valuable in their own right, worthy of knowing about the gospel?
Jesus loved and ministered to everyone equally on this earth.  He was the kind of man who had the power to wipe out all our sins but also the kind of man that had compassion and love for all, a trait that some may think as weak.  Jesus was not weak.  It takes the strongest kind of man to love all and forgive all.  So, what kind of a man was this? He was the kind of person we should all strive to be, compassionate, full of grace and loving to all people.


Who is this who even forgives sins?  Luke 7:49b

Sunday, October 13, 2019

When Shame Meets Grace 3

John 7:53 - 8:11 
The world has little use for those who condemn others from any system of belief.  For Christians, it is especially troubling because our own Bible guides us away from such behavior. 
A Story of the Improper Concept of Spiritual Authority 
· You cannot judge a person by what others say about him, but you can judge a person by what he says about others
· You can judge methods, but you cannot judge motives until they are confessed. You can judge what a person does, but you cannot judge why a person does it. 
Why Guard Against Judging?
·Because we don’t know all the facts  
· Because of the Log Jam in our eyes  v.3
·Because what goes around comes around
·The truth is, what you think of others is usually what others think of you.  
A Story of the Improper Valuing of Persons
·Using the weaknesses of people to get something you want is to reduce people to the level of tools.
·Religion takes pride in its accomplishments. You should never take credit for what God has done. You merely stand in awe. God did not have to use you to do His work.
·The minute people become things, the spirit of Christianity is dead.
·To God, no person ever becomes a thing.  In God’s eyes there are no little people.
·Labels enable us to say things about people we would never say directly to their face.  
·Social media has done more to dehumanize and devalue people than any other device given to man.
A Story of God’s Attitude Toward People with a Past
·One of the most common faults in life is that so many of us demand standards from others that we have neverreached ourselves. 
·Your sin may not be as public as another, but it is still as putrid to God.  
·The qualification for judging is not knowledge we possess. It is righteousness; and none of us possess that except God.
A Story of the Proper Judgment of Sin
·God wants us to become free from sin; He wants us to separate from that which is destroying us.  
·We don't change in order to be accepted, but because we have been accepted. 
·Jesus' attitude to the sinner involved a number of things.
·It involved the second chance.
·Jesus was always intensely interested, not only in what a person had been, but also in what a person couldbe
·It involved pity mixed with understanding.
·It involved a challenge to change.
·It involved belief in the transforming power of grace. 
·This story is an unfinished story.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Qualified

Joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light. For He rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.  Colossians 1:12-14

We have been talking a lot about judgment and condemnation and how God has no part in the condemnation we feel or receive.  We may feel conviction from God lavished with grace.  Why grace and why does God automatically see us as qualified to receive this amazing gift?
The best news is that there is nothing we need to do to qualify for God’s grace.  It is God’s grace that qualifies us.  We are naturally separated from God because we are sinful, and He is holy.  It is not because He doesn’t like us or because we are not worthy, but because the nature of God is righteousness.  We need salvation to bridge the gap between our sinfulness and God’s holiness.
Salvation comes through the payment of sin in death, the forgiveness of sins, the righteousness of God given to us and the ultimate change in our hearts.  Jesus Christ paid the penalty for our sins with His death on the cross. In our own power we can never qualify for heaven, but He did it for us.  Through salvation in Jesus Christ, He qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.  For He rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.  We are no longer separated from God because of the work of the cross.  God’s mercy allowed Jesus to take the punishment we deserve for our sins. As a result, Jesus’ sacrifice serves as a substitute for anyone who accepts it.  WE have been ransomed, redeemed, bought back out of the bondage of Satan to live free and joyous by God’s grace.  To be redeemed means we need a redeemer who can pay the price demanded.  Jesus paid that price and He is our Redeemer!
His grace is enough.  His grace is all we need, yet we rarely feel like it is all we need. Even if we can have grace for others, we usually don’t believe there is enough grace for all our mistakes.  Yet God didn’t even ask us to provide the grace needed to cover our own sins, He gave us everything we would need so how could it not be enough?  He handed us everything we need to come to Him.  It is enough for the King of Kings, so we need to accept the gift of His grace that qualifies us for salvation and eternity with Him. The only thing He requires is for us to open our hearts and drop all our sin and shame at His feet and receive His grace in return.  

…and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. 1 Peter 2:24

Thursday, October 10, 2019

No Condemnation

Now this is what the Lord says – the one who created you, Jacob, and the one who formed you, Israel – Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are mine.  Isaiah 43:1 CSB

Do you ever feel like you have made so many mistakes and bad choices in your life that you can never be loved or redeemed by God?  This is the exact message that Satan wants us to get.  He wants us to feel like we are a lost cause.  Many people get their signals crossed and what they think is truth is a lie.  God does reveal our sin to us, and the Holy Spirit’s job is to convict us, but conviction is not condemnation.  Condemnation is the work of the devil.  It is to sentence, to punish.  Conviction is the work of the Holy Spirit and it is to bring to light, or to draw attention to something.  Condemnation brings a blanket of guilt and conviction, when we respond to it, brings a blanket of grace.  
God is love.  It is not just a characteristic of Him, it is His entire being. Therefore, the critical voices of condemnation in our lives cannot be from Him but from the enemy. The Holy Spirit brings conviction but in a way that shines a light on the better choice – God.  The Holy Spirit brings our sin to light but also brings to light the goodness, mercy, grace, and forgiveness of our Heavenly Father.  Satan distorts God’s character and fills our head with the lies that we are not good enough to receive God’s goodness, mercy, grace, and forgiveness.  That is the true voice of condemnation.  Even in correcting us, God works from a foundation of love.  
God does make us aware of our sin but not for the purpose of shaming us or condemning us to a life of disgrace.  He convicts us so we will confess and let Him change us.  Then, He brings us back into communion with Him.  Because of Jesus taking our place on Calvary, we can be reconciled with God in our forgiveness.  The gap of sin that separated us from God is forever gone.  
God alone is the only one who is ever qualified to condemn us, and He will never condemn us.  In our sin, in our worst moments, at our lowest, He only offers grace.  Condemnation pushes us away from Him and grace draws us into Him.  Even if your past is littered with one bad choice after another, it can be used for His glory.  Your life is a living testament to His grace.  He takes our sordid pasts and turns them into a beautiful future.  There is always a way out and it is never backwards.  Dwelling in our mistakes is living in the condemnation of the enemy.  The hope of the future lies in conviction, repentance and grace. 

If my people who are called by my name 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


Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Lovingly Confronting… or Judging and Condemning?

Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. 7:1-2

In today’s world Christians are accused of being judgmental and condemning all the time.  Why is the world saying that about Christians?  What are we doing that makes them feel this way?  Is it because we stand up for what we believe is right in God’s eyes?  It is easy to believe you are doing a good thing, standing for what you believe in – for what God’s word says.  Even the Pharisees believed they were right and religiously superior to everyone else.  But doing the right thing in the wrong way is the wrong thing.  
If the people we know and influence in our lives feel judged and condemned rather than loved and accepted, we need to rearrange a few things in our hearts.  Our job as Christians is to bring the light of the Gospel to those who have yet to see or may have strayed.  There is a fine line between lovingly confronting someone in their sin and judging them.  We have to be careful how we do this, if this is even what God is telling us to do.  Although He doesn’t always use other Christians to confront and try to reclaim a sinner, He does sometimes lead us to confront someone.  The key to helping someone is to understand.  If they feel like we understand them, they will feel like we genuinely care about them and then God will be able to use us to influence them.  Condemning however, will build a wall fast and destroy any avenues of influence we might have.  
Judging or Discerning? 
Judgment means to mentally or judicially condemn; to conclude, to decide, to determine, to call to account; to sentence.  The Holy Spirit, God and Jesus are the only ones ever qualified to judge someone on their sins.  Jesus left example after example in the Bible for us and He never once condemned anyone.  He never threw a stone, even when He was the only one qualified to do so.  " Let the man among you who is without sin be the first to cast a stone at her."  No one in that crowd that day was without sin but Jesus, yet He forgave and showered grace instead of condemnation and punishment.  He alone would have been worthy enough to throw a stone and He never even picked one up.  What Jesus did show us was how to show mercy, forgive, and have grace. 
Discernment means to test, to examine; to interpret, approve, discover; or make a distinction.  Discernment asks questions, evaluates, and investigates, without judging someone.  God wants us to be discerning about important things in life such as choosing friends.  It is checking the facts before making a conclusion.  
The difference between confronting a sin and condemning a sinner is about the standard we use.  When you judge others based on feelings, opinions, or what you personally prefer, it is wrong.  In approaching someone with the true love desire to help them, you have to love them where they are.  If you can’t love them where they are, you lose them.  It is about accepting and loving the sinner, but not the sin.  We need to try to understand why they did what they did, where they are coming from.  We need to not condemn but draw them in with love, without seeking to belittle or punish.  We need to be concerned about their spiritual well-being and how we can be used by God for His glory, and not our own.   
Love is the only truth that draws people in.  God’s love spans all shame and covers it in grace.  Grace cancels out our shame if we let it.  Then we can be reconciled to God and restored in our relationship with Him. This is what we need to pass on to others who need it.  

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Grace Without Limits

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.  Hebrews 4:16

Grace.  Even the word is beautiful, but what grace does for us is even more beautiful.  Grace is the remedy for the guilt and shame we feel about our sin. Grace is undeserved favor from God. God’s grace is available to each of us but can only be received by a heart that is exposed and open before Him.
The Power of the WordNothing can open up the soul of man like the Word of God, whether spoken, written or seen in the person of Jesus Christ.  God’s Word is not prejudiced or in any manner affected by human standards, creeds or circumstances, therefore yielding it honest and sincere. We can debate with others on our differing opinions, but the Word of God is the absolute truth, unchanging and everlasting.
It is the Holy Spirit’s job to bring conviction to our hearts and God’s Word is one way He does that. When presented in the authority of the Holy Spirit, the living Word brings the supernatural power of conviction on our lives. Consequentially, the great need for salvation or transformation is exposed and made known to our condemned hearts.
When God extends His grace to us, He does not sidestep the truth about us. He doesn’t pretend that we have not sinned, nor does He ignore the fact that we have often been selfish and filled with pride. He is totally fair, honest, and just. It would go against His nature to pretend that our sin is okay or that we don’t have any. Grace is separate not punishment and separate from any consequences we might have from our sins.  Grace is God’s gift to a hurting and repentant heart. 
God’s son came to experience the great power of temptation on mankind yet was able to withstand it to pay for our sin. He knows where you hurt and why you hurt. He knows your insecurities and how you try so hard to cover them up. But God sees everything. Jesus is not like the parent who says, “How could you do this?!” Instead, He says, “I get it.” Our hearts are laid open and bare before the One who made us and loves us.
When we realize that God is for us, not against us, and that Jesus understands our weaknesses and failures, hopefully, we will realize that we no longer need to try and hide those things from God.  Nothing is hidden from Him anyway. He knows all about you and loves you completely!
God wants us! He sees us as we are – broken, empty, in need, sinful, with nothing to brag about.  But He wants us to see ourselves as we really are and call out to Him to come and help us. The wrath of God against sin is not countered by His love for the sinner but by His amazing grace.
Let us then approach the throne of grace. It is not a throne of judgment or criticism. It is not a throne of punishment for our weaknesses. It is a throne of grace where we can find favor with God because of what Jesus did on the cross. When we come to His throne of grace, we can receive mercy and extreme grace to help us in our time of need.
In our brokenness, as we realize how weak we are, and understand that we cannot help ourselves, God comes close to us with His extreme grace. He offers us the faith to call out to Him, and then invites us to come close, knowing that He will receive us and help us.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.  Romans 3:23-24

Monday, October 7, 2019

A Faith Test

Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you--unless indeed you fail the test?  
2 Corinthians 13:5

The way we came to know God is through the exercise of faith.  The way we develop our spiritual strength and knowledge of God is through faith.  The way we began is the way we continue. For some, after receiving Christ by grace through faith, they begin the futile practice of trying to please God and grow through religion.  God is not pleased with religion in place of faith.  As a matter of fact, the Bible says in Hebrews 11:6 "Without faith it is impossible to please God."  You can do the right thing and still not be pleasing God because you’re not doing it in faith. You are trying to be in control instead of letting God be in control.  
The real test of faith comes separate from religious duty, service or actions - A faith test is when our concept of God and the reality of our lives conflict and we can’t understand why something is happening. If we had really had our way, our faith would never be tested…but God would never have the chance to prove that faith worked.  Our declarations of faith would ring hollow. We would simply be echoing empty religious clich├ęs learned in church and Sunday School.  No skeptic is ever convinced or won over by that kind of faith.
God builds our faith by testing it. 
Faith is like a muscle and when it’s stretched, and it’s pulled then it develops - And your faith develops as it is tested. The testing of your faith is more about who God is than who we are. 
God’s desire is that we know Him and experience His goodness in our lives. The positive end of a test of faith may not be a change in circumstance but a greater knowledge of God and His love and power in our lives. 
Four Ways God Fortifies Our Faith
·      By Testing Our Obedience – Sometimes God will ask us to do things that seem impossible in our human minds.  And they are impossible in our human strength.  But in Christ, and through faith in Him, all things are possible.  Having faith is like taking a risk, stepping blindly off the side of a cliff.  We can’t see what is ahead or understand it at all, but we trust our Heavenly Father.  
·      By Providing for our Problems – Nothing ever happens by accident.  Every single thing happens for a purpose – even the hard things. But God’s hand on our lives provides protection, provision, and purpose.  The times when we have to fully rely on God are always the hardest.  We know better, we have extraordinary faith when life is running like a well-oiled machine, but when we have to truly rest and trust in Him for something, sometimes we struggle.  Ok, actually we beg, cry, doubt, negotiate, and slump into a heap of discouragement.  Then when He provides, we marvel in awe and wonder at the miraculous work of His hand.  I do love it when I get it though.  I have those moments when God totally comes through in a God way and I get it.  I see that it was Him providing and telling me that He will take care of me. 
·      By Using Our Resources – God expects us to use our resources in a way that is glorifying to Him.  He expects us to be good stewards of our money – His money.  It’s interesting that in giving God not only tests our faith, but the Bible says in Malachi that giving tests God. "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this," says the LORD of hosts, "if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows. (Malachi 3:10)
·      By Making us Wait – If every prayer were answered immediately, we wouldn’t need faith, or God.  It is in the times of waiting that we press into Him the most.  God wants our faith to grow and He wants us to learn to trust Him.  It pays to be patient. Just remember this: While you are waiting God is working. You’re not waiting alone. Waiting in faith God is working. God is doing things behind the scenes, in your heart and other people’s hearts that you cannot even see. 
If we really want to learn to live by faith I’ve got to learn to rejoice continually. We have to learn to obey immediately. We have to give generously. And we must learn to wait patiently. 
God’s encouragement to us again and again in the Bible is, don’t give up. Look up to God and realize that He is with you. As you and I wait on Him He not only increases our faith, but He works out His plan. 


Sunday, October 6, 2019

When Shame Meets Grace 2


John 7:53 - 8:11

The world has little use for those who condemn others from any system of belief.  For Christians, it is especially troubling because our own Bible guides us away from such behavior. 

 A Story of the Improper Concept of Spiritual Authority 

· It is religion, however, that places individuals in positions of religious authority. 
· Those called of God to lead are called to submit themselves to God and the needs of the people they serve. 
· Religious authority to Pharisees was something characteristically critical, censorious and condemnatory
· There are still those who believe God has given them the right to be moral watchdogs trained to tear the sinner to pieces. 
The Duties of Spiritual Authority 
· The first duty is to try to understand
· The second duty is to seek to reclaim the wrongdoer. 
· The third duty is to help transform the sinner. 
Encountering Those We Disagree With
It is imperative in today’s world to engage the world in dialogueTwo things:
1.To “engage” is not a battle term only.
2.Dialogue” - a meaningful exchange of ideas in a climate of respect and interest.
·   To judge before we listen and understand is to alienate.  To alienate is to lose the opportunity to influence.
·    You, They, Those People” are usually followed by “always” or “never” attacking not the issue, but character, creating a defensive response.
Discernment vs. Judgment  Matthew 7:1-2
·    Judgment means to mentally or judicially condemn; to conclude, to decide, to determine, to call to account; to sentence.
·    The right to judge only comes with the authority to judge. 
·    Discernment means to test, to examine; to interpret, approve, discover; or make a distinction. 
·    Judgment is wrong when you use the wrong standard, or you do it in the wrong spirit
·    Proper judgment should be kind, corrective and constructive, not condemning and critical
·    You cannot judge a person by what others say about him, but you can judge a person by what he says about others
·    You can judge methods, but you cannot judge motives until they are confessed. 
Why Guard Against Judging? 
·  Because we don’t know all the facts.  
·  Because we are fallen.
·  Because what goes around comes around.

·  The truth is, what you think of others is usually what others think of you.

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