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.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Storm Warning

On that day, when evening came, He *said to them, "Let us go over to the other side." Leaving the crowd, they *took Him along with them in the boat, just as He was; and other boats were with Him. And there *arose a fierce gale of wind, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up. Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they *woke Him and *said to Him, "Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?" And He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, "Hush, be still." And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm. And He said to them, "Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?" They became very much afraid and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?"
Mark 4:35-41

You know it is coming.  You can see the huge thunderheads on the horizon.  You really don’t even need to look at your radar; because you can smell the coming storm in the air.  This may be what the disciples experienced that day when Jesus, in spite of the imminent storm, declared he wanted them to all get in the boat to go over to the other side of the lake.  I’m sure they were thinking, “There’s a really big storm coming, so let’s remain on land until it passes!” But that is not what Jesus did.  He led them directly into the turbulent storm.
The storm is not the destination planned.  The other side of the lake is the destination, but there is no way to get there except straight through the middle of the tempest.  Jesus not only has led them out into this terrible storm, but now He is taking a nap.  They wake him in a flurry and ask Him Do you not care?   That is very much how we feel when we are caught out in the storms of life.  We feel like Jesus does not care what happens to us and that He has abandoned us out in the middle of the lake. One thing we can learn from this story is that there is no way to avoid the storms in life.  Sometimes to get to where God wants us to be, we must pass through the storm.  God has the power to take away the storm, but He always has as reason for the turbulence He allows us to experience. 
Purpose of the Storm Charles Stanley suggests six ways God uses storms in our lives:
·Cleansing - to get our attention Psalm 119:67, 71
·Companionship - God desires that we walk in an intimate relationship with Him.  We must be reading His Word, listening to Him; talking to Him and seeking His mind and heart to find His will for our life.  Psalm 57:1-3   Psalm 63:6-8
·Conformity - conforming us to the likeness of His Son
·Comfort - God does not always want to just do something IN us, but often His ultimate goal is to do something THROUGH us.  But if you want to be a blessing to others, you have to be broken.  A vessel that's unbroken has very limited use.  2 Corinthians 1:3-4
·Convictions - pain and suffering solidifies your conviction that God is sufficient, He is with you and He will take care of you.
·Change - Paul is a great example of one who changed when God got his attention on the Damascus Road.  God had tried once before to get his attention at the stoning of Stephen, but it took three days of total blindness and helplessness for change to occur.

As we go through storms, He's preparing us to be a blessing to others who go through similar difficulties.  It is like a ripple effect when you throw a stone into the water.  You are changed and blessed by your storm experience and God uses you to help someone else going through the same thing.  The length and intensity of the storm may depend on your willingness to allow God’s will to be done. Embrace the black clouds and thunderous sounds of a coming storm. Be willing to be transformed and allow God to use these experiences to mold your life for His purpose. 

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