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My search for Jesus

The Winding Road

The more I live the more I realize how flawed I am. I really do try to follow Christ more every day… less of me, more of Him. I’ve heard a lot of good, biblical teachings on staying on the right path. Sometimes (often) I feel like I’ve taken the wrong path, my own path. The cool thing I’m starting to believe more and more: it’s okay!

Maybe the thing that bothers me is I want to see exactly where the road is taking me. God leads us one step at a time though, and in this result oriented world where we want instant gratification, not seeing where the road is taking us gets us frustrated. It may not be a bad direction I choose to go, but it’s not necessarily the best path God has ready for me. Looking at where Jesus finds people has given me a different mindset on this.

The prodigal son knew he was taking a path away from where his father wanted him. He left home, took his inheritance and spent every bit of it trying to buy happiness. It didn’t work and when he finally came to the end of himself and came to his senses (Luke 15:17) he decided he wanted to go home. He even planned a speech where he would beg his father to let him work as a hired hand, since he wasn’t worthy to be his son anymore.

The first 42 verses of John 4 is a famous passage of a Samaritan woman who Jesus has a conversation with. You may know her as the woman at the well. There are so many fascinating things about this passage that it is often used for entire sermons. For the sake of time and the point I want to make I just want to point out she was obviously not following the suggested biblical path. She’d been married five times and was living with another man. Jesus offers her living water (Himself) and says she’ll never thirst again but will have eternal life!

Two stories where people were on the wrong path. Two stories of redemption. One common trait? They found God’s grace. They both knew they were on the wrong path, but I don’t think the path is the story. The answer isn’t a place but a person. No matter what you’ve done, when you figured out you were on the wrong path, you don’t have to get out the GPS and figure out where to go. You just need to turn to Jesus and say “I’m ready to try it your way. I need your grace, your forgiveness.” That is where you will find the right path. It’s not what road you find yourself on or where you are on that road. It’s about turning the direction over to God.

“Have you come to the end of yourself? Do you thirst for a drink from the well? Jesus is calling!” The second verse of O Come To The Altar by Elevation Worship starts with these lyrics. I often find myself on the winding road, trying to do things my way. May I be quicker to remember Jesus is right there by my side ready to lead me if I’ll just let Him.

aerial view of mountain road

Photo by Tobias Aeppli on Pexels.com

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It’s Hard To Be Humble

I caught myself giving a great friend advice tonight only to realize I’m not living by the words I spoke. One day maybe I’ll get the chance to tell you the whole story, but for the person(s) involved I won’t at the moment. Let’s just say that we have a friend who is going through some of the same battles I’ve gone through in the past.

So we have an amazing group of guys…a great support cast. While we all have unique stories we also often times get to find out how we’re a “me too” group with some of the same battle scars. We may not connect with everybody, but I think all of us in the group truly feel a connection with somebody. Getting to tell our stories to one another feels therapeutic. None of us want to feel alone.

The thing I’m re-learning is how in the good times maybe it’s harder to remember why things are good. Actually, it’s harder to remember Who has given us the victory in our lives: Jesus! We’re more apt to call out to Him when we need help. After a period of time when life really feels great I think we have a tendency to believe we’re the reason for our success and happiness.

I found myself telling a guy recently how I’d overcome my addiction to liquor. Yes, it’s been 8 years and three months of sobriety. When I played back the conversation in my mind I don’t remember giving any of the credit to God. Jesus is who I called out to when I was sitting in the “drunk tank” and Jesus is who saved me. Yet, for some reason, I want to be the one to take credit.

So tonight, the advice I gave, was for a friend who is doing everything in his power to help someone. I told him to quit beating himself up. I wanted him to realize we can’t blame ourselves and “all we can do is all we can do.” True words, but for someone who wants the credit for every victory, how can I not feel I’m personally to blame when there’s a loss.

I got home and had the perfect reminder hit me in the face. “The Blind Side” was on TV and it reminded me of Marvin. If you don’t know, Marvin is my foster brother. He was a very talented 6 foot 9 inch basketball player. He told me a couple years ago, on a phone call from the prison he was in, that he should have been the Michael Oher of the basketball world. He had the same background and our family took him in and helped give him some of the same opportunities. Since his release early last summer, I’ve lost touch with Marvin. He isn’t returning my calls or text messages. While I tried over and over again to do whatever I could to help, I worry about him now. As I give the advice “all we can do is all we can do,” I’m secretly struggling to wonder what else could I have done.

Finally, I’m reminded to check myself. We all know the verse in I Peter 5:7 “Casting all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” Yet there is worry, there is fear both for this friend and for Marvin. Maybe it’s because I’m not as quick to remember verse 6. See, verse 7 is a result of not having anxiety, but results come after actions. Verse 6 says, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time.” There was no humility in me when I tried to take credit for the good. No wonder I’m kicking myself when things aren’t.

Luckily, my God is a God of grace who (verse 10) “after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” If I want the result of getting rid of my anxiety I need to quit standing in my own strength. What I need God has for me and He alone deserves the credit.

May I never forget how good God has been to me. May I never forget He alone is the reason I’m still alive and standing. I owe Him so much, why do I try to take credit? Thank you Jesus for loving me anyways. You are such a good God! To those who I have told my story to I’d like to apologize if I took any credit. My strength comes from the Lord.

Is It A Sin?

I recently read a post condemning a pastor for not calling abortion a sin. This preacher was given a couple opportunities to give an answer, but he kept talking about getting to know the person and then mentioning the love of Jesus. I am very pro-life, so you know my answer to the question…kind of. In all honesty, I really respect what the preacher did because I believe the example he’s following is directly from John 8.

In verse 4, the Pharisees brought a woman caught in the act of adultery to Jesus. Why they didn’t bring the man? I’m thinking misogynists have always been around. Anyway, they told Jesus, “The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust. The Pharisees kept asking, demanding an answer. Jesus stood up, and in verse 7 said: “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone.” Jesus stooped back down and wrote in the dust again, and all of the accusers left.

See, to me it’s not about if you are a sinner. Indeed, you are. We all are sinners! Yes, there are things we know are wrong and are sins. However, if making someone feel shamed for their past or even present, whether you caught them in the act of adultery or at an abortion clinic, how are you helping them? In verse 10 Jesus asks the woman, “Where are your accusers? Did not even one of them condemn you?” She answered, “No Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”

Many preachers are more than willing to call out various sins. I am not saying they shouldn’t. I just want to caution against judging others with a different way of trying to reach people. Some genuine Christians care so much about the lost that they want to let them know they are welcome in their crowd. Some remember how lost we were when Jesus saved us! You can be in the crowd that wanted to stone the woman, or you can see that Jesus didn’t come to condemn, but to save sinners. No, He didn’t tell her to keep on sinning. He’s here to give us freedom from sin, but He didn’t go out of His way to define every sin there is.

I want to let you know that no matter your sin, if you’re a drunk like I was or you’re the one committing adultery, Jesus loves you. If you’re the one in the crowd that wants to stone us sinners, please know I’m trying not to judge you. Christ said, “Go and sin no more” to the woman. I believe the crowd got that message before Jesus even got to say it. That’s why they left without throwing a single stone at her.

The world that sees you needs to see the love of Christ in you. Yes, we need to be moral, but we don’t need to be the moral police. I leave you with this. John 8:36, “So if the son sets you free, you are truly free!”

What About…?

It’s really hard to write about something when you know you’re guilty of the accusation you’re about to hurl. Truth be told, at this moment I don’t know that I’ll have the courage to post this when I finish. I’m really struggling to find grace for others over hate. How do I love that person? You know…what about the racist? What about the ex? What about the good friends’ ex? Can I really show love to the …? When’s that girl going to quit doing those drugs? Doesn’t she know…? Thinking of what could have been…could I have forgiven myself had I wrecked and killed/hurt someone when I was driving drunk? Can you or I show grace to that person?

You may have to fill in the blank of who that person is. It may be a parent who left you and destroyed your family. You may hold a grudge toward that old boss who fired you. Perhaps this president disgusts you or the one before him did, or maybe both do. I don’t know. I just have a feeling we are all having trouble loving everyone.

Today, I want to encourage you to step back and remember where you have come from. Think of the worst thing(s) you have done. If someone did the same to you could you give them grace? James 4:6 says God gives grace generously. It also says He opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. When I’m judging others to the point I don’t think they deserve grace I am obviously not being humble.

Believe me, I hear you. “You don’t understand. He knew better. He had no right!” You’re probably 100% right. I’ll go further, you are 100% right. They don’t deserve God’s grace. Well I don’t deserve God’s grace either, and neither do you. As a believer it is not my job to grade the sins of others. My job is to love them. That doesn’t mean I don’t call out their sin, but I have to love the sinner. If it’s an individual, I need to try and go to them one on one and quietly try to correct them. If it’s an angry mob that everyone is seeing on the TV, then maybe I use whatever platform I have to point it out. We currently all have a platform in social media, good or bad.

That humbling myself thing? It is not fun. I like feeling as though I’m doing everything right, doing it God’s way. It’s nice to think others believe that about me. The fact is, right now, with violence going on in the streets and every “news” channel trying to tear us apart, I don’t want to be humble! I don’t want to give grace. However, the great commission isn’t the kind request. It’s the marching orders of Jesus, and I am to follow His example in doing it. We could probably all use a fresh read of 1 Corinthians 13 right now.

Pray for our world, pray for our country and pray we find humility. Remember when you were that person and God forgave you by His grace even though you in no way deserved it. Maybe you’ll be better equipped to forgive others when you humble yourself and pray. Maybe I will too.

GOD’S RICHES AT CHRIST’S EXPENSE (GRACE)

 

GOD’S RICHES AT CHRIST’S EXPENSE (GRACE)

Christian, Why Do You Judge?

 

One of the wonderful blessings I’ve acquired from multiple failings in life is an increased ability to give grace to others. Part of it is because I understand that I myself didn’t deserve the grace I have found in Jesus. The fact is, you can’t earn it, it is a gift from God. There are many fellow believers who seem to have forgotten this fact, and it saddens me. Let me tell you who you may not even know you’re hurting when you (figuratively) cast that stone toward someone else who may have stumbled, sinned, fallen short, etc.

 

When you decide to tell others how someone else doesn’t measure up you’re telling them that they too have to live up to your standards. Some of the most impactful sermons I’ve ever heard have been when the speaker has been vulnerable enough to share some of the trials, hardships and mistakes they’ve had to overcome. The common theme has been that but by God’s grace, they wouldn’t have made it through. Why and how can any of us who’ve received grace forget that?

 

When that star athlete you don’t know is pulled over or the celebrity files for divorce, who are you impressing when you say, “they did it to themselves?” Listen, I know I’m guilty of doing the same thing. I just want to instill in your thought process that the person(s) you’re saying this to may be going, or have gone through something similar. The fact is none of us deserve God’s grace and mercy. None of us are worthy of His love and amazing sacrifice Christ paid on the cross. Don’t ever forget that. Grace truly is unmerited favor that, somehow, we all have access to.

 

There are very few times anymore I personally get hurt by hearing somebody get judged. Call it me surviving 40 years in the wilderness. By the time I figured out I couldn’t earn what God wanted to give me I had scars to show. Those times I do let those negative thoughts get in my head though, I start thinking “who am I to serve Christ?” Well, last time I checked, everyone in the Bible that God used apart from His own son had tremendous flaws.

 

Congratulations if you have it together all the time. For those of us living in the reality of needing God’s grace day by day, hour by hour, your voicing the flaws in everything and everyone you see is not helpful. If we all waited until we lived up to your standards to share the great news of God’s love, we’d never share it with anyone. At 47, thankfully I’ve learned to tune out the negative pretty well. There are nights it hits and hurts though, and I don’t see the benefit in your criticism, except the reminder that I know I truly am not worthy of any of this on my own. It’s His blood that has set me free. Christ only needed to die once to pay for all our sins. Why my brothers and sisters do some of us feel His death wasn’t enough for him or her? Should Jesus have to go back to the cross again?

 

I don’t say any of this to diminish the harm of sin. Yet, where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom. When you want to say something about someone ask yourself who you’re being most like. Do you sound like the advocate or the accuser? I’ll always wonder how long I would have stayed in the wilderness had I not kept hearing those accusatory voices. I wouldn’t change a thing though, because once I got it, to the degree I think I’ve gotten it, God’s grace was all the sweeter!

 

It feels a little hypocritical to tell people to quit judging. I ask forgiveness and understanding to those I am judging. I am more concerned with making us all aware that our words do affect others. Choose them carefully and err on the side of building people up rather than tearing them down. Remember when saying what someone deserves what you yourself truly deserve. Love wins!

On Standby

You may think you know who your friends are, but unless you go through something, you may never really know. Who is there with you when you face tragedy or trouble? I’d have to say I am truly blessed with some great friends. I’ve done some really foolish things and gotten myself in a lot of trouble. When I was down and out, without a job or a car, I quit hearing from an awful lot of people. However, there were some who didn’t judge me, at least outwardly, and supported me with words and/or actions.

This past weekend we studied one of the last sayings from Christ on the cross. Jesus looks out and sees just one disciple there alongside His mother. Jesus tells John and Mary to “behold,” or look out for one another (John 19:26-27). One of the beautiful things Pastor Steven showed us was Jesus noticed who WAS there. He was on a cross being crucified for our sins, yet He wasn’t focused on who wasn’t there with Him. Jesus wanted those who did stand by to the very end to continue looking after each other.

I have to make a true confession. Over the past 7 1/2 years, I’ve held a little bitterness to people who didn’t seem to care about me or stick with me. If I can learn to follow Christs’ example, my focus needs to be on the wonderful friends and family who have been here with me all along. Why dwell on who isn’t here? Will that affect them in any way? Of course not, it only hurts me to hold any bitterness. I can really feel a shift in my personal joy as I turn my attention at gratitude for those who are with me as opposed to who were not. Let the anger go, and if people really want to leave, let them go too!

How many times have I received grace from God? Too many times to count I am sure, and I continue to need it. Once you’ve truly received it, you have to give it. It’s not grace because I deserve it, so who am I to require things from others to give it? The ones I have been mad at, upset with, I have to forgive them! How long can you hold a grudge against someone who probably doesn’t even know you’re holding it? Who is that affecting? Ultimately, my joy is my job and if I’m holding resentment for people, I’m that one who is unhappy. The joy of the Lord is my strength, so if I can give grace like He gives I will never be stronger in Him!

To those of you who showed me grace, thank you so much! I will forever be grateful. I want to name you all but know I would miss some. Your godly example of love and kindness was noticed then and is even more noticed now. If I can return the favor I’ll try to be on standby for you at all times.

Come and See

COME AND SEE

(Ephesians 3:20; Luke 8:15)

 

I felt alone and dirty,

Like I was buried deep.

You brought me up and out,

A harvest ready to reap.

 

You took me as I was,

You made my life complete.

I want to thank you God,

For all you’ve done for me.

 

While the seed is buried,

Help me to trust your way.

Let me find my rest,

Teach me Lord, to pray.

 

When the fruit comes forth,

Let me praise your name.

Remind me that it’s you,

Who gets the glory and fame.

 

I have to work the ground,

I’ve got to plant the seed.

I need your rain to come,

Give me the faith to believe.

 

You took me as I was,

Told me to come and see.

I will follow you God,

Do what you can through me.

 

Break this seed’s hard shell,

For first it has to die.

From the death of a seed,

Will the fruit come alive.

 

Before it starts to sprout,

Remind me of all you’ve done.

That I may know this truth,

The best is yet to come!

 

You said, Come and see, come and see, all that God can do for me.

Yes, come and see, come and see, all that God can do through me!

Come and see, come and see, all that God can do for you.

Come and see, come and see, all that God can do through you!

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