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My search for Jesus

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!”

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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!

The Tactic Is Division

We spend so much time avoiding awkward conversations. Almost every thought is now carefully worded as so not to offend anyone. When a public figure does say something we deem politically incorrect, or even offensive, they are immediately vilified. Maybe they should be, but why can’t we just discuss their idea(s)? We don’t get any closer to really fixing hearts and minds by trying to control everything that is said.

The rioting going on in nearby Charlotte is heartbreaking. The world I live in, to my parents’ credit, was one of acceptance of others. Yes, we’re human and sometimes judge others, but I didn’t see it being based on the color of someone’s skin. Although, Dad does still notice every tattoo and piercing, bless his heart. My early childhood we lived in Perth, New York. There were many Spanish people, but I had never seen a black man in person until I was four or five. I don’t remember the meeting whatsoever, but Mom said I played with this man for quite a while, just the two of us. When we walked into the dining room, I announced to the crowd, “you know what? Joe is people too!” The fact of the matter is, racism is taught. It’s often handed down from generation to generation. Sometimes, I believe it’s a result of experience also. We don’t dare discuss that though, do we?

My high school in New Jersey had cafeterias divided by race in the 11th and 12th grade building. I don’t know if it’s still that way today. I also don’t remember anyone from the staff needing to tell us that. Yes, there were a few students who would be brave enough to enter the opposing cafeteria. Thankfully, no harm came from it, but how do separate eating areas even come about? How was that not worthy of a discussion?

I’ve mentioned Marvin Washington in other posts. He is my adopted big brother and he is black. Marvin is 6’9, and back then, was more than willing to fight someone. That didn’t stop other black students from calling him “white boy” within days of moving in with us. I imagine most of the teasing was done in fun, but I don’t really know. He and I have had talks lately about this crazy world, and he seems to understand it all as little as I do. I have a firm belief that the enemy, dare I say the devil, is happy to see all of this division. I also remember being jumped in the locker room by a black student. Fortunately we were split apart before the fight got too out of hand. What had I done to deserve being jumped? He said I made him look bad on the basketball court in gym class. It seems silly, but the idea that a white guy could play basketball was something he’d been taught could not be.

We need to have deep, face to face, loving, difficult conversations with others. The fact is, we’re all different, or unique. Breaking down the barriers of the obvious differences will only happen if we talk to each other. You may be fine. You may love everyone and have been able to forgive everyone else. Remember, it only takes one person to forgive, but it takes two people to reconcile! If both parties don’t get involved and one has any resentment whatsoever, there cannot be reconciliation.

This idea is not limited to race relations. How many marriages would have been saved had couples discussed the first few little offenses? If it’s something that really bothers you and you can’t get over it, to save a relationship there has to be communication! How did the two that became one all of the sudden become two again? Division. It’s the devils’ best tool. I believe you hurt yourself the most when you hold onto any grudge, but you’re also wrecking your relationships. Don’t turn your friends, neighbors and loved ones into enemies because you’re afraid to discuss things with them. If something bothers us to a point that it brings us down, we need to deal with it quickly.

On a side note, our political establishment teaches us division all day every day. Pray for our country, pray for our leaders and pray we can have honest, open discussions. True change can happen, but the bride of Christ, his church, needs to facilitate it. If you’re a Bible reader, I would encourage you to read Matthew 5:21-26. Jesus’ words are so much more powerful than mine. Be uplifting in your speech. Love each other and just talk! This world’s too big for all of us to be right all of the time.

I Still Feel Shame

When I look back on where I used to be and where I am now, I can only praise God and give Him all the credit for the change in me. Lately, I’ve been feeling kind of proud of myself. That’s the complete opposite of giving God the credit. Pride. I remember being told time and again by my mother that pride goes before the fall.

A few weeks ago I felt a shame I hadn’t felt in quite some time. Tonight, I’m seeing it as a teaching from the Holy Spirit before I had to fall completely. The funny thing is, this shame wasn’t caused by anything I’ve done recently. No. This was seeing someone in church I hadn’t seen in fourteen years! I was in shock, to be honest with you. All the memories of partying with this person were right there in front of me. I may have missed out on an opportunity to see what God has done in that persons’ life, and I certainly blew a chance to share His goodness to me. Perhaps I’ll have another chance.

I literally hadn’t felt a shame like this since 2012. That, too, was in a church. The difference this time was I was the one showing up to someone else’s church. Now that I’m looking back at it, I realize they probably weren’t trying to make me feel ashamed as they were actually ashamed of themselves. Talking to me might have led to an embarrassing truth that they knew me from the bar!

So much of life is about perspective folks. Find people you can be open and honest about everything with. It’s so silly to think about how much we worry about what others think. Little things like how many people read this, for example. I remember when my goal in blogging was to hopefully help one person, not project myself into some great example. I can’t go back in time and undo things I’ve done yesterday, much less fourteen years ago.

When I read Romans 10:10-11, I believe what might seem like shame, if handled right, can be viewed as conviction. I don’t think I actually was so embarrassed by my behavior in the past as I was of my fear of how others see me. Next time, hopefully I’ll be ready to give a witness to all God has done for me and not be worried about someone’s opinion of me. For the believer, there is no shame. That obviously doesn’t mean there aren’t moments we feel shame, which I do. However, I no longer need to live in it and can actually learn from it! Thank you Lord for your word, which helps me see this. Please keep my pride in check.

10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”

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