Saturday, September 30, 2017

October 1, 2017

“Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.” John 10:7-15

Like the sheep in Psalm 23 you should be one satisfied sheep! I have spent the better part of this week reminding you of how good your Shepherd is! So, if there is still anxiety or discontent stirring in your soul it could be that you are not following Him as well as you should!

May I share a true story to further illustrate the blessings and benefits of following this Shepherd Who is a personal shepherd and a powerful shepherd and a promising shepherd?

Here it is:

In 1972, a shepherd had brought his sheep into a walled-off, enclosed area for the night, and he had just gone to sleep when he heard a commotion. He quickly rushed over to where the sound was coming from and to his horror he discovered that a wolf was in the process of dragging off one of his sheep through a hole in the wall. He was mauling this sheep and blood was flying.

The shepherd quickly began hitting the wolf, and the wolf turned on him and began attacking him. He bit him over and over while the shepherd was striking him with his staff, and finally with one final blow of his staff, he killed the wolf as he himself collapsed into a bloody heap.

He managed to crawl over to the half-dead sheep, and began to bandage its wounds.

He gave it some water, and then took it in his own bloody arms, and shepherd and sheep went to sleep together. The next morning the shepherd was found dead, his body literally draped over the sheep to comfort it and keep it warm. The following day the headline in the Jerusalem paper said, “Sheep Alive, Covered in Shepherd’s Blood.”

That is the testimony of every sheep and lamb who is under the care of the Good Shepherd. Why would you not follow Him closely? Why would you not completely trust a Shepherd like that?

Any other shepherd is a hireling who comes to steal, abuse, or kill the sheep. There is no comparison between the Good Shepherd and any other. There is really no comparison between sheep under the care of the Good Shepherd and those who are not. You can tell the difference by looking! There is a noticeable difference!

As the storm clouds gather and the threats increase and the world becomes significantly more dangerous, you cannot afford to be led or cared for by anyone other than the Good Shepherd because no matter how perilous the times that lay ahead - IF THE LORD IS YOUR SHEPHERD, YOUR FUTURE IS YOUR FRIEND!


September 30, 2017

"Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”  Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”  Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing."  Matthew 26:36-44

God the Father loves us to LIFE with His tender love.
God loves us to DEATH
God’s love has a tough side to it.
Committed love means:
1)    It Has A Purpose
“There are two great days in a person’s life -- the day we are born and the day we discover why”.  SOURCE: William Barclay
2)    It Has A Price
In The Cost of Discipleship Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote:  “The cross is laid on every Christian. As we embark upon discipleship we surrender ourselves to Christ in union with his death–we give over our lives to death. The cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise god-fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ. When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”

To know the love of the Father in its fullest you will need to die. You must die to sin and self which keep you from receiving all the love God has to give you. If it required a cross for Jesus what makes you think the price will be lower for you?

3)    It Has A Promise
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Heb. 12:1-3
Our Lord Jesus was willing to endure the unspeakable shame and agony of the cross because He knew the promise that awaited Him - and all those who would believe in Him.
In these two great portions of Scripture - The Prodigal Parable and the Prayer in the Garden - we have seen three different responses to  God's love:
REBELLION – The Prodigal
The story is told (by Ernest Hemingway) of a father and his teenage son who had a relationship that had become strained to the point of breaking. Finally the son ran away from home. His father, however, began a journey in search of his rebellious son. Finally, in Madrid, in a last desperate effort to find him, the father put an ad in the newspaper. The ad read: “DEAR PACO, MEET ME IN FRONT OF THE NEWSPAPER OFFICE AT NOON. ALL IS FORGIVEN. I LOVE YOU. YOUR FATHER.”

The next day at noon in front of the newspaper office, 800 “Pacos” showed up.

This younger son who became the Prodigal did not receive the love of his father. Instead, he took advantage of that love and indulged himself at the expense of the father's love.

Is that how you treat the love of your Father? Do you selfishly grab the rewards but refuse the responsibilities and the relationship?

You will never know the love of God if that is how you respond to His goodness and grace.

RELIGION – The Older Son
“Religion is hanging around the cross, Christianity is hanging on the cross.” — Stephen Hill
Buddhism has a story similar to the story Jesus told about the Prodigal Son. In the story Jesus told, the father sees his wayward son, and runs to greet him. The prodigal says he no longer deserves to be considered a son, but the loving father throws a party for him and freely restores him to his full honor as a son.

In the Buddhist story, the father finds his wayward son and arranges for him to be given a menial job. Through many years of working as a slave, the son eventually earns his way back into his father’s good graces.

Those two stories illustrate the biggest difference between Christianity other world religions. It’s really simple. You study all the religions of the world and they come down to one word: DO. What can you DO to have religious success in life? What must you DO to earn favor with God? All the religions of the world come back to the word DO.

Here’s the difference. Christianity is all about DONE. It’s about what Jesus Christ has already DONE for us. It’s about God giving Himself to us in the person of Jesus. It’s about Him dying for our sins so that we can enter into salvation. It’s not about what we must DO to earn salvation. It’s about responding to what has already been DONE for us. That is a huge difference.

The older son was not rebellious like his foolish little brother, but neither did he enjoy the relatIonship with his father that he could have and should have. He tried to earn the Father's love and felt entitled to all the status, the security, the safety and the supply he enjoyed by virtue of his birth.

He illustrates those who hover near God and faithfully perform their religious rituals but never really know relationship with the Father or receive His love.

Does this describe your spiritual condition?


The third response to the Father's love is how Jesus responded. Even after He experienced the tough side of God's love, after He had heard the Father refuse Him three times when He had prayed to be spared from the cross. Still He chose to do the right thing and obey the will of the Father despite the incredible suffering it would cost Him.

Jesus valued relationship with the Father greater than His own life. He decided He would love God more than life itself. As a result, He received the love of God in ways that few others ever have known.

Is that how you love God? Are you more committed to being right and remaining in relationship with God than playing it safe and avoiding the pain?

Three ways to respond to the AMAZING love of God:




Which will you choose?

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Saved By His Light

"The Lord is my light and my salvation — whom shall I fear?" Psalm 27:1a

Thank God for His light!

Thank God for being the Light!

As John wrote, "This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin." I John 1:5-7

Thank God for enabling us to walk in His light!

Living in the Light gives security and safety. Praise God for that.

But notice the Psalmist doesn't stop there. The Lord is not just our Light but He is our Salvation!

In this context, He saves us with His light!

As much as we fear the outer darkness and the dangers it conceals, but there is an inner darkness that is equally frightening. That darkness is sinfulness. That sinfulness separates from God. Once separated from God, there is no light and the darkness returns. When the darkness returns so does the fear.

So, the Lord really IS our Light and Salvation. By His power and presence He can protect us from the outer darkness that causes you to fear. And by His shed blood and His Spirit He can deliver us from the inner darkness that causes fear about eternity.

Are you trapped in fear?

Are you fearful over the darkness in your heart?

Are fearful about your eternal future?

Have you received His salvation?

Are you walking in His light?

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

September 28, 2017

“When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dreamed.” Psalm 126:1

Sometimes we fall captive to what my friend, John Maxwell calls, “destination disease”. That may have been the case here in the 126th Psalm. Sure, they had suffered 70 years of being held captive by the Babylonians but I think the greater captivity was in their spirit where they longed for the days when they could worship God in a certain way at a certain place.

It seems they had forgotten that though they were restricted to a foreign land, their God wasn’t. He was longing to meet them right where they were. It seems they failed to remember that Abraham had worshipped God in his travels and Moses had worshipped God in the desert. They failed to miss His presence because their experience with Him was mired in the past.

Because of this “destination disease” they almost missed the wonderful new thing that God was doing! As they longed for God to restore them back to the sacred soil of Jerusalem to rebuild their Temple, God sent a captor to take their captor captive! Cyrus the Great and his Persian army overwhelmed the Babylonians and God put it on his heart to “restore the fortunes of Zion”!

Are you suffering from “destination disease”? Are you held captive to notions that worship has to happen in a certain way at a certain place? Are you holding God captive to your traditions and your comfort zone? Are you missing a new thing God is doing because you are locked into the old? Are you waiting for Him to show up or are you seeking to find Him where He is?

God has called us to freedom! God has sent Jesus to take our captor captive! Even when the circumstances of life take us places we don’t want to be , we should live in spiritual freedom! We should meet Him where we are! We should not look for God in old places and retreat to comfort zones, we should expect God to do knew and wonderful things for us!

Tradition can be a wonderful thing but it can also inflict us with “destination disease”. Be thankful as you remember what God has done in past places and in past ways, but also realize that He is doing something new! Remember the past and respect the past but don’t retreat there! 

Live in His freedom! 

Live in His freshness! Right now! 

Right where you are!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Love Is The Heart

"No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future,nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."  Romans 8:37-39

Love is the heart of the Great Commandment and it is also the heart of the Great Commission! 

Love leads to life-change! And not just superficial change but a fundamental spiritual transformation. Love has that power because love is committed, and love is courageous, and love is confrontational and it is consistent. 

The Apostle Paul understood compelling love - "But I want to share one more powerful aspect of love - love is compelling! If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again." II Corinthians 5:13-15

I'm sure you are familiar with the saying, "You do for love what you wouldn't do for money." That is another way of expressing the compelling power of love.

It is the love of God that compelled Him to speak creation into existence to sustain His prized creation, Adam.

It is the love of God that compelled Him to extend mercy and grace toward Adam and Eve after they abused His love by their self-centered love.

It is the love of God that compelled Him to send His only begotten Son, Jesus, to suffer and die for the sins of the world.

It was the love of Jesus that compelled Him to empty Himself, leave Heaven and come to earth as a baby in a feed trough.

And, it was the love of Jesus that compelled Him to surrender to an agonizing death on the cross to atone for the sins of the world.

When you have received the love of God through Christ by faith, you will be compelled to share His love with those you love. If you are not compelled by His love you should make sure you really have it. 

His love is compelling!

Monday, September 25, 2017

September 26. 2017

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Luke 9:20

Do you find it curious that Jesus is asking them if they know Who He is after they have walked with Him and worked with Him for almost three years now?

Further, consider when He asked this probing question. They had recently went out on a mission in His name healing people and driving out demons! The day before they had miraculously fed thousands of people with one simple lunch!

Is it possible to do all those amazing feats and still not know Who Jesus is?


Consider what Jesus said on another occasion:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ Matthew 7:21-23

Chilling isn't it? Jesus makes it plain that you can do amazing things in His name but not necessarily know Him.

Could it be that discipleship is not so much about what you do are as what you are? Could it be that discipleship is about intimately understanding Who Jesus is? It makes sense that there is a difference between knowing Jesus and knowing about Him.

That is a HUGE difference! That is THE difference - relationship vs. religion. Religion is based on the belief that you can "do" and "not do" yourself into believing. But Jesus pokes a whole through that notion! He wants to live in relationship with you and desires to live His life out through you. Your doing for Christ results from being in Christ.

If your focus is on what you do or don't do for Christ, you are not a disciple. Even if you are doing miracles and deliverances. It is about "being" not "doing". True discipleship is knowing Jesus and living in intimate relationship with Him.

The suffix "ship" denotes a state of being. We will be exploring how being in Christ should shape your life.

Are you in Christ today? 

Do you know Him? 

Don't settle for just doing.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

September 25, 2017

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “God’s Messiah.”Luke 9:20

One of my more embarrassing moments in high school was when I let a moment of frustration cause me to forget who I was. My coach reminded me - loudly and in front of everyone.

I was playing baseball for the Warsaw Community High School Tigers. WCHS is a well regarded high school in Indiana for its excellence in academics and in athletics. When you make one of their teams they rightly expect you to represent that level of excellence.

On this day I was having a good game at the plate. I was seeing the ball well and hitting it. But when I came to bat this time I got fooled on a pitch and tried to hold up on my swing. Instead of checking my swing I hit the ball, resulting in a weak little dribbler to the second basement who scooped it up and threw me out at first. Upset at myself I slammed my batting helmet into the ground as I ran across the base. It landed loudly and bounced high and looked bad. I looked bad. I made the team look bad.

My coach just happened to be coaching first base and when I turned around to grab my helmet and retreat to the dugout he was waiting for me and he was not happy. Getting up into my face he earnestly informed me what I already knew - I had embarrassed myself and the team. Warsaw Tigers don't behave that way. He was right. I was humiliated.

Sometimes some clarification is necessary. When we forget who we are we forget how we should be.

Studying this portion of Scripture I noticed that before Jesus issued His call to discipleship He first asked for some clarification, "Who do you say I am?"

Appropriate, eh?

How can you answer the call to discipleship if you are not completely clear on Who He is? Why would you want to commit your life and surrender yourself to Someone you are not clear about?

In this portion of Scripture Jesus not only gives clarification to Who He is but He gives clarification to who you and I should be and in so doing, He clarifys discipleship. Jesus tells us that being a disciple has two components:

SAY IT - disciples declare and confess that Jesus is the Son of the God - the Messiah - the Savior - the Lamb of God - the Lord of all!

SHOW IT - disciples demonstrate the Lordship of Christ by how they live. Disciples daily deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Him every day in every way!

Disciples are clear about Who He is and they are clear on who they need to be. The know Him and they show Him. As a result, all who watch their lives become clear about Who Jesus is!

Are you clear about your calling? 

Are you making Him clear by how you live? 

Are there things you need to clear up?

Saturday, September 23, 2017

September 24, 2017

"Then He said to them all: "If anyone would come after me......." Luke 9:23a

I am so encouraged to read the call of Jesus to those who would desire to be disciples!

Notice whom He addesses:

"He said to them ALL".

"If anyone will......"

Anyone can be a follower of Jesus Christ. You don't have to be wealthy or well educated or well adjusted. You just have to be willing! Consider this story from Brooklyn Tabernacle, a great church in metropolitan New York City:

Jim Cymbala preaches at a church in the slums of New York. He tells the following story: It was Easter Sunday and I was so tired at the end of the day that I just went to the edge of the platform, pulled down my tie and sat down and draped my feet over the edge. It was a wonderful service with many people coming forward. The counselors were talking with these people. As I was sitting there I looked up the middle aisle, and there in about the third row was a man who looked about fifty, disheveled, filthy. He looked up at me rather sheepishly, as if saying, “Could I talk to you?” We have homeless people coming in all the time, asking for money or whatever. So as I sat there, I said to myself, though I am ashamed of it, “What a way to end a Sunday. I’ve had such a good time, preaching and ministering, and here’s a fellow probably wanting some money for more wine.” He walked up. When he got within about five feet of me, I smelled a horrible smell like I’d never smelled in my life. It was so awful that when he got close, I would inhale by looking away, and then I’d talk to him, and then look away to inhale, because I couldn’t inhale facing him. I asked him, “What’s your name?” “David.” “How long have you been on the street?” “Six years.” “How old are you?” “Thirty-two.” He looked fifty- hair matted; front teeth missing; wino; eyes slightly glazed. “Where did you sleep last night, David?” “Abandoned truck.” I keep in my back pocket a money clip that also holds some credit cards. I fumbled to pick one out thinking; I’ll give him some money. I won’t even get a volunteer. They are all busy talking with others. Usually we don’t give money to people. We take them to get something to eat. I took the money out. David pushed his finger in front of me. He said, “I don’t want your money. I want this Jesus, the One you were talking about, because I’m not going to make it. I’m going to die on the street.” I completely forgot about David, and I started to weep for myself. I was going to give a couple of dollars to someone God had sent to me. See how easy it is? I could make the excuse I was tired. There is no excuse. I was not seeing him the way God sees him. I was not feeling what God feels. But oh, did that change! David just stood there. He didn’t know what was happening. I pleaded with God, “God, forgive me! Forgive me! Please forgive me. I am so sorry to represent You this way. I’m so sorry. Here I am with my message and my points, and You send somebody and I am not ready for it. Oh, God!” Something came over me. Suddenly I started to weep deeper, and David began to weep. He fell against my chest as I was sitting there. He fell against my white shirt and tie, and I put my arms around him, and there we wept on each other. The smell of His person became a beautiful aroma. Here is what I thought the Lord made real to me: If you don’t love this smell, I can’t use you, because this is why I called you where you are. This is what you are about. You are about this smell. Christ changed David’s life. He started memorizing portions of Scripture that were incredible. We got him a place to live. We hired him in the church to do maintenance, and we got his teeth fixed. He was a handsome man when he came out of the hospital. They detoxed him in 6 days. He spent that Thanksgiving at my house. He also spent Christmas at my house. When we were exchanging presents, he pulled out a little thing and he said, “This is for you.” It was a little white hanky. It was the only thing he could afford. A year later David got up and talked about his conversion to Christ. The minute he took the mic and began to speak, I said, “The man is a preacher.” This past Easter we ordained David. He is an associate minister of a church over in New Jersey. And I was so close to saying, “Here, take this; I’m a busy preacher.” We can get so full of ourselves.

The call to discipleship is to "all" or to "anyone who will". 

That means even people like David can follow Jesus! 

Or, people like you and me.

Friday, September 22, 2017

September 23, 2017

"Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple" Luke 9:23

Have you noticed how many "ship" words there are in our Christian faith?

For example, "discipleship", "worship", "fellowship", "stewardship" or "lordship".

What is that about?

The suffix "ship" means "a state of being". So, when we use these words we are talking about being a disciple, or being a worshipper, being in fellowship, or being a steward, or being under the lordship of Christ.

Too often we think of being a Christ-follower in terms of what we have to do or not do. But Jesus gives the call to being. "whoever wants to be my disciple". If discipleship was about doing then religion would work. You and I would be able to do certain things and become a disciple. But we know that is not the case. Discipleship comes out of a relationship, not a religion. To be a disciple we must live in an intimate relationship - a state of being - and He will do through us what pleases Him. Our doing grows out of our being.

That is why I am going to devote this month to exploring this concept of "Getting Into 'Ship' Shape". I hope you will find it helpful and encouraging - and maybe a little challenging or conviction!

I will be covering these topics: "Worship Is Stewardship"; "Fellowship Is Stewardship"; and "Discipleship Is Stewardship". Hopefully I can broaden and deepen your concept of what it means TO BE a follower of Christ!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

His Defining Moment

"Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels." Luke 9:23-26

Once you have seen Jesus and understand Who He is, you can never be the same! Peter's confession of Christ shaped his life forever! It was his defining moment.

How did it define his life?

First, it defined His meaning.

Peter was a fisherman become follower. Jesus had promised him He would become a "fisher of men". But had that happened yet? No really. So, what value is there in being a non-fishing fisherman? Not much.

Fully knowing Who Jesus was meant that Peter now would fish differently with different bait, a new hook and a bigger net!

His new bait? JESUS!

His new hook? LOVE!


Second, it defined his mission.

When Peter first decided to follow Jesus he left his nets and his boat to learn about this amazing new Rabbi. He became a follower because of what it could do for him and if it did not work he could always go back to fishing. Peter had a fall back position - a "plan B".

His confession of Jesus would change that forever!

Once you truly understand Who Jesus is and confess Him as Savior and Lord, there is no more "plan B". Either you are all in or you are out! Peter understood that. His mission was to be fully committed to making Christ known to others. The news was too good to keep! Evangelizing became His purpose and His top priority.

Committing to Christ marks the end of casual, aimless living!

How did he do? Read the first several chapters of Acts!

Third, it defined his message.

When you know Who Jesus is, how can you stay silent about it? When you have witnessed miracles and seen people delivered and the dead raised, how can you not tell others about that? You can't! You must!

Others needed to hear it and Peter needed to tell.

How did he do? Read the first few chapters of Acts!

Once you understand Who Christ is and once you confess Him it should dramatically and fundamentally change you! 

It should change your meaning - has it? 

It should change your mission - has it? 

And it should change your message - what are you talking about?

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

September 21, 2017

"Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, "Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don't wash their hands before they eat!" Jesus replied, "And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, 'Honor your father and mother' and 'Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.'But you say that if a man says to his father or mother, 'Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is a gift devoted to God,' he is not to 'honor his father' with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:" 'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.'" Matthew 15:1-9

I have to confess to a passionate love affair that has been happening in my life for a long time. I am madly in love with the local church. I have devoted my life to it. If I had a second life I would also devote that life. Healthy local churches are the hope of the world. If God is ever going to transform our world, it will happen through local churches. That is why I am still leading the charge in a local congregation after all these years.

However, true love never runs smoothly. The majority of heartbreaks I have experienced in my life have happened in the local church. I have seen it at its worst and grieved.

But, I have also seen it at its best and there is nothing like it! I have seen lives transformed through salvation, through being filled with the Spirit, and through miraculous healings and deliverance. When a church is unified and focused and Spirit-led, the gates of Hell cannot prevail against it.

What makes the difference?

Primarily, it is this issue of hypocrisy. That is why Jesus was so hard on the religious leaders of His day. He had a vision of what the Church would become and their attitudes and actions were destructive to that.

Jesus summarized the problem of hypocrisy this way, "These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me."

That is the climate which breeds hypocrisy. Where rules and rituals are allowed to trump relationships, there is an unhealthy atmosphere of judgmentalism and a noticeable lack of love. The church degenerates into an organization rather than a living, breathing organism. Playing the part without having the heart will kill you and harm the church where you belong. Saying the right sounding things without sincerely believing them confuses people and hinders true fellowship.

If healthy local churches are the hope of the world, as I believe. And if hypocrisy is an illness that infects a church and threatens its health. Then it is no wonder Jesus was so aggressive in attacking it. We should be, too.

Your local church is made up of people like you. If you want to improve the spiritual climate of your church stop giving lip service to your faith and give it life service. Surrender your heart to God and allow His Spirit to fill it. Seek Him passionately and serve Him humbly. When you do, suddenly relationships will be a priority and rules will become servants of love.

Hypocrisy is an issue of the heart. If you want to defeat hypocrisy, let God do spiritual open heart surgery on you.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Seeking Forgiveness

There is a website called A Campaign for Forgiveness Research. The site states that this Campaign is "an ... effort to deepen our understanding of forgiveness and begin the process of building many different roads to reconciliation." In order to foster healthy relationships through reconciliation, the site has a place for the sharing of personal stories, "...of forgiveness received, offered, or simply observed ­ that may provide inspiration for others." One story stuck with me, a story of sin left unresolved and a cry for help. The anonymous woman writes:

"I would like to seek forgiveness for a very bad choice I made. When I was 17 I left home with my boyfriend and moved to another state. We soon found ourselves starving, with no money and our rent due. We had nothing to eat and all our efforts to find jobs had failed. One day I saw an ad in an alternative paper looking for escorts for gentlemen. I naively thought that that really meant escort -- that I would accompany people to dinners and so forth."

She took the job, later realizing that she was indeed a prostitute. She continues:

"I soon became "trapped" in the lifestyle, needing the money and relying on it, and telling myself it wasn't so bad. My boyfriend knew about it and said he didn't mind. I wish he had, so he could have stopped me. ... I began to realize I had to ... go back home. I couldn't live that way anymore, I couldn't be in that situation. It was so unhealthy and miserable. Since that time I've become really hard on myself. My self-esteem was damaged greatly. I feel different than other people, and feel that if they knew me, they would despise me. I feel worthless, depressed and so forth. I want to forgive myself, and I keep telling myself that it was a bad choice I made, and it doesn't make me a bad person. I was only 17, not thinking really clearly, not  experienced in the world.... I've been beating myself up for it for too long. Wish me luck on forgiving myself."

How much "luck" will it take for her to forgive herself?

Is forgiveness only for the lucky?

What would you say to this hurting and confused young lady?

I think pointing her to Psalm 103:1-5 would be a good start:

"Praise the Lordmy soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lordmy soul, and forget not all his benefits — who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s."

Young Lady, there  is pardon for you! All your sins have been forgiven! You can be healed from the inside out!

Young Lady, your life has been preserved! You have been redeemed - bought back from the bondage of your sinful choices! You have been lifted from the chains of hell and crowned with the love of Christ!

Young Lady, there is provision for you! The satisfaction you have been seeking will be found in Him! You can be renewed in your spirit, restored in hope and re-energized with strength!
Let me ask you, "Have you received His forgiveness? 

Do you enjoy your redemption? 

Do you find your strength in Him?