Author: td0316

Has Grace Left the Building?

We must understand the difference between God’s Word & religion. There will be religious churches that preach from the Bible, but they also add their own rules to the mix and remove God’s grace from the picture. Churches can be a house of judgment where it looks as though grace has left the building. We must find the church as a place of redemption. Righteousness must be preached in the church, but the congregation should not walk around as if no one has their own set of problems or trouble with sin. Many of us have pasts, no matter what background we come from, that we have been forgiven for, so let’s not hold the wrongs over one another’s head. What’s done is done. Time to get back up and continue on this journey that was never promised to us to be easy in the first place; this is why we need a Savior in Jesus Christ. We will grow in our faith, and it’s up to us to lead with love. There are people that don’t look to Jesus as their Lord & Savior and make the best decisions in their lives, mostly selfish ones, but they have all the answers and don’t point to God because in their “perfect” world they don’t need Him. And then we have those religious folks who look great on the outside, but don’t love God or necessarily live their lives for Him.

It is God that searches our hearts. Praise the Lord! Something that we cannot do, and sometimes not even something a pastor can do, because we are not God no matter what title we hold. We cannot search the hearts of others. God see’s those that love Him & seek Him day after day, and even when they aren’t quite there yet daily with Him, God see’s their longing for Him. He does not push us aside for our sins when He knows that when we mess up we feel bad about it and ask for His forgiveness. We are growing by being aware of right and wrong according to God. We will continue to get up and try again. It is by the grace of God that He continues to embrace us. We just see results of the “mess ups” or the “good deeds” that present themselves, but God see’s what’s on the inside. And it is God that cleans us up to be more of who He created us to be, and it does take time! And how we think as we get older matures from when we were younger, but we too were young once. Again, we need the eyes of grace.

God has never given up on me no matter how many times I’ve messed up and still mess up. I keep learning and growing and keeping my eyes on God. I’m not the same person that I used to be, and I’ve come a long way, but I’m humble enough to know that I’m a work in progress. 🙂

Pray & keep seeking God’s face. Keep showing God’s love. And admit the imperfections and continually give God the glory of the changes He made in your life. Keep being an example, but know that each one has our own lives and that God has each one of us in His hands. We can trust God to work things out and teach us along the way. There is no perfect person or picture out there. This is life, and the fact is many of us do love God and want to live for Him with our flaws & all. I pray that we can all remember God’s grace & His mercy on us, and show compassion to one another. Don’t allow past situations to define you, just keep moving forward with God. Keep pressing on no matter what. Dawn

‭‭(Matthew‬ ‭6:33‬ ‭NKJV‬‬) “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”

What prayer means to me!

I have turned my fear and worry into prayer. Anytime my circumstances or obstacles try to present themselves bigger than God, and anxiety begins to set in, I stop in my tracks and remember that I am not alone in this and that my thoughts do not need to go where they used to go before I surrendered my life to Christ. God is bigger than my circumstances! I am no longer where I used to be and I must continue to pray more so that I worry less. I must remember that God knows what is taking place in my life, and I have Him to turn to in prayer and I know that He will see me through and work all things out in my life, and I’m going to allow Him in. I cannot give power to Satan because he wants me to focus on the circumstance and what I’m up against to paralyze me with fear and doubt so that I take my eyes off of God. When I pray things do work together for good as the scripture Romans 8:28 reminds us. We cannot always see the outcome of how things will turn out or figure things out on our own, and this is where our faith comes in. We must have faith in God and not in our circumstances. We must trust and believe for our prayers to succeed. Praise God always! Dawn

Rejection Takes Aim At Us All

Rejection Must Fall
by Louie Giglio, from Goliath Must Fall
Rejection must fall
No amount of money or looks or success can insulate you from the possibility of rejection. Rejection comes after all of us in differing ways.

Some of us have incredible potential, but we don’t want to try anything bold because we don’t want to fail.

The easy choice: live in the relative safety of mediocrity because we think that’s better than rejection.

At the other end of the spectrum are the people who are determined to win at everything, to prove to somebody that they are good enough, beautiful enough, worthy enough, wanted enough. They won’t rest until they are the first in the class, the head of the organization, the most respected person in the group. But they’re never happy because they’re building up their self-worth based on their accomplishments. They don’t know what they’re going to do when their accomplishments aren’t good enough anymore. It’s the same giant of rejection.

Some of the most beautiful people in our culture are the most insecure. Some get judged by others because they look too beautiful. Others, despite their appearance, never felt worth much inside. I remember seeing this back in the days when Shelley and I led a campus ministry at Baylor. Some of the girls that looked like they had it all together would meet with Shelley and me after coming to our Bible study. They’d say things like, “I’m really struggling. Can you help? I have an eating disorder. I have an image problem. I am struggling with my self-worth and my value. I don’t like the way I look.”

You can find models who are the saddest people on the planet because of the giant of rejection. And it’s not just models either. It’s people at the top of every category. You find great athletes who feel insecure because they know they’re only one injury away from losing their position on the team or their income stream. You find incredibly smart people who are insecure because they feel like people only like them for what they know. You find competent and capable people who feel like they’ve got an image to keep up. Or an image to try to create.

And the fear of rejection can lead you to some troubling places. Psychologists tell us that one of the most powerful forces in humanity is acceptance. It’s what we all crave. That’s why some of you have friends who are not good for you, but you hang around with them anyway. Because they accept you. They’re not encouraging you to be all God wants you to be. They don’t have the same value systems you have. But they accept you, and that’s a powerful pull in your life. Some of you are dating somebody and you know they are not the right person for you. But the sense of acceptance this person is giving you is overwhelming your sense of what’s best for you. That’s how strong acceptance is. But is this true acceptance?

Of course not.

David pressed through the rejection he felt to go on and accomplish the purposes of God for his life. He arrived at the battle from a place of trueacceptance. And this is God’s invitation to us as well — to cloak ourselves in the true acceptance that Christ offers. Whether it’s school or work or with our peers or family, we potentially face rejection every day. The only thing that will help us move past the giant of rejection is to immerse ourselves in the acceptance of Christ. We need to arrive at the battle already feeling accepted.

So how do we develop this confidence in his acceptance? We do it by embracing these four big principles.

1. We understand the miracle of our creation.

We clothe ourselves in acceptance when we understand we are the work of God. David knew that about himself. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, David wrote Psalm 139. It’s a beautiful psalm that helps order our lives day by day. Right in the middle of it, David declares,

For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well. — Psalm 139:13-14

That’s a mouthful of giant-slaying truth right there.

We are each reverently and wonderfully made. God doesn’t make mistakes.

God doesn’t make rejects — that comes from assembly-line lingo. When a reject comes down the line, a worker says, “That one’s perfect. That one’s perfect. That one’s wrong. Oh no, not that one. Either throw it back and start over again or discard it.” God doesn’t do that.

David affirms this. Later in the same psalm he declares,

Your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be. — Psalm 139:14-16

The giant of rejection does not want you to remember the miracle of your creation. For this giant to fall, for this giant to be rendered powerless in your life, immerse yourself in this fact:

God made you. Uniquely. Beautifully. Intentionally. Purposefully. Wonderfully.

2. We revel in the mystery that Jesus chose us.

How do we develop true acceptance? We clothe ourselves in Christ’s acceptance when we revel in the mystery of His choosing. Ephesians 1 tells us how we got into the family of God. Beginning in verse 4, it says,

For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will — to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves. — Ephesians 1:4-6

That means from the very beginning of time, God chose you. Long before you knew Him, He knew you. He loved you long before the world began. Before you ever felt the sting of rejection, God had already gone on record as choosing you.

Before people decided whether or not you are good enough for them, God had already decided that He wanted to bring you into his family as a son or a daughter of almighty God.

Can you imagine that? If you are adopted, you may have struggled to some degree about your value or worth. And that’s understandable. But the decision of an earthly parent cannot trump the choice God made when He fostered your creation in your mother’s womb. Like the psalmist you can say,

Even if my father and mother abandon me, the Lord will hold me close.— Psalm 27:10 NLT

If this is you, it might feel like your father and mother left you at the adoption agency and that is what defines you. But your heavenly Father had already picked you up before they ever dropped you off. Your heavenly Father said, “I choose you. I want you in My forever family — you are My daughter; you are My son. I give you a name — My name. I give you a place with Me — and it’s a place of love and abundance. I give you My inheritance, and My riches are limitless.”

Before you were conceived, God went on record in the heavenlies and said, “I choose you as My own.” That truth cultivates in us a sense of huge acceptance.

Hopefully, you have come to the place in life where you have chosen Him too.

Yet Jesus chose us first (see John 15:16). Let those words sink in. Jesus chose us. Jesus chose you.

3. We grasp how costly it was for Jesus to rescue us.

How do we develop true acceptance? We clothe ourselves in Christ’s acceptance when we see the enormous cost God paid when He sent His Son to rescue us. It goes on to say in Ephesians 1:7-8,

In [Christ] we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us.

The gospel isn’t just a church talk. It’s not just a good sermon. It tells every human what we need to know in the deepest part of our souls — that we have enormous worth to God. Faced with life without us, His choice was to allow His Son to die for us.

That’s how He recovered us and rescued us. God paid an enormous price for you.
*


You are worth Jesus to God.

4. We live from acceptance, not for it.

Our giant of rejection is not going to fall until we admit that we desperately need acceptance. If you’re too proud to say that, you most likely have some demons in your past that still might be lurking in the shadows. We were made to be accepted and embraced by our heavenly Father. We were made to be loved, for free.

The good news is that in Christ, we have everything we long for. Everything we need. We are not working to gain His acceptance. We already have it.

We live from His acceptance, not for the acceptance of others. Sure, we want to be loved and liked by others. And we want to love in a way that will allow us to hear from Heaven, “well done.” But we live as though we know we are already fully loved and accepted in Him.

Happy Mothers Day!!!

By: Toryn D. Terrell

 

Mom! Mother! Mommy! Mamma!

No matter how you say it, all have equally powerful statements!  It is a statement of authority!  It is a statement of love!  It is also says, “I trust you!”

Despite the struggles mothers go through, they are a symbol of, protection, love, power and wisdom!  I am truly thankful for the mothers that daily toil and are not looking for accolades in the process, because they do what they must, and they do it well!  So, to you mothers, enjoy your day!  Soak it in and remember that you are loved by someone on so many levels!  Don’t lose faith!  Don’t lose heart!  We love you no matter what with the love God so perfectly displays to us!

Proverbs 31: 2 – 9 (NKJV)

What, my son?
And what, son of my womb?
And what, son of my vows?
Do not give your strength to women,
Nor your ways to that which destroys kings.

It is not for kings, O Lemuel,
It is not for kings to drink wine,
Nor for princes intoxicating drink;
Lest they drink and forget the law,
And pervert the justice of all the afflicted.
Give strong drink to him who is perishing,
And wine to those who are bitter of heart.
Let him drink and forget his poverty,
And remember his misery no more.

Open your mouth for the speechless,
In the cause of all who are appointed to die.
Open your mouth, judge righteously,
And plead the cause of the poor and needy.

 

MOM is wisdom, love, counsel and guidance!  Thank you, Mamma!

Religion Makes Enemies / Jesus Makes Friends

It’s only when we understand that in Jesus we are cleansed, washed, and renewed that we see our sin fall by the wayside. — Jefferson Bethke
FaithGateway
Today
Religion Makes Enemies / Jesus Makes Friends  
by Jefferson Bethke, from Jesus > Religion

Love Stays, It Pursues, It Pushes In
We are trained to make enemies. From birth it’s always “us versus them.”

  • Black vs. whites.
  • Conservatives vs. liberals.
  • Rich vs. poor.
  • Republican vs. Democrat.
  • Americans vs. whoever we’re at war with.

Let’s be honest: sometimes Christians are the worst.

  • Calvinists vs. Arminians.
  • Complementarians vs. egalitarians.
  • Charismatics vs. cessationists.
  • Catholics vs. Protestants.

As if the world dying outside really cares.

Now, I’m not saying some of these clarifications and differences aren’t necessary. In the book of John, Jesus prays we would be “one.” (John 17:21) The only way to become one is to engage in healthy discussion on topics we disagree on. But we can’t honestly think any non-Christian will want to come into the family of God if we are just as — if not more — divisive than the rest of the world. Sometimes how we dialogue in today’s culture is just as important as why we dialogue.

Religion, unfortunately, is notorious for making enemies.

Women? Gays? Muslims? Let’s make them our enemies. Yes, I know this doesn’t represent everyone. Yes, I know religion doesn’t do this all the time. But throughout history, it is clear that when it does happen, it can almost always be traced back to people who think their standing with God comes from their own righteousness. The minute you think you have gotten on God’s good side by your own behavior, you are naturally prone to demonize those who haven’t.

The biggest difference between religious people and gospel-loving people is that religious people see certain people as the enemies, when Jesus-followers see sin as the enemy.

Religious people see “them” as the problem; Jesus-followers see “us” as the problem. When Jesus told the first disciples to love their enemies, (Matthew5:44) He didn’t add, “as long as they look like you, talk like you, and act like you.” Loving an enemy means loving “them.”

I remember the moment this first hit home for me. I was having lunch with my mom. As we started to eat, I felt the tension.

I was a Christian now, and my mom was openly gay. Wasn’t I supposed to hate her? Wasn’t I told “not to associate” with her? Doesn’t she know homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of God?

Instead I made a decision to listen. She was my mom. I listened as she poured out her thoughts, emotions, and feelings that had been pent up for years. I heard how she had been burned by certain religious communities — brutal stories of so-called Christians offering grace and redemption to all those around her, as long as the sin was socially acceptable. The sad part is, I couldn’t disagree. I’d seen the same thing.

For some reason the church had made homosexuality a varsity sin. Religious people are very particular and selective on this issue. They quote “Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

I don’t see homosexuality getting any prominence in this list, do you? In fact, the apostle Paul is attempting to broad stroke everyone, highlighting the fact that none of us are good enough.

  • Ever had a lustful thought?
  • Looked at porn? Guilty.
  • Ever wanted something more than God? Yep.
  • Ever looked at or engaged with someone else besides your spouse? Ouch.
  • Ever stolen? I have.
  • Ever had an insatiable desire for more money? Check.
  • Ever been drunk? Double check.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not scoring too well on this list. But how does that verse end? The Corinthians were undoubtedly filthy themselves and were not representing Christ well. Some of them were probably still engaging in these behaviors, which is why Paul was writing them the letter, but he still says, “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

He reminds them of how they’ve been bought. He reminds them that their sins aren’t their identities. He reminds them they are different now and can walk away from their sins.

That is a scandalous statement!

If you are a Christian and are going to talk about 1 Corinthians 6:9–10, then you better include verse 11. It’s only when we understand that in Jesus we are cleansed, washed, and renewed that we see our sin fall by the wayside.We are greedy, filthy, idolatry-loving, glory-hungry thieves. And when we trust Jesus, He washes us. He redeems us — all of us.

And when we’re sitting across the table from someone whom we’ve been told to hate, the least we can do is listen and love her as Jesus loves us.

Regarding homosexuality specifically, I can’t begin to tell you the internal wrestling I’ve had with this issue. I have a personal stake in it. It’s part of one of the closest people to me. So if I can be honest, I’ve gone back and forth a ton on this issue. Is it okay? Is it wrong? Why or why not?

Everything in me wanted to be convinced it was okay. Everything in me looked for verses to see it sanctioned by God. But through years of wrestling, hours of Bible study, and tons of prayer, I didn’t come to that conclusion.

When I open the Scriptures, I see homosexuality getting no prominence among sins, but it is still a distortion of God’s creative order nonetheless. But here’s the thing: my mom and I disagree on it, and we still love each other. Did you catch that? We still love each other.

We have open, honest, and sometimes very difficult conversations about it. And neither of us walks away calling the other a bigot. Neither of us walks away furious or upset.

Because that’s what love is. It stays. It pursues. It pushes in.

In order for our society to continue to flourish, it is imperative that we learn how to have healthy, honoring, and engaging discussions on this issue. Everything outside of His creative order is a distortion, and when we follow that fractured path, we are implying we are our own gods and know better than He does. The issue isn’t primarily homosexuality, idolatry, drunkenness, greed, or right or wrong.

The issue is, are we going to trust that God knows best or that our thoughts, wills, and emotions know best?

The truth is we are all going to limp across the finish line to some degree. Of course there is victory in Jesus, and of course we are more than conquerors through Christ as the apostle Paul says; but even Paul had a thorn in the flesh. (Romans 8:37, 2 Corinthians 12:7)

Most of us have a spiritual Achilles’ heel. We all will have spiritual bruises, cuts, and sores. Some will limp across the finish line still fighting their addiction to porn. Some will limp across the finish line with their addiction to food. And some will limp across the finish line with their attraction to the same sex.

The issue isn’t whether someone is good or bad, but whether he is repentant or unrepentant.

Who is God of her life? Who’s in control? What or who are they pursuing? Are they looking to Him or trusting in self? Because I trust that if Jesus’ grace has radically collided with a heart, I believe that person will begin to align themselves with Jesus’ image, looking more like Him every day.

But let’s also realize that we do have hope and victory and are called to take sin very seriously, doing anything and everything to run from it and to Jesus.

The writer of Hebrews makes it clear by saying we should “also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and… run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Even he admits there are things that weigh us down. Our sin sticks to us. But still… He says run with endurance. Keep our eyes on Him, and we will make it because it depends on Him, not us. But let us never get prideful. Let us never think this race is reserved for the elite, or the “good,” or the well qualified. It’s reserved for the lowly, the rejected, the marginalized.

One of my favorite stories in the Bible is the story of the woman at the well (John 4:1-24). She is the first person to whom Jesus reveals himself to be the Messiah. Jesus doesn’t choose to share this information first with a politician or a king or anyone of seeming importance, but with a Samaritan woman.

Samaritans were seen as half-breed Jews. They were looked down upon by the Jews. On top of this she was a woman, which in that culture meant she was a second-class citizen. Even worse, Jesus highlights her promiscuity. Jesus doesn’t condemn this woman, but rather graciously shows how He is the “living water” that can quench her insatiable thirst.

So Jesus, God himself, showed immense grace and gave great privilege to a half-breed, second-class, adulterous, and promiscuous woman. God is always a fan of going to the marginalized so His saving power isn’t credited to human wisdom but to His grace. Jesus completely shattered the social, gender, and economic paradigms. New Testament Christians were most known by their love for their neighbors, but today we are most known for our segregation of the lowly.

This issue really comes down to idolatry, which is the act of placing anything or anyone above Jesus as the ultimate source of worth, satisfaction, and identity.

The problem with idolatry, though, is that whatever you idolize, you then demonize the opposite.

Want to know what you probably idolize? Ask what you demonize.

But when you idolize Jesus, then you demonize demons — which makes a lot of sense to me. When Jesus and His righteousness are ultimate, then you actually see evil as the source of evil, rather than politics, money, or gender. Sure, you can disagree. Sure, you can have dialogue; but when something is your god, you’ll go to great lengths to defend it.

While I don’t agree with most of his viewpoints, Bill Maher said something that completely makes sense.

“New rule: If you’re a Christian who supports killing your enemies and torture, you have to come up with a new name for yourself…”

If we say we love Jesus, let’s start acting like followers. The world is waiting, and they can tell the difference.

Excerpted with permission from Jesus > Religion by Jefferson Bethke, copyright Thomas Nelson.

When You Believe in God But Still Worry All The Time!

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When You Believe in God But Still Worry All The Time
by Craig Groeschel

Matthew 6:27
When Worry Is not Your Friend

Worry (or not trusting God) has been a significant issue in my life. Although I believe in God, I’ve trusted more in my own abilities than I have in His faithfulness.

For Christian Atheists, our worry proves we don’t trust in God as we claim to.

We think, I know God’s a good God and all that, but I’ve got this situation handled. And when it turns out we don’t have it handled, then it falls to us — not to God — to fix it.

Worry reminds me of my feelings about snakes. I hate snakes. I hate them worse than Indiana Jones does. It was a serpent that seduced all of mankind into the fall, after all. Coincidence? I think not. Snakes in general freak me out, but bringing venomous vipers into the equation adds another diabolical dimension. My family lives in a heavily wooded area, where we’re basically besieged by poisonous snakes.

One day, when my son Bookie (whose real name is Stephen Craig) was about two years old, he was playing on our front porch. We were all doing different things around the yard when suddenly we heard Bookie squealing with delight. He was jumping up and down, calling out, “My fwend! My fwend! Daddy, look! He’s my fwend!”

I strolled over and asked, “Bookie, where’s your fwend? Is it an imaginary fwend?”

Bookie chirped, “No, Daddy!” and pointed excitedly.

“Look! My fwend!” And there, directly at his feet, was a small rattlesnake. In case you didn’t already know, a rattlesnake is not your fwend. I jerked Bookie away from the snake, then stomped on the snake’s head and crushed it — immediately after I first cut off its head with a shovel.

Many of us treat worry like our fwend. We don’t consciously think or talk about it that way, of course, but how we live tells a different story. We clutch worry to our chests like our favorite stuffed animals from childhood.

We have many different euphemisms to mask this sin:

“I’m concerned about something.”

“I have some issues I’m working through.”

“I have a lot on my mind.”

Using such substitute terminology makes me sound like I’m really smart, like I’m an important person with big things going on. What they don’t do is make me sound like I’m a worrywart.

But no matter what you call it, worry is still sin. In Philippians 4:6, Paul tells us not to be anxious about anything. Romans 14:23 says,

Everything that does not come from faith is sin.

That’s pretty clear to me. Worry is the opposite of faith; therefore, it’s sin.

When we live by faith, we believe that God has everything under control. But if we start to worry, how we live says the opposite. If we are worried about losing our jobs, we are essentially saying that our jobs are our providers. But isn’t God our provider? What if God has something else planned for us? And what if, as unpleasant as it may be to think about, the path to that “something else” is through some pain? Will we still trust in God to provide during that time?

Worry, in essence, is the sin of distrusting the promises and the power of God.

It’s choosing to dwell on, to think about, the worst-case scenario. It’s faith in the bad things rather than faith in God. 2 Timothy 1:7 says,

God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. — NLT

In this verse, you could also easily translate “fear and timidity” as “anxiety, tension, and worry.” Fear doesn’t come from God. It’s a tool the evil one uses to distract us from our true purpose here.

In Matthew 6:25, Jesus says,

Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?

The Greek word Jesus uses for “life” is psuche (SuE-kay). It doesn’t just mean your breathing life, the force that makes your body go. It actually means every aspect of your life, taken together in total: mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual. It means your yesterday, today, and future life.

Jesus is simply saying don’t worry about anything.

The Christian Atheist may do everything humanly possible to ensure a situation’s positive outcome, and still worry, I can’t just let this sit. I have to do more. But if we’ve honestly done everything we can, by definition we can’t do anything more. And in many cases nothing’s going to go wrong anyway; there’s really nothing you can do about a nonexistent worst-case scenario. So in our powerlessness we settle for the only thing left within our control: we worry.

Worry is a control issue. People are often obsessed with trying to control their circumstances. And while some things in life are within our ability, many things aren’t.

Just last night I sat on a plane, hoping to make a connecting flight. As we were grounded on the runway, time seemed to fly, chipping away at my chances to make my connection. Even though I had zero control over the situation, I glanced continuously at my watch, consumed with worry — as if my worry had any bearing on the outcome. (In case you’re wondering, after our plane landed, I could have given Usain Bolt a run for his money, sprinting across the airport just in time to catch my final leg home.)

Worry indicates we’re not willing to let God handle certain things — at least not in his way, and certainly not in His time. Matthew 6:27 asks a practical question:

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

I wonder how many hours worry has shaved off the end of my life?

Excerpted from The Christian Atheist by Craig Groeschel, copyright Craig Groeschel. Published by Zondervan.

Idolatry THE Issue!!!

 

 

 

Idolatry is huge in the Bible, dominant in our personal lives, and irrelevant in our mistaken estimations. — Os Guinness

Imagine a man who has been coughing constantly. This cough keeps him up half of the night and interrupts any conversation he has that lasts more than a minute or two. The cough is so unrelenting that he goes to the doctor.

The doctor runs his tests.

Lung cancer.

Now imagine the doctor knows how tough the news will be to handle. So he doesn’t tell his patient about cancer. Instead, he writes a prescription for some strong cough medicine and tells him that he should be feeling better soon. The man is delighted with this prognosis. And sure enough, he sleeps much better that night. The cough syrup seems to have solved his problem.

Meanwhile, very quietly, the cancer is eating away at his body.

As a teacher and church leader, I talk to people every week who are coughing.

Struggling.

Hurting.

Stressing.

Cheating.

Lusting.

Spending.

Worrying.

Quitting.

Medicating.

Avoiding.

Searching.

They come to me and share their struggles.

They unload their frustrations.

They express their discouragement. They display their wounds.

They confess their sins.

When I talk to people, they point to what they believe is the problem. In their minds, they’ve nailed it. They can’t stop coughing.

But here’s what I’ve discovered: they’re talking about a symptom rather than the true illness — the true issue — which is always idolatry.

CASE STUDY: No Big Deal

She’s a young woman who grew up in our church. Her family wants me to meet and talk with her. They’re concerned because she’s about to move in with her boyfriend, who isn’t a Christian.

This ought to be a fun one.

I call her twice and leave messages, but she doesn’t return my call. The third time she picks up. She knows why I’m calling and tries to laugh it off.

“I can’t believe my parents are making such a big deal out of this,” she says with a nervous laugh. I can picture her rolling her eyes. In her mind this whole thing is a mild cough and nothing to worry about.

“Well, I appreciate your talking to me for a few minutes. But I have to ask, do you think it’s possible that you’ve got this backward?”

“What do you mean?”

“That instead of making a big deal out of nothing, it could be that you’re making nothing out of a big deal?”

More nervous laughter. “It’s not a big deal,” she says again.

“Do you mind my telling you why I think it is?”

She sighs deeply and proceeds to give me her prediction of all the reasons she thinks I’ll produce. I interrupt her with a question. “Have you thought about how much moving in together is going to cost you?”

“You mean the cost of the apartment?”

“No, I’m not necessarily talking about money. I mean the way your family feels about it, and the pressure you’re getting from them. That’s a kind of price, right?”

“Yeah, I guess it is, but that’s their problem.”

“And what is this going to cost your future marriage?”

“I don’t even know if we’re going to get married,” she responds.

“I’m not necessarily talking about your getting married to him, because statistically speaking, you most likely won’t.”

She understands what I’m getting at, but I push it a bit farther.

“How much is this going to cost your future husband? What price will he have to pay for this decision?” She has to stop and consider that one.

I continue to count the ways that this decision is a big deal, because it’s costing her more than she knows.

“So here’s what I suggest. If you’re willing to pay a price, then this must be pretty important to you. It must be a fairly big deal if you’re willing to go through all of this.”

I take her silence for reflection, and I finally get to my point.

“When I see the sacrifices you are willing to make, and the fact that you are willing to ignore what God has to say about all this, it seems to me that you’ve turned this relationship into a god.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“A god is what we sacrifice for and what we pursue.”

“From where I sit, you have the Lord God on one side saying one thing, and your boyfriend on the other side saying something else. And you’re choosing your boyfriend over God. The Bible calls that idolatry, and it’s actually a pretty big deal.”

No nervous laughter this time. She confesses, “I’ve never thought about it like that.”

What Lies Beneath

Idolatry isn’t just one of many sins; rather it’s the one great sin that all others come from. So if you start scratching at whatever struggle you’re dealing with, eventually you’ll find that underneath it is a false god. Until that god is dethroned, and the Lord God takes His rightful place, you will not have victory.

Idolatry isn’t an issue; it is the issue. All roads lead to the dusty, overlooked concept of false gods. Deal with life on the glossy outer layers, and you might never see it; scratch a little beneath the surface, and you begin to see that it’s always there, under some other coat of paint. There are a hundred million different symptoms, but the issue is always idolatry.

Idol Makeover

One of our problems in identifying the gods is that their identities not only lack the usual trappings of religion; they are also things that often aren’t even wrong. Is God against pleasure? Sex? Money? Power?

These things are not immoral but amoral; they are morally neutral until they are not. You could be serving something that is, in itself, very commendable. It could be family or career. It could be a worthy cause. You could even be feeding the hungry and healing the sick. All of those are good things.

The problem is that the instant something takes the place of God, the moment it becomes an end in itself rather than something to lay at God’s throne, it becomes an idol. When someone or something replaces the Lord God in the position of glory in our lives, then that person or thing by definition has become our god.

So to identify some gods, look at what you pursue. Another way to identify the gods at war in your life is to look at what you create.

Remember your commandments.

First: no other gods.

Second: no making other gods to worship.

The profound wisdom of that second commandment is that anything in the world can be hammered into an idol, and therefore can be a false god, if misplaced at the top spot of our affections. It’s DIY idolatry: choose from our handy assortment of gods, mix and match, create your own.

When God gave Moses the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai, the people waiting below whined because it was taking so long. Moses had left his brother, Aaron, in charge, and the people began clamoring for a god to lead them. They gathered everyone’s gold, put it on the fire, and made a golden calf to worship. A little bit ironic, don’t you think? The very moment God was telling Moses about having no other gods before him, the people were down below rigging up a god.

From later in the Bible, here is a reflection on what these people did:

The people made a calf at Mount Sinai; they bowed before an image made of gold. They traded their glorious God for a statue of a grass-eating bull. — Psalm 106:19-20

That’s not a good trade. They traded the Creator God for a god of their own creation.

Are we really any different? We replace God with statues of our own creation.

A house that we constantly upgrade.

A promotion that comes with a corner office.

Acceptance into the fraternity or sorority.

A team that wins the championship.

A body that is toned and fit.

We work hard at molding and creating our golden calves.

I already hear what you’re thinking.

“You could say that about anything. You could take any issue, anything someone devoted anything to, and make it out to be idolatry.” Exactly.

Anything at all can become an idol once it becomes a substitute for God in our lives.

* * *
Forward to Friend

Excerpted

with permission from gods at War by Kyle Idleman, copyright Zondervan.

You don’t have to understand God

You Don’t Have to Understand God
by Craig Groeschel

When we don’t understand something about God, some people are tempted to discredit him completely. My friend Andy Stanley said, “You don’t have to understand everything to believe in something.”

In John 9, Jesus met a man who was born blind and forced to beg just to get by. Jesus’ disciples wanted to know whose fault it was that the man was blind: Was it his fault? Or his parents?

For some reason, it’s human nature to place blame. For example, if someone gets cancer, some Christian Atheists might wonder, What do you think they did to deserve cancer? If someone’s wife walks out, insensitive churchgoers might think, If he had been a better spiritual leader, his wife wouldn’t have done that. If a teenager is rebellious, hardened onlookers might privately reflect, If that kid’s parents had been more involved, this never would have happened.

People like to place blame.

When the disciples wondered who to blame, to their surprise Jesus answered,

Neither this man nor his parents sinned… but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. — John 9:3

This man had spent years enduring the hardships of a life without sight, and Jesus basically said that God would be glorified through this tragedy. God can have a purpose in our pain.

Just because God can use what happens doesn’t mean He causes everything.

God does cause some pain (Heb. 12:7 – 11 talks about God “disciplining” his children), but much pain — especially that caused by the sins of other people — is not caused by God.

He may allow it, but he doesn’t cause it.

That’s an important distinction. Recognizing this fact might still leave us angry with him (and I’m guessing he probably understands when it’s a person in pain). We learn to overcome this anger as we get to know God. And as we do, we learn how to trust that he is still good, loving, and wise in everything he does, even if we don’t know why things happen.

Purpose in Our Pain

Even though many things in life will always hurt and be unexplainable, God occasionally (perhaps often) shines purposeful light into our darkness. If you’re hurting right now, that might be difficult to believe. You might be in a place similar to where Michael and Andrea were when they lost their newborn child. Andrea begged me not to tell her that her baby died for a reason. In the moment, her objection to being given a reason was understandable, completely justified. But after a season of grieving, many find comfort in knowing that God can use even tragedies to bring about good.

In fact, Ephesians 1:11 makes a bold statement:

[God] works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will.

This is precisely what God did in the story of the man who was born blind. When Jesus saw him, He spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. That doesn’t make sense to our limited minds, and the man’s lifetime of blindness up to that point certainly wasn’t fair. But after washing in the Pool of Siloam, that man went home seeing.

This is the place where the story should reach its climactic ending. “Woo hoo! The blind guy can see now. Let’s throw him a party. We’ll eat cake and ice cream.” And there was great rejoicing.

But that’s not what happened. Jesus had performed an incredible miracle, but the Pharisees (religious leaders) wouldn’t buy it because Jesus had done it on the Sabbath.

Pharisees know: you can’t work on the Sabbath. And everybody knows: healing is work. Because they didn’t understand, they refused to believe.

After a great commotion, the Pharisees subpoenaed the previously blind guy to ask him some more questions. With blunt honesty and clear sight, he said,

Whether [Jesus] is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see! — John 9:24-25

In other words, “Look guys, there are many things I don’t claim to understand. But one thing is undeniably true: I was blind and now I see!” As a struggling Christian Atheist, I have my doubts and questions about God, but I’m thankful that just like the blind guy who was healed, I don’t have to understand everything to believe something. If you’re grieving, I pray that one day in the future, God will show you some purpose and meaning for your pain.

Life out of Death

On Christmas Eve in 2004, David Fox was admitted to the hospital. David was thirty-four and married, the father of one son. Even as David’s health declined, hundreds of faithful Christians prayed for him, believing God for his full recovery. Certainly God would heal this passionate worship leader, godly father, faithful husband, and friend. We were all convinced David would come home.

On January 14, 2005, David died.

David wasn’t just some guy at my church. He was my wife’s only brother. Losing him was very personal to our family.

To say that we questioned God would be a massive understatement.

Why would God allow this? Why would God take someone so young? Why didn’t God answer our prayers? What did any of us do to deserve this? Where is God in our pain and loss?

We grieved deeply, as you’d expect. The time at the funeral home was kind of a blur. I remember unlimited hugs from loved ones and unstoppable tears. I’ll never forget when David’s dad and my father-in-law, Sam, said to me, “Your children are never supposed to go before you.” Losing his son brought this strong man to his knees. I prayed that I would never know the pain of losing a child.

At David’s funeral, in the midst of our significant loss, we all tried to celebrate the good things from David’s life. At the end of the service, I invited people in the crowd to meet the same Jesus who had changed David several years before. We have an uncle we call uncle Blue. For years we had been praying that uncle Blue would meet Christ. The more we asked God to reveal himself to our uncle, the farther he seemed to move away from God. When uncle Blue accepted Christ at David’s funeral, we were all speechless. To this day, uncle Blue is a different person. His story is just one of many lives impacted by God for good — through David’s death.

Even though we grieved deeply and didn’t understand, God did something beautiful in our pain. God took our worst nightmare and somehow brought spiritual life out of a tragic death.

Even in the middle of our pain, or, perhaps more accurate, especially in the middle of our pain, God is good. If you are hurting and can’t see His goodness now, I pray you will one day soon.

 

Be A Blessing – By: Toryn Terrell

This evening my spirit was moved to compassion when I learned of a sister in Christ is struggling to eat. In this situation, I learned of the reasons behind this tragedy the harshest reality is that she is elderly and enduring struggle. Without getting into technicalities or even placing a blame on whatever the situation behind this tragedy, I have decided that not one more Christian is going to be hungry without doing something about it! We as fellow Christians must come together and be God’s hands and help! I refuse to sit and let another elder who is a believer starve! So today dear God, I purpose 20.00 to be used to help buy a few groceries to help! For your glory, God! Because you have given so much to me that I want to return in like manner!

Romans 12: 9 – 13 (NKJV)
9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. 10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; 11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; 13 distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.

Verse 13 is the key, it is to distribute to the needs of the saints, and extending hospitality to strangers. I pray today that you will find it in your heart to help meet the needs of others, especially to those who cannot help themselves. This is what God created us for. It is our duty and purpose to be a light to those around us that are hurting!
God has blessed you, now go be that blessing to someone!

Crash the party

“… I know exactly what would happen: a revival on earth and a party in heaven.” – Mark Batterson
Devotionals Daily

Crash the Party: Radical Repentance
by Mark Batterson, All In: You Are One Decision Away from a Totally Different Life

Meet Mark Batterson
Going all in means radical repentance
When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, He went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind Him at His feet weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. – Luke 7:36-38

When you read the Bible, don’t check your sense of humor at the door. If you do, you’ll miss some great situational comedy. And this is a classic. A party hosted by a Pharisee? That’s downright funny!

If ever there was an oxymoron, it has to be Pharisee party. Come on, how fun could it have been? I bet they were bored silly, feigning interest in pharisaical small talk about Sabbath law. No deejay. No punch. And definitely no pigs in blankets because that wouldn’t have been kosher! The party favors were probably phylacteries! This has “lame party” written all over it.

Then in walks this woman.

The Pharisees blushed, but I bet Jesus had a twinkle in His eye. He knew it was about to get as fun as doing some healing on the Sabbath.

For the record, Jesus could have healed on any day of the week. I think He deliberately chose the Sabbath because it’d be far more fun if He riled up a few religious folks along the way. And if you follow in His footsteps, you’ll offend some Pharisees as well.

Can you imagine the look on the Pharisees’ straitlaced faces when this woman makes her surprise appearance? They start coughing uncontrollably when she breaks open her alabaster jar of perfume.

And then she starts wiping Jesus’ feet with her hair.

Can you say awkward?

But she definitely made a statement, didn’t she?

This act of worship ranks as one of the most beautiful and meaningful statements of faith in all of Scripture. She risked her reputation — what little she had left of it — to anoint Jesus. She knew the Pharisees stoned women like her, but that didn’t keep her from pushing all of her chips to the middle of the table. She used her most precious possession — an alabaster jar of perfume — to make her profession of faith. And this wasn’t a watered-down, knock-off brand she picked up from a street vendor.

Break the Alabaster Jar

The alabaster jar of perfume was pure nard, a perennial herb that is harvested in the Himalayas. Half a liter of it, no less! And the jar itself, made of semi-transparent gemstones, was probably a family heirloom. It might have even been her dowry.

The alabaster jar represented her past guilt and future hope. It represented both her professional identity and financial security. Plain and simple, it was her most precious possession.

How ironic, yet how appropriate, that the perfume used in her profession as a prostitute would become the token of her profession of faith. She anted up by pouring out every last drop at the feet of Jesus.

Breaking that bottle was her way of burning the ships. No more masking of the stench of sin with the sweet scent of perfume. No more risqué rendezvous in the wee hours of the night. No more clandestine encounters at discreet places. She walked out of the dark shadow of sin and into the light of the world.

There comes a moment when we need to come clean. There comes a moment when we need to unveil the secret shame of sin.

There comes a moment when we need to fall full-weight on the grace of God.

This is that moment for this woman.

Why do we act as though our sin disqualifies us from the grace of God? That is the only thing that qualifies us! Anything else is a self-righteous attempt to earn God’s grace. You cannot trust God’s grace 99 percent. It’s all or nothing. The problem, as I pointed out earlier, is that we want partial credit for our salvation. We want to be 1 percent of the equation. But if we try to save ourselves, we forfeit the salvation that comes from Jesus Christ alone, by grace through faith.

Going all in means radical repentance.

You have to fold. It begins by putting all of your cards face up on the table via confession. A halfhearted confession of sin always results in a halfhearted love for Christ. Downplaying sin is downplaying grace. And it dishonors the sacrifice of the Sinless One.

What would happen if we mustered the moral courage of this woman, walked into a room full of self-righteous Pharisees, and revealed our sin unashamedly while anointing Jesus as Lord and Savior?

I know exactly what would happen: a revival on earth and a party in heaven.


Excerpted with permission from All In by Mark Batterson, copyright Mark Batterson. Published by Zondervan.