Tag: the love of God

I could have been a rock star

The other night I began watching a documentary about the rock group “The Eagles”. How and why they formed the group, who were the principal musicians, etc.

It was interesting learning how two ordinary guys, who weren’t tremendously talented, made it all the way to stardom.

It suddenly hit me.

I could have been a rock star.

I’m not pumping up my own heels, honest. So please, don’t quit reading.

Sure, Don Henley and Glen Frey were talented guys as far as your average Joe is concerned (no, that wasn’t a reference to Joe Walsh). But they were not the best musicians to ever find their way to a recording studio.

Somewhat like myself. Not the best, but possibly better than your ordinary run-of-the-mill musician.

I could have been a rock star.

I’m not looking at this “revelation” as something I wish I would have followed through on; even though, as a teen, I wanted nothing more than to be in a band, make tons of music, live a wild party kind of life, and become filthy rich.

Of course it never happened.

I got married at 18, and while I was developing my skills as a musician, and the desire to be a star was still inside me somewhere, I followed the path back to Iowa, then West Virginia, and eventually into the Kingdom of God.

Oh, I could have hung out in California like Don and Glen did. We were living in Orange County around the same time Don and Glen were introduced to people like Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne, and others who were instrumental in discovering and forming the group of guys who’d later become known as The Eagles.

I could have become a rock star.

But I didn’t.

And I’m glad.

God had other plans. And, like I said, I’m glad.

Just a few short years after getting married, the biggest thing that could ever have happened, happened to me.

I became a new creation in Christ. A child of God. An heir of God. A joint-heir with Christ.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV)

I don’t mean to infer those who are rock stars don’t know true purpose and peace. Not all of them, anyway. But watching the documentary helped me realize all the things God saved me FROM. I already had enough that God to change in my life without jumping into the pit of unimaginable wealth and immorality.

Yes, I still enjoy music. Actually, I really enjoy music. Playing, performing, or whatever you’d like to call it. It’s a part of who I am; who God made me.

I enjoy singing and playing in honor of the living God Who changed my focus those many years ago. Worshipping Jesus simply because He is worthy of all honor, glory, and praise.

As for the guy who wanted to be a rock star… well, I’m just glad he didn’t meet the “right people”.

I could have been a rock star, but thank God, I never made it.

Has God ever kept you from something you thought you wanted, even needed? You may want to praise Him for that.

“[God]… who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” (Psalm 103:4 – 103:5 ESV)

He redeemed me by keeping me from it, even before I ever started thinking about Him.

Wow!

If…

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If you’re lost

If your life is hopeless

If you’re to old to remember youth

If you’ve forgotten more than most people have ever learned…

 

If you’re worried

If you’d rather give up

If your toenail is busted

If believing has become a thing of the past…

 

If your heart is broken

If you cry yourself to sleep each night

If the one you’ve trusted has let you down

If there’s not even a snowball’s chance in hell…

 

If push has come to shove

If you’re lying flat on your back

If the fat lady has already begun to sing

If you’re finally ready to admit you’ve been wrong…

 

There is God. 

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28 – 11:30 ESV)

Utensils in the kitchen drawer

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Okay, so I’m a guy. I look like a guy and act like one, as well. 

I do, however, ask for directions (sometimes).

Around the house my wife will hear me asking, “Where are the BBQ tongs? Where can I find our meat thermometer?”

“Right where it was the last time you asked me, and the thermometer is right next to it.”

Oh.

Yep, I’m a guy.

I can figure out which cooking utensil I want to use, but I don’t always know where they’re hidden.

If I knew which drawer to open, I would. I’d be the self-starter, take the initiative, reach into the drawer and grab the utensil best suited for the job.

You know what happens when I can’t find what I’m looking for, don’t you? I find something else to use; something not really designed for what I need.

For instance, using a butter knife for a screwdriver. A big ladle for a hammer. An empty paper towel tube for a funnel.

Ones who designed the butter knife, gravy ladle, and paper towel tube had specific purposes in mind. When used for what they were intended, they work quite well.

Did you know YOU were created for a purpose? 

On purpose, for a purpose. God oversaw your development in your mother’s womb, placed gifts, callings, and abilities inside your spirit, and is just waiting for you to discover who you are, and what you can do.

For the glory of God.

Whether or not you have ever accepted the Lord’s call of repentance, He has already prepared a glorious position for you in His Kingdom. You’ve been created in Christ Jesus for good works.

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (Ephesians 2:10 NLT)

When you turn to the Lord, allowing Him to be your Lord and Savior, the exciting adventure begins. You become one of His utensils, one of His SPECIAL utensils; one He’ll use for SPECIAL occasions.

And with God, everything and everyone is special.

Oh, and by the way, God isn’t too lazy to make sure He has the right tool, the right utensil, for the task at hand.

What do you and I need to do?

Be where He puts us. If He wants us in the drawer with other utensils, then we need to stay there until He picks us out.

Realize the need to be ready; clean, functioning, and prepared for every good work.

Set our minds on things above, and renew our minds with God’s word; so we may prove what is the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God.

It’s great to “dwell in the house of the Lord…” But to me, it’s even greater to be one of His utensils in the kitchen drawer.

“In a wealthy home some utensils are made of gold and silver, and some are made of wood and clay. The expensive utensils are used for special occasions, and the cheap ones are for everyday use. If you keep yourself pure, you will be a special utensil for honorable use. Your life will be clean, and you will be ready for the Master to use you for every good work.” (2 Timothy 2:20 – 2:21 NLT)

How to face this strange, crazy kind of world.

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First off, at the end of this post I offer you some advice about how to face this crazy, strange kind of world.

Okay, on with the facts.

I just read where, a couple of days ago, the Target Corporation restated their commitment in allowing “transgendered team members and guests to use the…facility that corresponds with their gender identity.”

They went on to say, “Everyone deserves to feel like they belong. And you’ll always be accepted, respected and welcomed at Target.”  Full statement here: https://corporate.target.com/article/2016/04/target-stands-inclusivity

They wanted everyone to understand their stance on what many were calling “the bathroom bill”.

My mind is spinning, but my heart is grieved.

Why?

Because of the confusion which exists in many lives. 

Those who are confused about their sexual identity, as well as those who want to support such confusion and deception, regardless of the possible physical harm and emotional trauma many others (both team members and customers) risk encountering.

It’s one thing to have a sexual attraction to someone of the same gender. It’s unnatural. It goes against the physical and emotional makeup of men and women.

And, it is contrary to God’s original blessing and command to the First Couple.

“Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it…” (Genesis 1:28 NLT)

So although I am emphatically against same sex “marriage”, I can at least come much closer to understanding that level of deception (for that’s what it is) than understanding how someone could be confused about their gender.

Growing up I had a number of identity issues I needed to sort out (probably still do). Some I didn’t do so well at, but even though I was given a girl’s name, was told I walked like a girl, and had hardly any facial hair until I was into my early twenties, I always knew I was a guy.

Yes, I was confused about a lot of things; things like who to believe, who to pick as friends, and many other things teens can have trouble with.

But, and thank God, I always knew I was a male.

Always.

So, like I said, I cannot understand that level of confusion and deception.

But neither can I understand a major retailer, who claims to be sensitive to the needs and wants of everyone, showing such insensitivity toward their team members and customers who aren’t confused about their sexual identity.

To me their words are: “We care, but not enough to do the right thing”.

Men in women’s restrooms, and women in men’s restrooms. At one time it was only confusion, deception. How people dressed on the weekends was their own business.

But that’s all changed. Now, whatever a person thinks they are, everyone else is called upon to validate their feelings; accept them for whoever, or whatever, they want to be or think they are.

What’s next? People who believe they’re an animal or a bird?

Do I think men who believe they’re women should be made to feel uncomfortable by forcing them to use a men’s room?

If that’s all there is, why not?

How uncomfortable will women feel when a big hunk of man, dressed as a woman, comes marching into their restroom?

If it’s all about acceptance and comfort, why can’t Target and others remodel and create more private, “unisex” restrooms?

But maybe it’s not about that kind of acceptance. As I said before, I believe it’s more about forcing the public who ISN’T confused to validate those who are. 

“Yes, dear one; it’s perfectly normal for you to question your gender. Everyone does…”

Like I said, it’s a strange, strange world.

And it’s gonna get worse, before it gets better.

“…when you see all these things, you can know His return is very near, right at the door.” (Matthew 24:33 NLT)

My advice? Three things.

Pray, love people (even if you don’t understand them), and wait until you get home to use the restroom.

Do you only read the cover of a book?

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Hello. My name is Jan Grace. I’m a guy, and have been one all my life. 

You may think it’s an odd name for a man, but I’ve gotten used to it over the years.

People have asked me, more times than I can remember, if the name is short for something. I say, “Yes; Janice.”

Ask a silly question…

You might be surprised by some of the mail I’ve received through the years. As a teenager I’d get mail addressed to Miss Jan Grace.

When I received my GED certificate back in 1974 it read, “This certificate shows that Jan Grace has scored satisfactorily on her tests…”, or words along those lines.

Notice the “her”.

I had them correct it.

Just a few days ago I received four emails in my junk folder: one selling women’s boots, another one advertising Plus Size Women’s Clothing (I can understand the plus size, but really!), another trying to get me to buy a Genie Zip Bra, and the last one said, “Jan, You’ve been selected as a female business leader”.

Awesome!

As I read the emails, I couldn’t help but think, “They don’t know who they’re talking to.”

And I sensed the Lord say to me, “and sometimes, neither do you.”

Of course, He’s right.

On a number of occasions I’ve looked at someone and immediately known all about them; only to learn how wrong I was after spending time with them.

Remember that old adage, “You can’t judge a book by its cover”? Yes, it applies here.

Our cover, whether it’s our name, appearance, or associates, can reveal much about us. But it isn’t foolproof.

It’s not always accurate.

Yes, it’s faster and takes a lot less effort, to learn everything about another person from their cover. But there’s so much more to the story.

People who only know my name, and nothing more, know nothing about ME.

There’s much more to ME than my name.

And there’s much more to others than their name, looks, church affiliation, or even political views. 

Jesus said, “…for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:8 ESV)

How could He know such things? Of course, He is God! But also, He knows our story, He’s listened to us, watched us.

Why? Because He cares for us!

Would you like to help people? Would you like to show people you really care for them with the love of God?

Then get past their cover. Even if the pages are dirty and they make you feel uncomfortable, take the time to learn their story.

Because just knowing their name really tells you nothing.

Panhandlers, Street Preachers, and Jesus

I was certain the guy was in it for the money; trying to sell me his beliefs in order to get at my wallet.

I had it all figured out. Yep, I knew I didn’t need all the religious junk the guy on the street corner was trying to sell me.

Sure. I wasn’t perfect. Who is? But I was at least as decent as the guy standing in front of me.

Besides, the only reason he was telling me his story was because he was really just panhandling. He’d tell his story to those passing by, then hand them a paper, and ask for a quarter or some kind of donation.


Hey, I wasn’t against hitting people up for spare change. I’d done it many times; in Denver, Colorado Springs, and at a number of truck stops between Des Moines and North Platte. But I never thought of inventing some story to go along with it. What a great idea!

But I wouldn’t have used such an unbelievable story. Really! Some guy named Jesus, who supposedly lived 2000 years ago, who loved me enough to die on the cross for me. Yeah, right.

What? Did I look that gullible?

I was eighteen when the Jesus nut tried to get my money and convert me at the same time. Eighteen and full of knowledge.

It wasn’t the first time I’d heard the fairy tale. I think I was sixteen when a white-haired pastor tried to brainwash me. Oh, he was a decent enough kind of guy. He seemed to genuinely care for me. And he was a fairly good ping pong player.

But he was a preacher. At one point in his life he got suckered into believing the Jesus story, and now he got paid to talk about it.

I figured he wasn’t that different from the street corner dude. They both talked about Jesus and they both got money for telling the story.

But I wasn’t going to buy it. I was smarter than that.

Besides, my friends and the people I admired were looking at a different kind of churchy stuff. Buddhism. Buddhism and dope. I couldn’t see why the Jesus trip was any better than the Buddha thing, and at least with the Buddha and dope deal I’d get something for my money.

Yeah, the Buddha and dope people wanted money also.

I eventually gave up on the whole “religion” thing: Buddha, Krishna, dope, and spare changing.

I was eighteen, married, and employed. I didn’t hurt anyone, didn’t put anyone down, and believed everyone should live and let live.

And I could do that without any help from Buddha, Krishna, drugs, or Jesus.

Especially Jesus. 

But something happened. How it happened, I still don’t know. I mean, does a farmer know HOW his crop grows? He knows he plants, waters, controls the weeds, hopes for enough sunshine; but he can’t explain the how part.

Like I said, something happened. The things I’d heard from the white-haired preacher, the street corner Jesus nut, and a number of other Jesus followers began to take root.

Take root and grow.

Three years later, after moving to a different state and discovering there are Jesus nuts in other parts of the country, as well as in Iowa, I began hearing the Jesus story from a most unlikely source – my heart.

My own heart began telling me I was rejecting the only One Who really loved me. My own heart? Yes, my heart was convicting me, reminding me of just how evil I was.

Finally, after months of wrestling with myself and God’s word, I gave up. No, that’s not quite right.

I died. Not physically, of course, but the old Jan died and I realized it could have been me nailing Jesus to the cross. Because he took my sins upon Himself as He hung there.

I immediately became a new creation in Christ; the old passed away and the new started growing.

And still is.

That was over forty years ago. It still amazes me, after all these years, how such a perfect Man could love me enough to pay for my transgressions, my crimes against man and God; just so I could experience His love and life forever.

And believe it or not, He did it for you, too.

“But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all. He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:5 – 53:7 NLT)

“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun.” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT)

The love of God has been demonstrated, the work of the Son is complete. There’s only one thing keeping you from experiencing everlasting life.

Turn from your way (repent) and choose His (believe the gospel).

“But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12 NLT)

And you wanna know something? I’m not telling you this story so you can give me money.

Nope. I’m not a salesman; I’m a satisfied customer. 

What’s With All The Shootings?


I find it very disturbing, all these shootings taking place in my hometown. What’s going on, anyway?

Maybe there are too many guns on the streets of this fair city.

Maybe.

Perhaps there aren’t enough police officers on patrol.

Maybe.

And I suppose it’s possible that all these shootings are the President’s fault. After all, he is the man in charge. 

Maybe not.

It could Clinton’s fault. Or Branstad, Cownie, and maybe even Wingert, Des Moines’ Chief of Police.

It could be the pawn shops, the NRA, ammunition makers, drug dealers, computer hackers, or high school dropouts.

Maybe those doing the shootings are illegal immigrants.

If given much thought, I suppose a case could be made for blame to be pinned on the church. If they were doing their job, none of this would be happening. 

While we’re at it, let’s go ahead and blame God.

We’ve just got to find someone to blame!

But really…what IS going on? While writing this post I received a notification on my phone of yet another shooting, where 2 were found shot to death in their home.

What’s with all the shootings?

Could it possibly have anything to do with the condition of a person’s heart?

Perhaps if we take a look at what’s happening in society, yes, even in Des Moines’ relatively tame environment, we may come to the same conclusion the word of God gives.

Perhaps.

“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.” (2 Timothy 3:1-4 NKJV)

No, I’m not saying (necessarily or absolutely) that these are the “last days”. I AM saying these are stressful, hard to deal with times, where the pressures of life can build up inside a person until they feel like exploding.

And sometimes they do.

That’s when we read about it online, or see the police and ambulance next door.

What’s with all the shootings?

There’s no regulation or law that can stop someone from killing another, if that’s what they have determined in their mind to do. Take away the guns, they’ll use a knife. Ban all knives, and someone will use a wet pillow. 

Banning pillows isn’t the answer, either.

And I hate to sound like a pessimist, but until the heart is changed, the problem is going to keep getting worse.

History repeats itself if we won’t learn from it. Years and years ago mankind was determined to keep God out of their lives. That didn’t work at all. Ask Noah.

Nowadays mankind has become so smart, so bloated with pride, they’ve raised their collective finger to God and said, “Leave us alone!”

Society has been sold a bill of goods that looks something like this:

1. Life doesn’t really matter.

2. My desires are more important than yours.

3. As long as I don’t hurt anyone, it doesn’t matter what I do.

4. God is dead, or at least he should be.

Yet God’s Word says…

“Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days.” (Ecclesiastes 11:1 NKJV)

“They sow the wind, and reap the whirlwind…” (Hosea 8:7 NKJV)

“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” (Galatians 6:7 NKJV)

We, society as a whole, are reaping what we’ve sown. And it is impossible to have a law abiding society without the God of Life and Justice at the very center of that society.

“Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God.” (Isaiah 59:1-2 NKJV)

There’s an answer for all these shootings.

“Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.” (Isaiah 55:6-7 NKJV)

“If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14 NKJV)

Society may not change overnight, but it CAN change; one person at a time.

The Runaway

IMG_7991This is a story about a young kid, an eighth grader, who began running away from home as a way to cope with trouble; trouble as he saw it.

Relationships at home, problems at school; trouble with a capital T.

His first attempt at running away happened early one morning about 5 a.m. He followed his brother out the garage door (though he wasn’t seen by him) as he left to attend to his morning paper route. Three blocks down the road, however, the young lad chickened out as he thought about not seeing his family ever again. He had to sneak back into the house.

Running away became easier as the weeks and months went by, and by the time he was in tenth grade he had hit the runaway trail a number of times. He was never gone longer than three days before someone would either give his parents information of his whereabouts or the police would find him hitchhiking around town and take him to the juvenile detention center.

And ultimately back home.

Until he began his out of state travels.

Running away never solved a thing. It didn’t mend any broken relationships, and never changed anyone’s thinking. All it did was create and reinforce a terrible, destructive defense mechanism within the soul of a kid who was trying to grow into a man.

You know, once a person develops the habit of running away from trouble, problems, feelings, or whatever they can’t handle, running away becomes the default answer for everything.

The runaway found himself trying to escape life’s issues in many ways. Drugs, pornography (it’s a form of running away), music, perfection, attempting to earn affection and acceptance, and even by using a brand new faith in Jesus; not understanding the love of God is unconditional.

For instance, when the runaway found new life in Jesus, he thought at last others would accept him, too.

Wrong. The runaway found the wrong denomination. Not acceptable.

Unconditional love is foreign to so many. That’s why many have become runaways and choose to check out when life isn’t fair, or when they’ve failed to meet a loved one’s expectations.

When no amount of obedience or self abasing gains the attention of the runaway’s loved ones, off they go; hitting the highway, popping a pill, or finding acceptance with a group who really doesn’t love them.

Only uses and abuses them.

The runaway will rely upon that form of defense for their whole life unless they finally come to grips with the truth. 

Truth. The truth about themselves, and the truth about God and His unconditional love.

Themselves, because how they think of themselves is how they’ll respond to the various kinds of people they associate with.

For instance, some people simply do not have the capacity to love someone else “just because”. Some will only give accolades and applause when their need to be the center of the universe is met. Others can be nice to only a couple of people at a time, so if some are in good graces, others don’t have a prayer.

Still others feel the need to shove their perceived importance and power down the throat of others who don’t fall in step with their full agenda. With the slightest hint of wrongdoing, real or not, bullying takes place and the runaway is not sure what to do. Especially if the bully is supposed to be in close relationship.

The runaway lives life confused, upset with their inability to make the grade or make amends. 
That is until they understand unconditional love. 

The runaway I know finally came to grips with reality. He doesn’t have to do such and such, or be so and so to be someone special. He is special, because God said so.

The runaway doesn’t have to hide from life, afraid to show up lest he make a mistake and disappoint someone.

The Father’s love covers a multitude of sins, and His perfect love casts out, drives away, fear. 

No longer does the runaway have to rely on his evasive skills to survive.

Not with Father standing close by, always watching over His children.

In case you are wondering, I know what I’m talking about.

I have experienced Jesus’ words, “However, those the Father has given me will come to me, and I will never reject them.” (John 6:37 NLT)

I was the runaway.

Simple and Supernatural 

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There are a lot of people, especially pastors and evangelists, who want to “take their city for Christ.” They long to build a city-wide ministry. 

They attempt it by door-to-door visitation, prayer ministry, evangelistic crusades, healing services, food pantries, and the list goes go on and on.

I know. Been there, done that. I’ve even tried the “praying them in” while “calling to the north, south, east and west.” But you know what? I’ve seen very little church growth using those methods.

I am amazed at how Jesus can be both simple and supernatural at the same time. Natural and spiritual simultaneously. And for Someone Who’s not willing that anyone perish, at times He acted as though He wasn’t in any kind of hurry to get His message heard.

For instance: three and a half years of public ministry and He never once put together a mailing list. Yes, He had a forerunner, John the Baptist, but he wasn’t around for much of that time.

Jesus held some large meetings, but not because He had a huge following on social media. However, don’t let His simple actions fool you. As He said, “I have come to seek and save those who are lost.”

Am I saying that using a mailing list, or any other of the many tools available today is wrong? Not in the least. What I AM saying is Jesus did what He did without using those tools. And He was able to reach a city with the Good News of the Kingdom of God.

How did He do it?

Using John’s account of Jesus’ conversation with a Samaritan woman, we’ll see a Kingdom principle that will work in every community, every ethnic group, everywhere. And every person can, and should be, involved.

(I’ve included the passage from John at the end of this post…)

No one needs to be a bible scholar, teacher, or pastor. Not to follow Jesus’ simple and supernatural method of ministry.

Like I said, it is simple enough anyone can do it, yet supernatural enough to require our commitment to and faith in Jesus.

In order to get to the three things Jesus did, let’s first look at the six things He could have done, but didn’t.

1. He didn’t rely upon His “spiritual position” or “level of spiritual maturity.” He didn’t start out the conversation by listing all His credentials. No one really cares whether you are a pastor, deacon, or church custodian. People who need the Lord don’t give a rip whether you’ve been “saved” for 10 minutes or 10 years.

2. He didn’t declare a particular neighborhood, or a specific group of people, off limits. How did He accomplish that? He didn’t see Himself as a Jew. He saw Himself as the son of man, a human being. 

3. He didn’t focus on the woman’s past, positioning Himself as the One with all the right answers in order to “fix” her. People who don’t know they’re broke aren’t the least bit interested in being fixed. To them, it’s just someone’s agenda or ruse in order to score a “convert”.

4. He didn’t speak of things foreign to the woman’s experience, and use words only another God follower would understand. He could have mesmerized her with tales of His pre-incarnation days on earth, or maybe even clue her in on who the Antichrist will be. But that wouldn’t mean a thing to her, or to most people today.

5. He didn’t use the gifts of the Spirit (word of knowledge, etc.) as a platform to demonstrate His greatness, or to belittle or condemn the woman. The Spirit of God will always be present to uplift Jesus AND connect the power of God with the person’s need. Ministry, whether to an individual or a large group, is never to be like a vaudeville act or circus show.

6. He didn’t argue, but stayed calm and on course. Even when the woman tried to debate the subject of worship, He stayed with what the Spirit of God was showing Him.

Maybe there are some other things He didn’t do, but let’s look now at the three things He DID DO.

1. He listened to the Holy Spirit. This is why He “needed” to go through Samaria. Geographically, He didn’t. Spiritually, He did. Jesus didn’t get up every day asking His Father to bless His plans. Rather, He said, “I only do what I see My Father do”; the first and most important step in winning anyone, let alone a city, to Jesus.

2. He identified with her humanity by expressing His need for water. In other words, He was real. She was there for water, so was He. I don’t believe we need to go through our laundry list of failures and flaws, but we aren’t perfect either (though Jesus was).

3. He established a friendly, non threatening relationship with her. Simple conversation, filled with God’s compassion. Mercy was evident in His words, as well as a sense of true conviction. God’s Spirit will use our words to minister to others, if we have allowed our heart to be filled with a genuine love for His people.

As Paul said, “For the love of Christ constrains us…” (2 Corinthians 5).

Take a look at what happened after Jesus did those three things.

1. The woman became convicted, then converted. Finally, she became a champion for the cause. She couldn’t keep quiet about her encounter with the Christ.

2. The grace of God which enabled her to believe also equipped her to express her compassion for those who were in similar situations, as well as those in her geographical area (her city).

3. The city was invaded with the love and presence of God because Jesus listened to the Spirit, expressed His humanity, and established a friendly relationship. 

Imagine what could happen in your community if you’d follow Jesus’ example?

I imagine a powerful, God honoring, Spirit empowered ministry that would not require a church budget, coercing volunteers, or even a deacon to oversee the ministry.

It would happen because it’s simple AND supernatural.


John, chapter 4:

“Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. And he had to pass through Samaria. So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.

“A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

“Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

“Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” They went out of the town and were coming to him.” (John 4:1-30 ESV)

Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did. ” So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.” (John 4:39-42 ESV)

Forgive Thyself?

IMG_7174.PNGWe ran into a friend of ours the other day at Lowe’s Home Improvement store. A friend who just happens to be a counselor.

While my wife and I visited with him, catching up on a couple years of stuff, we also reminisced about some of our counseling sessions from 20 years ago.

By the way, this counselor was one of the heroes God had in place to save my life and our marriage some 22 years ago. Wow!

Anyway, while we were chatting, our friend told us about something he’d been mulling around in his heart and mind for a while.

I haven’t been able to set it aside.

There’s a saying that’s been passed around for years; when it began I haven’t the foggiest.

WHERE it came from I have more than a sneaking suspicion.

The saying?

“You’ve got to forgive yourself.”

Or, to make it sound a little more righteous and spiritually authentic, just use a little of the King’s English, “Forgive thyself.

You’ve heard it, haven’t you? Maybe even said it?

But is it true?

No.

Self-forgiveness is something concocted by the devil to keep us away from TRUE, GENUINE FORGIVENESS. 

Adam and Eve TRIED to “forgive themselves”. But THEIR covering could never prove to be adequate. It took something much more substantial, much more personal. It required God’s intervention.

You may find the saying on the Internet, but you won’t find it in God’s Word, the Bible.

Why? Because you and I aren’t powerful enough, or pure enough, to expunge or earn our own forgiveness.

“But what if we sin only against ourselves?”

That is impossible. Because even IF no other human is affected, God is.

Sin affects God.

God forgives sin, through His Son Jesus Christ, and we forgive OTHERS who may have sinned against us. OTHERS can forgive us, but no one can forgive themselves. 

“But I feel like I need to, because of what I’ve done in the past.”

Do you feel the guilt and shame over something you’ve done in the past? Have you asked God to forgive you, through the shed blood of Jesus Christ?

Have you asked those affected and offended to forgive you? Have you made the necessary restitution, if possible?

The “need” to forgive yourself is rooted in distrust and pride.

Distrust because God didn’t really mean what He said about forgiveness; at least where you’re concerned.

Pride, as your sin is far greater than the power of the Name and Blood of Jesus.

Yes, I really do understand the uncomfortable feelings of humility and the overwhelming sensation of complete brokenness because of how many people I hurt by doing something stupid AND morally wrong.

Sin has consequences, and some of them are extremely hard to stomach. 

If you’re in that very unpleasant spot, forgiving yourself is not what you need to do. You can’t.

What you CAN do, after you’ve made things right with God AND others, is this:

1. Remember the pain, humility, harsh words; anything that resulted because of YOUR actions. On purpose. Don’t whitewash them, and don’t try and throw off any of YOUR guilt. Own YOUR ACTIONS. Do NOT attempt to justify any part of YOUR actions, like “I wouldn’t have done what I did IF…”

2. Take your pain, all that you’re remembering, and mentally place it on the cross with Jesus. It may help to read some of the verses I’ve included on this post. It also might benefit you to read, aloud, Isaiah 53:3-6. 

“He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned – every one – to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:3-6 ESV)

3. Receive, by faith, again and again if necessary, the forgiveness JESUS purchased for you and I. You may need to pull out Psalm 103:2,3, reading it every day. “…Who forgives ALL your iniquities…”

4. Open your mouth and “confess” you are forgiven by God Almighty! Confession isn’t only about acknowledging sin. The word “confess” means to speak the same thing. The same thing as who? The same thing as God. When the Lord calls a thing wrong, or sin, then do the same. “This is wrong.” If you’re guilty of such a thing, confess it; “I am wrong.”

But when you’ve done that, and have asked God to forgive you, then confess His ANSWER, “God has forgiven me based on His Blood and His Word (then begin reading the pertinent verses OUT LOUD).

Here are some scriptures for you to read and learn. Don’t try and make do with a fig leaf. Get your REAL covering, AND complete forgiveness from the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world.

“Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins.” (Psalm 25:18 ESV)

“Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” (Psalm 32:1 ESV)

“Lord…You forgave the iniquity of your people; you covered all their sin.” (Psalm 85:1-2 ESV)

“For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.” (Psalm 86:5 ESV)

“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases.” (Psalm 103:2-3 ESV)

“If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.” (Psalm 130:3-4 ESV)

“…and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:12-15 ESV)

“…But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…” (Matthew 9:6 ESV)

“So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” (Matthew 18:35 ESV)

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32 ESV)

“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,”  (Colossians 2:13 ESV)

“Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.” (James 5:14-15 ESV)

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9 ESV)

“I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake.” (1 John 2:12 ESV)

 

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