Kindness and Deceit

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. (NKJV 1 John 1:8-10)

The consequences of denying sin are not good. When we fear that we don’t look the part of the good Christian, we begin to judge. We try to make ourselves look better by judging the motives of others.

When we start judging, we start worrying about the people we hang out with. We get anxious about our friends and coworkers. We even judge the people we go to church with. We judge them and on that judgment conclude that we have to be careful “lest we become like them.” (Prov. 26:4)

We might even try to control the people in our lives. That’s also part of our denial. We want to control other people so that we can control how we react to them. We’re afraid of our reactions. We’re afraid to appear sinful.

Some Christians are afraid to let their kids hang out with non-Christians kids, because those kids may not see things the same way. Non-Christian kids might teach Christian kids the wrong stuff.

Well, what if the opposite happens? Maybe your kids will teach them things. Maybe your kid’s non-Christian friends will go home and their parents will see them love and act in new and different ways!

Fearing people who are outside the faith looking in leads us to become judgmental. We come at them in fear and judgment, and it’s no fun. It’s no fun to be around anyone like that, Christian or not.

I think we’ve got the wrong idea about influence. I think you have to keep an even keel. Whether you have believing friends or non-believing friends, you have people in your life that you must witness to. You have lots of people in your life, believing and non-believing, who need you to be around them.

You’ve got to be okay with this. You need to be kind to everybody. You need to be kind to yourself! Kindness is a fruit of the Spirit, so you can trust that wherever you find kindness, you find Jesus.

We aren’t perfect. Our salvation did not perfect us. It made us saints who sin, and saints who sin have a call to lovingly bring the kingdom everywhere.

The consequences of denying sin are very serious, because they lead to fear. That’s the work of the enemy. Let’s follow Jesus to freedom! Fearlessly, and without judgment!

Why Are Churches Against Drinking?

Doing anything to excess is bad for you. If you eat too much it’s bad for you, because you’re going to get fat. That’s how eating becomes the sin of gluttony. But we don’t say eating is a sin. We say gluttony is a sin. That’s why we don’t say, “Christians are not allowed to eat.”

So why do churches say we can’t drink?

A lot of churches have a rule that drinking alcohol is not allowed if you’re a member of the church’s staff. I don’t agree with that. They are saying that if I’m a pastor, or a youth pastor, or some other member of the staff, then I’m not allowed to sit at my dinner table and have a glass of wine with my wife. Why shouldn’t I? Why do you think anyone should be reprimanded for that?

Of course if the pastor has a drinking problem, then his church is going to take some flak for it. And as James says, he’ll to be held to a higher standard. But the “higher standard” is not whether pastors should drink or not. Jesus is the higher standard to which we are held. Jesus is the highest standard! Jesus, who drank wine.

Some people say drinking is a sin because of what it represents. They say that drinking a glass of wine at the dinner table misrepresents the church.

Does that mean Jesus misrepresented God when He drank wine?

People also talk a lot about avoiding the appearance of evil. But why is it evil to have a glass of wine at dinner with my wife? There’s no “appearance of evil” in that. If I’m drinking wine and standing on the table acting like a hoodlum, then that’s different. That’s the appearance of evil.

Enjoying an alcoholic beverage with my wife over dinner has nothing to do with evil. That’s just your judgment, and it’s not appropriate for you to judge me. I’m doing nothing wrong.

I am only expressing my personal opinion here, but I think that when churches make a rule against drinking, they are living in fear of man, not God. They are too afraid of their reputations. They’re afraid people are going to think bad things about them. They’re afraid if someone on staff has a glass of wine, people will say, “Oh, those aren’t good Christians.”

But why would anyone say that?  No one is doing anything wrong.

Well, they say, the nonbeliever will think that you’re sinning. Again, I have to ask why. Why would nonbelievers judge me for drinking? They wouldn’t. They are nonbelievers. They don’t believe in sin!  Suppose a nonbeliever sees me having a beer and says, “Aren’t you sinning?” If that happened, I would ask, “Well, do you think it’s a sin to drink?” Obviously they would say no. So then I would ask, “Then why do you think I’m sinning?”

There’s no reason to say that drinking alcohol legally, responsibly, and in moderation is a sin. This is a judgment. If you’re not living in sin through drink, then you’re not giving any kind of appearance of evil. You’re not doing anything wrong.

Jesus is the highest standard there is, the King of Kings, God in human flesh! His appearance is the appearance we should reflect, in all our words and deeds. His appearance is the only one that matters. Let’s reflect Him into the world without fear!

See you Wednesday.

Loving Our Kids Through Their Sins

A lot of parents are scared of how their kids’ behavior will reflect back on them. They worry about themselves when they should be worried about their kids.

“Oh my goodness!” a mom or dad might say. “My son was drunk and got caught drinking and driving! And everybody in the church knows! What are they going to think of me?”

“Oh my gosh!” they might say. “My daughter is pregnant! This looks bad. What are people at church going to say?”

This really shouldn’t be the issue. Our first thought should not be what people at church will think of us, or what they might say. It’s unfortunate, but I think churches have gotten to this point. They need to check themselves, and put their hearts in the right place.

God sent His son Jesus to walk among us. That’s so we could see His image. He told us, “This is the image that you should show people. Love one another as I have loved you.”

This is not an angry image. It’s not a judgmental image. It’s not a condemning image. When Jesus walked the streets, He loved. He loved everybody! He hung out with prostitutes, drunks, gluttons, and sinners. He was called a drunk and a glutton because those were the people He hung out with. And when they brought prostitutes before Him and said, “What do we do?” He said, “Hey, that’s not your job. Your job is not to condemn anybody. Your job is to love and encourage people to get better, right where they are.”

That’s the image of God. That’s the image we’re supposed to reflect. It’s not anyone’s job to condemn our young people. Your job is not to say, “Hey look, you got drunk, you deserve everything that happens to you.” No, no. That’s not your job.

Your job is to talk with them, in a relationship of trust. Go to them and say, “Let’s get down to the actual root of why. Why did you get drunk and then drive? Why did you sleep with your boyfriend and get pregnant? What was the purpose of doing it?”

At the same time we need to love and encourage them. We need to help them solve problems as they arise. We need to ask, “What are we going to do next? How are we going to handle life now?”

We need to be with our kids. We need to offer our love. We need to say, “Let’s work through this together.”

The issue for the church is not reputation. The church is not here to be worried about keeping up appearances. We only have to do one thing. We have to say, “Okay, you know what? Your daughter is pregnant. Well, we love your daughter. We want to bless your daughter. We don’t want to cast judgment onto her. We want to cast blessing onto her! And we hope that her child becomes a child that oozes the aroma of Christ. Sure it was a mistake to get pregnant, but Jesus forgives. So of course we forgive. We’re going to help.”

Do you know how much better life would be if we actually got into the habit of saying, “You know what? Everyone sins, but we are not going to condemn anyone. We are going to love each other through it.”

I think you would find less and less people sinning out of rebellion, if they knew they were loved out of purity.

I think that would change a lot of things.

See you Saturday.

The New Country of Grace

So what do we do? Keep on sinning so God can keep on forgiving? I should hope not! If we’ve left the country where sin is sovereign, how can we still live in our old house there? Or didn’t you realize we packed up and left there for good? That is what happened in baptism. When we went under the water, we left the old country of sin behind; when we came up out of the water, we entered into the new country of grace—a new life in a new land! Romans 6:1-3

I blog a lot about grace, and I’m about to blog about it a lot more. I truly hope that the message of God’s grace will reach your heart. I hope your heart says, “This is it. This is what I need to hear. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is going to help me get out of my issues.”

His grace is going to help you today and every day. You might have messed up, but it’s all going to be okay. Jesus loves you and He smiles on you.

You, me, the Apostle Paul — we all have the same experience. We do not want to sin. It is not our intention to sin. And yet we do. We sin. How are we going to get out of it? It’s only by grace!

The church is an agent of grace. In church, you can hang out with other people that can honestly say, “I sin just like you.” It helps! People who have been where you are can understand what you’re experiencing. They can say, “I know that Jesus walks with me. He’s encouraging me! So I know He’ll walk with you. You can lean on Him. You’ve got to know that we are righteous and holy, and you’ve also got to know that sometimes, righteous and holy people act out of the flesh.”

Just remember what Paul says: grace abounds over sin. Because of Christ, there is now no condemnation. His grace will always cover our sin.

People challenged Paul when they heard that. They said, “Does that mean we can sin whenever we want? Seriously? We can just run around and sin, and there will be no consequences?”

And Paul replied, “That is not what I mean! I mean that once you’re of the Spirit, you will do things of the Spirit. In fact, you are living a new life now. You’re living in the new country of grace!”

That’s what Paul said. Through our baptism, we have actually moved to a whole new country.

In the new country of grace, you won’t want to sin. You’ll want to do the things of the Spirit, like love unconditionally. You’ll want to! You won’t want to gossip or tell lies.

Okay. At times, you will want to sin. After all, you still have flesh on your bone. That’s not going to change until Christ returns. So you might mess up. You will mess up. I know. I understand.

When you mess up, you will want to hide in your sin. That’s what the flesh wants to do. But that’s not what God wants. He wants to free you. His grace says, “Take my hand, and I will help you. We’ll expose your sin, because in the light, it will die.”

When you understand the grace of God, then you will know that you do not have to hide. You can go boldly before His throne in Heaven. Do you know what will happen? He won’t yell at you, or punish you. He will smile at you! He will free you! He will say, “My child, I don’t see that sin. I see you for who you are.”

Then He’ll point out all the good in your life. He’ll show you all the good of who you are. He’ll say, “This is your heart! Your heart is good! This is who you are! I want you to see yourself as I see you.”

God is with you, so don’t be afraid. Build your home in the new country of grace. When you sin, He will be right beside you, and He will restore you. He has made you, and you are good.

See you Friday.

Prosperity in Christ

The Lord your God will make you abound in all the work of your hand, in the fruit of your body, in the increase of your livestock, and in the produce of your land for good. For the Lord will again rejoice over you for good as He rejoiced over your fathers… (Deuteronomy 30:9)

It is God’s will to prosper us. The Bible is clear on this point. But sometimes, people hear that if they get saved, then Bam! They’re healthy! They’re wealthy! Everything’s okay!

It’s unfortunate that this misconception is out there, because it can wound the newly converted. When they don’t immediately prosper, they lose hope. “Well, obviously there’s no God,” they say. “See? Nothing’s different. They said I was going to prosper and be wealthy, but my life is just as bad as it was before.”

Don’t lose hope! The change you want doesn’t always come right away. There’s more to the lifestyle of Jesus than taking that first step. Yes, you start by loving Jesus. Yes, you embrace what He stands for. Yes, you accept His sacrifice for you. But the time still comes when you have to figure out who you want to be in Christ. You have a decision to make.

God calls all kinds of people. There are the Pauls in Christ and the Peters in Christ. The Doubting Thomases are in Christ. There are the Marthas in Christ, and the Marys, the Davids, the Josephs, and the Joshuas. They all represent a different skill set in Christ. The church needs all of us.

The Bible says we’re all part of the body of Christ. Some are teachers. Some are preachers. Some are evangelists. Some are counselors. They’re different people, just like the parts of the body are different. (1 Corinthians 12:4-12) Everybody can be who they want to be in Christ. There are so many different skills sets in the world. We all come together to make the church body work.

But you have to figure it out. You have to ask. And once He shows you, you have to commit. You have to be truly open to becoming the person you’re going to be in Christ.

It can be hard to figure it out, and it can even be scary. Once you open yourself to God, there’s a fire you have to go through. God doesn’t allow you just be whoever you want to be. You have to become who you want to be, in Christ.

That’s why people are fearful of saying, “Okay, I’m ready. Make me who you need me to be.” I understand! I don’t wish trials and tribulations on anybody. I’ve heard people say that they look forward to the fire. They say, “I welcome the trials and tribulations, because I know I need them to get to my next level.” Well, good for you, buddy! I don’t look forward to the fire. I know that when I come out of it, I’m going to be better. But I’m not looking forward to going through it.

Paul said, “Be joyful in trials and tribulations because it makes your faith stronger.” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10) For me, this means that I can try to find joy in the midst of trials. I can ask God to give me joy while I’m going through the fire. He will. I know He will! So I’m confident that even in times of trial and tribulation, I will be able to “be joyful.” But this definitely does not mean that I can’t wait for my next trial!

Whether you’re wary of the  fire or not, God’s love stirs in your soul. It stirs and calls to you. So you won’t be able to help yourself. You will ask Him to change you. You’ll want Him to make you into whoever you want to be in Christ, fire or no fire. And when you ask, He takes you up on it.

This is a good thing! The fire truly does make you stronger. So when you’re ready, take this step. God has so much for you in the end. He’s only waiting for you to ask.

I’ll say just a little more on this next time. See you Monday.

The Appearance of Evil

Doing anything to excess is bad for you. If you eat too much it’s bad for you, because you’re going to get fat. Obviously gluttony could be a sin. But we don’t say eating is a sin. We don’t say, “Hey, you can’t eat.” So why do churches say you can’t drink?

There’s seems a common rule among some churches that if you’re on the church staff, drinking alcohol is not allowed. I don’t personally agree with that. You’re saying that if I’m a pastor, or a youth pastor, or somehow on staff, then I’m not allowed to sit at the dinner table and have a glass of wine with my wife. Why not? Why do you think anyone should be reprimanded for that? Because of what it represents?

I’m not misrepresenting the church. Are you saying Jesus misrepresented God when He drank wine? No!

People talk a lot about avoiding the appearance of evil. But why is it evil to have a glass of wine at dinner with my wife? There’s no “appearance of evil” in that. The “appearance of evil” is if I’m drinking wine and standing on the table acting like a hoodlum. There it is. There’s your sin.

Simply enjoying a glass of wine with my wife is not the same as drinking to excess and losing control.  It’s not an appearance of evil. That’s just your judgment.  And it’s not appropriate to judge me or my wife, because we’re doing nothing wrong.

This is just my personal opinion, but I think that when the churches make this rule against drinking, they don’t do it out of fear of God. They do it out of fear of man, and that’s not a good place to live.

I feel like the churches are too afraid of their reputations. They’re afraid people are going to think bad things about them. They’re afraid if someone on staff has a glass of wine, people will think that staff person is a bad person. They’re afraid people will judge the whole church! But that doesn’t make sense to me.  Why should anybody think you’re not good just because you had a glass of wine?  You’re not doing anything wrong.

The answer is usually, “Well, the nonbeliever will think that you’re sinning.” Now that really doesn’t make sense to me. Why would a nonbeliever judge me over something they don’t even believe in? Suppose a nonbeliever sees me having a beer and asks, “Aren’t you sinning?” I would ask, “Well, do you think it’s a sin to drink?” And when they answer “No,” I would say, “Then why do you think I’m sinning?”

There’s no reason for a nonbeliever to think that! It’s just a judgment. If you’re doing nothing wrong, if you’re not living in sin at the time of your alcoholic beverage, then you’re not giving any kind of appearance of evil.

The standard is Jesus. Jesus, who I think drank wine, is the highest standard there is. The King of Kings, God in human flesh! His appearance is the appearance we should reflect.

See you Monday.

Replacing Judgment with Love

Nietzsche said the last Christian died on the cross.

That is such a bold, yet powerful and piercing statement. Is it true? In some ways I feel that it is. And that’s painful!

It’s not just how one man saw it, either. I think a lot of people see it that way. Jesus would not want it to be true, so we need to do something to change it.

It’s a joke how much we judge in the church. Continue reading