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!

The Last Christian?

“In truth, there was only one Christian, and he died on the cross. . . . What has been called ‘evangel’ from that moment was actually the opposite of that which he had lived.” — Friedrich Nietzsche

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 the threat is always there. It could always become true. That’s painful! And it’s not just how one man saw it. I think a lot of people see it that way.

Christians can change that now, just by changing how we do things. It’s so simple. We have to love, not judge.

It’s a joke how much we judge in the church. We judge other people. We think we’re better than other people. We think we’re better than others because we found Jesus.

Jesus wouldn’t support that way of thinking. No! Jesus would say, “You shouldn’t try to make yourselves look better in the eyes of others just because you found Me. That’s not how it works. You should love other people better because you found Me.”

Finding Jesus should help us love better, because love is just so good, man. I’ve seen the good that comes from loving people. I’ve been part of it. I’ve been there when someone does something wrong. They do it and then they look at me, as if to say, “Oh, you’re a Christian guy, you think you’re better than me.” They expect me to look at them wrong. They expect me to shake my head and judge them right there.

You know what? I want that to happen! I want it to happen because it gives me the opportunity to look at them and smile. And give them a hug. It lets me say, “I love you.”

When they see that I don’t judge them, they say, “But I just did something you think is wrong!”

And I say, “You’re right! I don’t agree with what you just did. I wouldn’t do it, because I don’t think it’s right. But that does not change my view. I love you. I love you so much. And I love your life! I hope that you will know the right and wrong way to do things one day, but brother, I will not turn my back on you. I love you.”

That heals the soul immediately. When you do that, people are blown away. They’re like, “Whoa, wait! That’s not how it’s done!”

Well, they’re right! That’s not how it’s done. We haven’t been doing it right! Jesus showed us the right way to do things.

The church’s calling is to love. We are called to love like Jesus.

See you Wednesday.

Can Christians Be Loved?

It would be so cool to feel like I could walk down the street and be loved for who I stand for. I wish that I could walk up to people and stand for Jesus, and they would not be wary of me.

That isn’t what happens right now! Now they say, “Oh, here we go, Bible thumper guy.” Or they say, “You know what, I hate you Christians because of how you act.”

Jesus was loved by the majority of the people that He walked around with. But His followers now are not.

There are times when people want to go to a Christian and ask for help. They have nowhere else to go! They’re struggling! They think, “Maybe this Christian will pray for me. Maybe he can help me.”

How do you think they feel when they go to that Christian, and instead of getting love and help, they get judged? There is immediate anger.

Of course they get angry. They ask Christians for help, and they get judged! We’re not helping them, we’re just telling them how bad they are. I confess, sometimes I do it. Sometimes I don’t access God’s Spirit quickly enough. I try to, but sometimes it’s too late or I’m too tired, or I just feel like getting mad. I’ve done it!

I also understand that there’s no room for that in the Christian life. Grace leaves no room for judgment. The only person that should be telling people how bad they are is the guy that died for them. That’s the only guy that has a right to say anything to anybody. No one else. And He didn’t judge us. He loved us. He freed us!

Sinners loved Jesus. These were the outsiders. They were outcasts, and their society called them evil. Sinners! They loved that guy.

This really intrigues me. I’m really intrigued by a guy that was so well loved. If anybody had an issue with Him, it was the leaders. Think about that. The people who couldn’t deal with Jesus were the same authorities that served His Father.

What if I had been like that? If I had been there, would I have been one of the people rejecting Jesus? What if I saw Him in the streets, healing and teaching, and failed to believe in who He is? What if I had avoided Him? What if I had judged Him? I’m afraid of that. I don’t want to be one of those Christians that makes people wary. I want to make people feel loved.

I’m trying to change the public’s perception of Christians. I think a New Testament Christian should be someone that walks in love, and simply loves his neighbor as himself. I crave to be able to look at everybody the same, to love on them, to be able to help and encourage them, and to recall at all times that this happens because His Spirit is in me.

It’s so hard to do, but I try to do it the best I can. I try not to judge. When I do, I try to replace that judgment with love and encouragement.

I think I do it better now than I’ve ever done it before, because I’m starting to understand these concepts. I’m nowhere near where I need to be, but we’re all in that boat. We’re all learning.

See you Saturday.

You’re Not Alone In Your Struggles

(Don’t forget: get your tickets for the September 14 screening of Heart of Man here. Get the powerful 7-day devotional here.)

Jesus told us, “Do not judge,” but this can be a big struggle, man. Big. If you try to just “not judge,” you’re going to have a really difficult time.

I wish I could look in the mirror and say, “I don’t ever judge people.” But I do! I don’t like this about myself, but I still do it.

I think sometimes we judge because we can be a bit cowardly, at least in certain areas. We don’t want to go to a guy and talk to him directly about why we don’t like him. We don’t want to dialogue with him about what we think he’s doing wrong, or how he frustrates us.

All we really want is to feel that way about him without having to do anything about it. We want to just look at him and say, “This guy is driving me nuts. He’s doing all these things wrong and he’s an idiot.” You know? We’re happy enough to just think these things and then walk away.

The problem is, we’ve just judged that guy seven or eight times, and yet we still want to think, “I’m a good person.”

The reality is, we can strive to be good people, but no one is a good person until Jesus is in them saying, “This is what you do. This is how you can be good.”

We all have demons hidden in our closets. We’re not going to get rid of them on our own. If you try to live without Jesus, those demons are going to frustrate you. If you continue to live just for yourself, you’re going to fail yourself. Every day.

Life in Christ is a good way of life, because Jesus is where we find joy. When I think about Jesus, I realize, “This is where heaven is.” My struggles in life are not necessarily going to go away, but Jesus is where I am going to find my peace. With His help, I’m going to receive peace in my struggles.

When you have Jesus, you have something inside of you that’s different.

That’s why Paul said, “Hey man, I take joy in my trials and tribulations. You know, I lean on God during these times and this is where I find the ultimate peace. Because I’ve found Him. And in Christ, I can have all things. When I have the Spirit of God living in me, I have all things.”

The key is to replace judgment with love. I can go around trying to “not judge” with all my might, but I’m still going to judge.“Not judging” is too hard, unless I turn to God for help.

When I am filled with His Spirit, then judging my neighbor is replaced by loving my neighbor. Not judging is so much easier when you do something in its place, like listen and help.

I know I’m going to mess up. I know I’m going to have issues. I’m going to struggle with my own problems. But with Jesus, I have someone to turn to. I have peace in the midst of my struggles. I’m not alone.

Can I be that way for others? More on that next time. See you Wednesday.

A Story Behind Every Face

God builds relationships of trust with us, and in those relationships, He heals us. He teaches how to parent our children the same way. How about if we do it with each other?

In case you don’t know the story, the Bible tells us that one day, Jesus rested by a well after walking all day. He was in Samaria, and lots of people in Jesus’s time had a pretty low opinion of Samaritans.

So when a Samaritan woman came to the well, she was surprised when Jesus asked her for a drink of water. “How is it that you’re talking to me?” she asked Him. And Jesus told her that He was going to give her living water. He said,

“Everyone who drinks this [well] water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst — not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life.” John 4:13–14

Think about that day. Jesus sat at the well with the Samaritan woman and told her all about her life. “You’ve had five husbands,” He said. “Now you’re living with a man you barely know. You have an issue with your self-esteem! Believe in who you are, and know that I am God.”

I can imagine what she thought. “Man, this guy has told me everything I’ve ever done, and He still loves me.”

That’s right! He loved her. He sat there with her at a well, and asked for water, and then told her, “Drink the water I give you and you’ll never thirst again.”

I think most of us hear about a woman being married five times, and we can’t help but judge. We also speculate! It’s pretty natural to do it. I mean, who has five failed marriages? There must be some kind of mess there!

But that’s not what Jesus did. He helped her. He said, “I know your pain. Five marriages adds up to five large wounds. That is causing you to live with a man whose name you don’t even really know. And he doesn’t know you. You’re just living with him. You’re trying to figure out some sort of security. And now you’ve got women talking behind your back on your way to the well, because they think you’re the town whore.

“You’ve got all these condemnations coming at you, but man, I just want to give you living water. I love you. I created you! I love everything about you.”

He looked at her and said, “I will give you living water and you will never thirst again. That’s what I will give you, because that’s what you need.” There was no judgment there. He just let her know.

What is the lesson here? Well, how should Christians help sinners? “Sinners” includes pretty much everyone, including ourselves. How should we relate? Should we box people on the ears with our Bibles?

Here’s an idea. How about loving on them? Isn’t love better than judgment?

How about trying to figure out why they are not living the way they do? Maybe, like the Samaritan woman, they are struggling with wounds of their own.

When you understand that, it will keep you from judging. When you <emtruly seek to understand the drama of a person’s life, and then love on them just as we see Jesus do, you won’t judge. You’ll figure out how to help them.

You’ll help them get that living water, the water that quenches their thirst.

The church needs to do a whole lot more of this. It’s changing, but we need to do more, because there’s always a drama unfolding. There’s a drama behind every face. Why not look at somebody and really see them? Why not ask them what’s going on? The answer will probably surprise you. It will probably reveal an opportunity to love on them and help them.

The point is to create relationships and provide help. When one of my sons is acting out, my initial impulse is to get angry with him. But I don’t. Instead I try to figure out why he is acting out. What lies behind his behavior? How does he feel? What story does he want to tell? What is hurting him? If I can fix that hurt, then the acting out stops.

That’s what Jesus did. He did it with the woman at the well. He did it with the prostitute. He did it with the woman caught in the act of adultery. He didn’t judge any of them. He even said, “I’m not going to condemn you.”

Think about that. Jesus was the only one that had the authority to condemn people, but He didn’t.

That’s why people came to Him.

When we can learn to do that, people will come to us.

Life in Trust

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:1-4

Thanks to my study time with the Truefaced ministry, I’ve learned so much about trust. Not only have I learned about the grace that comes from trusting others in who they are, I’ve learned about the grace that comes from trusting others with who I am. Not the person that I intend to be, always feeling great and never having a problem or a bad day. No, I’m talking about trusting others with the real, imperfect person that I actually am. The real me.

This has been a lesson in freedom! It’s very freeing to be able to be my true self, knowing that there is now no condemnation. Now I can mess up and not feel ashamed. Imagine: I don’t live in shame now. I live in trust. I mess up! And I live in trust.

Here’s what it’s like. In my close relationships, I say, “I’m going to trust you. I’m going to tell you right now, I am not perfect. I am a Christian man who will fail. I will mess up. I will have a bad day. Maybe I will cuss every now and then. I might snap at somebody, or show some frustration.”

Then, when that bad day comes around, or I show some frustration, my family and friends will say, “I know. I don’t think of you differently. I know you messed up. It happens. But it doesn’t change my opinion of you. I love you.”

That’s what trust brings to relationships.

Jesus is the reason that I can trust people with my true, imperfect self. Jesus says, “I died for you. I took all of that shame and I died. I did it for you. And then, I resurrected.” The Bible says that because of Jesus’s death and resurrection, we are made holy and righteous. It also says that the same Spirit that lived in Jesus now lives in us. In His Spirit, we are free!

With this understanding, my wife and I can look to each other in trust. She looks at me and I look at her, and we see each other just as God sees us: righteous and holy. It’s the same with my close friends. It’s the same with my children.

I’m imperfect. I mess up. But there is now no condemnation! In trust with God and my loved ones, I am allowed to be a saint that sins. Not a sinner that is saved, but a saint that sins. The two perspectives are completely different. When you live biblically in your identity as God’s very own creation, His very own precious child, then you understand how God sees you. He looks at you and sees you just as He made you. Righteous and holy!

See you Friday.

To Live is Christ

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. Philippians 1:21

I believe that there is something after I die. While I live on this earth, I live because of Christ. When I die, I gain the Kingdom. I gain heaven. I gain a new relationship with God, one that I don’t have here on earth.

But until that happens? I truly believe what Jesus said when He taught us to pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” We’re supposed to bring the Kingdom to earth. I live under that understanding. While I’m here, I’m an ambassador who is supposed to bring the kingdom of heaven to earth. And I believe that I can help do that. I believe that the Spirit of God helps lead me into areas where I can help.

The Spirit will lead you, if you’re living the lifestyle of Jesus.

That’s what the disciples did. They lived the lifestyle of Jesus. Jesus foretold it. He told the disciples, “Greater things will you do after I leave, because you will be empowered by the Spirit.” And after Jesus was gone, they were! And they did!

The proof is in the persecution they suffered. I mean, no one dies for a decision. There’s no way you can tell me the disciples were martyred, jailed, stoned, and beaten, simply because they were trying to get people to say they accepted Christ. They were hung upside down on crosses! Somehow, they were a serious threat. The reason is that for the disciples, conversion wasn’t just a matter of saying that Jesus is Lord. If that’s all we had to do, there’s no way anyone would have to die for it.

No, it’s the way they lived that was so dangerous. That’s why they were persecuted. They not only accepted Jesus as Lord, they lived like He lived. They taught, healed, and worked miracles. They served.

You see, then as now, servant leaders challenge people to become who they truly are — image-bearers of the God who created them. That’s what the disciples did. When they accepted Christ as Lord and believed that He was the Savior, they did not stop there. That was their starting point! After that, servant leadership was their way of life.They walked the walk — and then they died for it. They died for the lifestyle of Jesus. True life!

What was that life? It was life lived in relationship with God and neighbor, using the “love your neighbor as yourself” mentality. The disciples wanted to bring God’s Kingdom to earth. That’s why they wanted to live like Jesus lived. That’s why they wanted to love like Jesus loved. And that’s what they died for. They died for the lifestyle that they knew was right.

It makes sense to me. If I’m going to die for something, it will be something that I know is right.

I think the disciples knew true life. Paul said, “Take joy in trials and tribulations.” Take joy? How? How are we supposed to take joy in trials and tribulations? Who does that? The disciples did, because they didn’t find their joy in the physical aspects of life. Life for the disciples wasn’t hunky dory on the outside. It wasn’t that they were joyful because they never had anything bad happen to them. In fact, they always had something bad happening to them! Not a moment of life was free of turmoil for them. Read what happened! A lot of stuff went down.

Why did they do it, when it brought turmoil and tribulation, and finished in painful death? Why would they challenge people to live a life of Jesus, when they knew they would die for it? They did it because it was fulfilling. They had true joy. They had true happiness. They said, “Things may go wrong around me, but I know where my joy is. It’s in my Savior! I’m filled with joy, because I know what it’s like to love people!”

Now that’s the way to live! See you Thursday.