Reckless Love

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In ancient times, and even today, there are two primary ways that TRUTHwas and continues to get passed down: STORIESand SONGS.

Any “This Is Us” fans? This show is incredibly popular. One newspaper wrote this about it, “[The show] should not be a hit… In a [television] landscape cluttered with…series that feature flying dragons, killer zombies, graphic nudity…and glitzy gimmicks… the series captures viewers with simple stories of three siblings….”  And people love it, because the stories in “This Is Us” remind us of our own stories!

People have been captivated by music for centuries, even millennia. We love music! By the way, God loves it, too!

Do you realize that there are at least 185 songs in the Bible? 

The first song in the Bible is a love song! When Adam saw Eve for the first time he burst into poetry. “This is bone of my bones… Flesh of my flesh…” Scholars are quick to say at the very least, that’s poetry. But some even say, Adam was actually breaking out in a song!

The first worship song in the Bible is a song called the Song of Moses and it’s found in Exodus 15. It’s a song that Moses and maybe his sister, Miriam, wrote after God brought Israel out of Egypt and then blasted a hole in the Red Sea. 

Interestingly enough, the last song in the Bible is actually a remix of the first song — the song of Moses (Revelation 15). The lyrics are slightly different, but it’s the same song!

The Bible is filled with music. The book of Psalms contains 150 songs, most of which were written by a guy named David. 

David was like the Justin Timberlake of his generation. The dude was an athlete, a war hero, a poet, a musician, a singer and good-looking. How does one guy get all that? 

David marked almost every significant moment in his life with a song! The Bible marks moments with SONG

Historically, people have always marked moments by sharing stories and writing and singing songs. 

We do it. Ever heard someone say, “That’s our song…?” 

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A few months ago, I heard a song that marked a moment for me and I’m hoping will mark a moment for us. It’s a song called Reckless Love.  Anybody heard it? We’ve been singing it at church for a few months. 

It’s one of the best written modern worship songs I’ve heard. One of the reasons I say that, is because the song actually combines the two ways truth gets passed down — STORYand SONG— and tells the STORY OF US. It shares the story of REDEMPTION

It’s MY story. 

It’s YOUR story. 

It’s OUR story.

Our story could be broken down into three simple chapters. The song breaks it down the same way…

CHAPTER 1: LOVED from the start. 

CHAPTER 2: BROKEN by sin. 

CHAPTER 3: LOVE that FIGHTS to make us WHOLE.

That’s the story of us! 

Reckless Love (Verse 1)

Before I spoke a word, You were singing over me

You have been so, so good to me

Before I took a breath, You breathed Your life in me

You have been so, so kind to me. 

—Cory Asbury, Caleb Culver, Ran Jackson, Reckless Love

That’s where the story begins. The story of us begins with the story of GOD— a God who has loved us from before we were even born and before we ever did anything to deserve it!

Some of you might think that’s just poetic license. “God [was] singing over us? Yeah, right?” But that’s not artistic license. It’s actually in the Bible. 

According to the Bible, before we ever did anything to gain the approval or favor of God, God was singing over us! 

One of my favorite passages in all the Bible is Zephaniah 3:17. It reads like this: 

The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs. 

That’s amazing! 

Some of us have never thought of God like that! We’ve thought of God as ticked off, angry, frustrated or upset. But Zephaniah says, “When God thinks of you, He delights in you with gladness.” You actually make God smile! 

When God thinks of you, He “will rejoice over you with joyful songs / singing (NLT / NIV)! He will sing and be joyful about you (NCV)! He will celebrate you with shouts of joy (AMP / GWT)! ‘Hey! That one’s mine!’ His love will calm your fears!” That’s your God! 

You may have never heard another person sing to you or over you! But if you could somehow tune in to the frequency of heaven, you would not only hear thousands of angels and the redeemed singing praises to our God, you would hear the love song of a Father who has been singing over you every moment of your life.

That’s CHAPTER 1 in “The Story of Us.” It begins with God and it begins with LOVE. CHAPTER 1 is “LOVED from the START.”

That brings us to CHAPTER 2. Chapter 2 and Verse 2 of Reckless Love quickly bring us back to reality. It reminds us of our INCREDIBLE BROKENNESS. Pay attention to these lyrics…

Reckless Love (Verse 2)

When I was Your foe, still Your love fought for me

You have been so, so good to me

When I felt no worth, You paid it all for me

You have been so, so kind to me.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that before we were followers of Jesus, we were actually foes or enemies of Jesus. We were enemies of God.

I love CHAPTER 1. It’s a great chapter. It’s beautiful. I wish the whole book were Chapter 1. 

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But the truth is, all of us have lived and some of us are still living in CHAPTER 2. It’s hard to admit this reality. It’s tough. It’s heartbreaking. But it’s real. 

Most people I know, including and especially me, hate talking about sin. But you can’t talk about the story of us without talking about this part of the story.

Romans 3:23 is a roundhouse kick to the skull. Just in case we think we have it all together, Paul smacks us in the teeth with this truth! 

Sin is serious business! Deadly serious. It has affected and still affects every aspect of who we are. 

It’s the reason we struggle with junk like paralyzing self-consciousness, overwhelming shame and guilt, blame, insecurity, inferiority, inadequacy, debilitating fear, emotional baggage, physical sickness, suffering, pain, aging and ultimately, death. All of it is somehow tied to the brokenness produced by SIN.

The second verse of Reckless Love confronts us with the reality of our brokenness and sin, but also reminds us that despite it, God REFUSESto give up on us! 

I love Romans 5:8: 

But Christ proved God’s passionate love for us by dying in our place while we were still lost and ungodly! TPT

That’s love! That’s RECKLESS LOVE

It’s what the chorus and bridge are all about!  They remind us of just how much God loves us. Once again, pay attention to these words. This is a description of God’s love for you! 

Reckless Love (Chorus/Bridge)

Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God

Oh, it chases me down, fights 'til I'm found, 

leaves the ninety-nine

I couldn't earn it, and I don't deserve it, still, 

You give Yourself away

Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God! 

There's no shadow You won't light up

Mountain You won't climb up

Coming after me

There's no wall You won't kick down

Lie You won't tear down

Coming after me!

Is that awesome or what?

The bridge of that song makes me think of Liam Neeson in Taken and the lengths he goes to in order to rescue his daughter from the bad guys! Liam is relentless. But his love for his daughter doesn’t hold a candle to God’s relentless love for you!

Dallas Willard once said it like this: “If you want to know what God’s address is, it’s at the end of your rope.” 

God refuses to give up on you! He will never stop believing in you! His LOVE will fight for your FREEDOM and fight to make you WHOLE!

Cory Asbury, and a couple of his friends, wrote Reckless Love. 

Someone asked Cory, “Do you ever get any pushback on the word, ‘reckless’?” 

I love Cory’s response: 

“When I use the phrase, ‘the reckless love of God’, I’m not saying that God Himself is reckless. I am, however, saying that the way He loves, is in many regards, quite so. What I mean is this: He is utterly unconcerned with the consequences of His actions with regards to His own safety, comfort, and well-being. His love isn’t crafty or slick. It’s not cunning or shrewd. In fact, all things considered, it’s quite childlike, and might I even suggest, sometimes downright ridiculous. 
“His love bankrupted heaven for you. His love doesn’t consider Himself first. His love isn’t selfish or self-serving. He doesn’t wonder what He’ll gain or lose by putting Himself out there. He simply gives Himself away on the off-chance that one of us might look back at Him and offer ourselves in return.
“There is no Plan-B with the love of God. He gives His heart so completely, so preposterously, that if refused, most would consider it irreparably broken. Yet He gives Himself away again. 
“The recklessness of His love is seen most clearly in this: it gets Him hurt over and over and over. Make no mistake our sin pains His heart. And seventy times seven is a lot of times to have your heart broken. Yet He opens up and allows us in every time.
“His love saw you when you hated Him. When all logic said, they’ll reject you, He said, ‘I don’t care if it kills me. I’m laying my heart on the line.’”— Cory Asbury, Interview with Steve Carter 

Wow! Wow! Wow! That’s the reckless love of God! 

It’s all about God’s reckless and relentless love! It’s about the fact that God demonstrated His love for us through what Jesus did! 

Jesus came and taught like nobody has ever taught. 

He lived like nobody ever lived. 

He loved like nobody has ever loved. 

His heart was captured for people like you and me.

You’ve heard this expression in a popular series of movies, “life finds a way.” 

According to God’s Word, not only does “life find a way,” 

LOVE WILL FIND A WAY!

A Tendency to Accuse Others & Excuse Yourself

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Why do you worry about a speck of sawdust in your friend’s eye and pay no attention to the log in your own eye? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye. —Matthew 7:3-5 NIV / NLT

The Passion Translation reads like this:

Why would you focus on the flaw in someone else’s life and yet fail to notice the glaring flaws of your own? —Matthew 7:3 TPT

Jesus basically says, “You are pretty amazing… your tendency is to ACCUSE others and EXCUSE yourselves.”

And in Matthew 7:3, Jesus asked a powerful question, “Why? Why? Why? Why do I focus on the flaws in someone else’s life and don’t notice the glaring flaws in my own life?”

What is it in me that needs to find something wrong or inferior in you in order to make me feel good about me?

Why am I so critical?

Why do I tend to size people up and write people off, walk away and refuse to listen? 

What causes me to form all of these negative opinions about the people in my life and not see all the crap that exists in me?

Have you ever asked yourself why we’re so wired and prone to judge one another?

I think there are at least two reasons:

1.     We’re JEALOUS.

Some of us are infected with what I call a “POVERTY MINDSET.” If we see someone else who is having more fun, experiencing more success, enjoying life more, earning more money, posting better pics of their family or vacations on Instagram, then we immediately criticize, judge and condemn them.

In our minds, something good happening to them reduces the slices in the pie that are available to me. That’s a poverty mindset. And people with a poverty mindset, will unconsciously and sometimes even consciously judge other people. “If I can’t have it, neither should you. In fact, you’ve got to be doing something wrong, illegal, unspiritual or immoral to enjoy life that much.”

That’s a poverty mindset. It infects a lot Christians and non-Christians.

The mindset we need to cultivate is an “ABUNDANT MINDSET.” An abundance mindset chooses to want the best for you and to believe the best about you because it believes the best about God.

The first reason we tend to judge is because we’re JEALOUS, the second reason is because…

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2.     We’re SELF-RIGHTEOUS.

This one stings! But this was the virus that infected the first century religious community. It still affects people today!

Religion tends to lend itself to self-righteousness. Because religion is about what you’ve got to do to be made right with God. Religion always leads to pride and self-righteousness.

Self-righteous people dumb down the holiness of God and elevate their own holiness. They compare the strongest areas in their lives with the weakest areas in the lives of the people they judge.

Self-righteous people see all the flaws, mistakes, shortcoming, idiosyncrasies and sins in the lives of other people; but seldom see any of their own flaws, mistakes, shortcomings and sins. And, if they see them, they trivialize them. “Well, I know I have problems, but compared to them, I’m a saint…”

Self-righteous people are very rarely self-aware.  But self-awareness coupled with God-awareness brings you into an acute awareness of how desperate we all are for the GRACE OF GOD.

An important question to ask every time you’re tempted to judge: How much GRACE and LOVE has GOD extended to ME?

1 Peter 4:8 says it like this:

Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. —1 Peter 4:8 NLT

LOVE is EXTRAVAGANT in reaching out to others, but LOVE also keeps the circle SMALL when it comes to the habits, hurts and hang-ups of other people.

LOVE takes the posture of the ultimate LOVER!

When God saw his two kids overwhelmed with sin, guilt and shame in the Garden of Eden, in His holiness He announced the penalty for their sin. But in His LOVE He also made a way to cover and clothe their sin and shame!! That’s always the posture of love!

Can you imagine what would happen if we began to live this? Instead of 9 out of 10 people saying that the church is too judgmental, maybe 9 out of 10 people would say, “I’ll tell you the problem with that group of people! They’re the most recklessly loving, amazingly graceful and incredibly merciful group of people I’ve ever met. They didn’t treat as I deserved. They overwhelmed me with love!”

They would see us as people living out the reckless love Jesus demonstrated on the cross!

On the cross, Jesus took upon Himself the judgement we deserved, so that we no longer have to live in fear of judgement but can live in the freedom of His kingdom of love, grace and peace!

Matthew 7 doesn’t mean that we won’t ever address issues in the lives of our family and friends. It means that when we do we will always begin with a heart filled with love and grace.

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LOVE keeps me from sizing you up, writing you off and refusing to listen. LOVE means that I’ll start by addressing the issues in my life; and, when necessary, in humility, and with an attitude of LOVE and GRACE, I’ll share with you. But my purpose will never be to hurt you. It will always be to help you.

Does that mean we’re not supposed to exercise discernment or wisdom?

Jesus anticipates our question and answers it in Verse 6:

Who would hang earrings on a dog’s ear or throw pearls in front of wild pigs? They’ll only trample them under their feet and then turn around and tear you to pieces! —Matthew 7:6 TPT

Matthew 7:6 is about using discernment and wisdom. Jesus wants us to be discerning and wise. He’s not asking us to go “kamikaze” in our relationships or life. He’s not asking us to purposefully put ourselves in the path of people who will hurt, wound or run over us.

But He’s also saying, “Whatever you do, don’t become the kind of person who inflicts hurt, wounds, relational pain and heartbreak in the lives of others by leveling self-righteous criticism and judgments against them. I want you to err on the side of grace.”

But how should I respond if I don’t know what to do? What should I do if there’s someone in my life I truly love, but I find them doing things that could potentially hurt them and the people in their life?

Jesus answers it Matthew 7:7-11:

Ask, and the gift is yours. Seek, and you’ll discover. Knock, and the door will be opened for you. For every persistent one will get what he asks for. Every persistent seeker will discover what he longs for. And everyone who knocks persistently will one day find an open door. Do you know of any parent who would give his hungry child, who asked for food, a plate of rocks instead?  Or when asked for a piece of fish, what parent would offer his child a snake instead? If you, imperfect as you are, know how to lovingly take care of your children and give them what’s best, how much more ready is your heavenly Father to give wonderful gifts to those who ask him? —Matthew 7:7-11 TPT

Jesus basically says, “Before you share your insights with that person, make certain you bathe that conversation in prayer. Ask. Seek. Knock. Pray. Your Father loves giving insight and He’ll give insight to you.”

This statement from Tim Keller has been huge with me the last several months: “Every single emotion you have should be processed in prayer.”

Whenever we talk with God about the problems or challenges going on in our relational world, one of a few things may happen.

1.     God may change our heart.

2.     God may change the heart of the individual without us even having to talk to them about the issue.

That’s why, before you share your insights, talk to God. Ask for wisdom. Seek guidance. Knock for understanding. God loves giving insight and wisdom.

What should be the attitude or posture that guides my life?

Jesus wraps up this entire section on criticism and judging other people with a verse we commonly refer to as the GOLDEN RULE. It’s one of the most powerful passages in the Bible. I love the way it reads in The Message Translation.

Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them. Add up God’s Law and Prophets and this is what you get. —Matthew 7:12 MSG

In Matthew 7:1-12 Jesus isn’t challenging his followers to adopt a “mind your own business mindset.”

Here’s what I believe Jesus is saying…

Getting Rid of “Logs” and Living in Love:

1.         REJECT SUPERIORITY (Matthew 7:1-2). 

Reject self-righteousness. Become self-aware. The ground is level at the foot of the cross!

There was a time in your life when you were desperate for the grace of God. Before you attempt to deal with the shortcomings and sin in someone else’s life, make certain you’re aware of and overwhelmed by the extravagant grace and reckless love of God that reached out for you!

2.         CULTIVATE HUMILITY (Matthew 7:3-5).

Judgment is never a by-product of humility. It’s always a by-product of pride and arrogance. Always. Judgement says, “I’m better than you… I know more than you… I’m superior to you.” But Jesus said, “Before you attempt to remove a speck of sawdust in your friend’s eye, make sure you’ve removed the honking log in your own eye!” That requires humility.

3.         DISCERN WISELY (Matthew 7:6)

The fact is, your friend has a speck in their eye. Jesus doesn’t argue that. But have you removed the log in your own eye?

After you remove it, God may want you to help your friend with the speck in their eye; but be discerning. Diving into these kinds of issues without prayer, may be like putting an earring on a dog or throwing a set of pearls into a pig pen.

Discernment admits there might be a problem, but lovingly and humbly says, “I want to help…”

4.         PRAY CONTINUALLY (Matthew 7:7-11). 

Pray continually. Prayer often changes us as much as it changes the people in our lives. It’s difficult to pray for someone you are judging and it’s difficult to judge someone you are praying for.

E.M. Bounds once wrote, “Talking to men for God is a great thing, but talking to God for men is greater still. He will never talk well and with real success to men for God who has not learned well how to talk to God for men.”

5.         LIVE GRACEFULLY AND LOVE UNCONDITIONALLY (Matthew 7:12).

The presence of judgment almost always guarantees the absence of love.

Why? Because that’s the way God always responds to you! Always!  

So, the next time you’re tempted to criticize and judge, choose to respond with GRACE, PRAYER and LOVE.

Judges "R" Not Us!

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It’s not an overstatement to say that the church has a “judgement” problem. A big one, at that!

In fact, in a book that was published in 2017, a ground-breaking study by the Barna Group revealed that approximately 9 out of 10 unchurched people indicate that one of their greatest fears about “church people” — one of the reasons they stay away from churches — is the fear that they’ll be JUDGED.   Nearly 9 out of 10 unchurched young adults view Christians as being JUDGMENTAL, followed by being HYPOCRITICAL and ANTI-GAY. That’s part of our baggage and we often deserve it.

Judgmentalism is a really common “religiously transmitted disease." Just hang out with religious people long enough and you’re certain to catch the “judge somebody else” virus.

Let me be clear, judgmentalism isn’t just a “Christian people” problem, it’s a PEOPLE problem. Apart from grace, we’re all prone to put on the judge’s robe and drop the judges gavel on people in our lives that we don’t think quite measure up.

We judge the people we work with.

We judge the people we go to school with.

We judge entertainers.

We judge athletes — college and pro.

We judge politicians and presidents.

We even -- or maybe especially -- judge the people in our own family.

Judgmentalism isn’t just a problem you have. It’s a problem I have. Pastors can be incredibly judgmental.

In Matthew 7, Jesus addressed this issue of judging people head on. This may be the second most quoted verse in the Bible:

Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. —Matthew 7:1 NLT

People quote this verse that don’t even believe in the Bible!

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Anybody ever felt the sting of someone judging you?

Maybe it was over your appearance? You wear skinny jeans and your friend thinks skinny jeans are only for narcissistic people who probably have an eating disorder. They judged you.

Maybe it was over your political opinion or party affiliation? This swings in a number of directions.

Maybe it was over the color of your skin?

Maybe it was over a word you used they judged as vulgar or obscene?

Judgmentalism is the basis for all kinds of problems: racism, sexism, classism, and all kinds of other "-isms".

This is why Jesus said: Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. —Matthew 7:1

The Passion Translation reads: Refuse to be a critic.

Jesus said, “Refuse to be a critic. That’s not in the job description of a kingdom citizen. There is a judge and you’re not HIM! Don’t give in to the temptation to be a critic! You’ve got more important things to do!”

When I say the following names, what immediately comes to your mind?

Fergie

Nic Cage

Donald Trump

Katy Perry

Colin Kaepernick

Do any of you personally know any of these people? Has anyone ever had a personal conversation with any of those individuals? Anyone have a basis other than tabloid or actual news for making the assessments we all just made about those individuals?

MY POINT?

JUDGING is something we do almost EVERY DAY! We do it with INCOMPLETE and sometimes totally INCORRECT INFORMATION. We do it to other people without even thinking about it, but we HATE IT when someone judges US!

I love the way The Message translates Matthew 7:1-2:

Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. —Matthew 7:1-2 MSG

A BOOMERANG is a device that you throw out and is designed to return to the thrower.

Matthew 7:1-2 contains a BOOMERANG PRINCIPLE. Jesus said, “This is the way judgement and criticism work. If you throw it out, it’s going to BOOMERANG! It’s coming back! It may not come back now. It may not come back next week. But you can bank on it. The way you JUDGE OTHERS is going to set the bar for the way others JUDGE YOU.

For you’ll be judged by the same standard that you’ve used to judge others. The measurement you use on them will be used on you. —Matthew 7:2 TPT

If you’re going to be judged by the same standard you use to judge others? If the measurement you use on other people is going to be used on you? How do you want to be judged?

The first response, “Dude, don’t judge me at all! It hurts. But if you’re going to judge me, please judge me from a posture of love, grace and mercy. Take into account my family of origin. Take into account the past garbage I had to crawl out of on my way to this moment in time. Take into account all of the insecurities and idiosyncrasies I still struggle with. Take into account how far I’ve come. Take into account that I may not be all that I want to be but I thank God I’m not what I used to be. If you’re going to judge me, judge me from a position of love, grace and mercy!”

If that’s the way we want to be judged, Jesus says, “That’s the standard you need to use for the people you think about judging.”

The next time you’re tempted to criticize and judge, choose to respond with grace, prayer and love.

It’s interesting that the word “judge” in Matthew 7:1 is a neutral word. It simply means “to separate, pick out, select or choose.” We all have to make moral decisions and exercise discernment on a daily basis. That’s not a bad thing! That’s not what Jesus is correcting.

The kind of judgement Jesus is lowering a sledge hammer on is whenever we take a position of superiority over another person made in the image of God. Jesus is talking about our tendency to allow a kind of critical attitude to seep into our minds and hearts, so that we assume the absolute WORST about other people — about their attitudes, actions, words, behavior, etc. Instead of allowing our attitudes and opinions to be shaped and formed by the unconditional, extravagant and reckless love the Father has for us, we allow them to be shaped by our own fears, suspicions, insecurities and even the evil one himself.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m not walking in the Spirit, my mind can become the playground of the evil one!

It’s interesting that Jesus hung out with an incredibly diverse group of people. People who were nothing like Jesus actually seemed to like Jesus.

I think one of the reasons that unchurched, irreligious people liked Jesus was that they never felt judged, criticized or condemned by Jesus. Jesus didn’t look at the people who came to him and say: “You’re an adulterer… You’re a cheater and tax collector… You’re a hothead… You’re a know-it-all… Or, you’re a crook…”

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Jesus didn’t LABEL people. He LOVED them.

That’s worth repeating; Jesus didn’t LABEL people. He LOVED them.

So stop being critical and condemning of other believers… —Romans 14:13 TPT

That’s pretty straight forward!

Check out James 4:11-12b:

Dear friends, as part of God’s family, never speak against another family member,

Wait a second, Chris! Doesn’t it add, “Except when you feel justified?” Doesn’t it add, “Except when it’s really important?” Doesn’t it read, “Only when someone has offended you?” There are no caveats or exceptions. Read it again!

Dear friends, as part of God’s family, never speak against another family member,

This is important: you don’t have to say everything that pops into your mind. In fact, you’re growing in wisdom when you gain the ability to put a muffler on your mouth.

…never speak against another family member, for when you slander (we don’t think of it that way, but God does) a brother or sister you violate God’s law of love…  And your duty is not to make yourself a judge…  There is only one true Lawgiver and Judge…

And you and I are not Him…

The One who has the power to save and destroy—so who do you think you are to judge your neighbor? —James 4:11-12 TPT

I can’t be 100% objective. I can’t know a person’s motives and heart. I’m limited.

God’s job is to judge. My job is to LOVE.

Billy Graham said it like this: “The Holy Spirit’s job is to convict. God’s job is to judge. Our job is to love.”

Check out Romans 14:4:

Who are you to judge someone else’s servant?

In other words, “The person you’re judging doesn’t belong to you and isn’t accountable to you. They belong to God.”

To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand. —Romans 14:4

I love the last line in Romans 14:4. Paul says, “We’re all going to one day stand before God, and here’s what I choose to believe about you: You’re not going to fall. You’re not going to fail. But you’re going to stand. I choose to believe the best about you!”

QUESTION: Is that the way you relate to the people you’re in relationship with? The people you go to church with? The people in your office? The family member who regularly ticks you off? Do you relate to people based on your own suspicions and insecurities, or do you relate to them based on your trust and faith in God’s ability to finish the work He has started in their lives?

Don’t bad-mouth each other, friends. It’s God’s Word, his Message, his Royal Rule, that takes a beating in that kind of talk. You’re supposed to be honoring the Message, not writing graffiti all over it. God is in charge of deciding human destiny. Who do you think you are to meddle in the destiny of others? —James 4:11-12 MSG

Anybody think the Bible is serious about the way we tend to size people up and write people off?

Seven Signs That You Are Judging Others:

1. You’re more enraged at someone else’s sin than you are embarrassed by your own.

2. You refuse to forgive or when you forgive you refuse to forget.

3. You size people up and cut them off when they disagree with you. “We can’t be friends if we disagree.” But the biblical pattern is that we’re called to love the PERSON more than we love our POSITION.

4. You refuse to receive correction.

5. You refuse to provide correction to a close friend in an attitude of love.

6. You share gossip. You involve people in a problem who aren’t part of the problem and can’t be part of the solution.

7. You write people off as hopeless. 

Remember: The next time you’re tempted to criticize and judge, choose to respond with GRACE, PRAYER and LOVE.

Loved People Love People

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Have you ever read some of the stuff Jesus says and thought to yourself, “That’s just insane! There’s no possible way that’s happening!”

Matthew 5:48 is one of those passages! It feels overwhelming and impossible, to say the least.

I mean, anybody here think you have the slightest chance at perfection? Anybody?

That’s why I love the way this verse in The Message.

“In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.” —Matthew 5:48 MSG

This is the Big Idea I want to walk out: loved people love people.

Jesus told an incredible story in Luke 10 that demonstrates what it looks like when we begin to live out Matthew 5:48. Some people call it the “parable of the Good Samaritan.”

One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?” — Luke 10:25-26 NLT

Jesus was like, “What do you think? You’re the expert.”

The expert in religious law responds by quoting something called “the Shema,” a little section from Deuteronomy 6:5 that devout Jewish people recited daily and he even adds a passage from Leviticus 19:8. The combination of these two passages was known as “the great commandment.”

The man answered, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength (energy – TPT / muscle – MSG), and all your mind (every thought – TPT, intelligence – MSG).’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ “Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!” —Luke 10:27-28 NLT

Jesus responded, “Right on! You nailed it! It all boils down to this: Love God and love people! If you do that, you will LIVE!”

But Verse 29 is crucial to understanding the story…

The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” —Luke 10:29 NLT

The Message reads, “Looking for a loophole…”

According to one scholar, there is an ancient book of Jewish wisdom, and Sirach 12:1-4 tells its readers not to help a sinner. “Looking for a loophole…” This expert in law is attempting to create a list… He’s attempting to draw a line or create a list and put some people on the list who qualify as “neighbors,” and cross other people off the list who don’t qualify as a “neighbor.”

The idea that some people are “not our neighbors…” The suggestion that we should cross some people off of our “love your neighbor” list is the idea that Jesus is responds to.

And, like he was known for doing, Jesus completely turned the tables on this so-called “expert in law” and on every person who calls him or her self a follower of Jesus.

The question was, “What do I have to do to inherit eternal life?” In Verse 27, the expert gives an answer Jesus affirmed! Jesus basically said, “Ding! Ding! Ding! You nailed it! You got that right… It all boils down to this…”

“‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Jesus himself gave the same answer when he was asked the same question in Matthew 22:34-40. Jesus understood this principle: loved people love people!

When we love God passionately and purposefully, we end up discovering that God loves us! And it’s out of that awareness and the incredible security that comes from knowing that we are deeply and unconditionally loved by God that we are able to love other people!

Two principles that are absolutely essential if we’re to live out this big idea and the second part of “the great commandment.” It’s the very two things this expert in religious law was missing… It’s two things that we sometimes miss…

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1.     Learn to see as Jesus sees.

The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” —Luke 10:29 NLT

Again, it’s likely this expert wanted to create his own “exceptions list” and “neighbors list.” “These are the people that I’ve got to love, and these are the people I can take a pass on:

“The neighbor that ticks me off… I know they can’t be on the ‘neighbor list.’ They’ve got to be an exception.”

“That black guy who looked at my funny a few days ago. That dude can’t make my neighbor list… After all, I think he’s really, really liberal… God doesn’t expect me to love a Democrat…”

“Oh, yeah… That Muslim family that just moved in down the block… I know God doesn’t want me to put them on my ‘neighbor list...’ That would be so dangerous…”

“That girl I work with who is so ‘out there…’ Nose piercing, tattoos, weird clothes…  She even smokes… She’s got to go on the exceptions list!

“That Redneck who is riding ‘the Trump Train…’ There is no way he makes my ‘neighbor list…’

“That LGBT couple that lives next door… They’ve got to go on the exceptions list…

“Wow! My list is getting really, really short… This is going to be easy-peasy…”

Anne Lamott once wrote:

“You can safely assume you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”

2.     Respond as Jesus leads.

He stooped down and gave him first aid, pouring olive oil on his wounds, disinfecting them with wine, and bandaging them to stop the bleeding. Lifting him up, he placed him on his own donkey and brought him to an inn. Then he took him from his donkey and carried him to a room for the night. —Luke 10:34 TPT

Look at how the Samaritan responded! This is the model for how LOVED PEOPLE LOVE PEOPLE.  That’s a picture of loved people loving people! It’s what we’re supposed to do.  When we see as Jesus sees we will respond as Jesus leads.

This Samaritan demonstrates three ways God wants us to love people… three ways loved people love people.

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1.     Get down and dirty.

He stooped down and gave him first aid, pouring olive oil on his wounds, disinfecting them with wine, and bandaging them to stop the bleeding. Lifting him up, he placed him on his own donkey and brought him to an inn. Then he took him from his donkey and carried him to a room for the night. —Luke 10:34 TPT

God has called everyone to get down and dirty when it comes to the way we love people. And what I mean by, “get down,” is that real ministry will require us to stop what we are doing, “stoop down” and get involved in the dirt and grime of people’s ordinary and real lives.

Henri Nouwen calls this “the ministry of interruptions.” He once wrote: “My whole life I have been complaining that my work was constantly interrupted, until I discovered the interruptions were my work.”

2.     Lift them up and lead them to healing and wholeness.

This story is so beautiful! The Samaritan went to this wounded man and applied two things to this guy’s wounds. He applied “oil and wine.”

Both were agents of healing in the first century, but in the Bible, oil is almost always a symbol of the Holy Spirit; and wine, which is used in Holy Communion, is a symbol of the blood of Jesus or the finished work of the cross.

Have you ever wondered, “What do I have to offer this world?” The answer is right there! It’s simple!

If you’ve been an object of God’s extravagant love and amazing grace what you have to offer the world is exactly what the world desperately needs! Because you can offer this world the healing and wholeness that is made possible through the cross, and, the freedom, grace and power that comes through the Holy Spirit!

3.     Live generously and graciously!  Become a partner with what God is doing in your church and world.

The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’ — Luke 10:35 NLT

Loved people loving people will always cost you something!

Here’s the definition for love we’ve been using:

Love is the willing self-sacrifice for the good of another person that doesn’t depend on the person deserving it or ever repaying it.

Love will always cost you something…

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It will cost you time…

It will cost you money…

It will cost you energy and effort…

It will cost you blood and sweat…

It will cost you your pride, status and position…

It might even cost you your reputation…

It will almost always cost you your comfort…

Jesus wraps up the story like this:

So, now, tell me, which one of the three men who saw the wounded man proved to be the true neighbor?” The religious scholar responded, “The one who demonstrated kindness and mercy.”

Jesus said, “You must go and do the same as he.” —Luke 10:36-38 TPT

In other words, “Go and be like the person nobody thought God could use. Go and demonstrate kindness and mercy.”

Don't Miss Your Moment

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Yesterday's worship experiences at a2 Church were simply incredible! Both the 9 + 10:45 am, respectively.

But at 10:45 am, God chose to “divinely interrupt” “our” plan with His plan, and it was breathtaking, amazing, incredible and unforgettable. Wow! Words fail...

Even as I write these words I still sense a deep awareness of God's presence. I'm also leaning into a word God gave my wife this morning through one of our prayer team members.

John 20 describes a remarkable event in the lives of some of the first century followers of Jesus. It's right after the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. It’s Sunday evening and some of Jesus’ followers were gathered together when all of a sudden, Jesus was standing with them in the room. He was there.

I’m certain His physical presence was every bit as real, if not more so, as what we experienced this morning.

Jesus looked at this group of believers and said, “Peace to you. Just as the Father sent me, I am sending you.” Then “...He took a deep breath and breathed or blew on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (John 20:21-23).

Can you imagine what that moment must have been like? Talk about breathtaking, amazing, incredible and unforgettable? We can't even begin to fathom that moment.

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But according to the text, one guy somehow missed this gathering of believers. Thomas failed to show up. He wasn't there... And sadly, he missed a moment.

Maybe he just got busy. Maybe he had some important things to do at home, on his old job, or with a group friends. Maybe he scheduled himself to work that day or had an appointment.

But for whatever reason, He missed a moment! He missed Jesus in the room! He missed Jesus saying, “Peace to you. As the Father sent me, I'm sending you...”

He missed Jesus breathing or blowing on the disciples, which is so similar to God breathing life into a lifeless lump of clay in Genesis 1-2. He missed Jesus saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

He missed what likely became an unforgettable moment for all the followers of Jesus who were in that room.

This morning’s experience and that passage from John 20 got me to thinking...

How many “moments” do we miss when we get “casual” and “complacent” when it comes to the gathering together of the believers for worship? Whether it's Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday morning prayer, a Life Group, you name it.

God may have planned or designed an encounter for us that would be a defining moment in our lives. But we missed it! And sometimes we may never get those missed moments back!

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Please understand... I'm aware... All of us have busy lives. All of us need to spend time with friends and family. All of us should enjoy a vacation free from guilt or shame. I’m not attempting to foster an attitude of legalism about how often you attend worship.

But I also want to challenge a complacency that exists among many believers about gathering together with the body of Christ! When you’re not on vacation... When you’re not engaged in a life-giving activity with your family... When at all possible, make worship with your church family a priority! Make it a big priority!

Because you never know when Jesus may “call an audible,” and “divinely interrupt” your planned gathering, to “breath on his people” and say, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

I don’t want to miss a moment. In the words of Aerosmith, “I don’t want to miss a thing...”

In fact, I’m already pumped about next Sunday! I’m also pumped about Wednesday morning and Thursday noon Life Group...

Until then, this week I'll be singing my current favorite song:

“Your faithfulness will never let me down.

I'm confident I'll see Your goodness now.

I know You hear my heart, I'm singing out.

There's nothing that can stop your goodness now.

I'm gonna catch the wind.” —Jonathan David and Melissa Helser

 

Don't miss your moment! 

God of Miracles: Part 2 – God Still Does Miracles

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About 15 years ago I was present in a Palm Beach Gardens Hospital Waiting Room when a compassionate doctor looked at a woman named Betty Royals and indicated that her son’s vital organs were systematically shutting down.  Joe was about 40 years old at the time.  The outlook for his recovery was not positive. We were there to prepare the family for Joe’s passing.

But instead of waiting on death, the church decided to pray! We began to ask God for Joe’s healing, claiming promises from God’s Word!

God miraculously turned that situation around.  In fact, just a few days later, I walked into Joe’s hospital room, just before he was to be released from the hospital.  The doctor had just walked out.

She looked at Joe and said, “I’ve shared your file with a number of my professional colleagues…” She was not a person of faith.  In fact, she said, “Mr. Royals, we all agree, your turn around is really without explanation.”  Then this physician – with no claims to faith – looked at Joe and said, “All I can say is that you are a miracle.”

“…you are a miracle.”

God has the power to heal.

Exodus 23:25-26 contains just one of dozens of promises for healing contained in your Bible. This is God’s promise!

God: “…I’ll get rid of the sickness among you; there won’t be any miscarriages nor barren women in your land. I’ll make sure you live full and complete lives.” —Exodus 23:25-26 MSG

Sometimes we’re so cautious to claim these kinds of promises, because all of us have witnessed good people who did miscarry…

Good people who did become sick, not only sick but chronically sick…

Good people who currently aren’t living “full and complete lives.”

Sometimes we don’t claim the promises, because we’re afraid we won’t be able to handle the disappointment that we’ll experience if things don’t change.

I can understand that kind of reluctance and hesitation. Our family has been praying for a miracle for almost four years. We haven’t seen it, yet…

We’re guarding our hearts against disappointment, but we’ve also discovered that we have to make a proactive decision every day to resist fear, resist discouragement and disappointment, lean into HOPE, continue to TRUST and BELIEVE the truth that God is always working everything together for our ultimate good and His great glory!

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God has the power to heal!

I get passionate when I say that not because I need to remind God that He is Jehovah Rapha, but because I need to REMIND MYSELF that Jesus not only carried my sin, but according to Matthew 8:17, Jesus “…took upon Himself our sicknesses and weaknesses. He carried our diseases away and made us well.”

Some us need to adjust our theology. In the Bible, healing and health are always described as a blessing from God (Ex 23:25-26). Disease, pain, suffering and decay are always described as symptoms or “fall out” from “the fall.”

That doesn’t mean that your sickness is directly tied to some “sin” or personal disobedience in your life. It means that this world is broken! We are broken! The healthiest among us are still broken! And because of that brokenness, these bodies get sick!

In the NT, Jesus viewed sickness as an attack or assault from the evil one. That’s why sometimes Jesus actually rebuked sickness (Lk 4:39).

Jesus always viewed sickness as an enemy. There’s never any implication that Jesus told his followers to expect sickness or disease as part of their “calling” or “ministry.” He never suggested that “sickness” was part of a person’s “cross to bear.”

He did promise stuff like persecution, slander, even martyrdom. But He never promised sickness or disease.

Acts 10:38 gives us insight into how God views sickness.

…you know that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. —Acts 10:38 NLT

It’s interesting that Acts 10:38 says Jesus “…went around doing good…” “…healing all…”

Did you get the inference and implication?

“doing good” / “healing all”

At the very least, Acts 10:38 implies that sickness, disease and weakness are enemies we need to resist and healing is something “good” God loves to do!

Please hear me, child of God… sickness, in and of itself, doesn’t glorify God. Yes, a person can glorify God in the middle of sickness, but it’s not the sickness that glorifies God.  It’s that person’s defiant, relentless and never-give-up-faith, their passionate love for Jesus in the face of seemingly unanswered prayer, and the holiness and character of their life that GLORIFIES GOD in the face of sometimes inexplicable mystery. 

Whatever you do, don’t resign yourself to sickness! Don’t acquiesce to it! Don’t yield to it, unless God makes it clear and writes it on a tree out in your back yard!  The same suffering and cross that paid for your sin, has also paid for your HEALING!

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God still does miracles.

In The Grave Robber, Mark Batterson writes about what always precedes a MIRACLE:

Everyone wants a miracle. But here’s the catch: no one wants to be in a situation that necessitates one! Of course, you can’t have one without the other. The prerequisite for a miracle is a problem, and the bigger the problem, the greater the potential miracle. 

 So, what is a miracle?

British Pastor and author, Andrew Womack writes, “A miracle is a supernatural intervention of God in a CRISIS situation.

What CRISIS has driven you to a point of desperation?

Maybe you’re desperate to…

•          receive healing for some physical sickness, lingering illness or terminal diagnosis

•          climb out of debt,

•          find a job,

•          become pregnant,

•          find a spouse (not necessarily in that order),

•          sell a house,

•          see God restore a broken relationship,

•          get new hope for your marriage and family,

•          turn your vision into reality

Regardless of what you’re up against, a MIRACLE is when an extraordinary GOD gets involved in everyday lives of ordinary PEOPLE to do extraordinary WORK.  It’s when a supernatural GOD intervenes, overrides and breaks in to your life with SUPERNATURAL POWER to do what God can only do!

Lord, I will worship you with extended hands as my whole heart explodes with praise! I will tell everyone everywhere about your wonderful works and how your marvelous miracles exceed expectations! I will jump for joy and shout in triumph as I sing your song and make music for the Most High God. —Psalm 9:1-2 TPT

What is it that you need God to do for you? What is the MIRACLE you are DESPERATE for? 

Mark 5 introduces us to TWO people who were DESPERATE for a MIRACLE. These two individuals couldn’t be more different.

The first is the prominent leader of a Jewish synagogue. His name was Jairus. His twelve-year-old daughter was ill and dying.

The second person isn’t given a name.  Names in the Bible are usually an indication of a person’s status or importance. But this woman isn’t remembered by her name. She was ANONYMOUS.  She’s remember by her PROBLEM.

When we refer to her, those of us who grew up in church with the KJV usually refer to her as “the woman with the issue of blood.”  She had been struggling with a problem for the last 12 years, and her problem actually went on to DEFINE HER.

After 12 years of living in sickness, isolation and separation this woman was emotionally, physically, financially and spiritually WIPED OUT. She was DEVASTATED.

“She had heard about Jesus, so she came up behind him through the crowd and touched his robe. For she thought to herself, “If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.” — Mark 5:27-28 NLT

What’s going on here?

Some believe that this woman was holding on to an ancient prophecy about the Messiah found in Malachi 4:2 that said this, “But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings.”

The word “wings” is the Hebrew word “kanaph.” It’s translated “wings,” but Jewish people believed it also referred to a prayer shawl and the tzitzi or tassels on the edge of the prayer shawl.

Some people say that the belief had developed that when the Messiah came that He would come with HEALING in his “kanaph” or the tzitzi or tassels on the edge of his robe or prayer shawl.

When this woman says, “If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.” She’s making a statement of faith! She’s saying, “I believe He’s the one! I believe He’s the fulfillment of Malachi 4:2 and I will not give up unless I touch the hem of his robe because I believe that today the sun of Righteousness has risen in my life with healing in his wings.”

This woman basically said, “I’m not going to sit here and wait to die. I can’t handle this isolation anymore. I’m going to Jesus. It may not be proper etiquette for me to brush against the shoulders of other people. It may be against religious law. I don’t care.  I’ve got to touch Jesus!!!!”

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That’s the essence of PRAYER!

The essence of PRAYER is “I’ve got to TOUCH Jesus!!!”

In Luke 8:46 Jesus said this: “Someone deliberately touched me, for I felt healing power go out from me.” —Luke 8:46 NLT

I love the way The Passion Translation reads:

Jesus replied, “Yes, but I felt power surge through me. Someone touched me to be healed, and they received their healing.” —Luke 8:46 TPT

This woman was healed, but almost simultaneous to her healing, Jairus gets bad news: “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?”    

I love Jesus’ response! Verse 36 says, ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”

Jesus walked into the home of Jairus. Made everyone leave but Jairus, his wife and Peter, James and John. He walked up to this twelve-year-old dead girl and said, “Talitha koum!” (which means, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”).  Immediately the girl stood up and walked around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. —Mark 5:35-43 NIV84

What CRISIS has you backed up against the wall? What CRISIS has driven you to a point of desperation?

Our desperation can be an invitation for God to work a miracle.

Our God is the GOD OF MIRACLES!