Christianity 201

November 26, 2018

In The Eye of the Beholder

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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Today we’re introducing a new author. Ron Harris is the author of Not Dressed for the Occasion (Word Alive Press, 2018) and has given us permission to use a couple of excerpts from the book which he describes as having “no specific beginning or end but is a string of observations birthed out of my walk with God. It delves into the deeply personal failures of life and honest confession of sins, as well as explores the wonderful experiences and potential we have in God. Though the book exposes the present world view that contradicts the traditional six thousand years of proven moral lessons, it also deals with the daily experiences that challenge our faith and intimacy with God, the most common thread being God Himself and the incredible revelation we enjoy because of the life, death, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ.” 

Not Dressed for the Occasion may be ordered wherever you purchase Christian books.

Love and Beauty

It has been said of some new born babies that they are so ugly “only a mother could love them.” That term has become a way of describing many things that appear to be ugly in the eyes of the beholder, particularly human beings. Because my profession is to attempt to create beautiful environments, it is difficult for me to see beauty in things that I know from training and experience is intrinsically ugly.

We tend to judge the choices of others stating, “Love is blind” or “I can’t understand what he or she sees in her or him,” while still others say they are deaf, dumb, and stupid. We say the mother is blind because she loves an ugly baby, but I have come to understand that WE ARE THE BLIND ONES because the mother sees a beauty that can only be observed through THE EYES OF LOVE. Love sees with eyes that the natural man cannot understand and can therefore enjoy what others reject as ugly. Because we live in a society that is obsessed with “beauty,” we are blinded to the splendors that only love can see.

We all know the verse from John’s gospel that states; “For God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” [John 3:16 (KJV)] but I would like to amplify the word “world” to include; “every living person ever been born or even aborted; every weak, suffering, sickly soul, every Down’s Syndrome person, every child with cleft lip, every person regardless of age that is abandoned, abused, beaten, sexually or verbally assaulted and every soul ravaged by sin or tormented by Satan. Despite all of this, God still sees something in us because we were created in His image; “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: [Genesis 1:26 (KJV)] but it doesn’t stop there; He also says that; “You saw me before I was born…”[Psalm 139:16 (TLB)]

…I was at an annual conference of the Apostolic Church and a person with a Prophetic ministry came up to me, put both hands either side of my face, stared compassionately into my eyes and said, “God wants you know that He really loves you.” With that he removed his hands and walked away.

That encounter changed my view on both God and myself. Like all of us when we look at our lives and see our sins and failures we often despair at ourselves and wonder how could God love us with such faults and failures? Now I know that theologically we can say God sees us through the eyes of Christ because; “God has given me that genuine righteousness which comes from faith in Christ”=[Philippians 3:9 (J.B. PHILLIPS)] but I believe “He really does love us” even with all our quirky personalities. There are no “ugly babies” in God’s eyes because He sees beyond the obvious, loving us just as we are and because He loves us so much He will not leave us in our failure and sin. He sees so much incredible potential in us all, that He will move “heaven and earth” to bring us to the place of change for our full destiny in Him.

So, will this love that God has for us motivate us to be changed or will we continue to follow our own ways and never discover the full potential and destiny for our lives? One of the scariest powers we possess is the freedom to choose. We can spit in the face of God, even deny His existence but we do this to our own terrible eternal loss, breaking the heart of a God who has given everything possible to win us with His love. Yes, He will give strength and Grace to change those ugly things of sin in our lives and because He loves us so much He sees beauty where others only see ugliness.

If God then shows such love, we can, we must show this same type of love for each other for He has promised; “…God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” [Romans 5:5 (NIV)] As we choose to take that step of faith of loving each other, God’s Spirit is released in us. We can then start to see beauty in each other that the natural eye cannot see. We are not like the scripture that states; “Having eyes do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear?”[Mark 8:18 (NASB)] We are not the blind ones; we now have eyes that see the beauty that only love can see.

 

January 18, 2015

What Grace Looks Like

John 8:3a The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery.

If you’re unfamiliar with the story, read verses 2-11 by clicking here.

At the end of several of the chapters of Rick Apperson’s book Killed by the Church, Resurrected by Christ there is a section called “What I Learned on the Way to the Resurrection.” These are teachable moments gained from some rather unpleasant church experiences. To learn more about Rick and the book, visit his blog, Just a Thought.

Those caught in the act of sin need to hear and see God’s grace in action.

Who knows what was running through the woman’s mind? As she was dragged into the street where Jesus stood, the Pharisees began eagerly sharing the woman’s sin with Jesus and the people around Him. The woman had sinned. She had been caught in the act—the very act!—of adultery.

Killed by the Church Resurrected By Christ - Rick Apperson“Moses said that, according to the law, she should be stoned,” one of the Pharisees said.

“What do you say, Jesus?”

Stooping down, Jesus took His finger and began writing on the ground.

Again, He was questioned. “What do you say? Should this woman be stoned?”

Jesus stood up and, looking around, said to the scribes and Pharisees, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”

With that proclamation, Jesus returned to writing on the ground.

The crowd of accusers drifted away until no one was left. Jesus then stood again and asked the woman if there was anyone left to condemn her. When the woman replied, “No,” His response to her echoes as a lesson to us all. “I don’t condemn you either. Go and sin no more.”

I love this passage from John 8. It is one of hope and mercy, grace and truth! Note that Jesus didn’t condone her sin. He told her, in fact, to stop sinning! However, He showed her grace and mercy while also addressing those who would condemn her.

The accusations laid against her weren’t wrong, but the heart motive of her accusers was. Sadly, my motivations weren’t always pure when I confronted someone about their sin. You can also see a poor demonstration of how to treat someone caught in sin when I wrote about my church’s response to the unwed mother.

I think we struggle in the church with how to respond to those whose sin is glaringly obvious. We seem to forget Jesus died for them. His harshest words were for the religious people of the day. Pride and religiosity may be greater barriers to relationship with God than the things we tend to judge in our own minds.

Maybe we’re afraid that by demonstrating grace and mercy we will seem weak on sin. Need that be so? Jesus spoke to the heart, not to the behavior. As demonstrated in the John 8 story, He told her to sin no more, but by His act of mercy, He also demonstrated love!

There is a wonderful passage of Scripture found in Matthew 7:1–5 (NKJV).

Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, “Let me remove the speck from your eye”; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

If we would remember that we ourselves have sinned and been forgiven much, we would find it easier to extend grace to others.

So the next time you feel the need to “help” someone by pointing out their offense, swallow your spiritual pride, check your heart, and show the love of Christ! I say this recognizing that there will be times when we need to speak truth in love, showing a brother or sister their need to repent. Most often though, people know when they are sinning, and our kind words and actions can help them find their way back onto the path of righteousness. As I mentioned before, restoration and redemption should be the end goal. Our desire should be that of seeing a brother or sister restored in their relationship with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

~Killed by the Church, Resurrected by Christ pp 26-28


Read a review of the book at Thinking Out Loud

March 15, 2014

Was Jesus the Recipient of Grace?

A conversation joined in progress…

“…she never brings anything to a potluck dinner, they just show up. He never comes to a church work day. They don’t attend Bible studies or prayer meetings.”

“But what’s that to you?”

“I think we’d all like to know if they’re all in.”

“Why do you need to know that?”

“Because it would be nice to have a conversation with them that wasn’t superficial; that wasn’t just all about the weather and the school their kids go to. It would be nice to know where they stand.”

“Why don’t you just ask them? Say, ‘So what’s God been doing in your life lately?’ Or, ‘What’s God been teaching you lately?”

“You can’t just start a conversation cold like that.”

“Maybe not at the grocery store, or with a relative stranger, but this is church, you sit in the row behind them every single week.”

“It would be awkward.”

“So here’s a question for you: Was Jesus ever the recipient of grace?”

“Wait. What?”

“Was Jesus ever the recipient of grace?”

“That’s just wrong.”

“Did Jesus ever experience grace?”

“Grace is for sinners. Jesus was without sin.”

“Are you a sinner?”

“I was a sinner; but now I’ve passed from death into life.”

“Have you ever sinned since? Maybe even this week?”

“Yes. Absolutely. So have you.”

“Does the grace of God meet you in that place?”

“Yes. But that’s different; second Corinthians 5:21 says, ‘God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.’  He had no sin, or some translations say he knew no sin.”

“You just happen to know that verse?”

“It was on a Christian radio on Friday while I was driving to work.”

“And you memorized the reference?”

“My sister’s birthday is 5/21 so that helped.  So when did Jesus experience the grace of God?”

“What is grace?”

“Grace is unmerited favor with God.”

“So the answer is, ‘At his baptism.’  A voice from heaven, the voice of God, says, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.'”1

“And…”

“He experienced the favor of God even though he hadn’t done anything yet. This was the outset2 of his public ministry.  He hadn’t taught anything, he hadn’t called disciples, he hadn’t healed anyone. It was unmerited in the sense that he hadn’t commenced his spiritual work.”

“But he had been alive for 30 years at that point. He always had the favor of God. Luke 2:52 says, ‘Jesus grew…in favor with God and man,’ so this was something he had earned over time.”

“But the people at the Jordan River didn’t know all that. To them, he was simply one of many being baptized for the forgiveness of sin and then God says he is ‘well pleased’ with him. We tend to think of that as more of an end-of-life pronouncement from God, as in ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’ 3 In other words, he has already been made a recipient of the favor of God.”

“But that has nothing to do with works, he was well-pleasing to God because of who he was, not according to anything he did. It’s the same with us, like that verse that says, ‘Not by works of righteousness that we have done…but because of his mercy.’4 There’s nothing that we do that ultimately earns us the grace of God. It’s who we are not what we do.”

“Exactly. So maybe it wasn’t grace in the sense of being freed from punishment because Jesus was, as you said, without sin. But it was a favor with God that preceded everything he was about to do over the next three years.”

“Okay. You could think of that way I suppose, but how did we get on this topic again?”

“The family that sits the row in front of you at church…”

“…Oh…yeah…”

“Could it be the grace of God is working and operative in their lives in ways you just don’t realize?”

“…Hmm…Maybe we need to get to know them a little better…”


1 Matthew 3:17

2Harmonization of the Life of Jesus

3Matthew 25:23

4 Titus 3:5