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Ragamuffin

Many believers feel like our Christian growth has become stunted or we feel like we have hit a roadblock . We beat ourselves up over our failures and, in the process, we pull away from God because we subconsciously see him as a scorekeeper who records our failures and successes on a score sheet. We believe that while God tallies our defects, he hangs his head in disappointment.

Christianity is unique in that God’s mercy is shown through his justice. There is no setting aside of justice to make room for mercy. The Bible states that sin and injustice were punished at the cross of Christ, and that only because the penalty of sin was satisfied through Christ’s sacrifice does God extend His mercy to undeserving sinners.

The lyrics of Amazing Grace say it all:

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,

    that saved a wretch like me.

What does grace sound like? It’s the sound of Jesus saying, “Your sins are forgiven!”

I truly feel that we believe in God’s grace—in theory, however we have lost the ability to apply it in our daily lives. God gives us His grace, willingly, no matter what we’ve done. Jesus wants to come to him as we are. We come to Him as ragamuffins—dirty and beat-up. And when we sit at His feet, He smiles upon us, and calls us to his with a love that burns brightly and constantly. It is only when we truly embrace God’s grace, that we can bask in the joy of a gospel that enfolds the most needy of His flock—the “ragamuffins.”

Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners and to call them to repent. He came for the beat-up, and burnt-out,” the marginalized folks to whom Jesus ministered: the children, the ill, the tax collectors, the women. In other words, the ragamuffins.

While the powerful and religious elite challenged him, Jesus embraced and healed and fed the needs of the ragamuffins. Jesus delivered love, healing, and, most of all, grace.

What is Grace you ask? Grace is defined as “the freely given and unmerited favor and love of God.” We have “twisted the gospel of grace into religious bondage and distorted the image of God into an eternal scorekeeper.” In reality, the grace God offers us is immeasurable.

While Christ did indeed die for sinners, He also died as a demonstration of God’s righteousness, to showcase His justice. This is exactly what the apostle Paul says: “All are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith.

In other words, God didn’t immediately punish sin before the time of Christ; rather, extended mercy. The end result is that, by the sacrificial death of Jesus, everyone who trusts in Him is saved from God’s wrath and instead experiences His grace and mercy (Romans 8:1).

I’m not saying that we are to just do whatever we want. God will judge us when our time is through. A couple of illustrations of that are:

1 Peter 4:5

    but they will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.

2 Peter 2:4

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment.

“If we are to evangelize a person, then we must say to him or her: “You are loved by God in the Lord Jesus. He loves you for who you are, not for what you are”

I love this quote by Brennan Manning, author of The Ragamuffin Gospel, “I found deep comfort in realizing that Jesus loves even me, a ragamuffin, just as I am.”

 
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Posted by on November 3, 2014 in Uncategorized

 
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I have recently started studying the book of Psalms. I ran across a piece of scripture; Psalm 55:21 that made me think.

His speech was smooth as butter, yet war was in his heart; his words were softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords. (‭Psalm‬ 55‬:‭21‬ ESV)

This verse made me think about how the enemy goes after our young people today. He goes after them when they are young before their faith has formed its roots. I feel this verse goes along with that because, he uses peer pressure to tempt our youth.

Think about it for a minute. Our youth are tempted to sin by friends and classmates to sin. As our kids get into middle school and junior high, they are tempted by the following statements or similar ones:

“Come on, just one hit, it won’t hurt anything. Everyone is doing it” or
“Just one sip of beer won’t kill you”

When our girls get in high school, they are tempted to give up their virginity with assurances that the guy will love them more, when all that really happens and while the guy feels like a king who conquered an army, the girls are left with feelings of regret and guilt.

How do we help them you ask. First off,pray for them and that they will make wise decisions, in spite of the temptations in the world today. Second, let them know it is safe to come to you or another adult with questions
and/or worries.

 
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Posted by on October 4, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Honesty

1 As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.
2 My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?

3 My tears have been my food
day and night,
while they say to me all the day long,
“Where is your God?”

4 These things I remember,
as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng
and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise,
a multitude keeping festival.

5 Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation — Psalm 42:1-5 (ESV)

I often wonder if I am doing enough as a father to inspire my children to seek a relationship with God. Do I set an example of depending on God day after day? Have I shown them that sometimes the only way to truly appreciate a cool drink is to know what it is like to be really thirsty? Honestly I have to admit that I don’t know. While I am certainly working on moving closer to Christ, I can’t give a measurement of the distance I have to go.

That isn’t necessarily a bad place to be, I guess. Maybe it is okay for my girls to see that I’m not perfect and that I am still working on what it is to follow Jesus. Or maybe it is okay for me to be okay with them seeing my imperfection. Honesty is one of the most notable characteristics of the Psalms. Yet that honesty is always tempered with truth. It is why the discouraged put their hope in God.

So I will live imperfectly with my children, transparent and honest about my life with God, but always rooted in the truth. This sounds like a good way to instill a thirst for God in all of us.

 
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Posted by on September 13, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

What Does Evangelism mean?

What does it mean to be an evangelist? The word evangelist is derived from the Greek Word “euaggelistes” when means “one who declares good news. Jesus did so much during his earthly ministry to give us examples in what it means to be an evangelist. 

After washing the disciples feet, he actually told them it was an example and they were to do the same.  He was calling the disciples to humble themselves and to serve one another. We are commanded to imitate Christ by doing the things he did. It goes without saying that in order to model our actions after Jesus, then we must study his words and actions so that we can.

Jesus was not just a preacher.  He was not tied to a pulpit, nor was he just an itinerant evangelist.  Jesus ministered to the needs of people by going out among the people.  Matthew 5, 6 and 7 is well known as the Sermon on the Mount. 

These chapters contain many examples of how Jesus challenged people to change the way they think.  Then immediately in chapters 8 and 9, Jesus went out and changed people’s lives.  He cleansed the lepers, healed the sick and raised the dead.  He wasn’t sitting in an office somewhere blogging about helping people; he was on the front lines, in the trenches so to speak, getting his hands dirty.  He changed people’s thoughts and he changed their lives. 

Jesus ministry was about showing people God.  Colossians 1 describes him as the “image of the invisible God.”  In John 14, Jesus told his disciples that if they had seen him they had seen God.  Jesus wasn’t just making God visible; he was illustrating what God is like.  The Pharisees had kept the letter of the Law, but in doing so, they missed the spirit.  Jesus was on earth to remind us what the heart of God is like.  

The story of the Prodigal Son shows us a father that is merciful toward a son that does not deserve mercy.  Jesus told dozens of these stories.  The message he delivered and the lessons he taught were not his own; he shared what the Father had taught him.  We can listen to Jesus and still hear the Word of God today. 

This is a 3-point message:

1) Jesus changed people’s lives. 

2) Jesus showed people God. 

3) He wants us to do the same. 

In John 14, Jesus plainly instructs his followers to go on doing the things he did.  Some he said would do even greater things.  Now consider if you will these two scriptures, both the words of Jesus:

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  -John 8:12

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  -Matt 5:12

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.”  But he also said “You are the light of the world.”  During his ministry, Jesus himself showed people what God was like.  He shined the Gospel light into a dark world.  And now… it is all of us who carry the light.  We possess Jesus Christ in our hearts, and the knowledge of salvation.  The Gospel has been entrusted to us, and we must carry it to every corner of the globe. 

I discussed this matter with a friend to come up with opportunities to spread God’s word and here’s what we came up with:

  1. Look at the people we work with, we spend more time with them then our families, so there is an area we could be reaching.
  2. Many people reserve the weekends for family time, an idea would be find an area where your whole family could serve, such as a food pantry/soup kitchen.
  3. It can be as simple as being thankful and gracious in conversation.  
  4. In addition to serving together, I think inviting people to dinner is a great way to share the gospel too.  What better way to exemplify the giving/serving nature of Jesus than to invite someone into your home and feed their bellies? 

Ministry is more than preaching in the pulpit or teaching a Sunday school class.  We must do the things that Jesus did.  The Jesus that ate with sinners and touched sick people.

 
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Posted by on July 30, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

What’s Your Mix

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Once upon a time, mix tapes were all the rage. If you don’t remember, a mix tape was when you would record all your favorite songs on a cassette tape. Now we have mix lists on our iPhones. A good mix can lift your mood, inspire you in a workout, and help you relax too.

Unfortunately, the mix we sometimes play for ourselves does the opposite. It says:

- you’re not good enough

- you’re not pretty enough

- you’re not smart enough

Thankfully God has his own mix for our lives;

When you say “I’m inadequate”, God says:“You are CHOSEN.”

You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord,“and my servant whom I have chosen,that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed,nor shall there be any after me (Isa. 43:10).

When you feel afraid, God says:You are REDEEMED.

But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel:“Fear not, for I have redeemed you, I have called you by name, you are mine” (Isa. 43:1).

When you feel unloved, God says:You are LOVED.

Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored….I love you, (Isa. 43:4).

When you feel forgotten, God says:You are REMEMBERED.

Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me.” (Isa. 49:16).

When you feel insecure, God says: You are SECURE.

The beloved of the Lord dwells in safety. The High God[a] surrounds him all day long, and dwells between his shoulders.” (Deut. 33:12).

When you feel unable, God says:You are ABLE.

God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places. (Hab. 3:19).

When you feel worthless, God says:You are CALLED.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (1 Pet. 2:9).

Don’t let the devil cause you to feel like you are worthless. You are not worthless in God’s eyes; you’re a child of the one true King!

One of my favorite quotes is from The Help, by Kathryn Stockett; “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” We all need to remind ourselves of that. Therefore, change the mix you are listening to and be encouraged!

 
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Posted by on March 10, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

The Gift of Grace

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God’s grace is hard to grasp, but why. God gives it to us freely, we just have to receive it. The reason we often struggle with this is because, in most relationships, grace is often a reciprocal thing rather than a free gift.

The idea that the grace of God is free is mind boggling to many. People always say, “Nothing in this world is free.” The reason that grace is free is because Jesus gave everything and paid the ransom of dying for our sins so we didn’t have to.

It is incredibly easy for us to point to someone whose sin seems outrageous and think “well I’m not as bad as her”. When we do that we are basing our “goodness” on other people’s lives, thus making us judges. The Bible speaks about pride so much and pride is right at the heart of judging. As soon as we start judging someone else, we’ve put myself in God’s role and we are sorely qualified for the position.

God is invitational, merciful and gracious

Everyone of us, is equally, in need of grace and the wonderful news is that God’s grace is sufficient. It’s enough for you, me, and enough for those that we feel might be irredeemable or undeserving. God doesn’t say “clean your life up and come back when you’ve got it all together.” He says in Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Scripture lists other examples of God’s graciousness in Exodus 34:6-7, Nehemiah 9:12, Psalm 103:9-10, Psalm 145:8-9

He asks for repentance, no question there, but He welcomes all who seek him and ask to be forgiven. Is there someone on the fringes of your community, of your church, who is weary and burdened? You could be the one person who demonstrates a little of what God’s invitational love looks like? It’s could be as simple as smiling and saying hello. Maybe it is inviting them to sit with you in the service or chat afterwards or go for coffee.

When we can see sin for what it really is we can see ourselves as we truly are – an equal community, guilty in a variety of ways but redeemed under one grace. All have sinned, but His grace is enough if we humble ourselves and ask. Grace means that there is nothing we can do in order to make God loves more. Grace also means that there is nothing we could do to make God love us less God doesn’t grade on a curve, thank Heaven for that!

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

What Is Your Calling

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As I approach my birthday, I have begun to question my calling. A small voice inside calling me toward something unknown and risky, yet more fitting with my own truth. I couldn’t tell, however, whether the voice was trustworthy, whether this truer life that was stirring within me was real or within reach. 

As Christians, we’re told constantly that we were created with a purpose. And it’s true, you were made to do good works, born to leave a legacy. The events of your life are directly related to your understanding of this. And whether you believe it or not, you’re living a story. Whether it’s worth telling is up to you.

So how do you find that purpose? If you’re like many people who are striving to live meaningful and intentional lives, it will come in the form of what many refer to as “a calling.”

We can sort things out if we accept Webster’s definition of calling: ” a strong inner impulse toward a particular course of action especially when accompanied by conviction of divine influence.”

That sounds simple enough. But how do you know when God is calling you, and is there any way you can be sure you’re doing the task he has assigned you?

The First Part of Your Calling

Before you can discover God’s calling for you, you must have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus offers salvation to every person, and he wants to have an intimate friendship with each of his followers, but God reveals a calling only to those who accept him as their Savior.

This may put some people off, but Jesus himself said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6, ESV)

Throughout your life, God’s calling for you will bring great challenges, distress and frustration. You can’t succeed at this task on your own. Only through the constant guidance and help of the Holy Spirit will you be able to carry out your God-appointed mission. A personal relationship with Jesus guarantees that the Holy Spirit will live within you, giving you power and direction you need.

Unless you are born again, you’ll be guessing at what your calling is. You’ll rely on your own wisdom, and you’ll be wrong.

Your Job is Not Your Calling

You may be surprised to learn that your job is not your calling, and here’s why. Most of us change jobs during the course of our life. We may even change careers. If you’re in a church-sponsored ministry, even that ministry can end. We will all retire some day. Your job is not your calling, no matter how much it may allow you to serve other people.

Your job is an instrument or tool that helps you carry out your calling. A mechanic may have tools that help him change a set of spark plugs, but if those tools break or get stolen, he gets Your job may be closely wrapped up in your calling or it may not. Sometimes all your job does is put food on the table, which gives you the freedom to go about your calling in a separate area.

Many times we use our job or career as a measure of our success. If we make a lot of money, we consider ourselves successful. But God is not concerned with money. He is concerned with how you’re doing at the task he has given you.

As you’re playing your part in advancing the kingdom of heaven, you may be financially rich or poor. You may be just getting by financially, but God will give you everything you need to accomplish your calling.

Here’s the important thing to remember: Jobs and careers come and go. Your calling, your God-appointed mission in life, stays with you until the moment you are called home to be in heaven

How Can You Be Sure of God’s Calling?

Do you open your mailbox one day and find a mysterious letter with your calling written on it? Is God’s calling spoken to you in a booming voice from heaven, telling you exactly what to do? How do you discover it? How can you be sure of it?

As I have been trying to discover by calling I have used the following method:

  1. Praying
  2. Reading Your Bible,
  3. Talking with godly friends, pastors
  4. Patient listening. 

God equips each of us with unique spiritual gifts to help us in our calling. He give us  a list found in Romans 12:6-8 (ESV):

“6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.”

We won’t recognize our calling overnight; rather, God may reveal it to us gradually over the years. As we use our god-given talents and gifts to serve others, we discover certain types of works that feel right. They bring us a deep sense of fulfillment and happiness. They feel so natural and good that we know this is what we were meant to do.

Sometimes we can put God’s calling into words, or it may be as simple as saying, “I feel led to help people.”

Jesus said, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45, ESV).

If you take that attitude, you’ll not only discover your calling, but you’ll do it passionately for the rest of your life.

 
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Posted by on January 13, 2014 in Uncategorized

 
 
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