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Archive for October 28th, 2013

from JO’s sermon tonight:

it’s easy to love people that are just like us, look, dress, worship like us;  that doesn’t take a lot of effort.  but what about people that are different than us, people that we don’t understand, agree with?  as far as we’re concerned, they’re making poor choices. it’s easy to size them up from the exterior, to put them in a box and think, “they’re not for me. they’re odd. I’m going to keep my distance.”  but God’s love is not exclusive, it’s inclusive;  it doesn’t exclude people that are different, write people off because they’re not where they should be in life, ignore someone because they’re not meeting our standards.  unconditional love says, “I’m going to love you even if  I don’t agree with you.  I may not agree with your lifestyle, doctrine, how you’re raising your children, the friends you’re choosing, but I know this;  you are made in the image of almighty God, and I’m not called to judge you, but to love you.”  we have to realize that every person is on a journey;  where they are right now is not where they’re  going to end up.  they’re not a finished product;  they’re still on the potter’s wheel.  but so often, we judge people for where they are today.  we write them off and think, “I’m not going to associate with them, they’re a mess.”  no, God will use you to plant seeds in their heart;  your love, friendship, encouragement is a part of the plan God has designed for their life.  God is counting on us to make a difference.

don’t have a holier than thou attitude.  take off the judgmental glasses; if not for the grace of God you could be right where they are.  the same things that we’re tempted to be judgmental and critical about, if not for God’s goodness, we could be struggling with as well.  if you’d walked in their shoes, been raised in their family, fought the battles that they fought, you’d understand why they are where they are.  the areas that you’re strong in, you don’t just happen to be strong, that’s the mercy of God on your life.  when we show this unconditional love, people may not respond right away;  it may not seem like it’s doing any good, they keep making poor choices.  but here’s the key:  those seeds never die.  the seeds of hope, mercy, encouragement that you plant in other people never die.  it may look like it’s not doing any good, but the reason they’re not growing is because  the soil of their heart is hard and rocky, and that seed could not take root.  the good news is;   the seed is still alive.  at the right time, God will soften their heart, loosen up that soil, and the seed you’ve sown will take root and bring a harvest.  nothing you’re doing has been wasted.  every time you show love, you are sowing these seeds.  sometimes we think that we have to convict people, tell them what they’re doing wrong, point out all their faults, make sure they really feel guilty.  no, the holy spirit is the one that convicts;  you just keep sowing these seeds, showing unconditional love, and at the right time they will come to life.  Jesus said:

Mark 2:17 (NIV)

17  … “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

I’m not here to judge, I’m here to love.  we don’t have to straighten everybody out;  all we have to do is sow seeds.

1 Corinthians 13:8 (NIV)

Love never fails.

when you show love, you’re showing God.  when you’re merciful, understanding, accepting, that heals, restores, brings new life.  for too long, the church in general has been known for what we’re against;  “we’re against this, against that, and if you live like this you’re not welcome here.”  we’ve been good at telling people what we don’t like.  but I don’t want to be known for what I’m against, I want to be known for what I’m for:  I’m for people, new beginnings, 2nd chances, and you becoming everything God’s created you to be.  our part is to keep showing this unconditional love;  not, “I’ll love you if I agree with you, I’ll accept you if you fit into my little box.”  no, our attitude should be, “if you have good or no morals, are clean and sober or strung out and addicted, gay, straight, Republican, Democrat, black or white, Muslim, Christian, believer, atheist, it doesn’t matter, I’m still going to love you.”

John 13:35 (NASB)

35 By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

notice, he didn’t say, “by how spiritual we are, how many times we come to church, how many scriptures we can quote, how many miracles take place.”  no, they’ll know by our love for other people. what would this world be like if, instead of judging people, we’d really start loving people?  so, they don’t look like you;  they’re not supposed to, God made them different. maybe they’re not where they should be in life right now;  that’s ok, they’re on a journey, they’re not a finished product.  perhaps they don’t worship like you, they come from a different denomination, culture, faith;  that’s ok, don’t shut them out, our God is the God of the whole Earth.  He’s not a white, black, Mexican, Korean God, He’s simply God.  the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob loves the Muslims, Hindus, atheists just as much as he does the Christians;  He is the God of all flesh.  so many times, we have this narrow view of God;  we have our little circle of what we believe, who we think is right, and we exclude everyone else.  we point out their faults, what they’re doing wrong, where we don’t agree;  “they don’t baptize, take communion like we do.”  we focus on the things that separate us.  but, I realize how big God’s circle is, how wide His mercy extends.  when we get to heaven, we’re going to be surprised at who’s there;  “what about their false doctrine?”  what about your false doctrine? nobody is correct 100%.

the reason denominations were established in the 1st place was to try to protect the doctrine that they believed was right.  Galatians 5  says, “don’t think that your group is the only one that’s right.”  (NB:  it does not, but I don’t know what the right verse is.)  we’re all missing it somewhere;  the main thing is that we agree that Jesus is the son of God, He rose from the dead, and now he’s our savior.  my love for you is bigger than a theological difference, what church you belong to, what faith you practice, political or philosophical differences.  I don’t have to see eye to eye with you in order to love you.  if you draw a circle to shut me out, I’m gonna draw a bigger circle to shut you in.  when you love unconditionally, you have a wide circle;  you’re not judging everybody to see if they fit into your little box.  we might as well learn to like people down here;  that person you think has so much false doctrine, they’re so far off course, you better learn to like them, they’ll probably be next door to you in heaven.  there’s going to be a lot of people there we weren’t expecting.  God’s mercy is from everlasting to everlasting;  it’s bigger, broader, far-reaching.  but a lot of times, religion tries to push people away;  God is always pulling people in.  it’s not about, “do you keep all the rules, have you performed perfectly your whole life?”   it’s about the condition of your heart;  do you have a heart to please God?  do you believe in this resurrected savior?

Luke 23:32-43 (ESV)

32 Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left...

39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him,saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

that criminal, he didn’t pray a long sinner’s prayer, he never got baptized in water, attended church;  that was simply the mercy of God.  it doesn’t always fit into our theology. the mercy of God is wide;  why do we try to make it so narrow, and think, “my loved one’s never going to make it, my co-worker doesn’t have  chance, you should hear him talk”?  no, they’re on a journey;  God is using you to plant seeds in their heart.  they don’t need to hear another sermon.  you don’t have to tell people what they’re doing wrong;  they already know that, just love them.  let your life be the sermon, and at the right time, those seeds will come to life.  we don’t know, some people may be on their deathbed and God will reveal Himself to them;  they will feel this unconditional love pulling them in.  we can all say, “where would we be without the mercy of God?” when we didn’t deserve it, when we made mistakes, God showed us His unconditional love.  He’s asking us to show this same love to other people.

don’t look at them through eyes of judgment, but through eyes of mercy.  “I don’t think she should be wearing that in church, that’s not appropriate”;  maybe not, but I would rather she be in here than out in the clubs.  you don’t know what she’s been through.  you haven’t walked in her shoes.  before you judge her, get to know her.  before you write her off, listen to her story.  there’s usually a good reason people are the way they are;  we’ve gotta give them room while they’re in the process of changing.  if we’re judgmental, holier than thou, look down on them, that’s not going to help them to move forward.  that’s conditional love;  “if you meet all my demands, then I’ll love, accept you.”  no, God freely gave us mercy;  let’s freely give other people mercy.  my prayer is, “God, help us to have the same innocence as a little baby and not judge people by the exterior, what they wear, the mistakes they’ve made, but God, let us see people through eyes of love.”

Titus 1:15 (NASB)

15 To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled.

one way to know how pure your heart is is how much do you judge?  when your heart is pure, you don’t have a critical spirit, a holier than thou attitude;  you’re full of mercy, you give people the benefit of the doubt.  much of our judgement is simply the culture we were raised in;  cultures change.  too often, we judge what we don’t understand.  before you judge that young person that has wild hair, crazy clothes, no, you don’t know how God is going to use them;  they may be your next pastor, doctor,  president.

John 7:24 (AMP)

24 Be honest in your judgment and do not decide at a glance (superficially and by appearances); but judge fairly and righteously.

how many times do we look at someone and decide in a split second whether or not we’re going to like them?  “he’s got a tattoo, he’s going to hell.  he’s got long hair, he’s a trouble-maker.”  no, give everybody room to become who God’s created them to be.  don’t judge by the exterior.  I’ve found that whether I wear a suit or jeans, it doesn’t affect the anointing:  it’s not affected by cotton or denim or polyester.   what does affect it is the attitude of our heart;  they don’t act, look, dress like you, that’s alright, they’re on a journey, they’re not a finished product.  Jesus made it really simple:

Matthew 7:1-3 (KJV)

7 Judge not, that ye be not judged.

you may not understand someone, but you don’t have to understand them to love them.  you don’t have to agree with them to accept them.  that’s why it’s called unconditional love.  my challenge to us today:  start covering people with love.  it’s easy to cover people with judgment, condemnation, guilt, but let’s start covering people with love.  love heals, brings down barriers, puts people back on their feet.  and you may not understand someone, but that’s ok;  have a wide circle of love.  remember, they’re on a journey;  where they are is not where they’re going to end up.  God is counting on us to make a difference, push them forward, show mercy, be understanding, give them the benefit of the doubt.  if you’ll have this unconditional love, not only will you help others, but your own life will improve.  you’ll have more joy, better relationships, overcome every obstacle and live the life of victory that God has in store.

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