Archive for April 30th, 2018

from JO’s sermon tonight:

there are people God has put in our lives on purpose, so we can help restore them; they’re off course, addicted, broken. it’s easy to judge, and think they should make better decisions, it’s their own fault, but if it was not for the grace of God, that could be us. we didn’t get to where we are because we’re so talented, disciplined, obedient; that may be true on the surface, but where did you get the talent, discipline? it came from your heavenly Father; it wasn’t anything we chose, it’s simply the goodness of God.

but too often, we look at others and think, “why are they still making poor choices, addicted, in bad relationships again and again? I wouldn’t do that.” it’s because God is giving you grace in that area; without His grace, you would be where they are. instead of looking down on them, pointing the finger, “you should know better,” they don’t need more condemnation; God didn’t put them there so you could judge them, He put them there so you could love them.

love heals, restores, lifts up. all around you are hurting, broken people, that may not have had the advantages that you had; they weren’t raised by parents that invested in them, never felt the love, approval, that you felt. it’s easy to criticize, but you don’t know where you would be if you had walked in their shoes. life is not a level playing field. when you’re tempted to be judgmental, you need to remind yourself, most likely they didn’t get everything you got; if it was not for the mercy of God, you would be making the same decisions that they’re making.

God has freely given you mercy. here’s my challenge; freely give it to others. don’t be stingy with your mercy. God is counting on us to lift the fallen, restore the broken, heal the hurting. there’s enough judgment, fault-finding, criticism in our world. where are the healers, restorers, people that instead of running away from the hurting, they run to the hurting, instead of condemning the broken, they help heal the broken?

in John 11, Lazarus was very sick. his two sisters sent word to Jesus to come pray for him, but Jesus didn’t arrive in time; Lazarus died. Jesus showed up 4 days later. he spoke to Lazarus, said, “Lazarus, come forth”; instantly he woke up. he was raised from the dead, a great miracle. the problem was, Lazarus was wrapped with grave clothes. in those days, when someone died, very often they would wrap them up like a mummy:

John 11:44 (NIV)
44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

even though Lazarus was alive, God had done something amazing on the inside, he was still bound on the outside; somebody had to remove his grave clothes, or he would have never experienced the fullness of what God had done.

you can imagine, when they went to take off the grave clothes, after being dead for 4 days, the smell was almost unbearable. every layer they unwrapped, the stench got worse. it was dirty, messy, smelly; they had to be incredibly dedicated. they must have loved Lazarus a whole lot to have been willing to endure all it took to remove his grave clothes.

this is what God has called us to do; there are people around us wearing grave clothes. God has done something on the inside, breathed life into them, given them purpose, but they’re still bound on the outside; they have addictions, struggle with their temper, loose in their morals. the problem is, it’s messy. it’s tempting to think, “when they clean themselves up, get back on course, come back to church, it’s not so messy, then I’ll help, encourage them.”

how can they get free if someone doesn’t step up to remove their grave clothes? where are the people that are willing to get dirty to help someone else, go out on a limb to befriend someone that others think is too far down, reach out to that relative that’s struggling with an addiction, that others have written off? it would be easy to remove grave clothes if they were nice and tidy, if people were making good decisions, on the high road; that’s not reality. grave clothes are dirty, messy, stinky.

we think, when someone still has issues, an addiction, compromised, bitter, jealous, they have a long way to go. but just because they’re wearing grave clothes, still dirty, doesn’t mean they’re not clean on the inside. Jesus spoke life to Lazarus; he was free on the inside, but still bound on the outside. don’t judge by appearance; the grave clothes may stink, be dirty, but on the inside, there’s a free, clean, forgiven, victorious person. they’re just waiting for someone that won’t be put off by the outside, that will step up to help remove the grave clothes.

how do you do this? by speaking faith into them; not telling them what they are, but what they can become. by loving them, taking time to care, going out of your way to be their friend. they have enough people pushing them down, pointing out their faults, complaining about their grave clothes; you can be the one to push them up, see the best in them, help them get free. you can be a grave clothes remover.

the scripture says:

Romans 11:29 (AMP)
29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable

that means, you may run away from God, but God won’t run away from you; His grace will come looking for you. Paul wrote in Romans about the grace that God freely gives us. one translation of the word “freely” is “promiscuously”; when someone is promiscuous, they’re loose, unrestrained, they’ll be with anyone. that’s the way God’s grace is; you can be in a bar, high on drugs, and grace will come looking for you. you can be in the wrong place, doing the wrong thing with the wrong people, and when you least expect it, out of nowhere, you’ll hear that still small voice saying, “come back home, I love you, I have something better.” God doesn’t say, “if you clean yourself up, I’ll show you mercy, you get back on course, I’ll think about being good to you”; God’s grace is promiscuous, it goes to unlikely places.

there are a lot of people that are bound on the outside, but they have greatness on the inside; they just need someone that won’t be afraid to get dirty, won’t be judgmental and say, “he used to be in church, he’s in the bars, what’s wrong with him?” instead of judging them, why don’t you take that same time to pray for them, reach out to them, let them know that you believe in them? what if when Jesus raised Lazarus, no one was willing to remove the grave clothes, deal with the stink, get dirty? Lazarus wouldn’t have lived that long; he was bound, not able to move. Jesus did his part, but he was counting on Lazarus’ friends and family to do their part.

are there people in your life waiting for you to help remove their grave clothes? they’re off course, struggling in some area. it’s easy to make excuses, “they brought the trouble on themselves, it’s their fault, I’m too busy, I’ve got enough problems of my own”; no, take time to make a difference. don’t look at them through eyes of judgement; look at them through the eyes of love. maybe deep down they want to change. maybe grace has been knocking at their door, getting stronger and stronger, but they don’t know the next step; a phone call from you, a kind word, taking them out to dinner, not to try to straighten them out, but just to let them know that you care, that’s what speaks volumes, that you’re not there to condemn them, point out their faults, you’re there to simply love them.

in John 8, these religious leaders brought a woman to Jesus, threw her down at his feet; she was caught in the act of adultery. they said, “Jesus, the law says stone her, what do you say we should do?” it seemed obvious, the law was clear; the lady was guilty. one thing I love about Jesus is, he broke religious rules in order to be good to people. in the Old Testament, God gave them 10 Commandments, but the people turned them into over 2,000 laws. when Jesus came, he said in effect, “I’m getting rid of all these religious rules, heavy demands you put on people that only make them guilty and condemned. instead, I’m going to condense them down into two Commandments; love the Lord your God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

he was saying, people are more important than religious rules. everything is not going to fit perfectly into our theology; they have to do this, they have to do that, they can’t do that, they can’t go there. if you convince people to follow all your religious rules, but you don’t have love:

1 Corinthians 13:1 (NIV)
13 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

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, second chances, mercy; I’m not in the condemning business, I’m in the loving, healing, lifting business. I want to be known as a grave clothes remover, that saw the best in people, helped push them into their destiny, was willing to get dirty, go after messy, broken people that society had written off.

when you love people who are messy, you may be criticized, talked about. one time, Jesus was walking through a crowded town, thousands of people around. he looked up and saw Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector. he was known as one of the most dishonest people; he lied, cheated, didn’t keep his word. yet Jesus said:

Luke 19:5 (NIV)
5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.”

of all the people there that day, there were priests, rabbis, elders in the synagogue, but grace goes to unlikely places. Jesus didn’t see just what Zacchaeus was, he saw what he could become. he was bound on the outside by grave clothes, but he knew on the inside was a man of integrity, honor. Jesus went to dinner with Zacchaeus, someone that people considered dirty, messy, broken:

Luke 19:7 (NIV)
7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”

when you go after the broken, hurting, addicted, people may criticize, talk about you, but you’re in good company; you are never more like God then when you go after messy people.

this lady was on the ground in front of Jesus, surrounded by all these men. she was afraid, embarrassed, expecting the worst. Jesus said, “whoever is without sin, throw the first stone.” they all put their heads down; they were convicted. when you’re tempted to be judgmental, ask yourself, “have I ever done wrong? am I qualified to throw the first stone?” none of us are. the men walked out, from the oldest to the youngest.

John 8:10-11 (NKJV)
10 When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”
11 She said, “No one, Lord.”
And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”

(NB: Jesus did NOT tell her to stop sinning first, and THEN he might not condemn her; he did not condemn her even though she had not yet changed her life, or even promised to do so. this is a powerful example of the infinite, undeserved mercy of the Lord.)

our religious minds go tilt tilt tilt. grace for somebody that committed adultery, a man that is known for being dishonest; God’s grace is promiscuous. why don’t you go after someone that doesn’t deserve it, that’s made mistakes, that’s hurting? you can be the one that helps put them back on their feet. nobody’s too far gone, made too many mistakes; all some people need is one person to believe in them, say, “hey, I’m praying for you,” breathe new life back into their spirit.

God loves messy, broken people that are at a disadvantage. not just people that have had bad breaks; He even loves people that have brought the trouble on themselves. this is where human nature says, “they’re getting what they deserve, let them deal with it, they’re guilty,” but only the guilty need mercy. where are the healers, restorers, that are not too self-righteous to get down where someone is hurting, with the broken, to help heal the wounds?

when you go after the hurting, broken, discouraged, the anointing on your life will break yokes that are holding them back. you may not feel it, they may not respond right away, but when you speak faith, chains are breaking. when you show love, strongholds are coming down. when you’re merciful, compassionate, forgiving, you’re pouring oil on the wounds, being a healer, restorer, lifter.

there was a young prophet in the Old Testament named Hosea. he lived at a time when the Israelites were worshipping idols, not honoring God. Hosea was well-respected; people came from all over to get his advice. he was a single man, and knew God would bring him a wife, but it wasn’t what he thought; God told him to marry a lady named Gomer. Gomer was a former prostitute, didn’t have a good reputation. Hosea could have talked himself out of it, but he knew to obey. things started off good, they were in love, they had a son, but then things went downhill. one morning, Hosea woke up, and Gomer was gone; she’d abandoned him and the three children. but Hosea still loved Gomer; he grieved greatly over this loss.

Hosea 3:1-2 (NIV)
3 The Lord said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites… 2 So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and about a homer and a lethek of barley.

he brought back what should have already been his. after all the pain she’d caused, rejection, abandonment, you would think Hosea would say, “I am done with this lady,” but Hosea had this undying love. that was promiscuous grace; it goes to unusual places. Hosea is a picture of Jesus; Gomer represents you and me. we’ve all been unfaithful, went our own way, did our own thing, but God, Who is rich in mercy, when we turned our backs on Him, He had every right to walk away, but He didn’t turn His back on us, He came down to the messy places, to where we fell, to where we should have been finished, and He bought us back, not with 15 shekels, but with the blood of his own son.

since God has rescued us, brought us back, will you be a Hosea, and buy somebody else back, rescue them? there are hurting people all around you, broken people that don’t think anyone cares. they’re in messy places, don’t deserve your kindness; you could walk away, nobody would fault you. but God rescued you; He’s counting on you to rescue them. they’re not in your path by accident; God put them there because He can trust you. you can help love them back into wholeness. other people may not see it, but underneath the mess, addictions, bad habits, there’s a son/daughter of the most high God. they may be bound on the outside, but like Lazarus, they’re royalty on the inside. they have seeds of greatness.

will you be a Hosea, and go after the hurting, broken, addicted, that have been written off by society? not with your finger pointed in judgment, telling them what they’re doing wrong. go after them with something more powerful; love, mercy, the goodness of God. they don’t deserve it; neither did we, while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. you’ve been shown incredible mercy; I’m asking you to show that mercy to others, be a Hosea. if you’ll do this, as you lift others up, God is going to lift you up. as you rescue somebody else, God will always have somebody to rescue you, and your children; the seeds you sow will come back to you.

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