Tag Archives: religion

Led By God’s Love

I grew up seeing things very black and white. I believed I had a firm grasp on all the rules in the Bible. The way I interpreted those rules was simple, if you broke any of them, you were going straight to Hell. There was no room for mercy or grace in my mind because those things don’t follow the rules very well. They aren’t easily definable and didn’t fit into my black and white world. It wasn’t until I got older that I began to make room for those in my mind and in my life. The more I looked at the things Jesus did, the more I saw that He wasn’t about the rules as much as the Pharisees were.

One of the stories that helps me to see differently is in Luke 13:10-17. Jesus was teaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath. There was a woman listening who had arthritis so bad that her body was twisted and she couldn’t look up. Jesus saw her, laid hands on her and healed her. The head person was furious with Jesus. He said, “Six days have been defined as work days. Come on one of the six if you want to be healed, but not on the seventh, the Sabbath.” But Jesus shot back, “You frauds! Each Sabbath every one of you regularly unties your cow or donkey from its stall, leads it out for water, and thinks nothing of it. So why isn’t it all right for me to untie this daughter of Abraham and lead her from the stall where Satan has had her tied these eighteen years?” (MSG).

Jesus was telling them and us that it’s not just about the rules. We’ve got to have compassion, mercy, love and grace too. As I said, those don’t always fit into our predefined understanding of the rules, but Jesus constantly showed us that those things trumped the rules we try to force people to live by. Jesus was constantly at odds with the legalism of the Jewish leaders and did things like this to help open their eyes to what God really wants from us. A life led by God’s love for others will always yield more fruit than one bound by legalistic thinking. Yes, we need the rules, but without compassion we miss the point.

Photo by Tim Marshall on Unsplash

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Religious Christians


Going to church. Praying. Fasting. Reading the Bible. Giving offerings. Community outreach. Teaching a church group. Raising our hands during worship. All of these are things we as Christians do, but is God pleased with you doing them? On the surface, you’re quick reply is, “Of course!” However, there are many times we do these things that God is not pleased with us. Cain gave God an offering, the Pharisee prayed, Saul sacrificed, and many others in the Bible did what God asked.

What makes the difference is our purpose behind these actions. Are we sacrificing our time and energy to do the Christian things because we think it’ll make God happy and He’ll look favorably on us? We live in a “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch your back” kind of world. When we let that thinking creep into our Christianity, we end up having the form of Christianity without the power of it. This is not pleasing to God.

In Isaiah 58:3, God lets us know what He thinks about these empty actions. “‘We have fasted before you!’ they say. ‘Why aren’t you impressed? We have been very hard on ourselves, and you don’t even notice it!’ “I will tell you why!” I respond. “It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves. Even while you fast, you keep oppressing your workers” (NLT). It all boils down to the motive behind our actions. Are we doing these things out of love for God or to get the praise of others? To me, the answer to that is the difference between being religious and being a Christian.

A Christian seeks to bring glory to God through their actions. A religious person seeks to bring glory to themselves. They may impress others, but they are not impressing God. He looks at our heart and motives. That’s why Able had a better sacrifice and the prayer of the tax collector was heard. Their hearts were right with God. They weren’t seeking to impress others. Rituals aren’t what gets you into Heaven. It’s a repentant heart that seeks to honor God in all they do.

When we have the right motive behind our actions, God says in verse 8, “Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the LORD will protect you from behind.” We can do the right things for the wrong reasons and it will not please God. He doesn’t want us to be religious. He wants us to be like Him. We are changed from the inside out, not the outside in. If you find you’re being religious instead of godly, ask God to give you a change of heart today. You’ll find being a Christian is a lot more fun and rewarding than being religious.

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The Real Question


Have you ever wished God would tell you, “What do you want? Ask, and I will give it to you”? Think about that. What would your answer be? How much time would you take to answer that question? Would your answer benefit just you or would it benefit others? If God promised to give you anything you wanted, that would be a big deal. Personally, I’d be afraid of giving the wrong answer, but in this situation, there really isn’t one.

I asked you that question, because that’s exactly what God asked Solomon in I Kings 3:5. Solomon had just sacrificed 1,000 burnt offerings to the Lord and God visited him that night with that question and promise. The Bible doesn’t say how long Solomon took with his answer. What he asked for has stayed with me my whole life. The final part of his answer in verse 9 was, “Give me the wisdom I need to rule your people with justice and to know the difference between good and evil. Otherwise, how would I ever be able to rule this great people of yours?” (GNT)

Solomon had some big shoes to fill being king after David. He recognized that he needed help in ruling the people, so he asked for wisdom. One of the biggest things that stands out to me is that God asked him what he wanted and he answered with what he needed. There’s a big difference there. Our wants are usually different from our needs. I may want a Lamborghini, but what I need is a reliable car to get from A to B.

Let’s go back to your answer to the question. Was it a want or a need? What about your normal prayer time? Is it a list of needs or wants? I think it’s ok to ask God for the wants, but when people ask for their needs, God goes above and beyond. II Corinthians 9:8 says, “And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others” (NLT). When God gives what we need, it’s enough to share. So the real question is, do you want what you need or need what you want?

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The Pursuit Of Happiness


The Declaration of Independence of The United States says that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are among our inalienable rights as humans given to us by God. We all have the desire to live, to be free, and to be happy. So many of us have spent a lifetime in the pursuit of happiness. We think of we have more money, we’ll be happy. We think of we had a better job, a better house, a faster car, more friends, a bigger church, more toys, or (fill in the blank), we’ll be happy so we pursue those things.

The inalienable right granted to us was the pursuit of happiness, not the pursuit of things though. Yes, God wants you to be happy, but He wants you to find it in Him. If you’ve pursued things to make you happy, you can attest that once you had those things, your happiness faded. They fulfilled you for a short while, but then you wanted a better whatever it was that you pursued. When you pursue things for your happiness, you’ll never be satisfied. You will always want more. That’s why we have the phrase, “Money doesn’t buy happiness.”

The pursuit of happiness is different than the pursuit of things to make you happy. You can still desire those other things, but you have to understand that’s not what’s going to fulfill your longing to be happy. Psalm 37:4 says, “Seek your happiness in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desire” (GNT). When we pursue our happiness in God, a funny thing happens. He begins to give us the things we desire. It’s a matter of priorities.

Jesus said it this way in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (ESV). It’s when we seek Him, His Kingdom, and His desires that we will find our happiness. All the other things are a side note to life. Yes, it’s ok to want them and to even have them, but we have to understand that if they are what we are pursuing to make us happy, we I’ll be disappointed. If we will seek our happiness in Him, we will be truly happy and He will bless us with things that will enhance our happiness.

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You Are Powerful


I’ve read how you can re-map what your brain believes by changing what and how you think. When asked why we can’t or won’t do something, we say, “That’s not who I am” or “I’m not wired they way.” We’ve been fed a lie by someone, repeated it to ourselves and others, and believed it until it has become who we are. That same process can be used to undo the damage caused by the lie we believed before. We can become who we are not, by changing what we believe.

If you read the Psalms, you see two versions of David. You see one who is downcast and scared, and you see another who is proclaiming they are strong and mighty. I believe David struggled with the lie that he was just a shepherd boy instead of a king. I believe he heard the voices telling him he belonged in a pasture than on the battlefield, and it created that struggle within him. He wasn’t so different than you or I.

God calls us to do mighty things, but our self doubt kicks in and tells us we can’t. When we allow the words of people to echo in our minds louder than the words of God, we remain stagnant and afraid. That’s the plan of the enemy to immobilize the Church. If he can get us to buy into the belief that we are weak, unworthy, unable, and insecure, then he can keep us from stepping out in faith into our full calling. He uses fear, intimidation, and the power of mind mapping to keep us from our destiny.

I believe David recognized that and that’s why we read so many of his self affirmations in Psalms. He knew that if he repeated God’s truth enough times, he would believe it, and it would become who he was. In Psalm 118:14 he proclaimed a truth each of us need to proclaim as well. He said, “The Lord makes me powerful and strong” (GNT). God has made you more powerful than the enemy. He has made you more powerful than the lie you’ve been told. He has made you powerful enough to become who He has said you are and to accomplish what He has called you to do. 

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God Listens


Have you ever been talking to someone only to figure out they were looking at you, but not listening? It’s frustrating. You’re going through the emotions that you feel, describing each detail to them, and they aren’t even paying attention. Would you go back to that person the next time you needed the support of a listening ear? No! You wanted someone to listen and to help you, and they weren’t even giving you the respect of listening.

Have you ever felt like God was that way? Have you felt like you poured out your heart to Him in prayer, but it was like He wasn’t listening? It’s frustrating to be in prayer and to feel like your prayers aren’t escaping the room you’re in. Maybe you’ve tried praying louder or just sat there weeping in that place crying out to God for mercy. In any case, God is not like us. He does not have selective hearing. He hears every prayer, even those that seem to fall flat on the floor.

In Psalm 116:1-2, the Psalmist wrote, “I love the Lord, because he hears me; he listens to my prayers. He listens to me every time I call to him” (GNT). God hears every prayer you’ve ever prayed from the silent ones that you could barely muster the energy to say to the loud “can you hear me” prayers. When you and I pour out our heart before God, we have a guarantee that He hears us and listens to us.

We are not guaranteed to have every prayer answered, but we are guaranteed an audience with God every time we pray. Since He gives us an audience and hears us, we should have confidence and approach His throne where we will find mercy and grace to help us just when we need it (Hebrews 4:16). We don’t have to leave prayer frustrated because we know He hears us, and if He hears us, He will give us the grace and mercy we need for whatever our situation holds.

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Christlike Compassion


A friend recently told me how a mutual friend of ours had made some wrong choices and called them for help. I said, “You didn’t help them did you?” They said, “No.” I said, “Good! They need to learn they can’t keep making these choices and think everyone is just going to bail them out.” Immediately I felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Where was the compassion in my heart? Where was the good in me that wants to help others? I was choosing who deserved it, and God was getting on to me.

What if God had that attitude toward me? What if He said, “I’ve already forgiven you of this same sin over and over. I think I’ll just let you deal with it instead of me helping you. Maybe then you’ll figure it out”? That would be devastating because when I sin, I run to God, beg Him to forgive me, and ask Him to bail me out when it comes to the consequences. I want Him to hear my prayer, see my heart, and to have compassion on me. For some reason, I fail to have that same compassion on others.

When I read of Jesus, one thing that always stands out to me is how He had compassion on the crowds. He was tired and hungry, but when people came to Him, He was moved with compassion to help them. As a CHRISTian, I am to be like Christ. To me, one of His greatest attributes was His compassion and His goodness to any who went to see Him. In Psalm 145:9 David wrote, “The LORD is good to everyone. He showers compassion on all his creation” (NLT).

If the Father is good to everyone and the Son showed compassion to everyone, wouldn’t it make sense that I do the same? Even if I can see someone’s choices and consequences, I can’t see their heart. If God has had compassion on me after I’ve made the same boneheaded mistake over and over again, I need to show that same compassion to others. I may never fully be Christ like, but I can at least move in that direction. One of things I can change is how I show compassion to those who I don’t feel deserve it because none of us deserve God’s. Thankfully He gives it to us anyway.

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