Tag Archives: jesus

Preach With Mud | Stephen Jones

Do you remember the story of Jesus healing the blind man by rubbing mud on his eyes?

Did you notice what Jesus did not do?

He did not tell the blind man who He was. He simply met his physical needs, and then went on his way. Not to say that Jesus had no intentions of revealing Himself to the man, He just knew how to do it.

I find it fascinating that when the Pharisees asked the man who healed him, he could not give an answer. His reply was, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!” It was only after speaking with the Pharisees and thinking about the situation after the fact that the man came to realize who Jesus was.

Isn’t it a bit strange that we tend to get this whole evangelizing thing backwards? We are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus, yet I find myself trying to be the mouth of Jesus.

I get nervous in certain situations because I feel as if God is calling me to tell the guy next to me about Jesus, and I am not sure exactly what to say. And that might be exactly what God is asking you to do at that moment.

But it is more likely that God wants you to simply be the random act of kindness they are praying for.

Or the ear to talk to that they have been missing out on.

Or the love that God is so desperately trying to show them.

People don’t want your theology. Family Guy already taught them all they want to know about Jesus. But what they need to know about Jesus is that He is alive and active. And that He is at work in YOU.

The best way to tell someone about Jesus is to show them Jesus.

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
– John 13:35

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Forgiveness | It’s Not Easy, But It’s Easier!

In Matthew 6, Jesus tells us why forgiveness is so important. Our willingness, or unwillingness, to forgive others is directly tied to whether or not God will forgive us.

Look at Jesus’ exact words:

“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
-Matthew 6:14-15

Whoa!

It’s that important to him.

But, what is forgiveness? Is it saying, “I forgive you?” Do we say the magic words, cross it off our to do list and, boom, we’re off the hook?

Or is forgiveness much more than just a couple of words? Do we have the very definition of forgiveness wrong?

Is forgiveness without the pursuit of restoration/reconciliation even possible?

Consider the thief on the cross.

Jesus knew every rotten thing that man hanging next to him had ever done, yet He forgave him.

But he didn’t stop there. He assured the man he was restored to right standing and relationship, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”

In fact, the man didn’t even say the words ‘forgive me,’ but, as with us, Jesus knew his heart (1 Samuel 16:7, Jeremiah 17:10).)

What’s in our heart is more important than what we say.

Like the thief, the paralyzed man in Mark 2 didn’t ask Jesus to forgive him. He asked for healing, yet, Jesus forgave him first. But he didn’t just forgive him and then leave him hanging. He restored him. Physically and spiritually.

Restoration isn’t possible without forgiveness, but, again, is forgiveness possible without restoration?

Isn’t the restoration of relationship and fellowship the very heart of everything God pursues with us? He sent his own son to die in that pursuit.

That is radical love. It goes far beyond merely saying, “I forgive you.” It’s showing that we truly are forgiven.

But what if God was like us? What if God forgave like we do?

How would we feel if God said he forgave us, but didn’t restore fellowship? If He cut us off and didn’t restore our standing with Him, would you feel forgiven?

As followers of Jesus, living under the great commission, shouldn’t our ultimate desire for these people, even those who’ve hurt, persecuted and spitefully used us, be to see them reconciled to a right relationship with God?

In Luke 15, the father ran toward his prodigal son, unheard of in that culture. He recognized the act of his son’s return as the product of a contrite heart and couldn’t wait to extend forgiveness AND restoration. The truth is, he had forgiven his son, before he even returned. He waited with expectation and a soft heart.

As with love, forgiveness and the pursuit of restoration, is risky. The ‘prodigal father’ risked ridicule from his neighbors and peers, and further disappointment, hurt and betrayal from his son. His forgiveness and restoration was risky. It was going to cost him, but his love was greater than his fear.

Love without risk isn’t love.

The same is true for forgiveness, which makes sense because forgiveness is an act of love. Toward God, toward the other person, toward ourselves.

Can you think of a Biblical “hero” who messed up more than David? God didn’t just forgive him, and send him on his way; he restored fellowship to the point that he even called him a man after his own heart.

God doesn’t extend forgiveness without an offer of restoration.

In fact, restoration and reconciliation may be so integral to forgiveness that they’re actually part of the very definition of genuine forgiveness, not separate things.

How important is it to God that we restore our broken relationships? He doesn’t even want our offerings if our relationships with others aren’t right.

“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”
-Matthew 5:23-24

Those verses are often used to illustrate the importance of forgiveness, but notice that Jesus doesn’t say, “make sure you say you’ve forgiven them.” He says “go and be reconciled.”

Of course, it’s up to the forgiven person to pursue that relationship and fellowship, as well. Romans 12:18 says “as far as it’s up to you.” We need to do all we can to “live in peace.” A half-hearted effort and “I tried” won’t cut it. We’ve gotta leave no stone unturned.

Listen, we’re all broken, hurting people, who hurt people sometimes. If we throw everyone who’s hurt us into a dark closet, deep inside us, we’re walking around with even more hurts and brokenness inside.

And we carry that with us. Everywhere. Always. Until, we allow restoration.

For most of us, there’s someone occupying space in the pit of our stomach. Someone we desperately want restored fellowship with, but won’t pursue it because we’re too scared of the risks.

But the bigger risk, is inaction. Its living with that ache in your heart, forever, and dying with the regret of not having tried hard enough.

See, real, complete forgiveness and restoration of broken fellowship with others isn’t just an act of love toward them, it’s a gift of freedom we give to ourselves.

God doesn’t tell us to do difficult things, like truly forgive, to punish us or put us through some sort of trial by fire, although, refine us it does.

God tells us to do it because he KNOWS it’s what’s best for us.

He wants our hearts broken for others, to be sure, but he wants our hearts and joy to be full.

Like a hoarder who fills all the rooms of his house with useless junk and is living in the one tiny open space left–that’s how we choose to live when we keep walling off sections of our hearts. We lose that capacity to love, and be loved.

With so many broken people who’ve hurt us locked up in those closets in our hearts, we find ourselves having to quickly open the door a crack, shove the next one in and trying to slam that thing shut before they all fall out.

Reconciliation and forgiveness aren’t easy, but they’re easier than what we put ourselves through otherwise.

When we choose unforgiveness, or shallow, empty forgiveness, our hearts not only shrink, in effect, but they harden. Living as judge, jury and executioner, in addition to warden to those people we’ve got locked up, takes a toll on us. It affects our relationship with God.

And it may affect our eternity.

In the context of relationships with others, specifically how we look at other people’s wrongdoings, Jesus tells us, “…in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:2.)

Did you catch that?

Jesus says that the way we treat others, in terms of the grace, patience and forgiveness we show them, is exactly what we’re gonna get in return.

This is consistent with the God given principle of sowing and reaping.

He expects us to extend to others the same love, patience, and unending forgiveness that He gives to us!

The parable of the unforgiving servant showed us this, as well. (Matthew 18:21-35)

So, back to my question. Is forgiveness enough? Can forgiveness be complete without a sincere pursuit of restoration?

I can only answer with another question. What kind of forgiveness do we want? From others? From God?

Are we okay with God saying, “Okay, I forgive you,” but leaving us separated from him for eternity?

Isn’t restored fellowship the natural and obvious end product of forgiveness, or even an actual component of forgiveness itself?

Would you truly believe that God had forgiven you if He still condemned you to eternal separation?

The song writer reminds us of God’s relentless forgiveness:

“A thousand times I’ve failed
Still your mercy remains
Should I stumble again
Still I’m caught in your grace…
Your will above all else
My purpose remains”

Thankfully, our God forgives. And restores! In Ephesians 5, the Apostle Paul tells us to, “be imitators of God” and to “walk in the ways of love.” And in verse 6 of that chapter he says:

“Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient.”
-Ephesians 5:6

Let’s not be fooled with our own empty words either. Let’s put actions to what we say. Let’s follow His example and forgive, restore and love like He does!

Personal note: My prayer is that God help me to love like He does. That I forgive 7 x 70. That I have as much patience with you as God has had with me and always seek restoration, even with those I don’t deserve it. That I see everything through the lens of my divine purpose in this life, to point others toward Christ, and that I do all I can to leverage everything I have, surrender my pride and live for God’s glory and the good of others.

I pray the same for you.

_______________________________________
I would love to hear your thoughts on this and would be honored to hear your stories of forgiveness and reconciliation. Reach out via email at mr@thez.com

From The Inside Out written by Joel Houston | Hillsong United.

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Random | #ThingsJesusDidntSay

“Love with conditions.”
“Be nice to people you think deserve it.”
“Help people, if you have time.”
“Do what you want now and follow me when you feel like it.”
“When you see someone in need, don’t sweat it, someone else will help them and besides it’s their own fault they’re in that position.”
“Forgive them, unless, y’know, it’s too hard.”
“That stuff I said to do/not do in the Bible? Ah, don’t worry about that, because, your situation is special. You’re the exception.”
“I don’t want any fanatics, or Jesus freaks, (you know the “Peter” types) I prefer lukewarm folks.”
“I know scripture says to be imitators of Christ, but, hey, you’ll never be God so just do what everybody else thinks is good. (Unless you don’t feel it’s right for you, in which case, stay true to your authentic self.)
“I’m sending a book later, an official church hymnal. Anything other than the burgundy one, and most of the songs in the blue one, are unacceptable.”
“Listen, when it says to obey your spiritual leaders I certainly didn’t mean YOUR pastor!
Note to pastors: this definitely doesn’t mean you should ever presume to tell people in your congregation what they should and shouldn’t do. If she wants to live with that guy, or if he wants to divorce his wife, or if that kid wants to smoke a little weed, it sure isn’t your job to suggest otherwise.”
“Sure the Bible says, ‘forsake not the assembling of yourselves together,” but I’ve got no problem with you just watching Charles Stanley at home instead. (Ed note: I’m a fan of Dr. Stanley and encourage you to watch him, but not in lieu of attending a local church!)
“Rock music is bad.”
“Rap music is worse.”
“Yelling at people changes their hearts. Condescending browbeating also works well.”
“I know I said help each other, and be generous but, hey, second homes and those vacations aren’t gonna pay for themselves.”
“I know almost all of the apostles were martyred for their beliefs, but I totally understand you not wanting to mention me around your friends–especially at work–I mean, they might tease you a little.”
“I know you wouldn’t watch that show if I was in the room with you so, oh wait…”
“7 times 70 is a lot. Once or twice is really noble of you. Again, IF you feel like it.”
“When I said to love your enemies, bless those who curse you and pray for those who spitefully use you, I clearly didn’t mean THAT difficult person in your life.”
“They will know you’re my disciples by how nice you dress.”
“That section in 1 Cor 13:4-8a, wasn’t supposed to make it in, someone forgot to click delete. Bears all things? Endures? I mean who can possibly love like that?”
“That story with the adulterous woman? I was just showing off. I don’t expect you to deal with those kind of people with love and grace. Stone ’em! Or at least be really self righteous and indignant toward them.”
“If you have two shirts and someone needs one, explain to them that you only have two shirts yourself and wish them well.
“Also, if you have a closet full of clothes, let them know that you’ll donate the ones that don’t sell on eBay to Good Will once you out grow them, or they wear out/go out of style.”
“Make sure everybody sees the good deeds you do! If you think someone may not have noticed, the humble brag is always an option. Just post on facebook or tweet out how ‘blessed you are to have driven that old man to his dialysis’ or something along those lines.”

#ThingsJesusDidntSay

Sometimes, we get off track. We find ourselves in a situation where God’s way seems too hard. We start fudging a little around the edges and before too long, we’ve stopped trying.

We get to the point, in one area or another, where we’ve twisted what God said to the point that it’s barely recognizable anymore.

We do what we want, not what He said.
We ignore the parts of God’s Word that we don’t like.

We skip over the passages that really convict us (the ones we need to read more!)

We make excuses.

We give ourselves a pass.

This post was a meant to be a light hearted way of reminding us of some of the ways we live sometimes, as opposed to how Jesus said we actually should. I hope it encourages us to hit the reset button in the areas we need to and get back on track, living, as Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:31-33–for God’s glory and the good of others!

Feel free to add to the list by commenting below or tweeting (tag @mattonthez or @mr.)

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“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.”
-1 Corinthian 10:31-33

Lyrics | A New Start

They said, ‘I got you’
But what they did was they forgot you
And yeah, it’s hard to press on but ya got to.

Clenched fists will never fix a hurting heart
It takes forgiveness

Truth is, the bitterness will tear you apart
So love instead of this…
(Love instead of this)

There will be trials in this world you’re living proof
But take heart I’ve overcome, that’s the truth
Don’t forget what I told ya
It is done–finished
In the end ya gotta know we gonna win this

The right now is what’s hard I know
So your heart ya gotta guard and let go
All the anger and the hurt and the pride
And hold on to the one who never left your side

They said they’d never let you down but they dropped you
If you forgot to forgive then it’s got you

Clenched fists will never fix a broken heart
(forgiveness)
This stress and bitterness’ll tear you apart
(Ya gettin this?)
Jesus never resists a desperate heart
(forgiveness)
Believe and you’ll receive a new start
(forgiveness)
(He’ll pick up the pieces of a broken heart)
(A new start)
(A new start)
(A new start)

©2014 MR

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Forgiveness Is Not An Option…

Forgiveness isn’t an option. It’s mandatory.

Jesus makes this clear over and over again.

In the prayer he modeled for us in Matthew 6. In his answer to Peter in Matthew 18:21-22. In the story he told of the unforgiving servant later in that chapter.

And check this out:

But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Matthew 6:15

Whoa.

Do you get that?

Forgiveness is the one thing that Jesus says is actually tied to God’s forgiveness of us! (Well, forgiveness and repentance. Or maybe repentance isn’t real without forgiveness.)

And not just forgiveness, but restoration.

The entire Bible is the story of God fixing what’s broken. That’s who HE is and it’s who he wants us to be.

God doesn’t even want our offerings until we fix things with other people. And he’s not cool with our promises to get around to fixing things someday.

He tells us to GO. Now. Right now.

Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you,leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
Matthew 5:23-24

Are you starting to understand how important forgiveness is to God?

Found a great article by Randy Alcorn in which he reminds us, “Forgiveness is clearly a matter of choice, not feelings.”

Will we choose to do what God says? Or what we want?

And for those of us who need to seek forgiveness, will we choose to humble ourselves and ask for forgiveness, make things right and seek reconciliation? Will we do what God tell us in Romans 12:18?

Forgiveness and reconciliation aren’t easy, but God doesn’t tell us to do these things to punish us. God knows what’s actually best for us. That’s what he wants for us!

See, God knows that, as Randy Alcorn puts it, forgiveness is the ultimate pain reliever.

God wants us to understand that reconciliation heals the heart.

Does anyone believe that the father in Luke 15 would have been better off holding a grudge? Would shutting out his repentant son have helped either of them?

So, GO! Reach out. Love. Let God heal! Forgive…

Check out Randy Alcorn’s blog post HERE

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“God Understands Why I’m Disobeying Him…”

“God Understands Why I’m Disobeying Him…”

Wrong.

That is one of Satan’s go to moves. He wants us to believe that those things are for most people. Other people.

Him. Her. Them.

Anyone but us.

Our situation is different. Our circumstances are special. We get a pass.

I’ve read the Bible cover to cover and I’ve never seen any asterisks.

There’s no appendix in the back with a list of exceptions.

There’s no fine print or disclaimer at the bottom of the page that let’s us off the hook.

God’s word is God’s word. None of us get a pass.

We sometimes think that God will let it slide because we’re a pastor/deacon/regular attendee/church member/Sunday school teacher/volunteer/pastor’s kid/tither/missionary/bible school graduate/good person/(insert your perceived qualifying exception), and well, “God knows my heart, so I’m okay. We’re okay…”

But, God does see our heart, that’s the problem. We’re not okay. (And if you think you’ll find peace while blowing off God, read the book of Jonah. He was a prophet who served God faithfully. Until he tried to swap out what he wanted for what God told him. How’d that work out for him?)

During my time away from God, I became well versed in that kind of (il)logic and still have to fight it from time to time. We become rationalization specialists. Expert excuse makers. I could list those on my resume under special skills. It’s sad.

We start thinking things like:

“I know God says, forsake not the assembling of yourselves together, but I have a personal relationship with him, so I don’t need to “go to church.”

(((insert buzzer effect)))

Wrong.

“I know God says hating someone in your heart is murder in his eyes, but you don’t know my boss/uncle/neighbor. God understands why I can’t stand them. (Besides, wasn’t that just for the Bible people anyway?)”

Wrong.

“Yes, Jesus said what God has joined together let NO man tear apart, and yes, he hates divorce, but you don’t know my husband. God wants me to be happy, so he’ll understand.”

Cue the buzzer.

“It’s not really gossip, I’m just venting.”
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“Insurance companies expect you to fudge.”
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“I know this show is raunchy, and vulgar, but, I’m a grown up, it doesn’t affect me, I just ignore those parts.”
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We need to stop bending, twisting and parsing what He said into what WE want.

And if we’re not willing to say, “Okay God, your way,” and stop rewriting His word on the fly, to suit our whims of the moment, then aren’t we really the ruler of our hearts and lord of our lives?

Are we just putting on a pretty good show?

Fooling ourselves, or even others, doesn’t help us where it matters. As my Pastor in California used to say, “There’s no future in fronting.'”

God cannot be mocked.

Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.”
– Jesus (Matthew 7:21)

If we’re not following God, we’re not followers of God.

I mean, it makes sense, right?

Yes, what He tells us to do IS hard. Yes it WILL cost us. We may be scared. It may be uncomfortable. It may be the LAST THING we want to do.

– Ananias was really apprehensive about meeting with Saul, but he went.

– Noah didn’t want to be mocked and ridiculed, but he built the ark.

– Jesus asked God to avoid the cross, if there was another way, but He still died for us.

See, we don’t have to always want to it. We just have stop looking for loopholes and surrender.

Jesus said we need to DENY OURSELVES DAILY and follow him. We can’t do that and live for ourselves. It’s not possible.

We can be like James and John, who threw down their nets and never looked back. Or, like the rich young ruler, we can walk away sad.

Listen, we can’t do this on our own. We will NEVER be able to do the things we find difficult without praying to God daily for strength to obey him in these things. Get a friend to help hold you accountable in this area as well.

If you’d like more resources or prayer for a specific situation, please feel free to email me mr@thez.com.