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The Balance Between Pursuing Holiness and Resting in Grace

Balance Between Pursuing Holiness and Resting in GraceI’m super excited to have Jess Connolly on the show this week! She has a new book out, Dance Stand Run, but you may know her from her last great book that she co-authored called Wild and Free. When I first heard the title of Jess’s new book, I wasn’t sure what to expect — but, WOW! was I was blown away! She talks about the balance of pursuing holiness and resting in grace. It is such an important message for us today.

It’s so easy to not give ourselves enough grace when we mess up. Yet, on the flip side, we can also almost abuse grace and not learn (and change) from our mistakes. Jess so beautifully encourages us on how to dance in the grace that we’ve been given, how to stand in our holiness, and how to run on the mission that God calls us to.

I was just so thrilled to talk to Jess about her new book, and I cannot wait for you to listen in. I hope you will be so encouraged!

On a “Simply” & “Joyful” side note…

Jess says she’s a big believer in creating quiet in her life. Be sure to listen in to hear more on this.

Create quiet in your life. Get more encouragement from Jess Connolly on this week’s Simply Joyful Podcast with Kristi Clover! (CLICK TO TWEET)

Get ready for a great interview — get your own Simply Joyful Podcast mug HERE!

Highlights from This Show…

  • Jess shares about being a church planting family, as well as a small business owner in South Carolina. Balance Between Pursuing Holiness and Resting in Grace
  • She made me laugh when we talked about her being about being an introvert (she’s a self-proclaimed “fake” extrovert)
  • I ask Jess to share a little bit more about her new book,Dance, Stand, Run. She talked about our need to pursue more than just grace.

The wild and free girls are the holiness girls. —Jess Connolly

This book came about from praying “What part do I have in this?” —Jess Connolly

I was hiding my holiness and forgetting about it. —Jess Connolly

  • Jess breaks down the meaning behind the title of Dance, Stand, Run.

Dancing in Grace. Standing on holy ground . Running on holy mission. —Jess Connolly

  • Jess talks about the unique accountability that she had for each chapter of her book. (I’ve never seen a book that has this.)
  • In the book, Jess explains what Christian’s are “freed to.” She then goes into detail about what she meant by that.Balance Between Pursuing Holiness and Resting in Grace

Women are feeling the need to strive more than ever. — Jess Connolly

Why are we so hesitant to embrace grace? — Jess Connolly

We are meant to walk in His holiness. —Kristi Clover

  • I ask Jess to share a little about how to find the balance between grace and holiness.

It’s not 50/50 — it’s 100/100. —Jess Connolly

Stop swinging from grace to truth and just be in both. —Jess Connolly

  • We’ve all heard the statement “not of this world.” Jess shares some practical ways that we can actually live that out in our day-to-day life.
  • Jess gives tips on getting in the Word.

Try it, you’ll like it. —Jess Connolly

It’s just worth it. —Jess Connolly

Talk to Him at every point in your day. —Jess Connolly

  • Jess shares a little bit about how holiness and mission come together.

If we stop at holiness, we just are separate from everyone. —Jess Connolly

Mission means making disciples. Bringing people with you as you are on your way to meet Jesus. —Jess Connolly

  • Jess shares the “BLESS” model (I LOVE this concept!)

Please Note…

  • Be sure to grab your FREE copy of my bookSanity Savers for Moms, by joining our Simply Joyful community. It’s a great way to keep in touch…and get subscriber only freebies like my book. Click HERE to get the book and join!

Connect with Jess Connolly…

Jess Connolly is a gal who wants to leave her world more in awe of God than she found it. She’s the founder of All Good Things Collective, the co-founder of The Influence Network, and she is passionate about using her words to point women to Jesus through writing and speaking. She is the author of Dance, Stand, Run (October 2017) and the coauthor of the bestseller Wild and Free (May 2016). She and her husband planted Gospel Community, a church in Charleston, SC where they live with their four wild kids and their sweet dog.

You can check out Jess’s books HERE on Amazon! Be sure to visit her site as well at www.JessConnolly.com.

Thank you, Rend Collective for allowing me to use your incredible song “The Joy of the Lord is My Strength”! This song has so much special meaning to me and it highlights the theme verse for my podcast — Nehemiah 8:10. Be sure to check out their music! They are such a fun band to listen to…and to see live.

(This podcast is by Kristi Clover. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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Unorthodox Strength In Numbers

We believe a lie!

This lie tells us that we are man enough to stand-alone. We got this lie at an early age from books, comics, movies, where the one hero stood against the world and defeated all evil forces. As a child of the 80’s all my action heroes had one gun that never ran out of ammo, they never missed a shot and they knew all forms of martial arts.

I wanted to be that man.

The truth is as real men we know that that hero doesn’t exist. Sure there are amazing fighters and guys who can shoot almost ant target, but those men are all apart of a team. No one stands alone.

You know what’s funny? The fact that I know that… You know that… But we still try to do life alone.

Somewhere we started to believe we could be “Lone Wolves”. But a lone wolf isn’t anything to aspire to. A lone wolf is a wolf that’s been rejected by their tribe, they are probably sick or injured and they are going to die alone.

One of my favorite verses about relationships has got to be…Unorthodox Strength In Numbers

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.

Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

There is strength in numbers, there is the opportunity to accomplish so much more in life when we get honest and ask for help.

Don’t believe the lie – no man stands alone.

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Unorthodox Vision: Everyman Needs to Have A Vision

Justin was raised in the church, baptized as a kid, and had an all-around healthy childhood. The only exception was that he thought Christianity was simply following a bunch of rules of do’s and don’ts. Couple that with the fact that these rules went against the stuff that teenage Justin wanted to do… and you have a recipe for rebellion.

Unorthodox Vision: Everyman needs to have a visionSo, when he joined the army shortly after high school, met his wife and began “adulthood”, he lacked any devotion to anything other than his own selfish desires… much less a relationship with God. Couple that with the scheduling of his wedding and heading off to basic training in the same week, and you have another recipe for disaster!

Here are just a few of the things Justin and I discuss:

  • Sent by the Army to the Middle East. The stress on their marriage became overwhelming.
  • Separated from wife and he knew it was his fault.
  • During this trying time, Justin finally turned to God. He prayed and felt that he was supposed to let go of control.
  • Their separation only lasted about a month, but that was all he needed to realized that he needed to begin the process of learning about himself, God and what God wants for his life.
  • They got back together and decided to find out if they really believed in God, or were they going to just go through the motions like he had done throughout his life.
  • There was a huge moment of freedom – freedom from guilt and shame – and for the first time he felt loved by God.
  • Justin knows that God has revealed things but he is still walking & learning.
  • How faith impacts his leading of men:
    • While away on deployment to Kuwait, he realized that he needed to start leading his sons into manhood… spiritually, not just as young men.
    • Began meeting with like-minded Christian men with similar goals.
    • Leadership of men began by leading his own sons.
  • Seeing other men not own up to their faults encouraged Justin to step up.
    • He realized that so many guys in our society are failing as men.
  • Now, he leads men to live up to what they already claim.
  • Where does Justin see the movement or “call to character” comes from?
    • Guys trying to figure out, “Am I enough?” regardless of what your purpose is, or even if know what your purpose might be.
  • Everyman needs to have a vision.
  • What can you do today?
    • You don’t need a five year plan. Begin with however far ahead you can see now. That may be today, next week, a year from now… just get off the couch and start!
  • Ask yourself, “What can I do today that can impact my vision?”
    • Call it a goal, a vision, whatever you like
    • It may be as simple as going for a walk, or working a full day and still having enough energy in your tank to invest in your family when you get home.
  • We need vulnerability and authenticity.
  • How do you get started? Start listening to the Holy Spirit. Seriously. If you’re a Christian, that is the same as “listen to your gut”.
  • Accept that the enemy will try to stop you.
  • Lean into the uncomfortable.
  • Surround yourself with like-minded guys
  • Justin’s favorite Bible Verses or story:
    • Caleb & Joshua: trusting God, not fearing giants
    • James: draw near to God & God draws near to us
    • 2 Timothy: we are not created to have a spirit of fear

This is just part of Justin’s story. You’ve got to listen to what God has done throughout his life to mold him into the man he is today. As Justin says, “Everyman needs to have a vision.”

Check out what Justin is doing regarding actions, honor and vision through Code of Character on Facebook: @CodeOfCharacter.

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“I looked for my identity in so many different places.”

Joseph remembers being called gay for the first time when he was 13—at a church camp. “It was a devastating experience,” he remembers. Then, as before, he channeled his pain into playing the violin, a God-given talent he’d long nurtured, but “I never found my identity in Christ,” he says now. “I looked for my identity in so many different places.”

Though raised in a Christian home, Joseph always had a strained relationship with believers his age. “It started off as feeling like I didn’t fit in. Then the enemy used that to say, ‘Other people aren’t going to understand’ or ‘They will reject you.’ The enemy was really good at making me feel completely isolated.” And Joseph continued to pour his time into the violin, further distancing himself from his family and the church.Identity in Jesus Christ not Sexuality

After high school Joseph auditioned at music schools all over the country, hoping to simply get away, and he enrolled at the University of Texas. In college his homosexual feelings flared, and after struggling mightily with these temptations, he became involved with other men. At first his new life was exciting—“it didn’t feel wrong for the first time,” he says—but Joseph never felt fulfilled by the gay lifestyle or embraced by the gay community. And his conscience was constantly pulling on him.

After graduating, Joseph began his career as a professional violinist, something he had been working toward since he was 10. He tried to meld his lifestyle with his Christian faith, seeking stable, monogamous relationships in the hope that they would bring him happiness, but they never did. The whole time, the Holy Spirit was quietly, persistently tugging at his heart.

Joseph had a good friend, a Christian, who had always prayed for him, asked him to join her at church, and simply loved him well. Joseph maintained that he was a Christian, “but it was on my terms.” One day, though, in March 2008, Joseph was finally overwhelmed with his struggles. He called up this friend and told her, “I just want to pray with somebody.” The next morning she picked him up and they met with her pastor. They prayed, and that day the Lord saved Joseph; he was born again.Identity in Jesus Christ not Sexuality

But his struggle with sin was not over. Joseph was still in a relationship with a man, and he fought himself over it constantly. He continued to attend church because “there was something attractive about the Word of God to me, still, even when I was being condemned by it for my sins.” On the advice of a pastor he uttered a prayer he wasn’t sure he wanted to: He asked God to pull him out of his relationship and to heal him of his homosexual temptations.

“If you ask God to heal, he will,” Joseph says now. “And you can either go along for the ride, or you can be dragged along. I myself was dragged along. It was a slow and painful process.” But God was faithful. In answer to Joseph’s reluctant prayer, the Lord led him to a lecture at another church by a former lesbian, an experience that moved him profoundly.

“She was weaving the Word of God in and out of every sentence she was saying,” Joseph remembers. “It was at that point that I realized, that’s what I want to be. I can’t go into this just a little bit; I can’t go in just halfway; I can’t be lukewarm. If I want God to defeat this part of me, I have to go 100-percent in, and I have to be breathing in and out the Word of God in everything that I say and do.” After the lecture he spoke with the woman, and she offered him the best advice she had: to put his faith in Christ. “It was hope. In this woman I saw somebody who had defeated the struggle.”

With the Lord’s promises as his foundation, Joseph walked away from the gay lifestyle. “I see how close I was to complete destruction,” Joseph says now. “I am blessed that God is faithful. Even after he saved me originally but I continued to dabble in this stuff and chose to walk down my own path, over and over again, he was still faithful to me.”

Today, Joseph finds his identity in Christ and trusts His promises to the church. “The Book of Galatians talks about how we are no longer identified by the flesh. That is a really big thing for me, because we’re not identified by our struggles,” Joseph notes. He knows that the broader culture will not welcome his story of redemption and that he will face persecution for telling it. “They can call me a self-hater,” he says. “They can call me anything they want, and it doesn’t really matter to me because my identity is in Christ. That’s something they can never take away from me.”

The Austin Stone Story Team is a community of artists who tell stories of gospel transformation. We are photographers, writers, editors, filmmakers, and musicians on a common mission to use our gifts for His glory.

(By The Austin Stone Story Team. Discovered by e2 media network and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not e2 media network, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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Daren Streblow

I am overjoyed this week to come to you directly from funnyman Tim Hawkins’ bus at 1:00 am! Traveling between the Dakotas, we are living out a country song and swapping stories. But, Tim doesn’t just tell stories so much as he orchestrates them, adding interesting musical soundtracks from a harmonica, pan flute, or any other musical instrument he may find lying around. This weaving together of music and comedy comes from his youthful introduction to the likes of Weird Al Yankovich and Dr. Dimento.

In fact, the one time that Tim has actually found himself star-struck was when Dr. Dimento played one of Tim’s parody songs on his show!Tim Hawkins

But, life hasn’t always been so easy and sweet for Tim. Like any performer, he has been dealt his fair share of rejection.

To help protect oneself from undo rejection, though, Tim recommends being good at what you do. If you’re a comic, like us… then having funny things coming out of your mouth usually helps. When Tim sees guys getting heckled on stage, it’s usually because they’re not telling the audience funny things, and the audience feels as though they need to help.

So, Tim has adopted a new mindset to avoid this.

He sees himself as a guide who is guiding a group of people who have paid to see somebody do something (say funny stuff) better than they can do themselves. After all, if I go see an opera and the people on stage can’t sing as well as I can… that doesn’t make for a very good show. And, since making people laugh is one of the few things Tim thinks he can do well, he works and works and works on his show so that it’s constantly funny, engaging and then he won’t be heckled!

The catch to this is we then tend to only go with what we are comfortable with and we stop growing, as performers. That’s where, as Tim puts it, you’ve got to always be adding something new and exciting that should make you feel anxious and uncomfortable. The more times a performer can put themselves in that position, the better things will work out for them.

Plus, there’s nothing quite like sharing a story that no one has ever heard before and hearing the audience react with unbridled laughter.

When it comes to abject failure, Tim shares stories like the time he failed as a parent: He told his son once to behave like a man. So, his son promptly went into the family room, laid down on the couch and scratched himself for 15 minutes. That’s when Tim discovered that he wasn’t quite the role model that he needed to be.

Image: Rob Burnet

Image: Rob Burnet

But, the only rejection that Tim really fears is what could possibly come from his lovely wife. Of all the people on the planet, she’s really the only one he really wants to like him… which any married man can understand. So, to keep that relationship intact, even more than his sense of humor, Tim relies on Almighty God!

He is absolutely certain that there is a God, and God is love. So, if Tim is to learn to love his wife correctly, the only way to make that happen is to draw close to God, since on one does love any better!

Too often, guys like me and Tim get things wrong. Like, when we think that if we work out and get stronger, then our wives will be impressed. Where, in reality, all they see is someone strong who can move the bag of mulch out of the garage and into the backyard. We’re basically a pack mule with a checkbook.

But, recently, I’ve been thinking about possible positive things that can come from rejection. For example, we experience the suffering that Jesus felt, and the shared experience of that draws us closer to Him.

Paul wrote about this in 2 Corinthians 4:9-11,

We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 10 Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.

11 Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies.

So, whenever we feel the sting of rejection from other people, we can rest assured that Jesus felt that – and even more – and we can actually take comfort in the fact that He loves us and doesn’t reject us. In fact, when Tim feels rejected, he almost feels a sense of peace in light of this Biblical context.

And, speaking of a Biblical context, we see God’s guidance as He moves us in a different direction by closing doors with rejection. In other words, He can use rejection to actually guide us along the path that He desires for our lives.

Tim relates to this when he takes his kids to the playground. He doesn’t really care which swingset or jungle gym equipment they play on while they are there. Likewise, Tim doesn’t think that God is overly concerned with every detail of what we are doing, so long as we draw close to Him.

Finally, I believe that if it’s clear we are being rejected by other people for our shortcomings, then this rejection is a way to show us areas that we can grow in.

Tim more clearly defines this by adding, “… if this rejection comes from people who love you and want what is best for you.”

Or… even if rejection comes from people who honestly don’t love you, the truth is that there are some people who you WANT to be rejected by. For instance, if Tim does a comedy bit and some self-righteous people are turned off by his stories, then that would be a crowd that Tim is perfectly okay with “suffering” rejection from. Just because they are offended does not mean that Tim is wrong. If they are self-righteous sensibilities are offended by something we say… maybe it’s good that they’re offended!

What we really need to reign in is “self-rejection”. Too often, we beat ourselves up unnecessarily. Instead, we need to be courageous enough to trust in God for the real affirmation we need. When we become so self-absorbed that we either trust too much in ourselves to protects us, or conversely we needlessly beat ourselves up, instead of trusting God for protection and guidance, then only bad things can happen.

Isolation also breeds problems like these. Especially us guys… we NEED other guys to bounce stuff off of and discern what can be filed under “good rejection” versus “bad rejection” and “other good stuff” versus “other bad stuff”.

That’s pretty much how us comedians mentally file stuff, anyway.

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My Armor Slider 2

Spiritual attacks will happen no matter what. No matter what you’re up to, where you are, or who you’re around… if you are dedicated to serving God, you will be under attack.

Not that it was a spiritual attack, but I witnessed a huge fire today. A motor home sales lot saw their service center go up in smoke, and for a couple hours, things looked really dicey! The chaos of it all really made people anxious. Nearby drivers were filled with fear and anger, honking their horns (as if the people driving in front of them WANTED to park there on the road near the flames). And, as I’ve said before, anger is often the summation of hurt, sadness and fear… all rolled together.

Image: KUSI

Image: KUSI

What I found most interesting was, while I was caught up in all the traffic that surrounded the fire, I allowed a guy to enter into traffic in front of me, as he was exiting his apartment complex. It was just a simple, “Ok… it’s your turn to enter into this sea of slow moving cars with the rest of us.” But, what surprised me was his reaction. He looked straight at me and mouthed the words, “That was nice.”

Now, I’m not pointing this out for any personal glory or pats on the back. I just want to show one small example of how easy it really is in our busy, chaotic lives to stop for a second and do something cool. I mean, I’m willing to bet that the next time that that guy is in that situation, he’ll let somebody out onto the road just like I did.

As I read through the Bible, all I see is one passage after another telling us to love one another. Yet, what I saw as I drove around the fire-stricken area (it was located right in the middle of my town, and right alongside a major highway) all I saw was selfishness and anger.

What does this have to do with the Book of James? Maybe nothing, but it stood out in my week! Now, in regards to James, I think of Paul (no, Paul didn’t write James, Jesus’ half-brother James did). I picture Paul as he was writing his epistles sort of standing with his left arm across his chest and his right hand running through his beard… thinking… then sitting… and writing. However, James, I picture sitting very firmly and deliberately writing this stuff out. It’s very hard core.Apostle Rembrandt

Here’s an example in chapter five:

Look here, you rich people: Weep and groan with anguish because of all the terrible troubles ahead of you. Your wealth is rotting away, and your fine clothes are moth-eaten rags. Your gold and silver are corroded. The very wealth you were counting on will eat away your flesh like fire. This corroded treasure you have hoarded will testify against you on the day of judgment. For listen! Hear the cries of the field workers whom you have cheated of their pay. The cries of those who harvest your fields have reached the ears of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. (James 5:1-4)

Man! If you’re wealthy, those are some tough words to hear! Now, there are other verses in the Bible that talk about wealthy people who gave to the Lord and served the Lord in very kind and gracious ways. Because it doesn’t matter how rich or poor we are, all of us can serve God.

James also hits home an amazing message just a few verses later in verse nine:

Don’t grumble about each other, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. For look—the Judge is standing at the door! (James 5:9)

James doesn’t write like Paul. It’s very different than Romans, or Ephesians or Galatians… but it’s still God’s Word. And what is God’s Word good for? We see the answer to this question very plainly in 2 Timothy 3:16-17,

The whole Bible was given to us by inspiration from God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives; it straightens us out and helps us do what is right.17 It is God’s way of making us well prepared at every point, fully equipped to do good to everyone.

So, we know that men did the actual penmanship of the Bible, but God’s Word was actually breathed out to and through them. So, as you are reading the Bible, know that you are not just reading some guy’s words. You’re reading the very words that God breathed out and put into their fingers and in their minds!

Skipping down to verse twelve, we read:

But most of all, my brothers and sisters, never take an oath, by heaven or earth or anything else. Just say a simple yes or no, so that you will not sin and be condemned. (James 5:12)

What he’s saying here is that you don’t ever need to say to someone, when you are in an argument, “I swear to you. I swear on my kids. I swear on my mom. I swear on my grandma’s grave!” (and by the way… I’ve done this so many times).

You see, if we live honest lives, then a simple “yes” or “no” is sufficient, because everyone will know that the words that come out of your mouth are true. But, in order to achieve this level of honesty, you need the Holy Spirit.

But, how can we constantly be in communication with God throughout the entire day? By surrendering your daily lives to the Holy Spirit, it’s easier than you think.

It all comes down to the power of prayer.

Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises. 14 Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. (James 5:13-14)

I know that this sounds a little weird by today’s American standards. I mean, if I’m sick wouldn’t a nice bowl of soup be nicer than pouring oil on me? But, it’s in the Bible – the New Testament, no less. And, we need to obey God’s Word.

Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. (James 5:15)

Now, this is the most “Catholic” part of the Bible I have ever read. In fact, growing up in the Catholic Church, I always struggled with, “Why am I telling my sins to a priest, when I could tell my sins directly to God?”

Yet, the next verse answers what I think Catholicism clings to in terms of why we confess to a priest.

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. (James 5:16)

Now, I don’t believe that in order to receive forgiveness of our sins we need to confess to a priest, necessarily. Because, when Jesus died, God tore that cloth that hung between God and His people and said, “You don’t have to do that anymore.” We have direct access to the Lord now. In fact, the Scriptures tell us that we are now priests, ourselves.

James continues…

The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.17 Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years! 18 Then, when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain and the earth began to yield its crops.

19 My dear brothers and sisters, if someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back, 20 you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back from wandering will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins. (James 5:16-20)

That last paragraph… that’s what my friend Rob did for me.

I can only hope that I have done the same for other people over the years. It’s what we should strive for. If we are Christ-followers, we should be on the lookout for other Christians who have wandered away and ways to guide them back onto God’s path for their lives.

So, in summation, James 5 is telling us that we really need to be talking to other Christians, allowing them to be involved in our lives and us being involved in theirs.

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When I hear the word “sin”, I think of something dark and crusty, like liquid that dried and caked on a beating heart.

If we believe that Jesus died for us, then our sins are washed from our hearts.  We’re clean.

But still, we continue to sin.

Those sins are forgiven, but we do still sin.

Sometimes I think that I treat sin like an ostrich would.  I earnestly plant my head in the sand with the hopes that maybe – just maybe – if I don’t see it, it may not actually be there.

But it is.  All around us.  All the time.

If we looked closely, we’d see everything caked over with sin.  Layer upon layer, it builds up as we fail to acknowledge it and ask for forgiveness.

Why are we so afraid to call sin what it is?  To hold each other accountable?  To actually deal with it?

I think it’s because “conviction” (a strong persuasion of beliefs) is so closely related in our minds with “condemnation” (severe reproof).  We hear any correction as the antithesis of our salvation.  And when we find ourselves being convicted by the words of another sinner, we reject them and that misinterpreted condemnation that we feel, and we wonder, “Who do they think they are?”

And we miss their message.

Likewise, I think that I’ve been afraid of being the messenger of accountability that gets shot – or worse, unfriended on Facebook.

I think that when I know that I need to say something to someone about sin, I also feel guilty.  There’s the guilt that comes with calling someone else’s cards when I know all too well which ones I’ve been holding.  I am bothered by the speck in their eye as I happily ignore the 4×4 hanging out of my own.

In Matthew 7:5, Jesus says:

You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

So maybe the ability to call sin what it is all starts with the honest evaluation of ourselves.  And yet, that still doesn’t explain why culturally we turn a blind eye to the sin that’s all around us.

I think that too often we dismiss and explain away our own and each other’s sin with the excuse, “if that works for you and makes you happy, it’s no big deal…”

Right?

But it IS a big deal.  When we make it okay for us Christians to sin, we make it okay for everyone else.  We claim “political correctness” and “tolerance” to justify our positions toward sin.

This is wrong.  And cowardly.

The Bible is very clear on what sin is.  We can’t pick and chose and pretend that it doesn’t.

Instead, we need to speak the truth, in love – Just like the Bible says.

The key is owning up to it, calling it what it is, and inviting everyone back in.

That’s what Jesus did.  He called it sin.  He died for us BECAUSE of our sin.  And then He invited us to come home.

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Matthew 7:1-6

1 “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.

“And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.

“Don’t waste what is holy on people who are unholy. Don’t throw your pearls to pigs! They will trample the pearls, then turn and attack you.

Welcome to one of the most ignored and blatantly disobeyed passages in all of Bible to the needless and unspeakable hurt of so many of us.

May I bare my soul as Jesus bared His?

Believe it or not, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus addressed what was then, what is today, an all-too-common spiritual practice of unconscionable spiritual abuses. Abuses that were taking place in so many of the synagogues of Jesus’ day, and in so many churches today.  (and I don’t use these words lightly or for hyperbole)

For the sake of our souls, we MUST understand what Spiritual abuse is, why it happens, whether or not it is or has happened to us, and how to guard against it.

First off, let’s take a look at the word “judge”.  Jesus used the word krino, which is a legal, courtroom term pertaining to someone who exalts himself or herself over another person to question, confront, rebuke or correct that person’s behavior or character based on the self-appointed judge’s own standards.  In other words, someone who refuses to mind their own business by placing himself or herself in the position of “god” (who is truly our only judge).

This is spiritual pride run amuck.  All under the guise of holding one another accountable.

Now, this is not to be confused with genuine accountability, which is an agreed partnership between people to keep behaviors and characters in check with God’s standards.

So, let’s see what the Bible has to say about the matter.  The word “accountable” is used three times throughout the New Testament (Romans 3:19, Hebrews 4:13, and Hebrews 13:17) and each time, the only person who is given the role of judge or one who holds people accountable is God Himself.

Honestly, if people would simply take Jesus’ words to heart, that in and of itself would absolutely transform our Christian experiences for the better. And frankly, it’s not that hard to do.

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What happens when we step out of our safe Christian bubbles and come face to face with questions such as:  Why do you think God even exists?  Why do you trust the Bible?  Wasn’t Jesus merely a good man and teacher?

Often times, questions like these become the seeds of doubt in the minds of many Christians today.

Doubt is simply uncertainty in regards to God.  What each of us needs to know is that doubt is a universal human experience.  It’s not unique to Christians – even atheists doubt their own positions toward God from time to time.

Even great Biblical icons experienced doubt:  Abraham, Job, David, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, Thomas, Peter… the list goes own.  So, if you doubt, you’re in good company.

In our pursuit of getting to the bottom of these doubts, I want to begin by laying down some personal – even intimate – foundational concepts on which we can build upon to discover truth.

  • Write down your top three questions for or objections to Christianity.
  • Write down the top three hurts in your life, resolved or unresolved.
  • Write down the top three sins you struggle with the most.

The reason why we are starting off with such deep personal reflection is that doubt does not show up in the same shape, size or pattern in every instance.  But rather, each of these three areas corresponds to a different source of doubt.

Firstly, we’ll take a look at intellectual doubt.  This is where we question Christianity’s truthfulness.

It can be caused by unanswered questions, incorrect views or perspectives, bad thinking, bad logic or any number of shaky foundations.

The key to dealing with intellectual doubt is not to runaway or suppress it, but to seek out satisfactory answers to your questions and don’t stop seeking until you are satisfied.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NIV)

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

So, what does this, practically speaking, look like?

  1. Identify your top three questions or objections.
  2. Get resources on these topics.
  3. Study with others.

That last one is key – you need to pug in with other believers who will seek serious answers with you.

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Dad and I are horrible golfers.  I mean terrible.  The words “stupendously dreadful” don’t come close to describing the damage we do to a golf course and a scorecard any given weekend.  Therefore, we’re taking lessons.  Each week, we place ourselves under the tutelage of our respected local golf pro.

Now, you’d think that with as high of a scorecard that we tally up each time we hit the links, it would be easy for us to adhere to the instructor’s advice.  However, often the tips he gives us that will definitely improve our game seem counter-intuitive to the way we previously have always swung our clubs.

But, as our golf instructor says, “Getting better is not always comfortable.”

Which brings us to the point of this week’s podcast:  When someone who genuinely cares for us offers constructive criticism on specific aspects of our life (golf, bowling, work, parenting, marriage, etc.), how do we receive criticism and instruction?

For instance, if someone dear to you told you that relationally you were “all thumbs” – meaning that you should slow down and think through what you’re about to say to people and how you’re about to say it because you’re a bit rough around the edges and are unintentionally hurting people – how would you react?

Some of us take criticism as insults and feel the ping of these biting words for days, months, even years beyond the conversation.  They feel picked on and are automatically defensive.

Another response is to justify your behavior.  We have the propensity to talk ourselves into anything.  The bottom line to this approach is we simply end up blowing off these potential pearls of wisdom due to our own pride.

A more appropriate response – assuming the person offering advice is actually offering helpful tips out of love – would be to recognize that these words are meant to help you and those around you (co-workers, family members, etc.)

Now this isn’t a fun “teachable moment” to endure – not for anyone.  It requires a tough, honest look in the mirror and recognize who you truly are – warts and all.

But, as Romans 3:23 says:

“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”

Wait… what’s that?  ALL fall short?  ALL??  Even me? (yes… all of us… even you.)

So, then we need to ask ourselves, “What is it that I am doing that I don’t naturally see?’  Then we need to find a trustworthy person to come alongside us to honestly speak truth into our lives and help us become better people.

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