Willing To Take The Risk

Standard
This is our last study on goodness. I asked God what he wanted me to share with you on goodness. He was very direct.
 
God sent His only Son to walk and live among us. We know he was about healing the sick, teaching about God and leading people to be followers of God. He was with folks who others often looked down upon or was ostracized.
 
We find in this passage, “While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:15-17 The teachers of the law were critical of Jesus eating and spending time with these folks. In their eyes these are not who Jesus should have spent time with.
 
God shared with me this morning that in Jesus’ goodness he spent time, teaching, healing, and loving those who others thought were unloveable and the least deserving. He looked past their faults, saw them as ones he created and loved them right where they were. I think seeing his goodness, living with him, being healed by him and his loving them they began to see the changes that needed to be made in their lives. He didn’t force them to change. He loved them just as they were and was good to them and because he was they wanted to change.
 
I am thinking if we want to have the kind of goodness in our lives that Christ did as He walked this earth we MUST do the same. We MUST get away from judging how others live their lives. We MUST not see them as sinners who need saving. Instead we MUST see them as Christ saw them. We MUST reach out to them just as Christ reached out to them and most of all we MUST love them like he did.
 
He did not ask them to change their lives, get their act together, or to stop sinning before spending time with him. He accepted them where they were. He loved them as they were. He spent time with them just as they were.
 
As he spent time with them, as he shared God’s love with them and as he taught them, they began to see a different way of life. Read the following scripture with me:
 
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.
 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.”So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.
All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”
But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount. 9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:1-10
 
In this passage everyone seems to think Zacchaeus was a deceitful man; some even called him sinner. Christ did not let what others had to said about Zacchaeus influence him. He did not tell or even ask Zacchaeus to change who he was before he went to his house. I am sure Christ knew and loved Zacchaeus just as he was. I think he saw the heart of Zacchaeus and saw what he could become. Because Zacchaeus heard the message Christ had for him. He changed.
 
Those folks who we think are unloveable, who we think are sinning in God’s eyes will never come to our churches and hear the message God has for them if we don’t reach out to them. If we don’t love them as Christ loves them they will never enter our doors. If they think they have to change before they can come into our churches they will never come.
 
It’s only when we look past what the world has to say about them, it’s only when we offer love, it’s only when we say we are a church that heals and only when we say we don’t care what you have done in the past or are doing now will they enter our doors to hear the message God has for them. It’s not in us to change them We can’t. All we can do is plant the seed and let God do the rest.
 
What would have happened if Christ only spoke to those who the world thought was good enough to hear the message? What would have happened to the man beside the pool who couldn’t help himself or refused to? What would the church look like today if only those “good enough” heard the message?
 
 I read this somewhere, “The church is not a museum of saints, but a hospital for sinners.” If our church is full of saints and not a hospital for those who have done wrong then something is wrong with our church. We must remember this, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” Romans 3:23. We have all sinned at some point in our lives, we may be sinning now and we know we will sin again. What would happen to us if others judged us as we judge others? What would happen if we were not allowed in to hear God’s message?
 
What would have happened to each of us if someone thought we weren’t good enough to be in the churches we are in today? What would have happened to us if someone came and told us we had to clean up our act before we entered the doors of our beloved church? We wouldn’t be in the church today we love so much. So why are we keeping others out? Why are we asking them to make changes in their lives before we accept them?
 
Jesus saw the potential in Zacchaeus and was willing to risk it. Maybe we should be looking at the potential in others and take a risk. Maybe we should love others unconditionally, just as they are, just like Jesus.
 
Let’s begin to open our doors to all who may want to come and hear the message God has for them. Let’s wrap our arms around them and offer them a place where they can come and be healed and made well. Let’s look for the potential in them and take a risk. Someone took the risk for us; let’s take the risk for others. Are you willing? It’s not easy I know I have been there. But, God does not call us to a life of ease, he calls us to a life that is different than the world. God is calling us to be loving not judgmental. God wants us to be different. He’s calling us back to being a hospital not a museum.
 
Are you willing to risk it all for others sake? For Christ?
 
Dear God: This is not an easy message. This message is one I need to listen to, reread, and to obey. Help me to take the risk and love others as you love them and help me to meet them where they are. Help me to see the potential in each person as they come through the doors and not their lifestyle or their hangups or their sin. Help me as I deal with judging others first instead of see the potential in them. Help the church to be loving and accepting to all those who need to hear God’s words. Let us not be in the business of trying to change lives, instead let us be in the business of planting seeds and allow God to do what needs to be done in the lives of others. Thank you for stepping on my toes and getting me to the heart of this issue. Guide me as I begin a new way of thinking about others. Amen
Advertisements

In The Shadow of God’s Goodness

Standard
We are talking about goodness this month. As I sit here and reflect on what goodness means to me I am drawn to God.
 
This morning I am thinking not about my own goodness, but the goodness of God. I realize I fail at being good all the time, but God never fails. He is good all the time; all the time God is good.
 
I have been thinking about a dear friend who has been taken off of life support. The outcome is not good for her. In his goodness God allowed me to see her one more time before I headed back from Indiana. I was visiting my daughter’s church and this beautiful soul was there. She gave me the biggest hug, a kiss on the cheek, and a wonderful big smile. She finished it off with, “I love you”. I got to tell her I loved her too! God knows what is ahead for all of us and he prepares the way. What a memory I will cherish in my heart.
 
I think about the many times my husband and I have gone through some difficult times, but in His goodness he provided the means to get us through. It might just have been his presence, or his power, but he provided.
 
Because I know and God knows I can’t be good all the time in His goodness he offers me the gift of grace. All he does is ask me to admit I messed up, brush my self off, accept his grace and move on. Because of his goodness he doesn’t beat me down, degrade me or severely punish me. Instead through the goodness of his heart he reaches down and loves me just as I am.
 
I just had a birthday recently. I couldn’t celebrate with my family. In his goodness God has provided family for me here in Texas. I went into my class on Sunday morning to find cupcakes, (chocolate of course) birthday napkins and plates. God knows what we need and he provides. He has provided family for me here in Texas to celebrate the good times with.
 
I think about the number of times I have been asked to speak to groups of women, or I have been asked to take on a particular job or do something that was way beyond me, but in God’s goodness he provides me with strength and power to do what needs to be done.
 
We have been pretty dry here in Texas for a few weeks, in his goodness God let it rain this morning. Those raindrops were blessings to our dry parched land.
 
I could go on about the goodness of God and my lack of being good all the time. God’s goodness out measures any hope of me being as good as he is, but I don’t fret. God knows my shortcomings and loves  me still the same.
 
Psalm 100:5 
English Standard Version (ESV)

For the Lord is good;
    his steadfast love endures forever,
    and his faithfulness to all generations.
 
 
So, when I look at God’s goodness it can be a might intimidating. We have Micah 6:8 that helps us with that.
 
He has told you, O man, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,[b]
    and to walk humbly with your God?
 
It’s pretty simple, we are to love God with our whole heart, love one another, treat others fairly, be kind and to walk humbly. It’s not rocket science, it’s simply day to day living and loving others. I don’t have to fret if I don’t get it right everyday, because in his goodness he knows I can’t and he loves me anyway. I just have to work on getting it right so that someday I might just be good enough to see him.
 
God’s goodness, I believe, comes from his heart and his love for us. If we can love others with our whole heart then I think we can get the goodness down.
 
In what ways has God shown his goodness to you lately? How have you responded?
 
Dear God: I thank you for your goodness in my life. You teach me in so many ways what it means to be good. You allow me to see the goodness in you everyday. Sometimes I am aware of it and sometimes I miss it. You have taught me what I need to do to be good. Help me as I study your word on what it means to be good and help me as I try to apply that to my life. Thank you that in your goodness you have given me grace as I mess up, thank you for the power and strength to accomplish those things you have set before me. May I live in the shadow of your goodness now and forever. Amen

I Can’t Be Good Enough, But I Got God’s Grace

Standard

This is June and we are working our way through the fruits of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” This month we are dealing with goodness. We kind of skimmed through kindness, but I know you are all aware of what Christ says about kindness.

Goodness is described in my dictionary as decency, morality, honesty, integrity, righteousness, rightness, and character. So what it is basically saying is we are to be decent, moral, honest, have integrity, be righteousness and have good character. That is a lot to digest. Not only is it hard to digest, but it is hard to live by every one of these all the time. We live in a fallen world and we are surrounded by people who push our buttons, test us on every side and then we have to deal with the media. The media alone challenges our morality and our decency.

So what exactly is goodness? It includes an absolute commitment to doing good over doing evil and doing what is right over doing what is wrong.

So what do we do with goodness as a fruit of the Spirit? Like all the other fruits I think it is something we work on every day of every week of every month of every year until Christ comes back. We will often take one or two steps forward, something happens and we slip back the same number of steps. We will never be good enough. We can’t. Christ knows that, but he does expect us to practice being good. Because we can’t be good enough God offers us grace.

Like all the other gifts I think we have to choose how we use this gift. Do we use it wisely or do we ignore it? When we get up of a morning we can choose to put these fruits of the Spirit to work in our lives or we can choose to live as we please.

For the most part I think we are taught to be good as children. We are taught (hopefully) right from wrong. I can remember from my children and grandchildren (and if may mom was still alive she might even said I did it too at some point) we had to teach them you don’t take candy, or gum or anything else from the grocery store’s shelf. A few times I had my child or I have seen my daughters walk our children back in and make the child tell the store clerk what happened and make them pay for it. Being good is taught in most homes most of the time.

Somewhere along the line we become adults and what we thought was good gets distorted. For instance, we are taught not to steal candy, gum or anything else from the store, but as adults we don’t think about stealing time from our employers as we play on our phones. Is it really wrong to stretch the truth when it comes to paying taxes?

We are taught not to use fowl language as children, but somewhere along the lines as adults we let those words slip in and we aren’t ashamed of it, or it doesn’t bother us.

I believe in free speech. I believe that is a right I have, but if I am following God and I am being challenged to live a life of goodness is it right for me to say what ever I think even if it brings someone else down? Or destroys someone?

God calls us to live a life of goodness. He also knows how difficult it can be, but I am thinking if we could just get back to what our parents taught us, what our churches taught us as kids and even our teachers in school the world would be a different place. We need to open our Bibles more and study exactly what goodness is and how to apply it to our daily lives.

Being good is making that conscious effort to do good, to do what is right and to follow Christ’s example. It’s up to us to make those conscious efforts. We can blame others for our failure to do good, but in the end it’s a choice we make not others. I would want to do something as a kid. I always used the argument, “well so and so is doing it.” My dad would always come back with, “Well, if so and so jumped off the cliff would you do it?” We can choose to not follow the way of the world and do what God calls us to do which is to live a live full of goodness or we can follow the world today and not be so good.

There are too many today living a life that is not so good. There are too many who want to be mentors to our children that are not setting good examples. There are many in Hollywood that are not setting the examples, our parents, pastors, and teachers taught us. We have a choice to make? Are we going to jump off the cliff with them or are we going to walk away and live a Godly life full of goodness?

Dear God, it’s hard to lead a life of goodness all the time. I praise you and thank you for your grace and mercy. I will never be good enough, but help me as I work toward being better each day preparing myself for the day you return and take me home. Amen