by Jonathan Daugherty
Do you ever wonder if we live in a country (USA) that is so blessed with "creature comforts" that we have become "flabby" when it comes to our spiritual fitness? We have so much, yet everywhere I turn I see increased dissatisfaction and misery as people clamor for more and more and more. When will it ever be enough? Is there ever an end to the discontent and anxiety of those believing the lies of entitlement thinking? (let's chew on that one for a few seconds...)
I actually believe there is an end to such discontentment and anxiety, but to pursue it requires incredible strength and resolve because it goes against all that our culture promotes and worships. The answer to ungratefulness and dissatisfaction (and addiction!) is found in God's grace.
I realize that many of my writings, whether in a blog, a newsletter, or a book, tend to come off as a rehash of the same old theme: grace! For any of you who have read many of my writings, you might be thinking, "Geesh, here he goes again on the 'grace thing.' Doesn't he know how to write on any other topic?!" I apologize, but only for the fact that the message seems not to be getting through on a larger scale to believers throughout our culture. Grace is the theme of true life for the believer, and until we understand (and embrace) this truth, we too will fall victim to the whining and moaning of the increased throng of the dissatisfied.
So, what is it that makes grace so amazing? Why is it so essential to true life and real contentment? What makes God's grace indispensable, not merely a side issue that we can take or leave on this journey of faith?
What makes God's grace so paramount, so essential in this thing called life is that without it there would be no life at all. It was by God's grace that he even considered creating us to enjoy him. His grace is woven throughout all of creation, offering us breathtaking examples of his beauty and majesty. His grace consistently and persistently pursues mankind, even going so far as to lay down the life of His own Son, Jesus Christ, in order that we wouldn't perish but instead enjoy life forever with him. Grace is fundamentally essential to life, in all its layers!
But is grace really enough? This is the question our culture is so accustomed to asking, isn't it? "What is enough?" And we ask it about everything, don't we?
And the list goes on. We as believers should be the first to notice the fallacy in such thinking, but often we ourselves are swept away in the rush of discontent and we find ourselves believing the subtle lie of the enemy (which hasn't changed from the beginning), "What you've been given by the grace of God -- it isn't enough." As we swallow the hook of that lie, we (just like the unbeliever) become pawns of the devil, twisting and turning in whatever direction he desires.
I'm not saying we shouldn't want to improve and even take risks in following Christ (in fact, to follow the Lord is a great risk Jesus himself told us to weigh carefully). But we need to remember that we are promised discomfort in this life if we follow Jesus. We are promised trouble, hardships, suffering, and even hatred from the world if we take this Christianity message seriously. And this makes sense if you understand that this world is not our home. But in the discomfort, in the trials, in the illnesses, in the losses, is grace really enough?
I believe that until we come to a place where we say with authenticity and conviction, "God, your grace is enough," we will never know true life and never experience real peace and contentment. Believer, God's grace IS enough! If he were to provide nothing else for us in our entire existence, save his grace, it would be enough - MORE THAN ENOUGH! Do you believe this? Then cling to it in all of life's seasons.
God's grace is powerful for transforming lives, for in it we find something of the essence of God, the truth that he really does love us with an everlasting love. His compassion is overflowing, His salvation is permanent, His mercy is great and His faithfulness reaches beyond the heavens. When you come to the place of understanding and appreciating the limitless grace of God, you finally reach a place in your life that transcends circumstance, that is beyond the physical, material world that appeals to the rottenness of our sinful flesh. You enter a place of peace, untouched and unmarred by anything this life can throw at you in hopes that you fall. And even when you do stumble, God's grace is there to pick you up.
I pray you will embrace God's grace today and every day. It really is enough...
by Jonathan Daugherty
If I'm honest, I don't really want to write this article. Not because I don't believe the title has merit, but because the issue of sexuality is such a hot button between the two communities mentioned. Orthodox Christians are often viewed by those in the LGBTQ community as archaic and anti-love, whereas those who identify as LGBTQ+ are often viewed by those in the Christian community as "sinners in the hands of an angry God." What can be done to resolve this "battle" of sexual ideologies?
For the sake of full disclosure I must state that I am a Bible-believing evangelical Christian. So, automatically there will be assumptions made about my worldview. I believe in the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible, and I affirm such confessions of Christian beliefs as The Apostle's Creed and the Westminster Confession of Faith. I am, as some might say, a conservative Christian.
But I don't hate anyone in the LGBTQ community. And I invite my Christian brothers and sisters to do the same. However, we must do so without abandoning the foundation of our faith. We must love as Christ loved -- in grace and truth.
There are three key things that I think Christians can (and should) learn from the LGBTQ community. And by learning these we might establish a bridge for conversation and relationship. We might even discover that at our core we are more alike than we are different.
1. We all want a place to belong.
I have listened to many stories of those who identify as LGBTQ+ and there is often a common refrain when it comes to a person finally "tipping the scales" to fully embracing their sexual orientation: "I was welcomed with open arms by the (fill in the blank with LGBTQ+) community." The longing to belong is strong in us as human beings. When we find a place that accepts us, we tend to move in that direction.
So, Christian friends, what can we learn from this? Might it be that we don't hold out open arms to those who are different from us? Maybe we need to learn a lesson here about the kinds of environments we are creating in our churches. Are we inviting people just as they are to come explore Jesus and our Christian faith, or are we creating a moral obstacle course for people to pass before they can gain access?
Hear me clearly on this point: It is not our job as Christians to change people's behavior (or their heart); we are called by God to introduce people to Jesus, and walk with them as they grow in Him. And how can we do that if we construct so many obstacles before they hit the front door?
Jesus sought out the most broken people to show He loved them. Religious people didn’t like that, including the Pharisees who murmured about Jesus letting the woman anoint his feet, “If He knew what kind of woman she was He would not let her touch Him.” (Luke 7:39)
Broken people responded so well to Jesus because He essentially showed them, “You belong here with Me.” Their behavior changed after being with Jesus, not before. Christians need to understand the power of our belonging together with Christ, and should extend that fellowship to others as Jesus did.
2. We all want an identity that is unique and celebrated.
One of the hardest questions to answer is "Who are you?" This is a question of identity. And it's easy to construct our answers based on external factors, such as job, family, hobbies, and reputation. One element that is central to being human is sexuality. So, it makes sense that this would be an area in which we want to "stand out" as unique in our identity. But at what cost?
I remember the "old days" when there were only two distinctions between sexual orientations and gender identities: heterosexual and homosexual; male and female. But today, by some reports, there are dozens of distinctions of sexual orientation and gender identity! Why so many variations?
Everybody wants to be somebody. In other words, we all want a sense that we are unique in the world. And the truth is, we are. Fingerprints, DNA, and even body odor are distinct to every human being on planet earth. You and I are born unique. But sometimes we want to plant a flag (no pun intended) that declares this to the world. Sexual/Gender identity can be an easy (and obvious) way to do this.
Christian friends, the LGBTQ community does an excellent job of defining and celebrating a person's uniqueness based on their sexual/gender identity. Could the same claim be made of you and me based on our identity in Christ? Do you know who you are in Him and how you are uniquely gifted for His purpose? And do you celebrate this gift of God's grace in a way that is attractive and life-giving to those who are far from God?
When Christ is at the center of our identity there is nothing that can destroy or diminish our value and significance.
3. We all want our lives to matter and our voices to be heard.
I have a Google Alert set for LGBTQ. This means that every day I get a report from Google on all the news and articles related to anything with LGBTQ connections. Every day lots of news comes up! One thing I notice over and over again is the relative consistency and persistency of the messaging for LGBTQ rights and the predictible attacks against those who oppose such rights. But what's the real message here?
A group of people (LGBTQ) with a shared worldview and common goal are crying out to be heard and to make a difference in the society.
What can Christians learn here? What is our primary message? It is that "God so loved the world" that He sent Jesus Christ to die for sinners like you and me. (John 3:16) But when our message simply becomes a reaction to the latest shock news we find ourselves being grinded into dust by the political and media machines, rather than offering hope and life and freedom to "those who have ears to hear."
Let's also remember that all of us come to God with our own baggage and sin. A lot of our baggage and sin we don’t realize is harmful or even that it exists until we have spent time with God. Often, in His wisdom, He waits (sometimes years!) until the time is right to point it out to us and invite us to unpack it. We must offer the same grace to the LGBTQ community by focusing on welcoming them and introducing them to God, then allowing God to work with them as He sees fit in His timing.
My Christian friends, what then should the church's response and role be to the LGBTQ community? Might we stand together and declare:
Love is actually the common language Christians share with the LGBTQ community, even though our worldviews for how to present and practice love are very different. But might we have the courage to demonstrate the same love that Jesus Christ demonstrated to us, that "while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
Would you die for the sake of a LGBTQ person?
This morning I read these verses from Ephesians 4:14-16,
...so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
As I survey the world around me I notice a common trend occurring in our western cultures: childhood is remaining long after childhood. This is universal, affecting every demographic -- even God's church. Many followers of Jesus are succumbing to the false idea that God's love means He doesn't mind childishness. After all, we are saved by grace, right? But doesn't love require reproof?
Our ministry is focused on helping sexually broken individuals and families find healing and hope through the power of Jesus Christ. We provide resources and training tools to also help Christian leaders be better equipped when helping people break free from sexual struggles or strongholds. To minister effectively it is imperative that we hold in balance grace and truth. When imbalance occurs between these two perspectives, the essence of love is lost.
I have 3 teenagers, two girls and a boy. I love them dearly. And my love is expressed to them in varying measures of grace and truth. Would I be loving my children if I never corrected them? Would I be loving my children if I gave them everything they wanted? Certainly there are ways to discipline and correct that are kind and gentle, but discipline and correction are not optional if I am to love my children well.
God deals with us in the same way. He loves us dearly. And His love is expressed in varying measures of grace and truth -- perfectly revealed in His Son, Jesus Christ, who was "full of grace and truth." (John 1:14) Would God be loving if He never corrected us? Would God be loving if He gave us everything we wanted? God certainly disciplines and corrects us in kind and gentle ways, but His discipline and correction are not optional if He is to truly love us well.
Today there are many who want to deceive us into believing that love doesn't require correction and accountability -- which is why so many remain stuck in childhood! We live in a world that reasons with its eyes and thinks with its emotions. If it looks good, pursue it. If it feels good, do it. After all, if it looks good and feels good it must be good, right? The Author of Good, the Creator of everything, would disagree. We are to live as He designed us -- to be holy and set apart, those who truly love in word and deed. In short, those who grow up.
It is time for courageous love to step forward in God's church. Time to "speak the truth in love" and not cower to the false teachers in society who present a "love" that may look good on the outside and feel good for a moment, but in the end leads to bitter division and a trail of broken hearts and immature character. True love is rooted in truth and expressed through grace for the purpose of growing us up into the likeness of Christ.
This year resolve to be a courageous lover, one who mirrors your heavenly Father to the broken world around you. Doing so will make you a beacon on a hill and provide hope and direction for those who need more than a mere facade of love. Let's show the world what "grown up" love is all about.
In this 5-part series on The Pathway to Purity we have defined and explored the key markers that indicate growth toward greater integrity. This post reveals the final marker: Love Your Neighbor.
You might be thinking, How does loving my neighbor have anything to do with my sexual integrity? Good question! So let’s explore 3 ways that loving others is connected to your growth in sexual integrity -- and good character in general.
Loving Others Ensures Self-Care
The above statement may seem contradictory. Isn’t loving others focused on others? How, then, could such an outward focus have such an inward benefit?
Jesus told his followers (and his opponents) that the greatest commandment was to love God and “love your neighbor as yourself.” He even stated, “On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt. 22:36-40) Notice the qualifier on how to love your neighbor: as yourself.
You cannot love others well if you do not care well for yourself. Therefore, loving others will ensure that you are taking care of yourself. This means you must reject any lies of shame that attack your worth, properly care for your body and soul, and establish healthy boundaries against temptation and toxic environments. Such self-care allows you to “love your neighbor as yourself.”
Practical Tip: Ask yourself (or a trusted friend) in what areas of your life are you not exhibiting good self-care. Choose one area to work on improving and establish a plan for pursuing better self-care. Invite someone to hold you accountable to your plan.
Loving Others Guards Against Selfishness
Let me be clear: self-care and selfishness are not the same thing. Self-care is about establishing and maintaining proper health in body, soul, and mind for the good of others. Selfishness is about pursuing your own desires to the detriment of others. Self-care is really self-love in its purest form. Selfishness is truly self-hate; it abandons the Golden Rule toward yourself.
God’s Word instructs us, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Phil. 2:3-4)
The key word in this passage is humility. You and I are to consider others more important than ourselves. Notice that this passage doesn’t teach self-denial, as if you and your interests are unimportant. No, the instruction is about attitude and focus. The attitude is humility and the focus is others. A selfish, self-hating person can have neither humility nor altruism.
Sexual sin is always self-centered. It feeds selfishness, leading you in the opposite direction from loving your neighbor. Therefore, it is critical to “pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” (2 Tim. 2:22) Then you will have a brotherly love that overflows onto your neighbors. (1 Pet. 1:22)
Practical Tip: Get out a piece of paper (or a Notes app on your smartphone). Write down the names of 3 people you care about. Next to each name write down at least one way this week that you will consider them “more significant than yourself.” Follow through on your commitment to exercise humility and focus on their interests above your own.
Loving Others Multiplies Grace
What is the ultimate effect of the gospel of Jesus Christ? Is it simply that your sins are forgiven? Is it merely that you are offered a place in heaven with God? These are great and wonderful truths, but I believe the ultimate effect this Good News has is that it compels everyone who embraces it to share it. The grace found in Jesus cannot be hoarded.
Why must you share this Good News with others?
If you really want to grow in your integrity, make it a habit to give away all that Jesus has given away to you -- grace, forgiveness, kindness, joy, peace, hope, love, Himself. The effect of grace in a life that is gripped by it is always multiplication. Love others as God has loved you. There are no regrets in multiplying grace.
Practical Tip: Is there someone in your life who needs to hear your story, no matter how many steps you have taken on the Pathway to Purity? Ask God to bring to mind someone that needs the hope of grace. Pray for courage to step out and share your story with them.
If you would like more resources on your journey to greater integrity, please visit PureCommunity.org.
by Dan Allender
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I attended a ministry workshop years ago with my wife. We were there to learn about how to prevent burnout when working in full time ministry. The speaker made a comment in one of his teaching sessions that really floored me. He said, "God is extremely inefficient in His character." I didn't really know how to react to such a statement. I leaned in, blinked my eyes a few times to remove any mental cobwebs, and waited to hear what he might say next to clarify this perplexing comment.
He went on to say that God, if He were efficient, would carefully measure everything He did. Why place a million flowers on a field in South America that no person may ever see? Why fill the sky with billions of stars in galaxies we will never know about? Why create thousands of sea creatures when just a few dozen would have gotten the point across about His creativity? If a business analyst in the 21st century were to evaluate "God's business" he would have to conclude that the operation is running at a loss. There is too much extravagance. God does not operate "efficiently."
As I pondered this idea, a powerful truth began to sink in - and I rejoiced at the inefficiency of God. What if God were efficient in His dealings with me, a stubborn, selfish child? What hope would I have if He were not one who poured out His love, lavished His mercy, and filled me to overflowing with His grace? The extravagance of God has been offered to me. I am, therefore, thankful for the inefficiency of God.
The longer I thought about this truth the more I was convicted of how I treat other people. I became painfully aware that I often interact with others in ways that attempt to measure everything, a way that is "efficient." I attempt to keep everything "even" between me and others. They pay me a compliment, I return the compliment. I borrow something, I lend something. Measure, measure, measure.
My heart grew sad as I thought of how this must break God's heart to see His children, who have been given the keys to the doorway of heaven, selfishly mete out the bare minimum of blessing on those around them. Jesus spoke of such inconsistency when he shared the parable of the unmerciful servant. (Matt. 18:23-30)
He said, "Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents (millions) was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
"The servant fell on his knees before him. 'Be patient with me,' he begged, 'and I will pay back everything.' The servant's master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
"But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii (pennies). He grabbed him and began to choke him. 'Pay back what you owe me!' he demanded.
"His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.'
"But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt."
God refuses to "measure out" His goodness, grace, mercy, and love toward us. He refuses to contain Himself when it comes to showering peace, purity, and promise. He gives and gives and gives. He is the "inefficient" God, whose purposes far exceed any measurement. You see, God is interested in our hearts. He wants a relationship with us. You don't measure relationship. You cannot measure love. This is the heart of God: mercy and compassion for wretched sinners like you and me.
I have been challenged by this truth. I must wake up each day and take an honest look in the mirror and ask myself if I am willing to reflect the heart of God today. It can be a tough question when the busyness and trappings of this world compete for my attention. I am tempted to "measure" my kindnesses or generosity, feeling such sacrifices carry with them an added burden. But what I am learning is that "[his] yoke is easy and [his] burden is light." (Matt. 11:28-30) When I reflect the heart of God, I carry no burden because God provides immeasurably beyond what I could even ask or imagine.
Rejoice with me for the inefficiency of God...and ask Him to be reflected in you today.
What's So Amazing About Grace?
by Philip Yancey
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