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homeless person‘And if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?’ James 2:3-4

It was Friday morning. I was a bit late to my coffee/bible study group in a coffee shop in the small Midwestern town I lived in. There were three groups that visited this place on Friday mornings. All of us were believers. All of us were ‘nice, clean, Midwestern adults’. Different churches, different backgrounds, but one God and Lord of all.

This particular morning I was standing behind a stranger in our midst while waiting for my coffee. The person had a ring on every finger, painted nails, eye shadow that was much too dark, tattoos extending from his wrists to above the sleeve of his short-sleeved shirt and a belt that was nothing more than a chain. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what gender the person was.

Then I heard his story. His mother was dying of cancer as was his father. He had recently tried to commit suicide and showed us the scars from the 29 stitches that saved his life. As a result of his suicide attempt and some other circumstances he had called out to God and was saved through the grace and forgiveness of Jesus Christ.

Now, his mission is to reach out to other kids who struggle with broken families, drugs and the temptation to commit suicide. Health issues won’t allow him to keep jobs very long so life itself is a struggle. He told us about the impact he has with kids and then commented that too often adults look down on him. After all, he said with a smile “Would you let your daughter date someone who looks like me?

His words hit home. It’s so easy for us to judge other people by their clothing, the tattoos, the make-up and a wide variety of other externals. But Jesus isn’t concerned about the exterior as much as he is the heart. I’m guessing that Jesus is far more impressed (if I can use that word) with people like my new friend than he is many of us who sit comfortably  and smugly in our churches impressed by the blessings we have given ourselves.

As we gathered around this young man to lay hands on him and pray for him I was reminded of how important it is to keep a clear mind and open heart to those around us. Unless we know their story we have no idea what many people around us are going through. What is your first thought when you see the homeless person holding a sign on the edge of a busy street corner? What is your attitude as you walk past a group of oddly dressed young people at the mall? If a ‘street person’ came into your worship service Sunday morning would he feel as welcome as a well-dressed professional?

It’s time to break the chains of our judgmental attitudes so that we can see others in the same way that Jesus did. That’s grace!

PRAYER: Lord Jesus I’m humbled when I remember that you spent most of your time with people I tend to avoid or be uncomfortable around. Forgive me for my passive judgmentality. Empower me through your Holy Spirit to see others as Jesus did. Amen.

He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord’s favor has come, and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies. Isaiah 61:2 (NLT)

My son was very upset the night he called. He’d received his driver’s license just weeks earlier. He was on his way to a church youth group party, and missed a ‘speed reduced’ sign. As fate would have it, a policeman was sitting in the darkness. My son received his very first speeding ticket that night. We’d established a rule before his very first trip regarding just such a situation.

Both he and his sister were well aware that if either of them were to receive a ticket in the first year of driving their license would be ‘revoked’ by me for one week. The penalty for a second offense in that first year? Two weeks of revocation. A third offense? Three weeks. You see the pattern.

When my son called that night he tearfully explained the situation and told me he was coming home. My response may have surprised him. I told him something like this: “Why come home? You are there with your friends. Enjoy the night. We all make mistakes. It happens all the time. When you get home, I get your license. But for now put that aside and enjoy your time.” He followed my advice…and I followed my rules.

One day Jesus was teaching in the temple. He opened the scroll to the book of Isaiah and read from what we refer to as chapter 61:1-2. Something interesting happened however. Luke records it for us in Luke 4:18-19 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.”

Did you notice anything different in what Jesus read before he sat down? He stopped just before he read the part about Gods’ judgment. Jesus only read about encouraging the weary and poor. Why did he stop at that point? Because Jesus didn’t come to judge. He’ll take care of that when he returns a second time. His first visit to planet earth was not to condemn but to bring release.

Does that mean Jesus was light on sin? Certainly not. One only has to read the Gospels to see the number of times Jesus said “Go and sin no more.” Jesus’ primary purpose in coming to earth was to encourage those who were weak.

My son learned a valuable lesson about driving 20 years ago. To the best of my knowledge that was his only speeding ticket. However, he also learned that although there is a time for judgment, there is also a time for encouragement.

We are called to comfort the mourning; to encourage the weary; to strengthen the weak while we still have time. The time of judgment is coming. The Father will execute his judgment through the Son. We are called, as was Jesus, to be encouragers.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, you showed us that encouraging the weak isn’t a sign of being soft on sin, but an example of grace. Thank you for your gift. Help me to extend that grace to someone who needs it today. Amen.

“I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” Luke 7:47 NLT

It was a small, intimate gathering. Jesus was invited to a gathering of all the influential people. How do I know that? Pharisees didn’t hang out with low-life, unless of course they could get some personal gain from it. They were educated, spiritual and men of integrity. Men of integrity didn’t associate with people of ill-repute.

Jesus had just raised a young man from the dead and the little town of Nain must have been all abuzz about the event. It’s no wonder then that the Pharisee would take this opportunity to have Jesus over for a meal. Never hurts to draw a little attention to yourself at the expense of a famous person.

Everything was going fine until ‘she’ showed up. We don’t know her name, but no doubt the townsfolk did. She had a ‘reputation’. The men all knew who she was, the ones that would admit it anyway.

We really shouldn’t be too hard on Mr. Pharisee though. We are all guilty of looking down on people who don’t ‘hold to the same standards’ we hold to. Perhaps that’s the problem. Too often we measure other people’s actions, transgressions and evil choices by our standards and not God’s. Oh, don’t get me wrong. We SAY they are God’s standards, but often our vision is skewed. If we measure everyone’s actions by God’s standards we will realize that we all fall shamefully short of his glory.

The woman who bowed at Jesus’ feet didn’t care about how others felt about her. She only cared about how Jesus felt about her. Something in his demeanor, his words, the look in her eyes spoke love, forgiveness and acceptance.

The Pharisee, on the other hand, didn’t see those things in Jesus. Why? He never got a grasp of his own sin. Those who clearly see their own sin are more aware of their forgiveness. Why? It’s not that we are forgiven less but we won’t feel forgiven until we see ourselves for who we really are. When we fail to see our own sin we bear the huge burden of not being able to forgive others.

One writer wrote, “A man’s love to God will be in proportion to the obligation he “feels” to him for forgiveness” The woman felt God’s love much more than the Pharisee because she was well aware of the huge amount of forgiveness she’d been given.

If you struggle with forgiveness of those who have hurt you, I encourage you to take some time to examine your own life. Forgiving others who have hurt you doesn’t mean you trust them, it means you release yourself from their pain.

If you are struggling under the watchful eye of your own personal Pharisees, look beyond them to the loving, forgiving, accepting eyes of Jesus Christ. He didn’t come to judge you. He came to free you.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus Christ. I confess to you that I’m a sinner. I am so aware of the sins of others I’ve not noticed mine, until now. I’m tired of the looks of judgment that come my way. I pray that you would free me from my guilt and empower me to show others the same love you have shown me. Amen.

“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip. John 1:46

By today’s standards it was nothing more than a wide spot in the road. It wouldn’t even have merited a “Speed Reduced Ahead” sign. No tourist attractions or antique malls here. Most likely, were you to drive through at night, you wouldn’t even have realized you just drove through a town! That was Nazareth.

It’s no wonder then that Nathanael asked if there were anything good that could come from that place. It was barely a blimp on a GPS! But don’t be too hard on Nathanael. We do the same thing today. We ask, and sometimes not so graciously,

  • Can anything good come from him/her? He/she is divorced you know.
  • He’s a [insert your least liked political party here] you know. And you know what ‘they’ are like!
  • They go to that church down the street. They can’t be good Christians and go there. Everyone knows that.
  • Why, he can’t even speak the language. What good can he be?
  • Humph. Don’t tell me they are Christians. They are living together you know.
  • They teach at that ‘liberal’ school. They can’t be good Christians and teach there? Can they?
  • Once an addict, always an addict. You can’t trust them. Can you?
  • You know they did [insert the sin you think is most horrific here]. They can’t be used in any spiritual leadership position now. Can they?

And the list goes on and on. You know it does. You’ve heard the lines yourself. Maybe you’ve even said them on occasion. But Jesus has an answer for each question and the answer is yes. Yes the person struggling with sin, tainted by divorce, victims of abuse or addictions, haunted by the past can be used mightily by God. Good can come from anything and anyone if Jesus has come into their lives. He can forgive the ugliest of sins, repair the most damaged heart, and cleanse the dirtiest conscience. All you have to do to answer the questions above is to look at the nail pierced hand and the scar in his side to know that.

Philip didn’t bother to argue with Nathanael. He simply said ‘come and see’. And so it is with each of us. Before we make judgments about if or how or when Jesus can use damaged people we need only come and see! There is nothing we can do in our lives to be disqualified from Jesus’ forgiveness.

PRAYER: Father God, I confess to you that far too often I judge others on external things and not the heart. I label people by race, religion or political persuasion. I question how you can use people who have done such horrific things to others. Then I look at me and realize that it’s only by your grace I am where I am. Forgive me for not accepting others as you do. Empower me to be more patient and accepting of those who are different than me. In Jesus name, Amen.


But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9

In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve are described as being naked and yet feeling no shame. There is much more to that line than two nude people walking around in a perfect world. Their nakedness was much more than skin deep. They were naked in an emotional, intellectual and spiritual sense as well. Nothing was hidden from each other and there was no shame.

Then that dreaded piece of fruit appeared and nothing has been the same. Ever since that time we have struggled with acceptance. We struggle to feel accepted by others. We struggle to find acceptance with God in the midst of our weakness. Most importantly, we struggle to find acceptance according to the standards we set for ourselves.

We do all sorts of things to feel comfortable with ourselves. Some of us make a conscious or unconscious decision to remove ourselves from circles where we feel badly about us. We find that it works and remove ourselves more and more until we avoid people at all costs.

Others of us use external things to make us feel good. Some of these are harmful to our bodies like drugs, smoking, sex or extreme behaviors. Sometimes we can use ‘good things’ like religion, social action, philanthropy or volunteering to make us feel better. Whatever we choose to soothe our feelings of inferiority is short-lived and requires a ‘bigger dose’ to accomplish the task.

God suggests we use a different approach. The next time the voices in your head remind you of your inadequacy, tell yourself the truth. Do it out loud if necessary.

You were chosen by God to be his special possession. He chose you knowing all about your weakness, your rebellion, your poor choices, your hate and your anger. He saw every flaw in your physical, emotional and spiritual life. Still, in spite of all that, He loved you enough to purchase you with his most cherished possession, His Son, Jesus Christ.

Don’t listen to the voices that tell say you don’t measure up. That is a lie of the enemy. You are special. You are chosen. God loves you above all things. That’s grace!

PRAYER: Father, thank you for loving me. Like Adam and Eve I’ve spent most of my life trying to cover up the things I’m ashamed of about me. I’ve tried to use so many good and bad things to make me feel better about myself. Empower me by your Holy Spirit to live with the realization of how special I am to you. Help me to live free of the emptiness shame puts on me. In Jesus name, Amen.

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June 2023
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