It’s An Inside Job

I Samuel 16:7 (NIV), “But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.””

There is a very common saying that I have heard from the time I was little. I said it to my children, grandchildren, and those students that I had over the years. “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” It’s a way to convince children that we can’t write someone off just because they have frizzy hair, buck teeth, old clothes, or different color skin. However, we all do just that (especially when buying books!) Because we have a tendency to do this, we project this trait on God. We think that we have to clean ourselves up before we totally surrender to Him. Worse yet, we expect others to do the same. That somehow changing what you wear, covering the tattoos, losing the piercings, cutting your dreads, or wearing a suit and tie, make us more acceptable to God.

The good news is, He had always accepted you. He loved you before you were created, in fact before He even created time. He can’t ever love you more, even if you surrender your life to Him and live perfectly (not that we ever will be perfect). On the flip side, He will never love you less. If you were to turn your back on Him and deny His very existence, He wouldn’t stop loving you. You are accepted in the beloved. God loves people. All people. Why? Because He is love. Not, He shows love, has love, feels love…He is love. Because of this truth, the whole performance issue of trying to look and act a certain way to gain His favor and approval is ludicrous. We may be able to fool a few people, maybe eve ourselves, but we can’t fool God. He knows us better than we do. Our mask of “spirituality” is made of clear glass. He sees right through it into our hearts.

Isn’t that what Jesus told the Pharisees?

Matthew 23:25-28 (NASB), “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye cleanse the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full from extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup and of the platter, that the outside thereof may become clean also. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which outwardly appear beautiful, but inwardly are full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but inwardly ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.”

When has behaving “holier than thou” ever led someone to Jesus? Does that mask we put on make people want to be just like us? Isn’t that the main criticism of Christianity today, that we are a bunch of hypocrites?

So what do we do? Should we bag trying to live Holy and live like the world? God forbid. Do we need to air all of our dirty laundry and expose every weakness? Please don’t. But, we do need to be real! Our faith should be genuine, not an act. We will have days that our faith seems to be nonexistent, but we will attract people to God if we can show them that it is only a temporary setback, that God’s children get back up. We mess up, we act stupid, we forget who we are representing, often our foot is in our mouths, and we look ugly on the inside and the outside. The point is to let them see that we aren’t trying to just clean up the outside, that we are truly allowing God to clean us from the inside out. That it isn’t in our effort, but just in surrendering to Him and letting Him do the work in us. It’s about admitting those weaknesses and allowing God’s strength to work in and through us.

The greatest witness of Jesus is always His love. Was it His condemnation of that woman caught in adultery that changed her heart? No, He clearly said that He didn’t condemn her; He showed her love and compassion, by treating her with respect. Think about the things that Christ was criticized for compared to what modern Christians are criticized for: They complained that He was a friend to sinners, they say that we are judgmental and hate sinners. He ate with sinners and publicans, without conforming to their ideals and behaviors, we separate ourselves completely from them behaving like they have leprosy, or we behave just like they do and live the exact same way. He repeatedly said, “your sins are forgiven” and boy did that make the religious leaders mad, but we say “you’re going to hell.” He insisted that God loved them, we say “God hates homosexuals” or “God loves me, but not you.” Jesus wanted one big family of God, and we continue to preach “us and them.” He came to tear down walls, we continue to re-build them.

Before you get mad at me, I know that all Christians aren’t like this all the time. However, I confess that sometimes I find myself with that same ugly mindset. We have to constantly remind ourselves of who God is, and how we should be thinking. God is just like Jesus. He said so. We need to behave more like Him. Not is some cheesy “what would Jesus do” way, but in genuine love. Get to know the God we are supposed to be representing. Then represent Him well. God forgive us for letting the world think that you are unforgiving and quick to judge. Forgive us for letting them think that you don’t care about them, but are so concerned about how they think, act, and look. Forgive us for forcing them to think that they could never please you or earn your love. Help us to be more Christlike!

Romans 2:4 (NIV), “Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?”

It’s when we show His love, how good He is to us, and to those who don’t even know Him yet, that they turn to Him. Repentance isn’t so much about turning away from sin, but more about turning to Him. Are we living in such a way as to help others turn to Him? Or are we too busy pointing out all of their faults, bad behaviors, wrong thinking, and sin? I have said it before, we aren’t called to be sin police. The Holy Spirit is quite able to do the job of convicting of sin and convincing of righteousness. We are called to preach the good news, heal the sick, cast out demons (including the demons of self righteousness and religion). We are called to love and to grow the family of God. What child in an orphanage wants to go home with the parents who spend their “getting acquainted” time pointing out all of the things they don’t like? “Your hair is much too curly, those fingernails will have to be clipped and washed, stop picking your nose, don’t play with that dirty boy over there, your grades are much too low, you need to apply yourself…” Some of those might be legitimate things to say to your own children as you help them grow up and train them up, others are just downright wrong, but all are inappropriate for conversation and expectations on adopting a new child. God has adopted us. Why did we run to Him? Because He convinced us of His love!

Are you getting this? The same thing that drew us to our new Daddy is what is going to draw this lost, broken, hurting world to Him. Love. All that stuff that needs to be healed and fixed, He’ll see to it in His own way and in His own time. We don’t have to try and clean them up. Again, not our job.

Loving others never means that we are accepting their sin as good. We can’t say, “So, you murdered your neighbor, that’s ok.” But we can say, “So you murdered your neighbor, God still loves you and wants your life to be better.” A victim of child molestation doesn’t want to hear that what happened to them was acceptable behavior, or worse, was ordained by God, but they do want to hear that God cares, He loved them, and wants to heal them. I am not saying we need to call evil good, or good evil, or that we ignore sin. I am saying that we need to convince them that their lifestyle choices don’t matter to God in the light of His love. He loves them anyway. Once they accept that, and they won’t do that if we keep pointing out how horrible they are, then the ever gentle, loving Holy Spirit will work on those things that need to be changed. We drive people from God, by pointing out sin. The Holy Spirit draws people to God, by wooing them with His love. Big difference.

Now, go be loving.

Do Over!


Lamentations 3:21-26 (NASB), “This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him.” The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him. It is good that he waits silently for the salvation of the LORD.”

Remember the school playground? When we were kids whether we were playing foursquare, hopscotch, or kickball, at some point you would hear the words shouted, “Do over.” Usually it was by the kid who threw the rock across the blacktop instead of in the hopscotch boxes, or tripped instead of kicking that ball. I loved that phrase. It allowed us to pretend we hadn’t messed up. Our mistake didn’t count against us. We could totally miss the ball and then in a “Do over” hit it out of the park.

Have you ever, as an adult, wanted to shout “Do over!”? Or maybe you weren’t that kid, so that phrase isn’t one you are comfortable with. Instead you would say to yourself, “why did I do that?” or, “I wish I could start over,” this one is popular, “If I had it to do over again…” When we say or think these things it is always with regret. In our thinking it’s a done deal. There is no “do over’s” in real life. Right?

Psalm 103:8-18 (God’s Word Translation), “The LORD is compassionate, merciful, patient, and always ready to forgive. He will not always accuse us of wrong or be angry [with us] forever. He has not treated us as we deserve for our sins or paid us back for our wrongs. As high as the heavens are above the earth- that is how vast his mercy is toward those who fear him. As far as the east is from the west- that is how far he has removed our rebellious acts from himself. As a father has compassion for his children, so the LORD has compassion for those who fear him. He certainly knows what we are made of. He bears in mind that we are dust. Human life is as short-lived as grass. It blossoms like a flower in the field. When the wind blows over the flower, it disappears, and there is no longer any sign of it. But from everlasting to everlasting, the LORD’s mercy is on those who fear him. His righteousness belongs to their children and grandchildren, to those who are faithful to his promise, to those who remember to follow his guiding principles.”

David wrote this, before Jesus paid for our sins. Under law, he knew of the compassion and mercy of God. Our opening scripture in Lamentations, still under law, written before salvation had come to mankind. If Jeremiah and David knew that “His mercies are new every morning” and that “As far as the east is from the west” He has removed our sins from us. How much more, now that Jesus has died for our sins, should we know of His everlasting mercy and grace?
So are there still “Do over’s”? You bet there is! It’s the biggest “Do over” of all, and it won’t cost you a thing.

You just have to be like that little child again and admit you messed up. Go ahead, dare to think it, yell it, or even scream it… “DO OVER”, now accept the work He did for you and let’s move on to a better life, shall we.

Father God, Thank You for Your patience. Only You could continue to love me, care for me, and extend Your hand of mercy again and again. Your love knows no bound, Your forgiveness is complete, and your patience is monumental.

Hero or Hypocrite?


I Corinthians 1:27-29 (NLT), “Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.”

I have to admit, I am getting a little tired with people trying to throw mud on my heroes. The founding fathers got drunk, owned slaves, and bribed voters with booze. Find a hero and the world gets on the bandwagon to dig up some dirt, and the mudslinging begins. No one is sacred. Instead of “hero” they would label them as “hypocrite.”

However, I have a different opinion. Jesus said that we could recognize heroes by their fruit.

Matthew 7:16-20 (NIV), “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? “So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. “A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. “So then, you will know them by their fruits.”

Ok, he didn’t use the word “hero”, but to me anyone who accomplishes what God purposed for them is a hero.

So how do we separate the heroes from the hypocrites? Look for fruit. We can’t look at their mistakes and disqualify them. All humans sin and make mistakes; we all miss the mark at times. What is important is that they finished well, that they accomplished something for good. If you have any doubt just take a look at some of the heroes of the Bible.

Noah: The man who for 150 years built an ark and preached to those around him without a single convert. He obeyed and after doing all God asked him to do Noah plants a vineyard, makes wine and gets drunk. So drunk his son walks in on him passed out naked.
Abraham: “Father of our faith”, “who was counted as righteous”, who left his hometown to wonder wherever God told him to go, lied about his wife twice, allowing her to be taken by the Pharaoh of Egypt as a wife, and as a concubine of a foreign king, all because he was afraid for his life. (Granted it was only a partial lie, as they were half brother and sister, but not the truth!).
Isaac: Repeated his father’s “my wife is my sister” plan.
Jacob: Stole his brothers blessing by impersonating Esau when his aging father was on his deathbed.
The men who became heads of 11/12 tribes of Israel: Planned to kill their little brother, sold him into slavery instead and lied to their father, faking his death by wild animals.
Moses: In anger disobeys God and doesn’t get to go into the Promised Land.
Elijah: After defeating 400 priests of Baal, throws the biggest pity party ever and asks God to just kill him.
David: “The man after God’s own heart” committed adultery and then had the woman’s husband killed. He also wasn’t the best parent. You can read about some of the terrible things his children did.
The Apostle Paul: Paul persecuted the early church even consenting to their deaths.
Peter: Denied Christ three times.

Do I need to keep going? They all were called by God, personally chosen for a purpose. They all made mistakes, messed up, and were completely human. Just like us. And every single last one of them fulfilled the purpose that God had for them. God singled Noah out as the only person on the face of the earth living right. He had a part in saving the human race. Abraham became the father of many nations and was called “the friend of God.” Moses led God’s chosen people out of slavery. David instituted praise and invented many musical instruments. We read his praises in the Psalms and of his military exploits in several books of the bible. Paul wrote most of the New Testament and along with Peter performed many miracles.

Are you getting the picture? God uses people. Messed up, flawed people. This doesn’t make them or their accomplishments any less important or significant. We were never meant to look at them anyway. Our attention and focus is supposed to be on God who gave them the strength and power to do all of the good things they did.

I Corinthians 1:26-31 (Message Bible), “Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don’t see many of “the brightest and the best” among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. Isn’t it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these “nobodies” to expose the hollow pretensions of the “somebodies”? That makes it quite clear that none of you can get by with blowing your own horn before God. Everything that we have—right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start—comes from God by way of Jesus Christ. That’s why we have the saying, “If you’re going to blow a horn, blow a trumpet for God.”

So, does it matter to me that George Washington bribed voters at the age of 26 by giving them booze? I don’t even know if that is true, but if it is, so what! It doesn’t change the fact that he was a hero, still is in my book. The same goes for all of the mud they have dug up on any of the early presidents. I read quotes and written bits that are supposed to prove that they weren’t really Christians and lived hypocritical lives. If you looked at my life closely you would probably say the same thing. But, you’d find some fruit too. Does their behavior make them hypocrites?…maybe, but it doesn’t make them less of a hero.

There is no perfection short of heaven. We need to stop expecting others to be perfect, including ourselves. God uses imperfect, flawed people. That’s how He gets the glory and it doesn’t lessen their good deeds in His eyes. Even Paul said that he continued to struggle with doing wrong.

Romans 7:15-25 (ESV), “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.”

Next time someone tries to tell you something bad about a leader, a founding father, or a well known pastor, either tell them you don’t want to hear it or say, “Nevertheless, God has used them mightily.” If there is fruit in their lives, if their work still stands after the fire, then they have done what God has purposed for them. End of argument. And if a brother or sister in Christ messes up, so what! Help restore them. A leader fell? Get over it and pray that they repent and find God’s forgiveness so that they can move on. We can’t dismiss anyone as not being worthy, or as not being a Christian, because they have sinned, (only if they never repent and turn their hearts back to God). If we did, our Churches would be empty.

We are at war. If we confess our sins, He is quick to forgive. We need every soldier. Instead of looking for reasons to dismiss others, or tarnish their reputations, including those who have gone on before us, let us all do what we have been called to do and get the job done.

Everything else is a waste of time, energy, and recourses.

And always remember…God uses whom He chooses.

Our Testimony


Revelations 12:11 (Weymouth New Testament), “But they have gained the victory over him because of the blood of the Lamb and of the testimony which they have borne, and because they held their lives cheap and did not shrink even from death.”

It is clear in Revelations that two of our weapons against the enemy are the blood of the lamb and our testimony. The blood washes away our sin, protects us from evil, and made us as right as God, so now we can boldly come into the throne of Grace and we have authority over every power of the evil one.

Why would our testimony be a weapon?

Romans 2:4 (NIV) “Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?”

When we share all the good things that God has done for us, what He has brought us through, we are showing His kindness, some translations say “goodness.” This leads hearts to repent, taking them out of the enemy’s camp and bringing them home to the Father.

Psalm 8:2 (Darby Bible Translation), “Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou established praise because of thine adversaries, to still the enemy and the avenger.”

Other versions say “silence”, “destroy”, and “put an end” to the enemy and the avenger. Our testimony is praise to God. Our only form of praise isn’t song. Whenever we share God’s goodness, we are glorifying and praising who He is.
Satan is trying to keep people ignorant of WHO God is.

Hosea 4:6 (ISV), “My people are destroyed because they lack knowledge of me. Because you rejected that knowledge, I will reject you as a priest for me. Since you forget the Law of your God, I will also forget your children.”

Our testimony tells people who God is! They may have heard that God is vengeful, that He makes us sick, that He sends disaster to judge people, but our testimonies of His mercy, His healing power, of His forgiveness shows who He really is.

We all have a testimony. If you have accepted Jesus as your savior, you have something to say.

We just need to remind ourselves of all He has done for us, for all that He is going to do, in fact He already did it all, we just have to accept it and stand on His promise.

Then, tell someone. In fact tell everyone!