Tag Archives: faith

The Lesson I Learned about Love and Tolerance

Source: http://phillipgonzales.com/2012/08/love-and-tolerance/

We live in a world that cries out for tolerance, but what it really needs is love.  Not tolerance that masquerades as love, but REAL LOVE.  The kind of love that calls others to become better people, but shows grace and mercy.  The kind of love that God so freely provides.  The world isn’t missing this love because there is no one to give it, it is missing this love because people do not want to receive it.  People are quick to cite Matthew 7:1, (Judge not, that you be not judged) and are quick to say “God loves everyone,” or “No one is perfect,” as a way to skirt confronting sin, especially when it is personal, or it makes us uncomfortable. These arguments do not excuse sin, and do not make us any less accountable for our own sin, and our responsibility to exhort others to repent.

When taken in context, Matthew 7:1-5 is not meant to prohibit evaluating another person and calling someone out on their sin.  It is meant to remind us to not judge others more harshly than ourselves out of pride and superiority (as the Pharisees are well known for doing). Note verse 2: “For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.”  Make no mistake, we will all be judged by God’s standards on the Judgment Day (Mt 25:31-46), but if we consistently use harsher standards for others than we do for ourselves, those harsher standards will be applied to us. We are to approach each other with humility as fellow sinners, and with a heart to help our brothers and sisters, not to condemn them.  It is not our place to condemn someone to hell or admit them into heaven, but it is our job to help others reach salvation. (See the Great Commission, Mt 28:18-20, Mark 16:15,16, among other references.)

Christians are supposed to be Christ-like in our actions.  Jesus did not simply let sin slide.  When he confronted sin, he rebuked the sin, and told them to go, and sin no more.es (John 8:11).  Jesus does not shy away from sin, because he came here for sinners. (Mt 9:13) Remember, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), but “are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means!” (Romans 6:1,2) “For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgement, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.” (Hebrews 10:26, 27).  Yes, we will stumble, and yes we will fall, but if we have been buried in Christ in baptism, then we can be forgiven, as long as we repent, and do everything we can to put away sin.  Will that always happen? No.  Should we tell ourselves “Well, I’m not perfect, so what does it matter if I commit this sin or that sin or all of these sins here because I’ve been baptized and can be forgiven?” Absolutely not!  Hebrews 10:26 clearly states that is not the attitude we should have!

Love is not just tolerance.  A parent who loves does not tolerate that child doing whatever they want.  If a parent forbids a child to do something, it is usually for that child’s safety, but sometimes parents make mistakes.  God, who is the perfect father, does not make such mistakes.  If He tells us something is sin, or tells us not to do something, it is because he loves us and knows what is best for us, and doing otherwise would lead to us hurting ourselves.  Sometimes this harm is physical, but it is always spiritually harmful for us.  Why? Because sin separates us from God, and condemns not only our bodies, but our souls to death. (Gen 2:17, Rom 6:23, Rom 8:2, Eph 2:12-18, among others.)  He expects us to follow Christ as closely as we can, but knows that we can’t do it without Christ to pay the price for our failures.  That is what grace is, and that is how we are to look at ourselves and others.

So before you jump to point out another person’s sin, ask yourself these things:

1) Why am I saying this?

If you are saying this to tear someone else down, or make yourself look better, then you are not acting in a Christlike manner.

2) Am I pointing this sin out to someone to help them walk in a way more that is more worthy and pleasing to God?

If that isn’t the reason, and you aren’t willing to help them do so (whether it be offering accountability, or guiding them to someone who can help, or just being an encouragement) then you should talk to someone else about confronting this person.

3) Am I ignoring sin in my own life that makes me just as guilty as this person?

If so, then you need to re-evaluate your reason for talking about or to this person.  Perhaps instead of just pointing out their sin, you should take the time to confess your own, and both of you can work together and hold each other accountable in the future.

4) Am I confronting the person who is guilty of this sin?

If not, then you should only be mentioning this to someone who could help with the situation.  Otherwise, it’s gossip, and therefore a sin.

5) Am I speaking in a way that conveys love?

If not, then you should find a better way to say what you are trying to say.  Remember, you are a sinner too, and you should approach another about their sin the way you would want them to approach you.

If someone rebukes another for sin, it should not be because of hate.  It should be a sign of love and compassion, a reflection of Christ’s love for us.  I am not tolerant of sin in others, because I am not tolerant of sin in myself.  However, I know that I am not perfect, and I know that no one else is perfect, and because of that, I offer them the grace that I have accepted from God through Christ.  I need to work on my own walk, and therefore I know that others do as well.  I know I need someone to tell me what I am doing wrong sometimes, and I need their help in order to do better.  That is why I will call out sin in others, so that I can offer them help.  Not because I hate or fear them, but because I love them, and I want to build them up and help make them a better Christian.  The world does not need more tolerance of sin from Christians, it needs more Christians who are willing to extend Christ’s love.

As a final note, not everyone will open their heart to the message of Christ.  Not everyone will repent and be baptized.  Not everyone will accept that they need to be cleansed of their sins.  When you encounter such people, do not be discouraged.  Remember what Jesus said to the disciples in Matthew 10:11-15.

“And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart.  As you enter the house, greet it.  And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you.  And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town.  Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgement for that land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.”

When people harden their hearts, then there is little we can do but pray that God may soften it.  Perhaps what you have done is plant a seed that one day another will water, and God will grow. (1 Cor 3:6,7)

Grace and Peace,



All Scripture references are from the ESV translation, unless otherwise noted

Image: http://phillipgonzales.com/2012/08/love-and-tolerance/

How time flies…

I remember when I turned 10.  I thought I was going to be all that and a bag of chips.  I was important, I was making the double digits for crying out loud! I was going to be queen of the hill, ruler of my domain.  I was excited to be turning 10.  Now, I’m on the brink of 20 (18 days!) and I’m terrified. This past decade was not what I expected. I got kicked around, my family suffered terrible blows, I found God.  I have had to face massive amounts of insecurity and felt persecution, harsh judgement, and fear.  It certainly doesn’t feel like a decade has passed since that day.

I am more of a scared little girl now than I was ten years ago.  I am facing adulthood, and I am scared.  I feel alone a lot of the time.  The pressures of adulthood are pressing down all around me, and I feel like I can’t turn to anyone for help.  It’s me, myself, and God.  I struggle to remind myself daily that God will provide for my needs.  He will make sure I have what I need to survive, and will put people in my path to help me.  But when I lay in bed at night and wonder how I’m going to be able to afford the gas to get back to school in a couple of weeks, a knot of fear forms in my stomach, and I don’t know what to do.

I have legally been an adult for almost two years, but I have been able to rely on being a teenager still.  I wasn’t really an adult, but once January 20th happens, I can’t use that excuse anymore.  I will be an adult with adult problems and worries and adult things to deal with.  Logically, I know that I’m not alone.  Logically, I know I can get help from my family if I need it.  The problem is that I know that they are dealing with a lot as it is, and they can’t afford to help me financially.

I guess part of my problem is not that I feel alone, it’s that I make myself alone.  I can’t help my family out financially.   I spurned the faiths of my parents, because I realized how wrong denominational Christianity is.  I decided to follow that faith and go to a school 700 miles away from home. I’m too far away to help take care of my brothers, or help them deal with life. The only thing I can really do is take care of myself as much as I can, and not ask them for help, even when I feel like I desperately need it. I forget that my parents love me and would do anything for me.  I tell myself I can’t rely on them, for a lot of  reasons.  I tell myself “If God blesses me with children, I will raise them to be confident in the Lord, and confident in me.  I will always provide for them in a manner worthy and pleasing to God.  I will not subject them to some of the things my parents have subjected me to.”

I’m realizing how vulnerable I am, and the only cure for vulnerability is reliance on God. He is constant, and He is loving. He will give me everything I need, and I need to have that confidence in him. These are some passages that come to mind.

“And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them.  Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?  If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?  Consider the lilies, how they grow, they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!  And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried.  For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them.  Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things shall be added to you.”

-Luke 12:22-31, ESV

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because he cares for you.”

-1 Peter 5:6,7

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

-Matthew 5:9b-13

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread will gvie him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?  If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

-Matthew 7:7-11

And while these passages are well and good and encouraging, it doesn’t mean that having complete faith is God and trust that He will provide is easy.  It takes diligence, it takes daily immersion and meditation on God’s Word, and prayer, a lot of prayer.  It takes courage humble yourself and say “I don’t know what I’m doing.  God, please, help me, show me what I need to do.  Help he have the strength of will and character to do it.  Help me have the humbleness to ask for help when I need it. I need You more than anything else in my life.  Your strength is made perfect in my weakness.  Strengthen me today so that I can make more right choices. I am weak, and I am sinful, but You are almighty and holy, and perfect in every way.  Help me follow your plan for salvation, and be a light for the rest of the world.”

So for the others out there who feel the same, I encourage and exhort you (and myself) to become more reliant on God this year, and let Him come in and be your strength, and have the courage to ask for the help you need.

Growing a Servant’s Heart

Since I decided to become a Christian, I’ve heard a lot about the “Heart of a Servant.”  We are supposed to have one. I did a quick search on biblegateway.com, and kicked up 934 results.  Now a lot of those results are talking about actual servants, but if you just look at the New Testament, I found 156 specific verses.  Many of the New Testament writers start their letters with “[Name], a servant of Jesus (Christ)…..” or some similar introduction.  There are songs about being a servant. Servitude is an integral part of being a Christian, and it has become one of the focuses of my life.  One of the most important parts of my personal code of honor is that if I can help someone, then I will.  It’s a hard call to live up to.  Have there been times when I could have helped someone, but didn’t, especially since I became a Christian? Yes.  Have there been times when I have willingly decided not to help someone I know needed it? Certainly.  But that is where my imperfection shines forth, and it is one of the things I know I have to work on.

Mere servitude is not enough though.  We have to be willing servants, who are happy to help others and willing to do what is needed.  I recently got a job working as a cashier.  I enjoy my work because I get to serve others.  It’s not always easy.  There are times when customers are disgruntled, or someone brings a huge order to the express lane, or people ignore the instruction to leave certain items in their cart.  But many people are pleasant, and almost every single one is thankful for the service I provide.  I do everything I can to be quick and efficient at my work so that the customers are happy and so my managers are happy.  I like helping people, and in my mind, I see it as service to others, and that is why I enjoy it so much.  Even though by the end of the shift my feet hurt, and sometimes my back hurts, and I’m tired and just want to go to bed, I still make it a priority to smile and greet customers, and be pleasant with them.  It isn’t their fault that I’m tired or sore.  I remember that I was put on this planet to help others and serve them, and if I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it willingly.

Take last night, for example.  I was supposed to check out at 9:00 pm.  My grandmother was waiting in the parking lot, but right then, it seemed like everyone and their mother decided to check out.  I didn’t realize the store had that many people in it!  I looked at the time, looked around for my supervisor, shrugged, and started taking customers.  When I saw my supervisor, she asked if I would take more customers.  I gladly accepted.  Finally, (at her request) I turned my light back on, because the rush was not easing up, and there were lines at the other two open registers.  The store manager even came down to help me bag, since I didn’t have a bagger.  I ended up staying an extra 45 minutes so that we could take care of the customers quickly and efficiently.  Once the rush died off, I asked if it would be okay if I left, and clocked out.  It wasn’t something I “had” to do, but I knew it would make things easier for my coworkers, my bosses, and my customers.  I was happy to do it because I knew I was helping others.  I didn’t take it out on my customers, and I didn’t do it for the extra pay. (I make minimum wage, so it’s an extra $5.43, whoop-de-doo.)  In fact, I was more concerned about my supervisor getting in trouble for keeping me over my scheduled time, but I don’t think she will, because the manager thanked me for staying.

I’m not saying this to toot my own horn, or raise myself up.  This is just the best example I can give, and the reason I decided to write about this today. (I’ve been trying to think of something meaningful to write about, which is why I’m so overdue for a post.)  My point in telling you this is that we all should strive to serve willingly.  “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Col 3:17, ESV)  Or, if music is more your thing, here’s the chorus of Steven Curtis Chapman’s “Do Everything”

Well let me remind you, it all matters just as long
As you do everything you do to the glory of the One who made you,
Cause he made you,
To do
Every little thing that you do
To bring a smile to His face
Tell the story of grace
With every move that you make
And every little thing you do

Faith in God requires action along with that faith. In the 2nd chapter of James’ letter to his Christian bretheren (and sisteren), that “Faith without works is dead.” (Verses 17, 24, 26, ESV)  Everyone is called to service, but that doesn’t mean everyone is called to the same service.  For example, I am good at teaching.  So I intend to work as a teacher, both in schools and at home, and in my church.  But I know I am better at teaching older children and adults, more than little children.  I have not developed the patience for it, and I don’t have the attitude for it.  But I know others who are marvelous with younger children.  I know some who have a knack for yardwork.  They serve congregations by working on the grounds of the church, and by helping older members with their yardwork.  Some people are really good at working with technology.  They serve by helping others with technology problems and putting together powerpoints for services.  Some of the brothers and sisters I know are excellent conversationalists, and they have taken the time to learn how to encourage others, and that is so important. Servants take their talents and put them to use for others.  They help others profit by their abilities, and in doing so, they serve God.  We all have strengths, and we need to learn to utilize them so that we can serve others.

This isn’t something that happens overnight.  I used to be incredibly selfish.  It has taken time for me to learn how to take joy in serving others, and I grow more from it day by day.  There are more ways I can serve, and I need to start utilizing those opportunities.  And you may find that is the case too.  Take an inventory of your talents.  How can you use those talents to serve someone else today?  Ask your church elders how you can serve your church, if you aren’t doing something already, or if you know you can do more.  Find a soup kitchen or food pantry and help serve food, or help a neighbor with some yard work.  Offer to help an elderly person with their shopping.  Go on a mission trip.  Find ways to serve others.

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you    welcomed me,
I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’
Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?
And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?
And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

-Jesus, Mathew 25:35-40