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So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man. Acts 24:16

Being misunderstood and wrongfully accused is never easy. It’s even harder when those closest to you lie in order to try to make you look bad in front of others. That was the case when Paul was drug into court for being a troublemaker.

Before his conversion, Paul was considered an expert in Jewish law and one of the up-and-coming religious leaders. He was the poster child for ‘Jews against Jesus’ and was responsible for many people being stoned, sent to prison and even arrested for following Jesus of Nazareth.

Then, miraculously, Paul found Jesus, or should I say, Jesus found Paul and from that moment on his life was changed forever.

The problem is, people don’t like change. Even though Paul was right about his message, it was different that the status-quo religious system of his day. Paul was a rebel and even though his faith in God was deeper than it had ever been, people around him saw him as a rebel and a heretic. Paul’s enemies for the most part were the same people he worshipped with in the temple. They were his closest friends. They were his spiritual as well as physical family.

God’s character never changes. He is always love. He is always a God of mercy and grace. He is always willing to forgive us when we stumble and fall. But He doesn’t always work through the same methods. God changes His methods as society changes in order to bring as many into His Kingdom as possible.

Sometimes we may be misunderstood by those closest to us. Sometimes we may even be called a heretic. Some may even question our salvation. When others question your motives or methods it’s always important to measure what they say by what God is telling you. He may be asking you to open a whole new avenue of ministry to reach out to people who need to hear about Jesus.

I knew a pastor in a small town who was burdened for the people in the bar just down the street from his church. On St. Patrick’s Day one year, he went down to the bar. He didn’t drink a drop. He simply visited with patrons of the bar. As ‘luck’ would have it, his picture showed  up in the local paper as part of a story about St. Patrick’s Day revelers. As a result, the church he pastured for several years fired him! Sometimes God may ask you to take a risk for Him even though the ‘religious community’ will look down on you. If that happens, make sure your conscience is clear and your motives Christ-like. Then, REJOICE! You are now part of an elite club made up of Paul, most of  the disciples, many spiritual leaders throughout history, and most of all, the club president—Jesus Christ!

PRAYER: Father God. I thank you for people like Paul and others who have been willing to break ranks with the ‘religious status-quo’ in order to do new and exciting things to bring others into your Kingdom. I ask that you would give me the courage to be willing to step out risk my reputation if need be in order to reach people for you who may never enter a church door. In Jesus name, Amen.

Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter-when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. Isaiah 58:7-8

I still hear it on occasion. I heard it often while growing up. Someone is going through trouble. They are in so deep they can’t get out. For some it’s addictive behavior. For others it’s abusive behavior to themselves and/or others. Still, there are those who just seem to have adversity follow them for no reason. They struggle with health issues, broken relationships and suffer the consequences of their own irresponsible behavior.

When we see someone like this that is outside the church, the first thought that may come to our minds is, “They need to find a good church.” Don’t get me wrong. Corporately worshipping together with other Christ-followers is essential for growing as a believer. But there are two problems I have with the philosophy that going to church will solve their problems.

First of all, there are plenty of people who go to church each week ‘religiously’ who suffer from addictions, health and relational issues and doubt about God’s existence. Going to church doesn’t solve our problems, in fact, sometimes it enhances them.

Secondly, if you think about it, there was very little healing in Jesus day, that went on inside ‘church’. Healing came from Jesus during the normal routine of life when He reached out to those in need while they were in their normal environment.

When Isaiah went before the people of God in Isaiah 58, they were a people who were diligent in offering sacrifices and doing all the ‘things’ or ‘activities’ that God commanded them. The problem arose in their expectations and attitudes. The Israelites assumed that God would bless them because they did ‘all the right things’. In the mean time, people were going hungry, naked and becoming desperate in their search for comfort.

Isaiah’s message to the ‘righteous’ then was the same today. If you really want to see your faith as being relevant, put it to work! When you see someone in need do what you can to walk with them along the way. Praying for them is great, but praying and giving a hug or a warm meal or some of your extra clothes puts action to your prayers.

Building relationship with those in need makes being a Christ-follower relevant to those who see you, not just a religion.

There’s an added bonus to putting your faith into action. Isaiah says ‘your righteousness will lead you and guide you and God will be your rear guard.’ Effective enemy attack almost always comes from behind. The Bible says that Satan is like a lion, seeking whom he may devour. Lions like to sneak up from behind. When you are putting action to your faith you may be attacked, but your righteousness will help you see the attack and God will protect you in your efforts.

Don’t tell someone in need how relevant your faith is. Show them. Building relationships makes your faith more relevant to you as well as others.

PRAYER: Father in Heaven. I confess to you that so much of my walk with you is book knowledge and not action. I’m surrounded by people in spiritual, physical, relational and emotional need. I’m overwhelmed by the task. Help me to build relationships with those in my circle of influence so they know you are real and relevant and earnestly seek a relationship with them. Amen.

And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires. 2 Peter 1:4 (NLT)

Rules. No one really likes them. Even when you are the one making the rules you don’t really like them. Rules can be made for many reasons. Some people make rules to protect themselves, to gain power over others, or to stop some issue that they have a personal problem with.

Nations have fallen and lives have been lost because people revolted against the rule makers or the rule makers enforced the rules harshly. Rules, by nature, carry with them the idea that you can’t have freedom and rules at the same time. Ironically, that is a rule in and of itself.

Rules can also be made with our best interest in mind. “Don’t touch a hot stove.” “Look both ways when crossing a street.” “Don’t do drugs.” Good rules. Made with your best interest in mind. No control issues there.

But we still get burned. We still get hit by cars when we run into the street. We still get addicted to drugs. Why? Because the human nature, the voices of the enemy tell us that we are invincible. We go ahead and have the affair because we’ll be careful and not hurt anyone. Speeding this time won’t hurt. Wearing a seat belt when I drive is being a sissy. We make up all sorts of excuses.

But breaking rules really amounts to one thing that none of us really wants to admit. Sin is fun. That’s another lie the enemy tells us and to be honest, he’s right…sort of. There’s something in our human nature, the adventurous side that tells us it’s exciting to live free of rules and that nothing bad will happen to us or others.

Oftentimes, people who proudly flaunt their lives of ‘freedom’ do so to cover up a gaping wound. They try to fill that wound with all sorts of things. Activities, friends, drugs, sex, multiple partners, even good things like working for charities. But they just can’t fill that wound.

The Apostle Peter shows us how to fill the void. The salve that heals our wound isn’t found in ourselves. It isn’t found in anything we see or do in this world. Healing comes through faith in Jesus Christ.  The rules, so to speak, that He gives us for daily living aren’t so He can control us. They are there solely for our benefit.

That wound inside yourself can only be filled through forgiveness and faith in Jesus. The old nature, your human side, will still try to draw you back to the old ways. The ways of so-called freedom, but you know that so-called freedom only leads to more pain.

Allow the promises and new life of Christ to empower you to live in true freedom. Freedom from the guilt, the pain, the fear of being caught, the fear of death itself. He promises to empower you through His Spirit to live a full, refreshing, happy life free from the pain of the wound.

PRAYER: God in Heaven. I’ve known about you for a long time. I’ve even given my life to you at one point. But the pain of this wound was too great. I tried to fill it with things that didn’t satisfy and ended up hurting myself and others. Please forgive me for my weakness. Empower me to live for you in freedom. Thank you for your promises of excellence and power in my life. I accept your forgiveness and resolve to live in your power from this day forward. Amen.

You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men. 1 Corinthians 7:23

I am a child of the Creator God of the Universe. As such I claim all the rights of being a son. I can talk to my Father at any time with any request and know that I am heard.

I was purchased at great cost by my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He gave up His heavenly throne to live among us and show us the way to God. Most importantly, He died as an innocent man for my sins and rose from the grave so that I can be forgiven and live forever.

Because I am God’s child now, I can live in security, knowing that every minute of every day, whether I am awake or asleep, at home or on the road, He watches over me and protects me. There is absolutely nothing seen or unseen that He is not aware of in my life.

Because I am God’s child my past doesn’t matter. The price He paid for me was so large that it wiped out the mistakes of my past. Even though I may still suffer from the consequences of some of those decisions, the guilt, shame and embarrassment is gone. NOW I am His child.

Because I am a child of God I don’t need to listen to you! I don’t need your religious dogmas and your man-made rules in order to gain God’s favor. I have His Word that I can go to in order to learn about Him, about life and about direction.

Because I am God’s child I don’t need  your strength and guidance. I may ask your advice but my real information comes from His Holy Spirit who indwells, empowers, guides and directs me along life’s pathway. I may be taking a different road than you do. I may have different talents and abilities. But my master gave me those gifts and abilities and they are just what I need to get me through today and tomorrow and the day after that!

Because I am God’s child I don’t need to listen to your verbal attacks or be affected by your emotional abuse. What you think about me doesn’t really matter. The ruler of the universe, creator and sustainer of all things loves me! He looks upon me with pride and admiration. He is passionate in His desire for me.

Because I am God’s child I do not need to be driven or affected by fear. He knows my yesterdays. He knows my tomorrows. You can try to make my cup look half empty but I know it’s half full on bad days and overflowing on most.  So with all due respect, don’t try to instill fear in me. There is nothing you can do that will stand between me and my Jesus.

Because I am God’s child I am free! I am free to follow His direction, to like the music I like, to eat the foods I eat, to enjoy the things He has given me to enjoy. So don’t load me down with rules and regulations. My heart belongs to Jesus and as I grow in relationship with Him I will know the path I am to take.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, Creator God, Sustainer of the Universe. There are so many things trying to distract me today from following You. I praise you from the bottom of my heart for the fact that I do not need to listen to the voices that try to instill worry, fear, guilt and despair in my life. You are in control and I ask that today you would take ownership of my thoughts, my actions and my surroundings. Thank  you for being my Daddy. Amen.

Jesus replied, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.” Luke 18:27

One day, while Jesus was teaching the disciples a rich young man came to him. He was the kind of person any of us would want to be our friend. He was a moral man that could be trusted. He was most likely well liked for the Bible really doesn’t say anything negative about him. And, of course. He was rich!

But there was something missing in his life. On the outside he showed confidence, trustworthiness and strength. On the inside he was a lonely man filled with fear of the future. He was a poster child for the system he lived in but all of that was a façade. He’d done all the right things but they offered no joy, no happiness, no contentment.

Jesus gave the man a list of commands he must follow to gain peace for the future and eternal life. It was the one thing the man was lacking. The one gift he wanted more than anything…or so he thought. Jesus asked him to give up everything he had and follow him. The man went away more in despair than when he came. The cost was too high.

What Jesus asked the man to give up was more than money. It was power, it was prestige, it was status. What would others think of him? What would become of the many friends he had. Rich men always have plenty of friends because people enjoy associating with the talented, the rich and the famous. It wasn’t about money.

What Jesus wanted from the man was his heart. The commands Jesus didn’t question the man about all had to do with relationship. Relationship with others. Relationship with God. Relationship with himself. On other occasions Jesus summarized the commandments into three. Love God. Love yourself. Love your neighbor. All he really wants from us is complete, sold out, relationship.

After the man left the disciples discussed this with Jesus and one of them said in confusion, “Then who can be saved? If that is what God wants from us, what chance to any of us have? Is there any hope?”

Jesus answer to the question of who can be saved was quite simple. “No one. It’s impossible. There is no way man can be saved without God’s help.”

We can’t gain the peace and joy and contentment we seek through the things we see. Fulfillment in life comes from relationship. Success in life comes when we give ourselves completely to God and believe in ourselves because of His love for us. Don’t believe the lie that because you can’t do this or that, or don’t have the money for this project or that missions trip you aren’t important. God can do impossible things in your life because of His love for you. Not because of your strength, riches or ability.

PRAYER: Father God. I confess to you that I am much more like the rich young ruler than I’d care to admit. I follow all your rules. I do all the right things most of the time. But I have to admit that today if you asked me to give up everything I own, my money (what there is of it), my status, my reputation, my friends and my home, I’m not sure I could do it. Help me to give everything to you. To trust you with every aspect t of my life so that I can experience the peace you have for me. Amen.

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