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A Word of Caution: The Charges Were Never Dropped Against Us

If you know me or you’ve followed this blog, you know how I am about catchphrases in church. I do my best to combat them. I know that people wanna be clever and say cute things or things that will get them likes and shares on social media, but I always remind people that when it comes to the Word of God, clever, but out of context is still wrong. God’s Word deserve more respect than that. It should never be watered down or manipulated until it’s on par with a catchphrase.

One of the catchphrases getting traction these days in Christian circles is the statement “Jesus dropped the charges”. The first time I heard the phrase, it was in a viral video where a woman was giving her testimony. In short, she said she went to court one day, believing she had a warrant, but to her surprise, the warrant was nowhere to be found. From there, she exclaimed “Jesus dropped the charges!”, and the church went up.

I found it hilarious. I probably even shared it on my Facebook page, because contrary to what people may think when I tear down a Christian catchphrase, I love a good laugh. However, it’s all fun and games until people start taking that joke as Bible.

And here is my issue with things like “When praises go up, blessings come down”, or “Too blessed to be stressed”, things that aren’t supported by Scripture. People begin quoting them so often that they become the fabric of our churches. Combine that with people that won’t come to Bible class to see that some of these things aren’t anywhere to be found in the Bible, and you have people that will quote catchphrases as if they actually are Bible Verses. This seems like a small thing, but it can be quite problematic to the faith.

When we start leaning on things like “Jesus dropped the charges”, we fail to examine what that statement is saying. Again, don’t get me wrong. I love a good joke. As long as it stays that way when it comes to what we believe in our Christian faith. When we examine that statement of charges dropped, we must realize what that means. When charges are dropped, people go free and nobody pays a penalty. Nobody, that is, but the victim of the crime.

When charges are dropped, it’s sometimes due to a lack of evidence, and other times, people being falsely accused. In the case of the young woman in the viral video, she could’ve fallen into either of these categories and thus, the charges were dropped. However, in the case of sin, even though grace and mercy was given to us, there is no lack of evidence and we are by no means innocent or falsely accused.

A quick trip to the book of Romans helps us to understand all of this. In Romans 3:23 we find that we all have sinned and fallen short of His glory (charges filed). In Romans 6:23 we find that the wages of sin is death (punishment established). However, in Romans 5:8-11 we find that while we were sinners (guilty) Christ died for us, and through His blood, we escaped condemnation (freed, but not innocent). Yes, we got off, but not because God backed off. We got off because Jesus stepped up.

The crime of sin that you and I commit on a regular basis is a crime against God, and therefore, God is the first victim of our crimes. David says to God famously in Psalms 51:4 (NLT):

“Against You, and You alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight. You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgement against me is just.”

David understands his guilt and he understands who he’s harmed. He also understands that whatever punishment he receives is just. And if you know the story of David and Bathsheba, you know that even though God didn’t take his life, there was still a price to pay (2 Samuel 12:13-24). When you and I sin, we can throw ourselves on the mercy of God’s court and sometimes we won’t pay as harshly as we should for what we’ve done, but that will never, ever be because God dropped any charges against us.

As David said, the evidence is against us. We have fallen short of His glory, just as the Bible says we will (Romans 3:23). Hebrews 9:22 (NLT) tells us that “without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness”. This means that charges are never dropped as it relates to our wrongdoing. Somebody had to pay.

When we reduce grace, mercy, redemption, and forgiveness to mere catchphrases, we minimize the work of the cross. We minimize the sacrifice that Jesus made for us by taking our place on the cross. He who knew no sin became sin (2 Corinthians 5:21) can be translated, He who did nothing wrong paid for the wrong that was done. No, Jesus didn’t drop the charges, Jesus took the charges.

Again, I’m not trying to ruin anybody’s fun, but the church must always remember what’s true. Isaiah 53:5-6 (NLT) says:

“But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on Him the sins of us all.”

We must remember that if everybody gets away with it, then grace is rendered unnecessary. The moment that we forget the fact that someone else paid for what we did, that’s the moment we begin to live recklessly, and that’s the moment that we become ungrateful. I hate to be a wet blanket, but in the midst of our having fun, let us never forget what was done for us on Calvary just to get a few likes, laughs, shares, and amens. Be creative, but be sound. Have a laugh, but have respect for the truth of The Word.

Hebrews 12:2 reminds us that He “endured the cross, disregarding its shame”. My brothers and sisters, there are no dropped charges for the Christian. If I can borrow another catchphrase, “Jesus paid it all”. That one fits because He really and truly did pay for our sins. The nail prints in His hands and feet tells us that someone faced punishment for what we did. Embrace your freedom and celebrate your escape. But in the midst of your celebration, never forget how you got free in the first place.

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Yes, Jesus loves me. It really is that simple!

Every now and then, we misapply the phrase “It don’t take all of that”. Many times, we’ll say it without understanding what it really does take. For example, my praise may seem a bit much to a person that has no idea what I’ve been through. However, there are times when the statement is apt. There are times when we make something complicated, when a straightforward explanation is all that’s needed.

When I was young, a staple song at Vacation Bible School every summer and even in Sunday School was “Yes, Jesus Loves Me”. This simple song was reassurance to young Christians, as well as old, that Jesus loved them. As we got to the end of the chorus, we sang “for the Bible tells me so”. In the most simple and direct terms, we saw that God’s love was evident through His Son, and the verification of that fact is found in His Word.

If God’s love can be outlined in such a simplistic way, why have we begun to make the work of evangelism and disciple making so complicated? I don’t know about you, but I’m still blown away when I read two particular passages in the Bible: John 3:16-17 and Romans 5:6-8. It’s in John 3:16-17 that I see just how much God loves me. So much so, that He gave His Son to save my soul, rather than sending His Son to condemn me.

However, it’s in Romans 5:6-8 that I see just what type of person God is in love with. It’s in those verses that I see that He loved me while I was rejecting Him. It’s in those verses in Romans 5:6-8 that I see that God doesn’t love me because of me, He loves me in spite of me. It’s a love that’s difficult to comprehend, but somehow, simple to explain.

As the church looks to carry out the Great Commission, we must be careful not to complicate why people need to come to Jesus and what it means to be saved. We must be mindful not to over market and over strategize what God has made simple in His Word. I know we desire to remain relevant in an ever changing world, but we must do so without sending out the wrong message.

We can’t cloud God’s love with a whole lot of minutia. After all, whatever we have to say about the Word of God is small time if Jesus never comes into the picture. As we often say in Baptist circles, if you haven’t mentioned the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, no matter what you have said, you haven’t preached the Gospel.

The message of salvation is centered around the fact that yes, Jesus loves us. Our Bible tells us just how He demonstrated that love. However, we have perverted the Gospel with prosperity preaching and our own theological aspirations. In an effort to show people how financial benevolent our God is or in our quest to get an education just so that we can appear to be the smartest and most spiritual people in the room, we walked away from the simplicity of the Gospel. We’ve taken an incredibly complicated love story, one that was made simple with just a few Bible verses, and made it hard to access for some people.

We have become as Pharisees, who harped on the law so much that the coming Messiah was no longer in their view. To those that were seeking salvation, it no doubt seemed impossible to be saved, because disobeying the law came with a curse. The Pharisees had the challenge of being face to face with Jesus, and therefore, they needed to be convinced of who He was. We, however, have the whole story. We know the outcome.

In our quest to be clever, we’ve complicated Christ. In our reach to be relevant, we’ve reduced being redeemed. If we’re not careful, we’ll weigh people down with rules, regulations, and religious activities, while causing them to miss the simple fact that we are saved by grace, and that grace comes from the fact that yes, Jesus does love us. If we’re not careful, we’ll attempt to exclude people from the Kingdom because they don’t dress like we do, worship like we do, sing like we do, minister like we do, or serve like we do. If we’re not careful, we’ll do our best to cause people to try and get saved according to our mandates, and not by simply believing that Jesus saves.

Again, in its simplest terms, God loved us so much that He sacrificed His Son. His Son then died on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins, rose on the third day, ascended to The Father, and He’s coming back again. He’s not coming back just for the rich. He’s not coming back just for those that have been to seminary. He’s not coming back just for pastors with large churches or ministries, authors with radio broadcasts, or even those that are uniquely anointed to do Kingdom work. He’s coming back for a church of believers. He’s coming back to get a people that He loves and that love Him in return. How do I know? Because the Bible tells me so. It really is just that simple.

You’re right, they don’t support you. But there’s more to the story.

You’re not crazy. Don’t let people make you think that you are. The very people that should support you in some way, form or fashion, the people that you call bro, sis, bother, sister, cousin, mother, father, friend, and even sometimes BFF, etc, are ignoring your efforts to live your dreams and create a better life. You see it because they do it in the open. The neglect is real. No, you’re not crazy. But you’re not defeated either.

If there’s anything that I’ve learned on this journey of entrepreneurship and individual ministry, it’s that God is The One that makes a way, and therefore, God is The One to be counted on. Many of us have simply misidentified our target (I’m guilty of that). We’ve missed who God has sent us to impact because we’re trying to reach for what’s right in front of us. However, the truth is who we’re near and who we’re meant to reach can often be two different things.

The fact remains that Jesus Himself had to leave His kindred and do the works that God sent Him to do (Mark 6:1-6). It was for them, but someone else had to receive it before they could appreciate it, and they still never fully did that. If Jesus faced rejection and neglect in light of His tremendous purpose, it’s going to be the same for you and I. But there is more to the story. God will still make a path for you.

Sure, many of us will claim to have haters that we don’t have, but that’s because we often fail to see that people don’t have to be haters in order to not support you. It’s true, some are haters, but some are also indifferent, and some quite honestly see you as competition or a threat. But if your eyes are on your God and on your mission, even though you see what you see and feel what you feel, you won’t be terminally affected, and most importantly, you won’t quit.

I’ve survived a lack of support by people that embraced me regularly and told me they loved me, just so that they can turn around and talk openly or post online about people that did the same thing that I do, while never saying a word about their “bro” or sending any love my way. I’ve survived my own mismanagement of my ministry, missing both financial support and other opportunities, because I was more focused on getting support from who I thought should have been supporting instead of going where God told me to go for support. You could almost say that I was constantly missing the bus because I was consistently standing at the wrong bus stops.

I’ve survived days when I looked up and the ministry was a one man show from beginning to end because my passion and perspective superseded those that pledged to help, but they didn’t know what help really entailed, and they bailed on me when they found out. But in the midst of it all, God was in the midst of it all. I’m still going. Not because of me, but because it’s greater than me. I’m still going because God has purposed this work, not because man supported this work.

I just want to encourage somebody today and tell you not to give up and not to give in. Remember why you started, and if the only goal was to be loved and accepted by all, you may need to adjust your goals because that one is unattainable. Remember, Jesus Himself was rejected by family, friends, neighbors and such. He was sent away by people who actually needed what He had. Work your plan according to The Master’s Plan (Matthew 6:33). That’s the true definition of success. Be encouraged on today. God has a victory waiting for you that no amount of earthly support could ever match.

Read an excerpt from “An Act of Grace”

img_0164Read an excerpt from Rev. Kelly R. Jackson’s upcoming book “An Act of Grace: Forgiveness and Reconciliation God’s Way. Release date for this work is January 25, 2019, but you can place your order now! Click HERE to visit the publishing website and place your order!

It’s about reconciliation. It’s about the relationship.

Forgiveness was never introduced as a mechanism for us to gain control or an upper hand over our fellow man. Instead, it was introduced so that we can have control over our feelings of anger, hostility, and our desire to hold on to grudges tighter than we hold on to relationships. Forgiveness was introduced to us so that we can move on together instead of moving apart from one another. And even in the event that some relationships are altered forever, forgiveness is supposed to be the way in which we depart in peace, with no hard feelings.

One of the things that get us caught up in the misapplication of forgiveness is the fact that we’ve twisted God’s design. If you’re reading these pages, chances are high that you’ve been advised by someone in your life to forgive someone so that you can be done with them, as opposed to moving on from the situation. Not only have I received that advice in my life before, but I’ve actually given it in error. However, if we’re really going to look at this from a Christian perspective and a God perspective, grace, mercy, and forgiveness was never given to us by The Almighty so that He could be done with us.

If you’ve read your Bible as I have, you’ll see that God has always desired a relationship with us, and thus, He keeps forgiveness on the table. He’s not trying to let it go so that He can “get some sleep” or “find some peace”. While those things are important to us as humans, it’s not the basis of forgiveness as God designed it. Forgiveness is what God wants us to do so that we can come together. It’s about reconciliation. It’s about the relationship. I would say that anyone that “forgives” with the mindset of being done with someone hasn’t really forgiven at all, or at the very least, they haven’t forgiven God’s way.

Understand that some relationships will go through several changes in a lifetime before it settles in to what it’s going to be. There will be ups and downs, highs and lows, and good days mixed with not so good days. However, reconciliation must be the goal. Having relationships reconciled doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re the same as they were before, but it does mean that they can function. Again, some relationships may not be the same anymore, but that doesn’t mean that there has to be any hard feelings or hostility when we come into contact with one another.

Even if you never speak to a person again, sometimes that’s just how that relationship goes, but the reason for never speaking again shouldn’t be because we’ve hardened our hearts and we’re too prideful to reconcile things. As I’ve often stated, some relationships aren’t broken, they’re just settled. That means you’re not mad at them and they’re not mad at you, but the relationship has run its course and that’s that. God understands that and is even accepting of it. However, what God doesn’t accept is our unwillingness to put things to rest.

***

Man must release his desire to be forever offended. There’s been a shift in our thinking that has caused us to desire the grudge, as opposed to getting rid of it. Many of us have fooled ourselves into believing that moving on with a hidden attitude is somehow Christ-like. On the surface, we appear to be taking the high road, but underneath, we’re still bitter and angry on some level. On the surface, we pretend to be cordial, but underneath, our hearts are hardened. We say we’re over it, but if the test of Romans 12:19-20 came along, we’d probably fail it.

What grace does is put the offense in perspective. What Jesus teaches us is relationships are valuable. He teaches us that hidden animosity is still animosity in the eyes of God, and He will not openly release forgiveness while we silently hold things against one another. Consider where you and I would be if we believed that our eternity was secure in Jesus, only to die and find out that God had secretly harbored a grudge against us all of these years and heaven had been taken off the table.

This leads us to the understanding that grace is the antithesis of offense. We can either hold on to offense or we can administer grace. One corrupts the soul, while the other cleanses it. We should never desire to be offended more than we desire to be reconciled. Offense is a burden that even God wants to release. Why would we desire to carry that which God wants to put away?

Copyright 2018 Kelly R. Jackson

Alone in a crowded room: In ministry, some are around you, but not necessarily with you

Photo Apr 13, 6 23 36 PMListen, let me start by saying, you won’t have it all. You won’t always have the support you need. You won’t always have people that see the vision as you do. That may not be your desire, but that is the divine plan, because nothing happens outside of God. However, if you remember who you’re working for, you’ll have a better chance at maintaining your focus, especially when it’s just you and God.

There’s a statement that I posted on social media last week and it was reiterated on my weekly radio broadcast. I said: “Sometimes God will get you alone just so that you can see that you were getting lost in the crowd”. The point I was trying to make was there are times when we feel as if we need to be around everybody in order to be somebody. We get so caught up in being positioned that we fail to be in position, and being in position is being where God placed us, not necessarily where we think we can generate the most buzz or get the most exposure. The deeper I go into ministry, the clearer this message gets for me.

Such is the case with ministry at times. Sometimes we’re more concerned with being on the scene, creating a scene, or just being seen, than we are with the actual call to ministry. Something else I stated on that broadcast is this: “The call has always been greater than the called”. That means that what I’m called by God to do will always be more important than I am, more essential than what I have to offer, and bigger than I am.

However, even as God has called many of us to something bigger and something greater, the actual work we’re called to do may be more focused and concentrated. We may not be called to minister to the masses, but we may be called to pour into one mind that will minister to the masses. We may not be called to be on the grand stage, but we may be called to set the stage for what’s to come. Jesus Himself said that we would do greater works than He did (John 14:12). That doesn’t make us greater than Christ, but Christ set the stage that we could and should perform on.

Where this gets difficult is when we inject our own ambitions into the equation. Where we lose focus is when we decide what our ministry should look like, instead of following the directives of God. Where we wind up wasting energy is when we decide where we want to have the most impact, as opposed to allowing God to build the audience for our gift.

When this happens, we can find ourselves around people that care little to nothing about what we have to offer. We can end up trying to position ourselves so that our gifts can be noticed and utilized, but to the purposes we have in our own heads. We try to make ourselves available to people that, quite honestly, see us as a threat to what they’re doing (even though we’re all supposedly on the same team). We believe that we’ve come to a place of sharing, encouragement, and brainstorming, when in fact, we can find ourselves in places of resentment because we’re viewed as peculiar (even though that’s what God called us to be).

Where we can find ourselves alone in our ministry is when we’re really and truly about The Kingdom, but we’re mixing with people that are about the opportunity. It’s easy to go to a place with “What can we do for them” on your heart, but the agenda of the room is “What can you do for me”. At some point, you look up and realize that you’re in a crowded room, but you’re all by yourself.

You may find it difficult to find support in rooms like this because often times, true ministry is not at the heart of the room. However, what you can’t do is fall into a state of discouragement or start having a pity party for yourself. Don’t confuse people not actively supporting you with their not wanting or appreciating your gifts. Some people aren’t supportive because they’re trying to figure out from a distance how you do what you do, and how to incorporate it into what they do.

The reality is some people are just like the people in the lottery line. They wanna sow as little as possible, but get the windfall of your talent. I know it’s tough to swallow because of the path that you’ve been chosen to walk. I know it’s hard to understand how we can be so anointed, and yet, so opportunistic, but this isn’t the time to lose faith or hope. This is the time to remember your role model. This is the time to remember Jesus!

Jesus did not have a quid pro quo ministry. It wasn’t do for me and I’ll do for you. We are saved by grace. It’s free. Sure, we ought to run for Jesus because of what He did for us, but faith is all that’s required. And yet, there are some rooms you can’t be in if you don’t have anything to offer but you. There are some circles you’re not allowed in without a title or status. There are some places where you can buy your way in, but can never serve your way in. Some rooms are just more monetary than missionary. And yet, you must go forward in your call anyway. You must persist for The Kingdom.

So, how do we carry on when it seems as if we have to carry the load alone? Understand that we can never claim to truly know the hearts of men, but discernment is still available to us. We may not know their hearts, but we should know our own. We should know what it is that God has placed deep inside of us. Rest assured, the easiest way to lose your faith is to lose sight of your who and your why.

The most important thing for us to remember about our gifts and our talents is they were never just for us. God equipped us to serve others. When we remember what we’re called to be, the rooms we desire to be in will change significantly. We’ll find ourselves in places where there’s no fanfare, no pretense, and no ego or arrogance. We’ll find ourselves in places where there’s a need. That’s why we can’t give up. Because someone is counting on us to follow through!

Galatians 6:9 (NKJV) tells us: “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart”.

There’s a space between sowing season and due season that can test even the most faithful of God’s servants. I have to believe that those words in that text were written by the Apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, because God knew we would get tired. He knew that the road would be rough at some times, and lonely at others. Yes, it is a word of encouragement, but it’s also a word of warning: There will be times when you want to quit!

But I want to encourage someone that’s on the verge of quitting to stop that line of thinking. Trust me, your work is not in vain. What you’re doing isn’t for nothing. God has never made an empty promise to His servants or anyone else for that matter. The harvest is coming. You can still do ministry exactly as God planned it, even if you have to do it alone. I’m a witness that God will bring you back into focus after you’ve exhausted all of your efforts (be sure to examine that last sentence). I’m a witness that God has a special and unique ministry for all of us. Some involve crowds, and some involve a lot of small efforts that yield major results.

I’m a firm believer that God is still moving in the remnant and small groups. What that means is you don’t need everybody to be somebody. Your voice doesn’t have to be in everybody’s ears, just the ears of your God-intended audience. Your gift doesn’t have to be appreciated by everyone, it just needs to help the person or people that it was designed to help. You can walk in your assigned ministry, in a crowded room, or in a room by yourself. You are peculiar for a reason. You were never meant to be like everyone else. Be what you’re called to be. Even if it’s just you and God working. He’s more than a crowded room against you.

Get Ready For Your Elevation!

There comes a moment when God wants some alone time with His children. Away from where we think we should be, and certainly away from where we used to roam and from what we used to be. Maybe He called you out of a bad relationship. Maybe He called you out of physical or spiritual bondage. Maybe He called you off of an unfulfilling job or out of a church where you could no longer produce. Or maybe, just maybe, He called you away from who you’ve been, so that He can bring you to be what He wants you to be.

It’s during this time of isolation that God will shape you and mold you into what He wants you to be and what you need to be for the next level of your journey. It’s during these moments when God will cause you to re-evaluate your life and whether or not you’re effectively operating in your purpose.

It’s during these times that even those around you may seem as if they’re “funny acting”, they have no time for you, or they’re kicking you out of their circle. But 2 Corinthians 6:17 says “Come out from among them and be ye separate, says The Lord”. So, know that they’re not kicking you out, they’re kicking you up! God has a new you waiting at the next level!

Know that your isolation is preparation for your elevation. Enjoy your alone time with God. Don’t despair when your phone calls go unanswered. Don’t worry when the enemy attacks you for leaving your former place. Be not dismayed when you had more company in bondage than you have when your chains fall off. Get ready, child of God. It’s time for your elevation!

(Like that “Isolation for Elevation” t-shirt Rev. Jackson is wearing? Click here to order yours in support of the “Your Life with Purpose” radio broadcast!)

Rejecting God: We ignore much more than we miss

Did you really miss your blessing or did you just ignore it when it came? I’m a writer by nature and by profession, so I’m a stickler for words. It’s popular for us to say things to people like “You missed your blessing” when they seem to have bypassed God’s provisions. But I want to challenge that thinking, because upon further inspection, I find that we don’t miss God with anywhere near the regularity that we actually reject Him.

It’s really very simple to me. As an example, if you miss a bus, you either weren’t there when the bus showed up or you arrived as it was pulling away and you couldn’t catch it. However, to reject a bus means that you were standing there when it arrived, you knew that it would take you where you wanted to go, but for whatever reason, you refused to get on. 

Maybe it was too crowded. Maybe you didn’t like the style of the bus because it was an older model and not a brand new bus. Maybe you didn’t like the driver. Whatever your reason for not getting on, there’s no doubt about it, the bus came. You just rejected it and now it will take you longer to get to your destination.

The truth is God is always placing blessings right in front of us. The lie is that we somehow know better than God. Often, the blessing doesn’t look like we want it to look or it doesn’t come when we expected it or from where we expected it. We fail to see that God designs the blessing to fit its purpose, not necessarily to be pleasing to our eyes or our other human sensibilities. Can He design such a gift that’s pleasing to us? Of course He can. But we’ll often only see it that way when we use our vision as opposed to our sight.

The point here is this: To suggest that you missed something from God is to suggest that God’s timing is somehow off. Now, you may be saying, “Wait Rev, if I say I missed it, how am I blaming God?” Well, let me hit you with another Christian catchphrase: “He may not come when you want Him, but He’s always on time.” That says to me that if you’re early, God will be there. If you’re running late, God will be there. You can’t miss what God has for you, but you sure can reject it trying to do things according to your own understanding. 

Even if your aim is off, God’s aim is true. And even though we may miss out on some things, we won’t miss it in its entirety. But you wanna know what else is awesome about God? Even when you reject Him, He’s so full of grace, that He’ll bring that blessing back around and give you another chance at it. However, I must warn you. You don’t wanna keep ignoring God. You may find yourself stuck with your plan instead of His, and that’s a mess you don’t want. My suggestion to you? When the bus comes, don’t outsmart yourself. Your best bet is to just get on.