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Religious teaching and preaching always – always; involves prompting the hearer to pray more, give more, and to try to be perfect.

Biblical teaching changes the focus saying, “The just shall live by faith.”

Does faith nullify that a Christian should pray, that he should give generously, or that he should not give of himself all that he has or is? NO!

The difference is – the difference between all religion and the Christian’s message – is that the Christian is introduced to God the Savior: The Savior saves him who cannot save himself.

Religion teaches that we are alone in the struggle of life. The Bible teaches that God has never left us to ourselves – and alone.

“For, by grace are ye saved through faith, and not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, not of works (sheer self-effort) lest any man should boast.”

Can we imagine heaven be a place of boasters saying, “This is how I made it!” No!

In heaven – and here on earth – the most normal Christian thing is his boast about His Savior. Actually, a normal Christian thing also, the Christian may say of himself, “I was the chief of sinners.” The worst!

The Bible teaches that a Christian is a twice-born person: born of his mother through natural birth, and born of the Spirit through supernatural birth.
. We can “become” a child of God in much the same way as was Jesus. He is “The only begotten of the Father,” one of a kind. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth shall not perish, but has everlasting life.”

Our believing God is a faith response to the inner voice of the invisible Holy Spirit. Faith is always a response – the right response. Faith is pure honesty and is not blind. Faith and love, both having to do with invisible reality, are inseparable. Normal Christianity is distinguished from all religions: every Christian must have become one through a love-faith encounter with the Lord. The Bible teaches that Jesus; “Came to His own, but his own received him not.”

Things we think that we can understand we tend to call natural; however, we actually only understand fragment of the whole truth concerning anything. And much of what we have thought we understood has been overturned by further information later on. Actually the existence of anything that exists is miracle — a product of divine creation.

A Christian is a divine re-creation; that involves forgiveness of his wrong doing; and payment for the debt he occurred by sinning.

Religion always has to do with correcting our deficiencies by our own efforts. True Christianity reveals that God is merciful, that out of His loving-kindness He “saves our lives from destruction,” if we will be honest with Him so He can – He gives us that option.
Furthermore, the Lord desires – as any worthy parent should, desire to “Crown our lives with loving-kindness.” (Psalm 103)

Religion does not present the divine as a Savior. The Bible does.
Religion does not expect the miraculous, but the normal Christian lives by such hope. The Christian’s God is “Mighty to save.”
Religion often mocks the concept of being saved.

But some common sense key factors which distinguish Christianity from religions are cherished.
We agree that for one to lay down his life for another is “The ultimate sacrifice.” God did that.
We agree that forgiveness is greater than judgment and accusation: the Gospel of God offers divine mercy.
We agree that generosity is greater than accumulation and greed: never has generosity been so on display as has it been on the cross of Calvary.

The statement by Jesus, “The thief came but to steal, maim, and destroy” — we see on earth throughout all its days this happening.
“But I have come to give you life, and give it to you abundantly.” (John 10:10)
Abundantly “ever-lasting and eternally blessed. He chooses to have us live in fellowship with Him forever.

A “normal” Christian is someone who took the invitation of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus said, “If any man is burdened or heavy laden” –whoever has eyes to see the condition of this world today must be burdened, or the weight that our sin has brought upon us and those we’ve wronged.
Those suffering as we speak, the terminally ill, the sorrow in the Middle East, their ambitions there clearly expressed – let such as person … “come unto Me.”

A normal Christian is someone who did come unto Him. The normal Christian’s story, his testimony, has been a gospel message ever since and has been there for any willing to seek God in all ages

There is only one, Christianity that is normal to all centuries: “This is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long.”

Normal Christianity is a brotherhood of like-minded faith; Jesus being the Elder Brother, by the Spirit, doing miracles in all ages.

He that ministers to you in the Spirit and worketh miracles among you (does so) by the hearing of faith.”
(Galations 3:5)

Buddy

Everyone, at times, experiences the pain of love given but not returned. But, are we too quick in giving up; in turning away those who have disappointed us? Maybe we do, but God does not.

God is self-giving love.
Of himself he says, “Love suffers long and is kind.”

We see the love of Father God in the parable of the prodigal son: the son seemed to do everything wrong. Already the father has given him his inheritance.

Do we not see that even the opportunity of life is a gift from another; and inheritance not deserved, not asked for.
And the “bad” son spoils his life. Using the gift of life-his potentials-
so selfishly.

Let’s not be too quick to judge him. Are we not are looking at our selves?

Perhaps we have not gotten so caught up as did this “Prodigal,” but we are near of kin to him in many ways.

Given his set of circumstances are we so confident that we would not have fallen so deeply as did he?

Perhaps we had someone in our corner. Someone that helped us more than we realize – and this boy did not.

Yet the Father was watching. He was not judging. He was just there – watching, waiting, knowing that life must come crashing down – – – and He would be there; not to scold but rather to reassure. And the time came.

“Kill the fatted calf,” shout the Father, “my son has come to me hoping that I can help him. My son has come home!”

No confession comes from the son’s lips: nor any correction from the Father’s.

Can we do better? Surely not! Is this a picture of happiness? There is none better.

The Father had been long in suffering his son’s plight. Certainly he did not stoop to blaming. The stakes were too high for that.

Oh, dear friends do we not see that happiness can be contaminated before it is allowed to happen – if we do as we are told not to do?
“Judge not that ye be not judged.”

The difference between Father God and us is that He alone has the right to judge but chooses not to. And we, who are hypocrites to judge, do so quite easily; and destroy rather than heal those in our paths.

Buddy

“I get no respect?”

I’m certain the Phoenician woman, (Matthew 15:28); and the Centurion (v.8), came to Jesus knowing they deserved nothing from the Lord.

They came interceding for another, though they knew not that they were.
Their hope that Jesus would help them was based on their estimation of His kindness, of His authority, of His willingness.

Has not the Lord made it clear that He wills to “Save lives from destruction and to crown our lives with loving-kindness?”

Religious leaders then, and ministers now, may not take to heart that the One who sent His Son into the world did so for loves end; not for condemnation; but for personal salvation.

Most ministers do not preach with confidence that the Lord desires to bless the whole person; body, soul, and spirit. Yet that did not stop the Phoenician woman and the Centurion, whose value was not seen by the religious leaders or by the Lord’s disciples. They had not yet caught on to the immensity of the love of God.

Our Bible tells us that the Lord wills to bless body, soul, and spirit; that is, to make us “whole.”

The Centurion came to Jesus asking the Lord to heal his servant. He came believing that Jesus had such “authority” and also the will to carry out this request.

The Phoenician woman came asking the Lord to help her daughter. Neither came to Him considering the free will of the one for whom they were “interceding.”

Both of them heard Jesus marvel at their faith. All of us should pay attention.

These people were outsiders: Gentiles. Jesus’ words of approval should awaken our dull minds. Are we not taught “Without faith we cannot please God?” Have we not read and understood that, “He could not do many miracles there, because of their unbelief.” But these outsiders did believe in “The goodness of God in the land of the living.” They embraced a practical trust in the loving-kindness of God. And they based their hope in God’s loving-kindness.

The Phoenician knew her unworthiness was not an issue. She must have known the grace that is greater than all our sin. She was unworthy – like a dog begging – she answered, “Truth, Lord, yet the dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters table.”

Jesus said to her, “O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt.” Oh, that some parent out there might grasp this. The will of the daughter was bound, not free. Do we not sing, “Satan had me bound; but Jesus set me free!”

“By grace are we saved, through faith.” Salvation involves being made whole by a Savior who alone gets the glory.

Based on faith in Him and Him alone – nothing else – The Phoenician woman came to Jesus pleading for her daughter.

To the Centurion came believing that Jesus not only had the power, but that it was His will – willingness; do we see it?

Coming to the Lord both with a plea and also believing that He hears and will grant our petition is faith.

Does not “Oh, Lord if it be thy will:” reveal un-belief? Not faith – definitely not “great faith.” Better to pray, “Lord I believe, help thou my unbelief.”

“Verily I say unto you,” Jesus told this man, “I have not found so great faith, no not in Israel.”

Beware of mere church people: the may kill your simple faith.

Beware the minister who can tell you what is not promised; but is weak in claiming the “abundant life” which Jesus brings.

“The thief comes to steal, maim, and destroy.” Many will believe that our fate is settled; that an abundant life claim is false religion. “But I have come to give you life, and life abundantly,” Jesus retorted.

Where is the faith? Is it not “Our faith that overcomes the world?”

Let us be among those who seem religiously strange because we believe too easily for “Our God is great.

Our God is mighty, there’s nothing that our God can’t do.” We taught this little song to our young children, but did we believe it before them?

Do we love them unconditionally?

“Love never fails.”

Hypocrisy puts barriers to God’s care for us that He never intended.

Buddy