Friday, February 27, 2015

4 Ways to Deal With Suffering

Randy Alcorn's book The Goodness of God, has some interesting perspectives on the subject of the age-old questions of Christian suffering.  But Jesus himself gave us warnings about our being persecuted and enduring trials and experiencing suffering as the children of God.

I really appreciate the way Randy's book is laced with illustrative word pictures of actual people in real circumstances and the things they suffered.  It's good reading during the times of turmoil in our world, when we are suffering from life's hurts and disappointments. 

Near the end of the book, Randy gives us 4 ways we can trust God for deliverance from our suffering.

1.  Look to God's promises for comfort.  How often have I encouraged my readers to "stay close to the Word of God?"  By now we should find ourselves reaching for our Bibles automatically when there is the first sign we could be facing struggles and suffering.   This point in the book also directs us to the words of David in Psalm 27.  This weekend, find a few minutes with your Bible and make a list of God's promises which are detailed in Psalm 27.

2.  Anticipate God's rewards.  Quoting from the book, "Evil and suffering are temporary, but God's goodness and our joy will be eternal."  Another Bible chapter for your study and consideration this weekend is Hebrews 11, also known as the "Faith Chapter" in the Bible.  In that chapter you will find numerous people of God who suffered in various negative ways, finding positive solutions to their adversities because of their faith in God.  Actually, the child of the Heavenly Father had his hand in the lives of each of these people.....and in yours.  Anticipate his rewards, even in the midst of suffering.

3.  Lighten the load through prayer.   You have heard this one, too.  Just about every encouragement in these pages to stay close to the Word of God, have also been followed by steering you in the direction of a strong prayer life. Today when you pray, read aloud Philippians 4:6-7.  Suffering may make us feel weak or act as if we have nothing powerful to lean on, but when we present our requests to God in prayer, we are tapping into the greatest and most powerful source that exists.

4.  Share your life with others who suffer.  This is not to be a pre-arranged pity party where we try to outdo each other in describing our sufferings.  It's not intended to be a time when we compare scars. Rather it is a time when we can draw energy from realizing we are not in this alone.  Life can deal us some low blows and we hurt.  While we are in the middle of our suffering, part of our maturity comes when we begin to share our story with others who are suffering, too.  And, it's also a good time to turn to 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, learning that we are children of the One who is called "the God of all comfort."  And Paul says that God not only comforts us in our troubles, but makes us an instrument of comfort to others who are suffering.

"Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed."   1 Peter 4:12-13


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Forgiving and Loving

We talk about forgiveness a lot.  Perhaps it's because we recognize our need to be forgiven daily.  At the remembrance of a sin we committed, we are anxious to experience and feel forgiveness from God.  We know the blood of Jesus washes us as white as snow, and even when we as Christians commit sin, we approach God seeking his forgiveness.

We also know how easy it is to say or do something that is harmful to another person, bringing about the need for us to seek their forgiveness.  What about when we are the person who is to be forgiving someone else?

That question is so revealing in that it shows so much of the human side of our reaction.  We have been hurt and we want the offending person to hurt as much or more than we hurt.  We might even set a list of conditions they must meet before we will consider forgiving them.   Can we and should we teach them a lesson by withholding forgiveness until they show they deserve it?  That is the forgiveness we wish to target in this blog.

Think with me for a bit how we would define forgiveness.  Korie Robertson gives us a good definition. "Forgiveness is letting go of the desire to make the other person pay for an action that wronged us and caused significant hurt."  She continues, "Forgiveness is saying no to revenge."  While those are sinking in, it's also a good time to consider when we have been wronged, and if we were willing to say no to revenge?   Have we ever had to let go of the desire to make someone pay for their action which wronged us?

To really understand all this, we must consider again, God's forgiveness toward us when we sin against him.  From the scripture comes the warning that we cannot be forgiven if we are unwilling to forgive others. 

Rather than using our standards of forgiving others, we should be using God's way.  Yes, he despises the sin but is always loving and forgiving toward the sinner.  Perhaps we have such a difficult time forgiving others because we do not love them the way God loves them.

I must determine to be more forgiving toward others, loving them, even growing closer to them through the offense and subsequent forgiveness.  That may be a big chore for us, but we must understand the combination of loving and forgiving others is the only way to achieve godly relationships.


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Can we really believe?

How do you make something unbelievable, believable? When a new product or "gadget" is introduced and we hear of something it does that was previously impossible, we call that an unbelievable invention. On TV today I saw an advertisement for a little box you can purchase, hook up a house phone to it, an call anywhere in the nation for free. Talk to anyone you wish for as long as you wish, for no charge!  Unbelievable?  Believe it!

I know the followers of Jesus that were given the task of spreading the message of the gospel must have encountered lots of people who, when hearing about Jesus, walked away while shaking their heads and thinking, "that's unbelievable."

Peter was given that task of presenting the new message of God's love for mankind through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. On the Day of Pentecost following Jesus' victory over death and the grave, Peter preached about a risen Lord, a living Jesus.  Unbelievable?   Not only was Jesus alive again, he had ascended back into heaven with the promise that he would return again. Is it sounding more unbelievable?

Later in the writing of Peter, he addressed the issue like this in 2 Peter 1:

16 For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”  18 We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.
19 We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Peter assures us, "This is no fable made up and cleverly devised by men. All I am telling you actually happened. I was there, I am an eyewitness, I can testify to you all of this is true."

Can we take his word for it?  Do we actually believe the Bible narratives as truth to live by? And can we know these words are as true for our generation as they were for those who lived in Bible times? I cannot make you believe unbelievable things. I can only point you to this follower of Jesus named Peter and the things he taught that are made believable in the hearts and minds of those who seek God. Read that last part of the scripture again. Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Grief Process

I can only imagine the pain and agony associated with a parent losing a child.  Accidents and disease take their tolls daily, and unfortunately our kids are sometimes the victims.  Our family has had serious disease issues in all three of our kids, but we praise God regularly that they are still with us and functioning as normal mature adults.  Each of those events brought us as parents to appreciate how delicate life can be, and to constantly keep the prayer lines open.

Today I read a story about a family losing a teen-aged son in an automobile accident.  The young man had made it to the hospital in an ambulance, but from the beginning of the ER diagnosis,  the family was given  little hope for his recovery.  In less than an hour, he died.

This was a Christian family, one that you would see almost every Sunday in church.  He was a kid from the youth group, always friendly, fun-loving, well mannered, just the picture of one that would some day marry and raise a family.  But now, his grieving family stood beside his lifeless body, as a hospital chaplain prayed, and his family sought answers.

The father said over and over, "It's not supposed to happen like this."  He tried calling out to God but in those moments he was angry with God.  When the words did come from his lips, nobody in the room could blame him for his anger.  "God, you blessed me with a son and now I stand by a bed and watch him take his last breath.  Why, God?   Why?" 

As I said in the beginning paragraph, we can only imagine the pain and agony associated  with losing a child.  Let me also tell you it is a time when even the closest of friends and relatives search for words to say.  The right words escape us and we sometimes fumble and mumble things we have heard in other situations like this.

It was a few agonizing days after the accident, as this grieving father was spending some quiet time, he realized something very important.  He was not the first father to watch his son die.  Something stirred his thinking in the direction of God's son, dying on the cross, as the Father watched, and grieved.  His death was paying the sin-debt for all mankind, yet the pain of grief continued.

Yes, the grief of the father in our story, and the grief of his family continued, but this father connected with the Heavenly Father in a way he had never imagined possible.  He could face every agonizing moment God was with him, understanding him, loving him, and strengthening him.  He later confessed, "My new relationship with God allows me to understand what being a father really means.  I can face the days and sleepless nights ahead because of my connection with the Father above."

I have heard that grief affects us all differently, but in this case, the loss of a son brought about greater understanding of life, and death, and grief, and healing.  The doubts and fears were no longer present in his life.  Instead, he learned to walk with God, allowing God's direction and guidance.

When we lose a loved one, the greatest of blessings come when we allow God access to our entire being.  Yes, we may have good and bad days in the grieving process, but God will never leave us, and through his love, we learn real hope and real healing.   God bless.


Monday, February 23, 2015

Start at the beginning

The preacher kept his promise.  He said he was going to begin at the beginning.  Then he read aloud, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."  Genesis 1:1

From that point, the listeners were enthralled with his description of creation and how God formed everything from nothing.  He created the galaxies.  He put things in motion.  The laws of nature were in place.

Then there was a question presented, which asked us to think a bit.  He wanted to know if we really believed a God who could bring everything into being, would also have the power to maintain control?  That was followed by another revealing statement.....revealing how we are sometimes different when we say we really believe, then try to take control ourselves.

The Apostle Paul was a believer, just like you and me.   He must have been addressing these same issues when we wrote to the Colossian Christians.

15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Colossians 1:15-20

Why do we read the Bible?  For learning, for life application, to prove we are right and everyone else is wrong, for answering difficult questions?  Whatever the reason, we are missing the point if we fail to see the message of the Bible is God's love story for us.  Yes, there are commandments, admonitions, difficult passages, and even a few things we feel should have been left out.  But overall, cover to cover, this is the story of how much God loves YOU!

Even when dealing with those whose lives were unfaithful and disobedient, our loving God was and is working to bring us to himself.  The things we have done that are outside his will, are forgiven in the blood of Christ.   It's hard for us to understand how God would be willing to give his only son to save the likes of a sinner like me, or us, but that is exactly the beauty of the love story.

Remember, he is still in control.  He created us and longs for us to be in relationship with him.


Friday, February 20, 2015

A Time to Rejoice

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,

To God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood:

Grace and peace be yours in abundance.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.   1 Peter 1:1-9

The weekend is upon us again, and your weekend can be very special when you read and absorb Peter's notice three things:

1.  Notice your new birth, given as a gift of God's mercy.   (Verses 3-5)

2.  Notice the presence of suffering and trials as part of your Christian experience.   (Verses 6-7)

3.  Notice the relationship with Jesus in the receiving the end result of your faith.   (Verses 8-9)

It would do us well to focus on all three of these points which deal with our lives in Jesus, and more than that, we should continue to read the entire chapter.  It's amazing when we read and study about all that is ours in Christ, God keeps blessing us more and more.   Look at the closing verses to this chapter.

22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.   23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. 24 For,

“All people are like grass,
    and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,
25     but the word of the Lord endures forever.”

And this is the word that was preached to you.    1 Peter 1:22-25



Thursday, February 19, 2015

So, you have doubts?

John 20:24-28
 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” 26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” 28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

The events leading to the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus were now history. The resurrected Lord had made an appearance to Mary Magdalene, and in turn she notified the disciples, "I have seen the Lord!"

We can imagine the excitement in her voice when she made the news known to the followers of Jesus, sharing the good word that Jesus had risen. That evening when the disciples were together, Jesus stood among them and even talked to them. "Peace be with you!" He showed them his hands and side, and the Bible says they were overjoyed at seeing the Lord. 

Verse 24 in the above passage informs us that Thomas, one of the Twelve, wasn't present when Jesus made himself known to the disciples. We aren't told why Thomas was absent, but we are told when the disciples informed him they had seen Jesus, Thomas showed doubt, saying he would need to see the proof of the nail marks in his hand, and even touch those places where the nails were and where his side was cut. 

About a week later, Thomas did just that. The disciples were assembled again and Thomas was with them. Although their doors were locked, Jesus came and stood in their presence again. He spoke to Thomas and instructed him to reach out and touch the wounds for himself, and to stop doubting and believe. 

We still have skeptics today, even among us. We have moments of doubt and unbelief. But what was it that caused Thomas to doubt? He had witnessed the same things as the others, yet he still had trouble believing when they told him the Lord was alive. 

Perhaps the reason can be traced to his absence when the disciples first saw the risen Jesus. There may be something to this.  When we separate ourselves from other believers, do we have moments of doubt and unbelief? Is that when we have trouble maintaining our faith?
It happened to Thomas, and it happens to us the same way. Remember, Jesus is telling us, "Stop doubting and believe."


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

My chains are gone

13 We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away. 14 But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. 15 Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.    2 Corinthians 3:13-18

Please do not forget verse 17.  It is vital for us to know and understand its truth.   "Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom."  What does the passage say to you?  If we are to be the people of God, redeemed by the blood of Christ, forgiven of sin, possessors of the Spirit of God living in us,  what is all this freedom about?

When Jesus was describing his mission in coming to the earth, one of the things he read aloud, from the Old Testament prophecy, was he would bring freedom to the prisoners.  Of course the reading is speaking of those who are prisoners or enslaved to sin.  Jesus' mission included his mission of rescuing us from those sins which hold us captive, and bringing us freedom.

Can you imagine the feeling of a literal prisoner which has been incarcerated for a long time.  When he finally experiences freedom it is as if he is breathing new air. enjoying life anew, as he lives in the liberty which now surrounds him.

So I ask each of you, as you consider your life which is devoted to God, where is the Spirit of God for you?  Don't forget the verse where we started, that teaches us about real freedom.  "Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom."

Do we have that freedom?  Do we live in that freedom?  Do we thrive in that freedom?   I am convinced we cannot experience real freedom, like that described in our text, unless we are aware of and listening to the Spirit of the Lord inside us.

In the lengthy section of scripture above, there is talk about the veil, and minds being made dull.  The real blessing for us is in the words, "Only in Christ, the veil is taken away. "  Also, "Whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away." 

We are the evidence that the mission of Jesus was accomplished, when we are the living testimony of the freedom we have experienced.  Because God's grace and love are extended in our direction, the chains are broken, the suffering of being bound by sin is gone, and we are set free!


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

I want to die for Jesus.....

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.” Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”  Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!"  John 13:34-38

Jesus was preparing his closest followers for his departure. Peter had been an important part of the events in Jesus' ministry, so it is not surprising to us to see that Peter wanted to follow Jesus where he was going. Even though Jesus had said that where he was going, you cannot follow me now, but you will follow later. Peter wouldn't stand for that. Notice what he said.  "Why can't I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you." Jesus replied, "Will you really?  Will you lay down your life for me? The truth of the matter is, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times."

Peter had the same problem many of us have. He was making promises and declarations with his mouth which he really wasn't capable of keeping. We know the story, Peter ended up denying Jesus three times, just as Jesus as predicted.  While Peter might have had the understanding  that following Jesus could lead to his death, at that moment other things were pressing.  He was still wrestling with why he couldn't go with Jesus, and he was perplexed at Jesus' insistence that Peter was going to deny him three times before the rooster crows in the morning. 

We, too, might be ready and willing to let Jesus hear us say that we are willing to die for him, and go to be with him. In reality, we are like Peter and find our connection with this life is more powerful than our commitment to the Lord.  Even the strongest and closest followers of Jesus, in Bible times and in our day have difficulty in understanding our Lord's mission and methods. 

It hadn't been too long since the disciples were arguing among themselves about which one would be the greatest and have a seat of honor next to Jesus in his kingdom. We can detect jealousy in the ranks of the very ones Jesus had chosen to follow him.  Those who had witnessed his miracles, listened to his teaching, experienced his love, and heard all the parables, were still squabbling over prestigious positions.  Maybe we do not argue over the same things with our brethren today, but a major hindrance to the success of most churches stems from the way we treat each other.  And before we speak up first and loudest, that we are perhaps the only ones willing to lay down our lives for Jesus, we need a dose of reality and understanding that we probably wouldn't. 

With the departure announcement Jesus was making, we must hold on to his opening remarks on this matter.  “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  No, Lord, I want to die for you! Jesus was telling Peter and us, " the better thing you can do for me is love each other. It is by your love for one another that all men will know you are my disciples."  Even greater that dying for Jesus, is living for him, being his disciple, and demonstrating his love. 


Monday, February 16, 2015

Happy People, Happy Me!

This week's message from Max is part of a current series in which every church member is called upon to participate in making 100 Happy People.  The series started back on February 9, and continues until March 20.  That should figure out to about 40 days, and each of us is to bring some happiness into the lives of 100 people.  The whole idea is for us to be so much like Jesus, there will be a seed of happiness being planted in the lives of those we touch.  It's like we will be helping others by our efforts of "going the extra mile" for 100 people.

Does that sound like a challenge today's church people are capable of doing?  If you were participating, where would you start?   From what I detect, it takes the church member out of the pew and into the world to actually make some kind of contact with real people who need a smile, or a hug, or maybe even a boost in the right direction.  That's a big task in the lives of some.......including me. 

We get ourselves so busy with work and school and duties and responsibilities, we fail to be the type of person to bring happiness into the lives of others.  One point made today was that Jesus was always making people happier through their encounter with him.  The woman at the well was happy to learn of "living water" that Jesus could give her, while telling her she would never thirst again.  Or perhaps you can see this kind of happiness in the woman brought to Jesus, after being caught in the act of adultery, and hearing him say, "neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more."

The lead verse in the sermon today came from Romans 15:7, which says, "Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God."

We may have read and even studied the verse on numerous occasions, but its application today brought me to realize the purpose of this study is two-fold.  First, in making people experience happiness through some deed we can do for them.  Second, it is giving every church member some "on the job training" in actually being Jesus by imitating his heart in our actions toward others.

Oh, I know the greatest commandment is for me to love God completely, and the second is like it, as I am to love others, too.  Today's verse about accepting one another seems to go a little beyond that.  I'm first commanded to love you and I try to do that even though some of the people I meet in life are so unlovable.  That even means the "accepting one another" is more difficult when it is so obvious some people are not acceptable.  Doesn't Paul, in the verse from Romans 15, know that?   Our world today has so many people doing and saying things that make it hard for me to accept them.  There are drug dealers in the community where I live.  There are drunks and thieves, gossips and slanderers, and even those who deny the existence of God or the saving power of Jesus.

Paul's verse instructs you and me to accept them, and others, in the same way Jesus accepted us.  Here is where we sometimes draw the line.  We have become accustomed to believing and possibly even teaching that people need to clean themselves up and come to Jesus.  But notice, that's backwards.

The invitation of Jesus is actually for us to come to him, and let him clean us up.  See the difference?  If we are to accept each other as Jesus accepted us, then we do not set the terms.  After all, didn't Jesus accept each of us just as we were?  That's one reason we cling to the Bible verse that tells us, "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."

I've accepted the challenge to be more like Jesus in my encounters with other people, and maybe you should consider it, too.  Loving and accepting people like Jesus did, cannot help but make them happier. Who are you going to first, to bring the seed of happiness into their lives?


Friday, February 13, 2015

I forgive you

Everywhere you look in Christian literature, there is always an article, or a new book release, on the subject of forgiveness.  True, we Christians have gone through many instances where forgiveness was the better choice, and we failed.  There just seems to be a stronger motivation pulling us in a direction away from forgiving and repairing relationships.  Have we grown more accustomed to separating ourselves from someone who offends and hurts us, rather that forgiving and nurturing an otherwise broken relationship?

This weekend I challenge you to think each day about some different aspects of forgiveness.  Keeping in mind the teachings of the scriptures on the topic, while attempting to improve our own quality of living and showing forgiveness toward all.   Here are three areas we need to examine in our own experience.

1.  If your life is like most, you will notice a common problem.  We Christians have a tendency to say, perhaps even publically, that we have forgiven someone, when in reality, our hearts still harbor  a grudge or even hatred of a person.  Think for a moment.  When we do that, can we see how much hurt we are inflicting on ourselves?  What is there about us that seems to love holding on to the feelings of disappointment, rejection, unfairness, and other negative feelings, rather that embracing God's plan of forgiving others? 

2.  The subject of forgiveness brings about a lot of doubt in the lives of some.  We fail to forgive someone because we doubt if the person deserves to be forgiven.  We hesitate in our willingness to forgive hoping to teach someone a lesson.  We want them to suffer some of the hurt they have caused us.  Then some day when they have suffered enough, then we will forgive them.  Haven't we already established the fact that the longer we wait to forgive, the more we hurt?  Perhaps we should think about the person that hurt us, rather than the harmful thing he did or said.  And, while thinking of that person, remember the forgiveness you receive because of the cross of Jesus.  When we are rational in our thinking of how we have been forgiven, then our forgiveness toward others should be just as sure as our knowledge that our sins are forgiven.

3.  We need to see forgiveness as a blessing of healing.  Just as a cancer grows in its attempt to overcome and destroy a human body, our resistance to be forgiving causes a spiritual cancer to grow and ultimately destroy a life.  While we are in this world, yet yearning for the eternal life to come, doesn't it make sense for us to be a healer rather than one that harbors hurt?

Three days, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, in our weekend.  Three areas of forgiveness to consider.  Pick one a day and meditate on it, pray about it, and determine to be a more forgiving person.  Yes, there are other areas of forgiveness but let's start with these three.

Also, I challenge you to Google "Bible verses about forgiveness."  Make a list of the verses and read them slowly, examining their context and content.  You will be blessed by both the freedom of forgiveness and the freedom that comes from forgiving.


Thursday, February 12, 2015

Your faith in action

I have mentioned to you before, my liking of the Duck Dynasty program on TV.  You probably have guessed my likings of this entire family because of their willingness to share their faith and Christian beliefs with others.

In the book written by family members Korie Robertson and Chrys Howard, called FAITH COMMANDER, "Living Five Values From the Parables of Jesus,"  we catch a glimpse of ways in which we, too, can find the courage and determination to tell the gospel story.

Korie writes of faith formation in the life of son, Jace.  From his exposure to the Bible and its stories, its application, and the way it fits into life situations, all pointed young Jace to a life of belief.  He had seen God working in the lives of family members with a history of bad choices and their transformation into God fearing believers, evidenced through their complete surrender to the will of God.

The story continues when Jace told them of an event in his life.  He had always been a good kid, with a great deal of shyness.  That concerned him because he didn't want to be too shy to share his faith.  Even I can remember at age 14 being like Jace.  But one night, just as he had finished praying about being more vocal about his Christianity, something happened.  

Around midnight, Jace's phone rang and he answered it with the traditional "hello."  He could tell someone was on the line and persisted in getting them to say who they were and what they wanted.  There was nothing but silence from the calling party.  Was it a prank call?  Should he just hang up?

Here's a quote from the book, telling what Jace did. He spoke to the silent caller, "You know what?  I'm glad you called. because I've been wanting to share my faith in Christ, and I've been unable to do it in public because I'm shy.  So I'm going to share with you what I'm in to."  That was the beginning point of Jace introducing someone to Jesus Christ.

Jace continued talking and could hear the rustling of paper from the caller, but still no words.  Could it be this silent caller was following along and turning pages in the Bible as Jace talked?  That call went on for three hours, and ended only when Jace ran out of things to say.  He invited the caller to call back the next night, same time.

Sure enough, at midnight the next night, the caller called again, but again remained silent.  Jace put in another three hours, telling the story of Jesus in his life, and this time, near the end of the call, Jace could hear an outcry of emotion, and the caller hung up.  Even Jace came away from that experience with Jesus being more real to him.  He also realized that what Jesus represents for us through his death and his resurrection, and his work at the right hand of God on our behalf, is powerful and captivating.

I challenge you to get this book and read more about Jace.  What a wonderful example he is to those of us who fumble and mumble when we are asked to tell our story.  Like his mom says, "That is faith in action"


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

I'm Free, I'm Free!

It is said that Cyrus, the founder of the Persian Empire, once had captured a prince and his family. When they came before him, the monarch asked the prisoner, “What will you give me if I release you?” “The half of my wealth,” was his reply. “And if I release your children?” “Everything I possess.” “And if I release your wife?” “Your Majesty, I will give myself.” Cyrus was so moved by his devotion that he freed them all. As they returned home, the prince said to his wife, “Wasn’t Cyrus a handsome man!” With a look of deep love for her husband, she said to him, “I didn’t notice. I could only keep my eyes on you—the one who was willing to give himself for me.” (Borrowed from

Perhaps the total impact of that illustration cannot be felt by individuals today, because we have never experienced captivity like the prince and his family.  For the most part, we live comfortable lives, never wondering if there will be enough to eat or if we get to keep the electricity turned on another month. I know there are those in today's world who face those struggles, and sometimes it does feel like they are prisoners of the things life has sent their way.

While Christians do have the responsibility to minister to the needy and help in areas where we can, the real message of the story above is a message of staying focused on the only one that can bring us real freedom and release from those things that enslave us.

Jesus read from the prophet Isaiah, the words which would describe the ministry of the Son of God on the earth.

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
    to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”   Luke 4:18-19

Right in the middle of his ministry description, is the phrase, "He has sent me to proclaim freedom to the prisoners."  Jesus wasn't saying his ministry was to open all the jail cells and turn all the criminals loose. True, incarceration can become an incentive for change and repentance, but Jesus had in mind the freedom from those things that enslave us and keep us from being his disciple. Our minds might immediately think in terms of alcoholism or drug addiction, and Jesus can set you free from those things. Often overlooked are things like gossip and slander and backstabbing among our ranks. The honest inspection of our own lives will bring to light those things which hold us in captivity.

Jesus wants you to know the power of God, through the cross of Christ, offers you release and freedom from whatever enslaves. Finding his freedom for you, personally, leads to the real joy of Christian living. Keep your eyes on the One who sets you free.


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

God is Near and Far

“Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!” declares the Lord. Therefore this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says to the shepherds who tend my people: “Because you have scattered my flock and driven them away and have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done,” declares the Lord."  Jeremiah 23:1-2

It was happening during the day of Jeremiah, the prophet of God, and it happens today, too.  In all times there have been those who profess to be proclaiming the message of God, when in fact they are leading and encouraging people in a direction away from God. 

According to Jeremiah, some religious leaders were destroying and scattering the sheep of God's pasture. In addition, because of this, God's people have not been cared for properly, and God pronounces punishment on those who inflict  the damage.

Jeremiah 23 gives us some specific details about the workings of these evil prophets.  Read just a part of the things which pointed to their wicked ways:

The land is full of adulterers; because of the curse the land lies parched.

The prophets follow an evil course and use their power unjustly.

Both prophet and priest are godless; even in my temple I find their wickedness.

They prophesied by Baal and led my people Israel astray.

They strengthen the hands of evildoers,  so that not one of them turns from their wickedness.      

We can imagine the difficult task of a faithful prophet like Jeremiah, who not only had the responsibility of speaking and teaching the ways of God, while also confronting these so-called prophets who were evil.

Here is what God said, "I did not send these prophets, yet they have run with their message; I did not speak to them, yet they have prophesied."

Then in verses  23 and 24, God reveals his truth in the matter.  "Am I only a God nearby,” declares the Lord, “and not a God far away?  Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them?” declares the Lord. “Do not I fill heaven and earth?”

He is our God, near and far.  His majesty fills heaven and earth.  We do not have a God that is so remote to his people they can never talk to him, know his presence, and feel his love.  In spite of those evil workers, we can be brought into relationship with the Heavenly Father, through the blood of Jesus on the cross.  He forgives our sin.  He desires our faithful service.