Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Forgiving Others

Perhaps one of the most difficult things we face as Christians is achieving complete forgiveness of those who have wronged us.  We may try and try, but the flesh we live in keeps pulling us away from God's truth that we are to forgive others. We might even speak the words, "I can never forgive him." or the words equally as bad, "He will have to show he deserves my forgiveness."

If any of that sounds close to the feelings you have felt, then consider yourself among the huge number of us who will confess we Christians wrestle with the problem of forgiving others. 

Today I looked through an older book that had gathered some dust, and came across the writings of David Augsburger, from his book, The Freedom of Forgiveness. He offers sever steps which will help us to grow and learn to be more forgiving. 

1.  Restore the attitude of love.  In a nutshell, we have been taught to love others as we love ourselves. Then something happens or someone says something offensive, and it becomes instantly difficult for forgiveness to happen.  This is the starting point....Our attitude of love must be restored before forgiveness can take place.

2.  Release the painful past.  We feel hurt.  We were offended. We cannot dismiss the fact that a wrong has been committed and feel the need to "do something."  We could harbor a grudge, or make a plan of revenge, or even sever the relationship immediately.  However, the solution to the whole problem of forgiving someone starts to happen when we totally release all the bitter details.  We can never learn the blessing of forgiving until we understand the past is past.

3.  Begin reconstruction on the relationship.  The real work of forgiveness happens here. Jesus said it like this, “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them.  Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.”  Luke 17:3-4

4.  Reopen the future.  If we are successful in putting the past in the past and leaving it there, we are ready to discover the joy of  reopening the relationship in the future. This requires some adjusting from both parties.  It may take work and it may take some time, but look to see this step in the solution will keep us looking forward in renewal.

5.  Reaffirming the relationship.  This reaffirmation of the relationship must include a celebration of the parties because the relationship has addressed and healed all wrongdoing.  There is no room for each side laying down a list of demands.  The closest thing to a demand is that both will take the demand of God, that we love one another, more seriously.  God longs for us be in his family, with all sharing in his love and the love of one another.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Praying the Word

49 Remember your word to your servant,
    for you have given me hope.
50 My comfort in my suffering is this:
    Your promise preserves my life.
51 The arrogant mock me unmercifully,
    but I do not turn from your law.
52 I remember, Lord, your ancient laws,
    and I find comfort in them.
53 Indignation grips me because of the wicked,
    who have forsaken your law.
54 Your decrees are the theme of my song
    wherever I lodge.
55 In the night, Lord, I remember your name,
    that I may keep your law.
56 This has been my practice:
    I obey your precepts.         
Psalm 119:49-56

After reading the selected verses above, pick one verse which speaks to you and your situation in life.  When you have a verse selected,  turn it into your personal prayer for the day.  To really make it meaningful, memorize the verse, repeating it verbally several times during the day. 

If I were to pick the first verse, which is verse 49 from Psalm 119, my prayer might sound something like this:

Lord, I delight in remembering your word to me, because your word gives me hope.  I confess to living with my hopes in things of this world and all it offers. I have placed my confidence in my own abilities to overcome, my trust has been in my strength.  Teach me, Lord, the hope that comes only through placing everything I am and have, in you. Continue to bless me and strengthen me in the knowledge of your word as I learn to receive the hope only you can give.  Amen.

As you read the verses again, you may choose to select more than one and go through the same routine of memorization and application in prayer form.  Feel free to go further and make your prayer from each of the verses. 
This exercise gives us all a glimpse into a practice called "praying the scriptures."  Devote yourself to reading and praying the words of scripture and you will see greater understanding of God's truth, as well as the joy of making the Word becoming more of a personal message to you. 

God bless, and I always like hearing stories from our readers.  Let us know how you are blessed from this exercise of prayer. 


Thursday, May 26, 2016

I Remember Memorial Day

I know I am a few days early in writing a post about Memorial Day.  I just wanted to give you a few days to think about how you will be celebrating the day when we remember those who sacrificed everything for our freedom.  This coming Monday will be a day of memory.  I am challenging you to think of some special way you can show your appreciation to those who lost their lives in service to our country.  It will also be a day of relaxing or perhaps sharing time with our families.  Just meet the challenge and think about how you are going to show your appreciation for those who have died.

My memory of Memorial Day takes me back to a day when I was 10 years old.  My family was visiting relatives that weekend in Wingate, Texas, staying at the home of my grandfather, W.W. Wheat. I remember arriving that Friday evening at the grandparents house, and there were small American flags everywhere.  My grandfather had accepted the task of placing an American flag on the graves of all the veterans buried in the local cemetery.  I know he was proud to do his work, he himself being a veteran of World War I.  I also know it was difficult for him to go to every veteran's grave because he knew most of them personally.  Most difficult was placing the flag on the grave of his own son, Cullen, who died in World War II.  There has not been a Memorial Day since that day I spent with my grandfather placing the flags, that I haven't thought about the difficulty of his job.

My family's history serving in the military is a rich heritage for me. Physical disabilities kept me from serving, but both my mom's and dad's side of the family was represented well in serving their country.  I appreciate each one, and the part they played in making my country free.

Just today, I heard another story on the TV news about someone burning an American flag.  I continue to be saddened by court decisions directed toward the removal of the Ten Commandments from our public buildings.  I'm hurt because our own government leaders have led us further away from being a Christian nation.  I pray Christians can seek God's blessings for our country again. That decision is really ours and God tells us how.  Look at 2 Chronicles 7:14..........

"If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land."

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

What a wretched man I am!

"So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?"  Romans 7:21-24

What Christian hasn't found themselves wrestling, like Paul, with the sinful nature?  I do find a small consolation when I read the words of someone as great as the Apostle Paul, and reading his confession, but the bottom line is universal.....we all still wrestle with sin. Paul is really being hard on himself in the paragraph preceding the text above, and I have to agree as I ponder personal sins, "What a wretched man I am!" 

I recently read and agreed with the author of a Christian newsletter when he wrote the following:

As much as I desire to continually be in the freedoms of Romans 8, I find myself still entangled with the law and my inability to keep it, in Romans 7.

Don't forget the beautiful words which begin Romans 8, "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death."

The contrast of the two chapters brings the intensity of the message to every believer. Paul considered himself to be the "chief of sinners," we observe him as the "chief of saints."  What is it that makes this theme so important to the weakest and the strongest of Christians.  "Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?" 

Paul found the answer, and we can, too. It's found in the words which follow Paul's question, and it's the only possible answer,  "Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!"

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

It's HIS World

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 As the rain and the snow
    come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
    without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
    so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
    It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

                                                                             Isaiah 55:8-11

I was doing some translation comparisons today and stumbled on the verses above, realizing a new truth for me.  Looking at the last sentence in the verses I love the truth that the word that leaves the mouth of God will not return to him empty.  It will accomplish its intended purpose and achieve the completeness of the purpose for which God sent it. 

We can hang on to that truth after learning his thoughts are not our thoughts and his ways are not our ways.  He is God.  It's HIS world. He is in control. 

In the NKJV, that last sentence reads like this: "But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it."  I especially like that the word "prosper" is in there.  But then, I realize that word doesn't necessarily mean monetary prosperity.  I am thinking there is a greater meaning. 

Here is the new truth for me:  When God's word goes forth, it isn't going to return empty.  It's going to accomplish the desire of God.  Not only that, it's going to achieve even more because it is God that is sending out his word. With that biblical truth in mind, do you suppose when God's word comes our way to accomplish what he desires in us, his powerful word also achieves even more than the purpose for which it was sent? 

If we really stop and think about it, we know the answer to that question is a resounding "YES."  God always goes beyond our wildest imaginations to bless us, love us, protect us and provide for us.  It's HIS world and every day I'm trying to let him call the shots. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

You uphold me....

Blessed is he who has regard for the weak;  the Lord delivers him in times of trouble.
 The Lord will protect him and preserve his life; he will bless him in the land
    and not surrender him to the desire of his foes.
The Lord will sustain him on his sickbed and restore him from his bed of illness.

So David begins with these words, recorded in Psalm 41. He recognizes the weakness of man and the power of the Lord who delivers in times of trouble. David knew some times of trouble and the strong arm of God to deliver. In addition, David says it is the Lord that protects and preserves life, and offers blessings in the land, and will never surrender him to his enemies. 

As the Psalm continues, David is seeking mercy from God and confessing sins. Then he mentions his enemies, those who speak bad of him, those who speak falsely of him, and those who slander him. Even his close friend in which David had placed his trust had failed him.  So David knew what it was like to live in troubled times. 

The end of the Psalm shows David's confidence in God. He seeks God's mercy again, knowing it is God who raises him up. He experiences God's pleasure with him, and because God is pleased, David's enemies will never beat him down.  Now look at verse 12:

In my integrity you uphold me and set me in your presence forever.

David knew he had enemies, but he also knew that he was living a life that pleased God. He knew he was a sinner but he also knew God had forgiven him. He had trusted in the Lord for deliverance, protection, preservation and victory. 

In our day, we would do well to pay attention to David's actions, and especially the way he places his confidence in the Lord.  We are also living in a world where there will be those who continually accuse us, reminding us we are sinners. Satan is always ready to fulfill his role as the accuser.  We even have friends and brethren who might disappoint us or turn their backs on us. We are no different from David when it comes to facing times of trouble in our lives. 

David is our example for overcoming adversity. Like David, sometimes our troubles are brought on ourselves, and sometimes it might be the fault of others. The bottom line is this; regardless of where the difficulty has its origin, the answer always lies within the power of God. 

I refer you to the opening verse of Psalm 41 again. Learn to trust in the Lord for your deliverance. Know that it is God  who sustains us and protects us.  Believe in God's victory for your life.  You, as well as David , can know " In my integrity you uphold me and set me in your presence forever."


Saturday, May 21, 2016

Worship on Sunday

Share in the worship experience this Sunday.  Ask your family to join you. Celebrate all Jesus has done for you.

Meet Mr. Frederick

This was a conversation between my daughter and granddaughter after church on Sunday:

 Mom: "Jacelyn, what did you learn about in bible class this morning?"
Jacelyn: "We learned about Shadrach, Meshach and....some other guy."
Mom: "What was the other guys name?"
Jacelyn: thinking really hard.... "I really can't remember, Mom. But I think his name was Fredrick."

Well, that third man had a hard name to remember.  No doubt, he wished throughout his life his name would be something simple like Fredrick.  But that wasn't his name.  It was Abednego.
All three of these men were involved in what was one of the most exciting stories from the Old Testament.  Their story all started during the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar, a king whose major problem was something we call PRIDE.  (He thought he was a "big shot.")

The king had ruled in such a way that he found favor with the people, but not necessarily the favor of God.  In fact, Nebuchadnezzar was so well liked by his countrymen, the decision was made, following a dream,  to erect a huge statue in his honor.  I know that word "huge" can mean lots of things, but this statue was 90 feet tall.  What an honor for a king that had served the people.

Then came the next edict of the king.  He commanded all people to bow down to the new statue, showing their honor and allegiance to the him.  That might not sound like a bad thing until you consider it would be a violation of God's commandment, "You shall have no other gods before me."  So while everyone else was bowing to the king, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, faithful to the will of God, remained standing. 

The king was enraged and ordered his soldiers to tie these three men and prepare the furnace extra hot and toss them in.  The Bible lets us know the heat from the furnace was so hot, the soldiers, while putting in these three, died from the heat.  But looking into the furnace the king could see Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego moving around in the fire, unharmed. Not only that, when the king looked in the furnace, he said he saw a fourth man in the furnace, moving around with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.

The king had a change of mind and heart, as he recognized the power of God delivering them from the furnace, and that fourth man had the likeness of a son of the gods.  The king was now praising God for the faith of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, an eventually elevated their positions in Babylon.  Read the story in Daniel 2 and 3 to catch all the details.
The lesson for us is simple.  It is so easy for us to follow the crowd.  Even these three servants of God could have bowed to the king, just to save their own hide. But they, too, knew real deliverance can only be ours, when we are faithful to the One, True God. 


Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Stench of the Rotten

Any child which finds its roots in a Christian home where the Bible is front and center in all things, can probably tell you the story of Jonah.   I suppose most of us immediately think of Jonah and the time he spent in the belly of the big fish, but just like all the stories and events in the Old Testament, they have lessons to teach and truth to be believed, even for New Testament Christians.   Let's look at the story a little closer.

 "Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.” But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord."    Jonah 1:1-3

Jonah was a prophet now commissioned by God to deliver a sermon to the residents of Nineveh, to let them know God had issues with them because of their wicked and sinful lives.  Just how Jonah would accomplish this must have weighed heavy on his mind.  Put yourself in his shoes.  Suppose God told you to go into a city and start proclaiming to its residents, that they were sinners and viewed through the eyes of God as being totally wicked.  Jonah was no dummy.  He knew a message like that from someone unknown to the people of Nineveh would probably lead to his demise.  So he decided to do what we would probably do.  Go the opposite direction, away from Nineveh, in an attempt to hide from God. 

Jonah paid the fare for a trip on a boat headed for Tarshish.  Perhaps he could attempt to justify his decision by assuming he was saving his own life.  Like us in our unfaithfulness to God, Jonah could  feel safe if he just convinced himself he was doing the right thing. 

The verses that follow our text tell the story of Jonah running from God and the subsequent wind and storm that came up, the fear of the sailors, and how each one of them was crying out to their own gods for safety.   All the cargo was tossed overboard to lighten the load.  During all of this, Jonah found a comfortable place below the deck and went to sleep.  Ultimately lots were cast to determine who was responsible for the impending calamity.  The lot fell on Jonah.  This led to their questioning about Jonah, who he was, where he was from, who were his people? 

When Jonah revealed to them he was a Hebrew, and a follower of the Lord, the crew was terrified, because Jonah had already told them he was running from God.  Jonah then made the suggestion for them to toss him into the sea because he knew all this was happening because of him.  They tried rowing back to shore, but the waves were too great.  They then prayed for forgiveness for what they were about to do, and they threw Jonah overboard.  Verse 17 says, "Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights."
I don't know about Jonah's immediate reaction, but mine would have been, "It Stinks."  Fish smell bad enough on the outside, but I can only imagine how bad they smell on the inside.  And that teaches me, if I choose to run from God, and go in a direction opposite from the one he has chosen for me,  I can expect to know I am in the wrong place and living the wrong way because, "It Stinks."   Do a little spiritual "sniffing" in your life.   Learn the love of God as he directs your steps. 


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Filling Heaven and Earth

“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.