Thursday, January 28, 2010

"Praying and Forgiveness"

Recently I had a very kind and spiritual minded lady in Christ ask me what to do when she was harboring ill feelings toward another and it was very difficult for her to let go of it. I could see it was weighing on her heart and she wanted to be free but there was something else I noticed. I asked her if she really wanted to give it up. After a brief pause, tears filled her eyes and she quietly spoke, "no." I asked her why and then the truth came out, "I am afraid if I forgive this individual, they will hurt me again!" She is probably right, knowing the history between her and this other person but that's not the issue.
Too many are professing their faith in Jesus but holding to resentments and bitterness in their hearts toward others who have hurt them. If the cross of Christ is the center of our lives, how can we not see that we will probably hurt Him again? Yet, if our heart is repentant and soft, what does the Lord do? He forgives and He forgives completely! The word forgive means "to cast away." Micah speaks of God, "...yes, You will cast all their sins into the depth of the seas." (Micah 7:19). What a wonderful thought. The covenant we are under, which we proclaim each first day of the week in the Supper speaks to us: "For I will be merciful to their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more." (Heb. 8;12) What are we under that covenant for?
Let's take this one step further. If one is holding in their heart some bitterness, resentful, ill feeling toward another, it might not be seen except by the eyes of the Lord. When Jesus was teaching about prayer, one thing has to be made certain between us and God: "And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors." (Matt. 6:12) Did you get the past tense "also have forgiven?" God is searching and seeing our heart when we pray. He sees the sincerity of words from a heart that has been cleansed by the blood of Christ. If there is any bitterness or ill will held to, forget prayer. I know that's a little straight but that is what Jesus was saying. How can we, who have been cleansed over and over by the blood of Christ not extend that same love toward another who has hurt us? Something is wrong in the heart.
"For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions." (Matt. 6:14-15)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

"Spiritual Joy"

We hear talk about spiritual joy and many try to tie it our physical happiness. As long as things go well for us, we are happy and joyous. When things get difficult or plans do not work out, someone hurts our feelings, that joy and happiness is gone. Spiritual joy is not tied to circumstances but to God! It is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). That means it comes from a spiritual source and not a physical source.
Read through the parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14-30). We find out that Jesus is aware of the strengths and weaknesses of each of us in Christ. He will never expect more than we are capable. That's good to know. The two that dealt faithfully with what they were entrusted by the master, it led them into the joy of the master along with praise. When we deal faithfully in our lives, it always leads to greater things and brings one into the joy of the relationship. When one does not deal faithfully, it brings them into misery. The point Jesus makes is God is trying to move us into His joy but that depends on our faithful response to Him with what we have been entrusted!
In Heb. 12:1-3, we find where we are to be looking: "fixing our eyes on Jesus." There are many things that want to take us down, to try to destroy our faith but we must look at Jesus and Him only. Why? Because He too endured horrible circumstances. How did He endure such pain, shame and humiliation? "For the joy set before Him." The joy of the relationship with His Father and the promise of the final outcome caused Him to endure. It led Him into the joy of the relationship despite the bad happening to Him. He was faithful to God and trusted by responding to God's will. Jesus showed us how to do it and how to make it and if we would but fix our eyes on Jesus, serving Him and not our circumstances, it will lead us into His joy!
When we have bad attitudes, unloving attitudes, we know the Lord does not want that from us. The question is will we be faithful and change our attitude? That will determine everything from the Lord. When we become upset at someone, notice we loose sight of the eternal things of God. Everything from God stops working at that moment. That why bitterness, resentments and hard feelings must be put away from us. That is being faithful in what we have been entrusted and looking to Jesus as our focus. Anger, bitterness, resentments are the world opposite of God because the focus and heart are wrapped around our feelings and how we have been wronged. We have just "buried" what we were entrusted with from the Lord and there will be no entering into the joy of the Master at that time.
We can find true spiritual joy despite people and difficult circumstances if we will humbly submit and walk with the Lord. Sinful attitudes, complaining, grudges and guilt all kill spiritual joy. Jesus is our way out if we truly believe and trust Him, moving into His heart and response. Fixing our eyes on Jesus and serving Him in the midst of difficulties faithfully will always lead us into His joy. I wonder why so many who profess Christ are miserable in their lives?

Monday, January 25, 2010

"The Truth"

The other night I was going through some channels and came across a religious program with a very prominent day religious figure. The place had thousands and as the man spoke in his kind and gentle voice, people would often break out into clapping and an occasional yelling out. As I listened, I realized that he was speaking nothing but a lot of nice, fun (and sometimes comical) words with a soothing voice. Then he quoted a Scripture and no one seemed to get it. He misquoted the Bible! I have a DVR and replayed it to make sure I heard what I heard. He misquoted Scripture. I thought maybe it was a mistake but he kept quoting it wrongly and his lesson was based on this misquoted Scripture.
As I listened for a few more minutes, it struck me how all these thousands weren't bothered. They believed they were hearing the word of God but it was nothing more than a bunch of twisted and abuse of God's word. It was the Scriptures turned into lies and no one knew it!
People have very little drive and desire in our day and time to find out if there is any truth in what is said or not. People aren't interested in the truth. They are interested in being made to feel good. Preachers are wanting to be more polished and smooth rather than be truthful. People want preachers that are "with the times" and can woo us into a world of perfect English with smooth lines. The truth is being trampled and there is little desire for holding it up.
Recently I wrote on the blog of a brotherhood preacher. He has an outreach of many across this nation of ours. He was offering suggestions on how he thought we should be reaching out. Out of the several suggestions he gave, only one dealt with the truth of God's word. The other suggestions were extremely fleshly but polished. There was not one shread of Scripture to back them up. I wrote and told him that instead of following the world, we need to make certain we do things according to Christ (Col. 2:8). He responded and said he agreed but that we need to be careful we aren't so rigid that we turn away the lost world from us. In other words, let's cater to the world and what the world would be attracted to.
Jesus didn't do this. His apostles didn't do this. The truth is the ONLY thing that can save anyone. The truth is the only thing that can keep us free from sin and corruption. The truth is what the church of our Lord is to stand on. The truth is meant to be obeyed. The truth is the ONLY thing that can set one free. The truth twisted or changed is no longer the truth, which means the preaching and teaching are no long lined up with God. The truth is the ONLY thing that brings assurance and hope. Maybe we need to heed the words of Jesus: "You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speak a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies." (John 8:44) The truth is for doing!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

"Who Influences You?"

People can influence us for the good or the bad. We too can influence others, for the good or the bad. Whatever influences us, we will do everything to imitate and follow.
Paul reminds us in Phil. 3 to join in following his example and those who walk (conduct themselves) according to this example (v.17). To remind the church of this, that means there are two different examples and we need to exercise great care.
First, there is an example, a pattern some follow that will end in destruction. We are speaking about the church, not the world! (The world is already lost and separated from God.) Paul says "for many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ." (v.18) "MANY!" That is hard for some to accept but just observe the lives of many who claims Christ and you will see it. The cross, the death of Jesus has little impact on their lives while living for the world has a great impact. These are the ones who just hold to a form of godliness but deny the power (II Tim. 3:5). What pattern do they walk after? It will end in destruction (v.19). Destruction is all they have coming and they aren't even aware it's coming! Their god? Their own appetites. That's not talking about eating but those desires from within them that controls their lives. For instance, when they get their feelings hurt, those hurts become their appetite and focus. It's all they think about and creates bad attitudes. Others live for pleasures of the world and that becomes their appetite. It is all about pleasing themselves and their wants. They glory in their shame (v.19). Just listen to how brazen people speak about how they cheated someone or took advantage of a situation while another was hurt. Some speak boldly how they broke the law and didn't get caught. It's all shameful behavior for a Christian and they glory in it! What is the conclusion? They set their minds on earthly things (v.19). This is where their mind set always runs. There is little thinking to wanting to please Christ. This is the description of those who are enemies of the cross.
There is also a pattern that ends in heaven (v.20). Those who walk according to this pattern realize they are citizens of heaven and live as a heavenly citizen. It leads them to eagerly wait for Jesus, their Savior. They live each day for Jesus, knowing that someday their bodies will be transformed and changed into His likeness. Their lives are patterned after Jesus and they try to influence others toward Jesus.
We can be influenced for good or bad! The question is, who influences you? Your life reveals it!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


The word "religion" comes from two Latin words. The first word is "re" meaning "back" and the second word is "lego" meaning "to bind." It means "to bind back." The religion of God is that which binds us back to God. You have heard the saying: "Christian's are not perfect, just forgiven." That is a true statement, however there is much more than just being forgiven. God did not have Jesus put on the cross to merely forgive us our sins! He forgave us our sins in order that we might be bound back together with Him. The death of Jesus was to bring us back into a relationship with the Almighty!
But it doesn't end there. Not only have we been forgiven to bind us back to God but that forgiveness is to influence us to live like Jesus and follow in His steps because we have been bound back. Peter is explicit about this in I Pet. 2:21-25. The apostle John writes, "No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him." (John 1:18) What does all this mean? Our religion is to make a difference on how we live! Being bound back to God through the death of Jesus should mold us into being like Jesus (Rom. 8:29).
Our "religion" should make a difference how we live:
(1) In our homes. If one really wants to know about someone, just look at the home. Christ's influence on our lives is seen in its greatest there.
(2) In our work. Our attitudes, dispositions are seen in the eyes of those we work around. They will make judgments about your "religion" based on your walk.
(3) In your play. Our society has a win at all cost philosophy. We need to be a shining light that displays our "religion" when people observe our lives openly.
Yes, our "religion" should truly make a difference in how we live. Who we are reflects to who we have been bound to.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

"Count It All Joy"

James tells us to "consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials." (Jam. 1:2) How can one "consider" things all joy when you fall into trials of many different kinds? Your mate has run out on you and you feel the betrayal and intense pain. Consider that all joy? That loved one or child you lost to death, while your heart longs for their touch and laughter once more and consider it all joy? Are we to pretend joy or is this something genuine and real?
Let's start with Jesus in Gethsemane. Was He grinning and leaping about as He was facing a horrific death and separation from His Father? Just listen to the sound of His voice, the sobbing and agonizing pain and the the begging of His Father for another way. Did He count that as all joy? If He didn't, why would God expect us to do it?
To "consider it all joy" is an attitude within the heart because you realize the whole, not just the immediate. Jesus, when He was hurting, completely turned Himself over into the hand of God and His will knowing the whole. He trusted His Father and accepted the Father's will without complaint. That's considering it all joy! Jesus trusted the complete whole of things, not just one part.
Too many times we look at a single part, not the whole. When we don't see God's promises and intentions, our trials become all pain and there is no attitude of joy. But when we see what God has promised, it brings something into our hearts that is beyond explanation. God always promises to those who really love Him and follow His will that the painful experience will be for our good (Rom. 8:28). Why do we loose sight of that so easily? When a child passes from this life, we focus on the death rather than see the whole. We don't see a child that is safe, with God and Christ and never to be tempted and fall under sins dominion eternally. We count it as all pain and find little help from God.
When Christ was in Gethsemane, below all the pain and agony, there was this deep desire to do the Holy Father's will. He found joy in pleasing His Holy Father and we can see that in all He takes on and this is what He has His eyes on, even in the garden. When Paul was hurting, asking God to remove the thorn (II Cor. 12), he didn't find the agony the joy but down below wanting to be free from the enduring pain was a deeper sense of love and desire to be a faithful servant of God. He saw God's grace and found himself dependant more than ever on God's grace. It created the sense him counting it all joy because he saw his Holy Father's greatness and it brought Paul contentment.
When we go through difficulties, what we see and focus on will determine how we live through it. If we can get the whole picture, trusting our Holy Father, we will consider it all joy. If we don't, it will take us down and we will consider it all miserable and our lives will reflect that. The agony is not the joy. The knowing what the Father will do with the agony for my better creates an attitude of joy. Jesus saw the joy set before Him so He could endure (Heb. 12:2). What about us?

Monday, January 18, 2010

"Practicing Righteousness"

We have all had one of those e-mails in one form or another..."This was sent to you because you are loved by the Lord. If you believe and love the Lord, please pass this on to at least 10 people and return it to the one who sent it to you." It seems more and more people are wanting to show their Christianity. That's not a bad thing but was this the way Jesus really intended for us to be?
As Jesus was speaking with His disciples, He taught them, "Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven." (Matt. 6:1) To do things in the name of the Lord so others will notice is a wrong motive. Some may not like to hear that but Jesus was teaching that. To be recognized by men is not good. Jesus goes on to explain about their giving and sounding a trumpet before you when you give (v.2-4). We have seen this already in the Haitian relief. The rich, famous and ball teams all announce the money they give to help the poor. They are doing it to be noticed by men. Listen, you can do good things but for the wrong reason. Jesus said to give, do it in secret as a service to God as God will see. When we do things for God's name sake, He notices. When we do things to be recognized by people, the praise from people is all they get!
We seem to live in a day and time where people need attention from people. Some feel inadequate and need acceptance. We are not to be attention seekers but learn to serve from a pure heart and givers because of God.
To do things in secret because of God and His glory, God is able to make things come back to you. That's why Jesus warned His disciples about making things a show. We need to learn how to build a genuine faith, based off of God and Him alone. It strengthens the relationship and causes real spiritual growth. Jesus taught that what we do before men, it needs to make certain that it glorifies God, not us or our deeds (Matt. 5:16). Take people who "witness" for the Lord. They tell others what God has done for them and if one listens carefully, most of the time it is about how special they feel or selective they are to God. It ends up to their glory, not God's! When is the last time you ever heard someone speak of being baptized into the death of Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins in His presence? Recently I had a lovely sister in Christ share something great with me and she didn't know how great it was. She is poor financially. Someone had sent her some money through the holidays. She called me and told me she wanted me to send the money she received to a children's home. This lovely lady has nothing and is struggling. Then came her words: "I am so grateful and I have everything I need. The day I was baptized into union with Christ was the greatest day and blessing in my life. For that, I can never repay so if I can help another find what I have found, that's what I want." No one knew this but her and the Lord. What a heart!
True Christianity operates off of simple terms. Things done to the glory of God means we don't sound our own horns and prove anything. Just simply loving, living and following the Lord in a quiet, humble means brings great reward from the Lord. I want to prove to the Lord that I love Him by following His love and will. That is something that cannot be hidden. When we have to tell someone we love the Lord by forwarding something, that might be speaking volumes about who we really are! Now that's something to think about.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

"God Bless America?"

I was listening a while back to someone singing "God Bless America." For the first time it struck me about what we are singing. It is a song that is sung before ballgames and has become a part of our nations most beloved songs. Let's think about the song and what we sing that we want God to bless America. Maybe we have something backwards.
In Psa. 86:9-10, David writes: "All nations whom You have made shall come and worship before You, O Lord, and they shall glorify Your name. For You are great and do wondrous deeds; You alone are God." David realized that the nations are to glorify God and His name. As Jesus taught His disciples, He told them, "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify you Father who is in heaven." (Matt. 5:16) The disciples of Jesus are to live in ways that bring God glory and honor. In Jesus' prayer in John 17:1, "Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, 'Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You." Jesus wanted God glorified! Paul reminded the Roman brethren in Rom. 9:17: "For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, 'For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth." The name of God was to be proclaimed through Pharaoh.
What does all this mean? Too many have the mistaken thought that God exists to bless America! The opposite is true. AMERICA EXISTS TO BLESS GOD! We seem to have it backward. God has blessed America and what has our nation done? Pushed God out! The only One that can save this nation of ours is the One whose glory we should be seeking to proclaim. If we really want to help our nation turn around, we need to pray for God's help that we glorify His name! Pray for our leaders and nation. Let's seek to glorify God in our lives by living according to His standard. If we would do that, we would see a nation that is blessed!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

"A Burning Bush"

In Ex. 3 we have Moses caring for the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law. Moses had fled from Egypt to the land of Midian. He named his own son Gershom, which means 'a stranger there.' Moses was in exile, separated from his own people. This was an ordinary day that Moses met God in an extraordinary way. With sand in his clothes, hair and teeth, parched land, the whispering of the wind, the smell of sheep and the heat of the day, he was confronted with God in a burning bush. It was no ordinary, natural event! Moses called it 'a marvelous sight'.
The voice came from the bush. God called Moses by name! Then the next words spoken were words to recognize God as holy and His dwelling was holy! There is no need to proceed with anything until the holiness of God is recognized. It hit Moses in the heart and made him afraid to look any longer!
A burning bush! A holy burning bush! A burning bush without any need of external help to keep burning. Moses had lit fires before tending his flock and knew that one must keep wood on the fire for it to continue. Not this fire. The bush remained intact and the fire was taking its strength from and depending completely on God! A self-sustaining flame of fire. Here is God, who depends on no one for His existence; who isn't kept alive by the power or strength from those who worship Him! We need to realize that statement alone. God does not need man to sustain His being!!! We need Him to sustain us! May we never depend on a god who depends on us.
A burning bush! A holy and powerfully sustained burning bush! It shows us the power of God that He can sustain anything, anyone with the power of His might. To come to our God, depending on Him and the strength of His might, finding yourself not destroyed or beaten, but completely dependent on His sustaining power. "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might." (Eph. 6:10) We have seen such in brothers and sisters in Christ. They depend on God for their lives and strength daily. Many go through prolonged suffering without being destroyed. People who depend on the strength of His might that refuse to be embittered at others or situations. Brethren who refuse the approaches of hurts inflicted by others because they seek God in righteousness and sincerity. Haven't we seen them? Haven't you been around such? Maybe we need to remove our shoes, realizing we too are standing on holy ground in the presence of a holy God who gives His strength and power to those who truly love Him and follow with their heart. I am presently watching an individual go through such difficulty caused by another that many wouldn't believe and yet, they have such an inspiring attitude, a love for God, a conviction not to be deterred from their faith no matter how they are treated. It makes me think to remove my shoes because I am standing on holy ground while in their presence!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

"Let's Suppose..."

Let's suppose we change Christ's church!
Let's suppose we do away with the eldership (or belief in one), deacons and evangelists/preachers, replacing them with the single "pastor" system and a educated board of directors.
Let's suppose we end men's role in worship and leadership and place women into those roles.
Let's suppose we drop God's standard down, embrace homosexuality and honor those who practice such by placing them in some of these leadership roles.
Let's suppose that when someone is tired of dealing with their mate or struggling with their mate, encourage them that the world is full of other people, go find someone else to start with again.
Let's suppose that we stop teaching/preaching against sin because sin is something everyone does and it can't be stopped in any one's life.
Let's suppose that the head of the church is in some location in some city rather than heaven.
Let's suppose "conventions" will determine our belief system.
Let's suppose that the truth cannot be understood by anyone so everyone needs to live by "ethical relativism." (It simply means whatever is true for you is true for you and whatever is true for me is true for me!)
Let's suppose we measure God's word in light of our present culture and customs.
Let's suppose that we start teaching grace as a license to sin because God's grace covers all.
Let's suppose that when someone disagrees with us, we are free to go and start our own church.
Actually, there is no reason to suppose any of the above because these are many of the trends today that are taking hold in the church. We live in a day and time when people have the views as described and people insist on changing to these. The church is becoming more and more influenced by the world because Christ's members want to be more "world friendly."
But wait...let's suppose we hold to the truth of God's word with all our heart, being convicted that His word is truth.
Let's suppose that we speak the truth in love.
Let's suppose we continue to be light to a world of darkness.
Let's suppose we listen to what the apostles taught and instructed the church.
Let's suppose that those who love Jesus will love His word.
Let's suppose Jesus is coming back for those who love Him and eagerly await Him.
Let's suppose...

Monday, January 11, 2010

"Godly Mothers and Fathers"

There is nothing of greater value than godly parents. I didn't say just 'church going' parents but godly. There is a major difference. The 'church going' mother and father does much of what they do out of duty. The godly mother and father have a deep sense of love and fear of the Lord which motivates their lives. The 'church going' mother and father looks religious in the eyes of many, only to have their home life filled with turmoil and self serving individuals. The godly mother and father are real and genuine. They practice what they believe and are humble in heart. The 'church going' mother and father fakes many things in order to not be found out about. The godly mother and father serve from a heart of commitment.
Her husband died, leaving her a widow with four children. The passing of the father/husband had a profound impact on the home because of his sincere faith and love for the Lord. The wife managed a farm and built a log house with her own hands. She used her home as a meeting place for the church. She was living in the Cuyohoga wilderness, south of Lake Erie in what is now the state of Ohio.
Her son, James, eventually set out on his own working the canal boats that travelled the Erie Canal. Completed in 1825, the canal connected Lake Erie and the Hudson River. The work was difficult and the lifestyle of the workers was ungodly. Eventually James returned home get his education.
Upon his return to the log cabin he grew up in, he approached a window and saw his mother reading the Bible and praying. He heard her words, "Oh, save the son of thy handmaid." James devoted his life to God and His ways, influenced heavily by his mother in the home. He graduated Williams College and served as one of the leaders in the restoration movement of the church of Christ.
Later in his life, James A. Garfield was inaugurated president of the United States. Upon his inauguration, he kissed the Bible, kissed his mother and said to her, "You brought me to this."
There is nothing more profound in the lives of children than a godly mother and father. One can either be a 'church going' mother and father with little conviction and commitment or one can be a godly mother and father that lives for the Lord, influences their home for the Lord and they go to church, assemble with the saints because they love the Lord and His people.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

"The Relationship"

Too many in Christ forfeit the opportunities for power in the lives. Here's what I mean. We need to learn how to draw off the relationship we have with God through the Lord Jesus. In times of stress and distress, if one doesn't learn how to draw from the things of God, they forfeit the power that is available. Our being in Christ should have a profound impact on us and change us!
When Jesus was before Pilate, the governor questioned Him who He was. At the same time, the chief priests and elders were accusing Him (Matt. 27:11-14). As Pilate continued his questioning, Jesus stood in silence without giving one answer to the charges. It amazed Pilate that Jesus could and would do such. It just wasn't 'normal' for someone to stand in silence. Why would Jesus do such? Because He was concerned about the will of God and drawing off the relationship He had with God! When we have difficulties, how easy is it for us to become disturbed and react wrongly? Difficulties can disturb our souls but it is our reaction that gets us into problems. We turn to the wrong source to soothe and solve the problem! The result: we forfeit the power of God in the relationship! The very power and help that was in Jesus as He stood in His trial is the very power that is offered to us!
"But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you." (Rom. 8:11) What kind of power did it take to raise the dead Jesus? It took the Spirit of God and that same Spirit dwells in us in Christ. What does that say about the relationship we have? Where should we be turning and drawing from? "That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man." (Eph. 3:16) Where is God trying to work? In our inner man. The key is will God grant the strength to be released in us? It depends on your reaction and where you turn!
Take some time and read II Tim. 3:1-5. There you will see what prevents those in Christ from the power of God. It is found in these attitudes and desires. It is easy to have a semblance of godliness yet completely deny the power. Our lives turn to the wrong things, the wrong sources, to our inward self and self practices, especially when we hurt. That will rob one of the power of God. That will ruin the relationship. The peace of God which surpasses all comprehension that will guard the mind and heart (Phil. 4:7), that is the result and reaction of the relationship. God's peace settling in and guarding the mind and heart (the inner man finding strength)...what kind of relationship do we really have?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

"They Lived Happily Ever After"

I really enjoy reading books to my grand kids. The other day while reading to them, the book my grandson brought me was one I knew by heart. As we began to read, my granddaughter came over to listen and follow. She would relate different events as we were reading. The ending said..."And they lived happily ever after." My grandson immediately responded, "Read again!" I love endings like that, don't you? "Happily ever after..."
As I shared this with someone, they responded, "Wouldn't it be nice if that were true? Happily ever after is just fairy tales, not real life." Let's think about this. Is it really a "fairy tale?" Just listen carefully: "But according to His promise we are looking for a new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells." (II Pet. 3:13) Is that a fairly tale? A place where there is only righteousness is one of the most grand places I can think of. A place where it is impossible to do anything unrighteous. Unrighteousness brings pain and misery. Where only righteousness dwells eliminates that. Unrighteousness breeds fear and uncertainty. Where only righteousness dwells brings comfort and stability. Unrigtheousness is the result of sin. Where only righteousness dwells has not one hint of sin. My mind can't really grasp that but the Lord says that's what awaits. When one carefully looks at eternity, it's not some fairy tale but we seem to treat it as such. Heaven, as described in the Bible, is being in the presence of God. (You can see this principle used in the opposite manner in II Thes. 1:9-10.) It's not a place of beauty as we seem to make it but it is a place where only righteousness dwells because of the presence of God. I have heard many a Christian speak about death as something dreaded or bad. Recently someone was getting over an illness and I asked them if they were doing better. Their response? "I doing a little better! It's better than the alternative!!" Really? What could be better than a place where only righteousness dwells in the presence of God? What do we really believe?
Jesus secured our place and though we do not know what will happen to us tomorrow, next week or even next year, we have the ending given to us. With all the uncertainties of life, we have one certainty..."and they lived happily ever after." We have His word on that!!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


It is simply amazing how difficult it is for people to forgive. Over the many years I have heard from sincere brothers and sisters say they are willing to forgive but forgetting is another matter. Where did we come up with such thoughts and conclusions? Others come up with the idea that you only forgive those who ask for forgiveness using Luke 17 as their basis. Applying those verses in such a way is against the word of God. The angry mob didn't ask for forgiveness while ridiculing our Lord during His death and the words came from His heart, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34)
When we ask someone about their ability to forgive, they hesitate, especially when they have been wronged. When you ask someone about their willingness to forgive, that really puts pressure on the heart because many times our hearts are bitter and holds so firmly to the hurt that we are unwilling to forgive. To forgive takes a heart for Jesus! A heart for Jesus knows the great depth of forgiveness that was extended to you personally, over and over. What if Jesus hesitated toward you? What if Jesus said, "Okay, I'll forgive you but I won't forget?" Listen carefully to the covenant God made with us through Christ: "For I will be merciful to their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more." (Heb. 8:12) Does that sound like "forgiving but not forgetting?" Forgiveness sometimes isn't easy, especially when we have been taken advantage of or hurt by the same individual numerous times. The real difficulty comes when we look at the offender and offenses rather than the Lord. Our focus becomes the hurts and that breeds contempt and bitterness. Those things settle in the heart and our lives takes on the view from that perspective. What has happened to Jesus? He gets pushed aside and we find little power and ability to help the situation. Saving the soul of the offender is out of the question and all that matters to us is punishment for the offender. Does that sound like Jesus?
The longer one walks with Jesus and sees the depth of love offered, forgiveness becomes part of who you are. You take on the nature of the Lord Jesus and the heart wants to please Him in all aspects. Jesus said in Matt. 18:35 that forgiveness must be from the heart. It's all a matter of heart, what resides in the heart and the actions taken in the heart. Peter spoke of Jesus that while "being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously." (I Pet. 2:23) Jesus entrusted Himself to God which kept His heart beating with the heart of God. Jesus wants people saved. When bitterness and resentment set in, that person who holds to such wants those who have hurt them punished, the opposite of Jesus. What are we to do? "For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps." (I Pet. 2:21)
When one spreads the shame of another, that is the face of non-forgiveness. It is a harboring of hatred and cherishing grudges. That means there is no forgiveness to the one who does such. The words of Jesus are there for a reason and if we do not heed, with a willing heart to forgive, that opens our lives to a lot of bad things. Forgiveness from the heart, that's the example and steps we are to follow! That's the heart of God! Otherwise, we simply will not be forgiven ourselves. Our eternal destiny has just been changed no matter what we profess!

Monday, January 4, 2010

"The Snow"

As I sat and watched the snow fall in the early hours of the morning, the beauty of it amazes me. There was a purity about it and the undefiled whiteness. My mind shifted to Psa. 51 when David was appealing to God for forgiveness: "Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." To be clean and "whiter than snow" is an awesome thought that I can not comprehend. It crossed my mind from God's word: "Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool." (Isa. 1:18)
"Whiter than snow" is what my mind grasped hold of. I thought of Jesus: "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." (II Cor. 5:21) He became my sin that I might become the righteousness of God. We stand before God, pure, undefiled because He became my sin! Jesus takes our stains, our dirty, vile and filthy lives and laid it all on Himself. Yes, we are filthy before God on our own! Many can't accept that. God is holy, pure, undefiled and it took a pure and undefiled Son to make us "whiter than snow" before Him.
I continued to watch the snow fall and my thoughts centered around the covenant God made with us through Jesus. A covenant is an agreement, a binding will taken on by God that He will not break. God offers His covenant through Jesus His Son. When one enters Jesus through baptism (Rom. 6), Jesus became our righteousness before God as He became our death because of our sin. Then the covenant took place: "For I will be merciful to their iniquities and I will remember there sins no more." (Heb. 8:12) That's what the covenant of God speaks. Merciful and remember our sins no more are the elements of this covenant. Blemished, defiled and not able to come into the presence of the holy Father but when one is joined together with Jesus in baptism, they are clothed with Christ (Gal. 3:27). The covenant takes effect. My sinfulness is covered by Jesus and my stains are "whiter than snow." What God has cleansed, it is to the utmost and there is no remembrance of our sins in His covenant.
I walked outside and picked up a handful of snow. I stared at it for a brief moment. I could eat it if I so choose because it was undefiled. It struck me that's exactly how God sees me in His covenant. For my sins to be made "white as snow", to never be remembered before God, there was a price to pay. That's love at it's height.
As I walked slowly in the snow, my mind shifted to others around me. I realized no one has to lose their soul eternally! It's not God's choice. People don't have to destroy one another with hate and bitterness. That's not God's choice. People can't even get out of bed on Sunday's to worship and say 'thank you' for the cleansing and covenant. People will be lost because they choose to be lost! The snow is a great reminder!