The Power of Forgiveness

Forgiveness 2Matthew 18:15-22,  Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. 16  But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 17  And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. 18  Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19  Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. 20  For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. 21  Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? 22  Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.

The life and teachings of Jesus, as found in the Gospels, is so anti-thetical to the way we think and the way we live. This is true of even “the best of us.” It should be obvious from an honest reading of the Gospels that Jesus expected his disciples to master the lessons he taught and actually live a life centered on humility, servanthood, love, and yes, forgiveness. Very few things in life are more “radical,” more biblical, and more practical, than forgiving those who have sinned against us. 

When Jesus prayed for his enemies to be forgiven, as they drove the nails into his hands, he was living his own sermon and validating his right to preach it. After that, no one could dare claim that Jesus’s teaching was not “practical.” Jesus had lived it, died for it, and been vindicated by God in resurrection. His call is as vibrant and exciting today as it was two thousand years ago when he first issued it to Galilean fishermen: “Follow me.” It’s an invitation to follow Jesus in his radical way of enemy-love and costly forgiveness. As one author noted:

“Whatever else may be said about Christian people, it must be said of us that we are a people who believe in the forgiveness of sins—we believe in the forgiveness of sins as surely as we believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Most of us enter the Christian faith at least somewhat motivated, if not primarily motivated, to find forgiveness for our own sins. As we grow in the Christian faith, it is vital we become aware that we are called to be those who extend forgiveness to others, thus making the world a more forgiving place. If we enter the Christian faith to find forgiveness, we must continue in the faith to become forgiving people, because to be an authentic follower of Christ we must embrace the centrality of forgiveness.”

Forgiving others 3Forgiveness, for the people of God, is not simply a truth to be taught but a truth to be lived. And, to be lived on a daily basis!

“Christianity has more to offer the world than recycled revenge.”

 

 

 

 

Trials and Trusting God

Trusting-the-Lord-YHWH2 Corinthians 1:3-9,  Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; 4  Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. 5  For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. 6  And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. 7  And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation. 8  For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: 9  But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead:

A casual study of Paul’s life and ministry will reveal that he was a man who suffered much. He was a man who went through many a trial and trouble for the Lord Jesus Christ. It is also very clear – when we read Paul’s words concerning these troubles – that God allowed Paul to go through all that he went through in his life and ministry, first and foremost, to help him to get to the place where he was willing and able to trust God, rather than trust himself or others, regardless of the circumstances and the consequences, Paul chose to trust God, and so should we!

It’s only when we learn trust in God, regardless of our present circumstances or future consequences, that He receives the glory He desires, demands, and deserves!

Jeremiah 17:5-9, Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD. 6  For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited. 7  Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is. 8  For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit. 9  The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

Proverbs 3:5-6,  Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. 6  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

Just Reflecting!

Tinkling Cymbals

Cymbals1 Corinthians 13:1-13,   Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 2  And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. 3  And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. 4  Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5  Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 6  Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; 7  Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. 8  Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. 9  For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. 10  But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. 11  When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12  For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. 13  And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

Yesterday, while reading 1 Corinthians 13, I was reminded once again, as I have been on many occasions, that this chapter is probably the most convicting and challenging chapter in all of the Holy Scripture. This chapter, found in the midst of a letter written to a church that has many different issues, deals with the importance of love in the life of a follower of Jesus.

Love is the language of God’s Kingdom!

Nothing is more important in the life of a follower of Jesus than love. Our love for God, our love for others, including fellow-believers and non-believers, and yes, even our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48),  is the badge of true discipleship.

Love is the language of God’s Kingdom!

The lesson learned upon meditating on 1 Corinthians 13 is simple. Without love, regardless of how well we speak, what gifts we exhibit, what sacrifices we make, and even what we may accomplish in Jesus’ name, without it flowing from a heart of love for God and others, we are like a tinkling cymbal. And, most folks are more bothered than blessed by a tinkling cymbal!

Love is the language of God’s Kingdom!

Regrettably, I will have to admit to you that much I have said and done, in years gone by, has probably been more like a sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal than heavenly music from the throne of our King.

“The main evidence of maturity in the Christian life is a growing love for God and for God’s people, as well as a love for lost souls. It has well been said that love is the ‘circulatory system’ of the body of Christ.”  – Warren Weirsbe  

O Lord, help me to have a heart overflowing with love for You and others!

Just Reflecting!

Are We Becoming Tone Deaf?

Speaks 1Acts 7:3-5,  And said unto him, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall shew thee. 4  Then came he out of the land of the Chaldaeans, and dwelt in Charran: and from thence, when his father was dead, he removed him into this land, wherein ye now dwell. 5  And he gave him none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on: yet he promised that he would give it to him for a possession, and to his seed after him, when as yet he had no child.

Acts 7:33-34,  Then said the Lord to him, Put off thy shoes from thy feet: for the place where thou standest is holy ground. 34  I have seen, I have seen the affliction of my people which is in Egypt, and I have heard their groaning, and am come down to deliver them. And now come, I will send thee into Egypt.

Acts 8:26, And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert.

I never cease to be amazed how God works, especially how He works through His word. This morning, our last day in the States, while reading Acts chapters 7-9, God reassures me, in the midst of my doubts and fears, about the next step in our journey with, and for Jesus, that following Jesus there is often much uncertainty. But we must hear and heed His words!

This is what we call faith!

In Acts 7:3-6, I was reminded that when the whisper of God came to Abraham, he was willing to step out by faith, not knowing where he was going, and he simply obeyed God. And, so should I!

In Acts 7:34-36, I was, once again, reminded that when God wants to meet the needs, whether physical or spiritual, of people, He looks for someone to send, and someone who is willing to GO, regardless of present circumstances of future consequences. And, so should I!

In Acts 8:26-27, I was reminded that God often brings us from a place of blessing to be a blessing to others, and that when God spoke, Philip didn’t DEBATE WITH GOD, he didn’t DELAY HIS DECISION (delayed obedience is disobedience), and he didn’t DISOBEY GOD, he simply AROSE AND WENT. And, so should I!

Speaks 3In all of these stories, along with Paul’s experience on the Damascus Road in Acts chapter 9, we are reminded that when God speaks, we need to hear and heed His words to us. As one author noted:

“Still, I’ve come to believe that hearing the quiet whisper of the transcendent God is one of the most extraordinary privileges in all of life— and potentially the most transforming dynamic in the Christian faith. When people hear from heaven, they are rarely the same again. When the sovereign God chooses to communicate with someone— whether eight, eighteen or eighty years old— that person’s world is rocked. …  If you lower the ambient noise of your life and listen expectantly for those whispers of God, your ears will hear them. And when you follow their lead, your world will be rocked. …Whispers can be dangerous things. They can come with huge price tags.”

The question is not whether God is still SPEAKING and SENDING today, the question is, are we hearing Him speak, are we willing to heed His words, or have we become tone deaf?

Speaks 2Oh, give me Samuel’s ear, an open ear, O Lord, alive and quick to hear each whisper of Thy Word; like him to answer to Thy call, and to obey Thee first of all.”

Just Reflecting!!!

 

Servants (Not Leaders) Needed

Jesus feetJohn 13:4-17, He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. 5  After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. 6  Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? 7  Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter. 8  Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. 9  Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. 10  Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all. 11  For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean. 12  So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? 13  Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. 14  If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15  For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. 16  Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. 17  If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.

There are very few stories in the Gospels, in fact, in all of the Bible, that are more humbling. convicting, and challenging than the story of Jesus washing the feet of His disciples. The Creator washing the feet of the created. The eternal Son of God washing the feet of mere man. The Redeemer of mankind washing the feet of those, who in just a few hours, would betray, deny, and flee from Him. During His earthly ministry, Jesus taught His disciples many great and needed truths, but few more important than this one:

It’s not our ability to LEAD THE WAY that is most important, but our willingness to SERVE THE PEOPLE that is of the most importance!

If you have been in the ministry for any length of time, you know that we are living during a time where “leadership” has become a great emphasis. As one author noted:

Over the last three decades, there has been a seismic shift across the landscape of the church. The advent of church-growth theory, coupled with exponential advances in technology, has created a hyper-pursuit for leadership muscle that has never been seen before. Seminars and conferences have become trendy leadership fitness centers. Titans of business and megachurch pastors serve as leadership fitness trainers, while books and periodicals deliver leadership steroids and growth hormones. The goal of such industry? To create better leaders, stronger leaders, to make and multiply leaders.

Serve 1It’s interesting how seldom Jesus actually talked about “leadership.” Another author wrote:

In the world, greatness is judged by the power a person exercises over others. In the kingdom, greatness is judged by service to people. As children of the King, we follow kingdom values.

Jesus not only taught this truth, but He modeled it in His life and ministry!

Philippians 2:5-7, Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6  Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7  But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: Are “leaders” needed today. Of course, but our greatest need today really isn’t for more “leaders,” but for more “servants.”

Just Reflecting!!!

“I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.” 

Serve 2

 

Where’s Mary Today?

Sitting 1John 12:1-9, Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. 2  There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. 3  Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. 4  Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray him, 5  Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? 6   This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein. 7  Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this.

This same story can be found in Matthew 26:6-13 and Mark 14:3-9. If we read all three accounts of the story we find so many rich and rewarding truths. In fact, life transforming truths!

Lazarus had just been raised from the dead. He and his family, along with Jesus and his disciples are celebrating the great victory. As usual, Martha is doing what she does best, serving others. Where’s Mary? As was often the case, Mary is sitting at the feet of Jesus, loving and adoring Him.  Oh, and by the way, not everyone-including the closest of Jesus’ disciples-are happy about it!

Jesus is looking for people who ADORE HIM above everyone and everything else in life. A people willing to SACRIFICE ALL for Him! He is looking for a people who are willing to SIT AT HIS FEET, LISTEN TO HIS WORDS, and RESPOND WITH HEARTS OF ADORATION!

Sitting 2I have a feeling that Jesus is still looking for a few Mary’s who are willing to sit at His feet in love and adoration in the midst of all the wonderful celebration’s, commotion, and confusion of our day [REV 3:14-20]!

“Every age has its own characteristics. Right now we are in an age of religious complexity. The simplicity which is in Christ is rarely found among us.” — A. W. Tozer

“Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.”

Just Reflecting! 

The Christian Life isn’t Complicated

ComplicatedRomans 12:1-21,  I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2  And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. 3  For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. 4  For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: 5  So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. 6  Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; 7  Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; 8  Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness. 9  Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. 10  Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; 11  Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; 12  Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; 13  Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. 14  Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. 15  Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. 16  Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. 17  Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. 18  If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. 19  Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. 20  Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. 21  Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans Chapter 12 should be read regularly, pondered reflectively, and obeyed sincerely by all of us. While reading this passage this morning, I was reminded once again, …

The Christian life isn’t really COMPLICATED, but it definitely takes a COMMITMENT to the word and will of God, is LIFE-CHANGING, and it is COUNTER-CULTURAL!!!

As one author noted: “In a culture that places great emphasis on leisure, luxury, financial gain, self-improvement, and material possessions, it will be increasingly countercultural for Christians to work diligently, live simply, give sacrificially, help constructively, and invest eternally. Yet this is what we must do.”

I would encourage all of us, this morning, to take some time to drink from the wells of this passage of scripture and ask God to do something in our hearts!

Just Reflecting!