Monday, February 12, 2018

Five Stones and Faith

He picked up five stones from a stream and put them into his shepherd’s bag. Then, armed only with his shepherd’s staff and sling, he started across the valley to fight the Philistine.” – 1 Samuel 17:4

The story of David and Goliath says that he picked up 5 stones, and put them into a pouch and went out with his sling.  But he also took with him his shepherd’s staff.

If you don’t know about the staff, you don’t know how he truly killed the giant.  Let’s just think about this.  How often have you heard of a man being killed by one rock? Hmm?  How often have you heard of a young boy with a slingshot using it as a weapon in a homicide?  Yea, it’s pretty far from what we see as reality, right?  If this appeared on the 6 o’clock news tonight it would be with a heading like ‘Incredible story of a young man who killed a villain who was tormenting their town with just one small rock.  More on that in our newscast.” It’s unexplainable!

Unexplainable, that is, until you realized what the staff represents.  The Shepherd’s staff was a tool of warfare for a shepherd.  It was used to fight off predators from the sheep he was entrusted to protect.  When a fight was done, they would often carve into the staff a history of what they had fought.  It was sort of like the old gun shooters notching their belts for the number of kills. For David, these were his credentials given to King Saul to allow him to go to war single handedly against the giant.  In 1 Samuel 17: 34-37 he tells Saul:

“I have been taking care of my father’s sheep and goats,” he said. “When a lion or a bear comes to steal a lamb from the flock, I go after it with a club and rescue the lamb from its mouth. If the animal turns on me, I catch it by the jaw and club it to death.  I have done this to both lions and bears, and I’ll do it to this pagan Philistine, too, for he has defied the armies of the living God!  The Lord who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from this Philistine!”

Lions and Bears defected, the giant wasn’t that scary to this young man.  Can you imagine being as bold as to chase down a lion or a bear and club it to death?  If you read that last sentence again you’ll see where his boldness came from.  David didn’t put his faith in rocks or wooden objects.  His faith was in God, and that was his true weapon!  He realized that it was the Lord who had fought those battles, and delivered him.  He was ready for the next battle because he again had faith that God would deliver him.

Friends, every single day we fight a battle.  There are battles inside us for our will over God’s will, battles around us for us to conform to the world, battles in the workplace for us to be silent and conceal our faith, battles in the marketplace for us to devote ourselves to the desires of the world.  Here a battle, there a battle, battles battles everywhere! More often than we should, we all lose battles. 

Today, remember you do not fight those battles alone.  You’re a tool in the hands of Mighty God.  If you will submit to Him, He will win those battles for you.  Pray and stay in touch with him.  Keep your faith in Him.  We can often lose faith in ourselves and our abilities to fight the temptations we face.  But when we recall, when we pull out from our memories of all the things He has conquered for us, the carvings on our shepherd’s staff, we realize that there is no fight God isn’t strengthening us to fight.  There is no time when He will send us to war alone.  You CAN do ALL things THROUGH CHRIST who gives you UNEXPLAINABLE strength! (Philippians 4:13)

Now, go out and watch the enemy tremble! Raise a victory banner over each of your battles! God has empowered you to fight!

Happy Monday Ya’ll!

Monday, February 5, 2018

Eyes Wide Open

“By now Balaam realized that the Lord was determined to bless Israel, so he did not resort to divination as before. Instead, he turned and looked out toward the wilderness, where he saw the people of Israel camped, tribe by tribe. Then the Spirit of God came upon him,  and this is the message he delivered: “This is the message of Balaam son of Beor, the message of the man whose eyes see clearly, the message of one who hears the words of God, who sees a vision from the Almighty, who bows down with eyes wide open:” – Numbers 24: 1-4

Throughout God’s Word you can read the word EYE.  But if you’ll notice, it has two meanings.  Most commonly, we hear of the physical eye with which we see.  Exodus 21:24 refers to “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”, and the story of Samson in Judges 16 talks about how the Philistines gouged out his eyes.  Yes, our eyes are very important to our wellbeing, but perhaps not as important as the second type of “eye”.

If you read through the Bible carefully, you will find that the eye also refers to spiritual knowledge revealed.  Back as far as Genesis 3:5 Satan told Eve that “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it” referring to the fruit of the forbidden tree.  They were already seeing, but not spiritually.  Psalms 119:18 speaks of these eyes of the soul saying “Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in your instructions.”  Balaam speaks in Numbers 24 after the Holy Spirit rested on him that God has given him “eyes wide open” that He would bless Israel.  The book of Revelation uses the phrase “and I saw” ten times in John’s description of the vision of Heaven he saw.  While he did not see with physical eyes, God allowed him to see it with spiritual eyes.  I Corinthians 2:9 speaks of what Heaven will be like and says ““Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”

The singular “eye” is the spiritual eye.  Jesus says in Matthew 6:22 “The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.” The very next verse speaks of the eye being evil and the body in turn being dark, pointing to the spiritual eye and light is a metaphor for wisdom.

With our spiritual eye, we can see things far greater than the physical one can show us.  Spiritual sight comes through faith when God’s grace provides it.  Sometimes it comes in the chaos of life that we could not otherwise overcome.  Sometimes it’s as simple as a deep belief that is so strong that it is established in your heart even before you see it with your eyes, like that of an expectant mother who knows the sex of her child before it’s born without seeing it. 

I’ve been struggling lately with feelings of complacency, depression, lack of passion and problems making decisions.  I’m going through a phase of life that I think we all go through in our careers where we feel the need to make changes.  We want to fulfill God’s plan for our life, and also to see what else is out there for us.  My career has taken some different turns in the past few years, and I’ve seen God’s hand leading me away from what is tried and true.  I’m finally at a point that I believe I can “see” with spiritual eyes what He has in store for me.  Because of that I’m going to put in a lot of time chasing that goal.  I ask for everyone’s prayers as I go through this journey.  I need your prayers for clarity of my spiritual sight.  To walk away from what I know and discover something new is tough.  It’s uncertain.  But God has given me eyes to understand it – eyes wide open. If I find that He does not walk with me through that, then I’ll know that isn’t the path He has chosen for me, and I rest in His promise that He will complete the work He started in me and that He does have a plan for my future both here, and hereafter. 
May God give you all eyes wide open.



Friday, January 26, 2018

Mountains and Valleys

Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight and the rough places smooth; The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken” – Isaiah 40:4-5

Our lives are filled with highs and lows.  Lately all around me there seem to be lows.  There are sick friends, children fighting horrible diseases, destruction of strong families, financial struggles, and the list goes on and on.  As I drove home yesterday God showed me something.  As I drove in the dark, which is something I don’t often do because I can’t see well at night, I was following Don’s tail lights.  But if he went down a hill before I did, I couldn’t see him.  I’d have to just follow in faith – and then a few seconds later, there he would be. 

Going through life is much like that.  We are sometimes in such a low that we cannot see over the mountains that surround us.  Or we’re on such a high mountain top, with everything right in our little world that we don’t see what’s coming up the mountain to drag us back down. 

Today, regardless of where you are – a mountain or a valley – realize these three things, and find your joy and hope.

First, God is never taken by surprise.  Isaiah 46:9-10 says that God has declared the end from the beginning.  He is omniscient, knowing all actualities and possibilities.  We walk through this life not knowing what the next moment will bring, much like my driving in the dark.  But we can all have faith that God has seen them already, and is leading us to them, and through them. 

Secondly, realize God has a plan for your entire life filled with mountain highs and desperate valleys – and it’s a good plan!  Jeremiah 29:11 says that His plan for us are for good, not evil, and they offer us a future and hope.  He knew us before we were even formed in the womb (Jeremiah 1:5), every cell of our body was part of His perfect construction plan.  Every moment, every single day is designed for you with a purpose that only the plan maker can fully grasp.   He will complete that plan, as stated in Philippians 1:6 “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ”.  Look at the paths of people like Moses, David, Joseph, and Jacob in the Bible.  Their lives overflowed with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.  But they became great because they leaned on God in the difficult times, and continued to follow him. 

Lastly, find hope in knowing that one day, God has promised to raise the valleys, lower the mountains,  make the crooked times in your life straight, and the rough places smooth.  One day you will see and know why your life plan was filled with potholes and ditches, as well as elevated days (Isaiah 40:4-5).  The glory of God will be revealed in your life if you continue to follow His lead.    

Looking back at my ride home last night, I’m grateful to have had Don’s tail lights to follow.  His vision is clear, and he drives home at night all week long.  He’s experienced at handling the dark, and knows where the hills are and the valleys, and the curves and crooks, the entire way home.  Likewise, God knows where we’re going to hit a bump and a curve will come out of nowhere.  Those are good reasons to follow Him closely.  What better guide can you have through this life than to follow the one who holds the blueprinted plan of your life?  Lean on Him in prayer in the tough times and praise Him in the good times.



Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Can We Be Holy?


“But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” – 1 Peter 1:15-16

I didn’t get far in my Bible study this morning.  I got to the opening page of BibleGateway.Com, and this was the verse of the day.  I’ve read it many times, but what does Holy REALLY mean?  I looked it up.  According to Strong’s Concordance (G40), it means to be “pure, sinless, upright, holy”.  Reading further it states that it means “distinctly of God pre-eminently”, “such as a kiss is a sign of the purest love”.  
But can we mere mortals be holy?  The answer, simply put is YES.  We have the ability in our own bodies to be holy.  Look at Enoch, who walked so closely with God that he didn’t experience death (Hebrews 11:5), but was taken up with God.  Look at Job, who is said to have been “blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil” (Job 1:1).  These real human beings, just like we are.  They lived lives in this world just like we do with daily chores and jobs, health issues, problems of all kinds, and they were “pure, sinless, upright, holy”, and demonstrated in their lives that they were distinctly of God.

I also do not believe we would have been commanded to be holy if it were not possible.  God’s words in this verse first appear in Leviticus 11: 44-45, when God himself says: “For I am the Lord your God. You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy. Neither shall you defile yourselves with any creeping thing that creeps on the earth.  For I am the Lord who brings you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.”  
Consecrate yourselves, setting yourselves apart, is what God desires of us.  He desires that “you shall be holy for I am holy”.

I believe as a people we have chosen to believe this is impossible rather than defining the source of the problem.  We do not want to fully obey God.  Obedience, at 100%, would be holiness.  But in our own wills lies those seeds of sin that we haven’t pulled out of the garden where we grow.  We choose to act out on our anger.  We choose to be greedy.  We choose to be prideful.  We choose to slander.  In all our sins, we have a choice, and we choose sin.

Sanctification is a word we rarely hear.  It means to be “set apart for Holy purpose”.  The Christian life of growth is supposed to occur in phases.  Just as humans we go through the phases of newborn, childhood, and adulthood, we are to go through the spiritual growth stages.  We’re to move from justification (being made right with God by Christ, 1 John 3:1), to Sanctification (obeying God’s will and being set apart for Him, 1 John 3:3) to Glorification (face to face with God, 1 John 3:2). What occurs is we receive Christ’s justification, but somewhere along the way we stop in the path of sanctification, choosing our own sinful will over God’s.  Grace steps in and allows us to remain His, for we are saved by Grace and not by our works (2 Timothy 1:9).  But our growth, like children who are never given proper foods to grow strong and healthy, stops. 

Friends, let’s all examine ourselves.  Are we growing?  Or are we frail and unhealthy children?  If we’re not growing holier by applying His Holy Word and His Will to our lives, then we’re not becoming holy.  While the command may sound impossible, we need to remember that with God…all things… are possible.

Monday, January 1, 2018

The Tree of Life

“And out of the ground the Lord God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” – Genesis 2:9 

I was going through my personal email this morning, which is usually filled with store ads.  One had a necklace called the “Tree of Life”.  It was a pretty thing, with a gemstone wrapped in wire in the shape of a tree.  On the back the wire was wrapped in an endless circle.  God speaks through my email, I supposeJ, because he had a lot to say about this.

For many, the tree of life fades into the background of what they know of trees in the Garden of Eden.  There were two significant trees in the original home of mankind.  The Tree of Life showed God’s love to us, and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil shows our love of God. 

Our love of God should have made us obedient.  But as we all know, we failed that test – big time!  When Eve and Adam rebelled against God’s command not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they brought evil into the world.  In a perfect world that was sin free - except for satan and his demons - they started a rebellion against God’s will. 

The Tree of Life still stood in the Garden of Eden after they rebelled.  In fact, it’s the reason they were forced out of the garden.  This tree provided eternal health.  In Genesis 3:22-24 God says “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”,  therefore the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken.  So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the Garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.”

On the surface, that may not look like a tree that shows God’s love to us.  But consider what would have happened if we had lived forever with sin.  Eating of the Tree of Life would have given us the ability to “live forever”.  But – we would have lived with sin – and sin would have abounded!  Since God has no fellowship with sin, we would have lived without God. 

Imagine a world where we were all left to our own sin, a world where depravity and evil reign freely.  A world where justice, mercy, and love were nowhere to be found.  Friends, the world is a sinful place today, but we cannot even grasp what it would be like without God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

The Tree of Life was taken from us out of God’s endless love for us. He placed a flames around it to keep us from the tree so that we would have the ability to die, and not live forever.  But God did not stop there.  Through Jesus, He gives us back the ability to live forever.  John 3:16 clearly states how that can happen to you:  For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.   Believe in Him.  It’s not just a vocal belief, or an “I’ll try anything once” kind of belief.  It’s faith.  As my grandmother said to me, “Pray to God and tell Him you believe Jesus was His Son, and that if you die, you want Him to take you to Heaven.”  Full faith in God doesn’t happen overnight.  We all grow in faith as we walk with Him.  But it all starts with that simple prayer and a simple belief in Christ as His Son, sent to save us.

The Tree of Life is given back to those that believe in Christ and accept Him as their Savior.  One of the most beautiful passages in the Bible is about this tree in Revelation 22: 1-5:

“And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb.  In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.  And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him.  They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads.  There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.”

For those of us that have accepted Christ as our Savior, our eternity has already begun.  Like the endless circle on the back of that neckless, our live is endless – eternal – as John 3:16 says.  While our bodies will die, our soul will never experience death.  But for those that have not received Him, the clock is ticking.  Jesus says in Revelation 22:10-11 “Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand.  He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still.”  There’s a time coming when Christ will return and there will be no more choice of Jesus given to those that have failed to receive Him.  The righteous, those who have received his atonement for sin, will remain righteous.  But those that are unjust, will never be justified.  Friends, you have no promise of tomorrow.  This just may be the last chance you have to make a choice to receive Christ.  Your eternity could begin today.

And yes, I bought the necklace.  It’ll be a nice birthday present for someone.  J



Sunday, December 24, 2017

A Mothers Pain, A Father's Love

Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” – Luke 2:34-35

I recently read a mother of a man my age reminding her son to bundle up when he was flying home from a hot climate and to land in bitter cold.  It warmed my heart because I could relate to her feeling of love for her child.  The heart of a mother is always with her child.  Whether they are close or far away, we are always caring, loving, and worrying about our children. My own kids laugh because when they leave the house I always say “be careful”…as if they would be completely reckless if I didn’t utter those words! But that’s part of the caring for them. Sometimes, even when they’re in their 20’s, you can’t quite let go of their little hands in your heart.

Mary was no different.  This young girl who gave birth to Jesus had already endured such pain to this point in the story of His birth.  She’d no doubt been shamed by those that knew of her pregnancy.  She’d had to leave her family to travel with Joseph, her fiancĂ©.  Riding a donkey as tradition says, or walking (the scripture doesn’t say which) on her trip to Bethlehem at full pregnancy could not have been a comfortable one.  And having a child in a filthy barn full of animals without even a midwife was surely not how she imagined to give birth to the Son of God!  Yet, this was the plan for her life, and she accepted it. 

But can you imagine how she must have felt hearing Simeon in the temple express to her what she already knew! He told her that her child was the Christ!  Oh how she must have glowed, filled with love that only a mother can feel when she looks at her child. 

But then to hear Simeon tell her that “yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul ALSO”, must have taken the breath from her.  After all, the angel that announced her pregnancy had said she was blessed among women, favored by God, the mother of the “Son of the Highest”, and God was going to place Him on the throne of David. There was no mention of swords!

Moms, for a moment imagine yourself in her shoes.  You have your baby in your arms, now about 40 days old, full of innocence.  You go to the temple, a place to connect with God.  Then a total stranger, yet one that is renowned as a prophet, tells you that your son will be pierced with a sword – and your own soul too?  What would you do?  I believe I’d take my child and go into hiding, protecting him throughout all his days from such a fate.  A mother will do anything to protect her child, including give her own life. 

From His very birth, the love for Christ separated people.  It separated Mary from her family as her love for him was greater than her shame.  It separated Joseph from his hometown of Bethlehem when in his love for Christ, they fled to Egypt to prevent Him from being killed by Herod.  It separated the disciples that followed and loved Jesus from the rioting crowd that wanted Christ crucified.  And even today, it separates families, nations, and continues to create war. 

The good of God is at war with the evil of the world.  For Christ to be our Savior, there has to be something to be saved from. But what He is saving us from is ourselves – our own evil. 

You see, there were other mothers in the crowd at the crucifixion too.  Jesus’ sword pierced side no doubt ripped through Mary’s heart and pierced hers as well, just as the prophecy of Simeon had foretold.  But there was no sympathy from the other mothers.  Yet as strong as her love was for Jesus on that day, there was one love expressed that was even greater than that of His mother.

Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” – John 15:13

The love of Christ will always be the strongest love we can receive.  It took becoming a mother for me to realize what true love really is.  But I am convinced that the love of God is greater.  I cannot imagine the love of God, giving His son, allowing Him to leave the glory of Heaven where He was worshipped by angels, to save me from myself.  That kind of love is beyond my full understanding. 

Christmas can be a difficult time for many.  This year, rather than focusing on the stress of buying and giving, cooking and serving, coming and going, take time to rest.  Meditate on the love of the God that holds the universe in place.  He loves you enough to give His Son, to watch Him suffer and die, just so that He could love you eternally.  May that love bring your heart joy!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

As a Man Thinketh

“Seek the Lord while He may be found,
Call upon Him while He is near.
Let the wicked forsake his way,
And the unrighteous man his THOUGHTS;
Let him return to the Lord,
And He will have mercy on him;
And to our God,
For He will abundantly pardon.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.” – Isaiah 55:6-8
I was listening to a book this morning called “As a Man Thinketh” by James Allen, and heard the old proverb “As a man thinketh, so is he”.  It was taken from Proverbs 23:7.  The thought behind this is that we are what we think.  All we feel, all we do, originates from our thoughts. 
Coming to this passage in Isaiah, I noticed something as only God could have planned it.  He says for an unrighteous man (those that have not received Jesus’ righteousness) should forsake his THOUGHTS. He could have said his ways, he could have said his words, he could have said he needs to change his heart.  But it is with meaning that he says THOUGHTS. 
Thoughts.  They’re what binds us to what we think we believe.  They bind us to what we feel and how we choose to live. 
If you think you are hungry, you eat.
If you think you’re unloved, you love less.
If you think you’re successful, you are.
If you think you are going nowhere, you don’t achieve anything.
If you think you’re somebody special, you react to that thought daily.
Thoughts don’t begin in the brain, but in the heart.  Your heart determines what you believe. And though you may try with all your might, you cannot change the way your heart feels on your own.  Only God can change a heart.

Ezekiel 11:19 says “Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgments and do them; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God. But as for those whose hearts follow the desire for their detestable things and their abominations, I will recompense their deeds on their own heads,” says the Lord God.

A heart of flesh in exchange for a heart of stone.  A heart of stone is solid, unchangeable, hardened, the true description of a hard hearted person.  But a heart of flesh feels and reacts.  The heart of flesh receives a new spirit – the Holy Spirit – by which we are changed to understand God’s ways (“he will lead you into all truth”). 
In the verse 8 of Isaiah 11 God says “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways”.  The only way your thoughts can be transformed is by a transformation of your heart.  The only way your heart can be changed is through a new Spirit.  God’s thoughts are different from ours.  For Him to transform you into what He wants you to be (for your own benefit), it starts with a new Heart that accepts new thoughts.
“As a man thinketh, so is he.”  If you’re not who you want to be, you have to start with God in your heart through acceptance of Jesus’ righteousness to change who you are.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Edification, Patience, and Grace

"Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” – Ephesians 4:29 (NKJV)
Maybe I’m getting old and mean.  I hear that happens to people my age.  Or maybe that’s just an excuse, and maybe I’m just not as full of God’s love as I need to be.  But for some reason lately I’ve found myself frustrated and yes, sometimes just hateful.  I say things that are harsh, and don’t deliver grace when that is what God has extended to me.  Today I came across this verse.  It stuck out because I just last week corrected someone for not thinking in terms of “edification” (that very word) rather than controlling their actions.
Edification means to build up.  I like that Paul attached the adjective “necessary” to it.  We all need building up at some point in time, and usually after we’ve failed in some way.  Imparting grace means to speak in a forgiving manner, as God would speak to us when we fail.  God’s ways are full of grace and gentleness.

I’m reminded of the story in Matthew 18:21-35 of the King who decided to collect from all who owed him anything.  One of the men owed him a large amount of money, and couldn’t pay.  So the King ordered that he, his wife, and his children be sold into slavery to pay the debt.  Now, to me that sounds like very harsh punishment, don’t you think? What better way to hurt a man beyond repair than to inflict harm on his wife and children!

But when the servant pleaded with the King to be patient, he had mercy on him and forgave the entire debt.  All he wanted was patience, but the King gave him grace, undue favor. 
We’ve all been given that grace by God through Christ that profess to be His children through salvation.  We didn’t deserve it, we didn’t earn it, we didn’t even ask for it until He drew us to Him.  But He was both patient with us, and gave grace.

Far too often, I find myself, and maybe you find yourself too, giving less grace to others than I should.  I give less patience, and am more like the King who wanted to just sell them all!  The servant who was forgiven did the same thing.  He immediately left the king and went to someone who owed him.  When that person could not pay, he had him thrown into prison until the debt could be paid in full.  Even when the servant begged “Be patient with me, and I will pay it”, he would not relent of his decision, and threw the man into jail. 
But…the King (think God) heard about it.  He called the servant he forgave before him and said “Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant just as I had mercy on you?” And then, the King threw the servant into prison.  Just the servant, and not his whole family.  But he had him tortured until he had paid the entire amount.

Jesus finishes the parable by saying in verse 35 something we all need to consider in our daily frustrations and anger. He said “That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.”
Ah, did you notice what Jesus did there?  He added “from your heart” as a clause to the forgiveness.  Oh, we can all offer lip service forgiveness.  But the problem with lip service forgiveness is that it’s not real, it’s not grace, it’s fake!  True forgiveness does not hold a record of the things we forgave.  While they might be in our memory, we don’t drag them up.  We CHOOSE to go past them, and extend grace. 

Friends, edification requires grace.  To build another up after they have done something wrong to you or someone else, you have to extend grace.  Instead of staying mad, you have to build a bridge and get over it!  God doesn’t like it when His children grumble against each other.  In fact, in verse 35 He expresses His distaste for it by saying that He will not forgive us in return.  And that, my friends, is a torture equal to that which the King imposed on the graceless servant. 
I need God’s grace and forgiveness far too much to rob myself from it.  How about you?

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Lies, Lies, Lies

Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.” – Ephesians 4:25

I recently watched a TED talk called “How to Spot a Liar” by Pamela Meyer.  In it she said one thing that stunned me.  Why? Because it’s TRUE.

We all lie.  Continually.
Imagine for a minute that your life is a journey down a long path, and lies are blockades you cannot see behind.  Here’s one, there’s one, there’s three to the left, there’s a bit one up ahead, and so forth.  Can you imagine how many lies you’ve heard and believed that have taken you off the course of the life God planned for you?  Can you imagine the possibilities if we were all truthful with each other in the smallest things?

I think we lie most because the truth is painful.  It’s either painful to the one that has to tell it, or to the one that has to hear it.  That being said, we are told to be as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves (Matthew 10:16) with those around us.  Can we not communicate the truth with the softness of a dove and wisdom? 
Here’s what happens in relationships when a lie is told.  Sure, sometimes they’re believed at that point, and nothing happens.  But sometimes, and more often than we will realize, they’re not.  When someone catches you in a lie, they don’t come up to you and say “Hey, the other day you said blah blah blah, and now I know that wasn’t the truth.”  Because we all lie, they just take mental note of it.  What’s that mental note say?  It says “Don’t trust them, they lie”.   All it takes is one lie to break someone’s trust.  One. 

Some are more forgiving than others.  For me, honesty and trustworthiness is of big value in my relationships.  Yes, I want to know if the dress makes me look fat – and I even want to know how fat.  But do I want to hear “Oh my gosh! That dress shows every roll on your body!”  Well of course not.  What I’d like to hear is something more like, “You know, I’d bet you have a dress that fits you better than that one.  It’s just not a good cut for you.”  Now see the difference?  The second statement is wise and as harmless as a dove. 
How important is it that we be truthful to each other?  According to God, it’s important to make His top 1o list with “Do not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:16).  It also makes the list of the 6 things that God HATES in in Proverbs 6:19.  Moreover, in God’s eyes, if you’ve not kept all the commandments, you’ve broken them all.  (“For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.” – James 2:10).  Sin is sin.  And sometimes I don’t think we consider lying a sin.  I think we’ve brushed over it, coloring our lies as white lies, gray lies, or…wait…hmmm….  Isn’t it odd that we never talk about black lies, but stop at gray? 

There’s a book by Dr. Brad Blanton called “Radical Honesty: How to Transform your Life by Telling the Truth”.  The title itself says everything.  Honesty will transform your life!  Holding it in high value will change those that you care to call friends – and determine who you want to be your friend.  It will fix relationships that are on the brink of crash and burn.  It will abolish the stress you feel because you’ll be able to put it on the table and deal with it.  You see, God’s hatred of lying comes from His love for us, as do all the things that He’s asked us not to do. 
I’m going to suggest that, as the old saying goes, “today is the first day of the rest of your life”.  How about today we begin being radically honest.  Let’s take time to find the words to say what needs to be said with wisdom and gentleness.  It will change our lives.



Sunday, September 24, 2017

Love Begins with Self

“…that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” – Ephesians 3:17-19
The desire to love and be loved is one of the innate characteristics of God that was given us when He created us in His image.  Paul understood that, and in writing these verses in Ephesians 3 desired that we would know the love of Christ, yet also describes it as the love that “passes all knowledge”. 

It seems like a catch 22 situation.  He wants us to know the love of Christ, but then tells us we’ll never understand it.  So what’s the point of trying to understand what we cannot grasp?  Sometimes it’s not the destination, but the journey that brings meaning to our lives.  It’s trying to understand it that will give us what we need.  Though we will never fully gain the knowledge of His love, we will understand in portions that will feed our souls.

We will do just about anything to be loved.  In fact, we’ll do things we would not normally do, things we would be ashamed of, things that take us from who we are - to who we don’t want to be.  I’ve found this is far less true of those who are rooted in the love of Christ.  Knowing His love, His unconditional love of us as who we are, fulfills our desire to be loved.  Along the way, we fall in love with Him, which fulfills our desire to love.

No, that doesn’t mean we stop loving others at that point and focus all our love and desire on Christ.  He himself did not want that. In John 13:34 He “commanded” us to love one another  - not as we choose to love - but even as He loves us.  That isn’t possible if we don’t understand His unconditional love.
It’s a forgiving love.
It’s a selfless love.
It’s love when they are unlovable.
It’s love when they are disobedient.
It’s love when they ignore us.
It’s love when they treat us unfairly.
It’s love when it’s not returned.
It’s a love without end.
Until we know the love of Christ, we cannot truly love as Christ loved us.  Christ “commanded” this kind of love purposefully.  This is the kind of love that allows us to be ourselves, the persons He made us individually to be. 

Look at those around you.  God made some introverts, and some extroverts.  He made some funny, and some don’t have a funny bone in their bodies.  He made some creative, and some without creativity.  He made some great with their hands, and others great with their minds.  He made some to love adventure, and some desire life without excitement.  These variations were purposefully given to us.  But without knowing His love, we will strive to be whomever those around us want us to be instead of the person He created.

God has specific plans for all of us.  His plans require the creative, the adventurous and less adventurous, the quiet and the talkative, those who crack jokes and those who laugh at them, those who give hugs, and those who give handshakes.  We are all specifically designed like a finely tooled part of a complicated machine.  We fit together to become the people He wants us to be. 

But when a mother desires the love of a man so much that she becomes less of a mother, God’s plan for that family is broken.  When a father desires the love of a friend more than that of his family, God’s plans for that family is broken.  When a mother is consumed by the love of her child over the love of her husband, God’s plan for that family is broken.  Broken families….do you know any? 
It all starts with wanting the love of another so much that you are willing to change who you are.  Sure, you can live that life for a while.  But eventually – YOU will surface - and you may not be loved in return.  The antidote is knowing the love of Christ, which allows you to LOVE yourself and love Him more than anyone else.  When you love yourself, you are not willing to drop who you are to please others because you find value in yourself.

Paul expresses that until we know the love of Christ, we cannot “be filled with all the fullness of God. What is the fullness of God?  Simple.  God is love. (1 John 4:8)  A lot of us have gone out into the world to love without having the tools to know how to love correctly.  The good news for you is that it is never too late to discover the love of Christ.  Read His book, the Bible, and discover His love.  Reach out to His people and feel that love.  Experience it.  Dive into it as if it were an ocean!  It will transform the way you feel about yourself, and how you love in return.