Forgiveness is God’s Miracle!

I know what many say about miracles, what people call miracles today are not really that. I agree in most cases, I felt compelled to call forgiveness a miracle because it is God’s way of healing things that are so broken, it almost seems like a miracle is needed for them to be healed. For those who have felt the power of true forgiveness, even when one does not deserve it, miracle is the only word that comes to my mind.

So where do I begin, I have wronged so many in my past, I have been wronged so many times, I will not begin anywhere, but I will start from everywhere. Life is full of mistakes, that can shape who we are, either negatively or positively, it is up to each and every person to decide how they respond to life. I, did not start off they way I have ended up, I am still not where I want to be. Forgiveness is an art, it is a well developed, methodical decision that we must choose. Nobody can forgive for us, so we must do it. How? How can we be hurt so bad, made fun of for so long, and felt like an outcast in life, forgive those who have hurt us the worst? My journey began, when I was forgiven. You see I could go into all the times a person has hurt me over and over again but it would not compare to the damage I have done to others. Many people see me as a nice person, but not all were fooled by the mirage I had placed around my true intentions and actions. You see, I was a coward, I attacked from the shadows, I blamed others, I intentionally did things that nobody would ever know who did it; but it would make it all the worse when the damage was done. You see for me to truly forgive others, I needed to know what forgiveness felt like, the burden that is lifted, the fresh breath of air that forgiveness brings, it is almost magical. I needed God. You see, I did not need every single person who I had ever done something wrong to forgive me (even though I hope one day they will), I needed a forgiveness that was going to do so much more than just clear my conscience, I needed forgiveness that was going to shape the rest of my life. Only God’s forgiveness can do this, only the power of the blood of Jesus Christ could heal my wounds. I now have purpose, I now have a reason to no longer be that coward to hurt people, I now have the strength to help and show others the same forgiveness that was allotted me.

God taught me so many lessons through His forgiveness. He taught me, that most times, people really do not deserve forgiveness but it is not about deserving it, it is about compassion, grace, and mercy. For me to be the bigger man, to be a bridge between the hurt that people have caused and the healing that can be done.

Do you see why for me, forgiveness has been a miracle? The past no longer has control of my life, the bitterness and pain of life, no longer has a sting. I can live a life of pure devotion to God, because I now live a life that is not tied down by sorrow and pain.

Sometimes I forget this lesson, sometimes I revert back to my old ways of wanting to get even, instead of trying to mend a relationship. Today, I read an article by a dear brother in Christ, that has pierced my soul, I thank him for that. Forgiveness is better than holding on to the anger and pain, reaming angry all the time, forgiveness is the only way to begin anew. God has the power to change lives. I could not truly forgive, until I understood what forgiveness was for, it is for the benefit of both parties. Pain leaves holes in both the one caused the pain and the one who was hurt, the hole can be filled.

Think about those whom you have hurt or have hurt you, use forgiveness as a bridge of healing and mending what has been broken, once you begin, you will not want to turn back.

I hope this encourages you, as it has me.

Part Two in “The Lord’s church, are we members of it?”- Have we received the love of God?

What this series is going to help do, is examine, are we a member of the Lord’s church or are we following man made traditions, organization, and practices that were not set up by the Lord.

“But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, And your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear” (Isaiah 59:2)

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:20-22)

When asking if we have received God’s love, one must conclude that receiving God’s love, is receiving the Son that He sent for us to have eternal life.

So what does it mean to receive His Son? To receive His Son, is to be in His Son (Ephesians 1:3) and to have the Father and the Son making their abode with them. “Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me” (John 14:23-24).

The way Jesus told Judas to have God and the Son to make their abode with a person was through the keeping or obedience to God’s word. We see that reflected in 2 John 2:9, “Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son.”

So how do we as, carnal sinful human beings, keep something so holy and unstained? First off, it comes from God. We could not have faith, if God had not given us something to have faith in. We know faith comes by hearing the word of God and our faith in the love that God has shown us causes us to love in return (Romans 10:17; 1 John 4:7-14). We could not love without having first been given love, love begets love, when it comes to the love of God. So then our faith turns into a motivation for obeying God, rather than a reason, which the two can be intertwined. The reason we love God is because of the motivation we received when we found out what God has done for us, even in our sins. Jesus let’s us know that that the evidence of our love for Him, is found when we keep His commands (John 14:15).

So what is the commands God has given us for salvation? There is obviously something God wants from us, that distinguishes the lost from the saved. If not, then either all are be lost or all are be saved. Jesus makes a clear distinction between sheep and goats in His ministry. Jesus simply says this to Nicodemus, talking about His coming Kingdom, “Truly, Truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” he continues in verse 5, “Truly, Truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:3, 5). Jesus equates, being “born again” with being “born of water and Spirit” thus concluding that to enter into the kingdom of God, one must be baptized (water) for the remission of sins and receive the gift (indwelling) of the Holy Spirit (spirit) (Acts 2:38 emp. Mine). Romans 6:3-7, reminds us what baptism represents, it is reenacting the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord, Christ Jesus. Our faith motivates us to obey Jesus, which leads us to baptism for the remission of sins (ie being born again).  This is where we obey Christ and put on Christ (Galatians 3:27), which brings us back to John 14:23. Jesus  makes the statement in Mark 16:16, “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he who disbelieves shall be condemned.” Belief allows us to trust the command from Jesus to be born again, by water and Spirit, and allows us to see or to enter into the kingdom of God.

Once again, none of this would be possible, if it had not been for God. There is nothing we did that caused God to love us, but because h\He loves us, He sent us His Son. He has given us an opportunity to get into Christ (Ephesians 1) for eternal life.

Luke, let us know in Acts 2:41, that those who were being baptized were the ones who were being added to the church. Receiving Christ, being baptized, and being in Christ’s church are synonymous statements. Have you been added? If not, why not, and if you want to discuss more about the kingdom of God and wondering if you are in Christ’s church, let’s talk.

Part One of the Series

“Part one in “The Lord’s church, are we members of it”-Are you “Cutting off the End of the Ham” in Religion

This part one of a mini-series on the “Lord’s church, are we members of it.”

What this series is going to help do, is examine, are we a member of the Lord’s church or are we following man made traditions, organization, and practices that were not set up by the Lord.

An Illustration many know and for those who do not, “A young couple, recently gets engaged, and while the man is sitting and watching his new bride cook, he notices something. She cut off the end of the ham, and threw the end away and began to cook. When he saw this he asked, “Why did you cut off the end of the ham?” She answered, “because that is how my mom did it.” Later, the wife went to her mother to ask but she gave the same answer, “that’s how my mom did it.” So finally going to the source of the issue, when the girl asked her grandma, her grandma stopped, smiled and let out a chuckle.  She answered, “I cut off the end of the ham because, I did not have a big enough pan.”

The story helps explain a little bit about traditions, they are not something that were meant to be passed down as, “the only way” or “the best way” sometimes, it may have just been the most convenient way at the time, and it may have not even been the best or right way to do it. As people, we love traditions, you can see this during holiday seasons and family events.

One thing we must ask ourselves is, are we following a tradition, that may not be right? Are we teaching those traditions as doctrines of God (Matthew 15: 1-9)? We must be in a constant state of self-examination when it comes to truth, why you ask? well because each person is to “work out their own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12),” “God is searching for those to worship Him in spirit and truth.” We need to be in a constant state of searching the scriptures as the “noble -minded” brethren in Berea did (Acts 17:10-11) to find out whether or not the things Paul preached, were really so.

Do not be afraid to ask, your leaders and teachers the questions, “Why do we believe this?” and “How did we come to this conclusion?” If there answers do not mesh with scripture, start examining scripture. Even if they do give scriptural support, go see if they are giving accurate statements in context. The devil used scripture with Jesus in Matthew 4, but he did not use it accurately and He defended scripture with scripture. It is your salvation at stake, please take the time to examine it.

What this series is going to help do, is examine, are we a member of the Lord’s church or are we following man made traditions, organization, and practices that were not set up by the Lord.

Rejoice and again I say rejoice!

Rejoice, what does that look like? Well you can see genuine rejoicing when something happens to a person that they truly are overjoyed about. One such example in my life, was the fist time I held my now, 21 month old baby girl. There was no news in the world that could have taken the joy away from me, there were only tears of joy.

So the question is, how do we rejoice like this in spiritual things? How does one constantly live a life of rejoicing and praising our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ? The answer may be a simple one but it is an answer that is far too often neglected on a daily basis and when going through trials.

We have been saved from our sins!! We have the hope of eternal life! We have a God who is a personal, caring, and loving God. We are His own possession, a chosen people, a holy nation! If you think for a moment how the Jews felt, knowing God had chosen them for a special purpose and that He was with them, more than any other people at that time, it must have felt pretty good. The problem was that they took it for granted, how special they really were, and if we are not careful we can do the same.

The scriptures teach that those who have received the mercy of God, salvation, are God’s own possession. People take care of things they have bought and paid for, how much more will God do the same. Paul gives us some insight into his secret of being able to rejoice always.

“4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

This week, if you want to truly rejoice, think on the things that God wants you to be thinking about and there will be no reason not to rejoice. When you think about God and what He has done through His Son, one cannot help but Rejoice always!

Have a week of rejoicing and thanksgiving to God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit!

“…afflicted in every way, but not crushed…”

Life has it’s way of bringing you down if you’re not paying attention. One day all could be well and the next, it feels like a bomb went off in your emotional well. Satan has a tendency to choose the things you care about the most to bring you down. Paul’s words here in 2 Corinthians 4:8 could be one of the hardest passages to apply to one’s life. Paul what do you mean by afflicted in every way? Well if you want the answer to that, read about the life of Paul along with his words in 2 Corinthians 11:23-29. He had been beaten and distressed in just about every way imaginable, but would not allow circumstance to keep him down.

Let’s be honest with ourselves, what we face today does not compare with what Paul faced. We may feel at times that our current distress or situation is unbearable, but that may have something to do with our mindset. What do we care about? What are we living for? Who do we live for? If those answers as a Christian are anything but Jesus and the kingdom of God then that is your first problem. When we think about physical life and physical pleasure as our hope and desire then Satan has an easy job. All he has to do is throw a storm your way and knock down your house or make you lose your job for you to give up and lose faith. The reason Paul was able to be “afflicted in every way, but not crushed” is because he had a different mindset. He did not live for a job or a house or even to be “comfortable” in this physical life. Paul lets us know what he cared about a few verses later, “For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you” (2 Corinthians 11:11-12). Paul put himself in life or death situations for the sake of Jesus and also for the sake of the gospel to be preached.

If we want to have this attitude of Paul, where nothing can bring us down even though we may be afflicted, then we have to have the same mindset. Are you living for Jesus? Do you have more care for the church than your own life? IF so, even when life seems hard and difficult there is light at the end of the tunnel, we keep our minds focused on Jesus and follow Him into eternity!

Think on these things.

The Rebirth

“The Rebirth” by Jesse Nelsen

“The dust of the Earth
moves with the wind,
just like our rebirth
when Jesus took away sin.

No longer is it steady
it moves with such peace,
we make our hearts ready
for the coming release.

We no longer worry
what tomorrow may bring,
the road is no longer blurry
because of our risen king.

We live and we love
to make our Savior proud,
He lives up above
eternal life He allowed!”

Be more than a “Flash in the Pan.”

flash in the panThe term “flash in a pan”  derives from the time of Flintlock muskets. Flintlock muskets used to have small pans to hold charges of gunpowder. An attempt to fire the musket in which the gunpowder flared up without a bullet being fired was a “flash in the pan.” The phrase continued during the time of the Californian Gold Rush of the mid 19th Century, when prospectors who panned for gold supposedly became excited when they saw something glint in the pan, only to have their hopes dashed when it proved not to be gold but a mere ‘flash in the pan’.

I fear that some Christians are nothing more that a “flash in the pan.” They appear to be “christian” but upon further investigation they are no more Christian than a gunpowder flare with no bullet. This is not said to be negative but an encouragement for all Christians to take a deep internal look at themselves. Christianity is all about self-reflection and looking unto Jesus for life eternal. Is everyone going to be at the same point in their spiritual lives? No. Is everyone going to have the same knowledge of the word of God? No. Is anyone ever going to be perfect? No. Jesus is not looking for perfection but for a person who has been purified by Jesus, a person for His own possession, Zealous for good deeds (Titus 2:14, 15).

We can do one of three things in our Christian lives. One being correct the other two not being correct. We can try to rely completely on the grace of God to save us without us doing a thing for it or to remain in His grace. Second, we can think that it is all about us and our “works” and fail to rely upon the grace of God to save us. Finally, we can allow God to save us through His grace by our Faith (Ephesians 2:8). What does that look like? It looks like Paul’s words in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me; and the life that I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” Because of the grace of God and our faith and trust in Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord, we do the works that God has given us to do in Him before the beginning of time (Ephesians 2:10).

We cannot have faith without works or our faith is dead (James 2:26) and we also cannot have works without faith (Romans 14:23). These are not works that we come up with but ones God has come up with. The proper faith will allow a person to do the commands of Christ, for Jesus himself said that you cannot claim to love Him and not do His commands (John 13:35). If we do not have the proper faith working alongside God’s grace which allows us to no longer live for our fleshly desires but allows Jesus to live through us; then we are nothing more than a “flash in the pan,” which is just as worthless as a flash of gunpowder with no bullet or a mere “flash” of something shiny but not being gold.

Jesus wants our hearts and our dedicated lives to Him. Let’s stop living for self and begin to live for Jesus! Think on these things.

Is it a Blind Faith?

Hebrews 1:1, lets us know that faith is more than a mere leap in the dark. Faith has substance and evidence. If we cannot prove what we believe then how can we convince others? I have heard people say, “Well Christianity, is the best possible solution.” I cannot agree with that statement or use it while teaching others. That leaves a possibility that Christianity could be wrong.
In our modern culture, truth is really a grey area. We just cannot seem to say anything is 100% true or concrete. Christianity has no such grey matter. The writers of the New Testament like Paul and John, seemed more than possibly convinced that Jesus was the Christ, they knew without a doubt that Jesus was the Christ. John gives his testimony in 1 John 1, that he actually saw and touched Jesus.
Living a faith that is the “best possible” solution is a dangerous place to be. God is not looking for disciples who cannot say with 100% certainty that God is real; He wants true disciples who are willing to worship Him in Spirit and Truth.
“Faith is the assurance (substance) of things hoped for, the conviction (evidence) of things not seen” (NASB with NKJV substitutes; emphais JN). The men of faith in Hebrews 11, did things because they knew God existed and God was the creator of the universe (Hebrews 11:3).
Let’s get rid of the this blind, leap in the dark faith and let’s be able to give a defense for the hope that is in us for anyone who asks (1 Peter 3:15).

Yes that means we have to be diligent students of God’s word! It is well worth it!

Living in God’s Plan

If you truly trust that God has a plan for you than you can neither complain nor grumble about your life. I think we can all learn from Joseph’s words in Genesis 50:19-20 “19 But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? 20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive” (NASB).

When complaining we put ourselves in God’s place thinking we know what is best for us and what is not best for us. Philippians 2:14 “Do all things without grumbling or disputing” (NASB). This goes for everything, not just some things. It is God’s plan not ours, so when you complain and grumble you complain and grumble against God Almighty. It is a hard lesson to learn but when we realize what Jesus has done for us and where our eternal home is, there is nothing to complain about!

“I Just Prayed to a God that I don’t Believe In”

praying-handsWhile listening to a song on the radio, a line in the song struck me as odd. The line being”…I just prayed to a God that I don’t believe in.” I thought to myself, what could a person mean by that? Now the song may mean something other than what I am thinking but the only reasons, that I can think of for a person to say something like that are these: First, it is a joke and they prayed to some random god, pretending to believe in it. Second, a person is in a desperate situation and prays hoping that there is a supernatural being (A.K.A God) in hopes for comfort or answers. Thirdly,  a person who has some belief in God, but is just not fully convinced that God is there, prays to God hoping He exist. And Finally, the last reason I can think of is that a person prays to God but is unsure if God actually answers prayers.

If any of these reasons apply  to you, then you might as well quit praying and start doing some studying. Let examine why. First God is actually there and does actually exist, the universe points to a creator (Romans 1:20; Psalm 8:1-3; 19:1-6). Second, faith is not a leap in the dark hoping there is a God, but Faith is built upon evidence and has substance to it, knowing that there is a God (Hebrews 11:1) Finally, we must be fully convinced that God answers prayers . James says that anyone who prays not in faith (belief that God will answer the prayer) is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways (James 1:5-8). James also points out that the person who prays not in faith, cannot expect to receive anything from God (6).

If we want God to answer our prayers, let’s begin to pray like He really exist and let’s pray like He actually answers prayers because He does. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours and His prayer was answered by God because Elijah had no doubts that God had the ability to do what he asked of God (James 5:17). We need to understand that God answers prayers in many different ways; sometimes He says no, for example Jesus in the garden, Jesus prayed not My will but Your will be done. Jesus’ cup did not pass from Him. Sometimes God may answer yes but not right now, and other times He answers yes. Just because God has different answers, does not mean that it takes away from His ability to answer any prayer asked. So let’s begin to pray in faith and allow God to work in our lives for His will to be done!