Given Another Chance!

“I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them” (Hosea 14:4 NIV).

In the King James Version, the term waywardness is not used–instead the term “backsliding” is used. Sometimes, varying translations tend to weaken the message and in this segment, I believe that to be true. Backsliding evokes a much stronger image of what it is that God wants us to understand–when we slide back from being obedient to God. Of course, we cannot be a backslider, if we never came to the knowledge of Truth and obeyed God. “Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you…” (Jeremiah 3:14 KJV)

The point that Hosea is making here to the children of Israel is that when we (we are spiritual Israel) repent and call upon the Lord, turning away from the gods we contrive and manufacture with our own hands, He will forgive us and love us, anyway–turning aside His anger from those things we “did” (past tense), not are doing. His mercy is new every morning! When we mess up, we need to ‘fess up, and not to try to dress up our sins in cloaks of deception and lies, because God can see beyond our facade and He knows our hearts. We just to admit we were wrong and repent by turning from whatever it is that keeps us out of relationship with God and grab hold of the new opportunity we have to get things right with Him. We have been given another chance–do not mistake His grace and mercy for accommodation to sin. 

Some of us have been given chance after chance to get it right! God is long suffering, patient, and He wants us to be in position to receive His best. And though He gives us chance after chance to get things right, there will come a time when He will simply close His ears to our cries. Unlike many parents, He will not be our enabler in wrong doing. Whatever we do, the consequence we get is on us-not Him. Turn from those things or those people who keep you from receiving God’s best and live the life He has planned for you!

Father, in the name of Jesus, help us to get to place quickly where we realize we cannot live this life without You. Forgive us for taking Your grace and mercy for granted and provide us another chance to see You for who You truly are.

 

Hearing and Practicing!

“As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.” (Luke 6:47-49 NIV) [For context–read the entire chapter]

When Jesus was teaching those who followed Him, He wanted them to understand clearly how they were to respond to what they were being taught. In verse 39, He asks them how “the blind could lead the blind” and what could happen to them (both falling into a pit). If there are those who are hearing the Word, but are not practicing it as a model for others to see, they are doomed!

Church leaders–any and all in a position of authority–must take heed to The Word and know that when we are not doing what we have heard, we will be responsible for the demise of those we lead. We cannot turn God’s Word around and say that “it does not mean what it says.” We cannot say God has changed His mind about anything that He said. And more importantly, if we do not have proficient reading comprehension skills in which we have developed the ability to understand “inference” we should not be teaching anyone, anything. We become “the blind, leading the blind.”

We–the corporate Body of Christ–need to spend time not only reading The Word, but studying what it means with resources available to us and in seeking God for understanding. Then when we understand The Word, we must practice doing The Word on a daily basis. Our role is the bring the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to people–not the perverted word of those who scorn and mock God’s Word. Know when the enemy has influenced people against The Word. Don’t be deceived by those who “mention the name of Jesus” and yet have no knowledge of who He really is or His purpose while here on earth. He has said, not everyone calling Him Lord will be allowed to enter in the Father’s presence because in all actuality, they were hypocrites.

We cannot fool God with a superficial Christianity–in name only–and we don’t fool people who are able to discern which spirits are influencing people. When we know The Word, we know which spirits are working in people and we should know how to combat them and cause all to be victorious in the name of Jesus.

Let us not be just hearers (or readers) only, but let’s practice what we know we have learned in The Word. We should endeavor to do all things that please God–showing mercy because He is merciful, loving all because He is love, and obeying Him in all things rather than man because He is the Master Teacher.

Lord, help us to be better at hearing You and doing what You say, not man. Help us to stay focused on You, not man’s inability to receive what You have said. In Jesus’ name, I pray, Amen!

Trust His Mercy!

“For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more” (Hebrews 8:12 NKJV).

Within the reflection and overview of the history of a people whom God chose, we see the explanation provided as to Who Jesus is, Where He is, and Why He came, again.

He is our high priest–ordained, appointed and established by God for all times.

He is sitting at the right hand of His Father, ready to advocate on our behalf--alleviating the need for mortal man to intercede for us.

He came because the people chose not to follow the mandates of the old covenant (The Law as given to Moses), to establish a new covenant–writing upon our hearts–what He wants us to know and do. It is because the people were not diligent in keeping The Law–making sacrifices for the atonement of sin (They made a business of it–selling the elements to be used for the sacrifices created a problem for the very poor; they had no means of atoning for sins since they couldn’t afford to pay for the elements.) With the new covenant, we can boldly approach the throne of grace for ourselves–whether we are rich or poor–and know with confidence that He hears us and forgives us and then “remembers our sins no more” as long as we do not repeat them. He cannot forgive sin for which we consistently do because by our very actions–we have not repented.

When we have repented (turned away from all things that are not like God) and live a life that pleases God, He does not remind of us of our sins to provoke us to guilt–He forgives and then forgets about them–wiping the slate clean.

Man is not so. We love to keep throwing the past at a person–attempting to make them feel guilty because of a lack of understanding. Once God forgives us–what “we did” (past tense) is nobody’s business and they have no right to keep fishing in our ponds when our sins are in the sea of forgetfulness. Now, we have to trust in His mercy–to forgive ourselves–and not allow the enemy to keep bringing our past before us. We did what we did; we repented, God forgave us and that is the end of the matter.

Don’t allow others to condemn you for the things God has forgiven. Let it go and trust in His mercy to guide you in forward movement, not past mistakes.

Forgive–And Be Forgiven!

“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (Matthew 6:14 NKJV).

Right after Jesus taught His disciples “how” to pray (not what to pray), He reminded them of the things they should “do” in order to please God. The very first thing He said to them was, “forgive others so our Father will forgive us.”

There are so many people walking around with unforgiveness in their hearts that it changes their attitudes and even their facial expressions.  We have all seen these people. They are envious and jealous. They seldom smile because they think frowning and appearing to be mad makes them holier than others. They are far more likely to criticize others than to pray for them. They always “see” the shortcomings of others, but never acknowledge their own. They think because of where they live or whose religion they bought into makes them superior to other people. And then they think–they are pleasing God and the rest of us are–“simple Christians.”

When the “joy of the Lord” rises up in us, we should be able to smile and laugh as well as pray and forgive others for their shortcomings and be thankful that God does not hold our shortcomings against us.

When the “joy of the Lord” rises up in us, we should be able to speak a Word of Life, enjoining others to please God and to draw them into a knowledge of Christ with loving-kindness.

But then again–The Word tells us that God will use the foolish things to confound the wise (those that are wise in their own sight). We should be careful about the things we say with regards to others so that we will not stand in the position of being judged–more harshly–by God than the judgment we use against others.

We should make every effort to seek God first–in all things–before we open our mouths or allow our fingers to hit the keyboard of a computer (or typewriter) so that what we say or write, brings glory and honor to Him through us. We will never win people to Christ with an unforgiving heart, a harsh tongue, or unrelenting fingers that constantly accuse rather than praise or encourage.

Father, in the name of Jesus, help us to be more like You every day. Help us to open our spiritual ears and hear what You say. Guard our tongues and allow us to only speak what You would have us to say. Tangle our fingers until we are only to type what You would have us to type–with love in every letter–drawing others closer to You and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Change our attitudes so our hearts sing with praises and our faces shine with the acknowledgement that we know who You are and there is always a smile for others. These things we thank You for in Jesus’ name, Amen!

We are Forgiven when we forgive! Hallelujah!

Time After Time!

“You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19 NIV).

From the beginning, whenever mankind has fallen out of fellowship with God, He has relented and shown compassion and mercy towards us. He has given us chance after chance to get living right for Him.  Some of us have taken advantage of the opportunity and some have not. And yet, He waits–giving us space to repent before judgment falls upon us. Why are some waiting?

There are some people who have decided that having “fun” is more important than living right. They resent anyone attempting to tell them they should change their ways and stop doing what gives them “short-term pleasure.” Perhaps, just perhaps, the method being used to deter wrong behavior is judgment itself and when people feel like they are being judged–already–they feel no need to change. However, if the method to convince people to change is with loving-kindness, sharing all of the benefits of living for God, and proclaiming God’s love–and people see us “living the benefits” they will more likely believe us and change.

We do not have to beat people with The Word, we should love them with The Word.

We do not have to point out their sins; they know–they are just too fearful to let them go.

We do not have to judge others who are in sin–that’s not our job; we should live the life before them and encourage them to get to know Jesus.

If we say one thing and yet do another–we are hypocrites. We cannot convince others that God is love if all they ever see is condemnation from us. Sometimes, people who have been convicted of sin by others who were harsh and rigid think that is the only way to win others to Christ. I am so thankful that God’s love was showered upon me in such a way that I was ready to give up all that was not like Him, willingly because I wanted to please Him. Hallelujah! I’ve learned that pleasing God in all things is so much more important than any attempt to pacify others.

We must remember to share with others–God’s mercy, His love, His compassion, His forgiveness, His patience–in waiting for us–time after time. We must convince others–not with our words, but by our actions–that the benefits of living for God are greater than living for the world.

He had sent people to me–time after time–to show me the way–that one pathway to Him and though some of their methods did not work, He did not give up on me and sent those who had received His love to share with me, and I received–their love and God’s love–and now living with His benefits–walking in His favor.

I pray today that we’ll become those people-who have received God’s love–and will share it with others in bringing them into the knowledge of Jesus Christ. God has given us yet, another opportunity–as He has–time after time-for us to show people The Way, The Truth, and The Light of His Love.

I Belong!

If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29 NIV).

A number of years ago, American Express used the marketing phrase, “Membership has privileges” (at least I think it was them), at any rate, the phrase is very true for those who “belong to Jesus”. If we belong to Christ, we receive the benefits and promises given to Abraham because we are the “spiritual seed of Abraham” in this life.

What are the benefits? While in the earth realm–power to get wealth, long life when we honor authority, healed of sickness and disease, power to be peacemakers and helpers to many who will receive, through Holy Spirit–power to forgive, love, and have insight to those things to come. For all eternity, we have access to heaven and we will rule with Jesus.

While some may doubt the authenticity of Paul’s letters (and his life), when we have received Holy Spirit to guide us, He guides us into all truth. So the truth here is that Paul was writing under the direction of Holy Spirit, just as many of us do today. Whether Paul was truly a changed man or not, should not be an issue for any who were once sinners and have been given a second chance–through mercy and grace. Without that mercy and grace, where would we be?

Accepting the fact that Paul’s letters were written by direction of Holy Spirit and receiving what he had to say as truth, anyone–regardless of race, gender, creed, faith, who makes a decision to belong to Christ, gets the same benefits. It does not matter when a person comes to Christ–whether a long time ago or recently, the benefits remain the same. The difference is how long a person may enjoy the benefits, not that they are not the same.

If you have not known the privilege of membership with Christ Jesus, today is a good day to make that decision. Grace and mercy abound towards all who will freely come and receive of His goodness. If you do know the value of belonging to Jesus Christ, I am honored to call you brother or sister. We are all in this life together and membership with Christ, makes it all worthwhile. Love to love you!

Sin Still With Us!

“Sin-any act regarded as a transgression; especially a willful or deliberate violation of a religious or moral principle” (Webster). [hamartia: violation of God’s law]

1 John 1:8 NIV  If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.

From this verse, John reminds us that even though the sacrifice/atonement for sin was completed on the cross (thereby needing no more physical sacrificial acts of atonement), people are still subject to sin–because they have free will and can make their own choices; some which are not always the right choices.  If the world was without sin, there would be no need for us to have laws that govern the land. But since there is sin–and we do have laws–there are also consequences for violating the laws.

I John 1:9  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Since we are not perfect and capable of straying from the path upon which God set us, when we do commit an act of sin, deliberately, if we confess it (own it, take responsibility for it), He will forgive us and when repentance is made (turning completely away from the act, not practicing to do it again–surrendering our hearts), He will cleanse us and purify us from all unrighteousness.  However, God’s forgiveness of our sins does not negate the consequences of our actions. This is a mis-teaching that has people believing that when God forgives–that is the end of the matter.  It is not. When we violate a principle or law there are consequences to be paid. If we kill, we either spend time in prison or will be killed. If we steal–we go to jail. If we abuse children–we suffer the consequences. Whatever it is we do, we will reap the consequences of our actions. God forgives–but consequences are never negated.  

1 John 1:10  If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.

Paul reminds us that we have all fallen short of the mark of perfection and committed some act of sin at some time or another.  If we say we haven’t sinned; we lie  and we are actually saying that God has lied, indicating we do not know or understand His Word.  We know that Satan is the father of liars and if Satan is our father, God cannot be. But having sinned in  the past, does not mean we should continue to sin.  Once we know The Truth and make a decision to allow Him to be the Lord of our lives, we should not deliberately, plan or practice to commit acts that we know God would not like.

The work on the cross–the sacrifice made for all mankind–the atonement for sin, means no more sacrifices (as prescribed under The Law of Moses) are necessary, but if we do go astray, we have an advocate–who is interceding on our behalves to The Father. Sin was not eliminated on the cross–the need for a sacrifice to atone for sin was eliminated on the cross.

Lord Jesus, thank You for making the ultimate sacrifice for us to atone for our sins. Thank You for being our advocate, always interceding for us.  Thank You for giving us understanding of Your Word through Your Spirit when we are willing to receive instruction from Holy Spirit. Thank You for loving us enough to die for us, now create in us a heart that is willing to be obedient to Your Word as a demonstration of our love for You. Thank You for revealing to us that relationship with You is better than religious affiliation since You reveal all truth to us, not religions. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen!

What He’s Done For Me!

I woke up this morning with my mind on Jesus and what He’s done for me.

He came into my life, showed me a better path than the one I was taking, and loved me enough to keep me on it, even when I strayed.

He comforted my heart when loved ones passed away from this earthly realm and healed my body of pain and sickness. Even when the devil tried His best to take me out, Jesus was right there, speaking to my heart, and giving me the boldness needed to tell the devil, “not yet.”

In moments of weakness, Jesus reminds me of who I am and what I have in Him and with Him. Though the enemy tries to discourage, His love keeps me encouraged.

When I think there is nothing else I can do to resolve a situation, He reminds me that the battle is not mine, but His and He will reign victoriously over every adverse situation that comes into my life.

When the enemy tries to bring my past to the forefront and make me feel guilty, Jesus reminds me that all confessed sin has been forgiven and I am a new creation in Him. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

When I went back to college (at nearly 50 years old), He strengthened my mind and resolve to accomplish all I needed, with His help and direction.  I began teaching at 50, obtained my Masters Degree, past 50 and then went on to complete the coursework for a Ph.D. He is truly awesome in my life.

He has directed me, by His Spirit, in what I write and how to bring it to others. I claim no knowledge of technology, but He has led me in what I do and now I can reap the rewards of being obedient. “Obedience is better than sacrifice.”

“Weeping may endure for a night (and sometimes the nights are long), but joy comes in the morning.” He gives us so much joy that we can forget about what made us weep.

This list could go on for a while, but I don’t want to bore you.  I want to encourage you to hold on to your faith in Jesus and remind yourself of what He has already done and know that He is not finished with you, yet.  It’s not over, until God says it is over. Look to Him, the author and finisher of our faith and know that He loves you and listen when He speaks to encourage your heart.  He did not promise us an easy life, but He did promise to never leave us or forsake us.

Father, help us to hear You when You speak words of comfort and encouragement.  Help us to remember that we have power over anything the enemy attempts to do in Christ Jesus. Thank You for touching bodies, relieving pain in joints, nerves, muscles, and emotions. Thank You for touching and comforting hearts of all that has created the hurt. Thank You for loving us enough to never leave us to our own devices, and for reminding us to lean on You. Open eyes, spiritually and naturally, so all might see Your goodness and determine this day to invite You into lives and allow You free reign over all that is done. I pray and thank You in Jesus’ name, Amen!

Who Has Bewitched You? (Part 2)

Still Talking to Preachers!

Paul addresses the issue of sin, grace, and the law quite adequately without there being a need for me to be redundant, but I have to say, that Paul was a very wise man—knowing exactly how “mankind” would oppose themselves to God.  Paul knew the law; he was instructed in the law and promoted because of his understanding of those things not permitted under the law.   But when he met Jesus, he gained even greater insight to understanding God and grace.

When he wrote his letter to the church at Galatia, he was appalled at those who had been introduced to the gospel of Jesus Christ and had accepted Him as their personal Savior and yet denied the power of The Spirit to guide.  He had to remind them of a number of things and they are revealed in Galatians.  He’s concerned that the enemy (anyone opposed to God) has enticed them by witchcraft or cast a spell on them with their attempts to keep people under the letter of the law.  He reminds them that those who understand what Jesus did on the cross and the power He gave to those who believed by His Spirit had no need to live under the letter of the law because the Spirit who dwells within guides and corrects.  The letter of the law entailed man conducting certain rituals—things they did using their hands (flesh)—to indicate compliance with the law to others in position of authority. We know no longer have a need to have ritual practices of anything in order to be declared loved by God.  The one thing we must do is to obey—love Him, love others—and when we truly love, we cannot sin.

“You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched (charmed, cast a spell over you)?” (Galatians 3:1a,b NIV)  “Are you so foolish (unwise, showing a lack of sense)? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?” (Galatians 3:3 NIV)

Ouch! Not only does Paul ask them if they’ve been bewitched, but then he asks them “have they lost their minds?” (my words). This is what happens to people who are misled and deceived by the enemy.  They are confused and appear to lack common sense (which is certainly not so common any more). But Paul didn’t stop with the Galatians, He turned up the heat in his letter to the Roman church when they decided that grace gave them license to sin and be forgiven.

“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness “ Romans 1:18,

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God, nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them” (Romans 1:20-28 NIV).

After reading and re-reading this passage of scripture, I find it very difficult to believe that anyone who claims to a Christian or a preacher of The Gospel could possibly believe that God is not concerned with our behavior and our “sins”.  And for the record, even though most discredit Paul for everything, this is New Testament admonition—after Jesus returned to the Father.  If we truly understood everything said—we would know that God is not pleased with our opposition to His instructions, but He allows it to happen and then sits back and waits for the consequences of our actions to fall upon us—and they do.

‘Fess Up!

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9–read all 10 verses).

What an awesome God!  When we were in sin (deliberately doing all the wrong things), He loved us enough to die for us in order to bring us back into right relationship with Him.

Even now, when we know to do better, we don’t always make it, but He is faithful and just (not willing to allow us to sink into our own depravations headed for hell) and if we ‘fess up, He will forgive our sins (giving another chance), and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (making it appear as if we have never sinned).

Sin–a deliberate, wilful act in defiance of everything Godly–committed against/with others or self.

There is no little sin, big sin, worse sin–any act of ungodliness is sin–sin is sin.  Murder (taking a life not in self-defense), fornication (sexual relationships outside of marriage), adultery (when a person who is married has sexual relationships outside of the marriage), lying (not telling the whole truth), manipulation (promoting/leading others in acts of ungodliness), favoritism (showing respect of persons over others–unjustly), complacency (when we know to do right and don’t), hatred (creating problems for others without cause, with malice), and the list goes on and on.

When He forgives our sin, the consequences for our actions are not negated–we are still subject to the principle of “reaping and sowing”.

Why live under a cloud of uncertainty?  Take a good look at all you are doing (hopefully past sins are just that, past) and if there is anything in your life that is not like God, ‘fess up!  Confess it while you have a chance and know His goodness and mercy which shall follow you all the days of your life.

If we love God with all our hearts, minds, and souls–we cannot sin against Him.  If we love our neighbors as ourselves–we cannot sin against them.  The appropriate response to sin–learning to love–works every time. That’s why He does, what He does–Loves!