Foregiveness

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”‭‭Colossians‬ ‭3:12-13

“Foregiveness”, it’s easily received and rarely given. Have you forgiven someone if you never tell them? Is your heart full of forgiveness if you hold onto resentment and anger toward another? How can we be clothed in “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” and not forgive? 

I have personally dealt with unforgiveness for a long time. Those that know me well know that I have had a failed marriage and two sons who live with their mother. Anger and hatred filled my heart for several years. Partially, because my children were withheld from me, but mostly the anger was directed at myself for allowing it to happen. For about 2 years I was falling deeper and deeper into a pit of depression, unchecked rage, and alcohol. I ran away from what I saw as the cause of these feelings only to find them come back again. It wasn’t until I realized that there was nothing I could do to change the external influences on my mind and soul until I changed the internal influences. I had to find freedom from myself. 

I found this freedom through forgiveness. First, I forgave myself for making mistakes and bad choices. I made a promise to my family to move forward, get better, and be the best person that God wanted me to be. Second, I forgave those who wronged me. It wasn’t important if they accepted it, I wasn’t looking for an apology or even to restore a relationship. I simply wanted them to know that there was no ill will from me. Lastly, I made a promise to myself and to God that I would do my best to keep those feelings of wrath and contempt away from my heart for the rest of my life. 

It hasn’t been easy. There have been many moments when I wanted to hang on to a “justified anger”. But then I remember, with a bit of urging from the Holy Spirit, that if Jesus could forgive the entire human race then I should be able to forgive a few people. Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience…keep these in your heart and forgiveness must live there too. 

The Alpha and the Omega

““I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.””‭‭Revelation‬ ‭1:8‬ MEV

“The Beginning and the End”, big words from a big man. Jesus said these words in a vision to John while he was under house arrest on the island of Patmos. Jesus is the alpha and the omega in His eternal nature, His role in creation, His sustaining of the universe, and in His fulfillment as the Messiah. Those who read the words of Jesus referring to Himself as the alpha and the omega in Revelation find One who refers to Himself as Lord who will one day make all things new as described in Revelation 22. 

There many times in our lives where something seems to last “forever”. Board meetings, classes, and commuting, all of these events can seem to stretch on for much longer than they really are. If we let the constant drudgery of our earthly existence drag us down, and therefore away from God, then we are losing sight of the true eternity. The eternity in which Jesus is sitting at the right hand of God, as he has since before time began, and speaking on our behalf. During times of saddness, depression, or feeling downtrodden we must turn our eyes to God. Open your Bible, voice your concerns to God, and focus on the blessings that you have received. 

Touchdowns And Walking The Line

“No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matt. 6:24).

I recently had a conversation with a pastor friend about people who are “walking the line” in Christianity. We all know, or have been, one. We hear them tell others about a book or bible study they should read about Christianity. Or they invite others to church. They go on mission trips and give to the poor, they pray before sporting events and almost always know the Lord’s Prayer by heart. But behind closed doors, among aquaintences and certain friends, or when emotions run high, another side is visible. Lewd talk, cursing, and violent actions come out. Sometimes its in the heat of the moment but many times in everyday conversation, when their guard is down, a person’s true character is revealed. Just as David says in Psalms 23 and Paul refers to in Phillipians 4, our cup overflows with what is poured in. This is true of both good and evil. If we pour into our life the elements of this world (sin, evil, anger, hate) then that is what will flow out of us.
Johnny Cash sang a song about walking the line and the lyrics paint a rather accurate picture of what happens when we do not choose a side. I have found that the illustration of a “touchdown” in football is even better. In football you either cross the line and make a touchdown, or you don’t. You have to CROSS the line. You can’t just reach it or touch it. If you are on the line then you haven’t made a touchdown. You are still on the field of play of the world until you cross the line. You can not both score a touchdown and still be on the field of play. You can not both serve God and serve the World.

Your cup will fill others…be mindful of what you are pouring. While the world offers temporary justification or a small amount of pleasure for our service, God offers eternal joy and ever-lasting peace. Fill your cup with what Jesus offers and you will never grow thirsty. 

Deny Yourself

Websters defines the word “deny” as “state that one refuses to admit the truth or existence of; refuse to give or grant (something requested or desired) to someone”. “Deny” or “denies” is mentioned over 20 times in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John (KJV). One particular text, though worded slightly different in each, is included in all of the Gospels but John. To paraphrase, “Anyone who wishes to follow me [Jesus] must deny himself, take up his cross, and then follow me” (Matt. 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23).

Now I don’t know about the rest of you but I feel that denying myself is a pretty big request. If we take the literal meaning in the correct context then Jesus is telling us that we must refuse to give or grant something to ourselves. Taken in the context of this verse, Jesus is telling his disciples that they must deny themselves as he has denied himself. SO, we must look at what Jesus denied himself in order to apply it to our lives. To do this we must look all the way back at Jesus’ first experience after being baptized by John at the very beginning of his ministry on Earth. In Luke 4:1 Jesus is led by the Holy Spirit to the wilderness and tempted by Satan. For forty days he did not eat or drink and at the end of those days he was tempted by Satan to use his infinite power to feed himself, take power over the Earth, and save himself from death. Jesus had the opportunity to turn stone into bread. He was given the chance to hold dominion over the entire world. He was told to challenge God by calling the angels of Heaven to his aid. In all these things Jesus had the ability and the right to do them, yet, he denied himself. Jesus followed a path that placed others ahead of himself, ahead of his desires.

So what does this mean for us? We don’t have those abilities. We can’t create food out of nothing or call out for angels to catch us at will. How do we relate to this supernatural occurrence when Jesus tells us to follow in his steps? We do have temptations though, don’t we? We are tempted to cheat on a test. We are tempted to take things that don’t belong to us. At work we may be tempted to log more hours than we work or bring home supplies from the office. At home we may be tempted to watch inappropriate shows or movies. Or listen to inappropriate music. In all these things we have the power to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Jesus. Remember, the infinite reward of Heaven far outweighs the temporary reward of the world.  via Daily Prompt: Deny

Same Team

I coach our Junior Varsity Wildcats football and soccer teams. In order for my teams to be successful they must first be moving in the same direction. If the quarterback gets the ball and turns around to throw it behind the line then we can’t move toward the goal line. If the striker drives the ball toward the wrong goal then the other team scores and we lose. They don’t do these things because they listen to their coach and follow his instructions.The Church has been given a goal by Jesus when he ascended to Heaven after his resurrection. 

“‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age’” (Matt. 28:18-20).

By proclaiming the name of Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you are proclaiming your allegiance to the team of God and to Jesus as your head coach. This team requires us to do our best, this team deserves our best, and it demands our best. Anyone who has ever played a sport knows that poor effort produces losses instead of victories. Playing on God’s team is no different. Poor spiritual effort will only lead to spiritual losses.

 Paul understood this better than most. He tells the church in Corinth about the effort that must be given in order to receive our spiritual victory. “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air” (2 Cor. 9:25-26). Our training is provided in the Word of God. Our head coach is Jesus Christ, and he is assisted by the Holy Spirit and the spiritual mentors in our life. We must learn, train, and grow stronger so that “win the prize of God’s heavenly calling in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14). 

 In the end we may all be able to share in Paul’s exclamation in 2 Timothy 4:7. Let us be able to proclaim that we fought the good fight. Let us share the win with all those who have finished race and kept the faith. 

Jesus’ Letter if Recommendation

Every job that I have had since leaving the U.S. Army 6 years ago has required at least 2 “letters of recommendation”, letter from someone outside of my family who looks favorably on me. Usually these letters reference good work ethic, applicable skills or experience, or simply an urging to hire the subject of the letter. Paul had his own version of the letter of recommendation. When writing to the church at Corinth he refers to the members of the congregation as “a letter from Christ” (2 Cor. 3:3a). Through the knowledge and wisdom passed on to them from Paul through his ministering and the gifts of the Holy Spirit they have been speaking of God with sincerity and proclaiming salvation through belief in Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 2:17b). Through their worship, discipleship, and competence as ministers they are providing their own letter of recommendation for Jesus. Are you proclaiming recommendations in your life for Jesus? Do your words and actions urge people to seek out Jesus and want to know God? When you act and speak you may not be getting recorded on paper or video, but our actions and words are being inscribed on other people’s hearts and on our own souls. Be sure that what is written for you is a recommendation for life in Christ.

Freedom isn’t Free

 I once spent a night in jail. I was young, dumb, and in the wrong place at the wrong time. I found myself accused of trying to steal a car, something I lacked the skill or experience to even attempt trying. Nonetheless, I found myself behind bars for one night. The next morning I was released, they had captured the actual culprit, and I was amazed at how much I appreciated being out that building after only about 8 hours of imprisonment. Paul spent quite a bit of time in prison, of course his reasons for being locked up were vastly more noble than my own, and I would imagine he truly appreciated his freedom whenever he was released. I would go so far as to say he was an expert at “becoming free”. Paul was set free by judges, government officials, an earthquake, and angels. His life may have ended while under house arrest but his soul and spirit were never in chains after he met Jesus on that dusty road to Damascus. Paul explains our Christian responsibility as free children of God in 1 Corinthians 10:23, ““I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive”. Being saved by the sacrifice of Jesus and free from sin’s hold on us does not mean we can do things that make others stumble in their belief. Our freedom is a gift that we must use to bring others closer to God, through seeing our own relationship with Jesus. We must do what will be beneficial to the Church and the lost (v. 33). For since we are no longer imprisoned by the chains of sin in the World we are called to help free others through our faith and our actions. That is the key to freedom, Jesus paid for our freedom so that we can show others that he paid for their freedom too.

Man’s Plans and God’s Design

 How often have we made plans that were changed by the weather? Or just simply had to be rescheduled because of a lack of time? As a species we have become almost completely dependent on our watches and clocks. I have to be early for everything, it’s something that was trained into me as a Soldier and I still do my best to be early. As an old platoon sergeant once said, “If you ain’t early, you’re late”. But what happens when our plans get changed by forces outside of our control? If an accident or traffic jam causes me to be late for an appointment should I complain? Or perhaps God’s goals require me to be on his infinite schedule instead of my finite one? 

 Paul had a similar situation on a trip to Macedonia. In 2 Corinthians 1:16 he tells the church in Corinth that he had planned to stop and see them on the way to and the from Macedonia. Unfortunately, the people of Corinth did not look favorably on the change and began to question Paul’s ministry by connecting the inconsistency of his promise to the message he preached. Paul reminds the Corinthians that he has shown them through his teaching and preaching that he is not a fickle man but that he rests in the knowledge that God’s plan is greater than his. There ended up being a very important reason that Paul did not go to Corinth, at the time he was supposed to be there he was very upset about news that he had received. His reaction toward the church in Corinth would have been out of distress and anguish instead of joy and love (2 Cor. 2:2-3). Instead his plans changed so that they might receive a letter with his words of admonishment and when he arrived in person they could share the joy of his arrival instead of fear of a reprimand. Next time you find outside forces urging you to change or delay, don’t meet them with anger or frustration, just recognize that there is a reason and be happy in whatever part God gives you to play.

Fairness

Fair does not mean equal. This phrase has come to mean a lot in my professional life and has had me thinking lately of how it applies to our spiritual life as well. I currently work in the Special Education department of my local high school. In the past, as a Soldier in the U.S. Army, I was always taught that “fair” meant everyone gets the same training, same food, same bed, same uniform, etc. As a paraprofessional in Special Education this definition does not work, fair for one of my students does not mean that he or she gets the same education in the classroom as their peers, it means they get the same opportunity, much like every person should get the same opportunity to receive the grace of God. That means if there is a learning disability or a behavioral problem then fair means that additional help is need in order to absorb the same lesson. It means sometimes extra attention is needed, or a steady hand, and sometimes it means therapy or a special classroom. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 9:22 that we are to “become weak to those who are weak”. Not all people will come to Christ in the same way, relating to others on their ground or at their level does not change the goal of your message, it just adjusts the route that you take to get them there. To be “fair” to all who are lost I must “become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings (v. 22b-23). Paul understood that an equal message to all would leave some out of touch with the Gospel, only by meeting people where they are can we help them get where they are going.

Children Raising Children

My 3 year old son is bad. He’s not bad in a, “He’s going to end up in prison” kind of way. Kellan is bad because he knows how much he can get away with before flashing that cute, innocent smile at his mom. That smile that makes her heart melt; she forgets the milk he poured on his sister and the finger painted living room walls. It’s that weakness that many parents know, for some reason God decided to make a mother fall for her son’s and a father fall for his daughter’s smile. Paul had similar feelings whenever he received news about a church that he had planted (1 Cor. 4:14-17). 

I find myself wondering if he heard from travellers or in letters how there was trouble in Corinth, or Ephesus, and he began writing a stern letter of reprimand only to then hear of the new Christians that had joined the same church. Did the positive information cause him to change the way he worded his letter? Did he rewrite many letters because he received a positive report? In reading his letters in the New Testament they are full of instruction and reprimand, not as an angry supervisor, but as a loving father guiding his child. Only someone with children can truly know the fine line between a dictator and democracy that we must balance upon. God must have surely granted Paul this wisdom that many of us must learn through failures and experience. We must also look to our fellow brothers and sisters with the eyes of a loving parent, especially those whom we have helped find Christ. We must remind them of the way of life in Christ (v. 17) and treat them as our dear children, without judgement, by giving them a good example to imitate (v. 16).