Forgiveness Not Feelings

 

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“For we are God’s masterpiece.” Eph. 2:10

Mike was 56 and had been a Christian for most of his life. Now in mid-life he had settled into a mediocre form of faith in Christ. His examples growing up were two parents displaying opposite ends of the faith spectrum. His father was stoic and bound by rules he thought Christians should follow. His mother was frantic, fearing they would all end up in hell because they were not perfect. Mike carried a little of both views into his adult life.  

Mike began to wonder if he would “make it” to heaven because of his sins of infidelity which brought about a divorce after 25 years. He was walking in doubt, secretly hoping he would be allowed into heaven but rather doubting it. Mike did not understand his total forgiveness and his right standing in Christ.

Eph 2:8-10  God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.

Mike’s eternal standing is secure and his life on earth can be filled with that assurance, rather than the forboding of imaginary unforgiveness. This unforgiveness is a lie from the enemy of our souls. He wants Mike and any other Christian in doubt, to give up the promises of God and live in doubt—hopeless and ineffectual. If Mike had turned to his Bible for answers, he would have reminded himself of Christ’s continual interceding for all believers at the right hand of the Father in heaven (Romans 8:34).

1 Thess 5:9-11  For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us. Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever. So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.

2 Thess 1:11-12  So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do. Then the name of our Lord Jesus will be honored because of the way you live, and you will be honored along with him. This is all made possible because of the grace of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Phil 2:12-13  …Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and power to do what pleases him.

1 Thess 1:3  As we pray to our God and Father about you, we think of your faithful work, your loving deeds, and the enduring hope you have because of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Tim 1:9  For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus.

For various reasons, we take on the responsibility of saving ourselves, wrenching that responsibility from Jesus. Promise after promise fills the pages of our Bible, reminding us that Jesus’ death on the cross brought ultimate forgiveness to all who call upon His name. But because of satan’s lies and our misplaced “feelings”, we fall into disbelief and discouragement, rejecting the love and forgiveness of Christ.

Rom 8:29-30  For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the first-born among many brothers and sisters. And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.

Titus 3:4-8  But—“When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. Because of his grace he declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.” This is a trustworthy saying, and I want you to insist on these teachings so that all who trust in God will devote themselves to doing good. These teachings are good and beneficial for everyone.

Two men served in Viet Nam. During combat, one was wounded. His buddy carried him through the jungle for two days. The wounded man begged his friend to leave him so he could make it. He refused and they finally found base camp.

Years later, the one who was carried heard that his friend had a terminal disease and was bedridden. Since he was no longer married, he sold all his possessions and moved to live with his dying friend. He nursed him for over a year until the disease claimed his life When asked why he did this, he replied, “He saved my life. There is nothing I would not have done for him to show my gratitude.”

Jesus gave his life to rescue us for all eternity. Are we grateful?

Rom 15:13  I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

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Holiness

 

“May the God of peace make you holy in every way” ~1 Thess. 5:23

        “Are you sanctified?” bellowed the animated preacher, pointing and sweeping his hand in a grand gesture to the church. “Are you sure? Are you holy? If you have any doubts you better come down to the altar and pray your way through! God is not happy with any fence sitters tonight. He means business and you better mean business too. You got to be sanctified to make God happy and get a golden key to your heavenly mansion,” said the sweat-drenched pastor as he walked to and fro among them, satisfied with the response to his fear-packed message.

       Terrified and confused people flocked to the altar, crying and begging God for the elusive sanctification, fearing they might miss the golden key awaiting those who have achieved sanctification [holiness].

Contrary to his threats and confusing statements, God was not happy with him or his misguided sermon. Believers do not receive sanctification as a result of fear or condemnation. To be accurate, this very emotional and dramatic pastor should have proclaimed, “Your faith has made you whole and you are all sanctified (made holy) by the Holy Spirit!” Let’s see what God’s Word has to say about our sanctification/holiness.

        Romans 6:19  I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.

        1 Cor. I:30-31  God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin.

        1 Cor. 1:2  To you who have been called by God to be his own holy people. He made you holy by means of Christ Jesus, just as he did for all people everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

        1 Cor. 6:11  You were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

        1 Thess. 5:23   Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

John 17:17-19  (Christ’s prayer to God) Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth.

        2 Thess. 2:13  As for us, we can’t help but thank God for you, dear brothers and sisters loved by the Lord. We are always thankful that God chose you to be among the first to experience salvation—a salvation that came through the Spirit who makes you holy and through your belief in the truth.

        Hebrews 10:10  For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time.

        Romans 15:16   I am a special messenger from Christ Jesus to you Gentiles. I bring you the Good News so that I might present you as an acceptable offering to God, made holy by the Holy Spirit.

        Sanctification/holiness is not something we can beg God for at a church altar. Sanctification is a gift from God as a result of our faith in Jesus Christ. Although a gift, God requires our involvement to make choices for purity and holiness. But fear not, it is the Holy Spirit who enables us to follow through on our Christ-like decisions.

       

John Mahoney – 1940-2018

John Mahoney

John Mahoney: 1940-2018. I took this photo on location (Cholame, California) during filming of Almost Salinas (2000). John was easy to talk with and very friendly. Each morning as he left the Paso Robles Inn, he walked past our office with LA paper in hand, headed for Joe’s Restaurant for breakfast. He said he liked eating there because people did not bother him while he read and ate breakfast. I had some photos for him one morning and went to Joe’s to ask if he would stop by and meet our staff. He agreed and was very humorous and friendly. This smile epitomized the man we knew for a few weeks.

Live By Faith

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Hebrews 11:1  ~Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.

 

I attend a weekly Bible study that has been ongoing more than six years. The study is aimed at practical application of God’s Word, the Bible. This approach can bring daily challenges and will often bring spiritual growth in each life. Recently, that is what happened.

I ride with one of the men in the study who has an occasional variance in his work schedule which prevents his attendance. When this happens, the men in the study share their disappointment and I make sure to send a copy of the study via email. But this week would prove different and bring about a God-ordained journey and ending.

“I have a new job and will have to miss a few Wednesdays,” he said at the study. “I hope it won’t be permanent but I’m not sure.”

True to form, we expressed our disappointment and continued with the morning’s study. A few days later, it seemed that God was speaking to me about my lack of faith. “We live by faith, not by sight,” says 2 Corinthians 5:7. “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but opn what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal,” says 2 Corinthians 4:18.

Then I understood what God, through the Holy Spirit, was showing me: believe that my friend, Matt, could be there; to have faith that God would answer our prayers to shift Matt’s schedule to allow him to continue attending. In that instant it was very clear to me, Matt wanted to be in the Bible study, would benefit from his attendance and the rest of us would benefit from his presence.

This is an element of spiritual warfare and the victory belongs to God. Instead of saying, “Too bad you can’t come, Matt, see you when your schedule changes.” We can ask God to make a way for him to attend and believe He will do that!”

Two days later Matt called and said, “Hey my schedule has changed and I will pick you up as usual.” Joyfully I shared my revelation with Matt and we rejoiced in the answer to prayer. God cares. He is always victorious, and He delights in answering our prayers.

 

Temporary Reward

Scans-January 31-2018

 

“Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:29

 

As a reporter, Phil had an opportunity to interview many people. On this day it was an athlete returned home from competition in the Olympics. During their talk the athlete described his basic training schedule: “I train at least four hours a day, six days a week, taking one day off for complete rest. And there are times when I increase my regimen to doubles. And that is three hours training, two hours of rest, followed by another three hours training. I’ve been doing that for the past four years.

But I’ve got to tell you that as difficult as that sounds, and it is, it was all worth it to stand on that podium, wearing the gold medal!”

Later, while transcribing his notes, Phil was suddenly struck with how unlike the athlete his Christian life was. Actually, it was nearly the exact opposite. Phil focused his Christian energy on Sunday, attending church, Bible class and various potlucks, leaders meetings and counseling. He usually welcomed Sunday evening so he could rest.

Without realizing it, his life had fallen into a very worldly rut, randomly giving time to God a few minutes here, a sporadic prayer there, and a few “help me God” prayers scattered throughout most days. Jesus had become his long distance love; one he considered with passion on rare occasion. Bowing his head, Phil called out to God in earnest prayer, “Oh dear Lord, restore a clean heart and passionate desire for you in me. You are truly the Lamb that was slain for me.”

1 Cor. 9:24-25  Do you remember how, on a racing-track, every competitor runs, but only one wins the prize? Well, you ought to run with your minds fixed on winning the prize! Every competitor in athletic events goes into serious training. Athletes will take tremendous pains—for a fading crown of leaves. But our contest is for an eternal crown that will never fade. (J. B. Phillips)

Recalling this verse clarified Phil’s position. He had indeed been training for a perishable crown, a temporary reward, worldly recognition. It was time to reverse the order and his priorities.

Heb. 12:1-2   As for us, we have this large crowd of witnesses around us. So then, let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way, and of the sin which holds on to us so tightly, and let us run with determination the race that lies before us. Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and he is now seated at the right side of God’s throne.

And then, two nights later, Phil was awakened with something like a revelation—God deserves our praise and adoration. He is the Lamb of God. He is God. He is our Lord and Savior. His heart beat faster as the realization came over him—our eternal destination is certain and promised. Rejoice in the Lord always rang in his mind. How could he not rejoice in the Lord?

Rev. 5:11-14  “Then in my vision I heard the voices of many angels encircling the throne, the living creatures and the elders. There were myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, crying in a great voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honour and glory and blessing!” 13 Then I heard the voice of everything created in Heaven, upon earth, under the earth and upon the sea, and all that are in them saying, “Blessing and honour and glory and power be to him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, for ever and ever!”14 The four living creatures said, “Amen”, while the elders fell down and worshipped.

Rev. 1:4-7  John, to the seven Churches in Asia: Grace and peace be to you from him who is and who was and who is coming, from the seven Spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, first-born of the dead, and ruler of kings upon earth. To him who loves us and has set us free from our sins through his own blood, who has made us a kingdom of priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and power for timeless ages, amen.See, he is coming in the clouds and every eye shall see him, even those who pierced him, and his coming will mean bitter sorrow to every tribe upon the earth. So let it be!

What Phil discovered is, if any Christian focuses on the majesty and glory of the Lord, their life will change. Listening to some of the old hymns that glorify God, reading the Bible and praying will bring more and more change. If we are as determined to strengthen our relationship with Jesus as the athlete was to win a gold medal, our rewards will be life-changing and eternal!

 

Book Review: Make Your Voice Heard In Heaven

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“It’s important to remember that we do not always receive what we ask for when we pray. . .God knows what is best for our lives. Even when he doesn’t grant our requests, he is nonetheless working all things together for good.”  -Barry C. Black

Using the Bible as his resource, US Senate chaplain Barry Black takes us on a God-directed pathway to the need and reason for prayer. Reminding us again and again, prayer for Christians is not only good it is essential; not only for the prayer but for the entire Body of Christ.

Not resorting to flowery phrases to captivate and fill with false hope, Black writes to-the-point, using hundreds of Bible verses to verify his thoughts and directions. He wants all believers to understand how important prayer is for our lives and the lives of those whom we are lifting up to God.

If, like me, you have struggled with how to pray and in what manner, this book will bring relief and understanding. God created us and He wants us to talk to him. According to Chaplain Black, prayer is a God-ordained method of talking with God.

Tyndale Publishers gave me a free copy of this book for an unbiased review.