Letter from grandmother to grandson in jail

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Dear Sam,

Well, I hear you have a new residence for the time being. Can’t say I feel congratulations are in order but if it gives you an idea that no matter what we think, there are rules and regulations we all must follow to make it through this life, it might be worth it.

Dick traded in the VW for a Ram P.U. It’s quite nice and roomy. He’s always wanted a truck so I guess it was time. I can’t believe it, he actually washes it himself once a week. What a difference.

Oh yes, our garden is growing great this year. We’ve had beautiful, sunny weather, except for today…it rained all day!

Why don’t you give some thought to going back to school, Sam? Or think about what you’re going to do with the rest of your life. You surely don’t plan on making a career out of serving hamburgers!

Well, your grandmother will close this boring letter and quit preaching.

Dick says, “Hello”.

Love & a Kiss,

Grandma

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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.

       

God’s Will

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What Is His Will?                                    
Most of us, either openly or secretly, struggle with finding God’s will for our lives. Sometimes, based partly on the influence of our more emotional brothers and sisters in Christ, we long for, no, expect an audible voice answering our plea. But what if we already know His will? What if He has clearly revealed His will for our lives?
First, let’s strip away theological meanderings, traditional liturgy, and false expectations. Let’s prepare the soil of our hearts and minds for a new crop; plow up the crusty surface of misunderstandings and misconceptions to reveal the pliable and rich soil of our hearts…ready to receive His direction — to know His will. Lo and behold, bits and pieces of this deep mystery (or so we think of it) rise from His written word, the book of absolute truth— there all the time!

  •     Romans 12:2  Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Sounds so simple and yet, as we all know, so very challenging; “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world.” Lord I want to give up, walk away from, the world and all its trappings but…it is so difficult. It is right there all the time, waiting to pounce on me and drag me back into the mess of wanting to be liked and wanting stuff.

After I spend time reading the Bible and praying I feel spiritually strong, able to repel my own selfish desires and the Devil’s attacks. Then a friend calls with an invitation to coffee. I accept and as I arrive at our favorite coffee place, I see him standing by a shiny new car, my favorite model. “What do you think?” he says, grinning widely.

What do I think? I think I want your car— should have your car! Envy leaps upon me and holds on tightly. My mind is racing, and not toward the Lord. How can I buy one? Desire has not only planted seeds but they are the quick-growing variety and have sprung up to full size. My pulse quickens, I begin sweating, I’m ignoring my friend. And now, worse yet, I dislike my friend for having this beautiful car. Oh, what a fool I am— “copying the behavior and customs of the world.”

If following God’s will depended on me the result would always be like the one above. Thankfully, the second part of that sentence in Romans 12:2 says, “But let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.” Heaving a great sigh of relief, we can see it is Him who transforms our thought patterns, revealing His perfect will for our lives.

  •     1 Thessalonians 5:16-18  Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

 

  •     Ephesians 5:15-17  Be very careful then, how you live, not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

    I find encouragement and excitement in knowing that not only has God revealed His will to us, but has given us His Holy Spirit to come alongside and comfort. We are truly prepared to walk this walk and know His will for our lives. And we can also pray for each other to see His will for our lives, according to the following verse:
    
    Ephesians 1:15-17  For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.

Building a Wall

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Walled Off

 

“Hey, what are you doing?”

“Building a wall.”

“How big?”

“Around my life.”

“All of it?”

“Oh Yeah.”

“Why?”

“To protect myself.”

“From what?”

“From being hurt!”

“Do you think it’ll work?”
“I do. Simply because of this; if no one can get to me, I can’t get hurt. Pretty smart huh?”

“I need to know more about your past before I can accurately answer your question.”

“Like what?”

“What happened to make you think you need to build a protective wall around your life? Before you answer, you have to tell the truth or I cannot give you an honest opinion. Agreed?”

“Well…Ah, what If I can’t remember?”
“Is that true? You can’t remember?”
Fidgeting as he looked at the ground, he finally let out a deep sigh and said, “Ok, here goes. A few years ago I met a woman who just knocked me off my feet. I’ve never been a guy who hangs out with women and gets dates anytime. I’ve always been shy that way.

“So we get involved and it gets serious. I mean I was ready to move heaven and earth for her. She said she was moving to Nevada. Well I had a good job and spent my entire life in Illinois. She said her family could get me a good job with one of the casinos and we’d be well off in a few years. After lots of talks, I agreed to leave it all for her; You know, the romantic, all-out sacrifice like in movies.”

“Sounds like a big sacrifice all right. But it sounds exciting too.”

“Yeah it was. And I got excited. Anyway, we moved to Nevada and her family came through with a great security job at the Bellagio. She was a blackjack dealer and made lots of money in tips. I thought I was in heaven. We had great jobs. Her family were good people and it never rained!”

“Oh no. I sense a collapse of your good life around the corner.”

“You’d be right. We’d been together in Nevada for three years when she met me for dinner in town. Just as they served dessert she said, “I’ve got to tell you something and you’re not going to like it.”

“When a woman you’re about to marry says that, your heart sinks and you want to scream. But I didn’t. Like a big dummy I just sat there, head hung, looking up at her. “Go ahead,” I said, “get it over with.”

“Well, ok. But first I have to tell you how great you’ve been since we’ve been together. I mean you moved across the states for me and gave up your life. How many men would do that for a woman?”

“Ok, that’s enough of that. Tell me the bad news right now.” I wanted to punch her and storm out. Now I knew what she was going to say and I think you do too.”

“Yeah, I do.”

“Turns out her original boyfriend, well, her fiance, the guy she ran away from back when we met, returns to town and gives her a call. She falls all over herself and wants to take back up where they left off. She’s leaving me.”

Neither man spoke for almost a minute.

“Am I right in thinking you don’t ever want to be hurt like that again, therefore the wall around your life?”
“Exactly. Now you can see why I’m building it, right? So I can ask again, pretty smart, huh?”

“Before I answer let me ask you a question. Do you wonder why you don’t see walls around lots of other people? I mean, do you actually think you’re the only person who’s had their heart broken? How many divorced people do you know? Lots probably. And guess what, one of those people had their heart broken in the divorce. Where’s their protective fence?

“If you finish building your fence, you may not be taken advantage of or have your heart broken but, and this is important, you will never find love again or have great friends that are willing to give their all for you. We have to be vulnerable to experience the rewards of love and deep friendship. Broken hearts come with the territory. No matter how hard you try, friendships can fall apart and engagements can be dashed into the dust. In all of life, there’s only been one person who never disappointed anyone even though everyone turned their back on him and he was killed for them. He even forgave the people who killed him. He refused to build a protective wall and got killed in the end. But his life, although not too long, was filled with power and love just because he was always vulnerable.

Galatians 1:4 ~Jesus gave his life for our sins, just as God our Father planned, in order to rescue us from this evil world in which we live.

 

We Don’t Have To Be Afraid

 

“Perfect love drives out fear” ~1 John 4:18

After the waitress poured their second cup of coffee, Walt said, “OK, Roger, what’s going on? Clearly something is heavy on your mind this morning. We’ve known each other for a long time, my friend, so spill the beans. Maybe I can help like you’ve helped me so many times.”

        It was a wintry morning and Roger held his cup with both hands, concentrating on the wisps of steam arising, hoping his friend could help him overcome his strong emotions. Fear gripped him!

        “I’ve been meaning to find ways of selling stories and photos because we need more income but…I’ve opened the door to uncertainty which always brings along its friend, fear. Once fear and uncertainty settle in, I become paralyzed.”

        “You, filled with fear? That is a surprise, Roger. You are the go-to guy whenever I have spiritual battles so I would never think of you struggling with fear and doubt. I am so sorry I’ve been so casual about your possible needs and struggles.”

        “Oh, I understand the feeling, Walt. I once had a spiritual mentor who seemed to always be on his game no matter how dire the problem until one day he shared, like I am doing now, his struggles with me. It was then I realized how little I’d been praying for him. He said something I have never forgotten which I’ll share with you. As he was describing his battles with the flesh and satan, he said, ‘Roger, don’t ever stop praying for me. You must realize how important your prayers are to me and to God. He commands us to pray for each other.’”

        “Forgive me, my friend. Let me begin with praying 1 John 4:18 which says, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.”

        Right there, in that restaurant booth, fear was driven out as God’s love shattered its stronghold in Roger’s life. Just like athletes willingly force their bodies to come under subjection through rigorous and repetitive training routines, our lives can be free of fear, anger, lust, greed, hate through faith coupled with fervent prayer. “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”  ~James 5:16

Isaiah 41.13  I am the LORD your God. I am holding your hand, so don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.

Psalm 27.1  You, LORD, are the light that keeps me safe. I am not afraid of anyone. You protect me, and I have no fears.

Psalm 62.2  God alone is the mighty rock that keeps me safe and the fortress where I am secure.

Psalm 91.1-2  Live under the protection of God Most High and stay in the shadow of God All-Powerful. Then you will say to the LORD, “You are my fortress, my place of safety; you are my God, and I trust you.”

2 Corinthians 1.3-4  The Father is a merciful God, who always gives us comfort. He comforts us when we are in trouble, so that we can share that same comfort with others in trouble.

Romans 8.38-39  I am sure that nothing can separate us from God’s love—not life or death, not angels or spirits, not the present or the future, and not the powers above or the powers below.

Isaiah 25.8-9  The LORD All-Powerful will destroy the power of death and wipe away all tears. . .At that time, people will say, “The Lord has saved us! Let’s celebrate. We waited and hoped –now our God is here.”

Psalm 145.13-14  Our LORD, you keep your word and do everything you say. When someone stumbles or falls, you give a helping hand.

Psalm 16.5-9  You, LORD, are all I want!  You are my choice, and you keep me safe. You make my life pleasant, and my future is bright. I praise you, LORD, for being my guide. Even in the darkest night, your teachings fill my mind. I will always look to you, as you stand beside me and protect me from fear. With all my heart, I will celebrate, and I can safely rest.

The following 1933 inaugural address by Franklin D. Roosevelt points to Biblical truth:

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”  ~Franklin D. Roosevelt

2 Timothy 1:7  For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

 

The Power of Forgiveness

“If we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins” 1 Jn 1:9

Not so long ago I watched a video entitled, The Power of Forgiveness; a video every Christian should see. In my life as a follower of Jesus Christ, I have learned one powerful principle that never changes: Unless we personalize the problem, violation, or catastrophe we cannot begin to understand how those involved may feel. That message comes through with life-altering results in this video.

The man who compiled the video is 50-years-old, a Christian, and a teacher of Biblical forgiveness. One day, his life was shattered by a young criminal who decided to creep into his Mother’s home on New Year’s Eve. The lights were out so he thought the occupants were probably at a party. He broke a window, entered and let in a friend. During their pillaging, the lights suddenly came on and a woman in her seventies (the mother of the man who made the video) confronted these youths.

What were they to do? Someone had seen them. Using the crowbar that he smashed a window with, one of the young men began beating her on the head until she was bludgeoned to death. Later, on New Year’s Day, Dr. Everett J. Worthington, the Executive Director of the Templeton Foundation’s Campaign for Forgiveness Research said, “I had spent most of the day with my brother and sister, going over what had happened to our mother, never once considering forgiveness. As a matter of fact, in the room where we sat was a baseball bat and I said, ‘If I could get to him, I would use this bat to bludgeon him to death.’ Where was my forgiveness?”

Another case in the video was that of two young men who grew up together and were in their twenties. At a party one night, fighting broke out and a friend of these two was attacked and had a severe head wound. Wanting vengeance, one of the men began brutally attacking every male at the party. He was strong and violent, pummeling all the men he could. Finally they headed to the E.R. for stitches but he wanted more vengeance. His best friend said it was not a good idea and he was not willing to return. So the violent young man returned to inflict more damage and the other went home (they lived together) and to bed.

As he lay sleeping, five men from the party, wanting to get revenge, slipped into the house and stabbed him to death, thinking he had been involved since they knew where they lived. The police were called and he was taken to the local E.R., hoping to resuscitate him. They rushed his bloody body into the E.R. And a team of doctors and nurses attempted to bring him back. After being declared dead, one of the nurses got his wallet to see his identity. It was her son! Her first thought was, what was my son’s wallet doing in this person’s pocket? And then she looked at his face for the first time: it was her son. She is a Christian and it was her turn to learn about God’s forgiveness.

In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis said, “Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea until they have something to forgive.” We all have something to forgive in our lives.

From the video: Forgiveness has its origin in God, who is just and merciful. As humans, however, we struggle with being just, forgiving, and merciful. Our natural impulse is to seek revenge and to make things fair. Forgiveness goes against what we would do, left to ourselves.

Forgiveness is not about ignoring, excusing, or forgetting a wrong that has happened. It involves a decision to extend mercy or cancel a debt. Luke 23:32-34. Luke 23:39-43.

“We want to see justice!,” Dr. Worthington said. “We have a strong desire to punish wrongdoing even at the expense of mercy. Forgiveness never entered my mind. Truly, with Jesus Christ as our Lord, there is no situation that we cannot forgive.”

The nurse whose dead son she cradled in her bloody arms said, “When we become Christians, we leave forgiveness, anger and hatred right at the foot of the Cross. The Lord reminded me that ALL my sins are forgiven so I have no right not to forgive.”

Forgiving is a choice. Just as Jesus chose to forgive those who beat and crucified him, we must obey God and forgive others. Forgiveness is a gift we choose to unwrap daily and use to heal our hearts and minds. Forgiveness breaks the cycle of hatred, anger, rage and bitterness. If we do not forgive, we are not free to move forward.

Matthew 6:14-15  “For if you forgive others when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Only God can heal us unconditionally. He wants us to live in wholeness and healing instead of hatred. God can put love in our hearts.

“One of the hardest  things to do is forgive ourselves for our sins,” says Dr. Worthington. “How can I have the abundant life? What about my sins? God’s love is available but sometimes we won’t allow Him to forgive us or show us love. God has taken away all our sins. The blood of Jesus cleanses all of us and we must forgive ourselves. God gives us mercy as we forgive. Who am I to refuse to forgive myself or someone else when Christ has forgiven me?”

Eph. 4:32   ”Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”

Col. 3:12-13  “Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.”

Matt. 5:7  “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”

Lord God, help all of us see how dependent we are on Your forgiveness, which is freely given and never merited by anything that we could ever do. When we are hurt and mistreated, teach us to forgive the offenders, as you do. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

*This is a revised version of a study written in May 2011.

God…The Great Dispenser of Stuff?

“You, Lord, are the Most High over all the earth” Psalm 97

Lawrence beamed at the capacity audience in San Francisco; the sixth stop of his Worldwide Evangelical Movement tour. “God is sitting on his throne, waiting for you to give him a hint. That’s right, God is leaning forward, anxious to hear your requests so he can give you what you desire in the deepest place in your heart. He made you to abide with him some day and until that day, he wants to make you happy and satisfied.

“Have you been passed over for that promotion? God knows and wants to release the blessings of that new job to you. Can’t find that special person to complete you? God is aware of that missing piece in your puzzle of life as well. What about the home you keep driving by, wishing it was yours? Yes, my friends, God is fully aware of your needs and he wants to fulfill them, make you happy and give you the greatest, most fulfilling experience that life has to offer.

“I know some of you are thinking something like, ‘How can I ever afford that home I truly want? I need a better job and less debt.’ Friends, God is the God of satisfaction and delight. He made you and knows how to make you satisfied and content on this earth as you prepare for eternal life with him.

Lawrence became silent, walking back and forth on the platform, scanning the audience as he moved. And then, “What is the key to unlocking God’s blessings, you ask? Sacrifice. Yes, it is sacrifice. Think of how he showed his love for us. Sacrifice! He sacrificed his own Son so we could have this wonderful life. And now he expects us to learn that same sacrifice. God GAVE so we could live and now it is our turn. We must sacrificially GIVE to release those blessings from heaven.”

By now Lawrence was commanding the audience with his fine-tuned and powerful voice, it was as though he hypnotized them…”Give, give give. Sacrificially give. Give when you don’t think you can. God is waiting. Release those blessings from the throne of God.” They were on their feet as the army of ushers passed buckets across the rows of excited, believing people.

Does this scenario sound familiar? Do you have, perhaps secretly, desires that God will bring to pass to make your life better? Desires of more money, better job, better marriage, better body, bigger house? If you do, admit it to God. As the famous southern pastor, J. Vernon Mcgee once said, “You might as well tell Him because He knows anyway.”

God does understand our secret desires of wealth, health, homes, trips, etc. But what he wants for us is far better. Does anyone really believe that God sent his only Son, Jesus, to live and die for us so that we could have more money, bigger homes, better cars, and more fun? Jesus did give sacrificially, didn’t he? His sacrifice was given freely so you and I could experience redemption and forgiveness of sins. Surely we can see clearly that Christ did not experience such an excruciating torture and death so we could accumulate more stuff on earth.

Psalm 97:1-5 “The Lord rules! Let the earth rejoice! Let all the islands celebrate! Clouds and thick darkness surround God. His throne is built on righteousness and justice. Fire proceeds before him, burning up his enemies on every side. His lightning lights up the world; the earth sees it and trembles! The mountains melt like wax before the Lord, before the Lord of the whole world!”

Our lives are actually spiritual. As such our warfare is taking place in the spiritual realms, every day…every hour. God’s great sacrifice has made it possible for us to walk in the spirit, guided by the Holy Spirit. As we gear up each day with the Armor of God, we engage in the battle with God as our guide. Do you see material things as important in this daily battle for souls and lives?

Ephesians 6:10-13 “In conclusion be strong—not in yourselves but in the Lord, in the power of his boundless resource. Put on God’s complete armor so that you can successfully resist all the devil’s methods of attack. For our fight is not against any physical enemy: it is against organizations and powers that are spiritual. We are up against the unseen power that controls this dark world, and spiritual agents from the very headquarters of evil. Therefore you must wear the whole armor of God that you may be able to resist evil in its day of power, and that even when you have fought to a standstill you may still stand your ground.”

Men and women who claim to speak for God but seek to gratify their flesh are, in truth, serving the enemy of our soul and feeding their own flesh. The Bible tells us to die to the flesh:

Romans 8:12-16 “So then, my brothers, you can see that we have no particular reason to feel grateful to our sensual nature, or to live life on the level of the instincts. Indeed that way of living leads to certain spiritual death. But if on the other hand you cut the nerve of your instinctive actions by obeying the Spirit, you are on the way to real living.

All who follow the leading of God’s Spirit are God’s own sons. Nor are you meant to relapse into the old slavish attitude of fear—you have been adopted into the very family circle of God and you can say with a full heart, “Father, my Father”. The Spirit himself endorses our inward conviction that we really are the children of God. Think what that means. If we are his children we share his treasures, and all that Christ claims as his will belong to all of us as well! Yes, if we share in his suffering we shall certainly share in his glory.”

A man left his house early one morning to attend a Bible study. It was then he saw an obstacle! A flat tire. Not low but dead flat. He had no time to change a tire. He pondered his situation and felt God nudge him to have faith that He would take care of the tire. So, he prayed and believed that God would do the impossible.

He drove three miles to a gas station, filled the tire with air and drove to the study. The tire never leaked or deflated again. Life is spiritual!