The Power of Forgiveness

Bible Study 
The Power of Forgiveness* 
April 29. 2023 
  
“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 was the violent one. The police were called and he was taken to the local E.R. where  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?” 

Ephesians 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 August 2016

The Government

The Government

March 11, 2023

“Give to [the government] what is [the government’s]” Luke 20:25

It was a few days after the election and the results were still in the air. This was the closest election in recent memory with emotions running high as accusations of fraud came from both sides.

“Well I know that they’re going to expose corruption and false votes on the Democrats side of things. Our man will remain in office for sure,” said Sam, the adult Sunday School leader. The class erupted in aggressive agreement, taking them abruptly off topic.

“Just a minute friends,” said John in a loud voice. “What business do we have in bringing politics into this Bible class?” As quickly as they began, the class was brought to order.

Sam confronted John, “What are you saying? We all voted for the current president and know that the opposition would do anything to get him out of office. It’s our duty to expose any sort of lawlessness in the government. We’re not doormats, are we?”

Tumult again! Emotions ran high as some rose to their feet in adamant agreement.

“How do you know we all voted for the same man?” John said.

Stunned silence followed.

“Are you saying you voted against the president? How could you do that?”

“Who I voted for is my business. I am more concerned about our attitudes in the this class. When was the last time we got this excited about God’s Word or some other Biblical issue? And what does the Bible say about taking the government to task when we perceive them treating us as doormats?”

“You really voted for a Democrat?” said Sam. “I still love you, John but I admit that I’m disappointed.”

“Sam, I didn’t say who I voted for, nor do I intend to. I’m talking about our rebellious attitude because it seems our side may not win, as though God was in danger of being defeated. Christ is King, folks. This is just a political election. And if our man is defeated then that must be God’s plan, according to the Bible!

“Well, don’t you think it’s our responsibility to take the government to task when they get out of control and threaten our religious freedoms?”

“Who was the government when Jesus was teaching and preaching?”

“We all know the answer to that, the Romans were in charge.”

“And they were horribly corrupt and evil wouldn’t you say? They were especially hard on Christians weren’t they? Arresting and killing them, burning them at the stake in some instances.”

“Yes, that’s true enough,” said Sam.

“Well then, did Jesus command his followers to rise up against the evil regime?”

“No. I guess you’re right, John.”

“And when he was challenged in Luke 20:22-25, what did he reply?”

One of the class read aloud, “Now tell us, is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” He saw through their trickery and said, “Show me a Roman coin. Whose picture and title are stamped on it?” Caesar’s, they replied. “Well then,” He said, “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.”

“To bring that forward to our lives, we could say, Give to the government what belongs to the government, couldn’t we?” They agreed.

“Although sinful and corrupt, this world is under God’s control and His will shall always be fulfilled no matter how it looks to us. If the current president is defeated after the final tally of votes, then that is God’s plan which also means we should be content with the result.

“Look at Romans 13:1-7,” said John:

“Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God.”

“As followers of Christ our position is to be light in a dark world; to lead people to Christ by our living example, not to set the government straight!”

“I’ve found another appropriate verse,” said a class member, “1 Peter 2:13-14, Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right.”

“And here’s an appropriate verse,” said another person, 1 Timothy 2:1-3

“Here are my directions: Pray much for others; plead for God’s mercy upon them; give thanks for all he is going to do for them. 2 Pray in this way for kings and all others who are in authority over us, or are in places of high responsibility, so that we can live in peace and quietness, spending our time in godly living and thinking much about the Lord. 3 This is good and pleases God our Savior.”

Aside from privately asking God if He could take away His forthcoming death on the cross, what was our Lord’s demeanor during this excruciating time? It was not pointing out the unjust rulings of the Roman government and Jewish religious leaders was it? No. Jesus remained focused on the “joy set before Him.” Let us remain focused on the joy set before us so others may be drawn to our light.

Determined

“So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable.”  1 Cor. 15:58 

How do we remain steadfast in our faith when our lives seem to fall apart? Sitting in church, surrounded by people of like faith, singing songs of worship to God and listening to the encouraging words of other believers, our faith seems reasonable and steadfast. Yes, we proclaim, we will overcome and be victorious. Glory to God! 

But then, later in the day or perhaps the following day, our problems begin to creep back in and slowly weaken that victory we proclaimed. What will I do? Where is God in the midst of all this? 

Deeper and deeper we fall, grasping for a handhold that speaks of God and His promises to provide and care for us in every situation. Where is the light at the end of this very dark tunnel? There must be an answer. 

There is. The answers are all waiting for us in the Bible. Unfortunately, when we focus on the problems mounting all around, our feelings take over and guide us down a path of discontent, fear, insecurity, doubt and frustration. We want God to give us a break and solve the problems— even though we may be the cause. 

Perhaps living in a time when everything seems possible, every want seems likely to be fulfilled and every person seems promised to have it all, confuses and derails our faith in Christ. However, the Bible has warned us that our lives will have suffering, trials, and enemies for the sake of our faith in Christ.  

2 Peter 3:13  But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness. 

Ephesians 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 

If we had joined a group of people dedicated to protecting our city against enemy foes who promised to destroy all of us, we would prepare for the impending battle. There would be classes teaching everyone how to stand firm against the foes. We would be prepared to possibly give our lives for the cause. We would take it seriously, keeping an eye to the horizon, ever-watchful, ready to fight at a moment’s notice.   

The fact is, we are in spiritual warfare, facing the enemy of our soul, Satan, who desires to destroy everything good. Without our faith intact, we are defenseless to defeat our greatest arch-enemy. Since he cannot take away our promise of eternal life, he can make us useless with fear, discouragement and despair. This is war and we are in the fight of our lives. Even so, God is now and will always be victorious over Satan. 

Isaiah 41:10  Fear not, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed. I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will uphold you with my victorious right hand. 

As followers of Christ, that should be our attitude no matter the circumstance.  With Jesus as our Leader and Savior, we should not back down, allow fear to rule, feel inferior or hopeless. “He did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind”-1 Timothy  1:7. 

Jesus, Himself, as he was facing certain torture and death, prayed, “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” ~Luke 22:42

Life After Death

December 3, 2022


“He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies” ~Jesus

Two men were discussing what happens after death here on earth and one of them said that since they were both Christians, it was certain that they would not really die but pass from this life into the next, living forever with God. However, the second man expressed doubts about that, saying he sure hoped it was true.
                Are you a Christian? Have you expressed faith in Jesus Christ? If so, the Bible promises that you will spend eternity with God. The following are Bible verses that give all Christians assurance of eternal life with God.
                John 11:25-26  Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”
                John 10:27-30  “My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from Me, for my Father has given them to Me, and He is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”
                John 6:35-40  Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. . .For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent Me. . . And this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those he has given Me, but that I should raise them up at the last day. For it is my Father’s will that all who see his Son and believe in Him should have eternal life. I will raise them up at the last day.”
                John 6:47  “I assure you, anyone who believes in Me already has eternal life. Yes, I am the Bread of Life!”
                Romans 8:38  “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.”
                It is by faith that we are saved and our sins forgiven. It is by that same faith that we believe in eternal life with our Heavenly Father…without exception.

As Jesus was about to die on the cross, one of the thieves said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” To which Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with Me in paradise.” ~Luke 23:42-43 

Shortly thereafter, both Jesus and the thief “died.” But did they? What about Jesus’ promise? Both men “gave up the ghost” as the old saying goes, which means their spirits left their bodies. Those bodies were now decaying, they no longer contained real life. Because of his faith, the thief awoke in paradise with the Lord, as Jesus promised. All Christians, after our final breath on earth, will awake in the presence of the Lord.

“I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.”  ~Revelation 1:18

His resurrection is a complete victory over death because not only will He never die again, He also now holds the keys to death and hades as Master and King over it.Those  in Christ have no fear because death is swallowed up in His victory ~1 Cor.15:54

Capitalism & Democracy

Capitalism and Democracy 

October 22, 2022

“…But she, out of her poverty, put in everything…” Mark 12:44 

Do the words capitalism and democracy have any relationship to Christianity? Do any of the Christian tenets align themselves with these words? No. Jesus Christ did not take his last breath (before His resurrection) on Calvary’s cross so we in this country could demand our individual rights and live in materialism. For true followers of Jesus, capitalism and democracy are polar opposites of how we should live. 

When we say something like, “God has really blessed us (our church, family, business)”, what do we usually mean? Most often we are referring to numbers in attendance, material possessions, or special favor. 

Until we realize capitalism and democracy have nothing to do with God’s Word, our understanding will be off center, warped. We must stop viewing the Scriptures through the filter that sees success as monetary gain or employment recognition (raise, promotion). 

As long as we continue viewing the Bible through capitalistic/democratic glasses, our spiritual vision will be skewed in favor of what’s best for us. Self-satisfaction. Remember, the Bible was not written in America. 

Mark 12:41-44  “As Jesus sat near the Temple treasury, he watched the people as they dropped in their money. Many rich men dropped in a lot of money; then a poor widow came along and dropped in two little copper coins, worth about a penny. He called his disciples together and said to them, “I tell you that this poor widow put more in the offering box than all the others. For the others put in what they had to spare of their riches; but she, poor as she is, put in all she had–she gave all she had to live on.” 

Philippians 4:11-13  “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” 

1 Timothy 6:6-10  “Well, religion does make us very rich, if we are satisfied with what we have. What did we bring into the world? Nothing! What can we take out of the world? Nothing! So then, if we have food and clothes, that should be enough for us. But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and are caught in the trap of many foolish and harmful desires which pull them down to ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a source of all kinds of evil. Some have been so eager to have it that they have wandered away from the faith and have broken their hearts with many sorrows.”   

Hebrews 13:5  “Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, I will never leave you; I will never abandon you.” 

Matthew 6:19-21, 24  “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal.  Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.  Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be. 

 24 No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” 

Matthew 5:42  “When someone asks you for something, give it to him; when someone wants to borrow something, lend it to him.” 

Luke 6:34-35  “And if you lend only to those from whom you hope to get it back, why should you receive a blessing? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount! No! Love your enemies and do good to them; lend and expect nothing back. You will then have a great reward, and you will be children of the Most High God. For he is good to the ungrateful and the wicked.” 

Now that we’ve read these verses and are left staring off into space, wondering how we got so far astray from God’s direction for our lives, we must make a choice. Do we give up our worldly goals and desires to be refined by our Lord and inherit the true rewards of eternal life or do we settle in for a reasonable life here on earth. After all, I do give some of my money each month…well, most months. 

James 4:4-8 “You unfaithful people! Don’t you know that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? Or do you suppose that scripture is meaningless? Doesn’t God long for our faithfulness in the life he has given to us? But he gives us more grace. This is why it says, God stands against the proud, but favors the humble.  Therefore, submit to God. Resist the devil, and he will run away from you.  Come near to God, and he will come near to you.”  

Would It Be Different

Would it be Different?

September 29, 2022

“He made a whip from ropes and chased them all out…” John 2:15

It was a pleasant Saturday afternoon in the city, with shoppers looking for bargains and negotiating for the best prices. They learned to favor the tables and stalls in the portico of the church. It was cooler and one could take time looking over the animals, goods and produce. Although it was on church grounds, buyers knew these sellers were crafty and wily.

Because of the Passover feast, sales were brisk at the market as the people needed sacrificial animals. Commerce had crept into their worship so thoroughly that no one noticed; except for one Man on this day.

Jesus and His disciples were in Jerusalem to celebrate The Passover and remember God’s deliverance from the Angel of death. The blood of an innocent lamb brought their deliverance, just as His blood, the Lamb of God, was about to deliver all people from the penalty of their sins.

John 2:14-16 In the temple He found people selling oxen, sheep, and doves, and He also found the money changers sitting there. After making a whip out of cords, He drove everyone out of the temple with their sheep and oxen. He also poured out the money changers’ coins and overturned the tables. He told those who were selling doves, “Get these things out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!”

After this shocking display the Jewish leaders demanded that He explain His behavior; to which Jesus said, “All right. Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up (John 2:19).” They didn’t understand He was referring to His own body.

Jesus broke the religious rules; He challenged the current ideas and demanded action from His followers. Walking along the seashore, Jesus called out to men, instructing them to lay down their lives right then and follow Him. Not only did this cut off their earnings, it damaged the family business as well.

If Jesus barged into our church-world today, how would we receive him? If he showed up at a church bazaar, throwing tables and money about, what would we think? We would probably think he was crazy or too radical. We want church leaders who are more reasonable and predictable. We don’t want to be challenged to give up more and love more (especially to those who are slightly repugnant to us). We desire to feel comfortable in our church surroundings, smiling amiably to fellow members. We adamantly resist Jesus’ harsh light of truth exposing our easy going style of Christianity

Matt. 4:17 From then on Jesus began to preach, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”

Matt. 4:18-22 As Jesus walked alongside the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew, throwing fishing nets into the sea, because they were fishermen.  “Come, follow me,” He said, “and I’ll show you how to fish for people.” Right away, they left their nets and followed him. Continuing on, He saw another set of brothers, James the son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with Zebedee their father repairing their nets. Jesus called them and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

Jesus was the master of confrontation; the epitome of bluntness; his words penetrated the heart.

Matt. 7:24-27 “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears My teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”

Matt. 8:21-22 Another of his disciples said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.” But Jesus told him, “Follow me now. Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead.”

Matt. 16:22-23 Then Peter took hold of Jesus and, scolding Him, began to correct him: “God forbid, Lord! This won’t happen to you.”  But He turned to Peter and said, “Get behind Me, Satan. You are a stone that could make me stumble, for you are not thinking God’s thoughts but human thoughts.”

If an elder scolded a pastor today, such as Peter did Jesus, the pastor would couch his reply in kind and gentle terms, not wanting to offend. And yet, Jesus pierced Peter’s heart with His words, even calling him Satan! In the Gospel of John, Jesus said, “My message is not My own; it comes from God who sent Me (John 7:16).”

Would it be different today? Is it? Do we expect God to work through us, through our church services, through our daily lives? Do we take up our cross daily? Are we willing to look foolish to the world; to the church, to our friends?

Luke 9:23 Then He said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be My follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow Me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for My sake, you will save it.”

Saved Through Grace

Bible Study
Saved Through Grace
August 20, 2022

“We will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus” ~Acts:15:11

            Law or grace? Now that we have accepted Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, don’t we still have to try living by the Law? Can we simply turn our backs on what God gave His people through Moses? I hear Christians refer to meeting on the Sabbath, meaning Sunday; or for some, Saturday. Which is proper and what does God expect from Christians today?

            Faith in Jesus Christ brings righteousness (apart from the law) to all who believe!

(Romans 3:19-26)   “The law commands many things. We know that those commands are for those who are under the law. This stops all excuses and brings the whole world under God’s judgment, because no one can be made right with God by following the law. The law only shows us our sin.
But God has a way to make people right with him without the law. And God has now shown us that way which the law and the prophets told us about. God makes people right with himself through their faith in Jesus Christ. This is true for all who believe in Christ, because all are the same. 
All people have sinned and are not good enough for God’s glory. People are made right with God by his grace, which is a free gift. They are made right with God by being made free from sin through Jesus Christ. God sent him to die in our place to take away our sins. We receive forgiveness through faith. And all of this is because of the blood of Jesus’ death. This showed that God always does what is right and fair. God was right in the past when he was patient and did not punish people for their sins. And God gave Jesus to show today that God does what is right. God did this so that he could judge rightly and also make right any person who has faith in Jesus.”
Realizing how difficult it is for Jews, who have been taught that following The Law is essential, Paul uses strong language to explain that faith in Christ is what justifies everyone…Jew and Gentile.
(Gal. 2:15-16)   “You and I are Jews by birth, not sinners like the Gentiles. Yet we know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law.”
   One of the most powerful explanations of the difference between law and grace is verse twenty-one:
(Gal. 2:21)  “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing.”

            Beginning chapter three, Paul slaps the Galatians in the face with this powerful point: (Gal. 3:1-4)  “Foolish Galatians! Who has cast an evil spell on you? For the meaning of Jesus Christ’s death was made as clear to you as if you had seen a picture of His death on the cross. Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the law of Moses? Of course not! You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ. How foolish can you be? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?”

            Pounding the message home further, Paul’s fervent love and concern for the Galatians continues in verse 5, “I ask you again, does God give you the Holy Spirit and work miracles among you because you obey the law? Of course not! It is because you believe the message you heard about Christ.”

            A scribe asked Jesus, “Which commandment is the most important of all?”
            (Mark 12:28-31)  Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. The second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these.”

            In the Gospel of John, Jesus emphasizes the importance of love as a command:

            (John 14:15; 15:9, 17)  “If you love me, you will obey what I command…As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love…This is my command: Love each other.”
“Love each other.” Sounds easy, especially when we are not frustrated with each other; when all is going well; when we are in agreement; when we’re not stuck in traffic in the pouring rain and the gas gauge is hovering over empty! God’s example of love is the innocent Jesus dying on the cross. Love is sacrifice

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 wall?
“If you finish building your wall, 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 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.”
Galatians 2:20 ~”My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

7 Steps To A Changed Life!

Bucharest Romania 1991

7 Steps To A Changed Life

August 6, 2022

“So be careful how you live” ~Ephesians 5:15

We’ve all seen the book titles; 7 Easy Steps To A Satisfied, Successful Life; 10 Steps To Financial Prosperity, and so on. But what if I could tell you there are “7 Steps To A Changed Life” and they can be found in the Bible? It’s true. Absolutely. Because, through faith in Christ, the power of God in our lives is the supernatural catalyst that propels us onward and upward in a cleansing stream of forgiveness and renewal which leads, ultimately, to eternal life with the King of Kings.

     Unlike other 7 Steps to Success plans, this one is not connected to a cost of hundreds of dollars, conferences and frustrating schemes that most of us cannot seem to grasp. These powerful steps are found in the Book of Ephesians, chapter five, verses 15-21 which follow:

  1. Be careful how you live. 
  2. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise.
  3. Make the  most of every opportunity in these evil days.
  4. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do.
  5. Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life.
  6. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts.
  7. Give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

     “But wait,” you say, “This is a fraud, just like all the other 7 Steps to something schemes. I’ve tried to be better, to trust God more, to be thankful for everything. And guess what, in a week or two, I’m right back where I was but with more guilt for failing again.”

     I fully understand  because we all have the same “tried to be better but failed” story. So why is that? How can I be a failure if God says I’m not? And how can I use these 7 Steps without the dreaded guilt of another failure in my life as a Christian?

     The answer comes in two parts. Part One is. . .you can’t! Why do you think we all fail at living better with 7 Steps of change? Because we are weak and addicted to sinful desires. 

     Part Two is. . .our faith in God has equipped us with all we need to overcome those destructive desires that lead to failure and discouragement. And, a list of rules or 7 Steps will never lead to spiritual success by themselves which is what the Law was all about. But Christ fulfilled the Law and brought with Him Grace and Mercy. Look at 2 Corinthians, chapter 3, verses 4-6:

     “We are confident of all this because of our great trust in God through Christ. It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God. He has enabled us to be ministers of his new covenant. This is a covenant not of written laws, but of the Spirit. The old written covenant ends in death; but under the new covenant, the Spirit gives life.”  

     There it is. Simple? Yes. Easy? No! God has provided the only plausible, effective, victorious answer in that He’s given us His Holy Spirit who communicates directly with our Heavenly Father. Life is a daily endeavor. The past is gone. The future has not arrived. Unlike any other 7 Steps to Success book, the Bible can revolutionize our lives and bring personal victory as we sail through the treacherous waters of life with the Holy Spirit as our Captain because He receives our daily sailing orders from God Himself.

Galatians 3:2-3 

Tell me this one thing: How did you receive the Holy Spirit? Did you receive the Spirit by following the law? No! You received the Spirit because you heard the Good News and believed it. You began your life in Christ by the Spirit. Now do you try to continue it by your own power? That is foolish.” 

Not Human Wisdom

Not Human Wisdom

July 23, 2022

1 Corinthians 1:17 “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.”   

Human wisdom is limited and finite, unable to penetrate the heart and soul or to uplift, encourage, challenge and give hope all at once. Only God in His infinite wisdom, through the Holy Spirit, can teach, encourage, forgive, and heal by divinely inspired words. As teachers and pastors rely on God’s spiritual guidance, His supernatural touch may go forth, penetrating all human hearts, planting seeds of hope and peace.

1 Corinthians 1:18-25  “The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God. 19 As the Scriptures say:

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise
      and discard the intelligence of the intelligent.” (Isaiah 29:14)

  20 So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish. 21 Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. 22 It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom. 23 So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense. 24 But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. 

25 This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength.”

The most common attitude toward fundamental Christianity, by those who do not know Jesus Christ, is mocking or condescending. Just as the Bible declares, unbelievers think believers in Christ are foolish or mindless. If a pastor or well-known Christian person speaks publicly on current world issues, they must rely only on the Holy Spirit if their words are to have eternal impact; otherwise, they are wasting their time and energy. As Paul says:

1 Corinthians 2:1-5 “When I first came to you, dear brothers and sisters, I didn’t use lofty words and impressive wisdom to tell you God’s secret plan. 2 For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness—timid and trembling. 4 And my message and my preaching were very plain. Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit. 5 I did this so you would trust not in human wisdom but in the power of God.”

As Christians, we have been given an amazing gift, the gift of a personal relationship with God, our Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, His only Son. Not only that, but with the gift, God filled us with His Holy Spirit; a supernatural link to God Himself. Along with this incredible gift comes supernatural, spiritual understanding the world cannot discern or understand. Quite the opposite, according to this verse:

1 Corinthians 2:14-16 “That’s why only someone who has God’s Spirit can understand spiritual blessings. Anyone who doesn’t have God’s Spirit thinks these blessings are foolish. 15People who are guided by the Spirit can make all kinds of judgments, but they cannot be judged by others. 16The Scriptures ask, “Has anyone ever known the thoughts of the Lord or given him advice?” (Isaiah 40:13) But we understand what Christ is thinking.”

Human wisdom may seem brilliant to our human understanding but in comparison to God, it is primitive and limited. Human wisdom took a bite of the forbidden fruit; human wisdom passed laws in America to stifle worship of God; human wisdom established false religions that deny the one true God, and human wisdom said the earth was formed, with all its complexities, from a collision of errant planets some billions of years ago.

Isaiah 5:21 “Woe to those who are wise in their own opinion and clever in their own sight.”