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Posts Tagged ‘Grace’

But how can I serve?

December 18, 2011 Leave a comment

Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve.  You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.

– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “The Drum Major Instinct” Delivered at Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta, Georgia, February 4, 1968

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The Plan of Forgiveness


Toward the end of the service, the Minister asked, “How many of you have forgiven your enemies?” 80% held up their hands.

The Minister then repeated his question. All responded this time, except one small elderly lady.

“Mrs. Jones? Are you not willing to forgive your enemies?” “I don’t have any,” she replied, smiling sweetly.

“Mrs. Jones, that is very unusual. How old are you?”

“Ninety-eight,” she replied.

“Oh, Mrs. Jones, would you please come down in front and tell us all how a person can live ninety-eight years & not have an enemy in the world?”

The little sweetheart of a lady tottered down the aisle, faced the congregation, and said: “I outlived the old hags.”

********

Some people ask where I get these.  I really have no idea….and if I did, I woudn’t say.  Haha

Link for this week: It takes 2 minutes to watch.

This week’s focus is just as difficult for me as last week’s was. This week we focus on forgiveness. Most of us have a problem with forgiveness. We think we deserve forgiveness when we’ve done something wrong, but we have a hard time handing it out when someone has done something wrong towards us. So what we need here is a good working understanding of ‘forgiveness.’

As we’re still working through Matthew 6, Jesus speaks this next request in the model prayer in a different way than we might expect. The way He words this prayer to the Father puts weight on us. The question isn’t only for God to forgive us. We are asking Him to do so in the process of us forgiving those who have sinned against us too. Action required. This isn’t just a “gimmee” request. Jesus knows that would be too easy…and against the true purpose of forgiveness.

Here’s how I look at this. Forgiveness is conditional, but handed out freely. We have to ask for it. We have to be at a point where we believe with our whole heart that Jesus died and rose as the Son of God to bear the punishment for our personal sins…as well as the sins of our neighbor, family member or enemy. Thus, if He can forgive them, we need to do the same.

My guess is that everyone has gathered in close to Jesus as He’s speaking this to the crowd in this section of Scripture. Heads are nodding in agreement with the short statements. “Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be your name,” has been spoken and the “Amens” go up. Jesus says, “Your will be done, here on Earth like it is in Heaven,” and those around Him speak out “Yes Lord” in agreement with the statement of prayer. Jesus then talks about asking for our daily needs. I can hear the people responding again in agreement. Most of them are not pulling down a million five per year. They get it. Then comes the next statement. I can hear Jesus speak, “And forgive us our debts…” and the people’s copy cat response…”Yes please Lord.” Then Christ drops the next line…”as we forgive our debtors.” This is where I can see faces drop to the ground. People look at each other with “uh oh” written on their face. There might even be a few who begin to walk away.

Ok, let’s ask the hard question. What if God forgave us like we forgive other people? How would your eternal salvation look based on your grace and mercy towards others who have wronged you? “Uh Oh!” Don’t walk away!

What is our purpose as a Christian? Jesus asked us to forgive like the Father…in a very dramatic way non-the-less…so this has to fit into this Christian living thing we’ve signed up for. God wants people back with Him like it was in the beginning (Genesis). We, as believers in Jesus, are called the church. The church is called the body of Christ. Therefore the body, you and I, are suppose to look and act and think and behave as Christ would. Christ is forgiving. We are asked to be forgiving in the same way.

What’s the purpose of forgiveness? Why do we need to forgive? Why do we need forgiven? When we see the true purpose I’m sure we will find the reason Jesus wants us to forgive like His Father does. Forgiveness is the only way to fix the problem between us and God. We’ve sinned. He’s perfect. It may seem like we’re completely stuck in a different place than the original plan…by our choice. God’s forgiveness makes a way for us to be back with Him. Forgiveness between people does the same thing. It makes a way for healing to begin. It gets junk out of the way. Satan hates forgiveness, because it messes up everything in his strategy to keep us away from God. When you forgive someone as God forgives, whether you think they deserve it or not, you put handcuffs on Satan. You are acting like God. God loves to see us act like Him…it brings glory to His name (Hallowed be your name). When you forgive, its like you’re turning to God and saying, “Ok, it’s not about me…it’s all about you.” People will see this attitude of Christ (Philippians 2:5) and God promises that through you taking the humble position, others will not see you, but God himself (Matthew 5:16). Purpose defined.

Here’s the specific question. Do people, even our enemies, see God through our acts, words and attitude of forgiveness?

Questions for growth:

  • What do you think is a good way to get better at forgiving?
  • Who do you need to forgive?
  • Do you need to do it vocally or publicly?
  • Have you forgiven yourself like God has through His son’s death?
  • Are you willing to forgive even if you feel it will get you nowhere with a certain person?

Love, Serve, Spread the Word,

ed

John Maxwell on Forgiveness

July 14, 2011 1 comment

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Hope Needed – You Can Provide.

April 20, 2011 Leave a comment

Categories: Grace Tags: ,

I only want revenge. Is that so wrong?


‘Might not be getting even…but it is Revenge’

Two missionaries in Africa were apprehended by a tribe of very hostile cannibals who put them in a large pot of water, built a huge fire under it, and left them there.

A few minutes later, one of the missionaries started to laugh uncontrollably.

The other missionary couldn’t believe it! He said, ”What’s wrong with you? We’re being boiled alive! They’re gonna eat us! What could possibly be funny at a time like this?”

The other missionary replied, ”I just peed in the soup!”

GETTING EVEN….RIGHT OR WRONG?

Revenge can get nasty.  A few years back I was privy to a “prank” situation happening among staff where I work.  If I remember right, it started with a roll of toilet paper and someone’s car.  It ended with no less than one full package of Oreo cookies twisted apart and stuck to the entire windshield of another person’s car.  Actually, it ended when the director of that area called a cease-fire.  The back and forth play lasted almost a couple weeks and was funny at times…but at other times…was a bit tense.  The tense times came when a victim of a prank didn’t laugh.  You could see revenge in their eyes.

Look where we’ve been.  Jesus has walked us through the concept of hate, adultery, divorce…and Jesus is now asking us to “turn the other cheek.”  I think there’s a pattern forming here.  Jesus has been laying out a lifestyle that will look foreign in our world.  Think of the one person in the crowd on that mount…listening to Jesus…who had been through it all.  Maybe there was one person who was dealing with hate towards his ex-wife who cheated on him and then divorced him and now Jesus is asking him to not hold a grudge…to not want revenge…in fact to possibly take on the heart of a servant and still love her as a Jesus would.  In the rodeo world, Jesus is saying, “Man up!…My way!”

Here are common phrases we hear today.  “Why I oughta…”  “He’s going to get what’s coming to him.” “I’ll take her for all she’s worth.”  “They think they’ve seen the last of me.”  “Fight fire with fire!”  “They haven’t seen nothing yet.”  I’m sure you could type in more…with much more colorful language.  We live in a world where getting even is the norm.  Jesus is saying that it is not His norm.  The Old Testament rule was to limit retaliation to equal parts.  Jesus came and gives us the principle behind the limit of an “eye for an eye.”  It’s all about keeping your heart pure, even in the midst of hate and relational separation.

Why?  Why does Jesus ask us to be like this?  We want to be able to stand and defend ourselves at all costs.  However, Jesus says that all power belongs to Him and all judging belongs to His Father.  Psalm 75:7 says, “It is God who judges: He brings one down, he exalts another.”  One of my favorite verses, Proverbs 25:21-22, says this, “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.”  What the heck does this mean?  It means that when you do something that is so out of the ordinary with this world, people won’t be able to just sit back and ignore it.  Your action will be noticed…even if in secret.  The world expects us to fight back…to retaliate.  The Gospel, full of Grace, expects us to forgive and to never stop serving.

Do you see how in this the Church is a force to be reckoned with?  We have the power.  This is how the Kingdom advances.  It’s not about us.  It’s about Him.  Our home is in Heaven.  When threatened with death, Paul knew where his real home was and was not afraid at all to speak truth and love and forgive all.  Can we be that bold to love and to continue loving even when our flesh wants revenge?

I often wonder what Peter felt when Jesus looked him in the eye and told him that nothing, not even Hell would stop the church.  My guess is that Peter, over time, realized what Christ meant and took him at his Word.  Peter, later in life, peacefully walked through beatings and jail time for living as Jesus asked him.  Eventually, Peter was crucified upside down.  He became known for his strength.  But it wasn’t strength of brute force.  It was strength of consistency and tenacity.  He did the right thing at all times possible and continued to spread the love of Jesus where ever he went…without revenge.  Perfectly?  No.  Forgiven?  Yes.  And Peter…and Paul after him…eventually met their Creator and received that welcome, “Well done…”

Can you match those actions…the actions Jesus calls us to?  Can you turn the other cheek?  Give more than asked?  Go farther than asked?  All for the sake of the One who created you and will welcome you into Heaven?  I hope so.  Tough?  Yes.  Possible?  Very.  Just imagine what our community will be saying about us if we can all get this right. Just imagine who might want the strength that they see in us.

Love-Serve-Spread the Word,

Ed

PS – Biblical example of not taking revenge and still keeping honor for the other person?  David and King Saul – 1 Samuel 24 and 26.

Questions for changin yer life:

  • How are you in the “Someone made me mad and I’m gettin even” category?
  • Can you see how revenge might hinder the passing of “the blessing?”
  • Can you see how Grace will make someone stop in their tracks and ask you, “What the heck!?”  What will be your answer?
  • Have you experienced Grace like this before, when you maybe deserved something else?
  • How will you deliver Grace to someone this week when they might deserve something else?  No, seriously…this week.  Make a plan.  We can talk about it all day, but if we never make a plan to get it done, it won’t get done.
  • Discuss next week how the plan was accomplished.   Who did you give grace to?  Who did you forgive?  Who did you go an extra mile with?  How did it feel?

Divorce

March 11, 2011 1 comment

 

DIVORCE

Matthew 5:31-32, John 4:4-26, John 8:3-11, 2 Samuel 12:24-25

I usually start these articles out with some small humor…not so these past couple weeks and for the next couple as well.  I simply don’t see Jesus grinning when He gets to this point of the ‘Sermon on the Mount.’  He is laying out what will be the basis for His ministry.  The principles behind the standards.  He’s laying out, for everyone to see, the reasons God handed down the 10 House Rules.  Oh, and He’s going to also live them perfectly for all of us to learn from.  This week we’re talking about divorce, and I feel that I need to lay some Scriptural foundation before talking about it directly.  My mind works in pathways.  I need to see starting points before I fully understand why we do something now.  So I’ll start with Adam and Eve.  Seems logical if we’re going to talk about couples/family/marriage.

Adam and Eve were created for each other (Genesis 2:22-24).  They were created from the same dust…literally, because Adam’s rib connected these two creations.  One was formed out of another.  We were made for God and for each other and literally out of each other.  We were created to…together…be caretakers for God’s creation.  God’s given purpose.   Adam and Eve also were called to bring more people into the world.  God’s given purpose.  Then sin came in.

Another point of principle.  Jesus tells us there are two priority commands.  Love God with everything you have.  Love your neighbor as yourself.  These two commands give us a picture of the first couple and their God.  But sin came in.

Jesus teaches that we are to lift other’s needs over and above our own (Matthew 23:11).  This fits very nicely into the basic principles we already see.  Other people’s needs are to be our priority.  We become less.   Those we serve become our focus.  Fits into marriage very well too, wouldn’t you agree?  But sin came in.

Paul writes that marriage is a picture of the church (Ephesians 5).  When we are in submission to each other as Ephesians 5:21-22 states we should be, it gives the picture of a couple in submission to Christ, to God the Father….a picture of how it was at the beginning…before sin came in.

But we know what happens.  Sin comes in.  We slack in our commitment to our fellow man and our spouse.  We think more about ourselves than our neighbor or our partner in life.  We do stupid things to jeopardize the commitment/covenant between us.  Sin comes in.

Now, let’s look at divorce.  Divorce is a picture of when things (sin, unintended consequences, and selfishness) come in and scrub out the picture God created for mankind.  Divorce has been the word used when a covenant is broken inside of marriage, or when two people simply don’t want the covenant to stand any longer.  Both are called sin.  Please remember, this isn’t Ed speaking.  This is Jesus in Matthew chapter 5.

Anything in life that pulls us away from God and our neighbor, from the intended purpose posed by God Himself, is sin.  That’s why Jesus has to call divorce sin.  It can be nothing else.  There is the one rule, that He stands firm on when divorce is ok.  It’s when the specific sin of adultery has been committed.  And, oh…remember what Jesus said was real adultery?  Lust.  Crud.  Most marriages are now open for legal divorce!  But remember what we’re talking about.  Jesus is laying down the basics…which are super hard teachings.  This stuff shows us how Holy God is and how imperfect we are…and why Jesus COULD be the perfect sacrifice for our sins.

Ah!  Forgiveness.  One of my favorite songs is called Second Chances and it’s from the Veggie Tales movie of Jonah.  Jonah has ran away from God…divorced himself from God.  God follows…and never gives up the chase.  While in the belly of the great fish…a classic song moment…Jonah hears that God is the God of second chances.

The woman at the well found that after 5 husbands and one live-in relationship, Jesus was willing to change her life and forgive her (John 4).  After hearing the accusations of the religious leaders against one woman, Jesus spoke just a few words to give us a picture of who is judge.  She was caught in adultery.  And even without specific witnesses, it seems it was true from what Jesus said.  The leaders wanted to stone her…and for Jesus to approve.  It didn’t happen.  They couldn’t take away her sin…they could just kill her in her sin.  Jesus can both take the sin away and destroy the consequence of death for us as well…and He did.  She walked away forgiven and with the encouragement to leave her life of sin.  King David committed adultery.  He laid his heart bare before God under the weight of guilt for forgiveness.  He knew he had ruined the perfect picture of a husband and wife before their creator God.  After an unintended consequence and forgiveness, God blessed him and his wife and their second child.

God is in the business of saying the past is in the past.  But He also says, “Don’t go back there and pick it up or repeat it again.”  I also believe that He, through the words of Jesus His son, intends for us to make amends with what we have done in the past.  We need to forgive and ask for forgiveness.  It’s only fair.  He offers it to us…and we don’t even deserve it.

Basics:  Is divorce wrong?  Yes…except in only one circumstance…and Jesus even made that circumstance broader to where we all have committed adultery.  Is it a sin that can be forgiven?  Yes.  Can we use forgiveness as an excuse for divorce?  Ummm, probably not.  Jesus is perfect and knows our reasons.   Can people forgive each other for wrongs done within a past marriage?  Yes…Jesus died for us.  We can change our heart as well.  Believe it or not, many divorced couples may be standing near each other in Heaven forever…and ever…forgive and ask forgiveness now on this side of eternity.

For everyone…divorced or not…plan for a relationship with God as He intended and plan for a marriage/family as He intended.  Lift the other person up higher than yourself as He intended.  And through it all, seek forgiveness and God’s strength to carry on through the hard things.

Side note.  Many have said that God will not give us more than we can handle.  I’ve heard this from many people who have contemplated leaving a relationship, a job, a church family etc.  That’s a lie from Satan.  God always gives us more than we can handle because it’s not just us anymore.  If we’re a Christian, the Holy Spirit lives with us.  So…anything that God allows us to walk through…we’re not ever walking alone.  The misconception comes from a verse that says that He will never tempt us with more than we can handle.  I take that to mean that He will always provides us with a way out before we step into sin.

Live by the standards.  And when you mess up, turn around and call your sin what it is.  Ask for forgiveness to carry on.  Our relationships with God and with each other are to be examples for other people.  Is there a chance others will see our “dirty laundry?”  Yes, but when they see us living in peace, that only comes through forgiveness and grace, they will see Jesus.  And that the highest purpose of all that we do.

Love-Serve-Spread the Word,

ed

The Heart of a Killer

February 25, 2011 Leave a comment

Anger leads to hate. Hate Leads to suffering. ~Yoda

The Heart of a Killer

Husband to wife: When I get mad at you, you never fight back. How do you control your anger?

Wife: I clean the toilet bowl.

Husband: How does that help?

Wife: I use your toothbrush.

Matthew 5:17 has Jesus telling the his disciples …and itching ears gathered around…that He hasn’t come to get rid of the 10 commandments or what the prophets of old had to say.  He said that He had come to fulfill them.  Fulfilling them is something that no one had ever been able to do.  Paul writes in Romans 3:10 that we are all imperfect when in view of God’s rules.  We have all sinned.  Jesus didn’t.  Jesus knew the correct view of sin…it is separation from God.

In these verses we’re focusing on this week, Jesus says that we’ve all heard that we shouldn’t kill…but He has more to say.  Don’t even hate.  Let’s go back to what God’s plan was and very much still is.  Us face to face, hand in hand, with Him forever.  Jesus brings up ‘hate.’  Isn’t that just the very opposite of the picture of Grace?  If there is hatred present, grace cannot be present.  Jesus’ whole life, sacrifice and resurrection was all about Grace!

As the church, God’s family on this planet, we are to not only be an image of God and His love, we’re to be His hands and feet as well.  Not only the hands and feet of Jesus, but also messengers both through words and actions. We’re the delivery people.  As UPS says in their current commercials, we’re the logistics behind the delivery of Grace.  Hate will completely mess this process up.

Yoda’s wisdom rings in my brain with this subject.  I know…he is a technical puppet in a movie from Hollywood…but when Truth speaks you listen and apply.  Here’s the quote, “…Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”  Uncontrolled anger will lead to us being separated more from our Lord and Creator.  It’s about that simple.

Jesus said at one point in His ministry that He had come to give us a full life (John 10:10).  Hating, staying in a state of anger, gossiping negatively against someone, slandering someone’s character even if they’re wrong…is stealing that full life from them.  The opposite of Life is Death.  Life is being in a full relationship with God and His son Jesus.  Death is the absence of that relationship.  Don’t let your hate potentially take away someone else’s chance at full life.  You might just lead them into hatred as well.  Ouch.

Looking at this through the eyes of Jesus, why would we ever want to steal that life from someone?  Why would we ever put ourselves in a position where we’re walking away from it ourselves?  This is huge in our world today.  Our world doesn’t need more anger or hatred.  It needs the opposite.  Guess what, as confessed Christians, we carry it (Life and Grace) around.  Hate will keep us from handing it out freely.

Giving up anger that leads to hate that leads to suffering and death is sacrifice.  Misguided and uncontrolled anger is based inside us…it is selfishness.  Giving it up is sacrifice.  Grace is a gift.  Here’s a snippet from a blog that I read regularly.  The writers of this online based ministry have started a little group to get people moving away from hate and toward a more grace filled life.  Here’s the site – http://www.potsc.com/potsc/the-grace-mob/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+PeopleOfTheSecondChanceBlog+(People+of+the+Second+Chance+Blog)&utm_content=FaceBook.  I know it’s long, but it will take you right to where this is excerpt is from.

We are GRACE in ACTION.

We’re setting out to be the first in line to forgive.
We’re racing to release grudges.
We’re making room for those on life’s margins.
We’re raising our voices for the vulnerable.
We’re accepting the unacceptable.
We’re becoming the Red Cross relief team for the disasters in people’s personal lives… and doing it in ACTION.

Hate will keep us from this type of attitude, behavior and life.  If we’re making choices that keep us away, how can we bring more people to the Truth of Jesus love?  This is where the church, God’s family, looks and acts and thinks and speaks different from anyone else on the globe.

Choose Grace.  Sacrifice your hate.  Life is short.  Heaven is forever.

Don’t have the heart of a killer….have the heart of a life-giver.

Love-Serve-Spread the Word,

ed

Categories: Grace Tags: , , ,
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