Forgive

The story is told of a man that had been feeling very sick. He finally went to the doctor to find out what was wrong with him. The doctor put him through a lot of tests and found the source of his illness. The doctor said, “I am afraid I have bad news for you. You have rabies. It is in the advanced stage and you do not have long to live.”

The man bowed his head and asked for a pen and paper. The doctor asked if he was writing out his last will and testament. The man replied, “No. I am making a list of people I want to bite before I die.” 

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One of the major themes of the Bible is forgiveness; whether God forgives us or we forgive others. We are living in an age where it seems that everyone is overly sensitive and feel they have been wronged, offended, or cheated. As a result, they internalize the pain and refuse to forgive that person. 

Since God commands us to forgive, we must make a conscious choice to obey God and forgive. The offender may not desire forgiveness and may not ever change, but that doesn’t negate God’s desire that we possess a forgiving spirit (Matthew 5:44).  If you do not forgive others, God cannot forgive you! Matthew 6:14-15

Someone once said that refusing to someone is like you drinking poison and hoping the other person dies. 

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Don’t Just Listen

I think we all have, from time to time, left a worship a service where a sermon was preached and said something along the line, “I did not get anything from that message.” That got me to thinking, why didn’t we? I am sure there are many reasons but allow me to share just two.

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1. I once heard a preacher say he believed that God has something for everyone attending that service. That”something” may be different for each person. It may be just one verse that was read. It could be just one sentence or word that was spoken. If we believe God is Sovereign, and He is, everything is under His control including what transpires in that service. The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.” Ps 37:23 NLV 

2. I think that we are so preoccupied with other things that when we come to church we have little [if any] expectations that God will speak to us. Matthew 11:15 says, “Let anyone who has ears listen” It is like when we are having a serious “talk” with your son and you can tell he is hearing the words but he isn’t really listening and you say, “Do you understand what I am saying? The goal of the “talk” isn’t just hearing words spoken but the goal is a change in behavior.

So, the next time you come to church, come with the expectation that God has something to communicate with you personally. Don’t just listen; hear!

When I Grow Up…

As a parent, we look at our children as they are growing up and wonder what profession, calling or job is in their future. Michael Jr., the Christian comedian, tells of a time when one of his children came to him and declared when he grew up he was going to be a doctor! Michael Jr. said to himself “My son is going to be a doctor!” As his chest began to puff out, his son added, “or a dinosaur.” Kids!

An elementary teacher was having her students come to the front of the class and tell them what they going to be when they grew up. The students said they wanted to be a policeman, a pilot, a nurse, a doctor, a cowboy, or some profession you would expect a child to say. Just as almost everyone had shared, the door at the back of the class opened and in walked the District School Superident. He had the habit of making unnoticed visits to classrooms to observe the teachers. He sat down quietly and motioned for the teacher to continue. It was then that the teacher realized everyone had spoken that is except Billy.

Now every class has a “Billy.” You know that student that always causes trouble and does not the meaning of being quiet. When asked a question; his answer would usually embarrass the teacher and the rest of the class would roar with laughter. She was hesitant to ask Billy to go up front and share some crazy notion he wanted to be. She did not want to be embarrassed in front of the School Superintendent. 

But in all fairness, she had to let Billy participate. As Billy shuffled his way to the front, the children started to snicker in anticipation of another of Billy’s dumb answers. As Billy stood in front, ringing his hands, he said, “When I grow up, I want to lead a blind man.” No one was laughing as Billy made his way to his seat. You could hear a pin drop.

But isn’t that what Jesus is calling all Christ-followers to become? 

The greatest one among you must be your servant. Matthew 23:11

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Question Jesus Asked

Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? John 6:61                                                                                                                

What a powerful question.

There are whole parts of Jesus’ teaching that are offensive to us in our natural sensibilities. He was not hung on a cross because He walked around telling everyone to be nice to one another. People were offended by Him back then and the same is true today.

“Jesus, I don’t like what You have to say about picking up my cross. I don’t like that You say I am blessed when people mock me, persecute me and lie about me because I am Your follower. That offends me. I don’t feel blessed when that happens.”

“Jesus, I don’t like Your teachings on marriage or sexual ethics. They offend me. Jesus, I get the idea that we should not murder someone, but then You go and say don’t be angry? That’s offensive. And by the way, “eat Your flesh and drink Your blood”? That’s offensive too.”
Sometimes we want Jesus to be an “unoffending Jesus”—a version of Jesus who agrees with everything we already think likes what we already like, and wants us to do what we already wanted to do before we came to Him. But that Jesus is not the Jesus of reality. If you reduce Jesus to a cartoon who is not allowed to offend you, then be prepared that such a made-up version of Jesus won’t be able to save you either.

The sad reality is, not all who start out as followers of Jesus will stay followers of Jesus. But the Twelve stay with him, not because they are not offended but because they know that He alone has the words that give eternal life. Will you stay with Jesus when you are offended?

Questions Jesus Asked

The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?  John 1:37-38

Jesus often led people by asking them a thought-provoking question. His very first question to His first followers was “What are you looking for?” What astounds me is that Jesus’ first question to those who would follow Him is not about God, sin, politics, or family history. It is a question that gives us a glimpse into the heart of Jesus. It is also a question that gives us a glimpse into ourselves.

Jesus’ question gives us a glimpse into ourselves because it forces us to examine what genuinely matters most to us. We are all looking for something. There may be no greater tragedy than a life spent looking for the wrong thing. Most of us are looking for good things—security, meaning, success, love, hope—but we’re not always certain where and how to find it. Jesus is aware that we can be distracted by the cares of the world, looking for even the right things in the wrong places and in the wrong ways. His question stops us long enough to take measure of whether the activity of our lives matches what genuinely matters. 

The good news is that Jesus’ question also gives us a glimpse into His heart. In John 1:35–39 He offers these two men conversation and relationship. They answer by asking where he is staying. “Come,” Jesus replied, “and you will see.” He could have just given them the address of the house. But Jesus’ invitation shows them that He actually wants to be with them. In one short interaction, Jesus moves from a question that invites us to explore our lives and hearts, to an invitation to come and see if what we are looking for is ultimately met in Him.

Who Moved?

I remember hearing a story about an elderly couple that was out for a Sunday drive. Things were quiet when the wife suddenly broke the silence, “Sam, do you remember years ago when we were dating we would go out for a drive in the country?” Sam smiled and said, “Of course I do.” “And do you remember how we would sit close to each other? (This was before seatbelts were required.) Why don’t we sit close anymore?” Sam’s response was, “I didn’t move.”

The reality of that story is that every relationship requires maintenance. This may be the reason many couples divorce after 30, 40, or even 50 years of marriage. The kids grow up and go off to college; the husband and wife look at each other and realize they are married to a stranger. A relationship will not survive if you do not make the effort to keep it alive.  Often neither husband or wife will admit they “moved” in the relationship; they just drifted apart.

Our relationship with Jesus Christ also needs to be maintained. But we are the ones who need to keep that relationship alive and we do that by staying close to Him.  As with any relationship, you choose how close you want to be with someone. It is a choice only you can make. The wonderful thing about a relationship with Christ is He is always constant.

  • He never changes. Hebrews 13:8.  
  • His love for you never changes. Psalm 136 
  • His commitment to you never changes. “…The Lord has promised that he will not leave us or desert us.” Hebrews 13:5

If your relationship with Jesus Christ has lost its fervor if it seems He is so distant; ask yourself, who moved? If you turn around you will find Him where you left Him!

Blending in? or Standing Out?

There are many things that hinder a Christ-follower was from maturing and growing in their relationship with Jesus Christ. Too often we settle for the status quo and do not make the effort to rise above the ‘norm.’ Worrying about other people’s acceptance of us is one of the greatest strongholds to overcome. Nowhere is this seen more clearly than in our teen years. Socialists use the term “peer pressure” to describe this natural emotion. This explains why some good kids do some bad things they would not normally do. They would rather “blend in” than “standout.”

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The Apostle Paul faced this in writing to the Galatian church. “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Paul is saying it is possible to be more people-oriented than God-oriented. Proverbs 29:25 tells us,“Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.”

It’s sad to see people who try to please everyone – one minute they are pleasing one person; the next minute pleasing someone else. They remind me of the chameleon. They change with the environment; trying to fit in with whatever crowd they are around.

Jesus told us there are rewards for whoever you are trying to please. If you are trying to impress and please people; their response is your reward.Mt 6:2, Mt 6:5; Mt 6:16.

If you are seeking to please God, your reward will come later: Mt 5:12 Mt 6:1 James 1:12 Just to name a few.

If we displease God, does it matter whom we please? If we please Him does it matter whom we displease?” ― Leonard Ravenhill, Why Revival Tarries: A Classic on Revival