Monday, December 25, 2017

Christmas holiday

A wonderful old movie from 1947 called "The Bishop's Wife" starred Cary Grant as an angel named "Dudley," and a bishop (David Niven) and his wife (Loretta Young) during the hectic Christmas season.

It's one of my favorites, and I especially love the closing lines of the movie:
Tonight I want to tell you the story of an empty stocking. Once upon a midnight clear, there was a child's cry. A blazing star hung over a stable and wise men came with birthday gifts. We haven't forgotten that night down the centuries; we celebrate it with stars on Christmas trees, the sound of bells and with gifts. But especially with gifts. You give me a book; I give you a tie. Aunt Martha has always wanted an orange squeezer and Uncle Henry could do with a new pipe. We forget nobody, adult or child. All the stockings are filled... all that is, except one. And we have even forgotten to hang it up. The stocking for the child born in a manger. It's his birthday we are celebrating. Don't ever let us forget that. Let us ask ourselves what he would wish for most... and then let each put in his share. Loving kindness, warm hearts and the stretched out hand of tolerance. All the shining gifts that make peace on earth.

Have we chosen our gift for the Savior?

I pray that all of us will spend time with Him this season. I'll be taking a few days off and join you again soon!

Merry Christmas!!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Friday, December 22, 2017

Christmas rejoicing, V

Contemporary or traditional.....our music echoes the desire of the human heart to fill that God-sized hole in our hearts.....

I’m gonna make a wish this Christmas
I’m gonna say a little prayer
I’m gonna stop here for a moment
Before the moment disappears

The world’s in a hurry this December
City streets and shopping malls
I wish we could slow down and remember
The meaning of it all

Wherever you are, no matter how far
Come back to the heart, the heart of Christmas
Live while you can, cherish the moment
The ones that you love, make sure they know it
Don’t miss it, the heart of Christmas

Let’s make it feel the way it used to
Let’s find that wonder of a child
You can see the magic all around you
Come on, and open up your eyes

You can find it in the warm embrace of your family
Or calling up a long lost friend
You can even find it in the eyes of stranger
When you reach out a helping hand

Wherever you are, no matter how far
Come back to the heart, the heart of Christmas
Live while you can, cherish the moment
The ones that you love, make sure they know it
Don’t miss it, the heart of Christmas

In the shadow of a steeple
In a star that lights the way
You will find Him in a manger
The heart of Christmas has a name

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Christmas rejoicing, IV

Sometimes even Christian artists fall prey to the desire to make a song "their own." To add or embellish a lovely melody with their mighty, God-given talents.
Then there are those who simply allow the simple melody and awesome words to be pondered as they sing.....

Think about that holy night as they sing....

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Christmas rejoicing, III

Thank you Lord!

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! (II Corinthians 9:15)

Gloria in excelsis Deo!!!!
Glory to God in the highest!!

You may have seen this before, but it's lovely, and I wanted to share it again....

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Christmas rejoicing, II

I'm hopeful that these songs this week prepare us for rejoicing -- not in the lights and presents, not in the wonderful food, but in the time of celebration. Let's be mindful that this is the season we celebrate God's wonderful, indescribable gift to us!

Monday, December 18, 2017

Christmas rejoicing, I

The imagery in the words to this song is particularly vivid.... I hope you enjoy this Christmas song and that it blesses you in this season.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Don't let dust accumulate.....

We've noted this week that we need the nourishment of the Word of God; that it is just as important to our lives as mother's milk is to a newborn babe.
Yesterday we saw Peter's two strategies that will result in a craving for the Word: put off the old sins, some of which he listed, and focus on the kindness and mercy of the Lord.

Today, let's make a practical application -- exactly how we drink in God's Word.

First of all, we need to read it! SO MANY Christians don't read their Bibles! God chose to communicate His Word to us in written form, and whether we read with a Bible in our laps, or whether we listen to audio forms in our car or our armchair, we really need to get into His Word.
New believers should probably start in the New Testament, and perhaps read it through several times. Move on to the Psalms and the Proverbs, and then tackle the whole Book. We can read through the Bible in a year if we read for just fifteen minutes a day! No, we won't grasp it all; not in a lifetime will we fully understand everything there. But if we pray for God to show us something about Himself, about ourselves, and about how He wants us to live, He will honor those requests. Like a newborn baby, we shouldn't let anything keep us from our "feeding" times!

Second, we need to study it. It's not just milk that fills us up and makes us feel warm and fuzzy. It's also rational, head knowledge milk. We have to think and meditate on it in order to understand it. We need to avoid "speed reading" it, and observe it carefully. If something seems difficult to understand, compare it with other verses and ask, what does this passage mean in light of the other verses? Use a good commentary; look at any notes in the center or on the bottom of each page; look in the concordance to find other verses that may assist in understanding.  Above all, pray about it....what does it mean to us? How do we need to obey it? It's also important to memorize portions so that God can use them in our lives during times when we need His guidance.

Thirdly, the image of milk, and of tasting the Lord's kindness must have been Peter's way of calling his readers (and us) to get "up close and personal," to check things out for ourselves. The Word of God is to fill our lives with delight, because we are coming closer to our Creator and we are enjoying His presence. Tasting points both to personal experience, and to enjoyment. I can't taste for you -- I can taste something and try to describe it, but that falls way short of your tasting it for yourself! We can hear things at a distance, and smell things, too, but tasting is an "up close" experience, touching something to our tongue. And once we like the taste of something, we want more. God's Word is that way for everyone who has tasted His kindness.

The final result will be our spiritual growth..... Peter tells us that in the latter half of verse 2:
Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, (I Peter 2:2b)
As we read, understand, internalize, and use what we find in His Word, we will grow spiritually. Growing more like Him each day is one of our goals as believers.

Recently I was reading a sermon from several hundred years ago; a Puritan preacher in the 1620's, John Rogers, was really bearing down on the five hundred or so people listening intently to his sermon. He admonished them, acting as if he were the Lord, looking at them, saying:
"I have trusted you so long with my Bible.... it lies in such and such houses all covered with dust and cobwebs; you care not to listen to it. Do you use my Bible so? Well, you shall have my Bible no longer."  Then he took the part of the people, pleading with God for a second chance to keep His Word. Finally, he ended the sermon saying that perhaps God would say, "Say you so? Well, I will try you a while longer; and here is my Bible for you. I will see how you will use it, whether you will love it more, observe it more, practice it more, and live more according to it." His congregation was in tears, and redoubled their commitment to read and live by the Word of God.

What would we say if God told us that we had not valued His Word, and He was taking it away? Think about that for a moment.....

Do we have a craving for His Word? If the answer is no, then why not? I'm preaching to myself here, not just to anyone else who reads toes are getting smashed but good!

Perhaps there is sin in our lives. We need to confess it, turn away from it, and get back into the Bible!

Perhaps our appetites have been messed up by the "junk food" of this world. Maybe we have filled up on stuff like television, facebook, and other things. Maybe we've put too much time into what is sold as self-help or Christian books, under the label of Christianity, but which waters down the Word of God with human "wisdom."  This kind of thing makes us feel full, but doesn't nourish the soul like our Bibles do.  Ration these! Make sure the majority of our time is spent in His Word, and talking with Him.

When we hunger for God and His truth, we will drink in His word like a nursing babe. We must have it above all else, if we want to grow in our salvation.
Let's read our Bibles!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

God's Word nourishes us

Even if we have not been parents ourselves, we have probably known family members who have brought home newborn babes, and one thing that our Creator God instills in these wee ones is a motivation, a craving, an instinct to find mother's milk. These new lives are "programmed" if you will, to turn toward anything that brushes their cheek, as if to latch on to mom's breast and receive that nourishment. And they have a powerful response to anything that lands on or in their mouth! If you place the tip of your finger in their mouth (sure hope you washed your hands first) they will suck VERY vigorously on that.....until, of course, they realize they aren't getting anything, and then they will let loose and cry!
Peter is saying that we should be just as motivated to drink in God's Word.
How do we get that kind of motivation? That craving? That intense desire? There are so many things clamoring for our time and attention in this mortal world....
He gives us two strategies rolled into one.
Let's look at our verses again:
Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. (I Peter 2:1-3, NIV)
The first thing Peter tells us to do is to get rid of some sins that hinder the Word's effects in our lives. In the NIV, which I posted there, the words are translated "rid yourselves" but in others, we read "put off." To put off means to cast aside these sins, just as when you come in from working on the fence-line beside the driveway and your clothes are muddy. You toss them aside. (In that case, you want those clothes back again after they've been washed, but that's another story.)  Just as you toss aside dirty clothes, Peter says to put off these sins..... these are baggage from our past. Before we were saved. And they can hang on, like the mud on your boots. These surround us, after all, in this sinful world, and they are standard operating procedure for many people in this world! Especially when they get into tough situations!
But Peter notes here that they can hinder our spiritual growth, and that they must be discarded as the filthy rags that they are. (Even what we think are "good" and righteous deeds miss the mark.)
All of us have become like one who is unclean,    and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;we all shrivel up like a leaf,    and like the wind our sins sweep us away. (Isaiah 64:6)
Let's look at Peter's list..... "malice" is a general word that was used to mean wickedness of every kind, but it especially referred to having a grudge or seeking to harm someone. "Deceit" is an easy one.... to trick or mislead someone by telling them something that isn't true. Usually means you are full of ulterior motives in your dealings with the other person. "Hyprocrisy" we've noted before comes from the word that means to wear a mask; it refers to the many ways that we can fool people by projecting a false image. For instance, if we are inconsistent in the ways that we behave at church and at work, or other areas of life, we are hypocrites.
Envy is the root of much of the deceit and hypocrisy in this world; it means that we are jealous of another person or the things that they have.  It was even the motivation behind the crucifixion of our Savior; the religious leaders of the day were envious of His popularity. And then, envy often is demonstrated by all kinds of slander. Speaking against someone. Slander is closely tied to deceit and to hypocrisy, since the slanderer will say nice things to the person's face but then disparage them behind their back -- all with the goal of making the slanderer look good in everyone else's eyes.

As believers, our communications should be the opposite of all these worldly ways. We are to speak the truth in love, and our motives are to be pure:
Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4:15, 29)
Peter says that we are to put off these wrong ways of relating to other people -- he is implying that we are both responsible for these sins, and that we are able with the help of the Holy Spirit, to put them aside.  It doesn't take years of therapy. We don't need to delve into our past. We simply need to make a decisive break with our past and daily ask the Spirit for His help.

The second half of the strategy to be motivated to drink in the Word is to focus on the kindness of God:
now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. (I Peter 2:3, NIV)
For Peter, it was clear that Christ is the Lord. This is actually a quote from Psalm 34:8, and it shows that Peter believed Christ to be God (or Yahweh, to the psalmist). I wonder if Psalm 34 was one of Peter's favorites.... He quotes from it again over in chapter 3 (if you'd like to skip over and read, it's the 10th through the 12th verses). And the theme of Psalm 34 is very similar to the theme of what we call the book of I Peter; his first letter to the believers has nearly the same theme as that psalm. He tells them that if they are in distress, they should seek the Lord, and He would deliver them from all of their troubles.

In verse 3, Peter is referring specifically to the Lord's kindness and grace that was shown to us when we trusted Him as our Savior, and gave lordship of our lives to Him. If we are saved, we have tasted of the Lord's kindness, because we know very well that we deserved His judgement. Yet He showed us mercy!
But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8, KJV)
The cross of Christ, where a holy God made a provision for us, the sinners, so that we could experience His forgiveness and receive eternal life as a free gift, should be the focus of every believer, every day.

Putting off the sins of the past, and tasting of the Lord's goodness are how we remain motivated to drink in His Word, and study it every day..... we'll be growing in Him when we do!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Inspiring verses

This lovely season of the year is punctuated with hymns and carols that celebrate the coming of our Savior. Many of them echo or even quote directly from the Word. For example, look at these verses:
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)
For to us a child is born,    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;    from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. (Isaiah 11:1)
because of the tender mercy of our God,    by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven... (Luke 1:78)
The carol "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" is most commonly sung during the Advent season, and both the words and the plaintive melody certainly evoke the sadness of a people who longed for their promised Messiah.

The Messiah came! There is probably no other musical masterpiece that contains more scripture than Handel's Messiah.....take a listen if you have a recording, and be inspired by God's Word!

Has a verse or a passage inspired you? Leave a comment to bless others as they read and study.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Digging into the Word

Well now, it's time to get back into the studies of I Peter, don'tcha think? (Grin) We will look into chapter two and see what we find.....

Our passage for this week is this:
Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. (I Peter 1:1-3)
Let's dive in!
I believe that if Peter could be here and talk to us today, he would be very excited -- he would be enthusiastic as he told us, "Get into God's Word! Consistently! Even more than the food you eat, you need God's Word!" He might tell us to cut out television and newspapers, to stop looking at social media so much, and to spend that time in the Bible.
His point is that we must have God's Word to grow in our salvation. It imparts life to us, and then it nurtures it. If we don't spend time in His Word, we will find ourselves in serious trouble!

Peter tells us in verse two that the Word is pure; the Greek word he uses means "not deceitful." It also carries a meaning from that day of "not watered down." Dishonest merchants of the time would add water to their milk to make more profits. This was, then, "deceitful" milk..... it may have looked like milk, but it would have tasted watery, and it would not have been as nutrient-dense. Peter tells us to long for the pure milk of the Word.
Our practical application is this: the Bible, if you "take it straight" and not watered down, tells us the honest truth about ourselves.  It reaches inside of us and exposes the thoughts and motives of our hearts -- there is nowhere to hide!
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:12-13)
Have we ever felt like the preacher or speaker must have known about what we needed to hear? Do we ever feel like someone must have told them about our problem or dilemma (or maybe our sin) and they are talking right to us? It's not the preacher; it's not the speaker; it is the Word of God! The Spirit can take their words and aim them right at us, to "take care of something that needs fixin'" as my grandma used to tell me. The Word of God cuts right through the fog and the deception, and tells us what we need to hear.
Now, I suppose you are aware, as I am, that there are many churches where the Word of God is being "watered down" by preachers and leaders that want to be liked. They want to grow their numbers, as they say, and to do that, they make everyone feel good about themselves. No negativity there! But that is somewhat like going to a doctor who prescribes sugar coated pills instead of real medicine! It tastes good but it doesn't deal with the root of the problem. In the Old Testament, God said:
“From the least to the greatest,    all are greedy for gain;
prophets and priests alike,    all practice deceit. They dress the wound of my people    as though it were not serious." (Jeremiah 6:13-14a)
The Bible tells us that the root of our problems is our sin. If we confront our sin and take the Bible's remedy for it, God will bring lasting healing and eternal life. The Word is pure, and shows us His path when we go astray.
I found in the commentaries that the next part of verse 2 says the Word is "rational." The word translated "spiritual" also means "rational" in the Greek, and it's also used in Romans, when Paul says that presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice to God is our "spiritual (or rational) service of worship."  What does he mean? Well, it's a spiritual thing to do, because we don't literally offer our bodies as a burnt offering, but yield ourselves to the will of God. And when we think about God's great mercies to us, it's a reasonable and grateful thing to do!
So, I think that Peter uses that term to show us that he is not talking about literal mother's milk, but about the spiritual milk of the living Word. This spiritual milk is grasped and understood with the mind.
Where the purity of the Word will expose our sin and move us emotionally, I believe Peter is saying that the Word will also be revealed and understood with our minds. Many Christians operate on the basis of feelings; emotional highs and lows of spirit. Other Christians operate on a theological basis, and are afraid to show their emotions.  Perhaps a better way would be to avoid those two opposites: to let the Word fill our minds with the knowledge of God, and to also move our hearts when we consider His majesty and love.

Lastly, God's Word is nourishing to believers. Peter makes the analogy to newborn babies. Perhaps he wanted to make a point slightly different from Paul's mention of Gods' Word as meat, in I Corinthians. This "milk" is simple enough for the youngest infant, the newest believer, and is solid enough for the mature saints among us, as well!
Our great Creator designed a mother's milk as the most perfect food for her newborn child. It carries immunitive powers to protect the baby from many illnesses. It has everything needed to nourish the baby so that healthy growth occurs. In the same way, God's Word will protect us from the spiritual diseases and sins that we are prone to, and will nourish us so that we grow in the Lord.

Our home has a special place on our screened porch where there are lots of pencil marks and numbers and names. That post on the porch is where the kiddos would back up and stand, and once we made sure they were not standing on their toes, we'd mark their height and see how they had grown from the last time we measured. The children were so excited to see they had grown!
God's children should be just as excited about growing in their salvation. Just as physical growth may not be readily visible from day to day, spiritual growth may not be instantly seen. But if we keep feeding on the milk of the Word, we will be nourished and we'll grow over the long term!

We'll talk more about this next time!

Friday, December 8, 2017

Friday slowdown

This song seemed to go right along with our studies this week:

It's the hardest thing to give away
And the last thing on your mind today
It always goes to those that don't deserve

It's the opposite of how you feel
When the pain they caused is just to real
It takes everything you have just to say the word...


It flies in the face of all your pride
It moves away the mad inside
It's always anger's own worst enemy
Even when the jury and the judge
Say you gotta right to hold a grudge
It's the whisper in your ear saying "Set It Free"


Show me how to love the unlovable
Show me how to reach the unreachable
Help me now to do the impossible

Forgiveness, Forgiveness

Help me now to do the impossible

It'll clear the bitterness away
It can even set a prisoner free
There is no end to what it's power can do
So, let it go and be amazed
By what you see through eyes of grace
The prisoner that it really frees is you

Thursday, December 7, 2017

What about forgiving ourselves?

What about forgiving myself?

What about when the one whom we are holding unforgiveness toward is ourselves?  What if the anger is directed inside?
What if the bitterness that eats at us is directed at our own selves? It's a gnawing pain that makes us cringe when we think of the past sin. We shudder at it. We ask ourselves, "Why, oh why, did I do that?"  Or why did we say it.... or why did we turn the other way when we should have spoken up? Or helped someone? We just can't seem to move past the sins of the past..... and our deep regrets will not allow us to forgive ourselves.

One of the reasons we may find it difficult to forgive ourselves is because someone else hasn't. If we have wronged people and they can't find it in their heart to forgive us, then as a result we don't feel like we should be, or can be, forgiven.
Another reason can be that someone else we've wronged is out of touch. Perhaps they have even passed away. We look at the situtation and think that if we can't make amends, we can't be forgiven.

Anyone nodding their head here?
What can we do?
I believe that in order to forgive ourselves, we must trust in God's forgiveness. Listen to Paul:
I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service. 13 Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. 14 The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. (I Timothy 1:12-16)

Think about it for a minute.
Paul had so many things to regret from his past life. In his old life, he condoned and watched the stoning of Stephen for his faith. Then he ferreted out and pursued and persecuted Christians of all ages -- men, women, children -- it didn't matter. His fierce hatred for believers made him work hard to imprison and kill Christians until his name was known far and wide, and inspired dread in all of the believers.
Talk about having regrets!
Now, he was one of them. He had become the very thing he had sought to destroy.
Perhaps this was Paul's "thorn in the flesh" that he talks about in II Corinthians. It may very well have been a physical ailment, but it could also have been the thoughts of his horrible past life and the many murders on his conscience. (II Corinthians 12:7-10)
Paul pleaded with Jesus to take away the messenger of Satan that tormented him. Jesus told him that His grace was sufficient. His grace was all that Paul needed, in order to take away the overwhelming guilt and shame.  I believe this may have been Paul's thorn. Maybe not. But in any case, it was Jesus' desire that Paul give his regrets over to Him. The same grace that saved Paul was the grace that forgave him -- wiped the slate clean so Paul could forget about it.
We shouldn't allow the past to claim our thoughts any longer. God's grace is enough for us to be able to more forward, and leave our regrets behind us.

After all, if we look in the Word, we find plenty of godly people who had less than perfect resumes. Amen?  Moses committed murder. David committed murder and then ordered a murder to try to cover up his initial sin. The list goes on.
Here's the point: if God can not only forgive but also use people like this in His kingdom, why not us? God wants to forgive us, and He wants to have us be working parts of His kingdom. We have not done anything that He can't forgive. Why? Because He is love, and He is forgiveness. If He is not holding it against us, why are we?  He has put it behind Him; we can too! He wants us to move forward, not backward!

To finish up this two week study, let's look again at the results of unforgiveness and of forgiveness. The result of bitterness, hatred, and unforgiveness is destruction!
For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. (Galatians 5:14-15)
The church in Galatia had gotten caught up in a whirlwind of religious disputes and they produced quarreling, conflict, and strife. What an interesting analogy Paul uses! When we are fueled by bitterness, anger, hatred, and unforgiveness, we are devouring and destroying one another..... we are destroying the joy and peace of spiritual lives ruled by forgiving spirits.

The outcome of love, though, is just the opposite! If we are ruled by love, then we are promoting and nurturing forgiveness, as well as all the other positive, wonderful virtues of the Christian faith. And to tell you the truth, what results from forgiveness can be pretty amazing! Salvation, restoration, glorifying God, and getting kingdom work done!

Let's covenant with Him to show the forgiveness that He showed us, to all whom we come in contact with..... during this lovely Christmas season, and all of our lives. Let's let forgiveness become a habit. We will overcome bitterness, anger, and past sins, too.

Praise the Lord!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Smothers fires..... and works like glue

I never realized that something that extinguishes fires could also hold things together, did you? We'll see that today....

We've touched on a lot of important themes the past week or so. One has been that forgiveness can overcome many of the negatives in our lives: anger, resentment, bitterness.
Forgiveness and love walk hand-in-hand.
We talked last time about how when love is at work, the offense someone has done to us is dealt with and we move on. That is the timeline of true, overcoming forgiveness; that is how it works. We throw a real monkey-wrench into the mix when we repeat the offense to another. When we talk about it. We run the risk of separating friends, and also of being a troublemaker.
Whoever would foster love covers over an offense,    but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends. (Proverbs 17:9)
When we spread the news of an offense, and repeat it to others, that's not love being promoted. We're not pushing love to the forefront. On the flip side of the coin, if we keep it to ourselves, and the matter dies with us, then we have done well.
We've utilized both love and forgiveness in order to smother the fires of bitterness, anger, and more. We've deprived hatred of oxygen, and it dies out.

This verse might be the best fire-smotherer of all:
It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. (I Corinthians 13:7)
See that last part? "Keeps no record of wrongs..." If I'm holding something against someone, I'm not loving them. Well, that doesn't mean that I don't love them at all, but if I'm keeping score, I'm not being ruled by love. I don't ignore the wrong -- as we said last week, I choose to forget it and move on. And the fires of resentment and bitterness are snuffed right out!

A practical application here: are we keeping a record of the wrong because it hasn't been dealt with? Because the person hasn't asked us to forgive them? Surely, that justifies leaving those fires burning, right?
Remember what we said before? It may not be easier for us to forgive, but it will be easier ON us if we do!  Unforgiveness eats away at us like a ferocious monster. It tears us up. We can be trying to "live peaceable with all men" and this unresolved matter keeps occupying our thoughts. Every time we think on it, our blood pressure goes up. We begin to get irritable, our stress levels go up..... the chain reaction, the fires that are not yet smothered, eat away at us.
Does any of this benefit us?  Well, no. It certainly doesn't. Now, the person who committed the offense may NEVER ask for forgiveness, but that doesn't mean that we need to keep the fires burning.
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:13)
We've come full circle: we've come back to remembering that we don't deserve His grace any more than the other person; so we can find it in our heart to forgive. To smother the fires with forgiveness and with love.

Would you look back at Colossians with me for a moment? I caught a glimpse of the "working like glue" part.....
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. (Colossians 3:12-14)
So, the second part of true, overcoming forgiveness is the "glue" of love. There's a list of virtues there for us as believers, and love is the glue that holds them all together! I can't show compassion or kindness unless I have love. There is no gentleness or patience without love. I can't bear with you and forgive you unless I have love....
You and I both know there are things that rankle us about other people. Never mind that some of our habits or mannerisms may irritate them..... (Grin) Some things are minor, and some are major, but they can all be handled with love. After all, being testy, irritated, frustrated, or easily angered are not responses based in love. We've all been there, no?
The key to having patience and tolerance, the glue that holds it all together, is love. Love allows us to deal with difficult people. (It also allows them to deal with us, just sayin'.) Love allows us to not over-react. To remain calm. Love is the glue that holds me together when I need to smother a fire with forgiveness.

Tomorrow we'll visit the issue of forgiving ourselves....sometimes that is a real problem for us as believers.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Prayer requests

I hope that you will join me in prayer today, asking God to help us have hearts of forgiveness.

The Christmas season is in full swing, and I'll just bet that you are enjoying the carols of the season, the lights, the warmth, and the anticipation leading up to the special day that we celebrate Christ's birth as a human baby.

That baby would grow up, living a spotless, sin-free life. Be a merciful and compassionate teacher regarded with either love or suspicion and hate.  No half-way attitudes here, they either loved Him or hated Him.

Arrested falsely, convicted dishonestly, punished undeservedly . . . He would look down as He died on the cross and forgive the struggling, noisy, mocking masses for their hatred and sin.

Praise God! He rose again and now is in heaven, interceding for us! His Spirit leads us daily to live more and more like Him...... and that means to forgive others, right?

Today let's pray that we can utilize what we've learned over the past few days. To love others, to forgive them, and then to choose to forget.

I kinda think we'll have the best Christmas ever!!

If you have a prayer request that we can join you in prayer about, please leave us a comment. If you have a praise for answered prayer, please let us know so that we can thank God along with you. And if you have something quite personal that needs prayer, just tell us it's an unspoken request -- He knows, and He will hear.

Monday, December 4, 2017

More thoughts on forgiveness

I surely hope that y'all don't think that this week, I'm striking a deceased equine repeatedly...... (Grin) My grandma would have said, "Don't beat a dead horse!"

I don't mean to bore you.
I certainly don't mean to offend.
But the Holy Spirit gave me just a few more thoughts to share this week. Hope that's OK!!

Are we overcomers?
Do we contain, in our earthly vessels, the spiritual quality of forgiveness? Forgiveness is a way to overcome..... to overcome anger, to overcome bitterness, to overcome pain.
We've all struggled with this in one way or another. Getting over being hurt can be truly difficult. But there is a large but subtle difference we need to see -- while it is easier to be bitter than to forgive, it isn't easier ON us. It's just easier FOR us.
What is easier ON us, is being able to forgive! And that will take love. Love inspired by His wondrous love for us.

So, step one in this process of overcoming is this: love has us covered.
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.  (I Peter 4:8)
Right off the bat, first and foremost, however you want to express it, Peter is saying that "Hey, this is important!" What follows those words? "Love."  Paul says almost the same thing in I Corinthians 13.... he talked about being able to do some wonderful things, but if there was no love there as a motivating factor, it wasn't worth a plug nickel, as my grandma used to say.
Peter also says to love "deeply." Other translations say, "fervently" or "intensely." I kinda think that is important. Why? Well, our anger, and hurt, and unforgiveness for someone can be pretty intense, too! So our love needs to be intense for us to have overcoming forgiveness.
What does he say next? "Covers a multitude of sins." I don't think he means to shrug them off. To say, "no big deal." To gloss over sins. What I think he is saying to us is that in order to forgive, we need to choose our battles, so to speak. Not make mountains out of molehills, and have unforgiveness in our hearts for small reasons.
So, to bring all the horses into the corral, Peter wants us to love each other, and to love deeply. He seems to imply that the greater the love, the deeper the forgiving spirit, since love can cover a multitude of sins.
Here is the latch on the door of the corral: the stronger that I love someone, the more I will fight to work through the offense and place it firmly behind me. It's simple -- I will cherish the relationship more, and then work harder to make sure nothing jeopardizes it!

Oh. But there's the rub.
When someone we care about deeply is the one who sins against us, doesn't it hurt that much more? Think about it..... it's true. The pain is deeper, the closer we are to someone. We're more likely to harbor resentment and hurt. It's different when a stranger hurts us -- we can easily dismiss it, because they don't mean as much to us. But when it's someone we love? It cuts more deeply.
Very, very true. But it's the love we have for them, and God's love for us, that will together form the foundation for our being able to show overcoming forgiveness. In the heat of the moment, our pain won't let us think, "Hey, I want to resolve this!" but deep down, we want it to be fixed. And it's that moment when we let love override our pain, that we are in a position to forgive:
Hatred stirs up conflict,    but love covers over all wrongs. (Proverbs 10:12)
You know what happens if you have a fire and you blow on it with an old fashioned bellows? You give it more feed it. It gets bigger! What about if you threw on some dry leaves, kindling wood, or a pine knot? Yep, it gets bigger still. That's what happens in our lives, when we feed conflict with anger, bitterness, and resentment. It's fueled, and gets even bigger. But when we smother a conflict with forgiveness, just like like smothering a fire with a blanket, the fire dies out.  Love can put the fire out.

We'll continue these thoughts next time....