Sunday, October 31, 2010

Forgiving the Unforgivable

Forgiving the Unforgivable
Nov 1, 2010
Genesis 50:17 ". . . I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly. . ."

Most are familiar with the story of Joseph, who was sold into slavery by his brothers. Joseph really didn't do anything wrong to deserve such harsh treatment by his brothers, but they plotted to kill him and sold him into slavery instead. Through Joseph's many years of suffering, after being enslaved and later falsely accused and imprisoned, the Lord was able to shape him into quite the man of God. In Joseph's twist of fate, he was elevated to second in charge of all Egypt and found himself staring in the faces of his brothers. What an opportunity Joseph had for revenge, except he didn't harm them or give them the punishment they rightly deserved. He forgave them. That's right, Joseph forgave them before they even had a chance to ask for his forgiveness.

It's one thing to forgive someone after he has come to you to beg for forgiveness, but it's another to forgive someone BEFORE he asks for it. Read Joseph's story to see for yourself. In fact, Joseph's brothers NEVER did ask forgiveness; they knew they didn't even deserve it. At one point, after their father died, his brothers were in fear of Joseph's possible retribution, even after he forgave them. His brothers knew Joseph would respect the wishes of his father. So they sent a messenger, in their stead, and told Joseph that their father had instructed him to forgive his brothers.

This story does not stop here though, it is picked up again by, none other than, Jesus. Jesus doesn't speak directly about the story of Joseph, but He tells us all to forgive our brothers. Jesus served as a messenger who instructed us that God, the Father, has asked us to forgive our brothers. Jesus' instructions parallel the forgiveness extended to Joseph's brothers. Your brother may not deserve forgiveness, like Joseph's brothers, but nonetheless, you are to forgive. In forgiving others, even before they deserve it or ask for it, you are representing the forgiveness of God. God provided for our forgiveness through the death of Christ, even before we asked for it, even though we never deserved it.

It gets better. Jesus tells us that we are to forgive our brothers or else God cannot forgive us. He was saying this to make perfect the forgiveness of the Father in our lives. Why would God forgive you if you were harboring resentment and anger and bitterness toward someone else? It would be a slap in the face to God, asking that forgiveness be extended toward you but not being willing to extend it toward others. If you asked for God's forgiveness, but were not willing to extend it toward others, it would demonstrate to God that you really didn't care about Him or His forgiveness, that you really didn't want forgiveness you just wanted to get rid of the guilty feeling. It would tell God that you really weren't repentant and changed, you just slightly felt bad for what you did.

There have, undoubtedly, been many people in your life that have never asked for your forgiveness. This doesn't mean you don't have to forgive them. You must. In forgiving them, you are making perfect God's own forgiveness in your life and becoming more in His image. Though your brother or sister may not deserve forgiveness, it is your obligation, as a Christian to extend it. In doing so, it might actually lead him to his own repentance before God. It's not easy to forgive the unforgivable. It took God putting to death His own Son, that we might be forgiven (recall it was Christ's death on the cross that provided for the forgiveness of your sins). In order to forgive, you may have to let something dear to you die, that pride of being right, in order that your forgiveness might be made perfect and complete, too.

And remember that unforgivable person. . . it was you at one point.

1. Who have you not forgiven, are there one or two people in your life who have never asked for forgiveness?
2. How can you forgive them, even though you don't feel they deserve it?
3. How can you put to death your resentment and bitterness in order to forgive, making you more Christ-like?

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Gen 45:4-8, Gen 50:15-21, Matt 6:14-16, Matt 18:34-45, Lk 17:3-5, Acts 5:31, Rom 5:8, Col 3:13, 1 Tim 1:15, Heb 9:22, 1 John 1:9

Sunday, October 24, 2010

My God Will Provide

My God Will Provide
Oct 25, 2010
Philippians 4:19 "And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus."

God will provide. Such a trite saying, so easy to say but very, very difficult to understand. I know this first hand. When the Scripture is talking about God meeting all our needs, it is talking about our physical needs. God knows that we have basic human needs: food, water, shelter, clothing, even emotional and relational support. The Bible says that God will be faithful to ensure we have those basic needs met. If you're reading this right now, there is no doubt in my mind that you need the provision of God in your life. In some area, you feel you are lacking and desire the provision of God. But I would submit to you that God IS providing. God has always provided for you, even through your complaint, and He will be faithful to continue His provision. BUT, God's idea of provision may not be the same as yours and mine.

I have been homeless. No, I was not living on the streets, but I lost my home years ago in the beginning of the current economic crisis. But God provided a place for me and my family. It certainly wasn't a presidential palace, but it was warm in the winter, dry in the rain, and safe at night. It wasn't MY home, we lived with someone else, but it was the provision of God. I had a place to stay; my needs were met. My needs were NOT met in the manner in which I desired, but God still provided for my needs. If you reflect upon your life, I doubt there have been many times, if any, when you've been forced to sleep outside in the elements. While you may not have eaten the greatest of delicacies for every meal, there probably have been few times you've actually gone to bed without enough food to sustain you or fat on your body to keep you from being faint. The fact of the matter is, God has ALWAYS provided for you and me. The problem is that we don't like the sufficiency of God. We feel we are due more than we have because of the gluttonous society in which we live.

God, the Father, has promised to meet all your needs. He has promised to clothe you far greater than the lilies. God has promised that your children will not go begging for bread. God has promised that if you will seek first His kingdom, then even earthly riches would be given to you. BUT, He never promised to provide for you to the point where you don't need Him or His provision any longer. We want more so we won't have to trust in God to provide. We want to provide for ourselves and trust in our own storehouse, eliminating the need to trust God for tomorrow. If that is your desire, to have a storehouse so you don't have to trust God to provide, then you will never know the peace of His sufficiency. God will not put you in a position where you don't need Him any longer. God will not put you in a place where you will never have to trust in Him again. God is not interested in you trusting in yourself; He desires that you entrust yourself to Him for the provisions for need in this life, however humble that provision might seem.

God's provisions, though, are for His children; they are not for the wicked. You cannot claim the rights of a child of God if you are not behaving like a child of God. You do not get the protection of the Father if you are not living in the Father's household. You do not get the riches and inheritance of the Father if you are not a son or daughter, a rightful heir. So, if you lack, first consider if God is truly your Father. If you lack, first consider if you are seeking His kingdom and His righteousness. If you lack, first consider if you are trusting in God or if you are trying to eliminate the need to trust in Him for your present and future needs. If you lack, first consider if you are submitting to the sufficiency of God or if you are trying to live above His provisions for your needs. If you lack, first consider if it is because you tried to live beyond His provision. If you lack, first consider that God wants you to trust Him today, and then rest in the peacefulness of His provision, however it might present itself in your life.

If you are having trouble trusting in the sufficiency of the Father, I encourage you to review the Scriptures below. My God will provide.

1. How is your sleep at night; do you rest in the sufficiency of God's provision, even if it means you lose a few earthly possessions?
2. How can you trust in Him to provide even though you don't know what tomorrow might bring?
3. How can you always have a dependency upon God and still make wise decisions toward the future?

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Ps 28:7, Ps 37:4, Ps 37:25, Pr 3:5-6, Nahum 1:7, Matt 6:33, Matt 10:29-31, Lk 12:26-28, Philippians 4:6-7, James 4:2-3

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Purpose of Prayer

The Purpose of Prayer
Oct 18, 2010
Ecc 5:2 "Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few."

God, despite being intangible, gives us a way to contact Him, to communicate with Him. It is called prayer. He gives us the opportunity to have a relationship with Him through an open line of communication. God established prayer from the very beginning, long before Jesus walked the earth. He wanted His children to know He was and is listening. This is probably one of the most generous things He has done for us, yet we don't utilize it properly; we are ineffective in our use of prayer. God gives us the wonderful tool of prayer, but seldom do we use or even grasp its full potential. Our prayer lives do not reflect what God truly intended them to be.

Go back to the Garden of Eden. God's original love was to physically BE with His children. Adam and Eve got to physically walk with God, to spend time with Him. They were able to communicate and share their hearts with each other. It was an intimate relationship, benefiting all parties, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Since the fall of man, God does not physically walk with us, but established prayer as a means to keep that closeness alive. The fall of man, though, makes that closeness difficult, as there seems to be further distance between us and God, much more distance than Adam and Eve had. That distance, a result of our sin, makes the relationship far more difficult, where even the greatest of men could not stand in God's presence, unable to look upon His face.

For this reason, the writer of Ecclesiastes said, "Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few." The writer, King David's son, Solomon, understood the purpose of prayer and was clearly aware of the humble nature of man in his relationship to God as a result of sin. But Solomon's words create a dichotomy in the Bible because in the New Testament, the Apostle Paul writes that we should "pray without ceasing." Solomon, the beloved of God, tells us to keep our mouths shut, but Paul, the appointed apostle to the Gentiles, tells us to pray non-stop. This creates confusion; does the New Testament trump the Old Testament writings?

The New Testament actually offers another verse, adding to the dichotomy of Paul's advice to pray non-stop. It reads, "And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him." This seems to reinforce what Solomon said about keeping our mouths shut. And these specific words were spoken by Jesus Himself. Jesus instructs us to keep our words few. These three verses, telling us to keep our words few but pray non-stop lead us to an understanding of the true purpose of prayer. Review those last few lines from Jesus' instructions, ". . . your Father knows what you need before you ask him." Jesus was saying that God already knows what's in your heart. For Adam and Eve, the relationship was set up so BOTH parties could know the other's heart, for true intimacy. But since God already knows your heart (and what's in it), the purpose of prayer for us is to know the heart of the Father. The purpose of prayer is to truly know and understand God's heart.

It has been said that you have two ears and only one mouth, suggesting you should listen twice as much as you speak. This should be true in your relationship with God. You are to be in a constant state of prayer, but not talking. You are to listen to God. So often, we go into our prayer time, tell God everything there is to know, and then go on about our daily lives. That is NOT what God intended for prayer. He wants you to go into a time of prayer with Him, but LISTEN instead of talk. You can't know the heart of God if you don't give Him the chance to get a word in edgewise. Listen very intently, because He is a gentleman; He doesn't yell and won't talk over you. Pray non-stop, just don't say much, if anything at all! You'll find that knowing His heart is far better than telling Him what's on your mind.

1. What does your prayer life look like?
2. How often do you come out of prayer knowing the heart of God?
3. How can you listen instead of talk, in an effort to hear from God's heart?

Don't take my word for it; look it up: 1 Kings 19:11-13, Matt 6:5-15, Romans 8:27, 1 Thess 5:17, James 1:19

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Measure Your Mercy

Measure Your Mercy
Oct 11, 2010
Matthew 7:2 "For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."

It is so easy to judge others. Every one of us is guilty of this EVERY SINGLE day. We see someone walk in the room and she doesn't even need to open her mouth before we think certain thoughts about her. You do it just as often, if not more often, than I do. We can't help it. For some reason, our predisposition to sin also predisposes us to judge others. We don't intend to judge people, we just do it. It is as natural as breathing sometimes. It might come naturally, but it is still wrong. Judging others is wrong, wrong, wrong and we all know it. If we all know it is wrong, then why do we continue to judge? The answer is in finding the opposite to the question. If we weren't to judge others, what WOULD we do? We would have compassion and mercy for them. You can't judge people at the exact same time you are having compassion and mercy for them.

Compassion and mercy do not come as naturally to us as our judgmental attitudes. It is not second nature, for most of us, to have compassion and mercy for our fellow man. This would be contradictory to our sinful nature, therefore compassion and mercy must be something learned rather than trusted to be instinctual. For God, though, it is instinctual. The Bible says that His compassion and mercies are new every morning. To interpret this correctly we must understand WHY His compassion and mercies are new every day. God doesn't wake up with a fresh load of mercy for us. In fact, God doesn't wake up at all; He has the same merciful attitude He had 1,000 years ago. It is the sinful person who rises in the morning NEEDING a renewed dose of mercy and compassion. We are the ones who are granted a new day and God is telling us we are allowed to start over with Him today. Despite the probability of falling into the same sin as yesterday, God allows us to start over fresh, receiving a new bath of compassion and mercy for our dirty, rotten selves. God's bath of compassion and mercy is renewed because our sin is renewed; He gives us a fresh start.

What a wonderful representation of love, to have a renewed sense of compassion and mercy every morning. I know I need it and so do you. This means your fellow man needs renewed compassion and mercy, too, FROM YOU. Your husband or wife needs your renewed compassion and mercy today. Your son or daughter needs renewed compassion and mercy today from you. Your co-working doesn't need judged today, he needs compassion and mercy. Your boss doesn't need your judgmental attitude today, she needs your compassion and mercy. The Bible says that whatever measure you use to judge someone else, it will be used against you. This is referring to the judgment you will receive from God in exchange for what you did to his children, your fellow man. But, your fellow man will also take notice. You know who is judging you; you can feel it in his eyes, in her tone of voice. You also know who has compassion and mercy for you; you've seen it a few times and it refreshes your face. Others notice it, too, when you have compassion for their cause. It is reciprocal.

When you have compassion and mercy on others they will, in turn, be far more willing to give you a little extra wiggle room the day you need it most. Your co-workers will be able to give you some extra compassion on those bad days if you've been generous to them in the past. Your children will have extra mercy for you when you act like a foolish parent, unless you've been too harsh with them for far too long. Your spouse will be more willing to overlook your offenses.

Instead of judging, try having compassion and mercy, even for that foolish person you just can't seem to stand. It's funny, it feels good to have mercy on others, even though it might not feel natural. Do it often enough, and you might replace that judgmental attitude you've been carrying with you your whole life.

1. What is your natural inclination, to judge or to have compassion and mercy for your fellow man?
2. How can you switch to compassion and mercy the moment you begin to judge someone else?
3. How could you go an entire day/week with having nothing but compassion and mercy for others?

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Lam 3:22-23, 2 Sam 24:14,Ps 25:6, Hosea 6:6, Micah 6:8, Zech 7:9, Matt 5:7, Matt 9:13, Matt 7:1, Rom 2:1, Rom 14:9-11, 1 Cor 4:5, Heb 4:12, James 2:4, James 4:11-12

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Earnest Rewards

Earnest Rewards
Oct 4, 2010
Hebrews 11:6 "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him."

Read this Scripture slowly: "And without faith it is impossible to please God because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him."

If you are reading this devotional, it is doubtful you disbelieve that God exists. We all know there is a God and He is at least somewhere "out there," probably up in Heaven. For many, this is the extent of their Christianity. They believe He exists but they don't believe what He says. This is true of you and me, more often than not. While you might argue your Christianity goes further than merely believing God exists, your actions probably do not prove otherwise. My actions don't prove otherwise; If I believed all of God's words, I would believe this scripture with all of my heart. You would, too. We would read this scripture, believe it, and achieve it. But we don't. For some reason, we don't want to please God, we don't want to earnestly seek Him, and we don't want a reward. Well, maybe. We at least want the reward part.

Everyone in our society wants a reward. We live in a place and time where we feel we deserve something, a prize, a present, a gift, a reward for simply being "me." It is the selfish dogma of electronic social networking, focusing on our own "tweets" or "blogs," believing we should get a prize. I tweet therefore I should be rewarded-- rewarded with friendship, notoriety, and the blessings that follow. No where is this found in Scripture. In fact, Scripture teaches the complete opposite of being selfish, which is opposite of how most of us live. We are not supposed to live to please ourselves but we are to live to please the Lord. That is kind of why He created us in the first place, to bring glory and honor to Him, to please Him. It takes faith to do that, faith to please Him. This is a bizarre concept; it doesn't take money or service to please God; it takes faith. It doesn't take tweets and blogs; it takes faith. Pleasing God is actually rather simple. But after we have faith, the kind of faith that pleases God, He gives a neat little formula for us to follow so we may go ahead and get a reward anyway.

The formula is actually a promise. If we do our part, He will do His. The formula, after we have pleasing faith, is to seek Him and believe. If we seek Him and believe, then He will reward us. So, we actually have to DO something to achieve a reward. We don't get rewarded for simply being "me," we get rewarded based on sincerity of actions, the sincerely of our "seek and believe." That reward, though, is not clearly defined in the Bible. If you interpret the Scripture correctly, the reward is based on what is being sought. If you dig for oil and are rewarded, you have found oil. If you pan for gold and are rewarded, you have found gold. If you earnestly seek God and are rewarded, you have found God.

Wow, to find God. We believe He exists and is somewhere "out there," at least up in Heaven. But to find God, wow. If I was walking down the street and I physically bumped into God, I would take out my cell phone, pull up my camera app, take His picture, and tweet to the world that I FOUND GOD, literally. But none of us do that because none of us has truly found God. We don't find Him on the street because we aren't earnestly, diligently seeking to find Him. We aren't digging for God as if for oil. We aren't panning for God as if for gold. We aren't daily on our knees in prayer, earnestly seeking to find His face, the face of the one true God, the face of the one who can set us free, the one who can heal our diseases, the one who can heal our land, the one who can make us whole. Because if we did this, we WOULD find Him. We would achieve the ultimate reward: the fulfillment of all that is lacking in our lives, because we would find God.

This is why the Scripture doesn't say what the reward is; when we seek God we will simply be rewarded. To name a specific reward in Scripture would be to limit what God could give us. Instead, He gives us EVERYTHING. When we find God, we have found the answers to ALL our problems. We will find ALL that we are missing in life. We search and work in this world in an effort to fulfill all that is empty within us, to make full all that is lacking, to satisfy the stomach of desire in our lives. But anything that is lacking in our lives could be had if we find God. You can have that reward; you get it by seeking for God with all your heart, mind, and soul.

We are all lacking in our lives, because we haven't TRULY found God.

1. What does "pleasing faith" mean to you?
2. How could you start earnestly seeking God?
3. What would it look like if you truly found God?

Don't take my word for it; look it up: 2 Chron 7:14, Ps 14:2, Ps 53:2, Pr 28:5, Is 45:19, Is 51:1, Jer 29:13, Hosea 5:15, Amos 5:4, Acts 17:27