It Took 39 Years to Forgive

Pam and I are winding up a two week visit of her family in North and South Carolina as well as Virginia.  We enjoyed hearing one story that lasted thirty-nine years full of anger, hurt and bitterness finally culminating into feelings of relief, healing and most importantly, forgiveness.

In 1981, one of Pam’s favorite aunts was divorced by her husband who had an affair with an assistant which led to marriage.  This crushed her aunt who never considered divorce a possibility.  As a result, she developed an unforgiving, bitter heart that affected her daughter, her son, and their families.  The hardness and harshness of her attitude disrupted holidays and special events such as her son’s wedding creating resentment within her family for thirty nine years. 

This past year, her aunt found an old recipe for rice pudding from a great grandmother of her ex-husband that she felt he would enjoy for his birthday.  She handwrote this recipe and gave it to her son who is a fabulous cook.  This was a huge and welcome surprise to her Ex and a great relief and therapeutic for all of her family.  Most importantly, it was healing to Pam’s aunt.  During our time with her there was freshness and a relaxed manner as she talked about her Ex.  SHE HAD FORGIVEN HIM and was no longer tethered to him which is what unforgiveness and bitterness produces.

Some of you are carrying a similar burden towards another.  Please forgive them. If not, you will remain tethered to them emotionally and spiritually until you do.  Most often, this unforgiveness is hurting others also.  Many times, this is devastating to family members.  Hebrews 12:15 speaks accurately in real, practical terms, “15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.”  This verse pictures what happened to Pam’s aunt and family.

Please forgive the one or ones who up to this point have been unforgivable.  The person that you have hurt the most is “you”.  Then, it’s your kids and others close to the situation.  You force others to make a decision whom they will side with.  A “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.”

It took Pam’s aunt 39 years.  Let me assure you that she would tell you to not do the same!  Forgive and watch God’s blessings unfold within you and your loved ones.

Conqueror

Do you want to be a conqueror?  I do! But there are many kinds of conquerors. Those who by force subdue the enemy; those who win over others through intellect; those who through deception lord it over others, and those who use money to become powerful and therefore subdue others.  At least that is what we think about being a conqueror. But what about the conqueror who keeps and obeys the orders of his or her commanding officer?  Interesting thing,  being a conqueror!  You and I can be a conqueror by believing in the power of the Commanding Officer in charge of us. No, I’m not talking about the President, although we are to obey the orders of the President of the United States.  But more so, as believers we are to be obedient to God first, and this is what is told to help us understand our orders: “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Messiah has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father also loves the one born of Him. This is how we know that we love God’s children when we love God and obey His commands. For this is what love for God is: to keep His commands. Now His commands are not a burden, because whatever has been born of God conquers the world. This is the victory that has conquered the world: our faith. And who is the one who conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?  Jesus Christ – He is the One who came by water and blood, not by water only, but by water and by blood. And the Spirit is the One who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.” 1 John 5: 1-6 A very special friend, who has a book written about her life, tells in the book about when she was not a believer and in the military. One of her peers, who was a Christian, was kind to her. My friend made it her mission to destroy this person, by thwarting everything she did and making her look like a fool. However, this “Christian” continued to love my friend, even knowing she was the one who was doing things to get her in trouble. She showed kindness and love whereas my friend showed hate and contempt. Who was the conqueror?  The love of this one toward my friend finally won out and my friend became a believer. She has been serving the Lord faithfully ever since. Good will win out over evil, even when we think we have lost the battle. That’s what God does! That is the love that pours out when the enemy thinks he was won. Nothing can beat the love of God found in Christ Jesus our Lord. Let’s not forget that, for we have a wonderful opportunity to show the world Who it is who lives in us.  As I read it; as I hear it through the Holy Spirit speaking to my heart, this is the way to be a true conqueror. So join me in being conquerors today. Let the love of Christ rule in your hearts. Let it flow to everyone you meet in spite of how they treat you, because that’s who we are. Pastor Andy

Do You Wanna See?

There is a character in scripture who often gets my attention.  Being blind from birth, he had every right to feel sorry for his plight in life and could have daily cowered into the dark recesses of his mind being a chronic burden on others, but he didn’t.  He was a blind man who ended up with 20/20 vision.  If you are like me, you want to know what he did to see.

Mark 10:46-48 begins the story, As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving Jericho, a blind man, Bartimaeus was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”  Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

  • “Bartimaeus was sitting by the roadside begging…”  You would think that a beggar would have been humiliated, disgracefully having to ask for handouts.  Not this guy!  He stayed within himself and embraced his predicament crying out for help.  James 1:9 instructs, “Believers in humble circumstances are to take pride in their high position.” In the kingdom of Jesus, those who are in humble or misfortunate circumstances should not feel disgraced while serving a mercy-“full” and grace-“full” God.  If you are in this position, you are not helpless. Cry out to Him! 
  • When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’”  When Bartimaeus heard that Jesus was passing by, he began to cry out for Jesus to have mercy on him.  He did not back down or back off!  He shouted out for Jesus.  In your difficulties in life, how do you behave?  Jesus tells us in Matthew 7:7, to keep on asking, to keep on seeking and to keep on knocking. 
  • Guess what happened next.  “Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’”  The rebuke of others ignited his hunger for Jesus!  Is this our attitude, or do we let others beat us down?  He shouted all the more!”

There’s still more to the story…the response from Jesus:

  • Jesus stopped and said, “Call him (v. 49)!  On a busy highway, the heart and cries of Bartimaeus stopped Jesus in His tracks!  He wanted to meet Bartimaeus.
  • So, they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” 50 Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.  Do you jump to your feet and immediately go to Jesus when He calls, or do you timidly, anxiously, slowly, or nonchalantly respond?  Are you a victim, passive, or passive aggressive and not act remaining in bitterness and inactivity? If so, you will never “see”. 1 Peter 5:6&7 emphasizes, Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you and will in due time lift you up.
  • Jesus asked, 51 “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” 52 Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you. Immediately, he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

Do you wanna see?  Throw your cloak (the things in life that “entangle you”) aside, jump to your feet, and go to Jesus (Hebrews 12:1&2).  If so, you will see!

70 X 7

In Matthew 18:21, Peter answered a question by asking another question, “Then Peter came up and said to Jesus, “Lord, how many times shall my brother sin against me and I still forgive him? Up to seven times?”  Peter was letting Jesus know how spiritual he was, “I am willing to forgive someone seven times.”  However, he was challenged and convicted by the answer of Jesus in verse 22, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy-seven times” which also can be translated “70 X 7”.  In other words, maintain an attitude of forgiveness.

Why should I maintain a forgiving attitude? “Candidly, I am bitter.”  Hebrews 12:15 gives you an electric answer, See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springs up causing trouble, and by it many become defiled.” 

We have two responsibilities regarding the process of forgiveness.  First, remain in His grace forgiving others even those who are a continual pain in the backside or have hurt you deeply.  We can’t do this on our own strength and must turn to the empowerment of the Holy Spirit within us enabling us to forgive.  Second, take the transgressor off your hook and put them on God’s hook.  Let God take care of him/her.  I assure you He will do it in a fair and impartial manner.  Romans 12:18&19 is clear, If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all people. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God.”  God will repay.  Galatians 6:8 guarantees recompense from our just God who at the same time mercifully and gracefully encourages the victim, “For the one who sows to his own flesh will reap destruction from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit.” 

Matthew 18:23-35 presents an ultra-forceful story regarding forgiveness.  It’s a bit long but well worth the read, Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’ But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened. Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” 

Forgive 70 x 7…

Speak the Truth

Reading in Acts this morning brought me to a place of reflection. You see, I have talked to a significant number of unbelievers in the past years that were right there. They understood what I was saying about Jesus; they understood the Scriptures from having been raised around the church, but they couldn’t or wouldn’t make a decision about Jesus – to accept Him or not. One particular person knew the bible better than I did at the time, but stated he didn’t want to change the way he was living.  I’m sorry, but I think that is grieving the Holy Spirit of God. Paul was faced with making his defense for being in prison for his faith, before King Agrippa.  Governor Festus was there at the time. As he was making his defense before King Agrippa, Festus spoke up: “As he was making his defense this way, Festus exclaimed in a loud voice ‘You’re out of your mind, Paul! Too much study is driving you mad!’ But Paul replied, ‘I’m not out of my mind, most excellent Festus. On the contrary, I’m speaking words of truth and good judgment. For the king knows about these matters. It is to him I am actually speaking boldly. For I am convinced that none of these things escapes his notice, since this was not done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you believe.”  Then Agrippa said to Paul, ‘Are you going to persuade me to become a Christian so easily?’ ‘I wish before God,’ replied Paul, ‘that whether easily or with difficulty, not only you but all who listen to me today might become as I am -except for these chains.'”  Acts 26:24-29   Now about the time that Paul was told he was out of his mind, is the time that many of us would have remained silent, and felt any more talking would be a lost cause. But not Paul. He was determined to speak the truth to King Agrippa and Festus, for his goal was not on himself or his personal safety, but his goal was on speaking the truth to a lost and darkened world.  He was put in front of King Agrippa and Governor Festus for a reason, and he knew that reason was the Lord. So speak he did!  When we are put in places that may seem uncomfortable, and think it does us no good to speak the truth of Christ, we should speak anyway, because it is not for ourselves that we are doing it, but for the sake of the Lord. That’s what being a disciple is all about. Speaking the truth when everyone around you is calling you crazy.  Speaking  the truth because that is our desire to serve the Lord, when He puts us in situations in which He desires us to defend our faith. Could you defend your faith?  It’s something that should be on everyone of our hearts and minds to think about. Could we defend our faith when put in front of those who will not believe? We can, if we keep our goal of service to Christ at the front of our thoughts. We can when we rely on Him to give us words and courage to speak. We can when we care enough about others to share the hope that is found in Christ our Lord. Pastor Andy

There’s There There…

No, the above is not a typo error.  The three “there’s” are used for emphasis.  The 2nd “there” means that there is a righteous and obedient heart available so that God is able to use you to serve others in a way that builds up His kingdom.  Hence, there’s there there

Matthew 6:1 admonishes us, “Take care not to practice your righteousness in the sight of people, to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.”  If the world sees us trying to live out “righteousness in the sight of people, to be noticed by them,” we are bringing glory to ourselves rather than God.  The result is there will be no “reward with your Father who is in heaven.”  Isaiah 64:6 is clear, “all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment.”  When we operate out from self, our ego is built up rather than God.  Our self-centeredness brings no eternal value.  In other words, there’s no there there.”

Matthew 6:2-7 gives us two great examples.  The first one is found in vv. 2-4, “So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, so that they will be praised by people. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your charitable giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”  Matthew is clear here, “do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, so that they will be praised by people.”  If your effort to give to the poor is well publicized, then your effort has no there there.  To have there there, “give in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

Matthew 5-7 declares, “And when you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they will be seen by people. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But as for you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”  No “there” resides in hypocrisy.  Sanctimoniousness, insincerity, and deceitfulness have a negative value in Christ’s kingdom.  Matthew instructs us, “when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret.”  A person who gets alone with God praying in secret brings great worth to Him.  1 Corinthian 1:9 states, “God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”  Our “calling” is “into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”  Quietly loving Jesus in fellowship and being open to receiving His fellowship of love brings enormously desirable to God.  There’s there there.

When we die to self and learn to live for His glory not ours, we discover with a great deal of joy… There’s there there!

I’m Too Weak

I am not a big NCAA basketball fan until March Madness.  It gives the small, less reputable teams a shot at the big, high profile programs.  You never know what is going to happen and who is going to win.  This past weekend did not disappoint.  Oral Roberts University pulled off a huge upset when they beat the #2 seed Ohio State, who won the Big 10 Tournament, 75-72.  Then, they followed up yesterday to beat University of FL.  Go Golden Eagles!  Our very own North Texas pulled another huge defeat when they beat Purdue of the Big 10.  Who would have thought a little private school in West Texas, Abilene Christian University, could beat gigantic University of Texas 53-52, but they did!  With 1.2 seconds left, 58.8% free throw shooter (the worst on the team), Joe Pleasant, with the pressure of millions watching stepped to the line like he had no care in the world and knocked down two free throws.  City school, Loyola Chicago, beat another favorite to win the NCAA Championship, University of Illinois, 71-58.  Allow me to reiterate.  I love March Madness.

The above is a great lesson for Christ-Followers.  We limit ourselves to our fleshly ability without engaging the power of God, the Holy Spirit, living within us.  Here’s is what God’s Word says in Galatians 2:20, I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”  It’s not me but “Christ living in me”. 

David lined-up on the battlefield with Goliath, the great Philistine warrior, who stood in stature close to 9 feet.  Not only did he step out on the combat zone, but he walked out with confidence.  Notice the engagement between the two as the battle ensued, The Philistine also said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the sky and the wild animals.”   This gigantic man of steel took the initiative fully convinced that he would intimidate this man with his powerful, deep voice.  Man, did he underestimate his opponent. 45 But David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a saber, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of armies, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the Lord will hand you over to me, and I will strike you and remove your head from you. Then I will give the dead bodies of the army of the Philistines this day to the birds of the sky and the wild animals of the earth, so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, 47 and that this entire assembly may know that the Lord does not save by sword or by spear; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will hand you over to us!”  We all know the conclusion.  With a slingshot and a smooth rock with expert technique, he buried the stone in the forehead of Goliath knocking the giant dead.  Liked David, learn to live in courage and trust God to work thru you.

You may be thinking that there is no way that I can live empowered like this.  “I’m too weak.”  2 Corinthian 12:9 will become your life verse, And Jesus has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”  Trust God and watch Him work in and through you.

Don’t Belittle the Little

The disciples had to be shocked how Jesus responded to their question in Matthew 18:1, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?  I am sure they were betting that Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Elijah, or David would be considered the GOAT (greatest- of-all-time) by Jesus.  Boy, did Jesus throw them a curve ball with His answer in verses 18:2-4, “And He called a child to Himself and set him among them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you change and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. So whoever will humble himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven”.  Jesus said the greatest is the person “who humbles himself/herself like a child.” The foremost characteristic in His kingdom is childlike humility. 

Thinking through past comments from Jesus, we should have realized that the GOAT in the Kingdom would be full of humility.  Only one time did Jesus describe Himself.  This description is found in Matthew 11:28-29, 28 “Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”  Anyone who lives in His presence and treasures a relationship with Him will be humble in heart,  

Peter concludes his first biblical book with a forceful discussion in 5:5-7, “all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because God is opposed to the proud, but He gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you at the proper time, having cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares about you.”  Peter stated that if you want to be in the heartbeat of Jesus, “humble yourself under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you at the proper time.”  Then, Peter tells us how we humble ourselves “under the mighty hand of God.”.  We turn the control of our lives over to Him completely by “cast(ing) all your anxiety on Him.”  Get off the throne of your life and surrender “under the mighty hand of God”.  Surrender never originates from pride; instead, it comes from humility where the power in Christ’s kingdom resides.

Matthew goes on quoting Jesus in chapter 18:5-6, “And whoever receives one such child in My name, receives Me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it is better for him that a heavy millstone be hung around his neck, and that he be drowned in the depths of the sea.”  Whoever tenderly “receives one such child in My name, receives Me.” Let me ask you a question, how are you treating your own children?  You might be considered a hotshot in the world’s view and your name may have prestige in “important circles”, but, if you are not receiving your own children as a precious treasure and “loving on” them daily, your glory will be fleeting.  Watch what you say and how you say it to your kids.  Folks who humble themselves giving time and love to their precious kids are big names in the opinion of Jesus.  You say, “But my kids are total brats.”  I wonder why?  Have you received them?

Have childlike faith and live pure like little kids.  Humbly cast all your cares on God, totally and unreservedly putting your trust in Him.  Take care of your children.  Don’t belittle the little and you will be considered great in His Kingdom.

Speak Truth in Love

We know that we are to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), and that is a good reminder about our responsibility to choose to love others to begin with. A heart filled with the choice to love is not an emotion that comes out of a person, but rather a choice that someone makes because of their love of Christ. It was Jesus telling the crowds: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing out of the ordinary? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Mathew 5: 43-48 The command to “love” our enemies is not the act of emotion, for we could never love an enemy emotionally. But the command is to make a choice to love them with the Love of God that is in Christ Jesus. And if we have the love of Christ in us, we can make that choice. We can then truthfully pray for those who persecute us because of the choice to act with the will for those who hate us. We have been through a lot of hate this past year with the division that is occuring in the United States. This has caused many of us to take a side and take a stand. This stand is a stand of hate for those we perceive as evil, and our enemy. But what if we started to pray for those who we feel are enemies of the state? What if everytime we are put down, either for our faith or our politics, we start praying for that one, or those groups? But instead we have become a nation of division, one of hatred for one another. And we call that righteous. But would Jesus condone such a behavior? Would He not command us to do exactly as He already told us: To love those who hate us and persecute us. That will never come if we wait for the emotion of love to enter us. But choices are made everyday. We choose to get up in the morning and go to work. Nobody makes us do it. We also choose to make that work something bearable or not, all by choice. We choose what to eat each day, and are not forced to eat what someone else tells us to eat. We wear what we want to wear by choice. We choose to stay with our spouses because of choice, and we choose to love them, by choice, the act of our will. But many claim that they have fallen out of love. No, they made the choice to love no more. Let’s call it what it is. Choices! We either obey our Lord, or we obey that which controls us – our own intellect and flesh, and those things that make us “feel” better. Don’t you think it’s time we started to get back to the first love we had in Christ and start to be more like Him, who CHOSE us, and loves us by His own will. We can certainly choose to do the same. Pastor Andy

Setting on Empty

I hate driving around when my car’s fuel gage is “setting on empty”.  In today’s world, I see tons of people “setting on empty” in the manner they live and don’t even know it.  Even worse, some people relish in their empty lives.  Emptiness is based on this world with humanity being pre-eminent not God with the glory of accomplishments, materialism, and egotism being god.  Scripture warns as children of light to not be deceived by darkness but to live in the light and the “fullness” of Jesus.

1 Peter gets the discussion going, “18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.”  A person is setting on the empty way of life” when their redemption is the “perishable things” of this world rather than “the precious blood of Christ”.

If you want your life full rather than setting on empty, Paul tells us in Philippians 2:3,Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility consider one another as more important than yourselves.”  Selfishness and conceit are empty.

Paul again admonishes us inColossians 2:8, “See to it that there is no one who takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception in accordance with human tradition.”  Watch out for “philosophy and empty deceptionbased on worldly logic centered around man rather than God.

Ephesians 5 urges believers to “See that no one deceives you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), 10 as you try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Do not participate in the useless deeds of darkness.” 

  • Be careful, a person setting on empty can be spotted by the deception of their “empty words”.  Typically, these people are full of themselves spouting out empty, egotistical words that make themselves look good with self-centered descriptions of all the things they have achieved.  Empty words are deceptive, untruthful, proudful, self- serving, and often lustful leading to darkness and the wrath of God.
  • Paul admonishes the Christ-followers to “not partner with them” and “not participate in the useless deeds of darkness
  • In contrast to these folks who are setting on empty, live lives that are full of “goodness, righteousness, and truth.”

 John 10:10 presents you with your options, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy (emptiness); I came so that they would have life and have it abundantly (fullness).”  Are you driving while “setting on empty”?