Search This Blog

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Quiet Time: No Fear with God's Forgiveness

No Fear with God’s Forgiveness

 (1 John 1: 9) If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

There is no fear with God's forgiveness because He wants to forgive us and is willing to take us just as we are. Furthermore, God doesn't save us while we are in our sin only to leave us when we sin again. To the contrary, He wipes out our sins past, present, and future, and uses our repentance and His forgiveness to draw us back to Himself.

 “If we confess our sins” – when we agree with God’s estimation of ourselves we are confessing that we have sinned in a specific way. There's really no reason not to tell Him the whole sordid truth. After all, we are telling Him what He already knows.

“He is faithful” – litterally, God is unchanging in His passion for us, unswerving in His positioning our hearts to fellowship with Him, unwavering in His purpose to forgive us, and unrelenting in His power to keep us..

He is “righteous” – (dē'-kī-os) innocent, faultless, guiltless; wholly conformed to the will of God. Jesus is everything we are not.

“to forgive us our sins” – (Romans 6:23 the wages of sin…) (2 Cor. 5:21He Who knew no sin…) (Romans 3:22-24 even the righteousness of God…) These verses remind us of how far God is willing to go because of His love for us. And He wanted us to be His children before we wanted Him to be our Father.

To “cleanse us from all unrighteousness” – because of Jesus blood we are now cleansed from our guilt, faults, failures, and He is presently in the process of conforming us to the will of God. (Phil. 2:13).

Fearing God's wrath so much that we become afraid to confess and repent is foolish. God knew us and loved us before we began to walk with Him. He knows how imperfect we can be and will be, but His desire is to draw us closer each day. We were created to walk with God and repentance on our part and forgiveness on His part makes it all possible.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Quiet Time: Forgiving Our Fellows

Forgiving Our Fellows

"In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You can't get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God's part. - Matthew 6:14 (The Message)

Is the assurance of our forgiveness and fellowship with the Father really tied to our forgiving others? Yes, according to (Matthew 6:14). But that doesn’t mean God stops being our Father. God’s children must forgive. “Ok”, we say, “forgiving those who slight us from time to time is actually pretty easy, but what about the mom who brutally murders her own child, the drunk driver who carelessly kills a family, the spouse who walks out on their family, or the abusive parent who has built years of resentment, fear, and anger in the heart of his wife and children, (the list of bad behavior could fill up a page and then some). Must we forgive even these unrepentant people? People who, if our true thoughts were know, we’d really rather hate. Yes, we must forgive if we are to continue in fellowship with Father God. However, in order to understand what forgiveness is it may be helpful to first discuss what it is not.

Forgiveness is not “excusing” the sin. Excusing means that we give a false reason for bad behavior. We may say something like, “She couldn’t help what she did,” or “He grew up in an abusive family, that’s why he’s attacks his wife and children,” when the fact is that people choose to move in wrong directions and they must be held accountable. Their behavior may have a reason that makes it easier to understand but it doesn’t make it right. Therefore, excusing bad behavior doesn’t lead to forgiveness; to the contrary, it leads to hidden hatred.

Forgiveness is not ignoring the truth by saying things like, “Well, she really didn’t mean that”, or “words can’t hurt you”, or “I don’t care” when in fact the offender actually knew quite well what he was doing, the offensive words actually did hurt, and yes, we certainly do care. We care enough to think bad thoughts about the offensive person, even to the point of wishing them dead! So ignoring the facts when we’re offended doesn’t encourage forgiveness; it makes us liars and cowards.

Forgiveness is not foolish trust. When a spouse repeatedly participates in illicit relationships, a person continues to drink and drive, or a mother repeatedly strikes her child in anger and all say with sympathy and sincerity, “I’m sorry, I’ll never do it again.” Their sorrow may be heart felt, but their promise is hollow. We cannot trust them. Jesus didn’t trust certain people either (John 2:24-25). C.S. Lewis said, “You may not believe his next promise…but you must make every effort to kill every trace of resentment in your own heart – every wish to humiliate or hurt him or to pay him out.” The fact is: forgiveness is given, but trust is earned.

Forgiveness is not the act of forgetting. God does not remember our sins because he chooses not to (Jeremiah 31:34). The scripture doesn’t say that God “forgets”, it says that He doesn’t “remember”. In other words, He chooses not to bring them up again. God may record my sins but He also stamps “FORGIVEN” over each one. So too, when we choose to forgive, our memory still functions but we don’t bring the memory up again. As one bible scholar teaches, “Forgiveness doesn’t require forgetting; only choosing not to call to mind repeatedly while God heals the memories.”

So, the bottom line is this: We forgive because we’ve been forgiven and forgiving others is a choice, as well as, an act of faith. When we act in faith we are acting in fellowship with our heavenly Father. He will empower us to do it.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Quiet Time: Forgiven for Fellowship with the Father

Forgiven for Fellowship with the Father

Read: 1 John 1:5-10

If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.
– 1 John 1: 6-7

Two people cannot walk together unless they both agree to move in the same direction (Amos 3:3; Matthew 6:24). So it is in our walk with God. We must abandon our own direction in order to follow His. This act of submission is the beginning of a life-long relationship or fellowship with God.

When we agree with God we walk in His ways, we fellowship with Him; to do otherwise makes us liars (1 John 1:6 & 6). As we walk with God we find there are people who want to walk with us. Walking with Christ followers is called the “fellowship of believers” (1John 1:7). The members of these fellowships get together regularly to encourage one another to continue walking close to Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:11), and they are known respectively as “Christians” (Acts 11:26).

Now, anytime people get together there’s a potential for offense and broken fellowship. (Just consider your last family argument). This, in turn, creates the immediate need for forgiveness. I say “need” because forgiving one another is a critical ingredient of our walk with Christ (Matthew 6:14; Ephesians 4:32).

More on this tomorrow. (Forgiving Our Fellows)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Quiet Time: Forgiven Forever All Men Fall

Forgiven Forever (All Fall Short)

Read: 1 John 1: 5-10

This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.. – 1 John 1:5

I believe confusion exists regarding confession, cleansing, and forgiveness of sins. Some believe that without confession there’s no cleansing, and without cleansing there is no forgiveness. In other words, confess or die in your sins. Others teach that one can sin without confessing anything because the spirit can’t sin but the body can. So, what should we believe? We should believe what God says. First, that all men fall. Second, that sin affects man’s fellowship with the Father. Third, we should forgive our fellows, and finally, sin can be forgiven forever.

All Men Fall

1 John 1:5 tells us that God is light (holy) without a hint of darkness (sin); He is absolutely without fault. Utterly and completely perfect. Man is anything but perfect because all men fall.

The bible tells us that man’s imperfections come from sin. This sin causes us to fall short of God’s glory or perfection (Romans 3:23). We can’t get to God because He is holy (light) and we are sinful (darkness). Light dispels darkness; the two cannot exist together. Try lighting a candle in a dark room and you’ll see what I mean.

Sometimes we humans think that we’re really not all that bad. We say things like, “I’m not perfect but I’m not as bad as so and so.” But, we forget that God doesn’t judge on the curve He judges perfectly, because He is the very measure of perfection. Fortunately, when a man repents and asks Jesus to save Him from sin’s affects; Jesus fills him with His presence (light) through the Holy Spirit and He dispels all of that man’s darkness (sin). The man can then walk with God the Father. John calls this walking “fellowship”.

More on that tomorrow.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Quiet Time Quit Tomorrow

Quit Tomorrow

Read: Galatians 6:6-10

Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. – Galatians 6:9

I have a mental trick that I like to play on myself when I feel like quitting. I tell myself, “I can always quit tomorrow.” Then, when tomorrow comes and I’m faced with the same old challenge or a new one takes its place, I say it again, “I can always quit tomorrow.” Challenges are a way of life, and I can always quit, but I don’t need to quit just now.

Too often we Christians become easily discouraged when things aren’t going our way. We’re doing the right thing, we’re following what God tells us to do in His word, but the more we follow Him the more difficult things seem to become. It would be so easy to just quit, give up, and do whatever comes naturally. But, then nature becomes our god, and no one should want that (nature does nasty things; like eating its young).

The apostle Paul encourages us not grow weary in well doing because we will reap if we don’t grow weary. He doesn’t say not to grow weary because things will usually work out. No, God’s word promises that we will reap. So, the next logical question is what will we reap? We will reap the exact and best blessing God wants us to have.

Therefore, press on toward the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13-15); you can always quit tomorrow.

"Saints are sinners who kept on going."

~ Robert Louis Stevenson

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Song Series: The Stand

The Stand

Read: Romans 5

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. – Romans 5:1-2

All have sinned and have been found guilty in God’s court. However, Jesus covers the believer’s guilt with His innocence and he is found justifiably not guilty. Before believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, we were enemies of God but now we are at peace with Him through Jesus and the work he accomplished on the cross. In other words, the just reward for our sins, “death”, has been remitted and our punishment is eternally satisfied by the punishment Christ received on the cross. From the day of our salvation to eternity we stand in this grace.

Furthermore, we can’t make God love or even like us any more than He now does. We aren’t saved by grace and perfected by good works. We don’t have to prove we’re worthy. Believers are worthy because Christ is worthy. As one theologian puts it, “The score sheet is gone and the account is settled.” Obviously we can’t brag about our salvation as if it’s something we acquired through hard work. No, we boast in Jesus and Him alone, through songs of praise and worship and lives that bring Him glory.

Michael W. Smith says "Stand is a call to stand up for what you believe in." It's a call to stand in awe of the One who gave all and to stand outside of the walls of the church rubbing shoulders with the lost. Together, we stand as followers of Jesus sharing a powerful opportunity: To live as a child of God. We must live as though we believe we are loved," he says. "It's time we take a stand believing we are loved," Smith concludes. "And then, let's go. Let's go change the world."

Thanks to God's grace we were: guilty, but now, we are innocent, God’s foes, but now are God’s friends. fallen, but now, we stand.

Won't you help someone else to stand? Introduce them to Jesus today.

The Stand," written by Joel Houston of Hillsong and recorded by Michael W. Smith on his album Stand.

So I’ll stand with arms high and heart abandoned
In awe of the One Who gave it all
I’ll stand my soul Lord to You surrendered
All I am is Yours.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Quiet Time: He Crossed the Line

He Crossed the Line

Read: John 3:1-21

He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. - John 3:18

A friend of mine crossed the line last night. He is now born again. And it wasn't because his life was a mess. It isn't. As things go, he's actually doing pretty well for himself. But, when God began to draw him to His Son, my buddy became aware that peace was lacking in his life. After a long while he came to the wrong conclusion that the only way he'd experience true peace was death. (No, he wasn't suicidal, just realistic; knowing that stuff doesn't satisfy) Eventually, though, after listening carefully to what God said about peace, he came to a point where he wanted, no, he needed Jesus, and needed Him more than anything he had or could possibly get here on earth.

Now, this guy's no dummy. He's an intelligent well rounded man who likes to think things through before making a decision. And, he's been thinking Jesus' story through for several months now. Finally, he, like Nicodemus, came to the point in his life where he knew a decision must be made. The line had been drawn in the sand by Jesus, and he now asked himself quite simply:

• Am I a sinner? (Romans 3:23)
• Do I want forgiveness for my sins? (1 John 1:9)
• Do I believe that Christ died for my sins, was buried, and rose again the third day overcoming both my sin and the grave? (1 Corinthians 15:2-4; 1 Peter 3:18)
• Am I willing to confess Him as my Lord and Savior and live for Him as He leads me for the rest of my life? (Romans 10:9-10; 2 Corinthians 5:15)
• Then, I need to pray and ask God to come into my heart.(Romans 10:13)

Too simple, you say. For you may-be, but not for Jesus. It cost Him everything. Come think of it, it will cost you everything too. But then again, as my pastor might say, "It's like trading a rotten bologna sandwich for a juicy steak hoagie." It's a no brainer; the choice is yours to make of course, but you weren't created to eat rotten meat. You certainly weren't created to live a rotten life either. (John 10:10)

So, are you ready to cross the line?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Quiet Time: Stupid Surveys and Other Mental Maladies

Stupid Surveys and Other Mental Maladies
A prudent man conceals knowledge, but the heart of fools proclaims folly - Proverbs 12:23.

We’ve all seen the truism that reads, “There are no stupid questions” but I’m pretty sure that I heard one. The question was part of a survey that asked, “When is it considered cheating?” It was raised in response to the whole Anthony Weiner fiasco. OK, I understand, the guy did wrong and he’s going to suffer for it. But, that’s not what got my gander up. It was the question; the really stupid question, “When is it considered cheating?” Just in case any of us think this question is legitimate; let me offer a method that’ll stop the Stupid Train before it leaves the station.

Here’s what I suggest: The next time we feel like carrying on a conversation with the opposite sex that we sense may be leading us into dangerous territory; we should, with a very straight face, look deeply into our spouse’s eyes and ask, “So, Babe, how would you respond to this person?” I think that’ll settle it. Unfortunately, if someone really is asking themselves "When is cheating on my spouse really cheating?" I believe they’re half way home to doing it; cheating that is.

Look, we do stupid stuff all the time. It happens; it’s called sin. Sin, for the most part, eventually gets found out and we suffer for it (Numbers 32:23) (see also: Genesis 4:7; 14:16; Isaiah 59:12). But, asking a question that’s based on the predisposition of playing with sin is just plain goofy. The person asking that question is asking for trouble, because he shows where his heart is (or where his toes are, which is right on the line that shouldn’t be crossed).

My pastor recently shared in a sermon, that the best way to deal with temptation is to RUN from it (1 Corinthians 6:18). So, don’t even give it a chance.

Like the other old truism states, “If you doubt; don’t.” This is good advice. By following it, we will, at the very least, keep ourselves safe from asking or answering stupid surveys.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Song Series: Beautiful One

Beautiful One
Read: 1 Corinthians 2

No one's ever seen or heard anything like this,
Never so much as imagined anything quite like it—
What God has arranged for those who love him.
But you've seen and heard it because God by his Spirit has brought it all out into the open before you.   
– 1 Corinthians 2:9-10 (The Message)

“Now I get it!” We’ve all made this statement at some time or other. Perhaps the first time we learned to complete a complex math problem, or after reading the Cliff Notes for a long forgotten classic book. May-be we’ve said it after leaving the show where a witty comedian cracked a joked that just didn’t make sense to us at the time. The point is, we know how it feels to be clueless one moment then drawn into the light of understanding the next. It is exhilarating!

In 1 Corinthians, Paul is speaking to a group of people who felt like they were pretty wise by earthly standards. He set their thinking straight though, by reminding them that they didn’t come to Christ because of human wisdom. They would’ve never thought of such a thing as sin being completely wiped out and eternal life given through God’s Son, Jesus Christ. Salvation by grace through faith didn’t; no, it couldn’t figure into a works oriented society. The Corinthians came to Christ because God’s Holy Spirit drew them to Jesus and caused their blinded eyes to see. One may say, “They never really knew God until He made Himself known to them.”

Today we live in a world that thinks itself pretty smart. We’ve developed our own origins through the pseudo-science of evolution. We’ve chipped away the foundation of law and order through secular humanism, and now we’ve turned our attention to the disintegration of the family structure through moral relativism. But, Jesus is still on the throne. Jesus is still seeking those whose hearts are completely His. Jesus is still shining His light in the hearts of men who come to Him (2 Corinthians 4:6).

I believe there is coming a day; very soon, when Christians everywhere will stand up and roar together with the waves of humanity who suddenly see the beauty of God’s full and free salvation saying, “NOW I GET IT!” and we really will.

Beautiful One by Tim Hughes
Wonderful so wonderful is Your unfailing love
Your cross has spoken mercy over me
No eye has seen no ear has heard no heart could fully know
How glorious how beautiful You are
Beautiful Oone I love
Beautful One I adore
Beautiful One my soul must sing

Quiet Time: Too Lazy To Work

Lazy Bones
by Jo Parry
Too Lazy To Work

Laziness casts into a deep sleep,
And an idle man will suffer hunger. – Proverbs 19:15

A sluggard is grown from the seed of slothfulness.

Have you ever had one of those days where you just can’t seem to motivate yourself to get the job done? I know I have. You know what mean, don’t you? There’s a nagging sensation in the back of your mind prodding you to start a certain task, but you find a way to put it off or do something else instead. That’s when you discover the truth of Proverbs 19:15. The more you put something off the harder it is to begin. Lethargy like a siren’s song begins to pull you down. You feel like you need a nap or another cup of coffee or something, anything except the job that’s in front of you. Well, you’re strolling too near the edge of what I call "Comatose Cliff". Stop where you are and start doing the job. Don’t think about it, just begin! One thing I know, if one continues down the road of laziness he will suffer for it (Proverbs 6:10-11).

Now, I understand that character is caught not taught and that the plant is grown from the seed that’s sown. Therefore, we are motivated to be good examples of those who believe (1 Timothy 4:12) in word and deed, so that others (our children for one) may see our good works and glory our Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16) and then, hopefully, emulate them.

I just remembered an old saying, “A person who thinks the world owes him a living is usually too lazy to work for it.” I’m not looking to collect anything this world has to offer; how about you?

Friday, June 3, 2011

Quiet Time: No Grief for a Thief

No Grief for a Thief

Read: 1 Peter 2:13-25

For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. 
 – 1 Peter 2:20

No one has grief for a thief; the one who cries is the criminal.

A friend of mine was recently fired from his job for steeling. Now, that’s not so unusual really. Intelligent, articulate, well bred, well read people with absolutely no reason to steal get caught with their hands in the cookie jar all the time.

Remember Matthew Rudolf, a former accountant for the NBC TV series “30 Rock” who was found altering receipts and falsifying expense documents in order to pocket a little extra cash. I’m sure we all remember Bernard Madoff and his multi-billion dollar ponzie scheme.

Well, my buddy had a six figure job that he loved, money in the bank, and a terrific future ahead of him. He was caught taking something from his company in order to sell it on the side for a few thousand dollars. The irony is; he didn’t need the money!

At first blush we may all be tempted to wag our heads and cluck our tongues at so foolish an act, but are any of us really that far away from doing the same thing? How many office supplies have we taken from the company “accidentally” at the end of our day or how often have we wasted time web browsing instead of working? A little extra break time here, a little less hard work there…The truths is, many of us steal (regularly) and are not punished for it. However, when things like this happen; when our friends, family, or work associates find a way to really mess things up, I think we should take these moments as a wakeup call and refocus our hearts and minds on Jesus.

No one cares for a criminal but everyone cries when their caught doing the wrong thing. Perhaps we need to learn to mourn for our messes before anyone knows they exist (James 4:8-10). Then we can press in to Jesus and press on in His presence by turning from our sin and walking in Him (Philippians 3:14). He is our example of doing the right thing even when doing it hurts.

Oh, yes, and if you think you can find a moment to pray for my buddy today, I know that he’d appreciate it.
I know I would.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Song Series: Your Ways Are Higher

Your Ways Are Higher

Read: Judges 20

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts. – Isaiah 55:9

God’s ways are so far removed from anything we might think or do that sometimes we feel He doesn’t care. But trust comes in the trial. Just ask the sons of Israel who battled against the sons of Benjamin.

The tribe of Benjamin had done a really wicked thing in raping a woman to death. The sons of Israel gathered several thousand men together to go and wipe out the men of Benjamin for their wickedness. They asked God first which tribe should go up against Benjamin.

God told them to call up the tribe of Judah, and then Judah was soundly defeated. So, they asked God again, “Should we battle against the sons of my brother Benjamin?” God said, "Yes;" and, again Israel was beaten back. They timidly went to God a third time and asked if they should do battle with Benjamin, and this time God said yes but added, “Tomorrow I will deliver them into your hand.” Now, the obvious question is why God didn’t defeat Benjamin the first time. Why let so many people die in vain if He was only going to give Israel the victory anyway? The short answer is that the whole nation of Israel needed to be humbled just as much as their brothers from the tribe of Benjamin. This was a time in Israel's history when everyone was more or less doing their own thing and God was not given His rightful place as Lord over all.

The first battle Israel showed up with 400 thousand soldiers and a proud sense that they had the might and were in the right. However, after the second battle Israel actually wept over their position and fasted before the Lord. Finally, they too had been broken. Israel now understood that the sin was not just Benjamin’s sin; the entire nation had turned away from following God and God alone. Israel’s plight was right but the throng was wrong. Israel needed to search their own hearts before dealing with the hearts of their brothers.

Israel learned that God’s ways were far above their ways and that trust comes in the trial. We should never assume that failure is final. Failure is often a stepping stone to success and a means to humble us in our walk with Jesus.

Your Ways Are Higher
Closer than we can fathom
But far beyond what we imagine
Hopeless can find You, wisdom's confounded
Lord, we're astounded by the mystery
Your ways are higher than us
Higher is Your name above all names
as heaven's higher than earth
Higher are Your thoughts and ways
Words and Music by
as sung by the David Crowder Band