Foregiveness

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Did I Tell You, You Have a Great Body?

I hope the title got your attention. I mean every word of it! To understand why I think you have a great body let’s take a look at God’s Word.

17 And though we are many, we all eat from one loaf of bread, showing that we are one body. 18 Think about the people of Israel. Weren’t they united by eating the sacrifices at the altar? 

1 Corinthians 10:14–17 NLT

When we come together in our local church and participate in Communion – Lord’s Supper – Eucharist, we are not just connecting as a local Christian community; we are sharing in the Communion that all Christians share. We are one body. (1 Corinthians 12:12–27)

These verses about the Lord’s Supper show the spiritual aspect of participating in this distinctively religious ceremony. When we understand what we’re doing, then the Apostle Paul’s warning makes sense:

29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 31 But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged.

1 Corinthians 11:29–31

We join with other Christians in Holy Communion; its spiritual requirements are similar to those God, through Moses, gave to the Israelites concerning the laws about the ark of the covenant. 

9 But the Lord killed seventy men from Beth-shemesh because they looked into the Ark of the Lord. And the people mourned greatly because of what the Lord had done. 

1 Samuel 6:19

Often, modern Christians take no thought about God’s requirements, let alone anything spiritual. However, our views and opinions do not negate God’s will. So, when we take Communion, we need to be in right standing with God. To be in right standing, we need to confess, repent, and receive God’s forgiveness and cleansing for our sins so that we take the cup and the bread as pure children of God, living in obedience to Jesus our Lord and in right standing with all the saints of God.

Hey, you are part of the same loaf of bread I am. We are one body, and it looks good!

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It’s Time for Fall Cleaning!

Well, autumn is here in all of its beauty. Many people are doing their annual “fall cleaning.” All of us with deciduous trees are getting their rakes out, or “should,” in my case. In my state, kids are back in school. Autumn is unfolding before us! For those of us that experience seasons, one of autumn’s aspects is the undercurrent of urgency. We know that winter will soon be here, and we can’t stop it – many people say to winter, “Come on! Show us what you’ve got! I can take it.” I’m not one of those people.

Fall Cleaning

As part of my fall cleaning, I review the Scriptures and messages I posted. I seek balance, but I never achieve it. I do this because a Christian missionary that I dearly miss taught me to do as Jesus said in this verse: 

And he said to them,Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.

Matthew 13:52

So, I search for well-known Scripture and Scriptures typically found in dusty corners of most people’s Bibles. The same is true for topics. I strive to bring out both reminders of well know topics and topics that are new to our society. I always include my favorite Scriptures, such as this one:

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. – 2 Peter 3:9 (emphasis added)

To Will, Intend, Desire, Wish

I find great comfort in this message from God. And, buried within this verse is a beautiful gem. That word, “wishing,” in the above verse is from the Greek word βουλόμενός and is translated in Young’s Literal Translation as “wanting.” Strong’s Greek Concordance 1014 tells us it means: To will, intend, desire, wish.

I have to say that the King James Version seems to do the best translation of this passage of Scripture. The KJV renders βουλόμενός this way: “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

What we learn here is that God’s will is that no one should perish. His desire is for everyone to come to repentance. So, everyone goes to heaven? No. You may rightly say, “God’s will is always accomplished.” Yes, it is, but God is telling us that His intent is for everyone to come to repentance, but true repentance is an act of faith. God doesn’t make anyone accept Him.

Cannot Repent Without Jesus

We are incapable of true repentance. We possess no ability to turn away from our rebellion against God. Only through the act of salvation and the Holy Spirit coming to live in us can we fulfill the confession of repentance we make when we are saved.

At its core, Christianity is not a religion. Christianity is redemption, regeneration, reconciliation, relationship, and, someday, resurrection. God desires that we receive Jesus; that’s why God is patient with us.

Cleaning out the Dust

While it’s still autumn, let’s reaffirm our standing with our Lord. Let’s clean out the dust and grime that may have been tracked into our souls. We need to feel the urgency.

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God’s Benefits Package

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.Jeremiah 29:13

What an unusual world in which we live! Science is advancing at a blistering pace, technology is evolving so rapidly that new products are obsolete by the time they are available in the market. Once isolated viruses are advancing at unimaginable speeds, and new medical procedures are available to you and me which would have been called magic five years ago.

Truly, the world we called home five years ago is nothing but a memory; it bears little resemblance to the one we live in today. Mercurial social definitions, strange weather patterns, and the unraveling of the delicate balance among geo-political powers stagger our minds. Just the thought that vehicle manufacturing would grind to a halt because of the lack of $2.00 integrated circuits.

Speaking of grinding to a halt, church attendance has significantly contracted. This pulling away is affecting Christians, Jews, and Muslims! According to a Gallup Poll:

  • In 2020, 47% of U.S. adults belonged to a church, synagogue, or mosque
  • Down more than 20 points from the turn of the century
  • Change primarily due to rise in Americans with no religious preference

It would seem justifiable for people to throw up their arms and say, “Enough, already!” But, if you are a true Christian, all of these changes and fearful cries can’t move us. We walk in joy because our obedience to Jesus promises joy. (John 15:11) We walk in peace because Jesus promised us peace. (John 14:27). We walk in love because this is Christ’s command. (John 13:34)

How can we be moved by the world? God lives in us. (John 17:20-21) So, here we stand, as guideposts, pointing to the world the way to salvation and all of its benefits. We are ambassadors for Jesus, representing Him in the affairs of humanity. We are love, not lustful love, but the love that comes from God. We are confident, we are bold, we are humble, we are knowledgable, self-controlled, steadfast, and godly. We show brotherly affection and love. (2 Peter 1:5-8)

We have the fruit of the Holy Spirit at work in us. These are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)

Google; paupers. Facebook; wannabes. Amazon; amateurs. We have the most comprehensive benefits package that has ever existed. So, let’s consider today’s verse.

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13

There is no circumstance or situation that we are in bondage to – except that which we bound ourselves to. In a moment, a mere heartbeat, we can find God when we seek Him with all of our hearts. How can life be better than to be known by the creator of everything? He knows us by name. He knows how many hairs are on our heads. He goes beyond knowing us; He loves us. And I’ve not touched on being saved from God’s coming wrath and the promise of eternal life with Jesus. Let’s celebrate and shout for joy for what God does for us!

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Say You Told Me So

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man has great power to prevail.” – James 5:16

I was listening to one of the pioneers of what is now called Contemporary Christian Music. Back in the late 60s and early 70s it was called Jesus Music, and one early singer/songwriter was (is) named Nancy Honeytree. And I had the privilege, in the early 70s, to attend a concert she held at a local university. Anyway, the Honeytree song I heard was “Take me back (and say you told me so).” I’ve searched the Internet for the lyrics but to no avail.

What I found interesting about this song is that Honeytree was asking God to take her back; sin separates us from God. We don’t lose our salvation, but God becomes distant. Our go-to verse to receive forgiveness is “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) God’s purification and righteousness restore our closeness with Him.

The words, “take me back,” also tell us that she needed to go back to the spot where she sinned, and see where God’s Word told her that her action would be a sin. Then she promised to make her sin public so that she would be clean and in harmony with God.

This message floored me. Scripturally, her song is a bullseye. Her lyrics are a message we rarely hear preached today and one I needed to hear. I would add – maybe it’s in her song – that a public confession frees a person from all the power which that sin held. Even when a sin has been forgiven, once it comes into the light, Satan no longer has that sin to take to the Father to accuse us1.

This confessing assumes that the person or people to whom you confess to are truly obedient believers. Spoken to the wrong group, a confession becomes gossip and judgment. So, for this and many reasons, we need to be in a God-fearing congregation.

I know this is a small message, but maybe it will help someone. Take me back, and tell me you told me so.


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1: Revelation 12:9-11

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Release from Old Memories 

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”  

2 Corinthians 5:17

Perhaps it’s just me, but sometimes, I have flashbacks from my past, memories of things I’ve done that were selfish, socially clumsy, or countless other mistakes I’ve made. These memories only last long enough to send me down mental rabbit trails that are spiritually unfruitful. For a long time, I fought against them, seeing them as a spiritual attack. But recently the Holy Spirit showed me how to deal with them. 

I discovered these flashbacks are a two-fold blessing from God. First, the first time an old memory attacks me, I take it to Jesus. If it was a sin, then I confess it and ask Christ for forgiveness. Then I thank God for His mercy and grace that permeates this memory. Mercy, from my Father, is enough to provide a way for me to be forgiven and grace for His great love to extinguish the power of that flashback. Once it’s dealt with, it no longer has power over me. I am free indeed from that memory’s condemnation. 

The second blessing is that, from God’s grace, each flashback shows me my growth in Jesus. That old memory is not the event itself but only its imprint in our minds. It is not the wave but the imprint of the wave on the sand.  

By God’s mercy, His forgiveness drains the power of old memories. Old memories provide me with “one time” to confess and ask for forgiveness; after that, I simply enjoy my new nature. By God’s grace, I see my growth as a follower of Jesus.

These flashbacks become blessings instead of condemnations through God’s mercy and grace. That’s just how good God is to me. His mercy and grace are equally available to you. Let’s all advance with God instead of wasting His grace by putting ourselves under condemnation.


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Objective Morality

Morals are objective, not subjective. This truth means that morals are discovered, not invented. If I walk in my backyard and find a four-leaf clover, it’s not because I imagined it, argued it into existence, or just decided that there should be four-leaf clovers. Morals just “are.” They don’t change due to circumstances or human will. They exist whether I believe in them or not. Morals are axiomatic, meaning that they are self-evident. If someone argues against a moral truth, it is not the truth that is destroyed but the person. I think we often forget that morals are as unchangeable as the God that established them.

I believe that the primary moral principles on which all others depend are rationally perceived…It is because all morality is based on such self-evident principles that we say to a man, when we would recall him to right conduct, ‘Be reasonable.’”

Truth is True Wherever it is Found

Because morals (e.g., don’t lie, cheat, steal, covet, murder, etc.) are objective truths, it shouldn’t surprise us when we see them pop up in other religions. Often, an argument against Christianity is that a person can find the same morals in Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc. It’s vital for us not to confuse morality with Salvation. Morality cannot save a person. (for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of GodRomans 3:23) Only Jesus saves. It is not by works but by God’s grace that we are saved. Being moral falls into the category of works.

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,

1 Timothy 2:5

Jesus Enables Us to Live Morally

Does God require us to be moral? Yes. Has there ever been anyone that was perfectly moral? Only one, Jesus, the Messiah. Jesus is what makes Christianity unique. It is not morality that makes the life of a believer profoundly different from all others. Instead, it is the spiritual character of God in us that sets Christianity apart from all other religions and traditions of man. That profound distinctiveness comes from Jesus and is formed in us through the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit. We live moral lives because God lives in us. We do not have God in us because we are moral.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Galatians 5:22-23

If you find yourself in a group conversation and someone begins to speak of the merits of Buddism, don’t be shaken by words that seem profound. They may be profound, but they do not save. True profoundness is found in a man rising from the dead after paying the debt of your sin, reconciling you to God, and then, through His resurrection, making a way for you to be resurrected and live with God in heaven forever. That is the Spirit of God at work in your life by God’s grace, through faith.

Good News

Notice the difference between moralism and life in the Spirit. Comparing these is like comparing apples versus oranges. Are we to live a moral life? Of course. Are we able to? We come close, but only by God living in us and transforming us by the renewing of our minds. Even then, sometimes, we fail. But our failure is like us tripping on the straight and narrow road. We fall on the road; we don’t fall off. And God has made a way for us to be forgiven and restored. To get up and continue on that narrow road.

In closing, I want to make it clear that it is not how many times you pray each day or in what direction you pray (Daniel notwithstanding), or what unique clothing you wear that decides where you will spend eternity. That decision is this: who is your master?

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Revenge

I’m about to suck the joy out of your favorite movies, TV shows, and books. I take no great pleasure in my task, but I would fail to teach the whole Bible if I didn’t address this topic: revenge.

I’m going to assume that you are not a serial killer, nor have you “done in” your spouse, best friend, or neighbor. Still, I think you may have a proclivity towards visceral pleasure from stories that use the lead character (protagonist) to deliver a “comeuppance” to an evil person.

Now you may defend yourself by saying that the defeat of evil is always worthy of an act by a believer in Christ Jesus. You may say that everything from “Die Hard With a Vengeance” to “The First Wives Club” is justifiable. This is where we part ways. Do you believe these words of Jesus?

But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also.Matthew 5:39

According to the footnote for this verse in the “ESV Reformation Study Bible,” in context, this verse means “do not seek restitution in court.” The slap on the right cheek is a backhanded one—an insult as well as an injury.

Nevertheless, when someone adds insult to injury to you, your response should be one of love – love barely notices a wrong (1 Corinthians 13:4-6). This does not mean that we are to tolerate all kinds of evil. Some wars are justifiable. Fleeing domestic violence is justifiable. Bringing a lawsuit against an ungodly law is righteous. However, when it comes to evil against us, we must remember the example that Jesus set for us in His crucifixion.

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice.

Luke 23:34

God’s Word tells us, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21) and “For we know the one who said, ‘I will take revenge. I will pay them back.’” (Hebrews 10:30) Therefore, with Christ’s example, and God’s Word strongly admonishing us to allow God to deal out justice against anyone that commits even the slightest transgression against a child of His, let’s not secretly feed our desire for revenge by being entertained with stories that glorify it. Oh, and as a believer, God requires us to forgive; remember the Lord’s prayer – “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”

Sorry about this spoiler. I wrote this for myself but thought it might be good for you, also.

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Syncretism, two

God’s Word so often staggers me. Many times, this happens when I’m in a nook or cranny of the Bible; at other times, they are verses before the verses that I’ve prepared myself to be amazed.

3,200 years of relevance

We find perhaps the single most important verse in the Bible in Deuteronomy 6:4: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” This is a clarion call from God to the world that He is the one and only God. This verse established monotheism forever, and Jesus quoted this verse as the greatest commandment. (Mark 12:29) But in the previous chapter, chapter five, we find a passage of Scripture that is as fresh and pertinent today as when God gave it to Moses.

14 You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you— 15 for the Lord your God in your midst is a jealous God…

Deuteronomy 5:14–15

God spoke these words approximately 1,200 years before the birth of Jesus, which means that Moses said these words from God around 3,200 years ago. Yet, they are still as true and vital right now as they were all those years ago. All around us are people that have committed their lives to other gods – false gods – and they are neither shy nor embarrassed about who they serve or what they believe. As a result, many Christians have a syncretism (sin-crǎ-tism) of beliefs.

What syncretism means

I wrote a post about this a while back: Syncretism

Syncretism is a union or attempted fusion of different religions, cultures, or philosophies — like Halloween, which has both Christian and pagan roots, or the combination of Aristotelian philosophy with the belief system of the early punk rock practitioners.

Vocabulary.com

Now, with the definition of syncretism nailed down, let’s consider what the one true God said: “you shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you.” God’s warning is directed against religious syncretism. He knew this was going to be a problem for people, so He confronted the problem head on – “for the Lord your God in your midst is a jealous God.”

Jealousy is a neutral term; it is neither bad nor good. However, in our culture, we understand only bad jealousy. If a husband becomes angry every time his wife talks with another man, that’s bad jealousy. And that’s the kind of jealousy we mentally jump to when we think about this emotion. However, there also is good jealousy.

Good and bad jealousy

Good jealousy tells us what is important to us. Let me repeat that. Good jealousy tells us what is important to us. Therefore, God’s jealousy tells us what is important to Him. In my younger days, I was jealous for my kids. I wanted to give them opportunities. I wanted to keep them from harm. I wanted to be Dad. Those were all good things, and they were the right things to allow the emotion of jealousy to affect my actions. This kind of jealousy is about as close as we can come to understanding what God means when He says He is a jealous God.

God told Jeremiah: “For I know the plans I have for you,“ declares the LORD, ”plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11) This verse shows us God’s jealousy. God has good plans, plans to prosper and not harm, and gives Jeremiah hope and a future. God is motivated to do these things because He loves Jeremiah and has established plans that include Jeremiah. Somehow, in this immense history of humanity, each of us is important to God. Wow!

Don’t date a Canaanite

Now, if Jeremiah knew God’s intent but began dating a Canaanite girl and started hanging out with her all the time and incorporating some of her beliefs into his beliefs, God’s jealousy would have “wax hot” against Jeremiah. This response would be proper and would be good jealousy. It’s like when a spouse begins cheating; the other spouse has a right to be jealous and angry.

God doesn’t need a “right” to be jealous. He is God. But I hope you get my point. If you’ve given your life to the Father through our Lord Jesus Christ by the leading of the Holy Spirit, and then begin to incorporate beliefs from “the gods of the peoples who are around you” then God will be angry at you – not “with you” but at you. Any syncretism of Christianity is repulsive to God; it’s kind of like having a cheating spouse.

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a bubble floating in the air

Bubbles

Okay, I have a confession to make. When I was a young boy, I liked bubble baths. I know, from birth, I should have been hard as nails, but when I was five, maybe even six, I loved playing in a bubble bath. Whew. Now that that’s off my chest, let’s continue.

When I played in a bubble bath, I carried out nautical maneuvers that made Admiral Nelson’s strategy for the Battle of Trafalgar to be both insipid and uninspired.

Bubble Study

I also studied the bubbles. Each had rainbow sheen, and they seemed to float effortlessly while each bubble easily joined with other bubbles. It is this aspect I want us to consider today.

Based on my study of the Bible, I am convinced that each Christian should live as a bubble. I don’t mean we should live in a bubble as that’s contrary to a command of Christ’s (John 17:15).

Bubble Traits

We should be easily moved by the Holy Spirit (John 3:8). The cares of life should not weigh us down or chain us to the death in this world (Hebrews 12:1).

We should be transparent, like a bubble. People should easily see through us and see Jesus. We should not carry darkness in us that blocks the light (Matthew 5:16). For Jesus is the light of life (John 8:12). Our lives should not be as a bucket that blocks the light of Jesus (Matthew 5:15). And we should not have anything in us that distorts the light of truth. Sin clouds our transparency, so that must be dealt with quickly.

As a bubble, we are covered by God’s promise, the promise God made and established by the rainbow (Genesis 9:13). In God’s promise we are no longer under condemnation (Romans 8:1)! We live within God’s promise.

Just as bubbles easily move about, they also easily congregate (Hebrews 10:25). One connects with another and a third connects with both. Soon, these bubbles coalesce and become a congregation, shaped by their Master’s hand. That first bubble is still in there, but it’s not what is apparent. What is apparent is a congregation that remains nearly weightless, still able to be moved by the breath of the Master.

Bubble Assassins

And when the time comes, our bubble pops, but not without a remnant. When our bubble pops, the rainbow promise that has held the bubble in its visible form deposits its promise on the thing that caused its demise (Acts 7:60). Our bubble is no longer visible, but what it was is simply not seen (2 Corinthians 5:8). It has left its promise upon its assassin and has been transformed into its new life, a life in unison with all the other bubbles that went before it (Hebrews 12:1).

Bubble Story

Yes, there is a message for us in bubbles. No matter what we look at, if we really look, we will find Jesus.

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Why is God Hard to See?

“Daddy, if God loves us, why does He hide?” I asked my dad when I was young. I don’t remember Dad’s answer but, knowing him, he gave me a thorough, accurate, and theologically correct answer. But, sometimes, we don’t need an expansive answer articulated to us. Instead, we need something we can grab on and cling to for dear life.

Of course, the answer we receive must be theologically sound doctrine; that’s a given. But the words used, and their presentation can be vital when tossed as a life preserver to a brother or sister that feels their strength waning and satan’s imps pulling on our feet. To understand God’s Words, we must first hear them interpreted by the Holy Spirit.

I don’t remember Dad’s answer, but I knew I needed the correct answer to my question: “Why is God hard to see?”

By faith, not by sight

Why does God appear to be hiding? Oh, when I look at His creation, I see the handiwork of God. His work testifies to His existence. And when I see a newborn baby, and I’ve seen a lot of them, I am humbled by God’s gift of life. And when I sit at the bedside of a saint of God passing from this life of trials and turmoil and entering the presence of God, I see the unspeakable grace of God to His children. So, for years I was baffled by God’s propensity to remain in in the periphery of my sight.

Why, oh God, maker of heaven and earth, the establisher of kings and kingdoms, the Great I AM, why do You make it so difficult for us to see you?

God’s answer is simple. Jesus told His apostle Thomas the reason. Jesus said to Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29) God gives a special blessing to all of us that believed Christ’s Gospel without seeing God.

It’s a matter of trust

From Genesis all the way to the end of the book of Revelation, three things that God continually offers to people: repentance, saving faith, and the promise to never be abandoned.  Yet most people reject God and become hard hearted. Salvation is a matter of trust in the perfect work of Jesus. This is rejected by most, but God’s desire is that all would come unto repentance:

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

2 Peter 3:9

So, why is God hard to see?  God can’t be seen. Our entrance into His kingdom is only available by grace, through faith, which is a work of God. “But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.(Matthew 7:14)

It is out of God’s love that He has made faith the device for us to not only see Him, but to be received by Him.

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