Reconciliation: A Reunion of Hearts

We were once separated from the Lord. It is no secret. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”(Rom. 3:23). Thank the Lord, He so loved us that He gave His only Son! One man died and then rose again on behalf of all mankind; this is the message of the church. We were dead in our sins, but God granted a Savior. He   reconciled us unto Himself, enabling us to be reunited with Him. What is old has passed, bringing about what is fresh and new within our hearts.

 

2 Corinthians 5:18-20 states, “And it is all from God, who through the Messiah has reconciled us to Himself and has given to us the work of reconciliation, which is that God in Christ was reconciling mankind to Himself, not counting their sins against them, and     entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are       ambassadors of Christ.”

 

Sometimes as Christians we fail to remember our calling to be ministers of reconciliation. What does that mean? According to Webster, reconciliation is the act of causing two people or groups to become friendly again after an argument or disagreement. However, God would have us take it further. So often we give way to an attitude of “it’s all water under the bridge,” but fail to deal with the damn that is preventing the flow of the Spirit from coming forth from our lives. We don’t forgive. God would have us do more than be on superficial “friendly, speaking terms.” God would have us be reunited with one purpose; that purpose being the glorification of God through us as an example of the Father’s heart toward mankind.

We’ve all been hurt. It doesn’t feel good, and often creates great chasms in our relationships with one another. Reconciliation is hard, yet as Jay E. Adams stated, “If you have been putting off going to another person to try to achieve reconciliation with him, you have wronged him.” Isn’t that exactly what Christ said regarding leaving our gift on the altar? (Matt.5:23-24) Some of us have been hurt by co-workers, friends, some by the church.  If that is the case, as the shepherds of this body of believers, we ask for your forgiveness. We humbly request that you not hold any sin against us.

It is only when we operate in the ministry of reconciliation that we can truly be ambassadors of Christ. God has entrusted it to us as His representatives in the earth.  In this ministry alone, manifesting itself through us, can people see the authenticity of the Gospel of Christ. It is the reunion of not only our hearts with God, but our hearts with one another, resulting in a unity that changes the world.

 

 

“Lord, Help!”

You’re at the end of your rope.  In desperation you do what so many have done in the past and cry, “Lord, help!”  Maybe you meant it, maybe you didn’t.  Maybe you’re using it to test God; as proof He really exists and that He’s willing to help.  If so, you’re in good company.

stormy sea

The Apostle Peter, even as he stepped out in faith, began focusing on the winds and waves of his current circumstances and cried out, “Lord, save me!” (Matt. 14:30).  When he took his eyes off of the Lord everything began to go wrong.  He was sure he was sinking, destined to drown. Thankfully God is merciful in our humanity and stretches out his hand to save us from situations of our own making.

Christ then asks Peter outright, “Why did you doubt me?”  For myself, I’m grateful that the Lord rescues me first and then asks questions.  That is so wonderful about our God.  He saves me out of circumstances and then brings correction.  Is it possible that we don’t ask for help more because we are afraid that God will ask the hard questions first and if we don’t get the answer right, we won’t get help?  Is it possible that difficult life issues dull our ability to see the very character and nature of the One whom we came to trust in the first place?

King David found himself in a similar position and had to verbally reaffirm his belief in God’s kindness toward him.  I love the prayer he prayed in Psalm 86 (NIV).  I can hear his desperation and yet his conviction that God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness would compel the Lord to intervene in his situation, even if only as proof of the goodness of God.  It is my prayer that as you read it, you will call out to the Lord and that He in His lovingkindness will answer you.  All it takes is, “Lord, help!”

 

Hear me, Lord, and answer me,

for I am poor and needy.

Guard my life, for I am faithful to you;

save your servant who trusts in you.

You are my God;

have mercy on me, Lord,

for I call to you all day long.

Bring joy to your servant, Lord,

for I put my trust in you.

You, Lord, are forgiving and good,

abounding in love to all who call to you.

Hear my prayer, Lord;

listen to my cry for mercy.

When I am in distress, I call to you,

because you answer me.

Among the gods there is none like you, Lord;

no deeds can compare with yours.

All the nations you have made

will come and worship before you, Lord;

they will bring glory to your name.

For you are great and do marvelous deeds;

you alone are God.

Teach me your way, Lord,

that I may rely on your faithfulness;

give me an undivided heart,

that I may fear your name.

I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart;

I will glorify your name forever.

For great is your love toward me;

you have delivered me from the depths,

from the realm of the dead.

Arrogant foes are attacking me, O God;

ruthless people are trying to kill me—

they have no regard for you.

But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God,

slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.

Turn to me and have mercy on me;

show your strength in behalf of your servant;

save me, because I serve you

just as my mother did.

Give me a sign of your goodness,

that my enemies may see it and be put to shame,

for you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.

The Blessings of Thankfulness

thanksgiving

OK, so the question is what do we have to be thankful for this year.  I can understand the fear that is in the mind of some regarding the proximity of ISIS to our borders, and terrorism threatening from within.  I can only imagine the stress that fills the hearts of loved ones who have soldiers overseas fighting for freedom.  I shudder to think of the decisions being made by fellow Christians that are making the difficult decision to follow Christ in the midst of unheard of persecution in the Middle East, and here we are eating turkey and mashed potatoes while they are literally giving their lives for our Savior.  So what exactly are we thankful for and how do we justify our position?

 

First of all, I believe we need to take all Scripture in context.  In I Thessalonians 5:16-18, we are encouraged to

“Always be joyful.  Pray regularly.  In everything give thanks, for this is what God wants from you who are united in Christ.”

We need to remain joyful.  Even in the midst of tragedy, not allowing fear to grip our hearts.  Our hope is not in our government, it is in the LORD.  David said that some may trust in chariots, some may trust in horses, but we will trust in the NAME of our GOD.

We need to pray regularly.  God is speaking to His people even in the midst of your crisis.  However, if you are not speaking to Him, most likely you are not hearing what He is saying.  Prayer is simply a two-way discussion between the Almighty and yourself.  If you don’t know Him, you can meet Him personally by going to our “Do You Need Jesus” page.  Those who call on the Name of the Lord shall be saved, no matter what!

Be THANKFUL!  Remind yourself that the greatest reason to be thankful is that you know the God of the Universe who has not abandoned you in your time of need.  No matter what you are encountering, He is a personal God who is aware of it.  What better reason to be thankful this holiday than to celebrate with your family His work not only in your personal life, but in our nation.  We have so much to be thankful for in His mercies that are new every morning and His faithfulness that reaches to the clouds.  If you can find nothing else to be thankful for this year, thank Him for His goodness in your life.

There is power in an attitude of thankfulness.  You might not see immediate results, but if you remain joyful in all things, pray without ceasing, and are continually thankful, you will find that God is moving in miraculous ways that you can’t begin to understand.  Remember that He is the One able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that you can ask or think.  So…rather than focusing on all that is evil in the world, focus on the One who is able to do more in you.

May God bless you and yours this month of Thanksgiving!

Sorting, Packing, & Moving On

We recently moved.  Actually, it’s more accurate to say that we are in the process of moving and it’s not fun.  After so many boxes, I just want to trash it all.  As a matter of fact, when presented with another box the other night, I suggested we do just that.  The more objective mind prevailed and we began to go through what looked to me to be nothing but a pile of trash.

packing boxesAs we began to filter through this mess, what we discovered astonished me.  What was in this box I was so anxious to throw out, you may ask?  In one word, MEMORIES.  I found my report cards from elementary school (all As if you’re wondering), pictures, birthday cards, notes from my parents when I was on the mission field, my wedding invitations, and ultrasound pictures of our third child, little Gary.  As we sorted the keep pile grew larger than the toss pile, and the Lord taught me a valuable lesson that evening.

When Jesus was blessing the evening meal, He said, “This do in remembrance of Me.”  Jesus understood the importance of our memories.  Now, I’ll be the first to admit that there are some memories I wish I could erase.  I’m sure the disciple John at times wished he could erase the brutality of the cross, but even that memory had its place in eternity.  Without that memory, it would have been difficult to stand firm in the face of the adversity he and the other disciples would eventually face, and without the memory of the resurrection, it would most certainly have been difficult to suffer martyrdom for the cause of Christ.  It is the difficult memories that make the joyous ones all the more precious.

We have to deal with the hard things in life. Everyone has boxes that they’ve packed away and compartmentalized in their minds, but it is God’s will that we deal with them all.  We need to sort through the good, the bad, the ugly, and ask the Lord what we need to learn from, what we can toss, realizing it wasn’t quite as important as we thought, and what we need to commend to His care.  We will be happier, healthier people for it, and if you haven’t been able to move on from where you’re at now, perhaps it’s time to sort through some of those mental boxes.

To be honest, I did throw quite a bit away, but I kept more than I tossed.  I kept copies of things for my children, for my memories are the story of me.  That’s why Christ asks us to remember, for in remembering Him, we know Him; in knowing Him, we understand Him; in understanding Him, we love Him; in loving Him, we share Him.  I encourage you today to REMEMBER HIM!

Why I Celebrate the Resurrection

We’ve just finished celebrating His birth, and many are still trying to pay off the huge debts they incurred in an effort to find the “perfect” gift.  Then along comes what is commonly known as Easter.  Bunnies, eggs, springtime, baskets, new dress clothes, and once again many are incurring debt on a holiday they know little about.  The amount of debt you can incur is astronomical, depending only on limits set by people that don’t know anything about you, except perhaps your spending preferences and your own abilities to pay back what they have loaned to you in the first place.  And if you make them unhappy, well, that credit can very easily be revoked, with you ending up with collection notices and a credit score which seems to drop with every passing day.

Anyone who knows me personally will tell you that I am adversely opposed to such a lifestyle.  Why should my life be dependent on a score assigned by someone who looks only at my financial capacity?  I am so much more than that.  So are you.  God knows that, too.  After all, He created you in His image. You are not a number to God.  God counts the stars, He numbers the hair on your head, but He knows my name.  He knows your name too.  We are worth so much more to God than a number, that He came and died for us.  That’s right, died.  On a cross.  After being flogged with horrifying instruments.  Have you ever heard this story?  Why would He do this?

He did it to pay our debts.  The big ones that not even the wealthiest bank on earth could ever pay.  He died for our relationships that are spiraling out of control.  He died for every heartbreak that we would handout and every one we would be given.  He died for the poor, the rich, the downtrodden, the up and coming, the sickliest, the healthiest.  He died because we were created to be with Him, and well, we lost that.  Only He could restore it.  The only way He could restore it was to die.  Sin requires something.  It requires death.  And while you might not see it right now, it will demand payment unless your bill has been paid by someone else.  The only One who can cover that debt is Jesus.

Fortunately for us, sin and its consequences couldn’t keep Him bound.  Justice prevailed.  He rose again!  My debts were paid in full when He died and rose again.  And because I have received His free gift of deliverance and freedom, I cannot be held responsible for debts I couldn’t pay.  For the hurt I’ve caused and the pain I’ve imparted; the hurt I’ve received and the things that have kept me bound, I am set free!  My debts been cancelled in red by the blood of Jesus! No one on earth could have financed that mission.

Why do I celebrate the resurrection of Jesus?  It’s obvious.  The question is why wouldn’t I?  Why don’t you?  My debts have been paid!  I don’t need to find security in a score set based on a number that includes my past.  My security is He who holds my future, knowing it will never be revoked because He loves me.  I don’t need a bunny or an egg to remind me.  I carry it with me every day of the year.  I’m debt free and proud of it! If you’re not, you can receive Him.  To find out more, go to our Need Jesus? page.

Commensurate Praise

Ephesians 1:2-6,11

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus the Messiah.  Praised be ADONAI, Father of our Lord Jesus the Messiah, who in the Messiah has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in heaven.  In the Messiah, He chose us in love before the creation of the universe to be holy and without defect in His presence.  He determined in advance that through Jesus the Messiah we would be His sons – in keeping with His pleasure and purpose – so that we would bring him praise commensurate with the glory of the grace He gave us through the Beloved One…so that we who earlier had put our hope in the Messiah would bring Him praise commensurate with His glory.” 

 

What does it mean that we are to bring God “praise commensurate?”  The definition of commensurate is “equal in measure or extent.”  So the question becomes, equal to what?  In verse 6, our praise is to be equal in measure with the glory of the grace God has given us in Christ and in verse 11, with His glory.  In other words, our praise should be equal in extent to His works and His person. WOW!  Is that a tall order or what?  I immediately began to ask, “Who is capable of that?,” after all it seems just as hard as following His command to “Be holy, for I am holy.”

I think the key to giving praise commensurate is to find out what we have to praise Him for, and in Ephesians the Apostle Paul provides quite a list.  So here are a few that I found, but feel free to add your own.

  1. We – you and I- have been chosen as His sons!  Think about that for a minute.  The God who spoke our world into existence, the God of every miracle listed in the Bible, and every miracle that isn’t, this same GOD has chosen you!  And you’re not a servant or a slave, you have been chosen by Him as a son, a daughter simply for His pleasure.  You have been chosen as a joint heir of Christ!  Ephesians 1:4-5
  2. We are set free – our sins are forgiven!  I don’t care who you are, we all have sinned and fall short of His glory in and of ourselves.  That being said, because Jesus shed His blood, once we receive it, we are free from whatever has held us captive.  It’s not just our sins, either.  We are also set free from consequences of past failures and mistakes (see previous post A Horse Tale.)  How awesome is it that the God of the Universe would so lavish us with His grace, His enabling power to overcome!  Ephesians 1:7
  3. He has made known to us secrets!  I love a secret, and I especially love being able to ponder mysteries as revealed by the Holy Spirit.  This is an incredible thought, that God in all of His wisdom and insight trusts you and I with His secrets.  I find it difficult to trust some people with my plans, but God has entrusted us with His.  Ephesians 1:8-10
  4. You have an inheritance!  Not only have you been chosen His child, but He has provided for us, not only in the now, but has prepared for your future!  Remember the bumper sticker that stated, “I spent my kids inheritance.”  Well, God isn’t doing that to you.  It is set aside, and it has your name on it!  Ephesians 1:11
  5. You are sealed by the Holy Spirit!  What a reassuring thought that we are backed by the God of the Universe.  He hasn’t left this job to anyone else, He’s taken it upon Himself to guarantee your inheritance.  How amazing is that?  Ephesians 1:13-14

These are just the first few mentioned by Paul in the first chapter of Ephesians, but if we can get a hold of these five and begin to praise Him accordingly in conjunction with everything else He’s done, we will reach praise commensurate!  I challenge you this Christmas season to begin praising Him, and then to continue on throughout the year, allowing your praise to open up a new realm of worship unto you!

Sibling Squabbles

So, we’ve all had opportunity to be offended in life.  If you haven’t, please don’t wait, send a comment, we all want to know your secret!  Our Lord assured us that it wasn’t a matter of if offences would come, but rather when.

“It is impossible, but that offences will come…” Luke 17:1a

Now, you can look in many different translations, and find it the term offences  rendered as things that cause people to sin and in my Jewish Bible, it’s rendered a snare.  All for good reason, I believe.  Giving offence can be done quite on accident (I won’t venture to address the times when it is done on purpose), but how we react to it, that can be an issue of sin, and the offence itself can be a snare of the enemy to get you to respond in a less than godly manner.

So, how do we respond according to Kingdom principles?  Jesus laid it out very clearly in Matthew, chapter 18:15-17.

1)  Go to the person who has offended you privately, one on one.  My Bible stresses privately.  Public confrontation is never an appropriate initial reaction, in my opinion.   God’s primary goal is the reconciliation of man to Himself, but secondly between men and themselves and finally, men and each other.  That cannot happen if we are flying off the wall, constantly exhibiting an attitude of anger rather than an attitude of reconciliation.

2)  If he doesn’t receive you, then you are to approach him with one or two others so that “every accusation can be supported by the testimony of two or three witnesses.”  If you don’t have the supporting witnesses, it’s best not to confront to begin with.  In other words, if you are operating under a spirit of suspicion, and not factual knowledge, because you simple don’t like someone or because they rub you the wrong way, according to the Kingdom, you don’t have a leg to stand on.  You must have proof.

3)  If proof exists, and the brother/sister still refuses to repent and work towards making restitution then the congregation must be told.  This is where it gets difficult for us pastors.  We don’t necessarily like to make waves, but again, we must administrate according to Kingdom principles.  Quite frankly, ministers are fond of preaching the first two, but are quick to preach the gospel of grace when it comes to enacting the third.  However, let me admonish that if we take the definition of grace meaning, “enabling power,” then man, woman of God, you have God’s power to carry out step three!

The Apostle Paul tells us in I Corinthians 6,  that God’s people should be able to solve problems that arise between brothers and sisters in Christ among themselves.  In other words, there shouldn’t be unresolved issues in our midst that cause the world to look at what is transpiring in God’s Kingdom and shaking their heads.  Rather, they should be able to look at us as a template for the appropriate way of confronting issues head on and seeing them successfully dealt with.

3 Dangerous Words

We know it. We quote it to ourselves and we quote it to others.

Proverbs 18:21, “The tongue has power over life and death; those who indulge it must eat its fruit.”

We are told to watch what we say and to be positive, and for the the most part the mature Christian can and will bring themselves into obedience in this area.  However, what about words being spoken to us?  What do we do when there is a constant stream of negative information being thrust our direction, and not just from one source?

There are three very dangerous words that every Christian must be on guard against.  What are they?

but what ifThat’s right-but, what, and if, and not always necessarily together! There’s nothing the enemy loves more than to cause you to second guess God, or to step out and do things in your own way, in your own timing and then wonder what happened when it all falls apart.

This is a hard thing to learn, especially if you’re a planner like me, but I’m learning that not everything can be administered (even if you have a God-given gift of administration).  Sometimes God just wants us to have faith.

Paul says concerning Abraham that,

“He did not by lack of trust decide against God’s promises.  On the contrary, by trust he was given power as he gave glory to God, for he was fully convinced that what God had promised he could also accomplish.”  Romans 4:20-21

When we question God, we are actually making a decision against God’s promises!  I don’t want to do that, do you?  I want to agree with God’s promises concerning my life.  It says that as Abraham gave God glory, he was given power, and as God is no respecter of persons, I have to believe that He also empowers us as we glorify Him.

So when three dangerous words are whispered or shouted in your ear, whatever the case may be, just begin to glorify the Lord.  Remember that He who promised is faithful!

Bony Hands & Feet

The boys and I have been studying the skeletal system for the past two weeks and we learned something that I found rather fascinating.  Frankly it’s all very interesting, but in light of our new FLIGHT School that Destiny Outreach began yesterday morning, which was extremely fun by the way, I thought it would be appropriate to share.

skeletal hand & footDid you know that the adult human body has 206 bones?  Really?  Ok, so did you also know that your hand has 27 bones and your foot has 26.  Between both sets of hands and feet, those four members alone have 106 of the 206 total in the body. Interesting, to see the importance that God placed upon those members, how many different parts it takes joined together to get something done.

The same is true in the Body of Christ.  As we embark upon the study of our spiritual gifts in FLIGHT (Family Learning Igniting God-given Hope & Talent) School on Sunday morning, we would do well to remember that just as miraculously each cell in the human body knows its place and its part, we too were created with individual gifts and talents with a God-given purpose and place prepared just for us.  Amazingly none of the human cells fight or argue over which one is going to become a brain cell or heart cell or bone cell, they just automatically know their place and report for duty.  That is how the Body of Christ should work together.  Who are you, what were you designed to do, child of God?

Romans 12:4-6a

“Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body.  We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.  In His grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well.”

What is it that you do well?  God has certainly gifted you to do something.  You have a destiny, and over the next several months, we will be discovering spiritual giftings and talents not just for adults, but also in children, so that you too can find your place in the Body of Christ.  We look forward to seeing all your bony hands and feet there!

 

 

A Horse Tale

Picture2We just returned from visiting some dear friends of ours who live in Arkansas and whom our older two sons, Ezekiel and Joshua had the opportunity to visit two springs ago.  While they were there, Joshua had an unfortunate experience with one of their horse’s named Star, who he had to dismount into the arms of our waiting friend.  Needless to say, when we arrived this time, there was speculation on everyone’s part as to whether or not Joshua would even ride a horse.  Unfortunately, his brothers had been mercilessly teasing him regarding this incident, creating an unnecessary fear in him and he did not want to go riding.  They were insisting that he was going to have to ride Star again, something that the adults had already agreed would not happen, even though what had happened previously was not Star’s fault.  It took everything in me to convince Josh that he didn’t have to ride Star even though his brothers said he did.  Why?  Simply put – I’m the parent and I say so!  I love him and would never put him in a position that would jeopardize his security emotional or otherwise.

That got me to thinking about sin.  How often do we go through life fearing the consequences of a sin we’ve committed or something that has happened to us through no fault of our own.  People, good, Christian people tell us we have to live with the consequences, but can I tell you that you have a loving, heavenly Father who not only has forgiven every sin, but that has the ability to set you free from the consequences of sin as well?  Now don’t misunderstand, there are consequences that can’t be escaped, but I’m talking about the emotional toll that enables you to rise above where you’ve been in, so that you can live a life of freedom and victory.  The freedom that enables you to get on another horse, just like Joshua did and enjoy the scenery of life.

Interesting thing, after riding Straight-Edge for a while, Joshua ended up leading Star around the property.  He didn’t get back on her, but he was learning not to be afraid of her.  Sometimes it’s not just about listening to well-meaning brothers and sisters in Christ.  Sometimes we just need to listen to our wonderful Heavenly Father who says simply that it never has to be a part of our lives again, simply because He’s said so!  He loves you!  Who are you listening to?  Walk in freedom today, it’s yours for the asking!