Forgiveness

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There are attributes in many believers that seem unnatural to the people around them. Some people have a joy that shines out of them, some the patience that lasts forever. While all seem unnatural in this dark world, they are beautiful when they show their light to the darkness. One of the blessings given to me is my ability to forgive. I took an introspective moment to consider how to explain something so unnatural to those around me. I would like to credit the Holy Spirit. The part of me that thought of vengeance or vindication has become so quiet, its whisper has disappeared.

         Like many of the gifts the Spirit gives to believers, the beauty of them can’t be fully described to people who don’t walk in them. We all know that the Word of God calls us to forgive. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14-15) This passage means so much more to a forgiving heart. I see Jesus giving an instruction for us to do unto others as our Father has done for us in providing His Son. Even more, I see an amazing Father teaching His children to do something that is good for them even though it isn’t pleasant by nature. Like a parent telling a child to bathe regularly; the child can’t appreciate the lessons in hygiene given to them until they are older and matured. Similarly we begin to appreciate the Word of God as our faith grows and our spirit matures.

               When we refuse to forgive those who offend or harm us we change who we are. We affect the way we see others in terms of trust and kindness. The hurt we hold onto in being unforgiving causes damage and inevitably reveals itself in a way we don’t recognize, in a completely unrelated situation. I think of people who hurt others as fallen and sinful, which applies to us all. In that way we are all consistently falling short of the Glory of God. The nature of people is like gravity. We are always sinful just as gravity always pulls. When we fall do we lash out against gravity or accept what it is?

         Lacking forgiveness is like refusing to accept the nature of sin and man. Refusing to work within God’s design just makes us uncomfortable as the world continues to dwell in darkness. Forgiveness is a light to a world content with its fallenness. Show this world forgiveness with a humility that humbles a hardened heart.

         Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, (Luke 17:3) We are told here to pay attention to ourselves. That makes sense seeing that forgiveness is for our well-being over the well-being of the offender. I feel that forgiveness given, even when there has been no repentance, calms the heart of the offended and warms the heart of our Father. Christ was crucified so that we would have the choice to be forgiven. He died for those who have shown no repentance so that the option of salvation is theirs. Forgive unconditionally, break the cycle of pride so that the love of Christ can be felt through you.

But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you. (Psalm 130:4)

Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. (Psalm 32:1)

Holy Seed in a Calloused Heart

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“‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’ Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”
But as the terebinth and oak leave stumps when they are cut down, so the holy seed will be the stump in the land. (Isaiah 6:9-10,13)

          The first verse here, from Isaiah 6, describes those who walk blindly through the darkness of this world. They have access to the holiness of God but refuse to let it penetrate their heart and cause changes that lead to sanctification. They miss the fullness they have access to in Jesus Christ and His atoning work on the cross. The biggest hindrance is people’s refusal to submit to God bigger purpose for His people. They can’t imagine that they are not the center of His movements in this world. The thought of suffering or becoming a servant leave them seeking gratification in their own way. The constant struggle against the pull of their hearts toward their Father cause them to become calloused so that the desire for God becomes dull. They fall into the trap of putting their desires over those of God. God desires that submission to Him and a deep relationship rooted ion love would lead our desires to become His desires.
          The voice of God becomes drown out in the business associated with self-servitude and self-gratification. The calloused heart isn’t the pliable vessel where the Holy Spirit is meant to thrive and shine forth the light of God through His children. When a person wrapped in the cords of the enemy comes to the end of themselves, they are then in a position to receive the greater gifts of God. Their eyes can then see, ears can then hear, and hearts can then receive the power found in Jesus Christ through their weakness. They can then turn to the faithful Father who stands patiently waiting for His children so that none may parish.
          The second verse above talks about the holy seed of God. In this case it refers to the remnant that God uses to carry His glory through time even as the people turn away with callused hearts. I think of this as the holy seed found in every person that we refer to as a conscience. God speaks into our spirit and writes His moral code upon mankind made in His image. Even in a calloused condition the draw toward God, the empty place we look to fill with lesser things, still causes us hardship and struggle. Acknowledge the holy seed that pulls at you when God isn’t first place in your life. Never let your heart become so calloused that the Holy Spirit cannot shine through your life. Refuse to let yourself be ruled by your fleshly desires. Be restored to, submitted to and led by your Heavenly Father so that your life finds the purpose and joy for which it was created.

Above and Beyond the Word

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So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin. (Romans 14:22-23)

         If someone draws closer to God through certain practices, we are not to judge as long as they don’t go against scripture. This includes denominational differences. We have to let all things lead to Christ even if we might think of them as senseless. We shouldn’t let the things that make us different draw us apart. God creates many diverse parts to make up the church, the bride of Christ. God uses many ways to touch the hearts of each of His children. Just like God used ceremonial law to keep the focus of His people on Him, He will use multiple ways to draw people from the darkness of sin.
          The danger comes when people lose focus on God and develop a reliance on acts. This is where people become legalistic and think that their actions take the place of the faith we are called into. Be careful not to let differences in practice draw believers apart. Keep your opinions between you and God so that your thoughts don’t create division.
          If you feel God call you to a certain place, walk with Him. If you have a practice that you feel draws you closer to God and honors Him, draw close to Him as He draws close to you. As long as your practice doesn’t contradict scripture, praise God in what draws your heart to Him. Don’t rely on your practice, let those moments develop your intimacy with God and grow your relationship with Him. The ultimate intimacy with God is found in relationship with Jesus Christ. Let your walk be yours and let your neighbor’s walk belong to them.
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews (believers) or to Greeks (unbelievers) or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved (1 Corinthians 10:31-33)

Angels of Opposition

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“Daniel, don’t be afraid. God has heard your prayers ever since the first day you decided to humble yourself in order to gain understanding. I have come in answer to your prayer. The [evil] angel prince of the kingdom of Persia opposed me for twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief angels, came to help me, because I had been left there alone in Persia” (Daniel 10:12-13).

                This piece of scripture points out that there existed an angel over Persia that was in opposition to the angel of God. We must see the significance of the evil angel that opposed the work of God accomplished through His angels from Heaven. This concept is huge. We know from Ephesians that: For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12)

                Imagine with me that for every blessing God has for His children the deceiver has the ability to send one of his demons (fallen angels) to oppose that blessing, resulting in a spiritual battle. This battle exists around believers constantly. We walk in the peace and joy of the Lord and then find ourselves beat down by worry and doubt that results in depression and despair. We start to question God’s involvement when in fact it’s the actions of the deceiver through suggestion that cause us trouble. We are called to have faith in our Lord so that we can combat the seeds planted by the deceiver. We are called to put on the full armor of God to protect ourselves for his flaming arrows and then fight against him with God’s word as Jesus did in the wilderness.

                Don’t lose heart when you struggle. Those struggles only exist because the deceiver sees you as a threat worthy enough to require attention. If God wasn’t using you for an important purpose the devil would have no need to concern himself with you. Always reassure yourself that the troubles that attack you as you walk in faith are attacks from the enemy and not an absence of God. Use these attacks as a opportunity to ‘fine tune’ your armor and grow closer to God. As your faith matures along with your relationship to God, the deceiver will see that attacks on you become fruitless because the fruits of God’s Spirit abound in your life.

Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. (Revelation 12:7)

You Cannot Change Yourself

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       Many people come to Christ and dive into trying to be good. They imitate what they think a Christian should do and end up disappointed and exhausted in their effort. The yoke of Christ is light. He bore the burden of our sin and sent the Holy Spirit as our Helper to continue our growth and maturity. When we try to walk in our own strength we end up burned out and wondering where the peace and joy is. It is impossible to control your flesh with your flesh. Even if it were possible you would not be walking with God, you would still be alone. God didn’t send His Son to reconcile you to Him and then allow you to walk alone.

      Our job is to deny our flesh, turn from our sin and allow the Holy Spirit to create genuine and lasting change in us. God looks to break down our flesh and let His Spirit guide us in our walk. If we try to imitate godly attributes by ‘being good Christians’ God still has to break down those human imitations so that His Spirit can instill the eternal ones. Man-made attributes are motivated by man’s will and not the Spirit. Even at their best, which is broken, they build up man instead of glorifying God. God will not let His children settle for lesser gifts, He knows His Spirit is necessary for the relationship He desires. All your children will be taught by the Lord, and great will be their peace.

       Spend time daily with God in submission to His will and the correction of His Holy Spirit. Be led by the Spirit to lasting, eternal change in your spirit. It takes longer because it’s genuine. After experiencing the process, you will see changes to your heart that you were not even aware needed attention. Then you will experience the lasting changes of God that are accompanied by the peace and joy promised in Jesus Christ.

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. (John 3:5-6)

Using satan to Grow

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                It is rare that we are exposed to preaching and writings that focus on the schemes of the deceiver. I agree that the love of God the Father through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus is the most important message by far; but the enemy of God’s love must be acknowledged. Thinking about an entity and his army trying to draw you away from God can be terrifying. As with all things, perspective makes all the difference. It is inevitable that a walk with the Lord will be met with equal opposition. If you don’t feel the opposition of the devil you might be walking in the direction he wants for you. If you don’t feel his opposition you may not pose a threat to his plan to destroy God’s reconciliation with His creation.

The closer you get to God the more the deceiver looks for a way to hinder your progress. You could get discouraged by this, or be prepared and wear his attacks as a badge of honor. You can know ahead of time that the deceiver wants you to fail and use the power you have in your Savior to walk in victory. Better than that, you can use satan’s prideful attempts to trip you to grow!

The deceiver will use earthly desires and pride to tempt you to settle for something far less than what God has for you. When he shoots the flaming arrows of Ephesians 6, use your shield to defend yourself and acknowledge where the devil was trying to hurt you.

 Let his attempts to hurt you reveal the weakness he perceives in you. When you are attacked stand secure in what God has promised you and let the deceiver point out the weak points in your armor. If he continues to aim at a certain place, he is just showing you wear your armor might be weak. Let your walk with God strengthen that part of your armor. Most of the time the deceiver will use your pride to draw you away. Not a chest pounding pride but the pride that makes you feel that you can do anything without God, the pride of self-sufficiency or self-focus.

When you feel drawn away or beat down in your walk with the Lord, identify what weakness the deceiver is looking to exploit and ask the Holy Spirit to help you in that weakness. Ask God to give you His power to grow in that area, closer to His grace and love. After having God’s view of the deceiver’s feeble attempts to hurt you, you will gain experience and get better at seeing the new ways he comes against you. Each new angle gives you another chance to grow closer to God and stronger in His Spirit.

As satan’s pride causes him to battle in vain to win a battle we know He loses in the end, use his pride to destroy yours. As the devil’s pride attacks, yours will fall away when you draw closer to God. Your self-reliance will fall to pieces and God’s indwelling Spirit will shine through in your maturity. Use the devil as a stepping stone. Each new stone lets you raise higher. As long as the hatred of the devil comes against us, we have another way to perceive our weaknesses. Now we can let the Holy Spirit work in us so that we are stronger in battle and closer to our Father.

God’s Repeated Warnings

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Yet if there is an angel at their side, a messenger, one out of a thousand, sent to tell them how to be upright, and he is gracious to that person and says to God, ‘Spare them from going down to the pit; I have found a ransom for them— let their flesh be renewed like a child’s; let them be restored as in the days of their youth’— then that person can pray to God and find favor with him, they will see God’s face and shout for joy; he will restore them to full well-being. (Job 33:23-26)

                Reading the passage above I am confronted with the extent of God’s mercy. This wonder scripture tells us about “one of a thousand” angels send to guide us in how to walk with God. That’s God’s one thousand plus attempts to guide us back to Him. Imagine the love involved in that kind of persistence. Would you have the love to try a thousand times to walk with someone who rejected every previous attempt? God allows people who turn from Him to walk into trouble repeatedly in the hope that the next angel sent to them will be the messenger of joy to Heaven.

                Then it’s revealed that the angel may find a ransom for that lost soul, that they might be renewed in the eyes of their Lord. All of Heaven knows that there is in fact a ransom which will reconcile us with God. He sent His Son so that He might be a ransom for all who believe in His name. the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28) For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as ransom for all (1 Timothy 2:5-6a)

                Praise God for the mercy, grace and love that led Him to seek His children a thousand times. Praise God for the gift of Jesus and His rescue from a death we all deserve in our sinful turning away. Although the events of Job take place well before the laws given to Moses or the birth of Jesus, we see the heart of God for His people. We can fall in love with a God who seeks us in our rebellion with a tenacity that has no bounds. Let this love for God lead you to share it with the lost as He sends to share the Gospel. Know that you are one of God’s thousands of attempts to make His love known in all the earth.