Tag Archive | Forgiveness

God Is Love, 1 John 4:16

Buddy.Cute.WP

One reason I love this photo is because I love Buddy. He is great company, particularly when I’m alone in the house at night. And because I love him, I don’t think about the bad boy things he has done: I see him as perfect and totally lovable.

The Apostle John, who laid his head against Christ’s breast when Jesus walked the earth, declared that “God is love,”–1 John 4:16

When most people think of Heaven, they think of angels on clouds and green meadows full of flowers and meeting their loved ones again, looking young and healthy. They usually don’t think of it as a place where God dwells.

Since God is love and dwells in Heaven, guess what Hell could be defined as? Not as a place of fire and brimstone, but a place where God does not dwell, a place totally absent of love.

Please think about that. Hell is a place with no mercy, no kindness, no laughter, no joy, no peace, no faithfulness, no goodness, no patience, no freedom…(Galatians 5:22) I’m sure you can think of many others.

I think most people, if mentally healthy, would prefer to go to Heaven and not Hell, but they have a misunderstanding about how to get there. This will shock most people: IT’S NOT BY BEING GOOD! or , like pictured in an Egyptian papyrus painting, I have, “IT’S NOT BY HAVING YOUR GOOD DEEDS OUTWEIGHING YOUR BAD.”

To address the latter firstly: If you think it’s by having your good deeds outweighing the bad, how do you define your good and your bad deeds? God is perfect. His definition of “bad” is far broader than ours is. The longer I’m a Christian, the more I realize how bad I really am, because I become more familiar with what God’s standards really are. When someone asked Jesus what he must do to “inherit eternal life”, Jesus responded, “No one is good except God alone.”–Luke 18:18

This seems to me a really iffy program to place my hope on to obtain eternal life in Heaven. How do you really know when your good deeds outweigh your bad? How many points does gossip get versus donating a toy to Toys for Tots? That method would keep me awake at night.

Most people don’t understand the gospel (which means “good news”). It’s not good news to tell me that I need to work really hard to be good and hope that maybe I did well enough to pass muster on Judgment Day. God cannot tolerate evil, i.e. sin. He demands perfection. In the Sermon On The Mount, Jesus declared, “You must be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.”–Matthew 5:48  I blew that one a long time ago.

That’s why Jesus had to die. Only He was good enough, being God in the flesh, to live a perfect life and take our punishment for God’s wrath against sin. We don’t do anything to earn Heaven except humble ourselves and admit we’re sinners and need Jesus’ blood to cover our sin for us. And because He rose from the dead, proving Himself to be God and His sacrifice acceptable, ask Him to empower us by giving us the Holy Spirit to live His life through us.

Then God sees us as perfect and totally lovable, just like I love my Buddy.

“As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.”–Psalm 103:12

And that’s good news, not working for my eternal life but accepting that Jesus already did it for me.

Sadly, admitting they’re not perfect is just too difficult for most people.

PS. If someone says this is wrong, it’s not by faith in Christ but good works, then ask them, “Why did Jesus have to die?”

***

If you agree with me, “Hey, I’d like to go to Heaven and live with this loving God for eternity, and I know I’m not perfect, I’ve missed the mark,” please pray:

Dear Father, I’m sorry I’ve screwed up and fallen far short of your standards. I know I’m far from perfect but I believe you love me and want me to spend eternity with you. I believe that Jesus was God in the flesh and died for my sins. That He lived the perfect life I couldn’t live. Please forgive me and grant me Your Holy Spirit to lead and guide me. Amen.

 

Advertisements

You fool! Matthew 5:22b

rascal

No matter how rotten or rascally Buddy acts, I never curse him out. Why? Because I love him.

However, it’s much more difficult when dealing with human beings. Unlike my faithful dog, they can inflict great hurt or act hatefully. I am particularly sensitive to people who are supporting political movements that are damaging the freedom, and threatening the liberty, of this great country I grew up in. I wonder if future generations are going to enjoy the freedom and prosperity that I have, and hope to continue to have, during my lifetime. But I have to remind myself of Jesus’ warning during His well-known Sermon On The Mount speech:

“But I say to you…whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.”–Jesus, Matthew 5:22b

Because we’re all made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26), God demands that we treat each other with respect. God showers His love on all humankind through what is called “common grace,” meaning that He gives good things to all people through what He has provided on earth: food from the ground, rain for crops, air to breathe, etc.

But it’s really easy for me to forget that when I’m feeling passionate about a topic or frustrated because someone isn’t acting the way I think they should. I have to remind myself that one of God’s greatest gifts to us is free will: The choice to love and obey God freely or to choose not to. God, being all powerful, could force us to obey Him or zap us whenever we do what displeases him. Jesus could easily have struck the Roman soldiers dead who beat and flogged him before forcing him to walk to His crucifixion. But He didn’t. Instead, hanging naked and beaten to a pulp from the Cross, He said, “Father, forgive them, because they don’t know what they’re doing.”–Luke 23:34

Since I’m a follower of Christ, He expects me to glorify Him in this hurting world, to be light and salt, to stand out, to draw people into relationship with Him.

It’s a challenge for me because we’re not supposed to be cowards, standing idly by while people destroy themselves with sin or promote evil, but are exhorted to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). But I often find it difficult to figure out how to be honest yet not be condemning. I don’t feel like I have many roles models to pattern myself after. Which forces me to rely on the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

And some people seem to be naturally easy-going: nothing much fazes them. That’s not me. I have the passionate, artistic personality–that’s the way God made me. Emotions are not evil, but how we express them can be, when we hurt, injure, or mistreat others instead of loving, inspiring and gently exhorting them.

I guess what I’m saying is, it’s a lot easier to be patient with Buddy, not only because I love him but because I do have more control over his behavior than I do people. I cannot make people love or be grateful or work hard or do good. I work at obeying God–to love others as I love myself (Matthew 22:39–and have to learn to let go and trust Him to work out His will in the lives of others, this country, and the world. Creation and humanity was His plan and He’s ultimately in control, not me.

***

If you’re not born-again, you will discover that, no matter how hard you try, you cannot improve yourself. Only God can change your soul and make you into the loving person you’d like to be. He made you with a purpose and loves you very much. If you’re tired of continually failing, please say this prayer:

Lord Jesus, I’m sorry that I’ve sinned and offended You. Please forgive me. I’m tired of trying to be a better person in my own strength. Please come into my life and help me to become the person You created me to be and to fulfill your will and purpose for my life.

If you’ve said this prayer, God bless you. You have eternal life and are starting a wonderful journey. Please find a local, Biblically-based church or Bible study where you can becomes friends with, and be grow in your faith, other believers. It helps you to stand strong when you don’t feel alone.

 

Hurting People, James 4:11-12

Buddycar.6.2011

When I first adopted Buddy from Silky Terrier Rescue, he was terrified of me and my family. He didn’t utter one sound for several days, not even a sniff. We thought his voice box had been damaged by abuse but it turned out he was just too frightened to make noise. When he barked at the neighbor’s dog and was praised for making a sound, he realized it was ok to make noise. Now he’s our most talkative dog ever.

For years, however, whenever I reached toward him, he would duck as if I wanted to hit him. He doesn’t do it as often now, but he still does duck occasionally and it hurts my feelings because I have no desire to harm Buddy. I don’t know the details of his previous life and can only speculate. Only God knows, but now Buddy has a family who loves and cherishes him. He gets treats and walks and hugs and personal care.

Considering this, I realize that people often act like Buddy. There might be abuse in their past or adverse circumstances that I don’t know anything about that might be causing them to act the way they do. Sometimes people act nasty or fearful because of original sin, but sometimes there are other mitigating factors.

“Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law…There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?”–James 4:11-12

When the check-out clerk who is scanning my grocery items looks sullen or is unfriendly, I try to remind myself not to react unkindly. I know how many things I conceal from people that I have far more contact with. The clerk may have been forced to come to work to save their job but may not be feeling well, their dog may have run off or been killed that morning, their kid may have just entered drug rehab, or a customer earlier that day was very rude and they haven’t been able to shrug it off yet. I just don’t know what may have happened ten minutes or ten hours ago in that person’s life. Only God knows.

Similarly, a coworker may be acting like a butt because they were told bad news about a relative or had an ugly family fight that morning. Or they may just feel cranky from lack of sleep and it’s an aberration and I need to be patient while they work it out of their system.

I’m not saying that people should make excuses for acting badly toward others, but we are all human and I am certainly not Miss Sunshine 24/7 myself and need others to forgive and be patient with me, too. “Love is patient, love is kind…” (1 Corinthians 13:4)

Now there are indeed times to judge because we are told to “Open your mouth, judge righteously…” (Proverbs 31:9)  We’re not supposed to remain silent and let evil triumph. “Like a trampled spring and a polluted well, is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked.” (Proverbs 25:26)

But in most circumstances of life, I need to remind myself to be patient, be kind, and not judge. Not to be reactive or defensive, but to be proactively loving. I’m still learning because I have my “hot buttons” but I think I’m doing better than I used to because of God’s life in me.

God bless you this week.

***

Without the power of the Spirit of Jesus Christ in our lives, it’s difficult to be the person we want to be. God gives us a new heart, a new spirit, and the mind of Christ when we admit we’re sinners and give our hearts to Him. Becoming born-again isn’t just about escaping Hell and going to Heaven; it’s about entering into a close relationship with God and becoming a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:7). If you aren’t a believer in Jesus Christ, He invites you to enter into relationship with Him. Please pray: “Lord, I admit that I have offended You and done what is wrong in Your sight. Please forgive me of my sins and enter into my heart and my life. Make me a new creation by the power of Your Holy Spirit.” If you prayed this prayer, please find a Bible-based church to fellowship with other believers and grow in the knowledge of God. As a fellow believer in Christ, I love you and so does the Lord.

Strength From Joy, Nehemiah 8:9-10

Happy Buddy

I tried to give Buddy a walk earlier today, but the construction noise across from the park frightened him and he made a mad dash back to my car. He gave me a happy smile when he managed to claim the driver’s seat. Because he felt safe in my car, he could abandon fear and smile again.

Nehemiah was the cup bearer for King Artaxerxes of the ancient Medo-Persian empire. The great king allowed Nehemiah to return to Jerusalem in 445 BC to rebuild the city wall that King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had destroyed. Inspired by God, pagan King Artaxerxes also provided the funds and supplies for the project. During those times cities were usually encircled by walls to protect them from their enemies. Because of Nehemiah’s leadership skills, the motley and varied group of Jewish inhabitants of the city rebuilt the wall in 52 days. What was particularly amazing is that these people were not professional builders: women, perfumers, goldsmiths, and all sorts of persons lugged stones for the walls and hung doors for the gates.

After the great project was completed, all the people gathered to hear Ezra the scribe bless them. He also read from the Book of the Law (Old Testament) and explained it in a way that was understandable. The people wept bitterly when they realized they fell far short of God’s requirements.

“Then Nehemiah who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, ‘This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep….Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.'”–Nehemiah 8:9-10

When we’re focused on our works and failures, rather than on God’s goodness and might, we can be self-preoccupied, cranky, bitter and miserable. But what does God say?

“For You have cast all my sins behind your back.”–Isaiah 38:17

“As far as the east is from the west, So far has He moved our transgressions from us.”–Psalm 103:12

After we’ve confessed our sins, God doesn’t continue to hold them against us. He doesn’t want us walking around with long, pious faces. I really think Jesus wasn’t like the movies portray him: serious-looking all the time. I believe he was full of joy, radiating abundant health, because people were drawn to Him and wanted to be near Him. No one is drawn toward a sour puss.

When we are focused on our sin and unworthiness, we’re self-preoccupied rather than God-occupied. Most people are unhappy. If they see Christians who are joyful, even despite adverse circumstances, they will be drawn to you and will listen to your testimony because you clearly have something they lack: joy.

And from personal experience, I feel healthier when I’m focused on God’s goodness, the beauty of nature and positive things in life, rather than where I’m failing or where others are falling short. I feel more pep in my step when I’m focused on the positive instead of being self-preoccupied.

Folks, be God-occupied and rejoice! God is good, thinks about you a lot, and He loves you. You can trust Him to “guide (you) in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” (Psalm 23:3). And “Who always leads us to triumph in Christ,” (2nd Corinthians 2:14).

You can relax in Jesus. He’ll continue to guide you. “He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”–Philippians 1:6

End note: If you are not born-again, you can still find temporary joy in nature but without the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, you are not being guided into triumph in Christ. Please consider saying this prayer: “Father, I admit that I have a sinful heart, have offended you and cannot live up to Your righteous standards. I accept that Jesus died on the Cross to take the punishment I deserve for my sin. Please forgive me and enter into my heart. I trust that on the third day after the Crucifixion Jesus was resurrected bodily, an acceptable sin sacrifice, to give me eternal life. Be my Lord and teach me to walk in your ways.” If you’ve said this prayer, God promises to “give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him”–Luke 11:13  God bless you and guide you to a Biblically-based church fellowship.

Quotes from the NASB version of the Bible

 

The Third Guy, Matthew 25:14-29

Talents.WP.Bud

Buddy had been abused before I had adopted him. He was three years old at that time and very frightened of my family. He didn’t make a single sound for three days, not even a sniff or a cough. We feared his voice box had been damaged and were about to take him to the veterinarian to be examined when, fortunately, he gave a small woof at the neighbor’s dog. When he wasn’t punished for making a noise, he slowly became more vocal. It took about 1.5 years before he stopped ducking every time we reached toward him. It made us very sad. Now, after 7 years, he is the most talkative dog we’ve ever had and I enjoy his attempts to communicate with us. After living with him for so many years, we usually understand what he’s saying.

Jesus told a parable about a master and his three slaves. Their master gave his servants a great opportunity to show their value to him. He went away on a trip and left them with some money with the expectation they would increase it somehow. Upon his return, two of his servants had invested the money wisely and doubled the amount. They were greatly praised and rewarded. The third slave, fearing his master and thinking he was a harsh and punishing man, didn’t invest the money but, instead, hid it in the ground. This parable is referred to as the Parable of the Three Talents (the talent being the issue of currency in the tale).

Because the third slave didn’t invest the money wisely and bring an increase of the master’s money that was entrusted to him, the master became very angry and had him cast into the outer darkness.

Usually this tale is interpreted as Jesus telling us that He wants us to utilize our lives for His glory and not to waste the gifts and talents given to us. The third slave goes to Hell as he does not invest his life wisely.

Why did the third guy fail so miserably?

It’s because he didn’t love and trust his master. He even had the gall, in attempting to excuse himself for being such a poor steward of the talent given to him, to tell the master to his face:

“Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed. And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.”–Matthew 25:24-25 NASB

Often people reject knowing Jesus and submitting to Him as their God and master because they fear him. Like the third guy, they don’t live their lives for God’s glory because they believe God is a harsh master who cannot be trusted. They don’t know Jesus so therefore they don’t trust that He loves them and wants to bless them. But what does Jesus say about Himself?

“I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.”–John 10:10b-11

Jesus loves us so much that He laid down His life to die for our sins so that we can be declared pleasing/righteous in God’s eyes. He had to do this because God cannot tolerate sin, so Jesus had to purify us from our sins so that we can enter into God’s presence and fellowship with Him.  There’s no way we can be good enough, no matter how hard we try, so the perfect God/man had to die for our sins. His righteousness is a gift, given to us, just for the asking through an act of faith.

But it takes an act of trust to ask God to enter your life and be your Father and Lord.

As the Good Shepherd, He can be trusted to guide your life to “green pastures”. (Please read Psalm 23). Ask Him to forgive your sin and invite Him to enter into your heart and be your Lord. I’m not promising you’ll have an easier life. But you will never regret it.

And you’ll have eternal life with a reward so wonderful that you cannot imagine it.

Fairy Tale Ending, 1 Corinthians 2:9

Buddy.WP.SunshinewithShawdow

When I first adopted Buddy, he was terrified of me and my family. But after several years of love and treats, walks and healthy food, he finally relaxed and enjoys our company. He was rescued from a situation where he was kicked and chased and now enjoys a loving home.

You might feel like life gives you, not love and affection, but numerous kicks and suffering. You might have chronic pain or financial problems that seem insurmountable, or family members and coworkers who torment you, or great past affliction that’s difficult to forgive or forget.

But please think of your life as a fabulous story. Every good story has conflict or it’d be tremendously boring: times of great suffering and trials that must be overcome, monsters to be slain. But the hero endures, and because he/she never gives up, triumphs.

However, if you have placed your faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, your unique life story has a fairy tale ending. One day you will be present with the Lord in Heaven which is so wonderful that we cannot imagine it, says Apostle Paul,

“Eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.”–1 Corinthians 2:9

Just think of your favorite book with the happy ending you enjoy so much and Heaven is far better.

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”–Revelation 21:4

You enter into a relationship with Jesus by believing that He died for your sins, suffered the punishment you deserved, and maintain your relationship with Him by faith (Galatians 3). You cannot do anything to deserve your eternal salvation, nor can you do anything to maintain your salvation:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”–Ephesians 2:8-9

Jesus had the courage to voluntarily face the tremendous suffering of Crucifixion because He kept his eyes on the “joy set before Him endured the cross”–Hebrews 12:2

“Forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize…”–Apostle Paul, Philippians 3:13

So when life seems hard and you want to give up, please remember to keep your focus on the joy ahead. You are the lead character in your own life story. And your story has a fairy tale ending if you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Rejoice! This is good news!

Greatest Faith: Luke 23:39-43

Sad.Buddy.wpI

It’s hard to believe that Buddy was abused for nearly three years before I adopted him from Silky Terrier Rescue. He was so afraid of me that he yanked and pulled at his leash, trying to get back to his foster mother (who is a responsible Silky Terrier breeder). I wondered what I had gotten myself into, he was so adamant about not going home with me. Then he kept running away the next week or so. Fortunately, I had a kitty collar on him with a bell, so I was able to locate him by the ringing when I couldn’t find him. I was so afraid he’d get hit by a car. (Fortunately, at that time we lived in a closed neighborhood which lessened the odds of getting hit, but didn’t eliminate it.)

Then, one day, it was like a lightbulb flipped on in his head, as if he was thinking, “Why am I running away? They love me. They give me good food and treats, bathe me, comb me, kiss and hug on me, and take me for rides and walks.” And he stopped trying to run off. Now, he greets me at the door with joyous adoration.

One of the people I admire the most in the Bible is one of the thieves on the cross next to Jesus. Of all the people in the New Testament, I believe he had the greatest faith.

If you don’t know the story, two thieves were crucified on either side of Jesus. On Jesus’ cross, Pilate had a placard nailed above His read which read, “King Of the Jews” to mock Jesus’ claim to be a King, only Jesus claimed to have a spiritual, not earthly kingdom.

“One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him (Jesus), saying ‘Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!’

But the other answered, and rebuking him, said, ‘Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.’

And he was saying, ‘Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!’

And He (Jesus) said to him, ‘Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.'”–Luke 23:39-43

Though the thief had no opportunity to do any good deeds nor be baptized, he recognized his sinfulness and God’s great mercy. He acknowledged he was a sinner deserving death for his evil deeds, repented of his sin by rebuking the other man for mocking God, and asked Christ to save him. This is why I so greatly admire this man. He was one of the few at the time who really got who Jesus was, the Christ–the sacrificial Lamb of God–who died to cover our sins.

The repentant thief is a great example of salvation. The perfect man, Christ, had to die to take our penalty for God’s wrath against our sin. God is just and must punish evil, and only the perfect God Man was holy enough to take that punishment so we don’t have to.

The thief understood that it was all about repenting and faith, not about working for God’s favor, but receiving God’s approval and gift of righteousness by His mercy alone.

“For by grace you have been saved thorough faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”–Ephesians 2:8-9

And this very kind and loving God, though in great torment, reached out to acknowledge the thief was forgiven and encouraged him to look forward to Paradise.

There were two thieves, however. The other continued in his disbelief. Which is really sad, because God’s grace would’ve covered him too–if he’d only believed in the Son of God.