All posts in Forgiveness

TRANSFORMED


Not long ago as a result of her transformation, Caitlyn Jenner was thrust into the spotlight and according to the sports network ESPN, instantaneously became one of the great “heroes” of our time for coming out as a woman in a man’s body.

Jenner claims to have been confused about his/her gender identity since earliest youth but finally mustered the courage to make an outward change more accurately reflecting the true inner self clothed in the wrong body.

My purpose is not to degrade Jenner or to even enter into judgment about the gender decisions made, but to use this situation as an illustration of something deeper and far more widespread than we imagine.  Who are you – really?

Principally we are a living soul housed in a physical body. We read in the first book of the Bible that “God created us as a living soul.” God freely offers all of us the opportunity to be truly TRANSFORMED in even a more dramatic fashion than anything Jenner has embraced or even considered. This truth is vitally relevant to all of us and can forever change you into someone entirely new.

It is generally acknowledged that we are more than mere animals at the top of the food chain. In fact, Christian Scripture declares that we are the height of God’s creation and embody His image in that we are Body, Soul and Spirit – 3 parts in the image of the triune God who created us.

“God made man and breathed into him and he became a living soul.”

~ Genesis 2:7 ~

When man fell from his original perfect state by asserting his independence from God, his soul was condemned and he was utterly lost.  All of humankind was banned from God’s presence and heaven forever.  Even worse, we are now unable to remedy this calamity on our own; just as a sick person cannot heal themselves without outside intervention from a physician. We now need an external source of help to bring us back to God and our intended relationship with Him. We cannot fix ourself by trying harder. We need a Savior to come to our aid.

Jenner is trying to do what all of us try to do… to fill the emptiness inside by making external changes, but this is a futile quest.  We must be made over from the inside out, not the outside in.  We need a spiritual adjustment.  We must be transformed… from what we are … to what we were meant to be and can become again. We must be made over into something new and only God has the power to do that.

Do you have desires you cannot control or maybe a habit that dominates your life, or an insecurity that makes you react too strongly? We all have something we want to change about ourself. The question we must ask is; “How can I make that change?”

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creature.  The old things are passed away and now everything has become new.” ~ 2 Corinthians 5:17

Jesus was God incarnate (God in a human body). It was God’s plan to become a man, enter human history, show us what we were intended to be like, sacrifice His perfect life in payment for our imperfect life and defeat death on our behalf so that whoever put their trust in Him could be transformed into something new – both inwardly and outwardly. Through Jesus Christ alone, we can be made new and be restored to our intended relationship with our Heavenly Father. Are you willing to let Him transform you?

“Jesus said, I am the way, the truth and the life.  No man comes to the father except through me.” ~ ~ John 14:6 ~

How can we be transformed? It’s very simple … We must acknowledge our need, tell God we are sorry for our independence and ask Him to save us from the certain eternal separation that awaits all those who go their own way apart from Him.

Two things happen when we are transformed

  1. Our standing before God is transformed. We get a new beginning and fresh start.  It’s a free ‘do-over’ from God: A gift which Jesus paid for and freely gives to us, just for asking. When we receive Christ as our Savior, God now sees the perfection of Jesus instead of our rebellion and independence. As followers of Christ, we literally “put on” Jesus like a covering over our sin and it is hidden forever!
  2. Our current condition and state of being are transformed. God changes our:  1.) will (we will want new things); 2.) intellect (we will think in new ways); and 3). emotion (we will respond differently than before).

In summary, God makes us over.  We still live in an imperfect and fallen world, but we ourselves and our future are being and will be forever changed.

“I beg you brothers that you present your body to Christ as a living sacrifice – holy and acceptable to God. And do not be conformed to this world (don’t let it press you into its mold),  but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may demonstrate what is the good, acceptable and perfect will of God.” ~ Romans 12:1-2

RUN THE RACE GOD HAS SET BEFORE YOU!

“But after God’s Spirit comes upon you, you shall receive power and you will be my witnesses wherever you go.” ~ Acts 1:8

T – take your problems to God.  He loves you!

R – remember that you are unable to solve your issues without external help from God.

A – ask Jesus to be your Savior. Confess your sin and turn your back on it. That is why Christ suffered and died on

the cross.

N – never despair. When you are feeling defeated – go to God for strength and encouragement.

S – sin no more.  Tell God that you are determined to follow his ways and allow Him to set you free.

F – forget your failures in the past.  Jesus gives you a new start.

O – offer encouragement to others.  No matter how bad our situation may be, there is always someone who is even

more in need of help than we are.

R – rejoice in your deliverance.  Thank God for coming to your aid.

M – memorize a few Bible verses that will keep you on track. Claim God’s promises as true in your life no matter how

things may appear on the surface.

E – expect a miraculous change to take place. Miracles are God’s specialty.

D – demonstrate your transformation by your obedience to God and by following Him daily.

Wouldn’t you rather be what GOD can change you into? Trust Him to transform you.  All you need to do is ask.

“Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” ~ Romans 10:13. Acts 2:21, Joel 2:32 

PRAY A PRAYER LIKE THIS FROM YOUR LIPS TO GOD’S EARS

God in Heaven, I confess my sin and need for a Savior.  I realize that only You can truly transform me and make me over into what You want me to be.  Please come into my heart right now and transform me.  I believe You will change me inside and out.  I ask all of this in the powerful name of Jesus Christ Your Son.

Cast Aside

A recent issue of National Geographic Magazine disclosed that Michelangelo’s great work, entitled David, the 17 foot tall masterpiece carved out of a single block of marble, was fashioned out of material that other artists had discarded because they deemed it unfit to work with. Today this work resounds in history as one of the most outstanding artistic creations ever fashioned by man. This reminds me of what the Psalmist prophesied concerning Jesus.

“The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.” ~ Psalm 118:22-23

This story is replete with irony in that King David, who was the subject matter of Michelangelo’s creation, was also a flawed man.  He was a poor father, an adulterer and even a murderer but God had a plan that superseded David’s shortcomings.  What enabled the fulfillment of this master plan despite David’s weaknesses? The answer is revealed in the New Testament book of Acts (13:22) where we read that David sought with all of his heart to follow God.  He failed often but his failures were not fatal.

God had a plan for His beloved Son Jesus as well, which was established in eternity past and no one could negate it; not even all the demons of Hell. The crucifixion of Christ made it seem to some that Jesus had not succeeded in His mission. But just the opposite was true.  For had not Christ suffered and died on our behalf, there would never have been the redemption of humanity. What may look like failure to men often looks very different from God’s vantage point.

In the same way God has a plan for you and me. What He has in His heart to perform will come about no matter how unlikely it may seem to us. You have tremendous potential and purpose that is uniquely designed for your life. Knowing God and fellowshipping with Him will allow you to participate in God’s plan to the fullest extent possible so that not only does His plan come about, but it will be beneficial to the greatest possible extent. Don’t run from God’s will or merely accept it; embrace it with all your heart!

God never makes a mistake and even our greatest failures have been accounted for in His master plan. Take heart. You will never be cast aside if you belong to God.  Dedicate yourself to serving Him as did both King David and Jesus – his Greater Son.

“The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand.”

~ Psalm 37:23-24 (KJV)

Heart-Broken

A BIBLICAL PERSPECTIVE ON THOSE WHO HAVE TAKEN THEIR OWN LIFE FOR THOSE OF US WHO LOVED THEM AND ARE LEFT BEHIND.

We want to AND MUST remember our beloved friend who has taken his (or her) own life, because we cared for him and we want to honor his memory. We especially want to express our love to remaining family and all those left behind who are suffering from this tragic loss. This is in fact where we can have the greatest impact.

It is impossible to adequately describe the emotions we feel at the loss of someone we love – especially when the circumstances are so unexpected, tragic and needless.

As a Christ-follower first, and a clergyman second, I PRAY that I can accomplish three important things in my brief remarks here –
1. First and foremost we want to remember our beloved friend … now gone.
2. Second, although we will never forget him, I hope to give us more closure on our loss … so we can
continue to move forward with our lives in a positive way.
3. Lastly, I want to give you comfort and hope for the future … by sharing some of what God says in His Word about death, and this particular kind of untimely death, so you will be better prepared when and if it comes to you again.

I pray God will preside over and guide both my words and your thoughts as you consider these remarks with me.

In times of death, any death, many emotions flood our mind – loss, fear, sadness, questioning, hopelessness, despair, anger, resolve and even courage – I want these remarks to be uplifting and hopeful for you. There is hope – God cares for you! – I Peter 5:7

ABOUT OUR DEPARTED FRIEND…
– Whatever their age, we never expected their life to end so suddenly with so much left to be lived and experienced with them. Perhaps they were giving, caring, talented, kind, loving and a wonderful friend to many… and much more … They will be sorely missed.
– If we believe they knew the Lord and accepted Him as their personal Savior – that makes a tremendous difference. If we are not assured of this fact, we can only pray that this was the case and focus on those left behind.
– But we do know that he was surely OVERWHELMED by life and SCARRED from circumstances and DEPRESSED and the pressures became just too much for him – leading to this final and terrible act of desperation.

Let me address something very directly that we all wonder about but MAY not be sure if it is appropriate to discuss …
– A person who takes their own life is wrong to do so, that is in within the purview of God’s authority alone, but it does not make them a bad or evil person. Suicide is an act of desperation brought about by irrational thinking, but it is an act that God can and does forgive if we are His …
– If our friend has trusted Christ for his salvation, we can rest assured that we will see him again and ALL those who have gone before us into the valley of the shadow of Death (remember it is only the shadow of death because Christ has taken the sting out of death by giving us eternal life when we placed our faith in Him to do so.) This means when our beloved appeared before God in heaven they were warmly embraced by God as He welcomed them into eternity. There is no doubt about that.
– We ourselves have hope of a better day. I want you to personally have that hope of eternal life because it is available to all who want it.
– If you don’t understand what I am talking about but want to know more about what the Bible teaches about eternal life in Christ, I hope you will correspond with me so we can discuss this in more detail.

One of my favorite Bible passages is PSALM 15

1 Who may worship in your sanctuary, LORD? Who may enter your presence on your holy hill?
2 Those who lead blameless lives and do what is right, speaking the truth from sincere hearts.
3 Those who refuse to gossip or harm their neighbors or speak evil of their friends.
4 Those who despise flagrant sinners, and honor the faithful followers of the LORD, and keep their promises even when it hurts.
5 Those who lend money without charging interest, and who cannot be bribed to lie about the innocent. Such people will stand firm forever.

However the problem with this passage is that it is in the Old Testament and emphasizes the Law and the Commandment and does not take into consideration the New Covenant we have in Christ whereby Jesus has fulfilled the law and now serves as our lawyer and commander.

It is not by works of righteousness which we have done but because of His mercy (Jesus) we are saved … by Grace as a gift of God … Titus 3:5-7/Ephesians 2:8-9

Some New Testament Scripture verses that clearly teach assurance of salvation for the believer:

We are saved by the grace of God, not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9) and nothing can separate a Christian from the love of God (Romans 8:37-39).

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.” — John 5:24

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.”—John 10:27-29

“And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.”—1 John 5:11-13

I am guessing you may be asking yourself questions like: Why did this happen? Could I have prevented it? What would I have said or done if I had known it was coming? Where does this leave me? How can I go on? Some of these questions are unanswerable and others are not …

We could not have known that our friend would have been gone from our lives so soon
Maybe you have something you wish you could have said to him before he left us or perhaps you wish there was something you could do or undo that you feel sorry about …

We best honor our beloved’s memory if we learn from these missed opportunities and apply them to our life today so we do not have these kinds of regrets again with another person we love.

Something to think about …

At Day’s End
Is anybody happier
because you passed his way?
Does anyone remember
that you spoke to him today?

The day is almost over,
and its toiling time is through,
Is there anyone to utter now
a kindly word of you?

Can you say tonight in parting,
with the day that’s slipping fast,
that you helped a single brother
of the many that you passed?

Is a single heart rejoicing
over what you did or said?
Does the one whose hopes are fading
now with courage look ahead?

Did you waste the day or lose it?
Was it well or sorely spent?
Did you leave a trail of kindness,
or a scar of discontent?

As you close your eyes in slumber,
do you think that God will say,
“You have earned one more tomorrow
by the work you did today?”
~ John Hall

A. Part of getting closure on our loss is to commit to learning from it and living our future life with fewer regrets and performing more positive acts of love.

– Learn to verbally express your care for others often and out loud in words
– Perform kind and sensitive acts of love for those around you
– Help to point others to that kind of life too
– Prepare yourself to be with loved ones again in eternity
* Our loved one had placed his trust in Christ
* You can see him again if you are willing to give your life to Christ

“If in this life only we have hope, we are of all creatures most miserable.” – I Cor. 15:9

B. That takes me to our future and how we live our life today and tomorrow.
– Life goes on … how will you live it? For yourself or for God and others?
– A life devoted to personal pleasure and self-gratification is an empty life. Maybe you don’t buy into the ideas of a Creator who rules over the universe or organized religion (I’m talking about a personal relationship, not religion) – but that’s your call and you will live with the consequences of your decision right or wrong.  In any case, I hope you see the benefit of doing good to others and putting them ahead of yourself.
– We can transform our disappointment and negative emotions into something positive if we will allow them to mold us and motivate us to be better persons today and in the future.

A FINAL QUESTION – Scripture and experience tell us that … “it is appointed unto man once to die … and after that the judgment.” – Hebrews 9:27
When Death comes into our life again (and it will come again) how will you respond?

IN SUMMARY

1. We thank God for our departed loved one
2. If we need help we will ask for it
3. We will care for one another
4. We will use this experience to make us better people
5. With God’s help we can prepare for the future and rest in the knowledge that He cares for us!

“Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your power, grace and mercy. Please confirm these truths in our heart by your Word and apply them to our life … We pray this in the strong name of Jesus. Amen!”

NOT THE SAME

I have recently had the delightful experience of making friends with two medical doctors, both with a Muslim cultural and religious background. I consider both of them to be men of real quality and intellect and have developed a genuine affection for them. As we have come to know one another better, I have inquired about their spiritual beliefs and perspective on God. Neither one is devout in their Muslim faith but they do believe in God and the Golden rule’s importance… so far, so good! But the fundamental issue is not about how to be a Good person. What we need to ask ourselves is, AM I RIGHTLY CONNECTED TO GOD? This question is so important that we must not get it wrong.

 From non-Christians, I commonly hear that all religions are the same and that they all lead us to the same God. The reasoning goes: ‘It’s just that we are all from different parts of the world or family backgrounds which have a different way of expressing belief in God. If you are sincerely seeking God through your religion and treat others with love and compassion, you will be fine in the end.’ Let me give you just four good reasons why this logic doesn’t ring true:

1. All prophets are not the same. Compare what we know about the personal lives of Buddha, Mohammed and Confucius (or any of the other ‘prophets’) to Christ – all except Christ claimed to be mere men and all espoused radically different paths to God. Christ alone claimed to be, not only a prophet sent from God, but he claimed to be God in human form. He further said that he was the only way to God. An honest mind must conclude that Christ is either a liar, crazy or God, but he cannot be thought of in the same way as the others. Christ alone, and no other religious leader, ever had his birth foretold; let alone to the precise year – predicted hundreds of years in advance by Daniel the Biblical writer.  And there are over 300 other specific prophecies giving details of Christ’s life that could not be fabricated by his followers. Further, there are eight times as many prophecies speaking of Christ coming a second time in the future. To illustrate how amazing these fact are, consider that if you wanted to find any person on the planet you would only need maybe 4 pieces of reliable information (name country, street and address) to find them.  If you had over 300 pieces of specific accurate information, it would be impossible to miss them!  

2. All sacred writings are not the same. It is through these writings that we come to understand the basic teachings of any religion. The Christian Scriptures stand alone as the more well-attested ancient documents in all of human history. Even the writings of Plato and Homer have a far less certain pedigree. Careful study of the ancient Biblical documents reveals amazing uniformity despite having dozens of contributing authors, the prophetic elements of Scripture are accurate in every respect …and archeological, scientific and historical records are undeniably true. Having read and studied other sacred writings from most of the world religions, I can speak with some authority when I say they are not in the same category of literature.  They are simply not the same.

3. All gods are not the same. There is but one true God who is the creator and sustainer of life. However there are many pretenders to the throne. Look at the fruit of the tree to determine what kind of tree it is. We know that God is a mixture of many characteristics but He must always be consistent and righteous. When you see something that doesn’t fit that profile, you know that what you are looking at is not God, but a counterfeit and not to be confused with the genuine article. Only the God of Christianity gave himself in payment for the sins of his own creation. There is no greater love than that!

4. All religious teachings are not the same. Let’s lay aside the way adherents of every religion have gone astray. More importantly we need to examine the truth of the religion not the fidelity of its adherents. If you study the religions of the world, you will soon discover the differences are so enormous, even the most fundamental understanding of their teachings cannot be considered ‘the same.’ One example to consider is the method proposed for salvation. With the single exception of Christianity, all other religions require that we must work our way to God. If that is the only path to God, everyone is in desperate trouble because we are all seriously flawed. A Christian knows he cannot earn a place in heaven. For him, salvation is by faith in Christ’s perfection alone. We can never be good enough for God without Christ.  Only Christ was flawless and able to substitute Himself for me.

In summary, Christianity is unique. You may not embrace its teachings, sacred writings, its prophet or its God, but I beg you to understand that all religions are not the same. Try to put aside your preconceptions and hearsay. Examine Christianity with an open mind and I believe you will discover it’s like comparing apples and oranges. Please do not deceive yourself. All religions are not the same.

“For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For he received from God the Father honor and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased. 18 And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. 19 We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: 20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. 21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” – 2 Peter 1:16-21 (KJV)

 

Guilty

There were over 977 specific charges filed and he pled “guilty” to all. The verdict was inevitable!

Today in public court a verdict was handed down. A man who committed horrendous crimes against three young women in Ohio was finally brought to justice. He was not sentenced to death, but to life plus 1000 years without any possibility of parole. He told the judge that he was guilty of all charges but not a monster. He believed he was just “sick” and could not help himself. Yet he had other relationships that appeared normal and no one even suspected his deviant behavior all this time. He had even been entrusted as a school bus driver and went to church regularly. What’s wrong with this picture?

As the TV pundits discussed the case in its aftermath, I found it interesting that the same folks who usually want leniency were calling for the death penalty. The discussion then shifted to all the money the State was saving by not seeking death even though it would have to support the man for the rest of his life in prison. There was some talk about whether or not this perpetrator was mentally competent to stand trial at all … and the discussion went on and on. What is justice and how do we get it?

The search for justice is an elusive quest and when we get it, no one seems satisfied with the final outcome. On his own, man is not capable of achieving justice; we must seek a wiser and higher power if we ever hope to have it. God warns that true justice is coming for each of us some day and it will be unavoidable… or is it?

God also tells us that we have a chance for mercy now before the verdict is final. Do you want justice or mercy? Justice is unbending. We all need mercy, not justice, because we are guilty and the punishment is too great for any of us to bear. 1000 years in jail is nothing compared to eternity in Hell. All our “good” work like going to church or driving a school bus will not make any difference in God’s court if we have rejected Christ. But if we have put our trust in Christ’s promise to cover our sin with his perfection, we will find mercy. The Bible says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) But “whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13). We are all guilty but we can be safe if we will throw ourselves on the mercy of God. Act now, before the gavel falls and the final verdict is given. Justice or mercy; the choice is yours!

Expectations

This picture came to my inbox today and got me thinking about “Expectations.” I once saw an interview of Warren Buffet and his longtime partner (who no one has ever heard of) Charlie Munger. The question was asked of them how they got along so well for so many years? They glanced at each other and without hesitation Charlie said,” We have very low expectations of one another.” Wow! There is an insight that everyone needs to understand!

As we approach Christmas, what does this truth mean to us? First it means that God has low expectations of you and me. When God became a man (Jesus Christ), he was willing to sacrifice everything and humble himself in the hope that we would respond to his free gift of love but he had no assurance we would. He had high hopes but low expectations of our desire to reconnect with him as our savior and creator. He gives with no expectation of a return on his investment. He even offers to pay the price of our admission to heaven for free. All we need to do is believe in him.

Secondly, we need to lower our expectations of God. Not because he cannot deliver but because when he does deliver it is always out of love and not because we demand it. We also need to understand that as God, he knows best and therefore does not give us everything we expect or even want because it would undoubtedly ruin our lives. We give ourselves to God with no expectation of what he will do with our life. We simply know that he has our best at heart.

Thirdly, we will get along better with others if we lower our expectations of them. Not only are you imperfect but so is everyone else. Let’s stop judging others by our own standards. That does not mean we expect nothing but let’s realize that there is a lot more going on than we realize and we need to be as generous as possible in expressing our judgment of others. We can afford to lower our expectations of others and it will reap large dividends.

When God became a man over 2000 years ago and lived among us, he gave up all his Kingly prerogatives to show us how much he loved us. In this Christmas Season are you willing to follow his example? This is the secret to a long-lasting relationship with God and others.

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” Luke 2:11-12 King James Version (KJV)