Cascading Dominoes of Forgiveness

ImageRecently there was a domino contest to see how many dominoes could be erected and then sent cascading down one upon another.  The Guinness world record was shattered when 275,000 dominoes fell one after another revealing a stunning picture before the audience of onlookers.

How long a line of dominoes have we erected of those whose sins we are unwilling to forgive just as the wicked forgiven servant in Matthew 18 did? He erected his own set of dominoes and kept adding to them one at a time. He had the power to topple them by just echoing the one word “forgiven” just as he had received from the Master—but he refused to do so. He failed to look back and see his line of dominoes not standing but lying for the Master had graciously and mercifully chosen with a flick of His finger to send them toppling to reveal a beautiful picture of forgiveness and cleansing.

The question then before us is; will we keep erect the dominoes of other’s sins against us as a reminder of their hurt or will we willingly offer the cup of cold water, the words of forgiveness to God’s chosen people who have also been forgiven by Him? Listen to Jesus: “Lord, how many times must I forgive my brother who sins against me? As many as seven times?”  Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, I tell you, but seventy times seven times; unlimited times!” [Matt 18]

Let’s dig deeper. Suppose we asked God to do as David did by asking Him to examine us in the night. Would our dominoes remain standing or fall? Look at what David said: “you have examined me during the night. You have carefully evaluated me, but you find no sin. I am determined I will say nothing sinful.” When we can pray those words back to God each domino we have erected will fall one after another until a beautiful picture of total forgiveness lays before us and others.

So today, Beloved, gather your dominoes and with a flick of the finger send them cascading into the beautiful pattern of forgiveness. Let them lay there for awhile as you muse what God has truly done. And then you can recite Ps 17:15 as your prayer to God for this new day: “As for me, I shall behold Your face in righteousness; I will be satisfied with Your likeness when I awake.”

Remember these wise words when you consider your choice. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “the Gods we worship write their names on our faces; be sure of that . . . thus, it behooves us to be careful what we worship, for what we are worshiping we are becoming.”

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The True Proverbs 31 Women!

ImageChrist came to “seek and save the lost” and we have seen how that has been accomplished right up to the very moment of his death when he gave the cup of salvation to the criminal beside him. And now behold the women who come first to the tomb where supposedly his body lay interred but what a glorious gift of resurrection awaits: Pro 8:17 I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me.

All through Luke we have seen the power of Christ’s love bestowed upon the many and women in particular. It is these who have been shunned; interrogated; castigated by the religious leaders and society that Christ bestows equal status in the kingdom. We saw the woman caught in adultery, the faith of the Canaanite woman, the service offered by the women of the court, those who stood by the cross weeping and now at the tomb seeking to serve once again the Master.

It is with great honor that step by step we walk in the hush of the early morning hours before the dawn of day with these women. They have risen early, prepared their person and the aromatic spices even though their hearts are heavy. They are the true Proverbs 31 women: “She also gets up while it is still night; She begins her work vigorously; She extends her hand to the poor, and reaches out her hand to the needy; and does not eat the bread of idleness.”  With great anticipation that someone would be ready to assist and help in their time of need, they step forth into the hush of the city streets with resolve to anoint the body of their Lord.  Imagine their shock to see not a sealed tomb but one open! With great bravery they enter and because of their fearless boldness are greeted by two angelic visitors: “Why do you look for the living among the dead?  He is not here, but has been raised! Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” It is only then that their grief is startled and their memories recall the words of Jesus.

Beloved, are we are as bold, resourceful, faithful as these women whom God has honored? Or are we like the disciples on the road to Emmaus who hear from the risen Christ: “You foolish people – how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” May we resolve to pray that our spiritual understanding is awakened in the hush of the early morning hours when we may meet heaven speaking to our hearts. It is these that receive the glorious news.  Oh, Beloved how precious is our Lord to fulfill to us his followers, His love and forgiveness.

 

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Beauty Out of the Ashes

ImageHow beautifully the Spirit led Dr. Luke to record for us the witnesses regarding the Son of God. We begin our study today by seeing the subterfuge of the religious leaders and end up with the confession of the criminal. What a contrast! Only by the Spirit of God could one chapter hold so much that grabs our attention and cause us to fall upon our knees in humble adoration for the Messiah who gave all that we might worship Him alone.

As we walk through the streets of Jerusalem to the Praetorium where we meet Pilate we are jostled about by the very pilgrims who shouted Hosanna to now are shouting Crucify Him, Crucify Him!… and all being led by those who were given the privilege of treasuring and imparting the sacred scriptures. These leaders had been called, chosen, and anointed with the blood of a ram that they might be cleansed and surrendered to the will of God. And yet, it is not the outward cleansing but the cleansing of the heart that God desires. Rightly Jesus pinpointed their inner heart problem: Luk 11:39 But the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.” God desires instead that we Heb 10:22 draw near with a sincere heart in the assurance that faith brings, ….having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience..” 

Contrast this scene to the one criminal on the cross who recognized and submitted to the Son of God. Listen to his words “Don’t you fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we rightly so, for we are getting what we deserve for what we did, but this man has done nothing wrong…Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingdom.” In that one brief interchange Dr. Luke transcends earth to heaven so that beauty may come from the ashes of sin and we learn of the plan of salvation. First one must revere God, Secondly, one must recognize that they are a sinner in need of repentance, Thirdly we are justly condemned for our sin; Fourthly we must seek His face and His forgiveness. We lay ourselves open to Him and He responds: “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” Note the promises: it happens today not in the future. We will be with Him! We will be in paradise 2Ti 2:12 “If we endure, we will also reign with him..”

Beloved, forest fires burn off the dross so that the beauty may come forth as new vegetation and that is God’s promise. We who are weak “will be lifted from the dust, from the ash heap and seated with Him in glory” [1Sa 2]  We will be “righteous, like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory.” [Is 61]  Will you keep the embers burning in the fire of the “deadly d’s” or remove them one at a time and allow Jesus to take the ashes and bring beauty out of the barrenness?

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Know Thy Enemy

ImageLuke 22 “Satan vs The Servant” Or “Know Thy Enemy”

Dr. Luke has shown us from chapter 1 to now the contrast of the one who came to “seek and save the lost” with the one who seeks to destroy the king and the kingdom. We know from 2Cor that often he disguises himself as an angel of light and that he continues to walk about this earth seeking whom he may devour. In sharp contrast to him is The Servant who came lowly and meek lying in a manger to now where he will suffer at the cross for you and me. Observe if you will, how Satan works; not openly but behind the scenes seeking to disarm and destroy in the quiet, the unassuming, the orderly, the times of sacredness. This is where he seeks to do his work. This is his work for he is the author of the “deadly d’s” by which he seeks to disarm and destroy and in this chapter we find 6 of his ways:

Deception: The religious leaders were seeking a way to execute Jesus and thereby will break the sixth commandment “thou shalt not murder” because they think they are offering service to God.

Disillusionment: Satan infiltrates the disillusioned traitor, Judas, who has so mastered the cloak of traitor that no one suspects. But Jesus knows and reveals his ways and his work.

Defensiveness: The disciples “began to question one another as to which of them it could possibly be who would do this.”

Disputing: The disciples began to dispute “which of them was to be regarded as the greatest.”

Distraction: While all of this is going on it seems that Peter’s attention has drifted and The Servant calls him back:  “Simon, Simon, pay attention!” As Peter’s attention is arrested, he hears the ominous warning: “Satan has demanded to have you all, to sift you like wheat.” And how does Peter handle this?

Self-defense: But Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death!” And it is in that moment that The Servant predicts what will happen: “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know me.”

Satan has infiltrated and sought to disrupt the most sacred of times. The Servant will disarm him not by force but by a reminder that these precious disciples are his and his alone: “You are the ones who have remained with me in my trials.”

Beloved, beware that it is when we are in the sacred moments such as reading, meditating, praying, busy about the Master’s business, that Satan will seek to do his work. It is then that we need to call upon The Servant to disarm him. We must “hold firmly to the faith” and “rekindle God’s gift that we possess”-learning to be discerning by words of the sacred scripture [Ps 119:11; 2Tim 2:15, Heb 5:14]. Call upon the power of the Holy Spirit which resides within you. Jer 29:12 When you call out to me and come to me in prayer, I will hear your prayers.

 

 

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Forgiveness Heals Two Wounds

ImageI am sure you have met people who report their lack of attendance at the house of God on worship days because “there are hypocrites there.” Welcome to the neighborhood, we are all hypocrites in one shape or other. We offend because we fail to think, we judge because we feel we are superior in our spiritual understanding, we respond with forked tongue more often than not. Jesus remarked that if we are to be found faithful we must be faithful in much as well as trustworthy. We must be honest in all of our relationships and demonstrate to the world God’s way of responding. Jesus had just taught about Lazarus and the rich man. The rich man had every opportunity to forgive and respond in kindness but he chose not to do so and now Jesus follows up that in chapter 17.

The rich man’s problem was that he chose to offend, he chose to be a stumbling block, and he chose to ignore Lazarus’ need. Jesus begins by saying, yes offenses will come, but WOE to the one that is the cause. And so he bridges from this parable to teach his disciples about kingdom life. He said “watch/guard yourself” in how you respond as the true test of kingdom living is forgiveness even if someone offends or abuses us 7 times in a day and returns to seek forgiveness OR even if they do not accept our forgiveness or respond to it. It was common in that day for the Pharisees to keep a record of offenses—-Jesus says that is not God’s way. Instead look at it this way. You are the servant, the slave in the kingdom. When we offer forgiveness to another we have a choice to respond in one of two ways:

  1. We can say pridefully that it was hard to do but it had to be done. OR
  2. We say as the servant in this story: ‘We are slaves undeserving of special praise; we have only done what was our duty.’” In other words, we were obedient as that is the model of God’s forgiveness.  

Now Jesus uses the story of the 10 lepers to teach even more about this principle: we are not only to forgive but also when forgiven we are to thank the forgiver and healer of our soul. Only one leper returned to Jesus to thank him. He was saying to the disciples, you see this leper; that is true kingdom living. He was saying you are the blessed receivers but often fail to thank God for it. The other lepers went on their way healed but they did not return. That is how forgiveness often works. Some are accepting of our gift and others just take it for granted. Also, some choose to keep a record of those times they forgave. You have failed to see that you are to be like the servants “we have done our duty;” obedient to the teaching of Christ. Mat 6:14 “For if you forgive others their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.   Jesus says, no matter the response, it is our attitude and our obedience as servants in the kingdom. It is our duty as God’s servants.

To all of this the disciples respond with this statement: Increase our faith. Jesus said it doesn’t need to be increased; you already have the faith you need, you just need to exercise it, plant it and watch the results.

So the questions before us are many but here are a few: Where are you holding an unforgiving spirit within? Where are you judging without mercy? Where are you like the 9 lepers who have failed to thank God for His forgiveness of your sin?

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Oh Lord How Majestic is Your Name!

ImagePsalm 8 begins and end with the same phrase: “O Lord, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth,” “We need not wonder at this, for no heart can measure, no tongue can utter, the half of the greatness of Jehovah. The whole creation is full of his glory and radiant with the excellency of his power; his goodness and his wisdom are manifested on every hand.” [Spurgeon]

And yet even though God is majestic and full of splendor it is the infants and children who understand His majesty more often than those who mature and educated. The Pharisees were indignant when the children were crying out in the temple courts “Hosanna to the Son of David,” and Jesus responded quoting Psalm 8:2. “ From the mouths of children and nursing babies you have ordained praise”  Oh to have such a childlike faith to offer praise as freely as these little ones to the Lord for His power, majesty and splendor.  David’s point was the same as the Apostle Paul’s words: “But God chose what the world thinks foolish to shame the wise, and God chose what the world thinks weak to shame the strong.” [ICor]

Today may we offer praise to Jehovah for truly He is majestic and full of splendor. The heavens and all of creation resound with his work. “For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, because they are understood through what has been made. So people are without excuse.” [Rom 1] and that is why this statement should bring shudders to our soul: the young child of an atheist couple once asked his parents, “Do you think God knows we don’t believe in Him?” [Dr. Constable] Yes God knows for He is omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent.

May we begin our week with these words upon our lips: “O Lord, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth”

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Storing up God’s Word

ImageThe idea of “storing up” is found both in Prov vs 1 “ My child, if you receive my words, and store up my commands within you,” and in Prov vs 7 “He stores up effective counsel for the upright,”

What might be some reasons that we would need to store up God’s Word and when would God take from his storehouse to counsel his own?  Some ideas come to mind: keeping us in strong in times of spiritual famine, keeping us alert and ready to fend off the evil one just as Jesus did in his temptation.

David wrote: Psa 119:11 In my heart I store up your words, so I might not sin against you.

God prepared Amos for such a time of spiritual famine: Amo 8:11 Be certain of this, the time is coming,” says the sovereign Lord, “when I will send a famine through the land – not a shortage of food or water but an end to divine revelation!

Joseph is a prime example of someone who faced a “famine” of the Word. Sold into slavery, unjustly imprisoned all Joseph had to glean was his faith in God at a time when he had nothing else. Listen to his words: “So how could I do such a great evil and sin against God?” It was then that Joseph drew out of his storehouse of knowledge, his understanding of God, the words he had been taught and was able to withstand the temptation of Potiphar’s wife. Joseph drew out of his storehouse of counsel that he had learned in a time of plenty at the feet of Jacob.

Think of Daniel and his three friends, taken captive to Babylon. Surely the words of Amos were true. There was no temple, no priests to teach them, and it was a time of spiritual famine. But, listen to Daniel: “But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself” and “We won’t find any pretext against this man Daniel unless it is in connection with the law of his God.” Both times Daniel drew out of God’s storehouse the counsel he needed because he had stored it up in a time of plenty.

Both Joseph and Daniel are examples of men who stored up God’s Word and when the trial came God took from his storehouse and brought it to their minds just as Jesus promised Mat 10:19 Whenever they hand you over for trial, do not worry about how to speak or what to say, for what you should say will be given to you at that time. And Joh 14:26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, …will cause you to remember everything I said to you

This would be a perfect time as we are just 17 days into the New Year to start memorizing God’s Word so that you are prepared. We never know when we may enter a time of spiritual famine, or be tempted by the evil one. We need to store up God’s Word so we are armored for the battle: “And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” [Eph 6]

 

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The word of the day: Postiche???

Image“Is Your Postiche Showing?”

Today’s good word is “postiche” [pahs teesh] which comes from the French and carries with it the idea of fake or counterfeit. In Luke 12 Jesus reveals the postiche of the Pharisees to his disciples and provides warning signs that they too could become just as counterfeit in their faith. To remain pure and true Jesus over and over says “do not and do” in light of how they are to walk and live in the world. These are valuable lessons for us as well especially since: “Nothing is hidden that will not be revealed, and nothing is secret that will not be made known”

Jesus pointed to the Pharisees as hypocrites. They said one thing but often did another. To be sure, there were those who did not but Jesus is warning the disciples against those who wore their “postiches” of long robes and flowing tassels as evidence they were seeking God’s approval through works not the heart. Jesus pointed to them and said: Be on guard against the yeast of the Pharisees. Their walk and talk did not mesh.

Secondly, Jesus said do not deny me before men nor fear those who kill the body because after your death they are powerless. Later John the Apostle would write: “the one who kills you will think he is offering service to God.” Down through the centuries that has proven to be true and today we are seeing martyrs across our globe. Therefore, prepare your mind to not be fearful knowing this truth: your death at their hands will only usher you into the presence of the Lord God Almighty “Precious in the sight of the LORD Is the death of His saints.” [Ps]

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Thirdly, do not lay up treasures here on earth where moth and rust destroy but rather store up treasures in heaven where no thief can steal and no moth can destroy. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” [Luke 12]

Fourthly, be a faithful servant awaiting the return of the Master.” Blessed are those slaves whom their master finds alert when he returns!” [Luke 12]

As Jesus began he ended: “You hypocrites.” Your postiches are showing. You “know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky, but how can you not know how to interpret the present time?”

Beloved, are our postiches showing or are we true and faithful?  

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Importunate Prayer

ImageAre you waiting on the scepter to be extended to you to enter God’s throne room much like Esther waited on the king to extend her the golden scepter to offer her admittance? How do you come? Fearful or fearless? “Afterward I will go to the king, even though it violates the law…. If I perish, I perish!” [Esther] Today, as a child of God we do need an appointment, or be fearful of this for we have this promise: Heb 4:16 Therefore let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace whenever we need help.  God’s door is always open, thus “Pray without ceasing.” [IThess] And although we have never seen the vision of God’s throne as John did, “jasper and carnelian in appearance, and a rainbow looking like it was made of emerald” nor have we seen Jesus transfigured as Peter, James and John did, when we enter our prayer closet it is as if we are entering that sphere where the God of the universe stops and listens; His Son Jesus intercedes and the Holy Spirit interprets.

As we read Luke 11 it is as if the disciples saw and experienced this preciousness of this heavenly scene as he prayed to His Father. It was then that when he had ceased his time alone with His Father, they asked; “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”

Jesus began by teaching them “when you pray.” When, not if, but a definite time frame. As Jesus taught them a model prayer they learned much about the pattern one should consider.  Following that he gave them a parable about the importunate man who came at midnight seeking help from a friend to teach them about the persistence of prayer, a valuable lesson for all of us when we fail to receive answers due to our “laxity, faintheartedness, impatience, and timidity which is fatal..” [E.M. Bounds]  In all of this teaching, Jesus is emphasizing that we have a relationship with God by which we can come importunately seeking and expecting answers. The pattern is as follows: First: addressing of a Holy Righteous God who sits upon the throne in heaven; secondly, petitioning for our needs, thirdly seeking restoration to a state of total and complete forgiveness all because we have what God desires—a humble spirit – a humble and repentant heart He will not reject.”[Ps 51], and lastly petitioning to be guarded from the one who seeks to distract and devour us from our walk of holiness.  In all of this there is no fear, but like Esther, we are to have a determination to enter and seek boldly our answers. It is there that we seek the face of the one who is the author and finisher of our faith.

Jesus offers insight to how this works through the parable of the importunate [persistent] friend who seeks help from the source he trusts expecting an answer and not willing to depart until his request is answered. So too with Esther as she demanded the law be reversed regarding her people. We are to be as bold and assertive as both the friend and Esther. “Importunate praying is the earnest, inward movement of the heart towards God…no principle is more definitely enforced by Christ than prevailing prayer must have in it that quality which waits and perseveres, the courage that never surrenders, the patience that never grows tired, the resolution that never wavers.” [E.M. Bounds] That is what Jesus was teaching his disciples.

Beloved, today as you enter the throne room of the Lord God Almighty are you coming asking, seeking and knocking not for answers from an earthly king but the King of Kings? If so, go therefore and pray importunately for He is waiting: Psa 66:19 However, God heard; he listened to my prayer.

 

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MY GOD…..

ImageFrom chapter one in Luke we have come across the question that was being asked about Jesus by the religious leaders, the political leaders, and the followers of Jesus. All were asking “who is he?” The psalmist in Psalm 7 had no problem with this question whether in times when he was at peace within himself, recognizing sin within himself or facing foes. Always he could say “O Lord “my” God”—-Jehovah, the existing one. God was his personal and close confidant to whom he could turn at all times and at all seasons of life.

God was his shelter and his deliverer but also God who disciplined and chastised when sin was noted. “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves and chastises every son he accepts.”[ Heb  12:6] Although it is painful at the moment it brings us closer to holiness for it is then that we see our depravity in sharp contrast to His holiness.

God was faithful who rescued David from himself as well as outward enemies. He knew that God would be as close as a whispered prayer or a song sung or a voice proclaimed loudly. Boldly he came to God to change him from within that he might live a righteous life and that should be our goal as well. “The righteous by faith will live.”

As we ponder and meditate upon these attributes of God and see ourselves may we come boldly before the throne of grace seeking His deliverance from sin that we may emulate His righteous character so that when people ask us “Who is God?” we can boldly answer as David: He is “my” God whom I Iove and serve.

“Our Father, we pray that we may immerse ourselves in this marvelous book of experience and find here not only that which speaks of our own moods and attitudes, but also that which answers them in grace. We thank you for this revelation, written not merely with pen and ink, but with blood and sweat and tears, heartache and sorrow, happiness and joy—in the lives of men and women like ourselves. In Christ’s name. Amen.” [R. Stedman]

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