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Blogs I Follow

The Presidents Club

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The Surest Defense Against Evil

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The Triumph of Grace

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Contemplating God’s Sovereignty

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How Should We Then Live?

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Not a Timid Christianity

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Finishing the Race

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Because the Time is Near

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Revelation Song (YouTube)

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Where The Wind Blows

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Doing Great Things

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Recognizing a False Prophet

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The Power of Forgiveness

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Created for Relationships

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The Only Way I Know

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Faith: The Misunderstood Doctrine

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Our True Home Address

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‘Tis the Season . . . for L-O-V-E

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The Paris Terrorist Attack and the Problem of Evil

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Cherry Picking 101

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Love Sweet Love

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So Goes The Culture

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Idols of the Heart

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Divisions Are Not Always Bad

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The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

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The Ultimate Fire Extinguisher

Five years ago almost to the day, I wrote my sixth blog post on this blog titled, A Matter of Clarity,” after I fired my blog back up again in July 2011. I had originally started this blog a year earlier in July 2010, but I ended up deleting those beginning posts and almost deleted the blog site, too. But I didn’t delete the site, and three months after deleting those 53 posts, I began writing posts again, and now there are over 440 blog posts on this blog since I resurrected it. Who knew, eh?

In that post mentioned above I quoted a line at the end of the movie, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010), where one of the main characters, Gordon Gekko (played by Michael Douglas)–who is not exactly the nicest character in the movie–tries to restore a broken relationship with his pregnant daughter, Winnie (played by Carey Mulligan), and her fiancé, Jacob (played by Shia LaBeouf). Long story short, the break was ultimately caused by betrayal and money–lots and lots of money. And at the end of the movie Gekko realizes that blood is thicker than money. In asking his daughter for forgiveness, he states, “Human beings, we gotta give them a break. We’re all mixed bags.” The movie at that point fast forwards to the ending of which is the celebration of his grandson’s (his daughter’s baby) 1st birthday party with obvious reconciliations all the way around between her and her father, and her fiancé, too.

As Gekko stated, we are all, indeed, mixed bags–from the not-so-nice to the way-too-nice and everybody in between. And we are all in need of forgiveness probably more times then we care to think about. Not only that, we all need to extend forgiveness more times then we care to think about, too. Forgiveness is defined as follows:

Forgiveness is the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, lets go of negative emotions such as revenge, with an increased ability to wish the offender well. Forgiveness is different from condoning (failing to see the action as wrong and in need of forgiveness), excusing (not holding the offender as responsible for the action), forgetting (removing awareness of the offense from consciousness), pardoning (granted by a representative of society, such as a judge), and reconciliation (restoration of a relationship). (Quote source here.)

Forgiveness is also one of the hardest things we give to others as so many things get in the way–our pride, our hurt, our anger, holding a grudge, thoughts of revenge, payback, personal agendas, selfishness, greed, fear, jealousy, and maybe even money–and that list goes on and on and on. 

Somewhere in these 440+ blog posts I’ve written several posts on the topic of forgiveness. I don’t recall what I said but I am very much aware that forgiveness is an ongoing and a never ending process as well as an extremely hard thing to do and keep “done” (as in final and finished) in some cases. In the opening sentence of Jesus’ Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Matthew 18:21-35), the first two verses state, Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times” (vv. 21-22). In other words, there is no limit to the number of times we should forgive others and no time limit when we can stop forgiving them, either.

GotQuestions.org gives a more detailed explanation to what Jesus meant when he said we are to forgive others not just seven times, but “seventy-seven times” by putting it into the context of the passage in which it is found:

Jesus said we are to forgive others “seventy times seven” in response to Peter’s question, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” (Matthew 18:21-22). To fully understand what Jesus was saying, we must look at the context of the whole chapter, for Jesus was speaking not only about forgiving one another but about Christian character, both in and out of the church. The admonition to forgive our brother seventy times seven follows Jesus’ discourse on discipline in the church (Matthew 18:15-20), in which He lays down the rules for restoring a sinning brother.

Peter, wishing to appear especially forgiving and benevolent, asked Jesus if forgiveness was to be offered seven times. The Jewish rabbis at the time taught that forgiving someone more than three times was unnecessary, citing Amos 1:3-13 where God forgave Israel’s enemies three times, then punished them. By offering forgiveness more than double that of the Old Testament example, Peter perhaps expected extra commendation from the Lord. When Jesus responded that forgiveness should be offered four hundred and ninety times, far beyond that which Peter was proposing, it must have stunned the disciples who were listening. Although they had been with Jesus for some time, they were still thinking in the limited terms of the law, rather than in the unlimited terms of grace.

By saying we are to forgive those who sin against us seventy times seven, Jesus was not limiting forgiveness to 490 times, a number that is, for all practical purposes, beyond counting. Christians with forgiving hearts not only do not limit the number of times they forgive; they continue to forgive with as much grace the thousandth time as they do the first time. Christians are only capable of this type of forgiving spirit because the Spirit of God lives within us, and it is He who provides the ability to offer forgiveness over and over, just as God forgives us over and over.

Jesus’ parable of the unforgiving servant follows directly after His “seventy times seven” speech, driving home the point that if we are forgiven the enormous debt of sin against a holy God, how much more should we be eager to forgive those who sin against us, who are just as sinful as they? Paul parallels this example in Ephesians 4:32 where he admonishes us to forgive one another “even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.” Clearly, forgiveness is not to be meted out in a limited fashion but is to be abundant, overflowing, and available to all, just as the measureless grace of God is poured out upon us. (Quote source here.)

forgive 7So why do we find it so hard to forgive? I found an article published on Focus on the Family by Rose Sweet, answering that very question in a seven-part series titled, Forgiveness and Restoration,” (Part 1 of the seven-part series related to marriage issues but it is good information for anyone struggling with forgiving others):

Why Do We Find It So Hard to Forgive?

One reason we resist forgiving is that we don’t really understand what forgiveness is or how it works. We think we do, but we don’t.

Most of us assume that if we forgive our offenders, they are let off the hook — scott-free — and get to go about their merry ways while we unfairly suffer from their actions. We also may think that we have to be friendly with them again, or go back to the old relationship. While God commands us to forgive others, he never told us to keep trusting those who violated our trust or even to like being around those who hurt us.

The first step to understanding forgiveness is learning what it is and isn’t. The next step is giving yourself permission to forgive and forget, letting go of the bitterness while remembering very clearly your rights to healthy boundaries.

Granting Forgiveness

  • Forgiveness is not letting the offender off the hook. We can and should still hold others accountable for their actions or lack of actions.
  • Forgiveness is returning to God the right to take care of justice. By refusing to transfer the right to exact punishment or revenge, we are telling God we don’t trust him to take care of matters.
  • Forgiveness is not letting the offense recur again and again. We don’t have to tolerate, nor should we keep ourselves open to, lack of respect or any form of abuse.
  • Forgiveness does not mean we have to revert to being the victim. Forgiving is not saying, “What you did was okay, so go ahead and walk all over me.” Nor is it playing the martyr, enjoying the performance of forgiving people because it perpetuates our victim role.
  • Forgiveness is not the same as reconciling. We can forgive someone even if we never can get along with him again.
  • Forgiveness is a process, not an event. It might take some time to work through our emotional problems before we can truly forgive. As soon as we can, we should decide to forgive, but it probably is not going to happen right after a tragic divorce. That’s okay.
  • We have to forgive every time. If we find ourselves constantly forgiving, though, we might need to take a look at the dance we are doing with the other person that sets us up to be continually hurt, attacked, or abused.
  • Forgetting does not mean denying reality or ignoring repeated offenses. Some people are obnoxious, mean-spirited, apathetic, or unreliable. They never will change. We need to change the way we respond to them and quit expecting them to be different.
  • Forgiveness is not based on others’ actions but on our attitude. People will continue to hurt us through life. We either can look outward at them or stay stuck and angry, or we can begin to keep our minds on our loving relationship with God, knowing and trusting in what is good.
  • If they don’t repent, we still have to forgive. Even if they never ask, we need to forgive. We should memorize and repeat over and over: Forgiveness is about our attitude, not their action.
  • We don’t always have to tell them we have forgiven them. Self-righteously announcing our gracious forgiveness to someone who has not asked to be forgiven may be a manipulation to make them feel guilty. It also is a form of pride.
  • Withholding forgiveness is a refusal to let go of perceived power. We can feel powerful when the offender is in need of forgiveness and only we can give it. We may fear going back to being powerless if we forgive.
  • We might have to forgive more than the divorce. Post-divorce problems related to money, the kids, and schedules might result in the need to forgive again and to seek forgiveness ourselves.
  • We might forgive too quickly to avoid pain or to manipulate the situation. Forgiveness releases pain and frees us from focusing on the other person. Too often when we’re in the midst of the turmoil after a divorce, we desperately look for a quick fix to make it all go away. Some women want to “hurry up” and forgive so the pain will end, or so they can get along with the other person. We have to be careful not to simply cover our wounds and retard the healing process.
  • We might be pressured into false forgiveness before we are ready. When we feel obligated or we forgive just so others will still like us, accept us, or not think badly of us, it’s not true forgiveness — it’s a performance to avoid rejection. Give yourself permission to do it right. Maybe all you can offer today is, “I want to forgive you, but right now I’m struggling emotionally. I promise I will work on it.”
  • Forgiveness does not mean forgetting. It’s normal for memories to be triggered in the future. When thoughts of past hurts occur, it’s what we do with them that counts. When we find ourselves focusing on a past offense, we can learn to say, “Thank you, God, for this reminder of how important forgiveness is.”
  • Forgiveness starts with a mental decision. The emotional part of forgiveness is finally being able to let go of the resentment. Emotional healing may or may not follow quickly after we forgive. (Quote source and links to all seven parts in the series is available here.)

Also, Dr. Charles Stanley at InTouch Ministries, Inc., has written 5-Must Read Articles on Forgiveness,” and they are listed and linked below:

(1) Forgiving Others: Forgiveness is a process that can be painful at times and may seem unending. But whatever our pain, whatever our situation, we cannot afford to hold on to an unforgiving spirit.

(2) Freely Forgiven: When we do not realize how the Lord’s mercy applies to our daily lives, the result is bondage. But God wants you to be free.

(3) Myths About Forgiving: One stumbling block to forgiving others is wrong information that has entered our theology, so let’s take a look at some common misconceptions about forgiveness.

(4) Forgiveness and Consequences: We can view our scars as monuments to God’s grace, or as ongoing punishment.

(5) Is There a Limit to God’s Forgiveness?: No person is so deep in sin, so ingrained in a wicked lifestyle, or so steeped in evil that he or she cannot be saved.

I appreciate the definition of forgiveness stated at the beginning of this post: “Forgiveness is the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, lets go of negative emotions such as revenge, with an increased ability to wish the offender well.” And as Jesus stated in Matthew 5:44-46: But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?”

I’ll end this post with a reminder from the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 4:31-32Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. . . .

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted . . .

Forgiving one another . . .

As God in Christ forgave you. . . .

YouTube Video: “Forgiveness” by Matthew West:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

Our Response

quote-on-helping-2Everyday we have opportunities to help others, hurt others, bless others, or curse others. With all the heat coming out of the political arena this election year, it would seem “helping” and “blessing” others is in rather short supply. And let’s not forget about hidden agendas and deception that proliferate among and within us. And all of that nasty business focuses on us and what we want, and that’s where we get off track most of the time and we forget about the “human” part of being a member of the human race. Self rules. . . . 

In my last blog post titled, What’s Love Got To Do With It,” I quoted a verse from the apostle Paul found in Romans 12:18 NIV:

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you,
live at peace with everyone.”

I’ve been giving that verse a lot of thought since I published that blog post two weeks ago. Part of what I wrote about in that blog post was the fact that there is real evil in our world that we have no control over (e.g., terrorism, criminal activity, etc.), but we do have control over how we react to evil when it enters our own lives. I’ll be the first to admit that self-protection is the first reaction that rears it’s head when faced with evil at any level. And in today’s world there are plenty of folks who couldn’t care less about peace-making or peace-keeping and who operate from agendas we can’t possibly understand (such as terrorism); and the daily news headlines attest to that very clear fact, too. And to bring it closer to home, even in Christian circles there can be a lot of disagreement that is anything but peaceful. Yet, as Paul admonishes us in the verse above, as much as it is possible and as far as it depends on us, that we need to live at peace with everyone, even those folks who seem to want to wage war with us for whatever their reasons may be.

This afternoon as I was again reflecting on that verse, I decided to read the entire chapter of Romans 12, and I decided to read it from The Message Bible. Here is what it has to say to us:

Place Your Life Before God

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.

Romans 12v9-10In this way we are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. The body we’re talking about is Christ’s body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn’t amount to much, would we? So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.

If you preach, just preach God’s Message, nothing else; if you help, just help, don’t take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don’t get bossy; if you’re put in charge, don’t manipulate; if you’re called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don’t let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face.

Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.

Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.

Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.

Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”

Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.

For those who might like a more traditional version, here is Romans 12 from the NIV:

A Living Sacrifice

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

Love in Action

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him.
If he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
I
n doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

While we cannot control others, we can control ourselves. And as Paul stated, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

And that’s great advice . . .

So go . . .

And do likewise . . . .

YouTube Video: “Speak Life” by TobyMac:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here
Photo #3 credit here

What’s Love Got To Do With It

What a week . . . What a month . . . and not just here in America, but around the world. Terrorism, hate, fear, murder, and in several cases mass murder; heartache, bloodshed . . . in Orlando, Louisiana, Minnesota, Dallas; in Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi ArabiaBangladesh, Turkey, and many other unnamed and unreported places where it occurs on a daily basis. Where next? What news will tomorrow’s headlines bring us?

Back in 1984 Tina Turner sang a song titled, What’s Love Got To Do With It?” (YouTube video at this link). It’s a good question to ask ourselves in times like we find ourselves living in today. In the chorus of the song she asks (quote source here):

What’s love got to do, got to do with it
What’s love but a second hand emotion
What’s love got to do, got to do with it
Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken

While genuine love is anything but a “second hand emotion,” nobody likes dealing with a broken heart. And it is genuine love that can heal the brokenhearted. What the world needs now, more than anything else, is large doses of compassion, and understanding, and, yes, love.

Four years ago I wrote a blog post titled, What The World Needs Now (published on August 21, 2012). In that blog post I quoted a short devotion I found in a book of devotional readings titled Day by Day (2000, 2005) by Dr. Charles Swindollformer President and current Chancellor at Dallas Theological Seminary, and he also serves in leadership at Insight for Living Ministries and at Stonebriar Community Church. The title of this particular devotion is “Compassion.”

Compassion

Colossians 3:12-14; James 5:11

It was one of those backhanded compliments. The guy had listened to me talk during several sessions at a pastors’ conference. All he knew about me was what he’d heard in the past few days: ex-marine… schooled in an independent seminary… committed to biblical exposition… noncharismatic… premil… pretrib… pro this… anti that.

Toward the end of the week, he decided to drink a cup of coffee with me and risk saying it straight. It went something like this: “You don’t fit. You’ve got the roots of a fundamentalist, but you don’t sound like it. Your theology is narrow, but you’re not rigid. You take God seriously, but you laugh like there’s no tomorrow. You have definite convictions, but you aren’t legalistic and demanding.” Then he added: “Even though you’re a firm believer in the Bible, you’re still having fun, still enjoying life. You’ve even got some compassion!”

“You’ve even got some compassion!” Like, if you’re committed to the truth of Scripture, you shouldn’t get that concerned about people stuff–heartaches, hunger, illness, fractured lives, insecurities, failures, and grief–because those are only temporal problems. Mere horizontal hassles. Leave that to the liberals. Our main job is to give ’em the gospel. Get ’em saved!

Be honest now. Isn’t that the way it usually is? Isn’t it a fact that the more conservative one becomes, the less compassionate?

I want to know why. Why either–or? Why not both–and?

I’d also like to know when we departed from the biblical model. When did we begin to ignore Christ’s care for the needy? [Note: And we all at times fall into that very category.]

Maybe when we realized that one is much easier than the other. It’s also faster. When you don’t concern yourself with being your brother’s keeper, you don’t have to get dirty or take risks or lose your objectivity or run up against the thorny side of an issue that lacks easy answers.

And what will happen when we traffic in such compassion. The Living Bible says, Then the Lord will be your delight, and I will see to it that you ride high, and get your full share of the blessings I promised to Jacob, your father” (Isaiah 58:14).

If you really want to “ride high, and get your full share of the blessings,” prefer compassion to information. We need both, but in the right order.

Come on, let’s break the mold and surprise ’em. That’s exactly what Jesus did with you and me and a whole bunch of other sinners who deserved and expected a full dose of condemnation, but got compassion instead.

Others won’t care how much we know until they know how much we care.

Source: Day by Day by Dr. Charles Swindoll, p. 258
Word Publishing, Thomas Nelson, 2000

We may talk a lot about “compassion” in our churches, but what do we do with it on an hour-by-hour basis in our own personal lives with the folks we run into every single day? How do we conduct our business with others? Are we honest in our dealings with them? Do we actually care about what they might be going through (if we know their circumstances–for example, the homeless)? If we do anything at all, do we give out McDonald’s food coupons in an effort to appease our guilt and/or rationalize that if we actually gave them money they’d just spend it on less savory indulgences? It’s not that food coupons are wrong to give out, but it’s the attitude behind why we are giving them food coupons in the first place. For the most part we have no idea what it is like to walk in their shoes, and we tend to assume way too much about others we don’t know that is often erroneous at best.

You might be wondering what that has to do with the terrorism issues I mentioned in the opening paragraph. Well, it has a lot to do with it. How we treat others has a domino effect. And the consequences from that domino effect eventually catch up with us. It may take years or even decades, but actions have consequences (just look at recent history starting back during the two World Wars of last century), and they eventually bear fruit (good and bad). And those actions can even affect innocent bystanders, such as many of the victims of the recent acts of terrorism that have become so pervasive on this planet of ours, and wars in general down through the centuries.

That is not to say there isn’t a type of evil in this world that we simply cannot wrap our minds around (like terrorism). It is very obvious, especially after the past month from several terrorists attacks taking place here and in other places around the world, that there is an insidious and pervasive evil that permeates our planet, and it is a type of evil we often don’t understand; but there is also an evil that we do to others on a too-frequent basis when we treat others with disdain as if they don’t matter or they are inconsequential to our own lives. And if we do that evil to others over a period of years it creates an enemy we aren’t even aware of that can come back to bite us. It is how wars get started in the first place.

As we all know, reality sometimes does have significant challenges, like for those folks who survived the terrorist attacks mentioned in the first paragraph above, and for the families and friends of those folks who didn’t survive, and for others who have encountered life altering events. The Bible is filled with the struggles (and triumphs) of folks in the Old Testament, and even after Jesus came in the New Testament and what his followers went through in the early church years (and following Jesus hasn’t changed in the two millennium since he walked on this earth).

I will testify to loveHowever, let’s get back to the original question: “What’s love got to do with it?” Love has everything to do with it, and it starts with how we treat others–and that include the person right in front of us whether in a parking lot or a store, or someone who might be yelling obscenities within earshot that we don’t appreciate, or treating us with disdain. Or it might be someone who is a Christian who doesn’t believe exactly as we do on certain topics (and disagreements on various topics is nothing new and has even been known to cause church splits). While there are doctrines in the Christian faith we must believe or else we really don’t have faith (see What are the essentials of the Christian faith at this link), topics like Biblical prophecy (e.g., see article titled, The Rapture Debate at Bible.org) are issues that even the most knowledgeable or seminary-educated individuals among us disagree on.

With that being said, I’m not implying that an initial reaction to a bad experience isn’t legitimate, such as anger or frustration or heartache like those who experienced and survived the terrorist attacks mentioned above. What I am saying is that there is real evil in this world and there are real enemies out there in society. I just read a quote that Joyce Meyer, one of the world’s best known practical Bible teachers and a New York Times bestselling author, shared in her book titled, Let God Fight Your Battles (2015) regarding our real enemy on pages 108-109:

A good friend who is a Greek scholar once shared with me a paraphrase of John 10:10. It gives us a clear idea of just how determined the enemy is to kill, steal, and destroy, but it also shows us that Jesus has something else altogether in mind.

The thief wants to get his hands into every good thing in your life. In fact, this pickpocket is looking for any opportunity to wiggle his way so deeply into your personal affairs that he can walk off with everything you hold precious and dear. And that’s not all–when he’s finished stealing all your goods and possessions, he’ll take his plan to rob you blind to the next level. He’ll create conditions and situations so horrible that you’ll see no way to solve the problem except to sacrifice everything that remains from his previous attacks. The goal of this thief is to totally waste and devastate your life. If nothing stops him, he’ll leave you insolvent, flat broke, and cleaned out in every area of your life. You’ll end up feeling as if you are finished and out of business! Make no mistake–the enemy’s ultimate aim is to obliterate you!

But I [Jesus] came that they might have, keep, and constantly retain a vitality, gusto, vigor, and zest for living that springs up from deep down inside. I [Jesus] came that they might embrace this unrivaled, unequaled, matchless, incomparable, richly-loaded and overflowing life to the ultimate maximum! (Quote from Rick Renner, “Sparkling Gems,” 2003, as quoted on pp. 108-109 in Let God Fight Your Battles,” 2015)

There are definitely people out there living among us who are like the description given above (such as terrorists and others who commit crimes against humanity). Their agenda is clearly stated in the quote above, and those enemies don’t even have to know us personally to show up in our lives and try to take us down (again, as in the recent terrorist attacks that have taken place around the world). However, when we fight among ourselves and disparage each other or those we don’t know or like, we give our enemies a stronghold on us. And when we judge others or gossip about them, we are actually setting ourselves up for a possible future confrontation with those enemies. As the apostle Paul reminds us in Romans 12:18:

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you,
live at peace with everyone.”

What it boils down to is that expressing and showing love even for our enemies really isn’t “just an option” for a Christian. Genuine love keeps us right with God and right with others, even if those “others” (e.g., terrorists and assorted others) couldn’t care less. Jesus stated in Matthew 5:43-48 (MSG):

“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.

“In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”

Also, I Corinthians 13:4-8 gives us a clear picture of what genuine love really looks and acts like:

Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking,
It is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts,
Always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.

We often have no idea of the harm we do when we disdain, disrespect, and discredit others, especially those we don’t know or don’t like for whatever reason. However, for the Christian, evil is fought on God’s battleground (Exodus 14:14), and not in the games we play with others (which can actually damage us in return). We can’t win this battle against the unforeseen forces of evil around us (see Ephesians 6:10-18) on our own–only God can win it. But we do have an obligation to do what Jesus has told us to do in living as His disciples, and that is to . . .

Love God . . .

Love others . . .

No exceptions . . . .

YouTube Video: “Testify to Love” by Avalon:

Photo #1 credit here

Photo #2 credit here

Liberty and Justice for All

Obama quote on liberty and justice

The Pledge of Allegiance

“I pledge allegiance to the Flag
Of the United States of America,
And to the Republic for which it stands,
One Nation under God, indivisible,
With liberty and justice for all.”

Tomorrow–the 4th of July–signifies the 240th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence that declared the original thirteen American colonies as a brand new nation–the United States of America–and we’ve come a very long way in 240 years . . . .

I ran across an article published a year ago regarding the 4th of July celebration in 2015 on EthicsDaily.com titled, What Our Founders Meant by ‘Liberty and Justice for All’,” by 

What Our Founders Meant by “Liberty and Justice for All”

by Barry Howard, Senior Minister
First Baptist Church of Pensacola, Florida

Statue of LibertyI observed our congregation’s students standing attentively as they enthusiastically declared, “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America” during Vacation Bible School.

We often recite these words in classrooms and at civic gatherings. When we pronounce the pledge, is it merely an obligatory ritual or do we listen attentively to all of the words and take them seriously?

The last words of the pledge are perhaps some of the most counter-cultural words of commitment we can speak: “with liberty and justice for all.”

Our ancestors envisioned a nation wherein liberty and justice would be for all people.

For some, however, “liberty” has been reduced to a license for self-centeredness and “justice” has been diminished to mere retaliatory or punitive action.

Although dictionaries routinely define liberty as “the state of being free,” liberty involves much more.

The historical American concept of liberty is not that one is free to do as one pleases without accountability for the consequences of one’s actions.

Rather, our heritage of liberty means that we are not owned or enslaved by another person or power.

Popular pastor and author John Ortberg reminds us, “Real freedom is not the external freedom to gratify every appetite; it is the internal freedom not to be enslaved by our appetites.”

In other words, our individual and corporate freedom exists within the boundaries of ethical and moral responsibility.

True liberty calls on us to express ourselves with civility and to respect the rights of those who think differently to do the same.

Justice is commonly perceived as “the assignment of merited rewards or punishment.”

But the Old Testament prophets, especially Amos, knew that justice is much more than being affirmed for right behavior or punished for bad behavior.

Justice strives to create viable opportunities for all persons to succeed economically, vocationally and socially. Real justice seeks to create opportunities for the disadvantaged.

The Bible gives us many examples of the disadvantaged: the poor, widows, orphans, the sick, strangers, the hungry, the homeless and those in prison.

In the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance, we commit our lives to the pursuit of “liberty and justice for all.”

The phrase “for all” is inclusive, not discriminatory. “For all” means we aim to provide and protect liberty and justice for all individuals regardless of gender, race, economic status, political ideology or religious background.

To preserve liberty and justice for the privileged few is indicative of a shallow theology and an uninformed patriotism.

While you and I are blessed to enjoy the privileges of freedom, many around our world still live under tyranny and can only dream of liberty and justice.

Last weekend’s July 4 festivities should serve as a reminder that we must pledge ourselves to continue to work for liberty and justice for all persons in the future.

Liberty and justice are not just political ideals. They are social tenets that affirm intrinsic human worth, and spiritual values that reflect the image of our Creator, ultimately experienced through the liberty we find in Christ.

John 8:32 [Jesus] declares, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free,” and Amos 5:24 urges, “Let justice roll on like a river.”

In order to truly “let freedom ring,” we must work together to “let justice roll.” (Quote source here.)

As Pastor Howard stated, “The phrase ‘for all’ is inclusive, not discriminatory. ‘For all’ means we aim to provide and protect liberty and justice for all individuals regardless of gender, race, economic status, political ideology or religious background.”

To provide and protect liberty and justice for all . . . that means you; that means me, and that means everyone else in America, too–no exceptions. As we celebrate the 4th of July tomorrow all across America, let us remember. . .

Liberty and justice is for all. . .

And if it isn’t for all. . .

It’s not for anyone. . . .

YouTube Video: National Anthem sung by Lady Gaga at Super Bowl 50 in 2016: [Click link to actual YouTube video to watch it in YouTube after you click on the video embedded below.]

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

Psalm 138

Psalm-138v5On this first day of July, 2016, I thought I’d start off the month with a psalm of David–specifically, Psalm 138. And here it is (NKJV):

The Lord’s Goodness to the Faithful

Psalm 138
A Psalm of David

I will praise You with my whole heart;
Before the gods I will sing praises to You.
I will worship toward Your holy temple,
And praise Your name
For Your lovingkindness and Your truth;
For You have magnified Your word above all Your name.
In the day when I cried out, You answered me,
And made me bold with strength in my soul.

All the kings of the earth shall praise You, O Lord,
When they hear the words of Your mouth.
Yes, they shall sing of the ways of the Lord,
For great is the glory of the Lord.
Though the Lord is on high,
Yet He regards the lowly;
But the proud He knows from afar.

Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
You will revive me;

You will stretch out Your hand
Against the wrath of my enemies,
And Your right hand will save me.
The Lord will perfect that which concerns me;
Your mercy, O Lord, endures forever;
Do not forsake the works of Your hands.

Enjoy this psalm put to music at the YouTube Video below. . . .

YouTube Video: Psalm 138 Song “I will Praise You with My Whole Heart” – Christian Praise Worship w/Lyrics:

Photo credit here

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