Faithfulness

by Discerning Dad

“And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” John 16:8

I hate peer pressure… I mean I really do. Does anyone like it? We’ve all faced it but it seemed incredibly strong for me in grade school.

Peer pressure is like waves in an ocean trying to move you off course. A boat has to make constant adjustments in order to stay on course. Waves and wind will constantly try to disrupt the navigation flow of the vessel.

So it is with peer pressure, we have our convictions, but we become convinced by a stronger voice in our life to settle or to do something that we would not have chosen on our own. I’m only talking about negative peer pressure here; there can be positive peer pressure too.

Comparison kills contentment and it weakens our conviction. I have been a Christian all my life and in grade school and high school, there was a constant barrage of voices trying to get me to question my faith, to try a drug, watch a mature movie, be in a relationship that wasn’t good for me, and the list goes on.

Even something as relatively innocent as clothing can cause others to size you up based on the latest trends or name brands. I remember around 5th grade, I was completely happy with my socks and shoes. I had no clue about fashion or name brands that is until this one kid in particular made it known to me how much I was lacking in this department.

Every day this kid would berate me and call out, “generic socks and generic shoes.” I don’t even remember what I would wear but it wasn’t good enough for the social criticism in the late 1980’s. This kid was nonstop with the generic comments every single day. I finally pressured my Mom into buying me Nikes, but not just Nike shoes, but Nike socks which visibly had the black swoop on the top of the sock in order to be seen by all. No one would again say that I had “generic sock and shoes.” I had won.

I was perfectly contented with my situation before this peer pressure occurred. I was oblivious to the need to put on a show for others in order to not be ridiculed. Sometimes it’s just easier to give in to quiet the noise around us, to lower our convictions for a moment’s peace. How often have we compromised our walk with Christ for the easy, the popular, the pleasurable, or whatever THING that is demanding of our time and attention?

Peer pressure isn’t as in my face as it was in grade school, but then again my phone is literally in my face every day. I see on social media a non-stop list of what I “need.” what others have, what I don’t have, how others are so happy, how well behaved their kids are, how many vacations my friends are taking, what God is doing in other ministries, and the list goes on. Social media is more subtle form of peer pressure but it may be just as strong, if not stronger, of an influence in our life than a physical person.

Discernment will allow us to ask, “what is God asking of me?” I can’t worry about what anyone else is doing or what God is calling them to do. God measure success based on faithfulness not based on achievements. I am longing for the day that Jesus says, “well done good and faithful servant” (Matt 25:23).

People often will want the results without the work it takes to get there. You see that successful Pastor with a vibrant ministry? You don’t see the two failed churches, the multitude of sleepless nights in prayer, or the constant stress he faces by those that have a critical spirit about them. Actually the stress, the failure, the pain, and prayer have gotten him to this point, he had to learn to fail in order to succeed. He had to learn the lesson of when he did not rely on God so that he would never go down that path again. He had to learn the importance of prayer when he couldn’t do it on his own so that he would be able lift up those around him in a powerful covering so that Satan never gains a foothold in his ministry.

But you see him and you want to be him without any of those steps or God’s calling on your life to do that…

It’s like someone that idolizes a celebrity and wants to be them while never seeing the depression they face, the loss of true friendships, never feeling like they are valued apart from their talent, or the desire they have just to “be normal” again.

What is God calling you to do? Where is God calling you to go? If you can’t answer that, you need to pray. God is always looking for a willing vessel who can say, like Isaiah, “here I am God, send me!”

Read 1 Kings 13, seriously stop and read the chapter before you continue…but if you didn’t I’ll do my best to summarize.

Jeroboam was a wicked king (there seemed to be no shortage of them when you read the Old Testament). God called a prophet out of Judah to go to Bethel (Jewish historian Josephus called him Yadon and I will too for the purpose of this story).

God called Yadon for a purpose, to travel to another city and to boldly rebuke the King, facing a probable death for doing so. When he got there not only did he miraculously prophecy about King Josiah (which wouldn’t happen for about three centuries later) but he also destroyed the pagan altar through an earthquake (13:5)! When the King pointed at him to have his guards seize him, instantly his hand became paralyzed and he couldn’t pull it back (v4).

Now the evil King Jeroboam asked the man of God (Yadon) to pray for his hand to be restored and it was. The King then tempted the prophet to come and eat, drink, and stay in his palace, but Yadon was strong in his conviction since the Lord told him, “you must not eat or drink anything while you are there, and do not return to Judah by the same way you came” (v.9).

This was a powerful confrontation that Yadon had; almost as powerful as Elijah calling down fire on the prophets of Baal. I don’t know the mindset of Yadon but I would have breathed a sigh of relief, not only was I not killed by the wicked King, but God showed up in miraculous signs and the King actually wanted to treat me to a royal dinner. I can imagine he was pretty famished; the long journey with no food and water now was the time to relax… or was it? Yadon resisted the pressure and remained true to what God was asking him to do.

But that was not the end of this story. The rest of this story is about an “old prophet” who is unnamed who sends his sons to find Yadon. Once he was found, the old prophet rode out to meet Yadon. He asked “are you the man of God who came from Judah” (v.14)? No doubt word of his confrontation with the King spread like wildfire through the town. He invites him back to his house to get some food and drink, but again Yadon replies about how God told him not to eat or drink anything until he returns to his hometown. The same answer he gave the King.

Now this part is fascinating…

“But the old prophet answered, ‘I am a prophet, too, just as you are. And an angel gave me this command from the Lord: ‘Bring him home with you so he can have something to eat and drink. (v18)’” The next verse even says the old man was lying, but the peer pressure, the fatigue, and/or the camaraderie of another prophet got to Yadon and he went back with the old man to eat and drink.

Now think about this for a minute, God called Yadon out of his hometown to go to Bethel to deliver a mighty message to the king. Why didn’t he call this old man? He was a prophet, conveniently located in the same town as the king… We know this old man had no problem lying and God knew his heart as well.

So back to the story, the old man and Yadon were eating a meal back at the house and the Spirit of God speaks through the old man, aka the liar! “This is what the Lord says: ‘You have defiled the word of the Lord and have disobeyed the command the Lord your God gave you. You came back to this place and ate and drank where he told you not to eat or drink. Because of this, your body will not be buried in the grave of your ancestors” (v21-22).

I feel bad for Yadon, after this meal he saddled his donkey and rode off to an awaiting lion that killed him (v.24). A mighty victory for God turned into a crushing defeat because he did not obey the word of God; he listened to a false prophet who got him to sway off course. He fell into peer pressure from a fellow prophet. A prophet who said he heard from God nonetheless!

I find it interesting that God still spoke through the old prophet at the dinner table, you see, God can use anyone and anything for His glory, but that doesn’t mean the prophet was trustworthy or following the will of God.

God can speak through anyone, but that doesn’t mean you need to go to their church, to read their books, or follow them if they are not fully obedient to the Word of God. There’s a lot of truth out there being mixed with deception. God can reach people even among prosperity preachers and twisted denominations.

We need to have discernment to align all things against the Word of God and hold fast to what is true.

But on a personal level, if God is calling you to do something, don’t be swayed by what another preacher, teacher, pastor, or priest tells you. God wants you to hear his voice so clearly you don’t need a second opinion.

I’m not saying that we can’t ask for wisdom from others, but I’m saying if God tells you something; don’t listen to someone who hasn’t heard from God for your life, who has a conflicting message.

There are other examples in the Bible of this same thing. Micaiah faced off against 400 other prophets in 1 Kings 22. I love this story and I write about it in detail in my book on the chapter about counterfeits. All the prophets were ‘yes men’ and prophesied success for the King while Michaiah prophesied defeat. One of the prophets came and slapped him saying, “Which way did the spirit from the Lord go when he went from me to speak to you” (v.24)? What Michaiah prophesied came true despite 400 voices claiming to hear from God.

Another example is Hezekiah and the siege on Jerusalem from King Sennacherib of Assyria (Isaiah 36). An envoy of Assyria came to taunt Israel and said a number of insults outside the city including, “Furthermore, have I come to attack and destroy this land without the Lord? The Lord himself told me to march against this country and destroy it” (v.10). Obviously a blatant lie.

Satan can be disguised as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14). We have to be very careful when even someone in ministry tells us a word from God that does not align with truth. I do believe God gives people words of knowledge today, but I also believe that Satan can plan deception in people’s minds that allow them to say something that is just a little off and get you to question what God said. Just like with Eve in the Garden, “did God really say?”

God would rather you be faithful to what He is calling you to do, than to chase after dreams and aspirations that don’t align with that calling. After all, are you building your kingdom or God’s?

Maybe being faithful to the job you dislike means that you can bring life into that environment and others can see Jesus through you.

Maybe being faithful to your family despite the frustrations means that your kids will be the first generation to know of the goodness and love of Christ without having to survive an abusive parent.

Maybe being faithful to your spouse despite your feelings means that you need to subject your feelings to the will of God and not your own; your faithfulness will be a witness to other couples with the same struggle.

Maybe enduring the pain and heartache that comes with fostering children means that the children you are pouring your heart and soul into will be able to know about Jesus simply because you are being faithful to that call despite all the garbage that sometimes comes with the foster care system.

This all comes back to discernment. Seek God for yourself; stand fast on the path He is calling you to take. Don’t be swayed by the lies of the enemy, even if it comes to you under the guise of a “friend” or someone that supposedly hears from God.

Be bold, be courageous, God can use you to accomplish His will on this earth if we are faithful and obedience for the glory of God and God alone. Amen!

Tim Ferrara
Discerning Dad

For more on Discerning Dad click HERE

For info on my podcast, Everyday Discernment, click HERE

Get your discernment swag including new styles in the STORE

Become a Patreon supporter, find out more info HERE

Choosing To Forgive

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which bind them all together in perfect unity.” Colossians 3:13-14 NIV

Most Christians will agree that forgiveness is the right thing to do, after all there are over 100 verses in the Bible that talk about forgives or forgiving others. And yet, forgiving other people can be extremely hard to do. It seems to come easily for children, I know that my children will quickly forgive each other and move on about their day. They never bring up infractions from a week, month, or year ago! Why does this get harder to do as people move into adulthood? As you become adults, the wrongs levied against you become more severe, we build up walls over time, and we can analyze a scenario to judge if someone is deserving of our forgiveness.

A recent Barna study (1) among practicing Christians said that:

76% offered unconditional forgiveness to someone else

55% received unconditional forgiveness

27% identify someone they don’t want to forgive

23% identify someone who they can’t forgive

22% struggle to receive forgiveness for something

We can learn a lot about forgiveness in the Bible. Let’s take a look at the story of Jacob and Esau.

Jacob had God’s favor but he was not a good brother to Esau in the least. He took advantage of Esau when he was weak and traded him some stew for a birthright (although Esau was not very smart to have agreed). Jacob also betrayed his brother by stealing the blessing from his father by dressing up like his brother, with his mother’s help nonetheless! This was a double betrayal for Esau from his brother and mother.

Jacob brought about division against him and his brother and he had to flee for fear of repercussion. The interesting thing is that the brothers meet up again, many years later in Genesis 37. Jacob is justifiably scared of this encounter. He does not know if Esau will attack him and steal everything. Jacob separates out his wives and children into groups so that if one group is attacked, the other can flee safely. Jacob also prepares a generous gift for Esau when he arrives.

Surprisingly to Jacob, Esau embraces his brother and even rejects the gifts that Jacob brings saying, “I already have plenty, my brother. Keep what you have for yourself.” (Gen. 37:9) The brothers are reunited despite the past. God blesses both of them as they grow in livestock and wealth that they eventually have to split up because the land cannot support both groups.

Esau made a decision to forgive his brother. Jacob did not ask for forgiveness before it was offered. Esau had every “right” to stay bitter and even steal from Jacob his possessions. Esau chose the high ground.

Esau was betrayed by his own flesh and blood, how often does family betray their own? This hurt can be harder than others to recover from. If a stranger hurts me, it may make me sad but I can move on. When family hurts you, it sometimes makes the relationship irreparable and can cause devastating psychological damage.

The same can be said for our church family. Too often I hear and have experienced fellow Christians who hurt and betray their own, either through difference of beliefs or petty arguments. This can result in unforgiveness and someone choosing to not go to church or not let another Christian brother or sister close to them again in case of a future hurt. If an effort to control your surroundings, you end up taking extreme measures that hurt you in different ways such as the lack of fellowship and community. We are meant for relationship with fellow believers and to meet together regularly (Heb. 10:25).

Forgiveness does not forget the past. It does allow you to keep the past from controlling your future.

Forgiveness does not excuse or condone previous actions and it does not mean you have to sign up to get hurt again.

Forgiveness should be given even when it is not asked for. The person you forgive does not even need to be present in cases of death or abuse. You can still forgive them before your Heavenly Father.

Forgiveness is more an act of release for YOU than the other person. We hold on to unforgiveness because it gives us power, but it also destroys us in the process and steals our joy. They say power corrupts, I would say that unforgiveness corrupts our spirit.

There’s an old saying that says, “Harboring unforgiveness or bitterness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”

But we only forgive those who deserve it right? After all there are some actions that are reprehensible, that cannot be forgiven even if I wanted to? I don’t want to judge but I also can’t forgive because of what this person did to me…

If anyone “deserved” to hold on to unforgiveness it would have been Holocaust survivor Corrie ten Boom. She tells of an amazing story of one of her captors after the war, coming to a camp where she was preaching about Jesus. She chose forgiveness there on the spot when he told her who he was and what he had done.

Corrie ten Boom then told of not being able to forget this incident. She had forgiven the person, but she kept rehashing the incident and so couldn’t sleep. Finally Corrie cried out to God for help in putting the problem to rest.

“His help came in the form of a kindly Lutheran pastor,” Corrie wrote, “to whom I confessed my failure after two sleepless weeks.” “Up in the church tower,” he said, nodding out the window, “is a bell which is rung by pulling on a rope. But you know what? After the sexton lets go of the rope, the bell keeps on swinging. First ding, then dong. Slower and slower until there’s a final dong and it stops. I believe the same thing is true of forgiveness.

When we forgive, we take our hand off the rope. But if we’ve been tugging at our grievances for a long time, we mustn’t be surprised if the old angry thoughts keep coming for a while. They’re just the ding-dongs of the old bell slowing down.” “And so it proved to be. There were a few more midnight reverberations, a couple of dings when the subject came up in my conversations, but the force — which was my willingness in the matter — had gone out of them. They came less and less often and at the last stopped altogether: we can trust God not only above our emotions, but also above our thoughts.”(2)

What unforgiveness in your life do you need to let go of today, like letting go of a helium balloon? Let unforgiveness float away from your life and allow the Holy Spirit to heal broken wounds like only He can.

Discerning Reflection: What areas of my life do I have unforgiveness? Do I forgive as quickly as Jesus commands? Who do I need to pray about forgiving today that God is placing upon my heart?

Prayer: Lord, thank you for your immense gift of forgiveness that you gave us through your Son’s sacrifice on the cross. Help me to not hold on to unforgiveness which can lead to bitterness. Reveal to me today who you would like me to forgive, even if they are not asking for forgiveness.

Tim Ferrara
Discerning Dad
1- https://www.barna.com/research/forgiveness-christians/
2- http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/f/forgiveness.htm

For more on Discerning Dad click HERE

You can order my book right now by clicking HERE

How To Be Accepted By God?

To be accepted by God we need to walk in Him

 October 27, 2020  Nehemiah Zion

The worldly are constantly looking for acceptance. They are desperate for a sense of belonging, a place in this world; a tribe, a group they can join and feel wanted. This need for acceptance starts at home, continues through school, college into the workplace. It’s a hopeless life, to live in a state of inadequacy and loneliness.

The godly on the other hand, have a clear way to live, full of hope. The boundaries are set, the truth is absolute. The foundation is sure.

Yet, many believers are found short of their calling and lost in the world. The lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and the pride of life are a constant source of burden for them. They aren’t letting go because they still want some pleasures of the old life. This internal fight leaves them struggling to keep the faith and fellowship with God.

It’s not that God has rejected a believer. The believer out of his own choosing because of sin or disobedience is found outside of God’s favour or acceptance.

How to be accepted by God?

Sharing only 3 ways to be approved by God.

Grow in wisdom

Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and found favour among God and man (Luke 2:52). How to grow in wisdom? Do what Paul tells Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:12-16. To be an example in every area of life. Jesus is our best example, when we keep our eyes fixed on Him we grow in the wisdom of God. Jesus is wisdom (Proverbs 8).

Be a holy, living sacrifice to be accepted

Our reasonable service is to offer ourselves to the ONE who offered Himself for us (Romans 12:1,2). Out of His great mercy and compassion He saved us. The choice we make to love Him is a lifestyle that aligns with His perfect Word. Like Jesus did the will of the Father, believers need to follow the footsteps of the perfect role model for this life.

Live for God wholeheartedly, cheerfully

Cain wasn’t accepted because he did not give the best of what he was blessed with by God from off his produce (Genesis 4:5,7). His lack of heart sent him into a backslidden state which resulted in the deadly sin of killing his own brother. God loves a cheerful giver, be it spiritually, physically or monetarily for the glory of God (2 Corinthians 9:7).

In the last days, many will lose their lives to making merry, indulge in carnal friendships and enjoying the lusts of this world. Openly rejecting and living in rebellion to God’s word.

The grace of God has kept us thus far. What choices are you making in life? Arise in God’s love. Shine for Jesus. He is coming soon for His faithful bride. Praise the Lord and Amen!

What is a REAL Friend?

Coach Muller  November 28, 2019

 

A simple friend, when visiting, acts like a guest.

A real friend opens your refrigerator and helps himself.

 

A simple friend has never seen you cry.

A real friend has shoulders soggy from your tears.

 

A simple friend doesn’t know your parents’ first names.

A real friend has their phone numbers in his address book.

 

A simple friend brings a bottle of wine to your party.

A real friend comes early to help you cook and stays late to help you clean.

 

A simple friend hates it when you call after he has gone to bed.

A real friend asks you why you took so long to call.

 

A simple friend seeks to talk with you about your problems.

A real friend seeks to help you with your problems.

 

A simple friend wonders about your romantic history.

A real friend could blackmail you with it.

 

A simple friend thinks the friendship is over when you have an argument.

A real friend calls you after you had a fight.

 

A simple friend expects you to always be there for them.

A real friend expects to always be there for you!

What is a REAL Friend?


Nuggets of wisdom

NOVEMBER 30, 2019 BY WORDS FROM ELIAH

Don’t be conditioned by your conditions. Let the Lord be the condition that dictates your conditions. In Him you are conditioned to win!

Handle everything with “love gloves.” Handle every situation with gloves of love that are gentle, soft and caring. Be loving in every situation. Don’t use harsh hands to handle life. Everyone needs to receive love so give people a loving hand.

Hate and love are enemies. They don’t get along. They don’t belong together. Let love be your best friend and hate be your enemy. When the enemy tries to get the best of you, turn to your friend and let the fruit of your friendship shines through you.

There is no such thing as being too much like Jesus. Be Jesus to everyone. Be Jesus to yourself. Be Jesus in all you do. Be Jesus in all you say. Be Jesus in your mind. Be Jesus in excess. There is no such thing as being too much like Jesus. Someone needs the Jesus in you.

Every time we fall, God is there to pick us up whether we see it or not. We don’t fall to crash and burn. We fall so we learn how to get stronger. Your fall is not a trap unless you believe it is. It is a steppingstone to your next blessing.

Be sure to have plenty of room for the Lord in your heart. Listen to the beat of the music in your heart. Listen to the songs that vibrate with the Lord’s love. Listen to the music of His love, His peace and His joy.

The Lord gave you life in abundance so you can enjoy your salvation here and now. There is abundance of spiritual blessings that you need to thank the Lord for. His abundance covers every area of your life. Do you let Him into every area of your life?

Even in the darkest night the light of the Lord shines. It might be a tiny dot on the black backdrop of adversity but it is there. Focus on the tiny light and you will see it grow and grow.

After all is said and done, God will have the final say when you stay in faith. Wait for His final word. Don’t get discouraged. Don’t give up. God has something to say about every situation of your life and it is always good!

The truth will set you free. The truth is that God loves you. He cares about you. He protects you. He prospers you. He educates you. He teaches you and He stretches you. Live up the freedom of God’s truth in you!

Suggested reading: John 8:32; 1 John 3:18; 3 John 1:4

https://wordsfromeliah.wordpress.com/2019/11/30/10-nuggets-of-wisdom-for-your-saturday-part-97/

Friendship Founded in Forgiveness

By    •   January 30, 2019 

Erik Fitzgerald (left) and Matthew Swatzell (right) formed an unlikely friendship after a profound tragedy. Photograph: TODAY.com

On Oct. 2, 2006, Matthew Swatzell headed home after working a 24-hour shift as a firefighter/EMT in Dacula, Ga. He was only a few miles from home when he nodded off for just a couple of seconds, crossed over the center line of the road and crashed into another car. Inside the car was a young woman, June Fitzgerald, who was seven months pregnant with a baby boy, and her 19-month-old daughter, Faith. 

June’s husband, Erik Fitzgerald, a youth pastor at the time, remembers the day vividly: “I was at home, and I was getting ready to go to seminary because I had classes that day. The senior pastor from my church came by the house and was banging on the front door, so I ran to the front, and he said, ‘June was in an accident; we need to go.’”

At the time, Erik didn’t know much of what happened, but as soon as he got to the emergency room and was ushered to the pre-counseling room, he knew it wasn’t good.

“When I walked in, the doctor was sitting down with my wife’s parents and going over what had happened. That’s when he let us know that June didn’t make it and they weren’t able to save my son.”

Erik had little time to process as he had to get to Children’s Hospital of Atlanta, where his daughter had been taken by ambulance. When he got to the other hospital and found out that Faith had survived, he was thankful, but he began to break down as the weight of all that happened started to sink in. 

Two days after the accident was a day when Erik would normally lead his student ministry. The regular meeting was canceled, but Erik agreed to let the middle schoolers and high schoolers come over to his house. 

“We were all sharing memories of June and just trying to process a little bit as a unit because June was very involved in the student ministry,” Erik said. One of the girls, whose father was a fireman at the same fire department as Matthew, said, “We need to remember Matthew in our prayers, too, because he’s hurting and he’s struggling.” 

In that moment, Erik was reminded that there was somebody else involved in the accident and that he wasn’t the only one hurting. He realized that this was an opportunity for him to put into practice the forgiveness he preached. Although he was heartbroken by the loss of his wife and son and preparing for life as a widower and single father, Erik decided not to press any charges against Matthew, but instead, chose to forgive him. 

Due to legal proceedings, the men were not allowed to communicate until the case was closed. It wasn’t until the day before the two-year anniversary of the accident, in a grocery store parking lot, that they connected, and a life-changing conversation took place. 

“I was at the grocery store actually buying Erik a card, and I was going to run it by his house and drop it in his mailbox,” Matthew said. “I was about to leave, and I look up, and I see Erik walking into the grocery store.”

From inside the store, Erik noticed Matthew. “He was just kind of standing outside of his truck, and tears were coming down his face. So I just walked up and gave him a hug.

“I didn’t want him to let the accident define him,” Erik said. “I wanted him to know that God’s got a bigger plan than this. I didn’t want him to let this hold him back or be baggage that he carried the rest of his life. 

“So I told him, ‘Man, I forgive you. I’m not hanging on to anger. I’m not; there’s no resentment here. It was an accident. I don’t want you to feel any burden on my behalf.’”

After about two hours talking in the parking lot, Erik told Matthew, “You might think I’m crazy, but I feel like I’m supposed to walk with you through life.” 

Matthew responded, “That’s exactly the way I feel. I’d like to stay connected with you.”

From that moment on—for more than 10 years now—the two men have remained friends. They get together several times a year and they try to talk at least once a month. The forgiveness that Erik extended to Matthew formed the foundation of a friendship that has changed both their lives.

“It gave me a different perspective and a different purpose,” Matthew said. “For those two years I wore around guilt, but when I finally had a chance to talk to Erik and let him know that I was sorry, and to then have him embrace me and tell me that he forgave me, it completely flipped my life around. It flipped my purpose, it flipped my spirituality, it flipped everything. Just seeing Erik and how he’s handled this and how he’s become a friend to me, it’s what I want to be able to give back to other people. Let them know that there’s nothing that they can do wrong that can’t be forgiven.”

As this act of forgiveness changed Matthew’s life, it deeply impacted Erik’s as well. “For me,” he said, “it was an opportunity for the event to not be the end. Yes, I lost June and my son, but it wasn’t a period. It was a comma, and that allowed God to begin and continue to do good through it.”

Though it wasn’t the easiest thing to do, Erik chose to obey God’s Word, which says, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).

“Forgiven people forgive people,” Erik says. “That’s just true. There are no caveats. There are no ifs, ands or buts. As a Christian, I’ve received forgiveness; I need to also forgive. … You’ve got to begin to live it out. It is a process. There are days where you’ve got to wake up and just remind yourself, I’m forgiven and I forgive. Forgiveness isn’t a feeling. You don’t have to feel like it. It’s a process of faithfully living out what God has firmly told us to do in His Word, but there’s a moment where you’ve got to make a decision, and you’ve got to surrender and say ‘I’m going to do it God’s way.’”

Both men agree that their friendship is a demonstration of God’s faithfulness to His children. “All along the way continuing to see good, continuing to see growth, continuing to see this friendship develop and God continuing to do a good work, it reminds you of how He can make beautiful things from your ashes and He can restore. He can bring new life,” Erik said. “It doesn’t have to be a period. It can be a comma, and if we allow it to be, God takes over and does what only He can do.” 

The Scripture quotation is taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.

Friendship Founded in Forgiveness

The Transforming Power of Biblical Forgiveness

By Denise George   •   January 30, 2019 

On the second anniversary of the mass shooting at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, S.C., family members of Myra Thompson join in song during a memorial service. Photograph: Newscom

On a hot, muggy night in Charleston, S.C., 21-year-old Dylann Roof walked into the basement of the Emanuel A.M.E. Church and joined a dozen Wednesday evening Bible study members as they studied Mark 4. It was June 17, 2015.

The teacher, Myra Thompson, warmly welcomed the 5-foot-9-inch, 120-pound boyish-looking man with the pale face. Roof’s tousled blond hair was cut in a salad bowl shape, and he wore a tourist’s fanny pack around his waist. 

Clementa Pinckney, Emanuel’s pastor, invited Roof to sit next to him, and someone placed a Bible in his hands. Roof sat quietly during the Bible study, saying nothing, his facial expression blank.

At 9 p.m., Myra ended the study, standing with the others to pray.

“Our Father, who art in Heaven,” they prayed together, “hallowed be thy—”

Suddenly Dylann pulled a Glock .45 from his fanny pack. Piercing the quiet fellowship hall with an exploding CRACK! CRACK! CRACK!, he opened fire on the praying members. Shooting each person multiple times at point-blank range, and shouting hateful racial slurs, he killed eight church members immediately, including Myra Thompson and Pastor Pinckney. The ninth victim died shortly thereafter. 

Roof walked out, leaving the dead, dying and terrified behind him on the blood-stained floor. The church security camera recorded his image, the gun still in his hand.

Word of the church massacre spread throughout the city, turning Charleston’s narrow streets into tangled mazes of screaming sirens, flashing lights and panicked onlookers.

When Myra’s husband, the Reverend Anthony Thompson, pastor of Charleston’s Holy Trinity Reformed Episcopal Church, arrived home from his church’s Wednesday evening program, a friend telephoned him.

“There’s been a shooting at Emanuel Church!” he said. Anthony rushed to the church. When he discovered his wife’s murder, he fell to the pavement and cried.

Rev. Anthony Thompson stands outside Emanuel African Episcopal Church.Photograph: Reuters/Newscom

Police found Dylann Roof the next morning, arrested him and took him back to Charleston. When two FBI agents interrogated him, the young racist laughed, bragged about the murders and claimed he had hoped to start a race war. He admitted he had chosen Charleston and the Emanuel A.M.E. Church for his massacre because of their past slave history.

On Friday, June 19, fewer than 48 hours after the murders, Anthony reluctantly attended Roof’s bond hearing. A video camera from the detention center linked Roof to the courtroom. Judge James Gosnell invited the victims’ family members to speak directly to Roof through an audio connection. Although Anthony didn’t intend to say anything, he felt led by God to walk forward. He depended on God to put His words into his mouth.

“I forgive you,” Anthony told Dylann. “And my family forgives you. But we would like you to take this opportunity to repent. Repent. Confess. Give your life to the One who matters the most: Jesus Christ, so that He can change it and change your attitude. And no matter what happens to you, then you’ll be OK. Do that and you’ll be better off than you are right now.”

Several other family members at the hearing also offered their forgiveness.

City and state police prepared and braced themselves for the racial riots they expected to explode in Charleston, fearing the bloodshed, violence and looting as recently witnessed in Ferguson, Baltimore, Berkeley and other cities after racially-motivated crimes had occurred.

But, to the world’s amazement, Charleston erupted not in violence, but in grace, the city responding with acts of love and kindness. Charleston’s mayor, Joseph Riley, witnessed firsthand the unexpected results of Biblical forgiveness, stating: “A hateful person came to this community with some crazy idea he’d be able to divide. But all he did was unite us and make us love each other even more.”

Makeshift memorials of flowers grew in front of the church. Compassionate donors pledged thousands of dollars to help the victims’ families. Thousands of people gathered in downtown Charleston for an evening vigil and prayer service. The whole city mourned the senseless deaths, visible acts of love setting off a godly chain of events as blacks and whites embraced, crying together and comforting one another in Charleston’s crowded streets. More than 15,000 people of all colors and faiths joined hands, creating a flesh-and-blood human bridge, a chain of visible love that stretched for two miles and crossed Charleston’s Ravenel Bridge.

After the shooting, and having witnessed the powerful and peaceful results brought about by Biblical forgiveness, the world struggled to better understand it. They wondered how Anthony Thompson could forgive his wife’s cold-blooded killer, and even share with him the message of Christ’s forgiveness and salvation.

They asked some hard questions:

Before Thompson forgave him, should Roof not have first apologized, expressed remorse and tried to make amends for his actions?

Did forgiving Roof mean that Thompson dismissed, excused or condoned his ruthless act?

Mustn’t Thompson have felt forgiving before he forgave Roof?

How could Thompson forgive so quickly, before his wife was even buried? Doesn’t genuine forgiveness take years to accomplish?

Society discovered important truths about Biblical forgiveness and how it differs so greatly from the world’s false concept of forgiveness. They learned that Biblical forgiveness:

  • Can forgive any crime, no matter how atrocious—not dismissing, condoning or excusing an offender’s actions, but blaming him and then forgiving him. Thompson blamed Roof for killing his wife, and therefore he could choose to forgive him.
  • Doesn’t depend on the offender’s response. Roof remained consistently unrepentant, showing no remorse and never apologizing. “I would like to make it crystal clear,” Roof wrote in his journal, “I do not regret what I did. I am not sorry. I have not shed a tear for the innocent people I killed.” Later, during his April 2017 trial and federal death sentence, Roof publicly stated: “I felt like I had to do it. I still feel like I had to do it.” Thompson forgave Roof without the young racist’s response, remorse, repentance or apology.
  • Doesn’t require the forgiver to feel forgiving. Forgiveness is a choice of the forgiver’s will, not a decision based on emotional feelings. Paul writes: “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13).
  • Requires believers to pray as Jesus taught, asking God to “forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12).

Anthony Thompson chose to forgive the sinner Dylann Roof because Jesus Christ had chosen to forgive the sinner Anthony Thompson. “Scripture tells me that I am a sinner, forgiven by Christ, and saved by grace,” Thompson admitted. “Therefore, I am obliged to forgive others who hurt me.”

Jesus gave believers the perfect example of Biblical forgiveness when He forgave those murderers who nailed Him to the cross. “Father,” He prayed aloud in His time of great suffering, “forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

Anthony Thompson’s choice to forgive his wife’s murderer brought Scriptural forgiveness and Biblical teachings into the world’s media limelight. Christ worked in the midst of this tragedy to change hearts and lives.

Dylann Roof had hoped to fuel a race war by killing Emanuel’s members. But as a Christian Examiner reporter later wrote: “It … has had the opposite effect, allowing the grieving families to put the Gospel’s power on full display for not only Roof but for a watching television audience.”

Anthony Thompson continues to pray for Roof, hoping that before the misguided young man dies by lethal injection, he will ask God’s forgiveness and receive God’s salvation through Jesus Christ. But Anthony has laid down his heavy burden, he has forgiven his wife’s killer and he has chosen to move forward in Christ’s ministry, just as he knows Myra would wish him to do.  ©2019 Denise George

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version.

Denise George is the author or coauthor of 31 nonfiction books. She recently worked with Anthony Thompson on his new book: “Called to Forgive: The Charleston Church Shooting, A Victim’s Husband, and the Path to Healing and Peace” (to be released in June 2019 by Bethany House Publishers). Denise is married to Timothy George, Th.D., founding dean of Beeson Divinity School, Samford University.

Have you asked Christ to forgive your sins? Start here.

The Transforming Power of Biblical Forgiveness

When We Are Forgiven

By Erwin Lutzer   •   January 30, 2019 

 

Whether we were brought up in a strict home or a lenient home, we all have a conscience. And there’s nothing we can do about the stain of sin upon our conscience. Time will never obliterate our sin. We need God to do that for us.

The story of David is well-known; he committed adultery with Bathsheba. She became pregnant, and then he had her husband, Uriah, killed. 

For a while, David thought his sin was covered, that he had done what he needed to do to get out of the mess and salvage his reputation. But the cover-up didn’t work very well. It never does.

Psalm 51 is David’s prayer of confession before God as he spills out his heart, and Psalm 32 is the psalm that David also prayed, most probably in connection with Bathsheba, as he thanked God for His forgiveness. It shows a wonderful contrast between the burden of guilt and the blessing of forgiveness.

Stage 1: The Burden of Unforgiven Sin

Psalm 32 reveals David’s experience in three stages. The first stage is the burden of unforgiven sin, the burden under which David lived when he tried to cover his sin. What was that like? Some scholars think that David was in this state of cover-up for nearly a year before he came clean with God.

You’ll notice that this psalm begins by saying, “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit” (Psalm 32:1-2).

And now comes the description of life with unforgiven sin. “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer” (Psalm 32:3-4). 

Eighty percent of our emotional energy is usually spent trying to cope with self-condemnation and the sense of guilt that many of us have experienced. As a matter of fact, guilt tends to break down the immune system, making a person more susceptible to disease. 

So unconfessed sin affected David’s body. He also says in Psalm 51:3 that it affected his mind: “My sin is ever before me.” 

And unresolved guilt affects behavior. If you don’t overcome guilt, you will have a tendency to addictions. You’ll have a tendency to repeated compulsive and destructive behavior because you are trying to somehow resolve the tension of who you know you should be and who you know you are.

When my wife and I were in England, we went to John Bunyan’s grave. He was the man who wrote “The Pilgrim’s Progress,” in which he talked about Pilgrim walking with this heavy weight on his back. And on Bunyan’s tombstone is a carving of a man walking with a weight on his back that was too heavy for him to carry. That’s the way it was for David when he was in the mode of cover-up, minimizing his sin and refusing to ask God’s intervention and forgiveness. That’s stage 1.

Stage 2: The Agony of Confession

Stage 2 is the agony of confession. Confession is not easy. David says, “I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and you forgave the iniquity of my sin” (Psalm 32:5). In other words, “I stopped living a lie. I stopped hiding. I exposed my soul with its sin to God.” So now David has come clean.

Why is confession so difficult? It’s because there are alternatives to confession. We dodge repentance through rationalization. “Everybody does it,” we tell ourselves. We minimize our sin and magnify the sins of others: “Well, I’m not as bad as So-and-So.” Or we think that somehow we must pay for our sins.

But the one thing that is most difficult is to simply be honest with God and say, “All the closets of my life are now open to You. Everything is exposed. Nothing is hidden from Your sight. You know it’s there, and now I am acknowledging it is there, too.” The agony of confession!

Stage 3: The Blessing of Forgiveness

The third stage is the blessing of forgiveness. It’s the burden John Bunyan had on his back, until it rolled away, and finally he was able to get up and walk in freedom. Charles Wesley put it this way: “My chains fell off, my heart was free. I rose, went forth and followed Thee.”

Notice how David describes it: “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered” (Psalm 32:1). God took the ugly mess and He sent a snowfall to cover the ugly trails and all of the ruts in the road of my life, and He no longer holds us guilty as a result of it. Oh yes, consequences may continue, as David experienced, but the guilt is gone. There is now freedom.

In verse 5 David says, “You forgave the iniquity of my sin.” Verse 7 says, “You are a hiding place for me.” Now that my sin is forgiven, we are back in fellowship. You have forgiven me. You hide me. Verse 7 continues, “You preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance.”

Then in verse 8, God says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.” 

It is as if David is saying, “When I was out of fellowship with God, I had no sense of God’s guidance. But He forgives me, He hides me, He guides me, He inspires me.” And he says in Verse 11: “Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!” You give praise to God because of the freedom and because of the conscience that has been cleansed.

Are we willing to come honestly and openly and say, “Jesus, here I am, exposed in Your presence”? We begin there, and then we go to those whom we have wronged and we say, “At all costs, I want to be right before God and man.”  ©2005 Erwin W. Lutzer

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. 

Adapted from a sermon preached Aug. 21, 2005. Used by permission of Moody Church Media.

Erwin W. Lutzer is pastor emeritus of The Moody Church in Chicago, Ill., where he served as the senior pastor for 36 years. He is also a radio speaker and award-winning author.

Jesus’ Parable

 

 

Everyone loves a good story.  To sit and listen in awe and amazement as the story, its characters and plots come to life in one’s imagination as you envision the scene playing out in your mind’s eye…  What an awesome experience!

A lot of those imaginative qualities of bygone eras have seemed to dwindle some as people and generations have become accustomed to instant ways to satisfy that need to escape into a good story, if only but for a moment.

Most stories today are written, read, watched, or played out for purely entertainment reasons.  But when Jesus told a story, He wasn’t worried about providing people a temporary flight into the fantasy.  His stories, which we have come to know them as being parables, are like a good bowl of hot, homemade oatmeal – they stick to you.

And that stickage, was and is, for a purpose.  He had lessons about this life and relating to people; lessons about the Kingdom of God and eternity that He wanted people to lay hold of.  Not just to pass a story along, but to apply to one’s life that it might do the hearer a world of good both now and forever.

In this new series, I have grouped some of Jesus’ Parables together to be used as individual lessons, or, as the title suggests, as a series.    Below you will find six links to six of the parables I have covered.  At a future date, I will cover and add more to the list and update you when that happens.

As always, while I provide resources and activities for lessons and lesson development, I encourage my readers to do their own personal studies as well.

To access the lessons, simply click on the links below.

Loving people; serving them and treating them as one would want to be treated is a priority for living as God’s people and serving Him.  The parable of the Good Samaritan shows us how this love and concern we are to have for others can cross barriers to just do what is right to help others.

Prayer is more important than most people believe. Prayer, for the Christian, is more than just requesting from God, it’s more than petitioning and supplication. It is a place of comfort where we can unload the heaviness within. It is a source we can rely on when fighting against the adversities that are without. It is a little sanctuary in the big mess of this world where we can meet with our Creator one on one and know that we are heard. And, Jesus teaches us how to do it right.

Not only does Jesus teach us how to do it right, but using the parable of the Friend at Midnight in the middle of His instructions, Jesus teaches us that we must have persevering prayer.

So many are running after the here and now reward. They are seeking a temporary reward hoping for eternal benefits. This is not how it happens in God’s economy for if one has already lifted themselves in the front of others then they have their reward (see Matthew 6:2). But, if one works with the love of Christ in showing the same humility He lived, they have a day coming where they will reap the benefits of those seeds of humility they planted in the lives of others.

In this parable, Jesus teaches about guests who are invited and seek to exalt themselves when they vie for the best places to sit.  He also covers in this parable the need to treat others fairly and look to invite those who could never pay you back.

Every time someone leaves the world of sin behind and comes back to the Father, He is overjoyed. Heaven is singing and shouting praises. People matter to God. Lost people are loved by God. His strongest desire is to see them come back home in His loving arms where they belong. What an eye-opening picture the story of the Prodigal Son presents and encourages every soul to turn to God today. The Father is waiting to receive you!

One day Jesus is coming back. Until then, keep praying and don’t give up! Your heavenly Father hears every cry uttered from your lips and spoken silently in your heart. You are loved, my friend. Let your faith rise in your Savior today and believe in His love and power at work in your life. Keep on keeping on. Always pray and not faint!  May the parable of the Persistent Widow encourage you today!

There is going to be a great, heavenly celebration one day. Will you be there? Have you answered Jesus’ invitation to come?  The Parable of the Great Banquet gives a hardy story of many who are called but begin to make excuses for why they can’t come.  When they refused to commit and follow through, the master of the house called for those who would normally be overlooked.  Don’t let outward appearances fool you.  Heaven is going to be full of people who others would discount, but had a receptive heart to the call of Christ.

I hope you enjoy these lessons.  My prayer is that these lessons will be helpful to you personally or to use in your own classroom settings.  I have a few more series in progress and to work on before we reach the end of the year.  Until next time, many blessings to you all!

Sunday School Lesson Series: “Jesus’ Parables”


 

24 of Bonhoeffer’s Most Challenging Quotes

Wisdom for instituting change.

 

by Godinterest

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor, theologian, spy, anti-Nazi dissident, key founding member of the Confessing Church as well as one of the most influential spiritual voices across the globe for decades. It’s a good thing for the modern Church that Bonhoeffer was determined in his course.

Bonhoeffer grew up amid the academic circles of the University of Berlin, where his father, Karl Bonhoeffer, was a professor of psychiatry and neurology and was awarded a doctorate in 1927 at the age of only 21.  He also studied at Union Theological Seminary in New York from 1930—1931. During that time he attended Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem and became deeply interested in the issue of racial injustice.

Bonhoeffer’s involvement in a plot to overthrow Adolf Hitler  led to his imprisonment and execution on the 9th April 1945.

More than seventy years after his death, Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s writings on faith, the Church, ethics and the nature of God serve as a touchstone for all of us who seek to understand a Christian’s responsibility in the face of injustice and have gone on to have a profound influence on Western Culture and the legions of Christian thinkers who’ve encountered them ever since.  He also remains an important symbol of opposition to Hitler.

Here’s a look back at some of Bonhoeffer’s most powerful quotes.

ON GRACE

“Cheap grace is preaching forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”

ON JUDGING OTHERS

“Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.”

ON LIFE

“Christianity preaches the infinite worth of that which is seemingly worthless and the infinite worthlessness of that which is seemingly so valued.”

ON SIN

“May we be enabled to say ‘No’ to sin and ‘Yes’ to the sinner.”

ON JUDGING

“Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.”

ON SERVING GOD

“We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God.”

ON GOD’S LOVE

“God does not love some ideal person, but rather human beings just as we are, not some ideal world, but rather the real world.”

ON GOD’S WILL

“Being a Christian is less about cautiously avoiding sin than about courageously and actively doing God’s will.”

ON SERVING OTHERS

“The Church is the Church only when it exists for others, not dominating, but helping and serving. It must tell men of every calling what it means to live for Christ, to exist for others.”

ON OBEDIENCE

“One act of obedience is worth a hundred sermons.”

ON EVIL

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

ON AFFIRMATIVE ACTION

“We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.”

ON STANDING UP FOR INJUSTICE

“If I sit next to a madman as he drives a car into a group of innocent bystanders, I can’t, as a Christian, simply wait for the catastrophe, then comfort the wounded and bury the dead. I must try to wrestle the steering wheel out of the hands of the driver.”

ON GRATITUDE

“In normal life we hardly realize how much more we receive than we give, and life cannot be rich without such gratitude. It is so easy to overestimate the importance of our own achievements compared with what we owe to the help of others.”

ON FOLLOWING CHRIST

“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”

ON INJUSTICE

“We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.”

ON PEACE

“There is no way to peace along the way of safety. For peace must be dared, it is itself the great venture and can never be safe. Peace is the opposite of security. To demand guarantees is to want to protect oneself. Peace means giving oneself completely to God’s commandment, wanting no security, but in faith and obedience laying the destiny of the nations in the hand of Almighty God, not trying to direct it for selfish purposes. Battles are won, not with weapons, but with God. They are won when the way leads to the cross.”

ON ‘DEFENDING’ THE BIBLE

“Do not try to make the Bible relevant. Its relevance is axiomatic. Do not defend God’s word, but testify to it. Trust to the Word. It is a ship loaded to the very limits of its capacity.”

ON REAL MORALITY

“The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.”

ON PEOPLE

“We must learn to regard people less in light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.”

ON SPIRITUALITY

“When all is said and done, the life of faith is nothing if not an unending struggle of the spirit with every available weapon against the flesh.”

ON FELLOWSHIP

“The first service that one owes to others in the fellowship consists of listening to them. Just as love of God begins with listening to his word, so the beginning of love for our brothers and sisters is learning to listen to them.”

ON PROOF OF GOD

“A God who let us prove his existence would be an idol.”

ON THE FUTURE

“The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.”

https://godinterest.com/2018/03/24/24-of-bonhoeffers-most-challenging-quotes/