Tuesday, May 31, 2016

My Sanity

I heard this song "Mystery" as sung by Charlie Hall on the Passion "White Flag" CD, and the words really spoke to me. I hope they speak to you also.

Sweet Jesus Christ, my sanity
Sweet Jesus Christ, my clarity
Bread of heaven broken for me
Cup of salvation held up to drink
Jesus, Mystery

Christ has died and Christ is risen
And Christ will come again

Sweet Jesus Christ, my sanity
Sweet Jesus Christ, my clarity
Bread of heaven broken for me
Cup of salvation held up to drink
Jesus, Mystery

Christ has died and Christ is risen
Christ will come again
Christ has died and Christ is risen
And Christ will come again

Celebrate His death and rising
Lift your eyes, proclaim His coming
Celebrate His death and rising
Lift you eyes, lift your eyes
Celebrate His death and rising
Lift your eyes, proclaim His coming
Celebrate His death and rising
Lift you eyes, lift your eyes

Christ has died and Christ is risen
Christ will come again
Christ has died and Christ is risen
Christ will come again
Christ has died and Christ is risen
Christ will come again

Sweet Jesus Christ, my sanity

Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial Day 2016

On "Memorial Day," Americans honor our veterans, especially those who died defending our freedom.

Although I do not know of any family members who died in combat, I want to remember those of my relatives who did serve and helped protect our nation:  My Dad (Col. B.F. Simmons, USAF, retired), my late Grandfather Jefferson L. Simmons (Mississippi National Guard in WWI in France), my late Uncle Franklin Simmons (Navy "Sea Bee" in WWII), my late Uncle Charles Shirley (Air Force), Uncle Hal Shirley (Army National Guard), Brother-in-law Gary Meier (Army), nephew Dale Meier (Army, 82nd Airborne), Cousin Shain Vice (U.S. Army)and any other family members I'm forgetting.

Thanks to all American veterans and to the families of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for us all. Thanks to those serving now in so many far away and dangerous places. You are remembered and honored today, and every day.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Tickled Ears

Many today are worried about the Zika virus. But I'm just as concerned about certain destructive doctrines that are spreading like an epidemic.
During a recent trip to Uganda, friends there told me of a growing church in the capital city of Kampala that has been infected by the most serious form of American-style "hypergrace" teaching. This church attracts hundreds of young people who like the idea that they can fornicate whenever they want and still be right with God.
False doctrines are nothing new. In the first century, Paul sternly warned Timothy about certain preachers who know how to slice and dice God's Word to make it fit what people want. He wrote in 2 Timothy 4:3-4: "For the time will come when people will not endure sound doctrine, but they will gather to themselves teachers in accordance with their own desires, having itching ears, and they will turn their ears away from the truth and turn to myths."
The King James Version says the crowds who crave this reconfigured gospel "have itching ears." The Greek word here, knēthō, can mean "to tickle" or "to itch." It means that people will gravitate toward teachers who tell them what they want to hear instead of what they need. And while the Bible sharply rebukes the teachers of these dangerous doctrines, Paul also blames the people who ravenously consume this distorted message.
The warning is clear: Be careful what you listen to!
There are many false doctrines circulating today, but there are four that have spread widely in the modern Pentecostal/charismatic movement. You may not be able to stop the person who is preaching these heresies, but you should never, ever submit to this teaching or support it financially. Don't ever believe these four lies:
Lie No. 1: You don't need to repent of your sin or focus on sin. This is the crux of the "hypergrace" movement. While it is true that many legalistic Christians don't understand God's love and forgiveness, we can't swing the pendulum to the other extreme and portray God as being lax about sin. God is still holy, and true grace gives us the power to live a holy life. If a preacher minimizes repentance, or says you should never worry about sin in your life, you should run out the door.
Lie No. 2: You can live however you want to live sexually. Jesus Himself warned us in Revelation 2:20 about the influence of "Jezebel" in the church. He said she was leading Christians to "commit acts of immorality." You can see tolerance of sexual sin in many segments of the church today. Catholic bishops allowed their own priests to commit child sexual abuse for years; mainline churches have embraced same-sex marriage. But their error is no worse than that of certain charismatic preachers who minimize or ignore the sin of adultery and cohabitation among straight people. We should never evaluate a minister just by what he or she preaches; we should also take note of what he or she refuses to confront from the pulpit.
Lie No. 3: You can buy God's blessings. I do not believe in a poverty gospel, but the prosperity gospel that emerged in this country in the 1980s almost ruined our witness. The greedy televangelist who manipulated audiences to give in the offering so he could buy airplanes or mansions will give an account for every soul he turned away from Christ. Especially egregious are the preachers who promised people healings, spiritual gifts or the salvation of loved ones in exchange for a $500 "seed" offering. God's blessings are free. Shame on those who merchandised His anointing.
Lie No. 4: God never calls us to suffer. Whenever the church enters times of prosperity and ease, our message gets soft. This happened during the 1980s, when preachers in silk ties told us we could name and claim whatever we wanted in Jesus name. And while the verses they quoted about faith certainly apply to prayer, they mixed the message with the idea that life with God is like a bowl of cherries and that any hardship that comes our way is from the devil. These preachers avoided 1 Peter 4:1, which says: "Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose."
I don't know about you, but I don't trust an arrogant preacher who says he never has struggles or problems. I don't follow a man because he has a Lexus or a four-car garage; I look for a broken minister who walks with a limp. The preacher who says Christians don't suffer has never felt the fire of God's testing, and he is likely an illegitimate son since he has never known the Father's discipline.
God is cleaning up His church today, and He is refining the message we preach. Don't prop up or support the false doctrines of the past. Purge their influence from your life and embrace the true gospel—the message calls each of us to take up our cross, die to our own desires and be mature disciples.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Audacity in Prayer

This Passing Glory
In Exodus 33:12-23 Moses approached God with two of the most audacious demands that any man has ever made: "Please show me now your ways" (Ex. 33:13) and "Please show me your glory" (v. 18).
In order to lead people effectively, Moses needed to know the mind of God. He didn't want God simply to send down orders; he wanted to know the purpose behind God's plans. To that end, Moses wanted to remain in constant communication with his Maker. This was essential to his leadership as a man of God.
Intimate Knowledge of God
Any man who seeks God's calling should pray the way Moses prayed. We should ask God to give us intimate knowledge of him. The things we do will be successful only if God is in them. Whenever we do something that God has called us to do—whether it is serving in our singleness, learning how to be married, working at a job, or getting involved in ministry—we need to pray that God will show us his way to go about things.
Moses also wanted something more: he wanted to see God's glory. This request was not as imperious as most translations make it sound. In the original Hebrew it comes across more like an entreaty; Moses was saying "Please . . . " Still, it was an audacious request. The prophet was asking to see the splendor and radiance of God.
Mercifully, God did not show Moses the full brightness of his divine glory, because this would have been fatal (see v. 20). But God did consent to show Moses his goodness. In order to protect his prophet from deadly exposure to his radiant glory, God made special arrangements. He put Moses in a cleft in the rock and covered him with his hand until his glory had passed by. Then Moses saw the contrails of God's glory—the luminous clouds that streamed from his divine being. Although the prophet was not allowed to look God in the face, he was able to catch a fleeting glimpse of the hindquarters of his glory.
Glorious Joy
Someday we will get to see what Moses wanted to see: the glory of God. We will look Jesus right in the face and will not be destroyed but will be filled with glorious joy. In the heart of every man there is a yearning—yet unsatisfied—to see this promise fulfilled. We know that there is more for us to see, and so we long to gaze upon the beautiful face of Jesus Christ.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Miyagi School of Theology

A scene from a little known movie, "The Reformed Karate Kid"

The Lies of Anxiety

Feeling anxious? Check out - 8 Arguments For Why You Should Be Anxious Today and How the Bible Responds by Justin Taylor
An important lesson of the Christian life is that the heart of the battle is a fight not between abstract commands (do this! don’t do that!) but rather arguments. Unbelief does not just offer dictates; it offers reasons why we don’t need to trust the Lord. And to counter that, gospel-flavored belief argues with our unbelief. In other words, it provides reasons for why trusting the Lord is always the good and wise things to do.
Here are some notes on how this might work with the temptation to fret and worry and be anxious and unsettled, rather than acting in joyful, confident, restful faith. I’ve included the argument of unbelief, a Scripture passage, and some observations on how the argument works.
Philippians 4:5-6: ”The Lord is at hand; [therefore] do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
  • The truth: “The Lord is at hand”
  • What is prohibited as a result: “do not be anxious about anything”
  • The alternative that is prescribed as a result: “in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God [i.e., the Lord who is near to hear and to help].”
1 Peter 5:6-7: Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
  • The truth: God cares for me.
  • The command: I am to humble myself.
  • How? By casting all of my anxieties on him.
  • A corollary: Carrying rather than casting my anxieties is an expression of pride.
Matthew 6:25: “Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?”
  • You still have eternal life even if you have no food
  • You will still have a resurrection body even if you are physically deprived.
  • Even if your struggle ends in death you will not have lost the most important things; therefore, don’t spend your time being anxious about lesser things.
Matthew 6:26, 28-30: “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? . . . And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?”
  • God values the birds and the grass, which he richly provides for and adorns.
  • God values me much more than the birds and the grass.
  • Therefore, as an argument from the lesser to the greater, obviously he will be even more invested in providing for all of my needs.
Matthew 6:27: ”Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” [Answer: no one.]
  • The truth: Anxiety can’t add a single hour to my life.
  • Presupposition: I shouldn’t spend my time on pointless activities that have no benefits.
  • Result: I shouldn’t be anxious.
Matthew 6:31, 33: “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For . . . your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
  • The truth: God knows I have needs for food, drink, clothing
  • The implication: When God knows a need and he loves the needy he is glad to be the supplier of the need.
  • The result: My focus can be on God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness, knowing that my needs will be taken care of.
Matthew 6:31-32: “Do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things. . . .”
  • The truth: Unbelievers are anxious about how their needs are going to be met.
  • Presupposition: Christians are not to act like unbelievers.
  • Result: We should not be anxious like the world is anxious.
Matthew 6:34: “Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
  • Tomorrow is going to do just fine without your help, but thanks anyway.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

God's Will Revealed

Do you wish you could accurately and completely know the will of the Lord for your life? Check ou God Has Already revealed His Plan For Your Life: It Doesn't Have to Be AS Complicated As You Think by Greg Darly via Relevant
When trying to discern God’s will for our lives, it is tempting to spend all our our time in prayer. God, what do you want me to do with my life? Should I take this job? Should I move to that city? Should I enroll at the school? Should I marry him? Should I break up with her?
The list of prayers could run on till eternity. But what if the key to discerning God’s will for your life was to stop praying so much about it?
I went through a season a few years ago when God was eerily quiet. When I prayed for direction or insight, there was nothing but silence. The conversations typically went like this. Maybe you can relate.
Me: God? What do you think I should do?
God: (silence)
Me: God, I really want to do your will. Can you tell me what that is?
God: (the sound of crickets)
Me: God, will you give me clarity on what I should be doing?
God: (more silence)
Me: God? Are you even listening? I can’t hear you. Will you answer me?
Day after day, the conversations continued in the same fashion. I would ask God for an answer on a decision, and in return, I would hear nothing. I was at a crossroads, and honestly didn’t know what God wanted me to do. I prayed. I sought counsel. I prayed more. God was incredibly silent.
I realized that my issue was not not hearing from God; my issue was relying on God to make me obedient to what He had clearly spoken.
Early one Saturday morning, I snuck away before anyone in my house was awake and went to a favorite spot in downtown Greenville. The Reedy River cuts through downtown and cascades down multiple waterfalls. At the top of the falls are numerous benches and tables. I love to watch the sun rise above the falls and enjoy the quiet of the morning while reading and drinking a latte from a local coffee shop.
As I was reading the Bible that Saturday, I was again struck with the frustration of not knowing what God wanted me to do. I prayed, God, I really want to do your will. And I will do it, but first I need to know what it is. I mean, how could God expect me to do His will if He wasn’t telling me what it was, right?
As I was praying and reading, I was struck by a simple word from the Lord. It was great on the one hand, because it was the first time in months I’d felt anything fresh from God. But it was frustrating on the other hand, because it was nowhere near the level of detail I desired.
God reminded me on the bench overlooking the waterfall that He had already given me many insights into His will.
In fact, I was currently reading part of His will for my life. In front of me, my Bible was open to the book of Philippians. I continued reading, but this time, the words on the page jumped out at me. I heard God say, “You want to know what I want you to do? Start by being obedient to what I’ve already commanded you. I’ve given you a lot to do. I want you to have my attitude and mindset. I want your life to look like mine.”
I looked down and read Philippians 2:14—“Do everything without grumbling or arguing.” It was like an explosion of dynamite. In an instant, God’s Word burst through the fog of silence. God had spoken clearly about what He desired from my life.
I kept reading and wrote down all the actions and commands I could implement immediately in my life, along with the corresponding Scriptures.
After a few minutes of reading and writing, I had pages of decisions and actions I knew would take a long time to implement. I was overcome with joy that God had spoken!...
Read the rest at the link.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016


Blessed are those who prefer to be wronged rather than to wrong others and accept serenely and silently injustices. In this way, they reveal in practice that they believe in “one God, the Father Almighty” and expect to be vindicated by Him and not by human beings who repay in this life with vanity.

        - Elder Paisios of Mount Athos (HT: Holy Fathers )

Spiritual Gifts - 7 Principles

I've long had a problem with most so-called spiritual gifts test, believing that they mostly measure personality traits more than spiritual gifts. Therefore, I appreciated this piece - Seven Principles For the Understanding and Exercise of Spiritual Gifts by Sam Storms (via Peter Cockrell)
While much can and should be said about spiritual gifts, here are a few relevant observations or principles that I believe should guide our understanding and exercise of the charismata.
(1) Every single spiritual gift, whether it be mercy, serving, giving, speaking in tongues, or prophecy, is a “manifestation of the Spirit” given “for the common good” (1 Cor. 12:7). Therefore, every gift is by definition supernatural, since every gift is the enabling presence of the Spirit operating through us. As Paul says, although there are varieties of gifts, services, and activities, it is the “same Spirit” who “empowers them all in everyone” (1 Cor. 12:4-6). So, teaching is as supernatural as tongues; service is as supernatural as word of knowledge, and so on.
(2) In light of the first point, we must acknowledge that a “gift” or “charism” of the Spirit is an impartation to enable and equip us to serve others. Nowhere in Scripture are gifts portrayed as personality traits or characteristics. A person who is gregarious and extroverted can receive the gift of mercy. A person who is quiet and introverted can receive the gift of teaching. A person who lacks self-confidence and is by nature somewhat hesitant to speak can receive the gift of evangelism. A person who has little faith and never expects to hear from God can be the recipient of a word of knowledge. This isn’t to say there is never any overlap between a person’s unique personality and the gift God bestows to them, but we must never identify any particular gift with any particular personality trait.
(3) Building on the previous point, let’s take the gift of prophecy as an example. Paul says that anyone is a candidate to prophesy (1 Cor. 14:1, 5, 24, 29-32). A prophet, therefore, is someone who consistently receives spontaneous revelatory words from God that are shared with others for their “upbuilding and encouragement and consolation” (1 Cor. 14:3). But nowhere does the NT say that “prophet” is a particular set of personality traits. Given that any and all have the potential to prophesy, how could it be?
In other words, a prophet is never portrayed in Scripture as someone who always displays a certain demeanor or interacts with others in a particular way or responds to arguments with a unique emotional energy. A prophet is someone who consistently receives spontaneous revelatory words (pictures, dreams, impressions) from the Lord and speaks them to the edification and encouragement of others.
My guess is that quite often a person with certain personality and relational characteristics is identified as a “prophet” or a person with the gift of “mercy” when in point of fact the Spirit has never imparted that particular gift to them. They are who and what they are, in terms of their personality and character and relational development because they are being progressively transformed by the Spirit to be more like Jesus, but not because they happen to have a particular spiritual gift that someone perceives to be linked with that sort of behavior or relational style.
(4) Spiritual gifts are concrete manifestations of the Spirit through us. They are not who we are, therefore, but rather what we do in the power of the Spirit for the good of others. We should be careful always to differentiate between our particular gift(s), on the one hand, and who we are as God’s children in Christ Jesus, on the other.
In other words, there is an important difference between, on the one hand, our character and personality and how we are being sanctified daily to become more and more conformed to the image of Christ, and what gift the Spirit imparts to us for building up fellow believers, on the other. Simply because a person is extroverted or introverted, self-confident or timid, loves crowds or prefers solitude, is organized or disorganized, does not necessarily mean he/she will have any particular spiritual gift that always corresponds to that particular feature of their personality or relational style. Will the two sometimes overlap? Sure. But we must never insist on a one-to-one correspondence such that because “Sally” or “Steve” display certain personality traits that they are therefore to be classified as a “mercy” or as a “prophet” or as a “teacher”.
(5) The danger in drawing too close a relationship with what our spiritual gift is and who we are as individual believers is that when our gift wanes or grows dormant or isn’t received well by others we would suffer shame and experience self-doubt and have fears regarding our worth as the children of the most high God. Our identity as sons and daughters of God, our identity as believers “in Christ,” must never be tied to a particular “charism” or gift that the Spirit has chosen to impart to us and through us for the good of others.
(6) Again, building on the previous point, we must keep in mind that some spiritual gifts, because of their more overt manifestation of the supernatural presence of the Spirit, are occasional or circumstantial in nature. For instance, the spiritual gifts of prophecy, faith, word of knowledge, word of wisdom, healings, faith, working of miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, and perhaps interpretation of tongues, are not so much residential, in the sense that they reside permanently within us and can be used at our will, whenever we please, but are sovereignly given at a particular point in time, on a particular occasion, to address a particular circumstance. Once exercised on that occasion and for that purpose, the gift may no longer be operative (depending, of course, on God’s will for each of us).
Gifts such teaching, tongues, evangelism, mercy, service, and administration, on the other hand, are more permanent and residential: they are always with us and we who have such gifts can exercise them at any time, according to our own will.
(7) No one Christian will ever have every spiritual gift. No one Christian will ever have all the gifts of Romans 12, or the gifts of 1 Corinthians 12, or those of Ephesians 4. This is clear from Paul’s rhetorical questions in 1 Corinthians 12:27-31, each of which calls for an answer of No. Neither is it the case that one should think he/she will have at least one gift from the list in Romans 12 or at least one gift from the list in 1 Corinthians 12 or at least one gift from the list in Ephesians 4.
That does not mean we shouldn’t “desire” or “seek” or “pray” for more spiritual gifts than we currently have. Paul is clear in 1 Corinthians 14:1 that we should always desire and seek for spiritual gifts, even as the one who speaks in tongues “should pray that he may interpret” (1 Cor. 14:13).

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Next Billy Graham

"The next Billy Graham probably will speak only Spanish or Arabic or Persian or Mandarin.  The man on the throne in heaven is a dark-skinned, Aramaic-speaking ‘foreigner’ who is probably not all that impressed by chants of ‘Make America great again.’” 

                     - Russell Moore

Plow and Trowel

Interesting piece on Bible Study - Plow and Trowel Bible Studies:

What is a Plow Bible Study?
“Plow work moves through large portions of Scripture more quickly, looking for specific themes. You could think of it as building a Biblical theology about a certain topic. It is not just a verse picked out here and there; plow study helps you get a fuller understanding of what God says about a specific topic. The key is to prayerfully look for something or Someone as you read. Plow work, though less intense than trowel work, still takes a lot of time. If you aren’t a seasoned studier, this may be the type of study you want to start on first. It is simple and straight-forward.
I used to really have a low view of “plow study” because of the many people who would say they were reading through the Bible in a year but weren’t getting anything out of it. How many of you have read chapters of the Bible and you can’t remember what you read when you were finished? We can all relate to that! Even if you are reading through the Bible, which is a great practice by the way, look for something specific and have pen and paper in hand. It will keep your mind engaged. There are lots of different kinds of Bible reading plans, such as reading through the Bible chronologically. If you decide to do this, I would encourage you to read the introduction to the book you are getting ready to read through before digging in – you can find this in a good study Bible. Find a main theme to look for as you read. That is where the idea for pride and humility in Jeremiah came from.”

What is a Trowel Bible Study?
“Trowel work means taking a passage or verse of Scripture and settling in to dig for a long time.
The Inductive Study Method is an example of this kind of Bible study. Trowel work, though more intensive than plow work, is not complicated. But neither is it easy. The believer who seeks to dig out the treasure in God’s Word must understand that solid Bible study takes a lot of effort.”

What type of study should I do?
“Both types of Bible study are needed for a “balanced diet” in our Christian life. Even when we settle down to accurately interpret smaller portions of God’s Word, it is helpful for us to have the “big picture” view provided by plow work. In other words, the plow and the trowel work well together. As with any type of Bible study, trowel or plow work, the goal is to understand God’s Word. And whenever God opens our eyes to understand His Word, the result is long-term change – we become more like Christ.
In my own life, I like to have both types of study going on simultaneously. I’ll take several days a week to do my trowel study and several days a week to do the plow study. It helps me not get bogged down in one passage, it provides variety and keeps me from getting stale.
If you pursue this course of study, some days it will seem like just an exercise in grammar. You have to recognize the value in embracing the whole process. There will be times you just don’t get it. The answer to your question isn’t easily found, you don’t understand the passage. There will be times of frustration. We don’t face that very often in our culture- answers for just about everything are readily available. When I want to look up something I don’t know, I simply google it or look for a video on You Tube. We don’t like to “dwell in the ‘I don’t know’,” we don’t like feeling lost and confused. This kind of Bible study is totally counter-cultural. You Tube will not help you know God better. Google can’t help with this process. Sometimes you will have to fight for understanding. But that is not a bad thing. It is part of the learning process and it actually help to “make the moment of discovery stick.” As you agonize over a passage of Scripture and pray for God to give you understanding, all of it will come together. The “aha” moment will come. And I have to confess it is rather addictive. You will never forget the truth you have labored hard to understand! You will love the truth and you will feel it deeply, and you will want more of it! You will glow with the glory God has shown you.
So there will be days where your God and I time doesn’t leave you on an emotional high, where it feels like work and no glory, where you don’t feel like you have a sweet spiritual truth to carry with you…but embrace the process. Emotions can’t drive this train. They follow our faith-filled obedience.
All the work of deep digging in the Word is worth it when God illumines you to spiritual truth!”

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Myths About Forgiveness

There are a lot of myths out there about forgiveness. Here's a few of them - Forgiveness Doesn't Mean Forgetting by Shane Pruitt via Relevant
One of the scariest verses in all of Scripture has to be Matthew 6:14–15, where Jesus said, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” This is one of those verses that you’ll never see on a t-shirt, coffee mug, or desktop screen-saver with roses in the background.
This is not a popular verse because it digs deep into the uncomfortable areas of our lives and deals with some difficult actions on our part. It teaches us that if we’re going to be recipients of God’s grace, then we must give grace to others. Jesus gives the challenge that if you don’t forgive others it may be proof that you’ve never truly received God’s forgiveness yourself.
Or, in a positive glorious implication, He is teaching us that the most practical way to show the world that we understand the Gospel of forgiveness is by showing the world that we know how to forgive.
Forgiveness is trusting God to be the ultimate and perfect judge. He knows how to settle our disputes much better than we do.
So, what is forgiveness? One of the best definitions on forgiveness comes from—of all places—Wikipedia, where it’s described as “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 vengefulness, with an increased ability to wish the offender well.”
Wow! True forgiveness is not just “letting go” of anger, bitterness and resentment, but, it’s also wishing well for the one who hurt you. Am I able truly to pray to God for someone? Not just praying and “informing” God of their transgressions but actually asking the Lord to bless that person. Now, that is extremely difficult, isn’t it?
Let’s be honest. Most of our unforgiveness and bitterness is caused by some really silly and trivial situations. However, there are stories that involve true heartbreaks, letdowns and victimizations. In these kinds of stories, forgiveness can only come from God because it takes a God-sized forgiveness. And, it’s in stories like these that myths about forgiveness seem to handicap us, confuse us and keep us from truly experiencing victory.
So, let’s identify some of the myths about forgiveness, and call them what they are: myths.
Myth: Forgiveness means you have to forget.
Unfortunately, you don’t have a Neuralyzer from the movie Men in Black that causes your memory to be erased if you look into its flash. Memories are very real, especially if they’re memories wrapped in hurt. They may always be there. However, there is a wonderful opportunity to operate in a lifestyle of saying, “I have not been able to forget. I remember it very well, and yet by God’s grace I still choose to forgive.”
Myth: Forgiveness means that you’re condoning their actions.
Many times we feel that choosing to forgive is saying that what a particular person did to us was okay. However, this is a myth. Forgiveness is trusting God to be the ultimate and perfect judge. He knows how to settle our disputes much better than we do. After all, He’s the expert at dealing with sinners and sinful actions, not us. Let’s not forget how He has perfectly dealt with our sinful actions towards others.
Myth: Forgiveness means you have to be a doormat.
Often, we’re terrified to forgive because we’re scared to be hurt over and over again. However, forgiveness doesn’t mean that I have to subject myself to being continually abused and used. In fact, I could be guilty of enabling a person if I’m their doormat. Forgiveness means that I’m going to protect and free myself from you by not carrying bitterness with me.
Myth: Forgiveness means you have to be friends.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you have to continually be “close” or “friends” with someone. Sometimes, the healthiest thing for two people is distance. We’re commanded by Scripture to forgive, love and be kind to others; however, nowhere in Scripture are we commanded to be friends with everyone.
Myth: Forgiveness comes from an apology.
Sometimes we think that the two words, “I’m sorry” are supposed to heal all wounds. However, true forgiveness can’t come from a pithy statement, but rather, an all-powerful God. God must first forgive the one who is doing the forgiving; then the forgiving one must truly experience and enjoy God’s forgiveness. Then and only then can that person be in a healthy place to allow God to grant forgiveness through them to the transgressor. In short, forgiveness comes from God, not us.
Myth: Forgiveness is based on the other person’s actions.

Often, people will say, “I will forgive that person when they ask me for it and start doing things to deserve my forgiveness.” However, this is a myth because we’re commanded to forgive, whether someone asks for it or not. Victory in this area is going to come from obedience to God and not other people’s actions. Remember, grace is giving something to someone, even when they don’t deserve it.
Myth: Forgiveness is easy.
Sadly, forgiveness is not easy. It’s also not difficult. Forgiveness is actually impossible. In our natural state, we want to hold onto unforgiveness, bitterness and anger because on some level it makes us feel in control. We want that person to hurt like we hurt. We simply can’t change these feelings on our own. However, the good news is that we have a God that makes the impossible, possible. “For nothing will be impossible with God (Luke 1:37).”
Although, there are many myths about forgiveness, there is only one Truth. The truth is that bitterness, unforgiveness and anger are a heavy and miserable load to carry.
Therefore, it’s time to truly experience the victory of forgiveness that can only be found in Christ by laying that heavy burden down at His feet. “For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light" (Matthew 11:30).

Monday, May 16, 2016

You Can't Mess It Up

Here's some good news - You Can't Mess It Up (by Erik Raymond at the Gospel Coalition)
One of the odious scents of the Fall is our poor decision making. Let’s admit it: we do dumb things. We say, think and do things that we should not do. To make matter’s worse we get the lingering scent of our dumb decisions in our nostrils. This is called regret. Can you imagine a world without such a stench of failure?
Among the things that strike me as so compelling about the Bible is the fact that it does not shrink from this truth. From Genesis to Revelation people, often the “heroes” of the book are shown to be misfits who seem to do their very best to jack everything up. Think of the patriarchs. Abraham feared man and lied. Isaac did the same. Jacob was deceptive and manipulative. The sons of Jacob sold their brother into slavery after faking his death and breaking their father’s heart. David was an adulterer, lier, and complicit in murder. The disciples were cowards. Judas betrayed Jesus. We could go on and on. The bottom line: the is full of people doing dumb things.
But you know what is even more striking about this? God still works through and in spite of these people. In other words, people doing dumb things cannot derail God from doing great things!
We know about all of the examples listed above because they have something to do with the bringing about of God’s plan of redemption. God brings about his plan amid our messes. It’s like we burn down the house and yet God still makes the flower grow amid the ashes.
This is good news for those of us who have realized that we have the tendency to do or say something foolish. As I’ve heard Tim Keller say before, “You can’t muck up your life.” How liberating is this? This frees us from the paralyzing fear that we might do or say something that causes the entire plan to go up in smoke. We know that if we burn down the house then God will use it for good and the furtherance of his purposes. This frees us from the fear and liberates us to live with courageous, humble trust in God. We can’t shut down his sovereignty and neither can we fully understand his wisdom. We may not always know the ultimate answer to the “why” question, but we always know the truth of the “what” question. God will most certainly use our missteps to further his plan—this for our good and his glory.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The Door To Happiness

"What so many people today fail to realize is that forgiveness is a door to peace and happiness. Forgiving is not ignoring wrongdoing, but overcoming the evil inside us and in our world with love. To forgive is not just a command of Christ but the key to reconciling all that is broken in our lives and relationships. We get rid of an enemy by getting rid of enmity."

                   - Johann Christoph Arnold

Friday, May 6, 2016

Radical Virtues

Many Christians present the Gospel to non-believers using a strategy that emulates the secular world. They adopt trends, styles and behaviors to repackage biblical truths to fit cultural norms.
This isn’t all bad—and is sometimes even necessary for the advancement of the Gospel—but cultural accommodation can become so idolized that Christianity loses its uniqueness. But, the core of our faith produces characteristics that are entirely unique.
Here are five Christian virtues that continue to be radically countercultural:
“If we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” (Romans 8:25).
In a world obsessed with real-time data, fast-developing news stories, viral momentum and constant movement, it’s become increasingly hard to wait—simply to be still.
Being patient is a countercultural act of trusting in God and accepting the fact that some things are beyond our control.
When our society values continuous work, efficiency, action and interaction while also trivializing rest, silence and stillness, it can be increasingly difficult to step away from everything. Unplugging, taking a break, waiting and listening for God to speak is a surprisingly radical accomplishment.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5 ).
We live in a noisy culture that rewards those who are the loudest, most flamboyant and noticeable. Rants, arguments, yelling and splashy disruptiveness are the new norm.
Even the Christian message has been co-opted by arguing factions fighting to become the most powerful, influential and visible, but through this process they prove themselves to be an ordinary and mediocre variation of the world around them.
Sensationalism is how our society markets, advertises and communicates within an environment that values fame, recognition and attention.
But meekness isn’t a form of weakness. It’s actually a unique source of strength, allowing people to not be susceptible to populist hate, mainstream rage, reckless hyperbole, irrational fear, foolish violence, ignorant propaganda, racist rhetoric and systemic injustice.
Being gentle and quiet within a frenzied civilization that’s quick to judge, accuse, worry and destroy allows us to center ourselves upon God. Meekness proves itself by working and serving without seeking personal recognition while simultaneously glorifying God—a profoundly extraordinary act of worship.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Praying Together

1. A Christian never prays alone.
When we think about prayer, we might first envision something like Eric Enstrom’s iconic print, Grace, in which a man bows his head at the table alone. We tend to think of prayer as primarily a solitary and private activity, but the Bible tells a different story. According to Romans 8, the prayers of even one Christian are the occasion of a divine conversation in which Father, Son, and Spirit all participate. When we pray, God talks to God.
What’s more, Revelation 8:3-5 pulls back the curtain of heaven to show us that the prayers of all the saints are gathered together in the heavenly places and are poured out together to accomplish God’s great purposes. Even one person in prayer is never truly alone.
2. God’s people have been praying together since the book of Genesis.
We don’t have to wander too far into the new-created world before we stumble upon a prayer meeting. Adam and Eve’s children, Cain and Seth, form the two families of humanity’s future, and these families could not be more different. The Cainites were extremely talented—they raised livestock, made music, and invented metal tools. They were also godless.
The Sethites, on the other hand, didn’t seem to have much in the way of outward credentials. We don’t read of any great strides in science or technology. Instead, we read that they “began to call on the name of the Lord” (Gen. 4:26). In humble dependence on Yahweh—their relational, covenant-making God—the children of Seth held the world’s first prayer meeting.
3. God’s people will keep praying together for eternity.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism tells us that “prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God,” and when we read Revelation 19:1-8 we see that God’s people in heaven are doing just that. Their sin is removed, their human weakness is put to right, and they eternally shout with thanksgiving the perfected desire of their hearts: “Hallelujah! . . . Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory!” (v. 7).
4. Corporate prayer is valuable work that every believer can participate in.
Sadly, even in the church, we sometimes value people who do things over those who can’t. We value the twenty-something, college-educated woman who rescues sex-trafficking victims over the seventy-year-old widow in a suburban nursing home. We value artists and organizers and big thinkers over children with disabilities.
But corporate prayer is valuable work for everyone in Christ’s church. The hosannas of children are no less precious to Christ than the eloquent praises of adults (Matt. 21:15-16), and, to quote John Owen, “the prayers of the meanest saints may be useful to the greatest apostle.”
5. Praying with other people teaches us about prayer . . .
Chances are, most of what you know about prayer you learned from hearing someone else pray. Mary learned to pray from Hannah (Luke 1:46-55; 1 Sam. 2:1-10). Saul (later Paul) doubtless learned something about prayer from Stephen (Acts 7:57-8:1). Even Jesus taught his disciples to pray by giving them an example (Matt. 6:9-13) and by taking them by the hand and leading them together to the place of prayer (Luke 9:28; 11:1; 22:39-46).

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Loss Of Dignity

"When God disappears, men and women do not become greater; indeed they lose the divine dignity, their faces lose God's splendor. In the end, they turn out to be merely products of a blind evolution and, as such, can be used and abused. This is precisely what the experience of our epoch has confirmed for us."

          --Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

Monday, May 2, 2016

Temporary Insanity

"When you are prompted to revenge, when hot anger starts, bridle the steed at once, and let it not dash forward with you headlong. Remember, anger is temporary insanity. Forgive as you hope to be forgiven. Heap coals of fire on the head of your foe by your kindness to him. Good for evil."

- C. H. Spurgeon