Debts Forgiven

Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. — Matthew 6:12

In this day of credit cards, it’s easy to get deep into debt, and the interest rate can make our debt snowball. If we get into that kind of trouble, we may need to visit a credit counselor to help us plan a way out.

In the Law of Moses, God commanded the Israelites to cancel debts at the end of every seven years. The cancellation of debts was a merciful feature of the Law of Moses, and it called for an openhanded, generous attitude toward the poor. Stinginess and lack of concern was inconsistent with the heart of the Law, which, as Jesus said, was based on loving God and caring about your neighbor as much as you care about yourself (see Matthew 22:37-40).

Canceling debts on a society-wide level was to be echoed by a forgiving attitude. The apostle Paul expresses this beautifully when he says in Ephesians 4:32: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

Have you ever thought of sin as like getting into debt? If you’re a slave to some particular sin, it’s like digging yourself into a hole, deeper and deeper, making it harder and harder to climb out. Don’t indulge yourself, but cry out to God for the forgiveness of your debts, and seek his strength to live an obedient life.

Lord, thank you for your tenderheartedness to us sinners. Forgive us and teach us to be like Jesus, loving and forgiving toward others. In his name, Amen.

“Lord, Cut Me Open”

Why haven’t we yet fulfilled the Great Commission? Why are we so ineffective in building God’s kingdom?

Is it because we lack money or literature or because the Bible is not translated into all the world’s languages? No, I don’t think so.

The deepest reason is this: We who form the Church—that’s you and me—are not real in our walk with the Lord and in our obedience to God’s Word. Unless our hearts change and we become genuine, transparent, open and humble in our faith (and through that, in all areas of our lives), we will never make an impact on the lost world!

Many of God’s people have felt a deficiency in their Christian lives, especially when they read God’s expectations for them in the Bible. In order to fix this problem, they have gone from one seminar, book, conference or convention to the next, always looking for a formula or recipe to become a powerful, effective Christian overnight.

Churches have also recognized that something vital seems to be missing. In hopes of reviving their people, they constantly come up with new plans and activities. They invite the best music groups they can find, the most eloquent speakers and even prophets to breathe new life into their congregations. But after all the excitement is over and everyday life sets in once again, nothing much has changed. So they search for new plans and new speakers, hoping for better results next time.

David had a deep longing to be close to God and to be used of the Lord. He too felt he wasn’t all God intended for him to be. However, his approach to meet this spiritual need was entirely different from most of us.

David was a man who didn’t go to one of the prophets—Samuel, Nathan or Gad—to ask for a formula. He didn’t invite them to hold a seminar at his palace with the hope that some of their anointing would fall on him.

David simply went into the presence of his God with a prayer that shows he knew exactly where his root problem was.

He cried, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24, KJV).

David wanted to be real, not only with his outward actions, but beginning with his innermost thoughts. He recognized that his words and actions were only a reflection of his thoughts, and his thoughts were simply the evidence of what he was really like in his heart.

Therefore, David prayed and asked the Lord to try him and to cure those wrong tendencies of his heart that showed up in his thought life.

Many years later, Jesus said, “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts . . .” (Mark 7:21). In other words, we reflect the true reality of who we are by what we think. Everything first happens in our thought life before it is translated into words and actions. What we speak or do is only what has been going on inside of us for a long time.

Our problem is not that we lack Bible information, speakers, or opportunities. Rather, our problem is that we don’t want to face the truth of who we really are. We don’t want others to know it either, and we even try to fool God. We never ask Him to search our heart and reveal our secrets. Instead, we pretend with a spiritual life we don’t live, a peace we don’t experience and a holiness and commitment we don’t possess.

We will never make any progress in becoming more like Jesus unless we permit God to cut us open, search our hearts, try us, know our thoughts and then change us from the inside. Only then can we become real according to the Word of God.

That reality will make us powerful witnesses for Jesus, even if we don’t say a word. We will be so transparent and so genuine that if the world around us tries us with fire, we will come out as glittering gold.

If you truly desire this reality, stop looking to plans and activities as your solution. Begin today to call out to the Lord as David did. Say, “Lord Jesus, cut me open. Please search my heart, try me, know my thoughts, reveal to me who I am, and change me, at any cost, to become what Your Word says I ought to be.” Believe me, there is no prayer the Lord delights to answer for His people more than this one!

Time to pull out the big bait!

Matthew 5:6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

I love fishing but sadly, I haven’t been able to do it in quite some time. Yeah, I know, one would think there’d be some good fishing spots here in Israel. However, from what I understand, they’re not really available to the public. So sad. Nevertheless, fishing gives me a chance to get a break from the world and just relax and meditate — and on a good day, maybe catch a fish or two.

I recently saw a fishing-related cartoon that really moved me. Pictured, were two Eskimos fishing through holes in the ice. One of them had his line in a hole the size you’d expect to see. But the guy sitting next to him had his line in an enormous hole, in the shape of a whale!

This guy was hungry! He didn’t want some dinky little fish! He was fishing for whales! In the same way, if we want to do greater things for the Lord, we must have a greater hunger and a greater vision!!

Are you hungry for the bigger and better things of the Lord today? Let’s enlarge our vision for Him! Let’s expect an abundant harvest — for truly the harvest is plentiful!

Speak “saltly”!

Col 4:6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

What is it about salt? And how do I season speech with it? Gracious speech is sweet, yet Paul says to season it with salt.

A friend of mine makes this interesting breakfast of quinoa grain mixed with some oatmeal, coconut oil, dried fruit and nuts with some date honey to sweeten it. Then..might seem strange, he adds salt. Salt brings his healthy breakfast to a new level of flavor. Salt carries all the other flavors to a new level of palatability. It brings a wonderful balance to the sweet porridge.

Take out the salt in any recipe and there’s something vital missing. What is it about salt? By itself, salt doesn’t taste so great. It’s too strong. Yet add it to the recipe and its power becomes the very thing which brings life to the food.

I think salt is that element of God’s truth that enhances, preserves and strengthens us. Speech seasoned with salt will encourage or warn, it will impart life and prevent decay from setting in, or stop it in its tracks. Stopping decay is reversing a fundamental element of the Fall. Salt is vital to life and salted speech is too.

Believers need to be “salty” in a world that is falling apart from the suffusion of sin and decay.

Our message is sweet. God forgives, He loves, He brings eternal life. Yet these wonderful truths exist in an awful context of death and decay which we must not ignore by only speaking graciously. We must add salt.

How Can Your Testimony Help You Evangelize?

A time-honored, effective method of evangelism is your personal testimony. Just telling about your spiritual pilgrimage. The skeptic may deny your doctrine or attack your church, but he cannot honestly ignore the fact that your life has been cleaned up and revolutionized.

Now, I’m not talking about some stale, dragged-out verbal marathon. That kind of testimony never attracted anyone! I’m speaking of an effective, powerful missile launched from your lips to the ears of the unsaved. Consider these five suggestions:

1. You want to be listened to, so be interesting. It’s a contradiction to talk about how exciting Christ really is in an uninteresting way. Remember to guard against religious clichés, jargon, and hard-to-understand terminology. Theologians, beware!

2. You want to be understood, so be logical. Think of your salvation in three phases and construct your testimony accordingly: (a) before you were born again—the struggles within, the loneliness, lack of peace, absence of love, unrest, and fears; (b) the decision that revolutionized your life; and (c) the change—the difference it has made since you received Christ.

3. You want the moment of your new birth to be clear, so be specific. Don’t be vague. Speak of Christ, not the church. Emphasize faith more than feeling. Be simple and direct as you describe what you did or what you prayed or what you said. This is crucial!

4. You want your testimony to be used, so be practical. Be human and honest as you talk. Don’t promise, “All your problems will end if you will become a Christian,” for that isn’t true. Try to think as unbelievers think.

5. You want your testimony to produce results, so be warm and genuine. A smile breaks down more barriers than the hammer blows of cold, hard facts. Let your enthusiasm flow freely. It’s hard to convince someone of the sheer joy and excitement of knowing Christ if you’re wearing a face like a jail warden. Above all, be positive and courteous. Absolutely refuse to argue. Nobody I ever met was “arm wrestled” into the kingdom. Insults and put-downs turn people off.

Ask God to open your lips and honor your words . . . but be careful! Once your missile hits the target, you’ll become totally dissatisfied with your former life as an earthbound, secret-service saint.

Renewing Your Fellowship With God

When I began to realize that the Holy Spirit lived in me it changed every part of me. Yes, I was saved, but the Holy Spirit renewed my mind and this changed my personality. It changed how I viewed God and how I viewed other people, and I began to love other people in spite of myself.  I began to move towards people because I felt compelled to move toward others. Most people view God as up in heaven and they can’t quite communicate with Him and they do no know that as believer that He lives in them. 

My friend, I want you to see the Holy Spirit as your victory over the world, the flesh, and the devil. You can’t fight the world, the flesh, and the devil by yourself; you have to have the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is at this very moment freeing you from the dominion of sin. All of us have an indwelling principle of sin that is within us and it is like a magnet pulling us down to do wrong things. We blame it on Satan, but the truth is it is our flesh. If we blame everything that happens wrong to us or every time we mess up on Satan, we will never take responsibility for our actions. My friend, our greatest enemy is me, myself, and I. It is the same thing we see in our children when they do not behave. You and I must be willing to give up our rights to ourselves and allow the Holy Spirit to control our thoughts and our actions.

Press On!

“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:14

Of all the Israelites, perhaps no one strove harder to please God than Saul of Tarsus. Every area of his life conformed strictly to the Law. No one could accuse this respected Pharisee of lacking zeal. He was a man with a mission-a mission to please and serve God.

But on the road to Damascus, Saul’s life changed entirely. From now on, he would no longer try to please God himself. Instead, he would press on with the goal of knowing Christ. “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” Philippians 3:8 (NIV emphasis added). Saul (now called Paul) had a new mission-a mission that remained constant amid ever-changing circumstances. It didn’t matter whether he was preaching to a crowd or sitting in a damp prison. Paul now had one goal before which everything in his life bowed. Paul wanted to know his Lord.

How about you? Is knowing Christ–fellowshipping, trusting, and depending on Him-the goal toward which you’re striving? Ask God to help you press on to know Him today.

Continually Surrounded

“The LORD’s unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in him. Rejoice in the LORD and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!” Psalm 32:10-11
God controls and allows every detail of our lives. Nothing happens without His knowledge and approval.
Every day, little changes in schedule or small irritations occur. Every day, we can choose to let these obstacles upset us, or we can rest in the knowledge that God lovingly ordained them as small irritants to help us look to and rely on Him. For example, we can grumble about the frustrating traffic jam that is keeping us from getting somewhere on time, or we can remember that God knows about our deadlines and view the time sitting in traffic as an opportunity to pray. We can complain, or we can rejoice.
May we allow the knowledge that we are continually surrounded by God’sunfailing love to permeate our lives and chase away our complaints and fears.

When You Don’t Feel Like It

We all struggle with spiritual discouragement and lethargy.  Some days our circumstances threaten to overwhelm us, and we struggle just to pray.  Many times we just don’t feel like doing the things we know we should.  For one reason or another, God sometimes seems far off and unreachable.

David faced times like these in his life.  The Psalms are filled with verses that express his despair and feeling of abandonment.

Yet the Psalms also give us the key to living victoriously during the dark periods of life.  Let’s take a quick look at Psalm 119:89-95*.

“Forever, O LORD, Your word is settled in heaven.  Your faithfulness continues throughout all generations; You established the earth, and it stands.  They stand this day according to Your ordinances…”

My circumstances or feelings have not changed God.  He is the same God today as He was when He hung the stars in the sky, led the Israelites through the Red Sea , and fed the five thousand.

 “For all things are Your servants…” 

All things, even the things affecting me right now, are God’s servants.  The circumstance, people, and events around me are all under God.  They are His servants, designed to help and bless me spiritually.

“If Your law had not been my delight, Then I would have perished in my affliction.  I will never forget Your precepts, For by them You have revived me.  I am Yours, save me; For I have sought Your precepts.  The wicked wait for me to destroy me; I shall diligently consider Your testimonies.”

Recalling God’s faithfulness and control over everything that touches us gives us strength to walk with God even when we feel like giving up in despair.  After all, our feelings and circumstances have not changed God.  He is perfectly capable of sustaining us if we will only let Him.  We simply need to choose to delight in and diligently consider God’s precepts (His principles and character) despite how we feel.  Choosing to delight in God might not be easy.  It might even involve hard work.  But only God can revive and save our soul from spiritual lethargy.

Next time you feel spiritually drained or inadequate, remember that you have a choice.  You can wrap yourself up in excuses and self-pity, or you can choose to draw your strength from an unchanging God.

What If The Only Jesus Someone Sees Is Through You?

In the New Testament, before Saul became Paul, he was a religious terrorist – persecuting, arresting and, at times, approving the killing of Christians. What you may not realize is his real hostility was not so much at the church as it was with Jesus. Christians, realize this important point. When you are mocked by others, when you feel excluded by others, when you feel the persecution of others, recognize that these people are not really angry with you as a person. They’re angry because you love Jesus. It’s still true of religious terrorists today. They probably have absolutely no idea, but their battle isn’t with the “Christians,” per se. It’s because of Who the Christians profess to believe in – and His name is Jesus.

Whoever it is that gives you a hard time for being a Christian, don’t take it personally. Instead, seek to love them, forgive them, and pray for them. Who knows – your positive witness to them may convict their hearts of their need of Jesus. They may see in you what they want for themselves.