Tag Archive | peace

A Reputation of Grace

Recently, I’ve been learning from God about grace. Among many things the Lord has taught me is that we have a tendency to restrict grace. In the story of the prodigal son, the words “far country“ and “great way off” are essentially the same in Greek. The father’s loving gaze and grace extended all the way to the place of wrong choices, waste, and ultimately to the pig pen. Our Father’s patience, grace, and loving welcome waits on the worst of us to come to ourselves and come home. How many of us can extend grace for the long wait? How many of us are willing to hang in their with a “prodigal” until the journey leads a friend home?

It’s easy to extend grace to someone we care about, love, and want the absolute best for. But is grace just for those we like and those who like us? Is grace prejudiced? Is grace for those who act like we think they ought to act?

Am I hearing a crucified Savior saying of His executioners, “Father, forgive them”? After all… Jesus scandalized the religious crowd by eating with sinners and being called a friend of sinners. Obviously, He had affection and compassion for those that society did not hold in regard. But to forgive and show grace to hypocritical religious types? What could Jesus have been thinking???

The apostle Paul may have hit the nail on the head when he said, “He made Himself of no reputation” (Phil. 2:7).  Jesus wasn’t worried about His reputation, about who He was seen with, or who He socialized with. He wasn’t interested in winning a popularity contest. He was concerned with winning the souls of men through grace, and pointing them to God, regardless of what that did to His reputation with the It crowd.

Wow…

For me, this grace thing is easy to talk about but hard to do.

How about you?

What limits do we put on grace? Sure, I know Romans 5:20 – 6:2a…

Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound.
But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:
That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
God forbid.

Maybe what Paul is reiterating is that only God has the right to set boundaries on grace. After all, it doesn’t say ”Ron forbid” — it says “God forbid”. Probably good advice for all of us.

Well, just some stuff I am learning at 70… grace to you and me!

Blessing Israel

Israeli Flag 1

 

I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land. ~ Ezekiel 34:13 (NIV)

The month of November is a time of significance for the nation of Israel.

Balfour declaration unmarked.jpg

The Balfour Declaration, contained within the original letter from Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour to Lord Rothschild.

The anniversaries of two historical events in the founding of the modern State of Israel and the fulfillment of Bible prophecy are remembered in this month of November…

 

  • November 2 marked the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration – the British commitment to the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine.
  • November 29 marks the 70th anniversary of the United Nations’ Partition Plan, a resolution to divide Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab.

Because these two anniversaries are so significant, I believe we can (and should) associate the entire month of November with the founding of the State of Israel. I believe that honoring Israel as not just a great ally of the United States of America, but also as God’s chosen people is something we should take seriously, participate in diligently, and teach our children and grandchildren to do the same. There is no “statute of limitations” with regard to how we treat Israel, and the promises of God, which are “yes and amen”, are as good today as they were thousands of years ago when He gave this promise to Abraham…

I will bless those who bless you,
And I will curse him who curses you;
And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
~ Genesis 12:3

So let’s all commit to take some time today, and for the rest of the month, and pray for the prosperity, peace, and blessing of Israel, recognizing that proper alignment with Israel, as individuals and as a nation, holds promise for the future.

Praying for the peace of Jerusalem,
Pastor Ron

Making The Monster

"Frankenstein's monster (Boris Karloff)" by Universal Studios - Dr. Macro. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons

“Frankenstein’s monster (Boris Karloff)” by Universal Studios – Dr. Macro. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons

I thought this week, since most Americans are in some way, form, or fashion recognizing Halloween this Saturday, I would talk a little about… Monsters.

Well, one monster in particular…

Frankenstein’s monster.

Since it first appeared in 1818, Mary Shelley’s classic monster story Frankenstein has undergone dozens of re-tellings, from the horrifying to the comical. The common version is of a scientist named Victor Frankenstein who robs body parts from various cadavers with the intention of re-animating dead tissue. When faced with the hideousness of the monster he brings to life, he rejects it, only for the monster to embark upon a murderous rampage, killing those closest to Victor, including his beloved fiancée. But even as Victor pursues the monster to remote regions of the world, he is unable to kill his creation.

A pretty far-fetched tale, right?

Or IS it…

The tongue has the power of life and death,
    and those who love it will eat its fruit. ~ Proverbs 18:21

While we may not be digging up graves in the middle of the night, we in the church have been inadvertently creating monsters for a long time. While Jesus came to offer us life and freedom, through our own words, we create monsters out of the very people He came to save.

Don’t believe me? Let me ask you…

When was the last time you called someone “stupid”?

Worthless.

Loser.

Moron.

Jerk.

“That’s pretty harsh, Pastor. I don’t call people those kinds of things.”

Ok. How about…

Difficult.

Unlikable.

Disagreeable.

Unfriendly.

While people often do things or act in ways that we may not agree with, does that always constitute who they are as a person?

What about you? Just because you have a bad day, or a traumatic experience, should you be relegated to playing that role for the rest of your life? Sure, there are moments that define us, and there are actions and events we cannot change. However, for the most part, the majority of the things that we experience are moments in time that are soon forgotten, not life-defining events. The fact is, we never know what a person is truly going through at any given time.

Is that person who sits in front of you at church, that you call unfriendly, simply a person with a quiet or shy personality?

Is the child or teenager that you see as unruly actually a victim of abuse or neglect, and simply needing positive attention?

Is that difficult person merely more passionate or committed to the task than you are? Does that person simply have a different definition of success, or “set the bar higher” than the average person?

Does that weirdo raising his hands during worship simply love Jesus more than you do?

I’ll be the first to admit: Friendships and relationships take effort, and getting outside of our circle of influence requires us to step into the unknown and often uncomfortable places. Honestly, in many cases, it is not that a person is __________ (insert negative adjective here). It’s that we’re too lazy to take the time to find out who that person really is. It’s just easier to slap a label on someone than it is to learn what makes them tick. The problem with that is that words have power, and the more a disparaging word is spoken over a person, the more they begin to believe that is who they are. I have counseled good people who have gotten derailed from their true identity because they began to believe a lie that was spoken over them. Yes, we are responsible for our own actions and attitudes, and I am not giving a pass to bad behavior. However, when a person is beaten over the head with words of worthlessness and defeat, it doesn’t take long before those words hit their target (the mind), and they begin to believe a lie. Once that happens, the “monster” comes to life.

Seldom did Jesus use labels…

When He did, it was often in criticism of the religious establishment (see Matthew 12:34). However, for the average “sinner”, His words were life and grace…

Jesus didn’t call Peter a loser or coward after he denied knowing Him in His hour of need. His forgiveness was not only obvious… it was unspoken. He never mentioned the incident (see John 18 & John 21).

Jesus didn’t call the woman caught in adultery a cheater or whore. He challenged those attacking her, and when they backed down, He sent her on her way, unharmed and forgiven (see John 8).

When Jesus saw Zacchaeus in the tree, He didn’t call him a crook or a swindler (he was a tax-collector… an occupation disdained by most people). He simply said, “Come down Zacchaeus… I’m coming to your house.” That encounter became a life-changing experience for Zacchaeus and his whole house (see Luke 19).

So what can you do?

What are those words that you have spoken over someone that have been a curse instead of a blessing?

What was that hurtful thing you said that you don’t think you can come back from?

What were those disparaging remarks that you wish you hadn’t said?

Not sure where to start? If you are guilty of creating a “monster” through your words,  two simple words can start the process of restoration…

I’m sorry.

Ask forgiveness of the person you hurt through your words.

Ask forgiveness from the Father, Whose blood-bought creation you wounded with your words.

Learn to make your first reaction and response to those around you words of life, health, and peace.

Maybe YOU are the monster you created…

Maybe you have spoken curses and negativity over your own life, and are wondering why you are the way you are — why you have low self-esteem. Start now by confessing to your Heavenly Father that you are not those things, that you are who HE says you are (overcomer, victorious, child of the King, etc.), and begin to walk in your true identity.

The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body.
It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire,
and is itself set on fire by hell. ~ James 3:6

We can use our tongues for evil or for good.

We can use our tongues to speak life or to speak death.

If you choose to speak life, you are speaking the language of Heaven — the fountain that flows from the throne of God and brings blessing to the soul, and health to the heart.

However, if you choose to speak words of negativity and death, don’t be too surprised by the misery that comes from the “monsters” you help to create.

Choose LIFE.

A Story for Christmas

I thought for this Christmas Day blog that I would simply share a story…

THE story.

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

  “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.     ~ from Luke 2 (NIV)

Nativity

Merry Christmas!

Pastor Ron

On the Path of The Polar Express

I love Christmastime! There is so much to enjoy — time with family and friends, the music of the season, the decorations and lights, wonderful food, nice presents, and…

Christmas movies.

KS12503From wonderful, timeless classics like A Christmas Carol (Alastair Sim), White Christmas, Miracle on 34th Street, and It’s A Wonderful Life, to animated favorites like Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and A Charlie Brown Christmas, these Christmas movies bring back memories of long-ago, transporting us to other places and innocent times. Add to these more recent films such as The Santa Clause series, A Christmas Story, and Elf, and you’ll either be crying tears of nostalgia or laughing tears of joy.

One such movie that came out in 2004 was The Polar Express, based on the book by Chris Van Allsburg. It is the story of a boy who, on the verge of not believing in Santa Claus anymore, takes a ride on the magical Polar Express, and visits the North Pole one Christmas Eve. What starts out with a boy who no longer believes — and actually hesitates to even get on the train in the first place — ends with a fantastical trip to Santa’s workshop, and the great Christmas Eve sendoff, where he is personally given a gift by Santa. No longer in doubt, the boy becomes a “true believer” in Santa.

As the train returns him to his home, and he says goodbye to his new friends, the Conductor turns and says these words to the young boy:

One thing about trains… It doesn’t matter where they’re going.
What matters is deciding to get on.

Holly and snowAs I have often alluded to in my blog, truth comes from odd sources with unlikely messengers. This time of year, that very truth is more obvious than ever, starting over 2,000 years ago with a group of shepherds as the unlikeliest of messengers — sharing the news that the angels proclaimed, and the witness of what they had seen with their own eyes.

Making the decision to relinquish the “engine” of your life to Jesus is full of uncertainty. Just because we are Christians doesn’t mean we are immune to the bad stuff that life throws at us. I have presided over more funerals than I can count — people who have been the victims of, not just old age, but cancer, heart attacks, car accidents, bullet wounds, and drug overdoses. When we sign up for the Spirit-led life, we would do well to remember the words of Jesus…

“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” ~ John 3:8

The Spirit-led life is full of uncertainty. There is no guarantee of good health, unshakable happiness, financial prosperity, or immunity from any other disaster.

That is, unless you are looking “beyond the veil”… beyond the borders of our finite minds and the constraints of time itself.

Here is what surrendering to the will of Jesus, and living a life controlled by His Spirit does guarantee, however…

Eternal life. Surrendering to Jesus, and accepting His finished work on the cross (salvation) guarantees your place in Heaven. (John 3:16)

Peace. Relying on Him as your sufficiency and source is the gateway of the path to peace. Peace with God means that, regardless of what shaky ground we are standing on in this world, our position with Him is never in doubt.

Hope. We hear a lot about hope, but all this world can offer (at best) is a cheap imitation. REAL hope begins and ends with a right relationship with God, and has eternal ramifications… beyond world peace, job security, climate change, and health and wellness. (Hebrews 6:19)

Joy. Not the same thing as happiness, real joy comes from knowing Christ. The very thought of His abiding presence, and the hope that He gives us invokes a joy that the world has no influence or control over. Joy in spite of circumstances. Joy in spite of pain. Joy in spite of sorrow.

These things await the life that is surrendered to Christ.

Can I explain it all to you? No.

That is what living the life of faith is about. After all, if I, or anyone else, could explain it, where would faith come into the equation? One thing I can guarantee you, however, is that there is no peace, no hope, and no joy that can compare to the love and life that Jesus offers.

So this Christmas, if you would like to surrender your life to Christ for the first time, I invite you to pray this prayer…

Dear Lord Jesus,

Please come into my heart, forgive me of my sin, and save me.

Wash me and cleanse me. Set me free. Jesus, thank You that You died for me. I believe that You are risen from the dead and that You’re coming back again for me. Fill me with the Holy Spirit. Give me a passion for the lost, a hunger for the things of God and a holy boldness to share Your love with others.

I’m saved, I’m born again, I’m forgiven and I’m on my way to Heaven because I have Jesus in my heart.

If you prayed that prayer, leave me a note below, and share your decision with me so that I can rejoice with you.

If you wanted to pray that prayer, but still have questions, or if you are already a Christian and need to walk deeper with God, just remember: It doesn’t matter where you think the journey will take you… only God knows the answer to that.

What matters is taking the first step of faith, “getting on the train”, and deciding to start the journey with Him.

Merry Christmas,
Pastor Ron

Echoes of A Christmas Carol

DickensIn 1867, during a visit to Chicago, Charles Dickens read A Christmas Carol at a public reading. There was a man in the audience by the name of Fairbanks, who owned a factory. He was so moved by what he heard that he decided to break his tradition of being open on Christmas Day, and gave his employees the day off. Not only that, he gave a turkey to each and every employee.

We never know how the words that we speak will affect someone else, and how that can spread to affect many. Whether a literary masterpiece or a kind word spoken in secret, the tongue holds great powers of healing and encouragement.

As we begin this Christmas Season – the season of peace on earth and good will to men – may we all remember to let our words be seasoned with love, garnished with hope, and simmering with kindness and good cheer. May the love of Jesus be evident with every word we speak.

“And so, as Tiny Tim observed, ‘God bless us, every one.’”

Bringing the Presence to the Party

A man observed two well-dressed women having dinner in a restaurant. A cake was brought to their table, and because they were obviously celebrating a special occasion, he went over to offer his best wishes.

“What is the special occasion?” he inquired.

“It’s my son’s second birthday,” said the younger woman.

“Well, where is your son?” asked the man.

The women looked at him in amazement, and the mother replied, “You wouldn’t expect me to bring that little brat into a nice place like this, would you???”

Unfortunately, that is how much of our world celebrates the Christmas season — missing the presence of the One who is the source of peace and joy, and Who is the very reason for the holiday.

Too often, we become close with people who seem to enjoy being in our presence, only to find out later that they only want something from us. But Jesus is unselfish in His closeness to us, and His concern for us is abundant. When Jesus comes in, a new miraculous, supernatural, wonderful dimension comes upon your life.

As we celebrate this Season of Christmas, let us start now and invite the presence of the One we celebrate — the One the prophet Isaiah referred to as Wonderful — to be the focus of all we do. Let’s be sure to invite the guest of honor into the festivities, lest we lose the true meaning amidst the gifts, the tinsel, and the lights.

The group Cloverton recently performed a Christmas version of the popular Leonard Cohen song, Hallelujah. I invite you to listen to it, and let it’s beauty and truth resonate in your heart this Christmas season.

TSOCToday’s blog was adapted from book I had the honor of contributing to called The Spirit of Christmas. Other contributors to this delightful collection were John Hagee, Tommy Barnett, James Robison, John Bevere, Creflo Dollar, and Jackie McCullough. If you would like more information about how you can purchase your own copy of The Spirit of Christmas, please call  1-800-877-6493.