And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. 1 Corinthians 15:49

Friday, June 16, 2023

Lord, Teach Us To Pray.

On the TV program Jeopardy yesterday, the answer was "Our Father who art in heaven blank be thy name." All three contestants could not provide the question to the blank! Comments from social media included, "I am an atheist and even I know the answer". I was certainly surprised to hear this story from people who know some of the most weirdest things imaginable!

Most people... even atheists... are very familiar with what has been titled as "The Lord's Prayer." We know that several times in the Gospels we are told the Jesus went into a solitary place to pray. According to Luke, this prompted the disciples to ask Jesus to teach them to pray. Luke 11:1-4  " And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples. 2 And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.3 Give us day by day our daily bread. 4 And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil."

It is not unusual that a rabbi's disciples would ask their teacher to teach them how to pray.  However it is not as though their whole lives have not been in a constant state of saying prayers many times throughout the day. The whole Jewish culture of the time was centered around their faith in God, and the centuries of living their lives centered around feasts and festivals and holy days and sacrifices, and prayers! When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, it is not like they did not already know how to pray. Disciples would often ask their Rabbi to teach them to pray, and even mentioned that John the baptist taught his disciples. They wanted to know how to pray like Jesus prays! The answer Jesus gave them was very similar to a prayer they were already familiar with called the Amidah. 

"The Amidah means Standing. It is the central prayer in Jewish life that is said while standing also known as the shmoneh esreh meaning eighteen because the prayer originally consisted of eighteen benedictions. Sometimes called simply Tefillah because it is the prayer par excellence!" (David Blivin) This Amidah would be prayed everyday by the Jews of Jesus' day. They would also pray the "Shema." Shema Yisrael meaning Hear Israel, is a Jewish prayer that serves as a centerpiece of the morning and evening Jewish prayer services. Its first verse encapsulates the monotheistic essence of Judaism: "Hear, O Israel: YHWH is our God, YHWH is one", found in Deuteronomy 6:4.

The Lord's prayer or what some call the disciples prayer, (since Jesus was giving this prayer to the disciples as a guide for their prayers), is not meant to be just a rote recitation of just those words, but rather almost like bullet points of a prayer that covers those topics.

There is a translation called the Passion Translation that my wife and I have been reading from lately. We both like how the translator Brian Simmons has worded so many of the beloved Scriptures into a more readable modern language.

 Pray like this: Our Beloved Father, dwelling in the heavenly realms, may the glory of your Name be the center on which our lives turn. Manifest your kingdom realm, and cause your every purpose to be fulfilled on earth, just as it is in heaven. We acknowledge you as our Provider of all we need each day. Forgive us the wrongs we have done as we ourselves release forgiveness to those who have wronged us.

I have that printed out and am determined to commit that to memory, which gives new life to a familiar prayer (except to the Jeopardy contestants). 

Another very familiar part of the Bible that is often memorized is Psalm 23. Often quoted at funerals, and while most could not quote the entire psalm from memory at least a few verses are well known. But check out the Passion's translation. 

Psalm 23:

1 The Lord is my best friend and my shepherd. I always have more than enough.
2 He offers a resting place for me in his luxurious love. His tracks take me to an oasis of peace, the quiet brook of bliss.
3 That’s where he restores and revives my life. He opens before me pathways to God’s pleasure and leads me along in his footsteps of righteousness so that I can bring honor to his name.
4 Lord, even when your path takes me through the valley of deepest darkness, fear will never conquer me, for you already have! You remain close to me and lead me through it all the way. Your authority is my strength and my peace. The comfort of your love takes away my fear. I’ll never be lonely, for you are near.
5 You become my delicious feast even when my enemies dare to fight. You anoint me with the fragrance of your Holy Spirit; you give me all I can drink of you until my heart overflows.
6 So why would I fear the future? For your goodness and love pursue me all the days of my life. Then afterward, when my life is through, I’ll return to your glorious presence to be forever with you!

Lastly, check out the most famous verse in the bible from the Passion translation John 3:16
"For here is the way God loved the world—he gave his only, unique Son as a gift. So now everyone who believes in him will never perish but experience everlasting life."

I confess that I for one, believe that a closer walk with the Lord in our everyday life would be much better if we adopted a better prayer life. And as much as I know this to be a fact, I have still not included it into my daily life. And while I do believe that saying words without connection to those words just for the sake of obligation to a supposed requirement defeats the purpose, perhaps even that can be helpful to say positive things to overcome the negative things we say about ourselves in our minds! 

The advantage we have now is that Jesus has left us with the Holy Spirit to abide in us,  "For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered." Rom 8:26. And while our prayers are often for help when we have a problem, or for asking for things.... As long as there are tests, there will be prayer in school... it is a great way to sense the presence of the Father. And I think it can be just as simple as repeating the request the disciples had for Jesus. Lord, Teach Us To Pray.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

What God Has To Say About Himself.

In the second century there was a religious teacher by the name of Marcion of Sinope. He started a religious movement that became known as Marcionism. Marcion was declared a heretic because he held to many errant views, but he is primarily known for his belief that the Old Testament Scriptures were not authoritative for a Christian. He denied that the God of the Old Testament was the same God presented in the New Testament. For Marcion, Jesus was the Son of the God of the New Testament but not the Son of the deity described in the Hebrew Scriptures. 

And while some 18 centuries have passed since his time, there are still many people today that pretty much believe the same thing. They have separated the God of the Old Testament from the God that Jesus reveals in the New Testament. This is made known every time someone talks about the God of the O.T. who destroys His enemies, and sends down wrath and punishment upon the people. Even the God who will send much of His creation to an eternal Hell! One does not have to read very far into the O.T. to find this God who urges His people to wipe out every man woman and child, even the animals. For example 1 Sam. 15:2-3 "Thus saith the Lord of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt.  Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass."

So it is no wonder that when Jesus appears on the scene, and talks about loving your enemies, doing good to those who spitefully use you, etc. it appears that Jesus is talking about a different Heavenly Father than the one the O.T. seems to reveal Who would not do the same to His enemies. So then what is going on here? Why the difference?

The truth is that the Father God that Jesus reveals IS the God of Old Testament. The discrepancy comes from the God depicted in the Old Testament writings being a distorted record told by a people who had an incomplete understanding of this God that was being revealed to them piece by piece throughout history. Each time God reveals a new Name to be called, the Children of Israel get another revelation of a Character of His Nature. But each Name was an incomplete understanding of who God is in the fullness of Himself. In the meantime, God lets His people tell the story. 

Does that mean that the Biblical account is not inspired Scripture? Of course not. It is a record of the nation of Israel being led out from among other nations to be separated unto God, to be blessed, and a blessing to the other nations. It is the process of this nation of Israel acting out according to the incomplete knowledge of God as they were coming to know Him. They also were acting out in a manner that was contrary to the full True Nature of God who is Love. It is also a record of the Israelite's failure to obey the purpose God for which He had called them.

 So do we do away with the O.T. because they got it wrong some of the time as Marcion wanted to do? No, because each experience of successes and failures are part of the nation's process along the journey of coming to know God. It would be no different than getting rid of a record of your understanding and experiences of coming to know God because you got some of it wrong, and dare I say we all STILL are getting some of it wrong! The question isn't can we find it in the Bible, the question is can we find it in Jesus.

If you want to know about the True Nature of the God of the Old Testament, the sure fire way to do that is to look at Jesus!  Jesus is the revelation of what God has to say about Himself.  Phil 2:9-11 "Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:"  Meaning that the nature of Jesus is the fullness of All of the Names of God revealed in the O.T. in bodily form!... "in that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

 Jesus is the revelation of what God has to say about Himself. In Colossians 2:9 "For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily;" Colossians 1:5 Amp.  "He is the exact living image [the essential manifestation] of the unseen God [the visible representation of the invisible], the firstborn [the preeminent one, the sovereign, and the originator] of all creation."

In the Gospel of Luke 24:16-17 Jesus is talking with two disciples on the road to Emmaus after the resurrection, and he says this: "Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself." Don't you wish that more was recorded about that conversation? But it is not hidden from you. All that is needed is to read the Old Testament with the realization that God and the Son are ONE, and if you can't see Jesus doing the things the Scriptures depict God as doing,  you can then realize the Children of Israel did not know the God revealed in Jesus like you do. John 14:9 "Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father?" 

There are many who say that Jesus never claimed to be God in the Gospels, but that is simply not true. Jesus made it very clear to the religious leaders of His day exactly who He claimed to be, and they crucified Him for it! 

God is NOT schizophrenic. He is not vengeful in the O.T. and loving in the New Testament.  God does not change. God is not malleable. God IS LOVE, all of the time!

In fact, as I learned from listening to Brian Zhand, pastor of Word of Life church in St. Joseph MO., "God is like Jesus. God has always been like Jesus. There has never been a time when God was not like Jesus. We have not always known this, but now we do!"

Just remember: Jesus Is The Revelation Of What God Has To Say About Himself! Amen.

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

That SEEMS Right.

TLAR, is an acronym for "That Looks About Right". It is usually used by someone who is not interested in taking the time to be accurate, when only a close enough is good enough to get by. If it looks about right, then it will be okay. 

Proverbs 14:12 says: "There is a way that seems right unto a man but the end thereof is destruction." Well that certainly would lead you to think that accuracy is of utmost important in this case! No room for error there! The question then becomes if you end up in destruction from just going the way that seemed right to you, then  how do you know what right way to go so that you don't end up in destruction?

What about the verse in Matt 7:13-14  where Jesus says  “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it."

That is usually preached in such a way as to mean, that it is the way of the world that seems right to a man. As a way to separate from living the life of a Christian rather than living the life of the world system. But the truth is that the way of the world does not really seem right at all even to the world. In fact if you asked someone if worldly ways of sin etc seem right even if they were not saved, would have to agree that it doesn't seem right. Even the worst criminal has some sort of standards of right and wrong, though there is a line even they won't cross. 

So if the wide gate is not the way of the world, then what is Jesus saying? This verse is within the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus is not preaching to a bunch of Gentiles, He is speaking with people who are Jews, and who are very familiar with the Scriptures, and who would already be living their lives by the laws separated from the world, so it would not make sense to warn them to not do what they are not doing anyway. 

So what He is telling them is that the way they are living that DOES seem right is the way of following the LAW. But following the law was NEVER meant to make them right with God. It was always meant to be self proof that you cannot by your own works make yourself righteous! It was to constantly remind them of their sin consciousness! To keep them always aware of their need for forgiveness. Sacrifices and rituals and prayers were a daily reminder of their sinfulness. Thus they placed the emphasis on the sacrifices as if that is the point God was making, which is why Psalm 50:12  If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: For the world is mine, and the fullness thereof. Will I eat the flesh of bulls, Or drink the blood of goats?" Heb. 10:8 "Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law"

So what is going on here? Wasn't it God who gave the Law to Moses, and laid out the whole sacrificial system? Yes. But the point was not for the same reason pagans would sacrifice to their gods. The pagans would do it to receive favor in exchange for the sacrifice to appease their gods. Instead the God of Israel wanted the Israelites to sacrifice as a reminder of the Covenant He has with them to become the ultimate sacrifice for their sin in the person of Jesus Christ. They lost the point of what Hosea writes in 6:6 "For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, And the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings."

The Pharisees were a group of religious leaders that believed that the Messiah would come when everyone started becoming as righteous as they saw themselves. That is why they had so much disdain for "publicans and sinners". The Pharisees blamed them for preventing the Messiah from coming. They also berated Jesus for eating with tax collectors and sinners, claiming that he endorsed their lifestyle and was part of the problem why the Messiah isn't coming, never believing for a moment that the Messiah had come and it was Him; Jesus, who they were condemning! They were promoting a "way that seems right to a man..."

"Wide is the gate and many there be that find it, and it leads to destruction." Well, Jesus did not say that it leads to eternal torment in hellfire! But that is what gets preached in order to scare people into churches! But the fact is that preaching the law IS the invitation to the wide gate. Rom.6:23 " For the wages of sin is death,... Oh how we like to preach that to put sinners under condemnation (Notice that it does not say the wages of sin is eternal torment in the fires of hell!) ...but the GIFT of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Speaking of condemnation, Paul addresses that in Rom. 8:1-2 "There is therefore now NO condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death." 

 Paul is teaching that the outcome of the Mosaic Law could only produce sin and death. But now since the sacrifice of Jesus, we now live under a NEW LAW of the Spirit of LIFE! We are a NEW creation, and therefore have entered into the narrow way of abundant life in Christ! We are now free from a conscientiousness of sin. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Definitely; once your eyes have been opened by the Spirit of God, then looking with the new eyes of the Spirit, you will now see the path of truth. Now: That SEEMS Right.

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

The Jesus Revolution

I have been going through a little bit of nostalgia the last few weeks. My wife and I just went opening weekend, to see the new movie that just released called "The Jesus Revolution". We have been seeing trailers, and I have watched lots and lots of videos of interviews with the cast, and some of the people who experienced the events of this movie. It was very good, and I highly recommend anyone to go see it if you are wondering. 

It is based on the true story of a pastor of a church in California during the late 60's and early 70's into what became known as the Jesus freaks and hippies of that time.  His church was on the verge of closing because of the poor attendance, and a hippie named Lonnie Frisbee, who met with the pastor, Chuck Smith; who didn't like hippies, but who softened to the idea of opening his church doors to invite those hippies in to hear a message of the love of God. Within a short time the church could not contain the converts and they had thousands attending services in a large outdoor tent. And they baptized thousands of people in Pirate's Cove Bay.

 And while I was never a part of the hippie movement, I did leave home when I was 16 in 1973 and through an unusual series of circumstances I gave my heart to the Lord when I was around 17 or so. I don't really remember the date, but just the circumstances of praying to ask Jesus into my heart in my bedroom with the woman who would soon be my wife. To be honest, I did not really feel "Saved". I did not feel much different at the time. 

Perhaps the next summer, or the one after that, (I am not good with dates) there was a Jesus Festival held at Courtcliffe Park in Carlisle Ont. and we went to it, where they had Christian singers, and preachers and teachings in different areas of the park for the weekend. Bennie Hinn preached there; a singer named Honeytree, who was one of the hippies that got saved sang there. One of the days I heard a preacher named Brian Ruud, and for me, it seemed like there was just God and me and Brian there, and I would argue that I received the Baptism of the Spirit right then!

I used to smoke, and got delivered from smoking that day, by just throwing my pack on the stage. And I had an immediate desire to learn more about God and go to church Wednesdays and twice on Sunday!  I even sensed a calling to study for the ministry. Well, the studying happened, which let to a ministry of sorts in a few years, leading bible studies for a group of mostly poor people who were being helped by a lady who opened up a store front called Operation Blessing, based from an idea watching the 700 Club. That would be about 1983?

This would be the first of a few life changing encounters I have had with God. Another was more detailed in my earliest posts having an encounter again with God after listening to a video sermon by Willie Hinn in 1993. The most recent I have been writing about more in the posts from the last couple years after God filling a deep hunger for more of Him. Some very up and down times in the more than 48 years since that prayer in the bedroom.

It is clear from even my nostalgic look down memory lane, that not  everyone who were mightily used of God led the kind of life they preached about, and were full of human failures. But that does not take away from the countless people who did hear from God, got saved and who went on to follow Jesus themselves, including me. 

At the time of this writing, there has been an awakening or revival or some move of God happening at a bible college in Asbury KY. for the past several weeks. Thousands of people have flocked to the town with more than twice the visitors than residents. It started after a handful of students stayed to worship God after chapel services, and it grew from there going non stop for weeks. Like always there are also those who will voice fervent objections to this event, claiming it is NOT of God, just like was done during the 70's and yet at the same time nothing seems to deter from the Spirit of God changing lives in very real ways! 

There is a saying that goes: "A person with an argument is no match for a person with experience." And so I have heard some "Pharisaical" comments full of the law and condemnation instead of realizing the "fruits" of what God is doing! And while not everything bore fruit, it did not stop God from working in the lives of people in mass numbers in every revival in history!

And really, with all that is going on in the world today, and with the turmoil and division in our Country; With the atheism of the youth who have not been exposed to church or the salvation message, and instead are force fed garbage like the world will end in 10 years, and life in the womb has no value, and there is no distinction in genders, and there is no hope, no God, no reason to live. School shooting and gun violence being blamed on the guns instead of realizing it is not a problem with guns, but rather these are all  the symptoms of a value problem with a society rejecting God. It is hard to love one another and still find the need to shoot the "another".

This world is ripe for another move of God, and it is the longing of my heart and soul that God would sweep down on this land with His Holy Spirit, and renew the hearts of the people back to God in a very real and profound way! It is time we stop cursing the darkness, and let the light of the Life of God shine forth in a glorious fashion to the astonishment of all who are lost and without hope! Do not quench the Spirit. 1Thes 5:19 And do not suffer loss, ...because you did not know the time of your visitation.” Luke 19:44

Even so, come Lord Jesus! Rev 22:20  It is time for this generation to experience personally for themselves The Jesus Revolution.


Monday, February 20, 2023

The New Printing Press.

 Paul Young (the author of The Shack  mentioned in a video interview, that the best way to explain how there is such a rapid increase in the number of people going through what they call Deconstruction is that: "The Internet is the new printing press". By comparison: "It’s estimated there were about 30,000 books in all of Europe before Gutenberg’s press. Less than fifty years later there were as many as twelve million books, and the book that was printed was often the Bible. As people became more interested in studying the Bible, Bibles were printed not only in Latin, but in German, French, and even ancient Greek. Many believe that without the Gutenberg press, the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century might not have been possible. His invention of metal movable type in 1450 has accurately been called “an invention that changed the world.”

The exponential increase in knowledge around the world that took place after the invention of the printing press can be compared to the exponential increase in knowledge around the world because of the Internet!! "January 1, 1983 is considered the official birthday of the Internet. Prior to this, the various computer networks did not have a standard way to communicate with each other. A new communications protocol was established called Transfer Control Protocol/Internetwork Protocol (TCP/IP). the World Wide Web announced that it was for everybody. On April 30, 1993, the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) put the web into the public domain a decision that has fundamentally altered the past quarter-century."

I have wondered for several years if God was about to "do a new thing, that has never been done before"? Almost like we are on the cusp of a world changing event, and yet with that understanding of the impact of the Internet, then perhaps we are right in the middle of it!!

When the printing press was discovered, it took a few years to really "get off the ground" so that it was a common thing. And of course the writings and the books that became available after that was astounding and life changing for the multitudes! People that used to have to spend large amounts of money to get something hand written to read, if they could read at all, now becomes mass produced at a fraction of the cost! It was impossible to keep the bible out of the hands of the common people written in the common language. It also make it possible to pave the way for Martin Luther and the Reformation that got started by reprinting his 95 Thesis on the church door. 

Not much different with the Internet. I remember getting my first computer with Windows 3.1 operating system. Some sort of word processor so that I could write essays for a correspondence course without having to retype from scratch any changes I needed to make. And there were a few simple games like solitaire and mine??? Oh, and a dot matrix printer.

 It wasn't long after that when my brother convinced me of the possibilities of a connection to an unlimited source of mostly free information all over the world. Which also eventually made this blog possible for anyone in the world to read and gain knowledge from what I write. 

The vast wealth of information that can be accessed through the use of the internet even in countries that have laws forbidding such access, cannot be contained by laws! At one time bibles had to be sneaked across the border of such restricted countries. (read the book called: God's Smuggler by  Brother Andrew for exciting stories about that.) Now, those same countries are able to have greater access through this miracle of the information highway. 

The miracle of the Internet has provided the life changing multi season series based on the life of Jesus called  The Chosen to reach a Billion lives around the world with the Gospel message! It has also allowed virtually unrestricted access to virtual books written by the Patristics of the faith; the church fathers. It has provided access to check up the answers provided on any question anyone might have about any subject, especially faith and beliefs and doctrine and truths and even false teachings. 

As I write this post, there is real time videos of what is being called the  Asbury Revival, taking place at a bible school in Asbury KY as just one example. And while I strongly disagree with any teaching of some sort of Rapture theology, and a literal place of eternal torment called hell, nor that this or any other event being a sign of that teaching being Biblical; the Internet also provides a place to discover other teachings and interpretations that are more aliened with Truth. The Internet provides information to show you that you don't have to believe the one teaching that has been put forth to you as the only truth. There are different points of interpretation.  

This and a never ending supply of Spiritual revolutionary thoughts and ideas are available which is also discovered and verified by a simple access to the Internet search, so there is no excuse. Of course just as the printing press has been used for evil purposes, so also the internet, so it is important to protect the free access to information rather than censor what some are allowed to know by those in control, through a sort of cyber "book burning" which is a word of caution  to this generation's version of  The New Printing Press.


Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Is God's Forgiveness Conditional ?

Have you ever read a passage of Scripture, and thought to yourself, "That doesn't sound right"? I mean, when what you are reading seems to not fit in with other things that you believe in other passages of Scripture? 

How often have you prayed the Lord's Prayer? We are so familiar with having memorized and repeated it so many times, but have we really thought about what is being said here?

Matthew 6:12 of the Lord's Prayer says: "Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us."  So does that mean that God's forgiveness is conditional on our forgiving others? What about this verse in Matthew 6:14, is Jesus doubling down on the condition of our forgiveness from God when He says:  "But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."

Just recently these verses came to mind. It drew my attention to the implications of what it could be saying about the very opposite of the nature of God I have also believed. Is Jesus actually saying God's forgiveness is conditional? From this verse, it sure sounds like it. And in fact, from many of the commentaries I have read, that is the conclusion they come to as well.

One commentator says this: "Difficult or not, Jesus is speaking with the authority of God, and He always means what He says. We should never dismiss Jesus' teaching because it is hard to understand or to reconcile with other teachings." 

The first thing that stands out to me is what Jesus SEEMS to be saying, is that God makes His forgiveness to you, a condition of your forgiveness to others. In fact, the verse does not qualify how extreme the offense might be you are being asked to forgive. Not all forgiveness is the same. Forgiving someone who bumped into you, is not the same as forgiving someone who murdered your family member for instance. Is that what Jesus meant?

Does that even sound like the character of God to you and the message of Scripture? If it does, then there is a different problem to work out, but if it doesn't then that should be a strong indication that there is something else to what Jesus is actually saying. 

What are we are missing out on at first glance? This is why it is so important to establish a baseline of a firm and solid belief and assurance of the Sovereign and Loving and Merciful, and Forgiving Grace of God! So let's go beyond the first glance and see if we can't get to a better understanding of the verse.

This verse is found in the middle of Jesus teaching the sermon on the mount, and He has already had some shocking things to teach,  so it is not isolated in it's context, and yet it seems to be isolated when it is being quoted, usually by one wanting to put another person under guilt for not wanting to forgive them, or to impose an impossible standard of forgiveness.  But is that verse meant to be used as a weapon?

What makes sense to me out of what Jesus was teaching is that He is giving people a gauge  of the condition of their own heart. We worship the God of our imagination. In other words, if you set a standard to not forgive others, then you will also believe that God has a standard to not forgive you, and you will condemn yourself in your own mind.

Have you ever heard someone say; or said something like this yourself?: God could never forgive me. If He knew what I have done. Our own conscience bears witness against us for our own sins. So we might compare ourselves with others in order to make ourselves feel more worthy, like the Pharisee in Luke 18:11 "The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican."

I think it is similar to the verse that says: "Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again." Matthew 7:1-2. It is not saying don't make a judgment, but rather consider if you would be guilty of the same thing, what would you want others to do to you?

How about deciding on who you think is worthy of salvation? How many Christians believe that God is going to send the vast majority of His creation to a version of a fiery torment in eternal hell? Will Muslims be saved? Will Atheists be saved? Will criminals be saved? Will...(name your category) be saved? If your answer is no, then how have you limited the capacity for the forgiveness God bestows on His creation? What then do you believe about the Character of God? Is He fickle with His forgiveness? 

 To be very clear, one of the characteristics of God is that He is immutable. Meaning He does not mutate, or change. He is the same yesterday today and forever! So then since we know God does not change who He is, then the Scriptures have made it clear that God forgives unconditionally! That IS the message of the cross! But I think what is being said here is that if you hold onto unforgiveness, then you will believe that God will judge you by the same standard you judge others. If you are unforgiving, then you will think God is just as unforgiving toward you.

In an earlier blog post on October 30 2021 I wrote this: "When you harbor un-forgiveness, then it is a prison of self torture! Hate, bitterness, anger, rage, fuming, all of these things are torture to your own well being and peace of mind. But if you learn to absorb the debt that others owe to you, like God has absorbed the debt of our sin, then you now have the key to get out of the prison of your own making, and living a life of peace and joy!"

I will admit that I could be totally wrong about what my reasoning is here. Perhaps all the commentators are right, and I just don't see it? That is what Hermeneutics is all about, which is the interpretation of the text. There are many more confusing texts that become clear once the right understanding is applied. Proper interpretation is key.

In this case, a proper interpretation will give you the answer to the question posed by the title: Is God's  Forgiveness Conditional ?

Saturday, January 21, 2023

I Was Left Unsupervised!

We all want our life to have meaning. We want to know that our life matters, and that it has a higher purpose than just getting through the day. When we get to the end of our life, we want to know that our life made a difference in the world.  And even if we do not know the meaning of our life's purpose yet, it is not unusual for everybody to want to know how the unplanned events in their life fit into the bigger picture. Especially the bigger events. The events that usually alter the direction you are going or planning to go, for the good or the bad. The most often asked question is "Why me Lord?"

On January 14th 2023  I climbed on the kitchen chair to take a Happy Retirement banner down that I put up for my wife's retirement celebration. While stepping down I lost my balance which landed me on the floor with a thud, only to find out that I broke the ball off the femur in my right hip! With a total hip replacement a couple days later,  I am now home to endure the next several weeks to recover. 

Yet, while I knew that the moment I hit the floor my life was going to be changed for the next several months, I also had the resolution to just accept the results and take it one step at a time (no pun intended). I had an inner peace that God was guiding this whole detour, so I tried to have a good attitude with everyone that was involved in taking care of me. I was very moved by all of my friends who quickly sent me their well wishes.

 I talked later with a friend on the phone about the accident, and was regaling my foolishness to fall, and joked how when I get to heaven, God will say to me:

 "What did you do with the body I gave you?" To which I thought at the moment of this meme I have seen many times before, shown here. I said: "In my defense, I was left unsupervised".

 At the time I was making a joke, and then I thought about it some more afterward and realized THAT is the way most people see God in their life anyway!

It is more obvious for those who don't believe in God. If you don't think God exists, then there is "no supervisor." And if you think that God does exist but He is not involved in creation, then you would say you are left unsupervised by Him. In fact I would suggest that maybe they believe if there was a God, He would have more noticeable control and assume the so called, bad events are proof that He doesn't.  

 But what about those who are believers? What about the ones who know that God is real? The ones that profess Jesus as Lord? We are the ones who are supposed to know, and trust. How often do we quote Romans 8:28 All things work together for good... Until one of the ALL things happen? 

I tell you an important truth! You are never left unsupervised by our Creator! There is never a time in which God is not present with you right in the midst of whatever tragedy or circumstance or difficulty you are going through. Deut. 13:6 "Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.”

Even if you do not know the why at the time. We don't know the future, or how future events are shaped by present circumstances. But we do know who holds the future. Very likely you will not see the end from the beginning at the time. Many stories are told of people who get checked out for a small thing, that catches a more fatal hidden issue. Those times can let you know the why. But is knowing the why that important to trusting God who knows the why?

 Does it really matter if you understand all the implications or not? Does trust and faith only apply if you can see the bigger picture, and know the outcome? Or can you have faith enough to put it all in the hands of the Father, without question? Can you trust, not questioning motives, or reasons, or purposes, or outcomes? Can you just walk in the light you are given? That is all God asks us to do. Trust Him. 

I read something a while back something that sticks with me, which said: "A child will ask his father why, but a SON never has to ask". Meaning, that it is a sign of maturity to trust the father's good will and intentions, so the father never has to be questioned. Therefore, if you find yourself still questioning, then take it as a sign that you still have some maturing to do. There is nothing wrong with that. Children are not blamed for acting like children. But adults can be blamed for acting like children. Expecting the adults to be more mature because of experience. Are you a child in the faith? Then you know you have some growing to do. Are you an adult in the faith? Then your response will confirm or question your maturity.

I can write these things because I have lived them! It is not just how many years you have been a believer, but how much experience you have with trusting Jesus during those years. Many times in the past, I remember something would happen and I was devastated knowing that the outcome would be so much trouble to deal with, and I would plead an beg God that I would not have to go through the consequences of that trouble and I would question God why, when I did have to suffer those results. But I learned through the experience and the passage of time, that God was indeed faithful, and most of my fears were just bigger than my faith. 

It has been pointed out that every time a heavenly being manifests itself in the bible the first words are: "Fear Not."  That is the "faith-boosting" you may need today! Fear Not! Therefore, be encouraged as you read these words in this post! God does love you. God is intimately involved in every aspect and circumstance and detail of your life. And most importantly you will never say in your defense I Was Left Unsupervised!