Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Unforgiveness Will Wear You Out!

Be gentle and forbearing with one another and, if one has a difference (a grievance or complaint) against another, readily pardoning each other; even as the Lord has freely forgiven you, so must you also forgive (Colossians 3:13 – Amplified).
Perhaps every day of our lives we will face opportunities to forgive those who harm us in some way. Life in a fallen world means facing imperfections at every turn. Wise living is knowing how to deal with the imperfections of others! I seek to live by Romans 12: 18: If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. That means I must be willing to practice what Jesus said to Peter when He told him to forgive 490 times (infinitely) the brother that offends him.
Failing to forgive produces some major problems and one of them is stress. Medical research indicates that the majority of illness is stress induced, so unforgiveness plays a significant role in sickness. Proverbs 14:30 (Amplified) reads: A calm and undisturbed mind and heart are the life and health of the body, but envy, jealousy, and wrath are like rottenness of the bones.
Unforgiveness means holding on to a certain thought pattern about a person or event. That thought pattern creates emotional hurt and pain. And if the thought pattern is not dealt with by releasing forgiveness to the offending party, then it cogitates underneath the surface in subconscious thinking. And this type of underlying negative thought pattern saps needed physical strength.
I’ve had people over my years of ministry tell me that they are tired all the time. They feel drained of strength. After speaking with these people I have found that often they are carrying a list of grievances in these underlying thought patterns and their emotions are draining them of needed energy. They simply need to practice forgiveness. There’s a lot of wisdom in Ephesians 4:26: Be angry, and do not sin: do not let the sun go down on your wrath. Each day we should clear our mind and emotions of the offences of others before we go to sleep.
In her book Who Switched Off My Brain, Dr. Caroline Leaf from South Africa mentions that thoughts release chemicals into every organ of our body through our central nervous system. She mentions that all thoughts basically come under two categories, faith based or fear based thoughts. She reveals that fear based thinking releases toxic chemicals that coats the cells of our bodies and can eventually make us ill. On the other hand, faith based thinking that trusts God and expects the best; likewise releases helpful chemicals that aid the body and help it resist illness.
Unforgiveness affects our spiritual life. According to Jesus, you can’t go to heaven with it in your life (See Matthew 18:35 and Mark 11:25-26). And unforgiveness affects our physical bodies, hindering the health and healing provided to us by the Father.
Make a choice today to quickly deal with each offence. Readily and freely forgive as the Father through Christ Jesus has forgiven you. You’ll find heaven’s smile, soundness of mind, clearness of emotion, and renewed physical strength when you choose the path of forgiveness!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Forgive - Let It Drop, Leave It, Let It Go!

And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him and  let it drop (leave it, let it go), in order that your Father Who is in heaven may also forgive you your [own] failings and shortcomings and let them drop. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your failings and shortcomings (Mark 11:25-26 – Amplified).
Forgiving those that commit offences against me releases me from the damage the offence can bring to my future. Unforgiveness affects me, not the person I’m holding the offence against.
My relationship with the Lord is directly affected by my willingness to quickly forgive those who do me wrong. My relationship with others is directly affected by how I deal with those who do me wrong. My relationship with my body is affected by my willingness or unwillingness to forgive. Many diseases have their origin in the stress produced by unforgiveness.
We are to forgive even as God in Christ forgave us. Nothing another person has done or will do to us can come close to the weight of our personal sin debt that we owe to God. He has forgiven us all of our past sins in Christ. We therefore have the obligation to forgive every single offense committed against us by another person. There are no exceptions.
Novels and history books are filled with the resultant harm brought upon individuals and families because of unforgiveness. No person is immune from the devastating effects of unforgiveness in their personal life. Unforgiveness will ruin life, period.
I’ll leave you today with God’s heart to us concerning forgiveness:
Judge not [neither pronouncing judgment nor subjecting to censure], and you will not be judged; do not condemn and pronounce guilty, and you will not be condemned and pronounced guilty; acquit and forgive and release (give up resentment, let it drop), and you will be acquitted and forgiven and released (Luke 6:37 – Amplified)
And become useful and helpful and kind to one another, tenderhearted (compassionate, understanding, loving-hearted), forgiving one another [readily and freely], as God in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:32- Amplified).
Be gentle and forbearing with one another and, if one has a difference (a grievance or complaint) against another, readily pardoning each other; even as the Lord has freely forgiven you, so must you also [forgive] (Colossians 3:13 – Amplified).
A happy heart is good medicine and a cheerful mind works healing, but a broken spirit dries up the bones (Proverbs 17:22 – Amplified).

A calm and undisturbed mind and heart are the life and health of the body, but envy, jealousy, and wrath are like rottenness of the bones (Proverbs 14:30 – Amplified).
Therefore you have no excuse or defense or justification, O man, whoever you are who judges and condemns another. For in posing as judge and passing sentence on another, you condemn yourself, because you who judge are habitually practicing the very same things [that you censure and denounce (Romans 2:1 – Amplified).
Exercise foresight and be on the watch to look [after one another], to see that no one falls back from and fails to secure God's grace (His unmerited favor and spiritual blessing), in order that no root of resentment (rancor, bitterness, or hatred) shoots forth and causes trouble and bitter torment, and the many become contaminated and defiled by it (Hebrews 12:15 – Amplified).
Make sure no one gets left out of God's generosity. Keep a sharp eye out for weeds of bitter discontent. A thistle or two gone to seed can ruin a whole garden in no time (Hebrews 12:15 – Message).

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Do You Ever Think About Heaven?

Do not let your hearts be distressed. You believe in God; believe also in me. There are many dwelling places in my Father's house. Otherwise, I would have told you, because I am going away to make ready a place for you.  And if I go and make ready a place for you, I will come again and take you to be with me, so that where I am you may be too.
And you know the way where I am going (John 14:1-4- New English Translation)
Heaven is our destiny as believers. Most Christians today don’t think much about heaven, but we should. Saints of yesteryear plodded through harsh, difficult years of toil and labor by keeping their eye on the goal of heaven. In western culture, our creature comforts, toys, and nice homes have had a dampening effect on us when we think of going to heaven. We don’t want to leave here to get there!
Many people think of heaven as a place where there are hours of boring church services and where you just sort of float around and do much of nothing.  This attitude is summed up in Mark Twain’s book, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  Chiding Huck of his fun loving spirit, a Christian lady named Miss Watson gave Huck a negative view of heaven. In Huck’s words: She went on and told me all about the good place. She said all a body had to do there was go around all day with a harp and sing forever and ever, so I don’t think much of it…[1]
But heaven will be a place of bustling activity and will be the fulfillment of all of our desires as a human. Charles Spurgeon said about heaven: To come to thee is to come home from exile, to come to land out of the raging storm, to come to rest after long labor, to come to the goal of my desires and the summit of my wishes.[2]
Our future home in heaven will be a place far better than what we have now. Paul said, But I am hard pressed between the two. My yearning desire is to depart (to be free of this world, to set forth) and be with Christ, for that is far, far better (Philippians 1:23 – Amplified).
John saw the New Heaven and New Earth in vision form while on the isle of Patmos: Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away (Revelation 21:1-4).
David mentioned what the full manifestation of the presence of God brings with it: You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11). That’s what heaven will be like.
In heaven, you will be the you that you know now, minus the flaws. You’ll look like yourself, you will eat, you will walk, you will laugh, you will be busy with life, you will know your family members there, you will take your thoughts, your memories, your likes and dislikes, and your personality with you. Heaven is planet, but not like earth. It is a perfect environment for life. You will experience perfect life there. You will experience the senses that the glorified human body has. You will be totally satisfied. Earth is but a pattern of what heaven is like. You will feel at home there!
The current state of affairs on earth seems to point towards our going to heaven sooner rather than later! Let’s stay ready to go! I’m personally looking forward to it!

[1]From the book Heaven by Randy Alcorn (Carol Stream, Ill: Tyndale House, 2004) p.7

[2] Heaven, p. 7

Friday, July 18, 2014

Life Cycles Of Work And Rest Evade Burnout

Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood (Acts 20:28)

I am just concluding a two week vacation tomorrow and I feel refreshed! Taking a vacation is not just sitting around doing nothing, but it does involve changing your normal routines and cutting new paths for your life. Someone said that rest is not ceasing activity but changing activity.
So I went to the beach with my family for a week, and then I’ve just spent time with Susan; spent time reading, cycling, doing things around the house that I don’t normally have the time to do; and just generally hanging out. On purpose I’ve spent very little mental time (other than prayer and personal Bible reading) on “church stuff.”
A pastor’s life has the potential for constant high stress. And if I want to keep at this call lifelong, I must make sure that I get appropriate rest daily, a day of rest weekly, and then periodic times away from normal routine. Creativity is the results of tranquility.

If you avoid adequate daily and weekly rest, and if you avoid vacation times away from normal affairs, you’re setting yourself up for burnout. Burnout is an irritable, caustic I don’t care attitude than slowly creeps in and steals initiative and motive.
In 1991, I was in a travelling ministry and had also started a business. Susan was working the midnight shift at a hospital and we had three small children. I was up many nights after midnight dealing with the details of my new business after caring for my three children (feeding them, bathing them, and reading to them and praying with them before they went to sleep). Then I was up early the next day to spend some time with the Lord before working at my business all day.
Eventually, burnout knocked at my door. It was hard to overcome, and I made a promise to myself to never go there again. I’ve come close a few times and it’s always due to lack of periodic activity change. During this burnout time in my life, I found the book, How to Beat Burnout by Frank Minirth. The principles in the book helped me to overcome burnout, and to stay rested.
I’m ready to go back to work now, and am excited to minister next week! I want to leave you with an excerpt from the book I just mentioned. It’s a burnout inventory. If you agree with most of the following 24 statements, I encourage you need to make some changes soon, or personal calamity will be a part of your future! Take your breaks, daily, weekly, and periodically take your vacations!
 1. More and more, I find that I can hardly wait for quitting time to come so I            
        can leave work.
 2.     I feel like I’m not doing any good at work these days.
 3. I am more irritable than I used to be.
 4. I’m thinking more about changing jobs.
 5. Lately I’ve become more cynical and negative.
 6. I have more headaches (or backaches, or other physical symptoms) than usual.
 7. Often I feel hopeless, like “who cares?”
 8. I drink more now or take tranquilizers just to cope with everyday stress.
 9. My energy level is not what it used to be. I’m tired all the time.
10. I feel a lot of pressure and responsibility at work these days.
11. My memory is not as good as it used to be.
12. I don’t seem to concentrate or pay attention like I did in the past.
13. I don’t sleep as well.
14. My appetite is decrease these days (or, I can’t seem to stop eating).
15. I am unfulfilled and disillusioned.
16. I’m not as enthusiastic about work as I was a year or two ago.
17. I feel like a failure at work. All the work I’ve done isn’t worth it.
18. I can’t seem to make decisions as easily as I once did.
19. I find that I’m doing fewer things at work that I like or that I do well.
20. I often tell myself, Why bother? It really doesn’t matter anyhow.
21. I don’t feel adequately rewarded or noticed for all the work I’ve done.
22. I feel helpless, as if I can’t find a way out of my problems.
23. People have told me that I’m too idealistic about my job.
24. I think my career has just about come to a dead end.
If you agree with most of these statements, you’re likely to be in the burnout mode and I encourage you to make some life changes!
From How to Beat Burnout, Minirth, Frank B (Chicago: Moody Bible Institute, 1986) p. 37-38

Friday, July 4, 2014

Morality Keeps A Nation Free!

Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people. (Proverbs 14:34).
Freedom is an expensive thing. Its cost is blood. Our spiritual freedom was won by Jesus spilling His blood for us. The freedom that we have to worship, to express ourselves, and live as we please has cost many thousands their life. Let’s take moment and thank God today for the privilege we have of living in a free country. And let’s remember that with freedom comes responsibility.
We’re responsible as citizens of a free society to uphold the law and to honor God. No nation can remain free if it does not adhere to moral law, and each citizen be held responsible for his own actions.
Back in 1983, during the cold war, the Christian school in our church had a guest speaker from Russia speak to the high school. He was a former military man in his country. This man was not a Christian, but had a message for America. I will never forget his words. He said, “If you want to remain a free country, you must be a moral people. If you lose your morals, you will one day lose your freedoms!” His words have resonated within me since that day.

America is in desperate shape today. Let’s resolve ourselves to pray daily for our national and local leaders. I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth (1 Tim 2:1-4-NLT).

Let’s pray and ask and agree with others who are beseeching God for another great awakening in our land. Instead of cursing the darkness, let’s light a candle, and be an example others can follow.

I’ll leave you with a few quotes from our civil leaders of the past. Let’s remember to pray for our governmental leaders daily.
It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favors. (George Washington - 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation).
We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other. (John Adams - 1798 Address to the Military).
The only foundation for a useful education in a republic is to be laid in religion. Without this there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments. (Benjamin Rush- 1806).
Statesmen my dear sir, may plan and speculate for liberty, but it is religion and morality alone, which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand....The only foundation of a free Constitution, is pure virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our people, in a great measure, than they have it now, they may change their rulers, and the forms of government, but they will not obtain a lasting liberty. (John Adams -1776 letter to Zabdiel Adams)

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Close Friendship and Relationship Is Worth The Risk!

Relationship carries with it the element of risk. There is usually risk associated with everything that is worthwhile in life. During a television interview in 1981, Kenneth Hagin was asked what one trait he would desire most for his graduates. Without hesitation he replied, The willingness to take risks. I was in the audience that day during the taping of this interview, and I was waiting for the typical spiritual response when Kenneth Hagin was asked this question. I was surprised and challenged by his answer.
By personality I am a risk taker. Some are not. I’ve been willing for most of my life to go where I believe the Lord is leading me, knowing full well there are no guarantees. That has brought me to where I am today.
Relationships carry with them the risk that you could be rejected; that the person could mistreat you or take advantage of you. When you choose to be loved by the Father, He will so fill you with His personal love and acceptance that you’re just simply satisfied within yourself by Him. You don’t relate to others out of need, but out of a full, satisfied heart.
In that context, you can bear any kind of treatment. Yes, it’s emotionally wrenching at times when people respond to you out of their personal hurt or judgments based on past experiences, but there is such rich gain in being with others that to me it just makes it worth it. The truth of God’s Word lived in the context of relating to others over a period of time has the potential to produce radical personal transformation.
I’ve been rejected in relationships often. I think it just goes with the territory of being a pastor. None of us are fully mature, and when you’re ministering and living out of His life, sometimes darkness is exposed. Sometimes it is exposed in me and I have to be willing to lay the wrong thinking, the wrong emotions, or wrong actions at the foot of the cross. The cross is where what I want to do and how I feel about a situation meets the Word and God’s will for me. And I must be willing to choose God’s way over my thoughts and feelings.
Darkness is exposed at times in another person while I am relating to them. I must choose to remain loving, caring, and real. I must choose not to judge them, but rather lovingly woo them. This can be the difficult part of relationships. My cross is where I chose to defy my feelings and love and reach out. I must be willing to stay with truth in love and not force my will on the other person.
We carry with us baggage from past relationships. We carry judgments about people and about life in general. And those judgments produce expectations that people may mistreat us again the way others have in the past. We must be willing to lay these judgments down by forgiving those who have mistreated us. We must be willing to risk closeness again though these expectations tell us that we’ll be harmed again.
That’s where the love of God come shining through. God’s love poured out in our hearts is the antidote for trouble in relating to others. I must recondition myself to act, respond, and abide in love. That’s where my spiritual growth occurs. For without love, I am walking in the flesh and in darkness.
Though this may be long, listen again to 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 in these several translations tied together. Make a choice today to risk close relationships. There are worth it!  
Let me describe love. It is slow to lose patience; love stays in difficult relationships with kindness, and it always looks for ways to be constructive. There is no envy in love. It is not possessive and never boils over with jealousy. Love makes no parade of itself; it never boasts, nor does it puff up with pride. Love is never arrogant and never puts itself on display, because it is neither anxious to impress, nor does it cherish inflated ideas of its own importance. Love never gets irritated and is never resentful. Love holds no grudges, and it keeps no record of evil done to it. Love refuses to be provoked and never harbors evil thoughts. Love is not rude or grasping or overly sensitive, nor does love search for imperfections and faults in others. Love does not compile statistics of evil or gloat over the wickedness of other people. On the contrary, it is glad with all good men when truth prevails. Love celebrates what is real and not what is perverse or incomplete. Love never does the graceless thing. Love has good manners and does not pursue selfish advantage. Love never insists on its own rights, never irritably loses its temper, and never nurses its wrath to keep it warm. Love is not touchy. Love can stand any kind of treatment because there are no limits to its endurance, no end to its trust. Love bears up under anything; it perseveres in all circumstances. Love’s first instinct is to believe in people. If you love someone, you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost. You will always believe in him, always expect the best in him, and always stand your ground in defending him. Love never regards anyone or anything as hopeless. Love keeps up hope in everything. Love’s hope never fades. Love keeps on keeping on! It trusts in God in every situation and expects God to act in all circumstances. Love goes on forever. Nothing can destroy love. Nothing can happen that can break love’s spirit. In fact, it is the one thing that still stands when all else has fallen.