Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Power of Forgiveness

There is power in forgiveness, and as I reflect on the impact of Christ death, I am reminded of the gracious act of Jesus in forgiving his enemies while on the cross. In doing so- Jesus demonstrated not only grace but great power.

Likewise, as we continously go to God for forgiveness of our sin, we must also forgive others. In fact, when Jesus taught the disciples how to pray, he emphasized that we should ask God to “forgive our debts as we forgive our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12) In addition, Jesus states in Matthew 6:15 "But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive yoiur sins." No doubt some situations are very difficult to forgive: Personal hurts, betrayal, being lied on, and even criminal acts. But we need to learn forgiveness. The first step is to acknowledge the hurt. The second step is to surrender the will to get even. And lastly, we must forgive others as the third step in the process.

Nevertheless, we ought to be like Jesus and exercise forgiveness. Very often in life after a terrible harm has been done, many persons can’t move forward because they will not forgive. Don’t allow the thing that hurt you to create such bitterness through unforgiveness that it limits your ability to enjoy life.

In conclusion, I am reminded of the countless examples in the scripture that demonstrate forgiveness: Consider how Esau forgave Jacob and embraced him despite being robbed of his birthright (Genesis 33); or how Joseph forgave his brothers and eventually saved their lives, despite being robbed of his coat of many colors, thrown in a pit and sold into slavery in Egypt where he would later be falsely accused and sent to prison (Genesis 45, 50).

Let’s not forget how David forgave King Saul after Saul attempted multiple times to kill David. David had opportunities to kill Saul but instead spared his life. David would later honor Saul in his death (I Samuel 24-26, II Samuel 1)

Even in the early days of the church, we see forgiveness displayed by Stephen who forgave his persecutors as they stoned him to death while he kneeled down and asked God “not to lay this sin to their charge.” (Acts 7:59) And a short while later, the disciples led by Barnabus forgave Saul of Tarsus who formerly persecuted the Saints of God and was active in the stoning of Stephen.

And of course the ultimate act of forgiveness was displayed by Jesus Christ in his death on the Cross. Even though Jesus was betrayed, denied, lied upon, beaten, and nailed to a cross, we see the power of forgiveness when Jesus uttered these words, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) There is power in forgiveness.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Keeper

God is a keeper. He will keep you if you want to be kept. Despite the technological advances of today, we are yet living in perilous times. But in the midst of all of our hardships, disappointments, despair and even temptations, it is good to know that we serve a God who is able to keep us. Here are five ways that God is able to keep and watch over His people.

Keep you from falling: “Now unto Him who is able to keep you from falling. . .” (Jude 24) God can keep you from sin. And keep you from backsliding, preserve your reputation and keep you from going back to a life of sin. So in the midst of temptation, He’s able to keep you saved. I am reminded of Winans song of the 80s, “It’s good to know He’ll be there if ever I fall. But it’s better to know that I don’t have to fall at all.” The Lord can keep you from falling.

Keep your stuff: “Except the Lord build the house they labor in vain who build it. Except the Lord keep the city the watchman waits in vain.” (Psalms 127:1) I’m thankful for policeman, door locks, security systems, and alarms which are all good, but the Lord is the ultimate keeper. I can remember a number of occasions when I have left my garage door open having left my home, left my credit card at the restuarant, left the windows rolled down in my car in an unfamiliar neighborhood but God kept my stuff. So I am a witness that if you trust Him, he will keep, watch over and protect your property and personal items.

Keep you in your right mind: “Thou will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee: because he trusts in Thee.” (Isaiah 26:3). When all around you is going crazy, God will give you peace in the midst of the storm as you keep your mind focused on God.

Keep you from evil: “But the Lord is faithful, who shall establish you, and keep you from evil.” (2 Thessalonians 3:3) Even in the midst of the valley of the shadow of death, there is no need to fear because God will protect and keep you from dangers seen and unseen.

Keep you in all your ways
: “For He shall give his angels charge over you to keep you in all your ways.” (Psalms 91:11) It matters not if you are at home, work, school, church, in your car, or performing various social functions and activities, God is able to keep you in all your ways as he gives His angels charge to watch over you. Indeed the gospel singer Andrae Crouch was right when he said “Got me some angels day and night watching over me.”

Without question, there are thousands of ways that God can keep and provide for His people. No wonder the psalmist David wrote, “I have been young, and now am old, yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken nor his seed begging bread.” (Psalms 37:25)

As I conclude, I am reminded of the words of an old gospel song that says-“Just another day that the Lord has kept me. He has kept me from all evil with my mind stayed on Him. Just another day that the Lord has kept me.” So as we rejoice in the Savior, let us also rejoice in the fact that He is - The Keeper.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Finish It

Finishing is better than starting. . . (Ecclesiastes 7:8 New Living Translation)
As we approach the beginning of a new year, allow me to stress the importance of finishing what you start and completing whatever you begin. Just think of how much better society would be as a whole if people would simply finish what they started.
Just imagine how many additional books would be written, or businesses established, jobs created, degrees bestowed or inventions made if more people simply finished.

Consider how much more stable our communities, families, marriages, and children would be if as a whole we finished what we started. What if more dads would finish being fathers beyond inception. What if more married couples would finish their vows and stayed together “as long as they both shall live.”

Even in Sports, the teams that are successful perform their best at the end of the game. The victorious team is usually the team with a strong finish. And I am reminded of my high school days playing basketball. Often in practice while running fast break drills, players would sometimes attempt to be too cute with their passes and turn the ball over, or too fancy with their shots and miss the basket. And coach would yell- Finish it.

Consider the case of Derek Redmond the Olympic Sprinter from Britain who participated in the 1992 Summer Games in Barcelona, Spain. Half way through his qualifying match after leading most of the race of the 400 meter run, he hears a pop in his right hamstring, pulls up lame and then falls to the ground in agony. Then, in a moment that will live forever in the minds of millions, as the medical crew arrives with a stretcher, Redmond lifts himself to his feet, waves off the medical crew and begins hobbling down the track for the last 120 meters of the race.

One hurtful step at a time, his face twisted with pain and tears, Redmond limps onward to finish the race, as the Olympic crowd watches. Suddenly, out of stands a man (later identified as Redman’s father) jumps over the railing, runs onto the track, fights through security and wraps his arm around Redman’s waist and tells him, “We’ll finish together.” Redman puts his arms around his father's shoulders and sobs. Together, arm in arm, father and son, with 65,000 people cheering, clapping and crying, walked toward the finish line. As they approached the finish line, and with the crowd in an absolute frenzy, Redman’s dad releases the grip he has on his son, so Redman could cross the finish line by himself. Redman did not win a medal at the Barcelona Olympics, but he finished.

While Redman’s story is inspiring, the greatest example of finishing something can be found in Jesus Christ. He is known as the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). In fact, he told the multitude “ until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” (Matt 5:18 NIV)

Jesus had the greatest destiny and most significant purpose of anyone who ever walked the face of the earth. His goal was to seek and to save that which was lost and to bear the sins of the world. In fact, Christ’s will to finish was so strong that that in John 6:39 he says “this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day."

And as his ministry on earth came to a close, he was lied upon, denied and betrayed by his disciples. He suffered the mockery of trial and was beaten, spit upon, and rejected by men. He was made to carry a rugged cross, and was crucified between two thieves where they pierced him in his side, placed a crown of thorns on his head, and gambled for his robe. In three days he would rise again having conquered death, hell and the grave but before he could ascend to the Father he had to close out what he started. So with the weight of the whole world bearing down, he uttered these last words before he hung his head between the locks of his shoulders and died: "It is Finished." And because Christ finished, we have access to everlasting life, peace, joy and the power to finish not just in our spiritual walk but even in our everyday activities.

So as we approach a new year, my advice is the same to those who are multi-taskers as it is for procrastinators. For those who are contemplating starting business, obtaining a degree, writing a book, pursuing educational goals or starting a ministry, I offer this counsel that can be summed up in two words: Finish It.