The Gift of Forgivness

Matthew 22:36-40

Most of us have known the Golden Rule since childhood: We are to treat others the way we want to be treated. And for young children, this standard seems to make sense. It is logical to share if you want others to share with you, and to avoid hitting because you wouldn’t like being on the receiving end.

But as life continues and relationships become more complicated, this simple ethical code doesn’t always seem to fit our circumstances. For instance, imagine being wronged by your business partner. How can you treat him respectfully when he has taken advantage of you? What if a kind, forgiving attitude opens the door for you to be hurt again?

God’s command nevertheless does apply in this situation. Obedience can be challenging, however, because when we are hurt or mistreated, our instinct is to retaliate. This might take the form of speaking badly behind a person’s back or showing subtle disrespect to his face. Human nature wants revenge for wrongdoing. In fact, we are unable to do anything different on our own.

Thankfully, as believers, we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, who enables us to forgive. So while our own strength is insufficient for a godly response, we have the option to obey through the Spirit.

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, [and] self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23). Are these characteristics evident in your interactions with others—even with people who are difficult to love? Ask for the Lord’s supernatural strength so you can respond correctly.

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The Power Of Forgiveness

The Power Of Forgiveness

Out of the depths I cry to you, LORD — Psalm 130:1

There is a story from Spain about a father and son who had become estranged. The son ran away from home, and his father set out to find him. The father searched for months, but to no avail. As a last-ditch effort, the father took out a full-page ad in a Madrid newspaper. The ad read: “Dear Paco, meet me in front of the newspaper office at noon on Saturday. All is forgiven. I love you. Your father.” The next Saturday, 800 men named Paco showed up, all looking for love and forgiveness from their fathers!

How many people in life are walking around looking for love and forgiveness from their Father in heaven?

If you’re like the rest of us, you have probably messed up once or twice in your life. We all make mistakes! As it says in Ecclesiastes 7:20, “Not a single person on earth is always good and never sins” (NLT). However, there is also a danger in thinking that you are only a sinner. Every time we fall, there is the risk that we will be too discouraged to get back up again. The next step after sin is repentance; yet sometimes, we find it hard to move on.

In Psalm 130 King David exclaimed, “Out of the depths I call out to you . . .” The  sages explain that the “depths” David was referring to was the depths of sin. Sometimes when we sin, we feel so low and so far from God. We feel like we are deep in the gutters of life. How can we possibly climb out? How can we face our God again? We feel distant, unlovable, and unworthy.

The sages caution us, “Do not consider yourself wicked in your self-estimation!” If we give in to those feelings of unworthiness, we will never be restored to our true selves. In Psalm 130 David also reminded us that God is forgiving. He implored us to put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption” (v.7).

God is waiting for us, loving us, and anticipating our return so that He can forgive us. We just need to return to Him.

Imagine that you open the newspaper today and you see an ad with your name on it: “Dear _____. Meet me in church on Sunday at noon. All is forgiven. I love you. Your Father.” Believe it — God is sending us this message every day! We just need to turn to God in repentance, and He will do the rest.

djs

Charm And Beauty Can Be Deceptive & Fleeting

Charm And Beauty Can Be Deceptive & Fleeting

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.

— Proverbs 31:30

If you want to know what’s truly important in life, go to a funeral. There, you will hear all the things that make a person special. You will hear all about what makes a life well-lived. You will learn what it takes to make a difference in the lives of others and what makes a good spouse, parent, and friend.

And if you pay really close attention, you might also notice what is not spoken about. I’ve never heard any eulogy mention how good-looking a person was or how much money that person made. Instead, we would be more likely to hear about a person’s inner beauty or how much a person gave to charity and to others.

This reality shines in stark contrast to the messages we are bombarded with every day. Whether it’s billboards, magazine ads, or television advertisements, the value system promoted in our society puts beauty and possessions at the top of the list. We are told that we must be good-looking to be lovable or in good shape to be suitable. We have to have the right things to be with the right crowd, and the latest in technology to be considered in touch with reality. So many people spend so much time feeling miserable about themselves because they buy into these lies.

Don’t believe it.

In Proverbs, King Solomon reminds us about the truth. He wrote, “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.“ All the sages agree that this isn’t just a teaching for women, but a lesson for us all, directing us to value the inner self over our outer appearances, and for that matter, possessions. Ultimately, our outer self and stuff will go back to dust, while our inner being lasts forever.

Perhaps you have met an objectively good-looking person who grew to be “ugly” to you the more you got to know him or her? Or maybe you have known an average-looking individual who seemed more and more beautiful to you as you got to know that person? This is because our inner self pours out onto our outer selves. A person who is beautiful on the inside will glow with a special beauty on the outside.

This message is especially important these days. To practice this idea, consider how we might live if no one had the ability to see. If no one could see what we looked like or what we had, would we live with a different priority system? Would we do things different daily? If outer appearances didn’t matter, who might we be? Perhaps we would like to consider being that person anyway.

djs

 

Finding True Fulfillment In Life

Finding True Fulfillment In Life

In a world full of distractions and endless ways to spend our time and energy, how do we use the time that we have each day? And even more importantly, how do we feel at the end of a day? Do we find ourselves fulfilled from ALL of our engagements? We touch so many people throughout a single day that we don’t always realize how we are impacting others. Colossians 3:23-24 points out that whatever we are doing, we are to do it “heartily” or with our entire heart. We are to be pouring out ourselves into what we do. And the amazing thing is that if we are doing this, God gives us the knowledge and understanding that we need to accomplish our tasks. But the important caveat is that we do it with our entire heart. If we half-heartedly approach every day, our jobs, people, anything really, how can we be fulfilled? How can we fill up others if we are half-hearted? How can we serve joyfully? Ephesians 6:6-8 admonishes us to serve “from the heart”—with good will. There is no room for back-biting, hate, ill-will, or anything negative.

How hard is it though to not complain when things go wrong? When we think that things should be different than what they are? When we think we are being treated unfairly or unkindly? How do we react? We would do better to keep in mind the words Solomon wrote down for us in Ecclesiastes 7:20-22. We must be careful with the attitudes and the thoughts that we allow ourselves to have. We must come to rely on God more and more for wisdom and understanding in ALL matters.

James 4:7-9 gives us the right ideas in this regard. We need to be submitting ourselves to God to fully understand how we can fulfill our days in the right ways. In verses 13-17, James goes on to admonish us that in the scheme of things, our lives are over so quickly. All our strivings and goals are in vain if they are not rightly ordained by God. He indeed sets our courses. When we go wrong and need adjustment, He makes corrections, as long as we are willing to accept them and get back on the right track.

So let us ask ourselves these questions:

How fulfilled do we find ourselves at the end of each day?

How willing are we to seek God and allow Him to lead?

As we approach the Passover, what can we take away from this short time we have left in examining ourselves? Ephesians 5:16 tells us that we should be “redeeming the time” by making the BEST use of our time, “because the days are evil.”

David had the right approach in Psalm 127:2. Even though our work may be heavy and burdensome, when we do it with God’s Will in mind, seeking what He wants, then we can go to bed at the end of the day and feel fulfilled because God will give us good rest. And He will recharge us for our continual fight each and every day. Psalm 90:12 says: “So teach us to number our days That we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Let us allow Godly wisdom and understanding fill us up each day so that we may feel fulfilled and others may see that and be encouraged to follow our example.

djs

Living for Eternity

Living For Eternity

Your throne was established long ago;

you are from all eternity. — Psalm 93:2

We talk about eternity a lot. God is eternal. The soul is eternal. The afterlife is eternal. But do we really understand what eternity means? How can we, who live in a finite world where everything is temporary, understand the concept of infinity?

I once heard it explained this way: Imagine a beach next to a great ocean. On the beach there is a pile of sand – but not the kind of pile that a child makes. This pile of sand is the size of a mountain! It soars all the way up to the sky. Now imagine that a bird comes and picks up a grain of sand in its beak. It travels across the ocean and puts the grain down on the other side. Every thousand years, a bird returns to the beach and takes another grain of sand and drops it on the other continent. How long will it take to the move the mountain of sand to the land across the ocean? That’s a peek into eternity!

Psalm 93 moves. It has a definite motion. It begins by affirming God’s eternity and ends the same way. In the middle we hear of a roaring ocean with “pounding waves” (v.3). The motion of the psalm, appropriately, is that of a wave. It begins with the calm stillness of the eternal God, just as a wave begins in the quiet of the sea. The middle of the psalm is loud and dynamic, like a wave about to crash onto the shores. But it ends with a return to the stillness of the beginning, just as a wave quietly recedes back into the sea from which it came.

The message for us? Our lives are only a wave in the vast and endless sea of eternity. Sure, we can make a lot of noise with our voices and pound the pavement with our feet, but very quickly, we will return to the quiet stillness from which we came. What’s a wave in comparison to the great ocean? That’s our lives in contrast to eternity.

I once had a teacher who would often preface our Bible study by reminding us that we were “turning moments into eternity.” When we do good deeds and study God’s Word, we create moments that last forever. Most of what we do in our brief lives is gone and meaningless once we leave the world. But our good deeds last forever. They live on for eternity.

Considering that, how will we spend our time today? Will the hours be lost once they pass, or can we make them last forever? What can we do today that will turn our moments into eternity?

DJS

The Gift Of Sowing Into The Lives Of Others!

Mark 9:34-35 But they kept silent: for by the way they had disputed with one another, which one of them was the greatest. And He sat down, and called the twelve, and said to them, “If any man desires to be first, he shall be the last of all and servant of all.
Once there was a king who decided to set aside a special day to honor his greatest subject. When the big day arrived, a large gathering took place in the palace courtyard and our finalists were brought forward.
The first person was a wealthy philanthropist. This man was deserving of the king’s honor because of his great humanitarian efforts. He had given much of his wealth to the poor, building orphanages, schools and hospitals throughout the land.
The second was a celebrated physician. This outstanding doctor was deserving of honor for rendering his faithful and dedicated service to the sick for many years and discovering medicines that saved many lives.

The third was a distinguished judge. He was noted for his wisdom, his fairness and his many a brilliant decision.

The last person presented before the king was an elderly woman. Her manner was quite humble, as was her dress. She hardly looked the part of someone who would be honored as the greatest subject in the kingdom. What chance could she possibly have, when compared to the other three, who had accomplished so very much?

The king was intrigued, to say the least and was somewhat puzzled by her presence. He asked who she was. Then the answer came: “Well, my king, do you see the philanthropist, the doctor, and the judge over here? She was their teacher!”

This woman had no wealth, no fortune, and no title, but countless lives were helped, healed and changed through her giving.

We never know whose lives we’re touching. I’m sure someone prayed — someone gave — someone shared the Gospel with some of the greatest evangelists, preachers and givers we know.

Let’s serve the Lord by sowing unselfishly into the lives of the people he’s put in our path — so that they may become great in God’s Kingdom!

(DJS)

Gratuity Not Included: Servers

Gratuity Not Included: Servers

The natives showed us unusual kindness. . . .
Acts 28:2

Ask almost any waiter, waitress, or server and they’ll tell you: They dread the Sunday after-church crowd. Perhaps it’s undeserved, but many churchgoers have the reputation of being demanding and stingy. Somehow, we have gotten a bad name in the restaurant community, at least on Sundays.

It behooves us to be kind to those who serve us. One of the ways we express our thanksgiving to God is by treating others with gratitude and kindness. Proverbs 19:22 says, “What is desired in a man is kindness.”

Those who serve us — waiters, clerks, tellers, flight attendants, bellhops and skycaps, ushers, babysitters, valets, supermarket baggers, parking attendants, shuttle drivers, and so forth — often work long hours and receive minimal pay. Yet they bear the brunt of complaints. They often have to put up with arrogant, unkind, irritable clients.

Go out of your way to smile at the guy behind the counter. Be pleasant to the woman on the phone. Tip when appropriate. Be a pleasure to serve. Show unusual kindness. A dash of gratitude can brighten the skies of others and represent Christ to their hearts.

“A warm smile is the universal language of kindness.”
William Arthur Ward

(DJS)