Category Archives: Bread And Spirit

Happy Easter!

I was up by the fire early this rainy Easter morning contemplating the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. I mused that there have been almost 2000 Easter celebrations in the almost two millennia since that day, April 5, 33 A.D.. And four millennia since it was first spoken about to Abraham, the Father of the Faith.

But I was up to hear something warm, close, personal, and new about the events, if the Spirit would reveal them to me. A close friend from another city called last night to discuss something about the resurrection he was preparing to teach his young married class today.

It was about the women at the empty tomb, that first resurrection Sunday. It set me to thinking, and researching the Scripture and commentaries, and meditating on the events of that day as recorded for us in the Bible. These women to the tomb were the first human witnesses to Jesus’ victory over death and the grave.

Their story enlarges and gets personal. Completed by Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus, 100# of spices, a large stone covering the tomb, Roman guards, an imperial seal, Shinning ones, grave wrappings on the floor (no body thief would do this!), and a folded face cloth, as if to say, “It is finished, indeed!”

It’s a dreadful, passionate, beautiful event to real people — then and now.

This morning in church a prophetic brother stood and read the words to a song some of us remember well by Don Francisco, a gifted singer of ballads about our faith, written and sang with pathos and bitting truth. [I have included it for your mediation and consideration at the bottom.]

And as a pastor said in our service today, “There is plenty of evidence everywhere, He’s alive.” “Just look around this room.” He was referencing the changed lives and people in our room who worship and honor Jesus for Who He Is, and what He did, in His sacrifice, and then in His power, by rising from the dead, just as He said. Then think of what went on around the world today!

The teacher this morning said it this way: “Through His life, He came down to our level. Through His resurrection He raised us up to His.”

John finished his gospel and the story with these words (John 20):

“but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:31)  Amen אמן

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“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.” (Lamentations 3:22)

“Praise the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens. Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness.” (Psalm 150:1–2)

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)

Jesus said to her, … go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’ ”” (John 20:17)

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[YouTube Link to “He’s Alive!” by Don Francisco. The video clips are good, but I might suggest, the first time through, you listen with your eyes closed, and let the Spirit bring the story to your mind and heart. Many thanks to Don Francisco for his insightful lyrics and music.}

End Times or Again Times

 

I don’t really want to  add myself to an endless list of fruit cakes predicting or obsessing over “the end times.” But it’s been a hot topic of discussion all around me lately, even yesterday morning after a men’s meeting, with friends at a local coffee and breakfast shop.

And there are at least two things that have long stood out to me as a reasons we shouldn’t ignore the end times possibility either, and that it could be coming sooner than we’re thinking. [1] There will be an end times on the earth as we know it, with unprecedented chaos and fury, if you believe the Bible — the most remarkable guide to the earth’s past, present, and future we have. [2] Jesus thought it worthwhile to answer his disciples when they asked what the signs these times were imminent might be. Indeed there is similar information on the signs in several books of the Old Testament and New Testament.

My friend Larry piped up, “The Bible is so valuable! It prepares us to look for the signs and helps us understand some of the things that will happen to keep us from being deceived, to be informed, and to endure those terrible times.”

He then asked our little group, “Will the world know it’s happening?” “Probably not,” I piped in. “Think of the German people during the build up to WWII and through it’s early days. The same in Russia when Stalin was coming to power. The people welcomed the change and the (humanistic) promise of great progress. Until it was too late. Isaiah’s time and culture was in the same situation before 586 B.C. too.” Why?

Delusion! Deluded! A few people saw the signs and tried to act to stop it. And a few saw it coming and tried to prepare for it, or flee from it. But the vast majority didn’t see it coming, and by their actions (or inactions) exacerbated or hastened its coming, to their own hurt and destruction. (Isaiah 6)

What may lead to this delusion of the earth’s people in the last times will ironically be, in part, the signs that it is happening. A few signs that our table came up with quickly are: [1] May 14, 1948, Israel becomes a nation. No one assisting her or blessing her, but rather attacking her will invite the end, according to the Bible and history. [2] Russia, Syria, Iran, and others listed in the Bible circling to destroy Israel, which is happening again at this hour. [3] Languages no longer confused due to computer translators and translations, e.g. Google Translate. [4] An enhanced version of eVerify, or something similar is an easy way to control buying and selling in the future as the masses embrace conveniences like Apple Pay, Google Pay, etc. [5] The phenomenal advances in communication: fast, world wide, in our hands and our pockets, with the world wide web for news, markets, business, research, organization, and collaboration.

Recent card sent to an agnostic friend 🙂

So, if these end times the prophets like Daniel and John told us about are looming near, what do we do as we see them draw closer? As we see these signs taking place?

Might we stand with Israel to the end? Personally. As a nation. Politically encouraging our leaders to do so?

Might we remind ourselves and our friends not to be passive? But to be alert and engaged in positive ways during these times. Be “light and salt” where you live, with your friends, family, neighborhoods, and cities. Father planted you right there. (Acts 17:26)

Remember who you are. More importantly, remember Whose you are! Remember the weapons of our (spiritual) warfare (Eph 6) — and prayer. Sons and daughters calling out to our King and Father. (II Chron 7:14 & Rev 8:1-5)

Remember Father’s word to all mankind in II Chronicles 16:9, “For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.”

Live with these truths in mind. It’s been said, “God does not call the qualified, but qualifies the called.” Reread the story of Gideon. And remember “We have this treasure in (our) clay vessels,” (2 Cor 4:7) His Holy Spirit.

Perhaps most importantly, remember the chief end of man according to the Westminster Catechism which tells us that, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him for ever.” This is the Preacher’s conclusion as well.

I’m heading out the door to see a new movie, “Paul, an Apostle of Christ”, in a few minutes because some friends invited me. Among this world changer’s most famous words were, “…to know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings.” (Phil 3:10) That’s what drove Paul. His life was “Light and Salt” in a dark place and time, in his end times, and well beyond! A life well lived indeed! He’s a great example to us with the days growing gloriously dark. 🙂

The Lord’s Spirit be with you. Enjoy a Good Friday…

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Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8)

And following Him was a large crowd of the people, and of women who were mourning and lamenting Him. But Jesus turning to them said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, stop weeping for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. “For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’ “Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ “For if they do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?” Two others also, who were criminals, were being led away to be put to death with Him. When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left. But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:27–34) (Bolding mine.)

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Doing God A Favor

Or “Theology 101”

Hannah with the children of La Balsa

When I heard what Gary, Tim, and Kevin had prepared to teach the pastors at this year’s pastors conference, I was a little bit incredulous. They were teaching the pastors theology, which is the study of God and his attributes, from a book entitled “The Attributes of God” by A. W. Pink.  My first thought was that something a little simpler and a little more practical might be in order. But my second thought was that these men are led by the Spirit and they probably heard correctly about what they were to teach.

The power of what they were teaching was apparent to me the first morning as I sat with the Honduran pastors and listened, being encouraged and instructed right along with them. Further confirmation of its power came immediately after lunch as I was riding in the back of a pick up truck to Capucales with Giovanni, a young Honduran minister and worship leader.

He was fired up about the teaching and freely shared with us what impacted him. He said, “Many people think they’re doing God a favor to believe in Him or serve Him.” And “People who are not believers think that about believers, that they are just doing God a favor to follow Him or believe in Him. But nothing could be further from the truth!” he exclaimed. “God does not need us. We need him.”

The steep road from La Balsa 🙂

In two short sessions, Giovanni’s awareness of the greatness and power of God had been greatly increased, leaving him inspired and sensing God’s true place in His creation. It’s a privilege to know him, serve him, and make him known. That’s the truth, according to the thousands of years of revelation we have recorded about Him in Holy Scripture. He indeed needs nothing nor anyone. Something akin to the summary of philosophy and theology that Solomon, reportedly the wisest man who ever lived, wrote at the end of his life, recorded in Ecclesiastes. “When all is said and done, fear God and keep his commandments.”

A. W. Tozer also wrote some books on theology, “The Attributes of God,” and  “Knowledge of the Holy.” The second he said was written for worshipers, not theologians, although it would stand up to theological rigor. I love that. And I love his book which I try to read one or more times each year. It’s a very small book, but there’s an old saying,”Beware of small books.”:-) In the introduction Tozer says something else amazing, “What you believe about God is the most important thing about you. Because it will affect everything you do.”

Pastor Kevin – One of the Teachers

So Theology 101 was indeed what the Lord had for these pastors and it hit it’s mark, as evidenced by the lively questions and discussions during and after the teaching times. The Scripture comes to mind, “They that know their God will do valiantly.” So these pastors who came to receive from the Lord left encouraged and empowered. Encouraged that they knew the Lord better and should continue this pursuit. And empowered with a renewed level of faith in the Most High.

May the Word of the Lord continue to accomplish what it was intended to do. Amen.

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And those who know Your name will put their trust in You, For You, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You.” (Psalm 9:10)

Through God we shall do valiantly, And it is He who will tread down our adversaries.” (Psalm 60:12)

The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13)

It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.” (Isaiah 40:22)

[Link to trip video]          [Link to trip photos]

Some Stay by the Baggage

Kevin Teaching at Pastor’s Conference

I knew that my good friend and brother Kevin had a lot to do with preparing the materials for this pastors conference. Finding and getting the books, “The Attributes of God,” by A.W. Pink, in Spanish was quite a feat!

Then I asked him how he was able to get the workbooks for the pastors to take back to their villages in Spanish? He said, “My wife translated them from English to Spanish.” I inquired if his wife spoke Spanish, something I more and more wish I could do? He said that she didn’t, but used an online language translator to do the translation, then asked a friend and co-worker who was a Spanish teacher to proofread and edit it.

Teaching Materials . A.W. Pink

I immediately thought, “Are you kidding me!?” Hours and hours of loving labor went into this project. I told Kevin this was amazing and his wife was amazing! He of course agreed. 🙂

Think about all the hours required and the motive behind it. It certainly moved me, and still does. The love, the sacrifice, and the courage to attempt such a thing is remarkable. Immediately, I thought of David and the Ziklag incident, where two hundred of his men were unable to go to the battle, and instead stayed with the baggage.

Conference in Progress

When David returned from the battle successfully, some who didn’t understand God’s heart and perhaps had too great an opinion of themselves and their part in the mission’s success, didn’t want to share any of the reward with those who had stayed with the baggage.

David, who was a man after God’s own heart, told them otherwise, and it became an ordinance in Israel that day, that he who stays with the baggage shares alike with him who goes down to the battle. This story came to my mind immediately when Kevin told me about what his wife had done .

Shelia at Home

I personally feel that everyone who gave to this mission financially, and those who prayed shared just as much in its success as those who went. But for her sacrifice I certainly wanted to give a “shout out” to Sheila Nugent. 🙂 I look forward to meeting her someday.  🙂 May God bless her, those she loves, and everything she puts her hand too. Amen

[Link to trip video]          [Link to trip photos]

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“And who will listen to you in this matter? For as his share is who goes down to the battle, so shall his share be who stays by the baggage; they shall share alike.” So it has been from that day forward, that he made it a statute and an ordinance for Israel to this day.” (1 Samuel 30:24–25)

A Honduran Exorcism

Ok, let me be transparent and real about this. I have no agenda or theology to exalt or to put down. Just the facts, Ma’am! That’s the goal of this short writ.

One evening after a time of praying for the pastors, one of the Honduran pastors, Pastor Minellio, was praying for the sick and a few of our team noticed him shaking as he prayed for the one in need, the power of the Holy Spirit being felt strongly by all.

Afterwards there was a time of fellowship under the arbor where we shared lunch and dinner with the pastors and their families. The team that noted the Honduran pastor shaking asked him about that?

He then related the following story. He said that in his village in the mountains one of his friends seem to be depressed and at one point tried to take his life. This pastor and two more friends who loved the man, determined to fast and pray for three days for him with him being continually with them, witnessing their fasting and hearing their prayers.

On the third day, according to this “shaking” pastor, their suicidal friend had a single, violent vomiting episode, and at the same time moment, the three praying friends were knocked to the ground by some unknown force!?

After that moment their friend has been free of oppression, depression, and acts normally. And when our new “quaking” pastor friend prays for people and senses the Holy Spirit is near, he shakes as he prays.

Indeed, he says when it happens to him, he knows or recognizes the Holy Spirit is near to heal or deliver or help.

After watching him, and sensing the Spirit ourselves, we all believe it’s true and happened just that way.

This pastor is a very quiet, always kind, pleasant, and humble – even shy.

We only report what we saw, and felt, and heard. 🙂

The Lord be magnified for helping those in need. And for equipping and empowering His own to help or serve in the process. Amen

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“But if I cast out devils by the finger of God, the Kingdom of God has come near to you.” Luke 11:20

[Story related by Gary, Tim, and Whit who were witnesses.]

[Link to trip video]          [Link to trip photos]

The Ninety and Nine – Carmen’s Story

Do you remember Jesus parable from Luke 15 of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son(s)? You may want to read it to refresh yourself. Then listen to this story!

Once upon a time there lived in a mountain village in Honduras a young girl named Carmen. A missionary group visited her village to minister to the children there, hosting a vacation Bible school–teaching the children songs, Bible stories, and loving on them. There were several women in this group, including Jennifer from north east Louisiana.

Jennifer noticed a young girl at the meeting and felt strongly drawn to pray for her. She went to her and asked if she had need of prayer? The girl indicated she didn’t know of anything, and Jennifer just prayed a prayer of blessing over her, but was perplexed by the strong unction to pray and the strong draw to the girl. Later after reflecting on it, she felt the Lord impressed her the prayer was for some future need. She had a strong impression,  “Something that hasn’t happened yet.”

Jennifer & Carmen

Three more ladies in the group told Jennifer, one by one, they were drawn to the same girl, Carmen, and one even said,”To pray for something that hasn’t happened yet.”

I’m going to leave out some other amazing detail and coincidences for brevity and tell you that Jennifer went back home to Louisiana and prayed for this young lady Carmen  by name for the next eighteen months.

As a single mom, raising two children, and working, it would take a miracle for Jennifer to be able to go back to that village and find Carmen, and see what had happened to her. But she had a burning desire to do just that.

Carmen’s Son . A Prophecy. A Destiney

Somehow!? At the last minute Jennifer became a part of our team. She came with us not knowing if she’d be given the opportunity to go to Carmen’s village, or if Carmen would still be there?

As it turned out she made her desire known to the team, and we split up one day so that half of the team went there to minister, so Jennifer could find Carmen, or at least know what had become of her. I was on that half of the team and saw the amazing outcome.

After it appeared that all the children in the village, about thirty or so, had shown up for some songs and interactive worship, along with about eight women and five men — there was no Carmen.

Loving Honduran Children

My good friend, Brother Dr. Jay we call him as he’s a veterinarian, moved over and said to me, “Let’s pray Carmen comes! This is so important to Jennifer.” So we did, right then and there, as our twenty-something, worship-team leaders started worshiping and we looked out on the beautiful, mountainous jungle that had an alpine feel to it due to our high elevation.

About five to seven minutes later, you guessed it, Carmen, a very attractive young woman with her two young sons, came walking up the road to the meeting!:-)

There was an excited embrace by Jennifer and a few quick words and greetings that we observed from a distance. Then all took their seats as the service had begun. There followed excellent, beautiful, peaceful worship led by our own Hannah with Giovanni and Marilyn, her musically-gifted, Honduran counterparts.  Then there was kid’s ministry, and a word from the matriarch and spiritual leader of the village, and the meeting was finished.

Folks were mingling and filing out, slowly drifting away to their homes or daily pursuits. Time didn’t matter. We were basking in the scenery, and the tangible, felt presence of God during the service. It was so beautiful and peaceful.

Carmen and Jennifer immediately joined each other at the front of the church. Carmen would learn from Jennifer about all the ladies praying for her. And about Jennifer praying for her by name for eighteen months.

Carmen’s Village

Jennifer would learn from Carmen that she had been hospitalized in Olanchito for abdominal bleeding and had been very ill, “Something that hasn’t happened yet,” at the time of the offered prayers.

Also during that hospital stay, some believers had visited Carmen, prayed for her healing, and asked her if she wanted to receive Christ as Savior? At that time, she felt she wanted to do so, but didn’t.

A Prayer Answered and A Prayer Offered :):)

Jennifer asked her, “Well do you want to do so right now?” ”Yes,” she said with a smile, hearing of God’s love and caring for her and His sending so many. 🙂 So she did just that with Jennifer and Giovanni assisting and witnessing her prayer for salvation.

There’s more!? But for heaven sakes, that’s enough! A person would have to be blind, deaf, or both not to see the incredible lengths the Lord went to, to find this lost one He cherished, and bring her safely into His fold.:-)

His name be magnified! May Carmen and her family be blessed of the Lord. And may the Lord continue to pour out his Spirit and help the village of Capucales Honduras.  Amen

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“What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?” (Luke 15:4)

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,” (Matthew 28:19)

Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart,” (Luke 18:1)

[Link to trip video]          [Link to trip photos]

First Fight

Saturday night just before midnight twenty something men stood around a fire, bundled up as the wind chill temperature was hovering near the teens, to kick off a twelve week plan to spend more time seeking God, communicating with and encouraging each other, break old habits, gain some new ones, commit to exercise and physical discipline to better their health, and to read a book together over that period, discussing it to challenge themselves intellectually and spiritually. It’s a men’s ministry program called “Fight Club.”

I participated in it last year, and the leaders asked me to be their kick off speaker, to encourage the men and exhort them in their quest this year.

Saturday was Epiphany, and I thought that appropriate and predictive of their success. Epiphany means an “ah ha” moment or a divine revelation. The later is the true meaning of the word as it’s been used from antiquity. Epiphany is celebrated the world over in Christendom as “Three King’s Day,” or the first revelation to gentiles that the Christ Child was indeed the Messiah, King of Kings, and the Son of God. And I believe these men, if they can by the Lord’s help, stay their courses are in for revelations and some “ah ha” moments themselves.

That we are in a fight with sin, our flesh, and dark spirits becomes clearer and clearer as we mature. Or when you look at human history as recorded in human literature. Or you can simply look into the best selling book of all times to read about the battle, the causes, and the cure.

I know I look forward to the new year more and more as they pass. I appreciate a time that seems naturally given to reflecting on life, making needed adjustments, then going again at life and living. The longer you live, you understand more and more, you need forgiveness, and you need help. In short, you need a Savior. And you need a Helper. A spiritual boost from a Counselor and Guide beyond the natural.

Thankfully we have both available to us, and we have the process and path outlined in Scripture, the same best selling book of all times I alluded to earlier. Seek Him, as the Three Kings did, and you’ll find Him for yourself, just as they did. It’s His promise.

The Lord’s blessings and nearness be on the men engaged in Fight Club.

Best wishes to you and those you love for a happy and prosperous New Year!

 

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jer 29:13

“When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.” Matt  2:10

“And I looked, and arose and said to the nobles, to the leaders, and to the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome, and fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses.” Neh 4:14

What Do You Say?

It’s been awhile since I’ve written or blogged. I’ve practically given up FaceBook for a long season and promoting my book that way? It’s been a quiet time of enjoying life, reflecting on life, and seeking the Lord personally for myself. Oh, I’ve been active in kingdom circles and activities, maybe too much so? I attend three men’s meetings each week. A life group from the church I attend meets in our home weekly. And we support a number of missionaries and mission causes. But some deep disappointments and spiritual circumstances have had me derailed, disillusioned, and not serving the Lord in the same way I’ve served in the past.

I mentioned the men’s groups I attend. Hopefully I bring something of value to the table for some of them occasionally, but I mainly attend for myself. The spiritual food from others who seek the Lord, and determine to live for and with Christ, sacrificially and faithfully. To the end. These men touch me deeply with their lives, honesty, humility, and humor. This is most valuable to a man in some spiritual despair and disillusionment.

I find myself wanting to dive off into this, and the lessons learned, and how the Lord spoke to me about it this morning in my Wednesday men’s group, but not now. Suffice to say, it was about grumbling in the wilderness. A spiritual wilderness for me. But we know from Exodus and the NT that grumbling is not good! It can derail your life! Your life with God. And the good plans He has for you. Enough on that, you get it! I got it this morning, thankfully, when I heard the Scripture and the Spirit highlighted it in my heart and experience. And in the safety of those men, I shared it, bringing some healing and release to me.

We prayed for many things today, but one jumped out at me. A friend of one of our members  had lost his sixteen year old grandson in an automobile accident last week where he was ejected from a vehicle and then run over by the same.:( This same grandfather had lost a wife in an untimely death, and was “mad at God,” as reported by my friend. Certainly this is understandable and we’ve all known of situations like this, trying to pray, counsel, and morn with those who morn. And this is right, of course. I guess? But this is what came to me…

It was written on a church bill board or marquee a few blocks from my house that I viewed driving home yesterday. It says, “God owes you nothing. God gave you everything.” Kindly stark! Isn’t it? But absolutely true as you start to meditate on it, in light of the Bible, and the human experience, isn’t it?

I’ve determined to keep my blog posts short, to better serve readers, and because I like short posts myself. 🙂 So the main point of my musing and insight this morning will come later, when this writ is continued…

 

Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer.” (1 Corinthians 10:10)

The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaint.” (1 Peter 4:7–9)

 

 

 

“You Owe Me… Nothing”

The Western Wall . Jerusalem

And I owe you … Nothing (Except to love you.)! 🙂

With Easter still fresh on our minds, I want to challenge you, and myself, about forgiveness. About practicing “forgiveness” and “living forgiven.” I believe understanding these two concepts are curial to living a life of freedom and peace before God and with others.

I’m not claiming to be an expert in this matter or even say I’ve mastered “forgiveness” myself. But I do believe I’ve recently received a little revelation on the subject that’s profound, easy to ponder, and an “acid test” of sorts to determine if you are living “forgiven and forgiving” or not?

St. Scholastica . Fort Smith

It’s two simple questions you can ask yourself. I’ll tell you what they are, why they are important, and where I got them.

Questions one is, “Do I owe you anything?” That is, am I in debt to you in any way? If the answer is “yes,” then I must make every effort to settle my debt by payment or seek to have it forgiven.

Why is this important? Or a goal you should always be working toward, or trying to maintain? Because it’s the clear teaching of Scripture, “Owe no one anything, except to love each other.” (Romans 13:8a) Debts owed usually affect relationships negatively, and rob the involved parties of real peace and freedom.

Sea of Galilee . Israel

Question two is, “Do you owe me anything?” That is are you in debt to me in anyway? If the answer is “yes,” then I must make every effort to collect the debt or forgive it? So that your balance sheet is clean and does not affect your relationship with me or with others.

This is the clear teaching of Jesus about His Father, and His kingdom in the area of “debt and forgiveness.” Look at Matthew 18:21-35, which is perhaps the clearest and most telling truth on “forgiveness” in the Bible.

The Jordan River . Israel

This is where Jesus ties forgiveness to debts. Especially in the areas of large debts of personal injury that are hard to place a price upon or repay. We see that is the context of the parable because of the way it starts with Peter’s question to Jesus, “How often should I forgive my brother who sins against me?”

Sometimes the debt is so large, forgiveness is the only alternative to settle the affair, if the debtor is to have any chance at a fresh start, dignity, hope, and a life worth living. Still, this forgiveness is not required by justice or by law. It’s a grace or mercy extended by a loving heart out of concern for the well being of the debtor and his family.

Fort Smith . Arkansas

Indeed forgiveness is best extended and understood by these statements. “I forgive you. You owe me nothing.”

“Forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation, restitution, or approval of sin. Forgiving, according to Jesus in his parable of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:21-35), involves a singular decision of the will by which you consider another person no longer indebted to you.”
(from The Red Feather by Tom Elliff)

Amen אמן

In light of the huge and impossible-to-repay debt that God has forgiven us by the sacrifice of His Son, and at His Son’s request, we must forgive others their much smaller debts. Do you agree? Then go and do likewise. Godspeed.

Jerusalem

And may it be, or I should rather say, it will be, healing for your soul. And the souls of those about you. God’s peace.

 

“Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” (Romans 13:8)

“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matthew 6:1)

Other Quotes on Forgiveness:

The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong. ~Mahatma Gandhi

To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you. ~Lewis B. Smedes, “Forgiveness – The Power to Change the Past,” Christianity Today, 7 January 1983

Forgiveness is a funny thing. It warms the heart and cools the sting. ~William Arthur Ward

Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future. ~Paul Boese

A Festive Prophet

SONY DSCSince my book and kingdom passion is about men, men’s ministry, and kingdom living; I’m constantly on the look out for things God might be doing among men in churches, cultures, para church ministries, etc.

Introducing “Fight Club!” Some friends of mine attend Grace Community Church in our city. It’s an active church with an active men’s group. One of their number invited me to be a part of this semester’s version of Fight Club. I would describe is as men challenging themselves and each other to live vibrant life in Christ. Most of it is done alone, but some of it in community by social media, along with  three meetings over a ten week period. I’m finding it challenging, helpful, and rewarding. That’s all I’ll say. We’re supposed to do it, and not talk about it.

SONY DSCI would say I’m doing it because I was invited, and then felt led to accept the invitation. Also because I’m curious and always on the look for fresh ideas the Spirit might be using to empower and ignite men to relationship and action. But mostly I’d say I’m doing it because, like their pastor Jeff said at a kickoff campfire, “I need the discipline, accountability, camaraderie, and other men in my life” to spur me on in the journey. I also love their core verse of Scripture:

When I saw their fear, I rose and spoke to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people: “Do not be afraid of them; remember the Lord who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives and your houses.”” (Nehemiah 4:14)

SONY DSCIntroducing Haggai

This weeks spiritual assignment was to read a minor prophet’s book (or lesser prophets, as they are sometimes called, simply due to the shorter length of their writings), and discuss it with a friend. That has proved to be a delightful adventure as I have rediscovered these prophet’s lives and times, which are much like our own, as well as some of the important prophecies or insights they gave us by the Spirit of God about their times and times to come. Also insights about the heart and person of God, which they commonly describe as the LORD of heaven’s armies.

I was reading a little about each one, trying to pick one. Then I remembered that an old  friend living in Houston and visiting last weekend discussed Zechariah with me. And this morning a gentleman from my Tuesday morning men’s group insisted I read Haggai chapter 2 while we were together. Turns out Haggai and Zechariah were contemporaries, and along with Malachi were the only three prophets to the Jews following their return from seventy years of Babylonian captivity. I picked Haggai.

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I’m feeling led to do something I wouldn’t normally do, that is type for you the introduction to The Book of Haggai from my Thomas Nelson, NASB, Open Study Bible. I think you will see in it a lot of interesting conditions that speak to your life today. And it may stir you to read the two short chapters of Haggai, giving the Spirit space and time to speak to you personally, which is a quality of the Bible in general and prophetic Scriptures in particular. Here goes…

Date and Authorship. The author is the only person in the Old Testament named Haggai which means “festive” or “festal.” He is one of the prophets whose personal life is unknown. He is mentioned by Ezra (Ezra 5:1; 6:14). He is the first post exilic prophet who ministered to the remnant that had returned from Babylonian captivity. His prophecy is clearly to be dated 520 B.C., the second year of Darius the king. Haggai was probably born in exile in the early part of the sixth century. His contemporary in the prophetic office was Zechariah (cf. Hag. 1:1 with Zech. 1:1; see also Ezra 5:1; 6:14).

Historical Background. The prophets before the Exile (586 B.C.) foretold the fall of the Judean kingdom to the the new Babylonian empire. It was also revealed that after seventy years the LORD would restore His people to their homeland (Jer. 25:11; Dan. 9:2). When Cyrus the Persian destroyed the Babylonian power, he favored the Jews’ return to the Land of Promise to rebuild the sanctuary in Jerusalem. The foundation of the new temple was laid and the work was begun. Soon hostile neighbors employed their devices to stop the work. The work was halted, but outward opposition was only part of the problem. Indifference seized the fifty thousand exiles who had returned with resolve to build the House of God. When Darius Hystaspis came to the Persian throne, the Temple had been untouched for sixteen years. Haggai (and later Zachariah) was sent by God to awaken the people and stir them from their lethargy to undertake the restoration. It is unfair to Haggai to consider that his messages are solely concerned with matters of building. He begins from that vantage point, but goes on to the glory of the presence of the LORD Jesus Christ, the future establishment of God’s earthly kingdom, the Judgment of God on ungodly world powers, and the blessing awaiting the nations that will return to God.

SONY DSCThere you have it! A beautiful history of the LORD working among the nations of antiquity and especially, intimately, with His covenant people, Israel. He still does this. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Hostile neighbors (or spirits), indifference, lethargy, inattention to God’s Temple or House? Restoration? Sound familiar? Sound like the reason for Fight Club? And for staying close to God, His Word, and the community of believers today?

As you read the two short chapters of Haggai with this background, I pray the Lord give you revelation and personal insight, and “festive” encouragement for a course change or help in living a life “well lived”, a “festal” life. Amen.

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…do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20)

Now therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts, “Consider your ways!” (Haggai 1:5)

The Book of Haggai