The Paradox of Jesus Christ – His Death and Resurrection

The paradox of Jesus Christ in His death and resurrection stands immovable against the flood of human reasoning. The magnitude undeniable! To presume understanding would diminish the unexplainable.

A paradox is something “self-contradictory that when investigated or explained may prove to be well founded and true.” I suggest that every apparent contradiction, or paradox, is unequivocally true in relation to Jesus Christ.

For many people, Jesus Himself was and is a contradiction to their preconceived expectations! Scholars memorized the scriptures, studied the prophetic indications of His coming and work, and yet failed to recognize Him. And still today many disqualify Him on the basis of their own limited understanding.

No where do we see this dilemma more than in the contradictions surrounding the cross and resurrection. The cross was earth’s darkest hour! The resurrection heaven’s greatest dawn!

“The true light that gives light to everyone
was coming into the world.
He was in the world,
and though the world was made through him,
the world did not recognize him.
He came to that which was his own,
but his own did not receive him.”
John 1:9-11

Dawn of a new day

The Light of the world invading darkness! Creator touching creation unaware!

Love In Action

Here is John’s capsulated explanation,

“To him who loves us
and has freed us from our sins by his blood,
and has made us to be a kingdom and priests
to serve his God and Father —
to him be glory and power
for ever and ever!
Amen.”
Revelation 1:5-7

Stripped naked, Jesus hung upon the cross  to clothe the unlovable, the unworthy, the undeserving in garments of love and robes or righteousness. Leaving heaven’s throne, He established an earthly but royal priesthood and kings unto God.

Light of the world

“You have made them to be
a kingdom and priests to serve our God,
and they will reign on the earth.”
Revelation 5:10

The paradox of Jesus Christ is undeniable.

Crucifixion

The bread and the wine at the Last Supper rich with symbolism: bread in the hand of The Bread of Life broken to feed the spiritually starving; a cup held by The Lamb of God, soon to be crushed, pouring out new wine to the desperately thirsty. All for the sake of “re-membering” a church dis-membered through jealousy, selfish ambition, strife, and personal agendas.

“…The Lord Jesus, on the night
he was betrayed, took bread,
and when he had given thanks,
he broke it and said,
“This is my body, which is for you;
do this in remembrance of me.”
In the same way, after supper
he took the cup, saying,
“This cup is the new covenant in my blood;
do this, whenever you drink it,
in remembrance of me.”
1 Corinthians 11:23-25

Sunrise and mist

Jesus was bound so that multitudes would be set free! He remained silent before His accusers to give bold voice to people of every nation, tribe and tongue! His body brutally whipped, beaten, clubbed, and pierced so our bodies may receive healing! Paradox upon paradox!

“”He himself bore our sins
in his body on the cross,
so that we might die to sins
and live for righteousness;
By his wounds you have been healed.””
1 Peter 2:24

The Son, rejected by Father, purchasing adoption rights for many sons and daughters to be born anew into His family! The sacrificial Lamb bearing the undeserved stain of our sins upon Himself, to cleanse and redeem the truly guilty! Such is the paradox of Jesus Christ!

Dead to Life

The Eternal God, the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and End, submitting to the way of the cross, surrendering to the cruel Destroyer, to break the curse of the fall and defeat death, once for all.

“The thief comes only to steal
and kill and destroy;
I have come that they may have life,
and have it to the full.”
John 10:10

Light over darkness

Not just life, but life “in all its fullness! Superabundant, superior, excessive life! The paradox of Jesus Christ through His death and resurrection continues — unstoppable, undefiable, unquenchable!

“If a man can predict his own
death and resurrection, and pull it off,
I just go with whatever that man says.”
Andy Stanley

There is More

The King of all kings becoming servant of all! The One crowned with all glory humbling himself — becoming nothing, to make something of us. Like it or not, it required nothing less than such a radical move to make anything of the hunk of raw clay I am!

He emptied Himself so that we would be filled! He was denied any comfort to make room for the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to be with us.

“But very truly I tell you,
it is for your good that I am going away.
Unless I go away,
the Advocate will not come to you;
but if I go, I will send him to you.”
John 16:7

His death triggered the sending of Someone better, the Holy Spirit — the Advocate, Intercessor, Counsellor,  Comforter, Helper. Leaving before sending! Departing preceding receiving!

From Today

The only fitting personal response I find, is the passionate determination and fervent pursuit of all that Christ has died for, all that His resurrection has acquired. Only then will God truly receive the glory He is worthy of.

” … he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death
— even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him
to the highest place and
gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.”
Philippians 2:8-11

Resurrection morning

Anything less would be heresy. He became weak humanity to give us strength. May we boldly live our lives in reflection of the paradox of Jesus Christ:

contending for freedom of those
chained in sin and addictions;
decreeing release for captives internally bound,
and healing for bodies, families, churches and nations;
new wineskins continually being filled
with the wine of His Spirit
and satisfied only in the bread of His Presence;
sharing the gospel with liberty and power,
affirmed through miracles, signs and wonders;
never settling in complacent indifference
or apathetic denial,
but preaching, teaching, admonishing, encouraging
and exhorting believers everywhere
in their identity as sons and daughters,
priests and kings of the Most High.

The paradox of Jesus Christ through His death and resurrection shouts to us all, “Live! Live full! That superabundant, superior, excessive life that He paid for, live it today! Live it always!

Why? Because “He is risen! He is risen indeed!”

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Persistence and Tenacity, Qualities Necessary for Excellence

Persistence and tenacity sprout from the soil of adversity. Like mighty trees of strength, they are qualities dominating the landscape of excellence!

There is built into each of us the desire to pursue — to rise! How can we join the ranks of those who refuse to live below full potential?

God often uses natural elements to teach me spiritual truths, like modern day parables. Here is one!

The snow banks stubbornly staking claim in my yard dispute the fact that spring is soon upon us. I, like many other garden enjoying people, anticipate its arrival! Beneath the snow, dormant but waiting, diversity of colour prepares to burst forth transforming the bland landscape.

Winter

With it will be a few surprises!

Surprises!

When we moved into our home, the yard was surrounded by immaculately cut hedges. Unsurprising, immaculate is a contradiction to my nature!

As soon as possible, more natural landscape replaced the pristine conventional look. Flowing substituted fixed, as a variety of shrubs, trees and flowers took root.

Not long after the sod was turned, “it” appeared! One day only well positioned healthy shrubs, flowers and greenery were visible. The next day, “it” was there!

“It” sprung forth in domineering fashion staking claim where it had no claim. “Its” roots descending beyond the depth of sight or shovel, determined and invasive. 

Weeds in the garden

Resistant to my effort, “it” refused to yield or die. “It” is a weed. “It” waits for spring, too! Hopefully, this time I’m ready!

Questions?

Frustrated with “its” reappearance, I sat upon the ground questioning God how to possibly rid my yard of such torment. I sensed within me His voice say, “Persistence and tenacity!”

“I walked by the field of a lazy person,
the vineyard of one with no common sense.
I saw that it was overgrown with nettles.
It was covered with weeds,
and its walls were broken down.
Then, as I looked and thought about it,
I learned this lesson:
A little extra sleep, a little more slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest—
then poverty will pounce on you like a bandit;
scarcity will attack you like an armed robber.”
Proverbs 24:30-34

Goats in the garden

I instantly knew that now the conversation had uncomfortably switched from the garden to my heart. “It” breeds in multiples here too — invasive and dominating! God invited, “Look and give thought!”

As soon as I try to take a step forward rising in excellence for God’s kingdom some otherwise hidden “root” will instantly show “its” burly face,

laughing at my intention,
scorning my effort,
tripping any progress,
devaluing my worth.

“Its” roots go deep to Adam’s fatal fall. Though I work and pray to remove “it”, these remnants of fallen nature spring forth, attempting to diminish my progress.

Raising the bar of excellence starts with getting off the ground and doing whatever it takes to achieve what God has called me to. Some days that is harder than others!

Weeds

Jesus told a parable about the sower faithfully sowing seed. Some fell along a path, others on rocky land, still others among the weeds. The only seed that produced in abundance landed in good soil.

“Other seed fell among thorns,
which grew up and choked the plants!”
Matthew 13:7

This Greek word “epnixan” means to “choke or throttle!” It describes the effective cutting off of the air ways, killing by suffocation.

Tangled vine

Sounds a lot like the “it” in my garden and my heart! Those who listened to Jesus knew about weeds! They too had things in their lives that were cutting off and strangling, the breath of life God gives.

There is good news, however! As soon as they present their crippling heads to the light, weeds can be eradicated!

The cross of Christ overcomes every “it” — all sin and failure. With persistence and tenacity, we bring each pernicious thought, attitude and action before Him. Cooperating with Christ, we roll up our sleeves committing ourselves to digging until every root is exposed and disposed of.

Persistence

Many would say that persistence and tenacity are synonymous. Not true!

Persistence is that ability to take a stand, going on resolutely in spite of opposition. Persistence maintains consistency of character and purpose while pushing away every obstacle.

No wonder God nudged me with that little admonition. If I am going to win at uprooting the negative in my life and reaching for excellence, persistence is needed.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded
by such a great cloud of witnesses,
let us throw off everything that hinders
and the sin that so easily entangles.
And let us run with perseverance
the race marked out for us.”
Hebrews 12:1,2

Weed or flower?

Many things can hinder excellence from characterizing our life, disrupting growth, or limit reaching our God given destiny. It takes perseverance to ceaselessly dig up every “it” growing invasively in our lives.

Even small things are capable of producing great damage! Everything that potentially entangles our progress must by God’s grace be dug out!

Tenacity

But how is tenacity different? Tenacity simply means “not easily pulled apart.” It is the glue, the stick to it ability, either to something or someone.

Have you ever walked through a patch of burrs? Then you have experienced tenacity! A little burr knows how to stick, refusing to leave its place of attachment.

After Jesus taught a particularly difficult concept, many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” When the going got tough, those who lacked tenacity got going, but in the wrong direction!

“You do not want to leave too, do you?”
Jesus asked the Twelve.
Simon Peter answered him,
“Lord, to whom shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life.
We have come to believe
and to know that you are
the Holy One of God.”
John 6:67-68

Right answer, Peter!

Peter possesses tenacity, sticking like glue to Jesus! Why? He had “come to believe” that Jesus really was “the Holy One of God”. Peter stuck to God and his faith! He wasn’t about to switch allegiance mid stride.

Unlimited possibility and opportunity for excellence awaits those who tenaciously stick like glue to Jesus.

“For I can do everything
through Christ,
who gives me strength.”
Philippians 4:13

Winning Team!

Persistence and tenacity! Persistence pushes against opposition! Tenacity holds to what is valuable! We need wisdom to know when each is needed.

Do you possess far-reaching goals? Are you aiming for excellence? Don’t expect a “quick fix” or an easy come scenario!

Tug-O-War

Whether your goal is an enduring marriage a thriving business or a vibrant ministry, persistence and tenacity will assist in achieving that outcome. Whether something grand or simply living each day well, these qualities form the path of success.

On the ground is where I was when God whispered these words into my heart. Getting up is always the first step to excellence!

Together, let’s get off the ground and start digging again?

It is encouraging when people stop and comment on the beauty or productivity of our little garden. Sometimes people even comment on changes they have noticed in my life! Whether outside in my garden or inside in my heart, there is a reward for persistence and tenacity.

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Betty Boettger – Letting God Lead the Way!

For this supercharged senior, letting God lead the way is paramount! The difficulties that have crushed and silenced others have become her platform announcing victory and hope found in Jesus Christ.

The following verse appropriately describes this woman’s life:

We are hard pressed on every side,
but not crushed;
perplexed, but not in despair;
persecuted, but not abandoned;
struck down, but not destroyed.

We always carry around in our body
the death of Jesus,
so that the life of Jesus
may also be revealed in our body.”
2 Corinthians 4:8-10

A leisurely withdrawal from active service is the desire of many women her age. Betty is far from typical however!

Beginnings

Betty was born and raised in the Swift Current area of Saskatchewan. Her father, a Royal Air Force pilot from England, left his wife and his daughter in Saskatchewan when he returned to England after the war. Betty lived with her grandparents until her grandmother died of cancer when she was twelve.

Feeling angry, alone and abandoned, it was the age of turning for Betty.

The woods became a shelter where no one could see her play, wait and hide. In the seclusion of trees, Betty encountered a personal relationship with Jesus as Saviour. She simply talked to Him and He became extremely real to her.

“I love you, LORD, my strength.
The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my saviour;
my God is my rock, in whom I find protection.
He is my shield, the power that saves me,
and my place of safety.”
Psalms 18:1-2

As a teenager, Betty met Bob who was seven years older than her. He was the same faith, good looking and had attended university.  Intrigued, she became his wife at 16.

Marriage

Because Bob was polite and courteous while dating, Betty was unaware of the abusive situation ahead. Unknown to Betty, he was a “drunk”, a severe alcoholic. Only ten days into their marriage, she was beaten for the first time. This pattern of drinking and abuse marked the next 17 years.

Two to three times a week, Bob would come home angry and for no apparent reason, severely beat his bride. It formed a painful cycle their children witnessed on multiple occasions.

Betty called out to God many times in those years, as she sat at the window, watching, waiting, knowing what would occur when her husband returned. Even in the midst of brutal attacks, Jesus was always there!

What kept her in the marriage?

She knew Bob never liked what he did. She also knew he was never unfaithful to her. Lastly, in spite of the violence, Betty knew somehow he loved her. Yet, he didn’t seem to have any control over his conduct.

“But in my distress
I cried
out to the LORD;
yes, I prayed to my God for help.
He heard me from his sanctuary;
my cry to him reached his ears.”
Psalm 18:6

Difficult Years

Early in marriage, Betty also carried the responsibility for her brother-in-law’s four children, when their mother abandoned them. The basic comforts and conveniences of running water or central heating were unavailable. It was a difficult life — physically, emotionally and spiritually.

After 17 years, Bob fell to his knees at the hitch of the farm tractor. He said, “God if you are real, there has to be more to life than this.”

“He reached down from on high
and took hold of me;
he drew me out of deep waters.
He rescued me from my powerful enemy.”
Psalm 18:16-17

Instantly God healed, saved and delivered him from all his addictions and violent behaviour. Bob began to experience the freedom of letting God lead!

He didn’t disclose to Betty what had happened until two years later. He came in from the tractor and announced, “Things are going to change!”

Betty’s first thought was, “How?”

A dramatic and welcome change occurred, however!

Delivered

In the remainder of their 21 years together, he never drank, smoked, threw food or beat his wife. Bob became a powerful man of God, praying his family into the kingdom.

“As for God, his way is perfect:
The LORD’s word is flawless;
he shields all who take refuge in him.
For who is God besides the LORD?
And who is the Rock except our God?”
Psalm 18:30-31

Together they started watching Christian television. Many times Betty recommitted her life to Christ watching 100 Huntley Street. Betty began to walk hand in hand with her husband, letting God lead them together.

They read the bible believing all that was promised. Miracles were the norm. They saw God do many things during those years. They knew they just had to ask and God would provide.

Though Bob’s transformation and deliverance was instant, it took about 10 years for Jesus to heal their marriage. Betty never hated her husband. However after years of abuse, she did not love him.

Restored

Many who live in abusive situations experience this reality, because the love of God available for them is consistently undermined.

Betty knew in her head God loved her. “The space between God and I was no problem! The space between my head and my heart was!” she confesses.

One weekend, Betty travelled to Medicine Hat to their son’s hockey tournament. Bob stayed at home. While reading in the bedroom, he saw a vivid vision of Betty standing in the doorway. She appeared more beautiful than ever before.

Amazed by her beauty, he said, “God, I don’t see her that way.”

“Well, I do!” God’s voice boomed so loud it cracked the window in the bedroom.

“Ok! Ok!” Bob fearfully said.

As he later related the vision to Betty, the realization of the God’s great love for her shifted from her head to her heart. Such love has never left her!

Through the power of God, the family grew and became strong. Betty completed a university degree while her children were in school. She became a rural municipality secretary, a notary of public, and served on the hospital board and a school board for many years.

Letting God lead in a new way, Betty started a home based business which grew over the next 35 years. For nine years she owned her own kitchen supply store in the Swift Current mall.

Bob went to be with the Lord in 1997 as a result of cancer.

God’s Lead

Ordained with two Pentecostal organizations, Betty was launched into ministry with a heart for evangelism and bringing hope to the abused. After experiencing healing and the baptism of the Holy Spirit, she ministers the same at every opportunity.

“It is God who arms me with strength
and keeps my way secure.
He makes my feet like the feet of a deer;
he causes me to stand on the heights.”
Psalm 18:32-33

Speaking opportunities soon opened for Betty from Vancouver Island to New Brunswick. Betty’s motto, “If you’re not a missionary, you’re a mission field.” 

Pursuing itinerant ministry, she had no intention of marrying again. She was single, happy and fulfilled!

Unexpected Turn

While staying with mutual friends between ministry engagements, Betty was introduced to Dennis. In spite of there being little time for interaction, one night God laid Dennis on her heart.

Betty wanted no part of marriage!

She challenged, “God if this is You, You are messing up my life.”

Nonetheless Betty added, “But I know that You know what is good for me better than I do, so if this is You, You are going to have to make it plain to me. If this is You, tell him to ask me to go to Ottawa tomorrow.” Never one for the “tourist thing”, the request was unusual!

The next morning as Betty was making breakfast, Dennis asked, “What are you doing today? … I am going to do the tourist thing and go to Ottawa. I wondered if you would like to come along.”

Shocked, she sat in a chair! God had given confirmation. Even while letting God lead, Betty stayed three feet away from Dennis all day, unwilling to even use the armrest in the car.

How could a relationship even develop? One from Saskatchewan, the other from Alberta! One a farmer, the other in medicine! Both from different denominations! Yet her heart was being stirred!

Though Betty knew God was speaking, it would take a little longer for Dennis to hear. And Betty was in no way willing to help the process along!

By a sovereign work of the Lord, they were married in 2004 at Thanksgiving. Together they have six sons, six daughters-in-law and 20 grandchildren. All love the Lord and are serving Him.

New Beginning

You have given me your shield of victory.
Your right hand supports me;
your help has made me great.
You have made a wide path for my feet
to keep them from slipping.”
Psalm 18:35-36

Today Betty touches lives at every opportunity, bringing hope and assurance that God loves and cares.

Before remarriage, Betty ministered itinerantly across Canada as an evangelist and in healing ministry. She has seen many lives changed, hearts and bodies healed. Jesus remains unquestionably her first love.

Accepting God’s change became a great blessing! Betty now says, “I would not know what it is like to be so incredibly happy.

She counsels all ages, “If you are looking for someone in your life, let God do the choosing. Go to Him to choose your mate. Don’t go looking yourself!”

Together Dennis and Betty have ministered to the nations of Costa Rica, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Singapore, Spain, and the United States of America. In Canada, they continue to impact lives in eight provinces and territories, faithfully returning to Inuvik twice a year.

The impact of their ministry continues from the Arctic Circle to Virginia and from British Columbia to New Brunswick.

“The LORD lives!
Praise be to my Rock!
Exalted be God my Saviour!…
Therefore, I will praise you, LORD,
among the nations;
I will sing the praises of your name.”
Psalm 18:46-49

God made no mistake in bringing this couple together! Easing back is not in the Boettger’s near future!

Dennis and Betty exemplify letting God lead all the way! Supercharged and ready to go? Absolutely! Together they minister with liberty and transparency, wherever God gives opportunity.

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Watch 100 Huntley Street Interview 2019:

http://www.100huntley.com/watch?id=228012

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FdODC1as7Co 

 

Forgiven: The Freedom of Forgiveness

To know you are forgiven is one of the greatest gifts this side of heaven. Yet few people experience the fullness of forgiveness toward themselves or others.

A question I often hear repeated is, “How can I counsel others to godliness when I fail so miserably myself?”

The answer is, “We are people of promise not prisoners of our past. The past neither defines nor limits us.”

Like most people, forgiving others and receiving forgiveness is a recurring pattern. I can go through the process of forgiving and think I have overcome, until …

I see the offender,
rehearse injustice mentally or verbally,
or a sadness infects
random moments
with recurring pain.

Have I really forgiven? Am I forgiven?

Justice and mercy

Necessary

Jesus taught the disciples to pray,

“And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
Matthew 6:12

Forgiveness is a pivotal piece! To be forgiven, first we must forgive!

“For if you forgive other people
when they sin against you,
your Heavenly Father will also forgive you.
But if you do not
forgive others their sins,
your Father will not forgive your sins
Matthew 6:14-15

To forgive and be forgiven is not optional! God explicitly states, “To be forgiven, one must be forgiving!” Our willingness to show mercy, opens the gate to receive mercy.

Forgivenss Corrie Ten Boom

Forgiveness removes the invisible but powerful bondage of past hurts. Setting others free releases us to live unhindered.

Neil Anderson in his book “The Bondage Breaker” defines forgiveness as a “crisis of the will.” Rightly so!

Misconceptions

There are many misconceptions surrounding forgiveness:

  • Forgiveness is not forgetting. It does begin the healing of wounds, however.
  • The offender is not “let off the hook” through forgiveness. Everyone remains fully accountable to God.
  • Forgiveness is a choice of the will not a feeling. Feelings will follow choice.
  • Forgiveness never approves hurtful conduct.
  • No circumstance is too difficult to forgive. Only after forgiving will you be released from the pain.

Jesus carried every offense to the cross. In the midst of indescribable agony he prayed,

“Father, forgive them,
for they do not know what they are doing.”
Luke 23:34

Forgiven - Robertson

Jesus set the example, giving each of us the ability to forgive and be forgiven. Every act of forgiveness demonstrates God’s grace.

We all remember Peter’s sincere confession before the cross,

“Even if all fall away on account of you,
I never will.”
Matthew 26:33

We also know how that scene played out! Jesus knew the frailty of His closest followers. Three times Peter betrayed the Master; each time more vehemently,

“He began to call down curses,
and he swore to them,
‘I don’t know this man
you’re talking about.'”
Mark 14:71

Tears of grief and shame were powerless to wash the agonizing pain of his betrayal! One moment confessing unquestionable allegiance; the next cowering in fear and treachery.

Peter Restored

As Jesus hung on the cross, He spoke words that span all time or circumstance,

“Father forgive them,
for they don’t know what they are doing.”
Luke 23:34

It would take even more than this to penetrate Peter’s wounded heart.

Often the hardest ones to forgive are ourselves. Where is the limit on God’s grace? Does it include my adultery, my lying and deception, my thievery, or shedding of blood  through abortion or even murder? Does forgiveness have limits?

Agonizing questions many have wrestled long and hard over. Can I be forgiven? Is the blood of Christ enough?

Jesus confronts the point of Peter’s deepest pain, his betrayal. Three times Peter rejected Jesus and three times Jesus presses his hand of compassion and grace on that tender spot:

“Simon son of John,
do you love me more than these?…”
“Simon son of John, do you love me?…”
Do you love me?”
John 21:15-19

The painful public reminder of Peter’s personal failure cut deep. Betrayal of Jesus tore every thread of Peter’s resolve. For days he was stuck in the quagmire of guilt and shame, questioning his identity, purpose and calling to “feed my sheep.” 

Like a skilled surgeon, Jesus took the knife of forgiveness cutting away Peter’s failure. Every cancerous source of doubt exposed and removed forever!

Forgiven

In the natural, I view such public confrontation of a man’s failure as bordering on cruel and unjust. Since the offense was public, Jesus knew the restitution also must be public. What to me seems cruel became a powerful turning point in Peter’s life!

How am I so certain forgiveness became personally grasped and possessed in that moment?

Forgivenss has no rights

A few days later, forgiven and free, Peter declared to the Jewish crowd,

“The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,
the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus.
You handed him over to be killed,
and you disowned him before Pilate,
though he had decided to let him go.
You disowned the Holy and Righteous One
and asked that a murderer be released to you.
You killed the author of life
but God raised him from the dead.”
Acts 3:13-15

Peter could never so boldly confront others for disowning Jesus if he remained haunted by personal guilt, condemnation, or self-loathing. “Forgiven” was stamped across every word! By God’s grace alone, he “fed the sheep”!

Refreshing

His words, unmarred by condemnation, were bathed in the compassionate mercy and grace only those fully forgiven can express. From the depths of a heart radically forgiven, Peter grants to others what he so lavishly received.

Repent, then, and turn to God,
so that your sins may be wiped out,
that times of refreshing may come
from the Lord.”
Acts 3:19

The Greek word rendered “refreshing,” means “breathing,” or “refreshment“, after being heated with labor, running, etc. It denotes “any kind of refreshment, rest, or deliverance from evil.” Only here is this word used.

Peter rested forgiven before the Saviour he once denied. He experienced the deep refreshing, strength and energizing promised!

Many Christians who declare Christ as Saviour continue to

live as powerless victims,
prisoners bound by personal sin or
the offense of others,
weaponless warriors worn from fighting
battles long gone and eternally won.

Mark 2:5

Jesus still speaks clearly as He once did to a paraplegic (Mark 2:5), a woman caught in adultery (John 8:11), and a notorious sinner and social outcast (Luke 7:39),

“My child, your sins are forgiven.”
Mark 2:5

Who are we to withhold from others or ourselves, what Christ has freely given?

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Extra Resources:

Steps to Forgiveness:

Neil T. Anderson recommends making a list of every painful memory and the persons involved. Then one by one go through the list with this prayer:

“Lord Jesus, I choose to forgive (name the person)
for (what he or she did or failed to do)
because it made me feel
(Share the painful feelings,
such as rejected, dirty, worthless or inferior).”

After you have forgiven every person for every painful memory, pray this prayer as well.

“Lord Jesus, I choose not to hold on to my resentment.
I relinquish my right to seek revenge,
and I ask You to heal my damaged emotions.
thank You for setting me free from the bondage of bitterness.
I now ask that You bless those who have hurt me.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

(Taken from Interactive Workbook, The Bondage Breaker, Pg 73-74, Harvest House Publishing)

Booklet:

“What Christians Should Know About the Importance of Forgivenessby John Arnott, Sovereign World Limited

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A Time to be Silent and a Time to Speak

Thankfully God gave me two ears and only one mouth! Given that ratio I should be listening twice as much as speaking. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, God positioned my mouth visibly in front!

Charles Wesley wrote a great hymn called, “O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing.” Honestly, at times I have trouble managing one tongue, let alone a thousand! Only what goes in through the ears comes out through the mouth!

Democracy attempts to give equal voice to poor and rich, unknown or famous, young as well as old. Though I reside in a democratic nation I actually attempt to live from Kingdom of God principles. A kingdom is not democratic!

Tongue talk!

Lately my King Jesus has been pinpointing some of my speaking problems. Sometimes the issue is a shortage of words; other times it is the type of words resonating from my lips that create the difficulty.

Advice to a King

This morning I read a mother’s advice to her kingly son. Listening to your mother is always important! When such advice is in the bible, it deserves even greater attention!

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
Proverbs 31:8-9

Many segments of our society are “voiceless”, and easily ignored, even in a democracy.

Silenced by fear and intimidation,
bullied into the shadows,
multitudes know
the censorship of accusation,
manipulation and control.

The cost of speaking up can be extremely high! Who will speak for the unborn, the elderly, the intellectually disabled, the ones without home or identity? The challenge reaches beyond a king’s son to each of us.

The Problem

The bible speaks on numerous occasions admonishing the importance of listening. In many instances silence is the wiser, more excellent, way! Here is a sampling:

  • Set a guard over my mouth, Lord;
    keep watch over the door of my lips.” Psalms 141:3

  • “Those who guard their lips preserve their lives,
    but those who speak rashly will come to ruin.” Proverbs 13:3

  • “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this:
    Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak…” James 1:19

  • “The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint,
    and whoever has understanding is even-tempered.” Proverbs 17:27

Silence!

There is just reason for such encouragement! I will spare you the details of my personal tongue wagging when silence would have been appropriate. Understanding combined with grace contribute of listening well.

Silence arises either from the womb of wisdom or the tomb of shame? The first releases life; the second is a dark prison.

“There is a time for everything
…a time to be silent
and a time to speak,”
Ecclesiastes 3:1,7

A Time to Speak

When is the right time to speak? And how? Solomon offers sound advice:

“…the wise heart will know
the proper time and procedure.
For there is a proper time
and procedure for every matter.”
Ecclesiastes 8:5-6

Jesus said,

“A good man brings good things
out of the good stored up in his heart,
and an evil man brings evil things
out of the evil stored up in his heart.
For the mouth speaks
what the heart is full of.”
Luke 6:45

Speak up!

My tongue may be situated close to my brain, but it is inseparably connected to my heart! If I’m having trouble with my tongue, the heart, not diction, is the real issue.

  • “When she speaks, her words are wise,
    and she gives instructions with kindness.” Proverbs 31:26

  • “Like apples of gold in settings of silver
    is a ruling rightly given.” Proverbs 25:11

  • “Let your conversation be always full of grace,
    seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Colossians 4:6

  • “A person finds joy in giving an apt reply 
    and how good is a timely word!
    Proverbs 15:23

The Power of Words

Words hold incredible power

to forgive and restore,
build and encourage,
impart wisdom and share knowledge,
inspire and motivate,
teach and train.

At times, wordless voids create deafening silence. A silence leaving others feeling unloved, unwanted, insignificant, used, or shunned. The right words validate, show respect, affirm and cherish. They sooth wounds and minister healing. Well spoken words bring understanding, lift burdens, and ease pain. They release permission to dream, aspire, and hope. Words powerfully protect the weak and ensure justice prevails.

“If anyone sins
because they do not speak up
when they hear a public charge
to testify regarding something
they have seen or learned about,
they will be held responsible.”
Leviticus 5:1

Responsibility!

Silence is not always an option! Failure to use our voice has eternal consequences!

Responsibility

The most important message we have is the Gospel of Jesus Christ; “it is the power of God unto salvation to every one who believes”. Many have misquoted Francis of Assisi as saying, “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.”

Actually, he was advocating for words and actions to accurately reflect each other. Look what Francis of Assisi modelled:

(He) clearly spent a great deal of time using his words when he preached,
“sometimes preaching in up to five villages a day, often outdoors.
In the country, Francis often spoke from a bale of straw
or a granary doorway. In town, he would climb on a box
or up steps in a public building. He preached to . . .
any who gathered to hear the strange
but fiery little preacher from Assisi.”

Paul asks his Roman readers a relevant question,

But how can they call on him
to save them unless they believe in him?
And how can they believe in him
if they have never heard about him?
And how can they hear about him
unless someone tells them?

Romans 10:14

Ears to hear!

We have both voice and influence. Daily there is opportunity to share our personal stories of faith with others. These simple heartfelt words may be the channel God uses to bring someone into faith in Jesus Christ.

No Greater Joy

A young woman excitedly shared how she through faltering prayer, lead a friend into personal relationship with Jesus. Her own conversion to faith is fresh; her bible knowledge limited. One thing she knows — Jesus is worth it all!

Tears of joy and gratitude streamed down her face as she spoke. This experience of witnessing someone come to Christ has trumped her Christian experience. Well it should!

Yet mixed with tears of joy were also tears of sadness as she exclaimed, “Why didn’t someone tell me? Why did I have to wait until I was over thirty years old to hear about Jesus? How different my life would have been if someone would have shared Jesus with me sooner!”

There is no greater joy!  With equal enthusiasm heaven and earth should celebrate when a sinner comes home!

“In the same way, I tell you,
there is rejoicing in the presence
of the angels of God
over one sinner who repents.”
Luke 15:7

Ducks in a row!

We don’t need all our spiritual “ducks in a row” with impeccable theology or living in holy perfection to be effective voices for the Kingdom of God. God looks for the willing!

Voices willing to speak
when hearts are tender;
voices willing to challenge
when injustice rises.

Today I’m praying for the right words combined with boldness to speak them! The results are up to God! I can hardly wait to see what He will do!

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Advent – Mary, Mother of Jesus

Mary, the mother of Jesus, is a perfect example of God’s way of choosing those the world would call ordinary to reveal His extraordinary. Man places emphasis on outer appearance; God focuses on heart.

“But God hath chosen the foolish things
of the world to confound the wise;
and God hath chosen the weak things
of the world to confound
the things which are mighty;”
1 Corinthians 1:27

What did God see in Mary? What set her apart from all others?

Favoured Mother

An angel appeared to Mary saying,

“Greetings, you who are highly favoured!
The Lord is with you.”
Luke 1:28

Favoured here means to bestow grace upon or endue with special honour. It is the same verb used in Ephesians 1:6 where it is translated, freely given, poured upon, blessed with, bestowed, or made accepted. It is a reminder that all merit or grace comes from The Lord — for Mary and for us.

Pregnant

The angel continued,

“…Do not be afraid, Mary;
you have found favour with God.

You will conceive and give birth to a son,
and you are to call him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called
the Son of the Most High.
The Lord God will give him
the throne of his father David,

and he will reign over
Jacob’s descendants forever;
his kingdom will never end.”
Luke 1:30-33

Questions rose like unstoppable waves in Mary’s mind. A virgin conceive? The angel gently calms her fear; this conception, unlike any other, will be through the Holy Spirit.

Mary received by faith what many professing Christians continue to doubt — the virgin birth of the Messiah. How could this be possible?

“For no word from God will ever fail.
Luke 1:37

Servant Mother

This verse literally translated says, “With the word God gives, He gives the power to fulfill it”. Mary believed! Her faith rested in the Almighty God who gave His Word.

“I am the Lord’s servant,”
Mary answered.
“May your word to me be fulfilled...”
Luke 1:38 

Don’t be deceived! Mary’s declaration wasn’t new! Long before this day, Mary had already chosen The One she would serve. Choices predetermined in the calm will not waiver in the storm. Decisions made in the day will go unquestioned during the night. In human weakness, God proves strong!

Newborn baby

Mary quickly hurried off to see Elizabeth & Zechariah. Elizabeth carried in her once barren womb the child destined to prepare the way for the coming Messiah.

“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting,
the baby leaped in her womb,
and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
Luke 1:41

Elizabeth prophesied blessing upon Mary and The Holy Child hidden within. What extravagant worship flowed from the hearts of these two amazing mothers — one whose days appeared almost over, another whose life was barely beginning!

Humble Worship

Mary`s first words acknowledge her need of a personal Saviour,

“…My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.”
Luke 1:47,48

Power, position, and privilege reveal true character. We find in this young woman, probably still a teenager, a steadfast, humble heart of worship.

Woman in worship

Embedded in her prayer is a dozen quotations from Old Testament Scriptures. Although she undoubtedly had no formal education and was illiterate, Mary had listened closely to the reading of God’s Word hiding it in her heart.

This treasuring of God’s Word continued. Whether coming from the mouths of worshipping shepherds or from the aged prophets, Simeon & Anna,

“…Mary treasured up all these things
and pondered them in her heart.
Luke 2:19

God’s words at times were piercing; at other times, like honey to the soul. Mary received them all with equal grace, humility, and surrender — treasuring, valuing, cherishing each as precious. Every utterance pregnant with promise!

A Mother’s Surrender

It is one thing to surrender ourselves; it is another to surrender our children. Mary, together with her husband Joseph, dedicated Jesus to the Lord. Women weren’t required to attend the yearly Passover; yet together Joseph and Mary went.

It was Mary who spoke up after Jesus had gone missing,

“After three days they found him
in the temple courts,
sitting among the teachers
listening to them and
asking them questions.”
Luke 2:46

Jesus felt “at home” in God’s house. Even though she didn’t understand, Mary again “treasured all these things in her heart.” Content, perhaps, to know her Son possessed a listening heart!

A mother, surrendered and listening to God, willingly yields her children to His design.

Years pass quickly! Like his father Joseph, Jesus became a carpenter. But for three days the carpenter’s shop was quiet; the apron unmoved upon the bench. A recent baptism! A cluster of followers forming!

Carpenter shop

Something was shifting; her mother heart knew it.

“They have no wine,” were her only words to Jesus.

“Woman why do you involve me?
Jesus replied.
My hour has not yet come.”
John 2:4

Refusing offence, her words to others echo her knowing heart, “Do whatever he tells you.” Surrender precedes miracle!

No time for demanding or needing,
manipulation or co-dependency,
self-pity or control.

“Do whatever he tells you.”

Steadfast Mother

Without understanding all God was doing, Mary gave her Son again, and again, and yet again to His Sovereign will

as an infant and then a child,
at the wedding in Cana,
and when people called Him
crazy or demon-possessed,
even at the cross,
and the tomb.

Jesus, death and resurrection

From conception on, Mary believed.  She followed Jesus both with a mother’s love and a disciple’s commitment. In steadfast devotion, she accompanied His last fatal journey to Golgotha.

To the tomb she plodded with heart numbed by grief. Here, on resurrection morning, sorrow turned to joy! Mary and a handful of women were among the first to voice this powerful message,

“He is not here:
for he is risen, as he said.”
Matthew 28:6

Was she one of the unnamed with “The Eleven and those … assembled together” when Jesus entered revealing nail-scarred hands and feet?  Later after Jesus’ ascension, we see her among those continually praying in the upper room. Waiting and seeking the promised Holy Spirit.

Years of prayerful abiding, sustained and prepared her.

And I will ask the Father,
and he will give you another advocate
to help you and be with you forever
 the Spirit of truth.
The world cannot accept him,
because it neither sees
him nor knows him. But you know him,
for he lives with you
and will be in you.”

John 14:16-17

Mother of Promise

Mary was one woman, a “humble servant”, who treasured God’s promise — not for a moment but for a life time.

What about us? Whether man or woman! We too can become people of promise as we

surrender in humble submission,
cherish God’s word as precious,
believe beyond understanding,
position ourselves in prayer,
and steadfastly follow
The Master.

In weakness, we find strength. God is adequate in our insufficiency. Upon common circumstance, He breathes His extraordinary, crowning our little with favour.

The Bible

Until, in Him we too become children of promise!

 “So in Christ Jesus you are
all children of God through faith,

for all of you who were baptized into Christ
have clothed yourselves with Christ.

There is neither Jew nor Gentile,
neither slave nor free,
nor is there male and female,
for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

If you belong to Christ,
then you are Abraham’s seed,
and heirs according to the promise.”
Galatians 3:26-29

Mary became an unexpected heir of promise, not once but twice. First in her womb, as a virgin; then in her heart, as a disciple. What generations had long hoped for, Mary received — Christ, the Saviour!

Now by faith in Jesus Christ, there is equal access. The promise of eternal salvation is offered freely to each of us. Who today will believe? Will you? Will I?

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Looking, Seeing, Keeping Eyes Open

Looking without seeing is a blinding condition in more ways that one! I can drive the same road day after day, week after week without noticing the environment around me. Suddenly, I will see something as if for the first time that actually isn’t new. Though I was looking, I wasn’t truly seeing! My eyes were not open to the obvious.

Does anyone else have the same problem?

“Keep your eyes open for God,
watch for his works;
be alert for signs of his presence.”
Psalm 105:4 MSG

By watching closely, we will see evidence of God all around us.

Ezekiel

God brought Ezekiel to the temple court – the place where the priests minister. When Ezekiel looked, he saw a “hole” in the wall.

"I looked and I saw a hole in the wall"

“Then he brought me to the entrance to the court.
I looked, and I saw a hole in the wall.
He said to me, “Son of man, now dig into the wall.”
So I dug into the wall and saw a doorway there.”
Ezekiel 8: 7-8

When Ezekiel began digging “into the wall”, a doorway became visible. Looking, seeing and digging wasn’t enough! God asked Ezekiel to go through the doorway to look harder, more intentionally, at the condition of his city.

He challenged Ezekiel, “Look! Observe! Pay attention!

What Ezekiel saw was disturbing!

Looking Personally

I assist hurting people every week as they wade through destructive life circumstances, helping them “look” at the truth of God’s word personally and “see” hope in Christ. My work with others often awakens a fresh awareness of areas needed in my own personal development and healing journey.

Opening the way to see!

God desires for each us to be on a continuing trajectory to health and wholeness. I have come a long way, but have a long way to go.

“But by the grace of God I am what I am,
and his grace to me was not without effect.”
I Corinthians 15:10

What you see now is not what I used to be! Thankfulness for all God has done is appropriate. Allowing myself to be blinded to the need for continued personal growth, however, is harmful. Change is not optional, but rather mandatory, for Christians!

As a lay minister, it is often in this place of assisting others that my own “gaps” and “holes” become most evident. It is the perfect place for God to reveal points of His unfinished work.

“Stop! Look closer!” I’ll sense Him say.

When I am willing to look, He allows me to see more broken jagged edges!

Taking a closer look at negative life patterns

Holy Spirit reveals hidden places of self-protection, negative thought patterns and recurring destructive behaviours. Blinded by familiarity, these patterns would otherwise go unnoticed.

It amazes me how much of life can be lived without any serious looking or digging!

Only when I am willing to become honest before God and others will the avenue of healing and liberty be exposed to view. Thankful for victories past, I prepare to work on present trouble spots! In the space between past and future I feel the burden of now — fragile, exposed, and vulnerable.

Progress

Looking isn’t easy! The depravity within and without is wearying, even horrifying! My willingness to see, however, precedes any victory to come.

Seeing the best of every circumstance

God will not do the work for me; He waits for my active participation in the process. I must look with intention! Purposefully digging beneath protective layers requires obedience to open the door of my heart and mind to His examination.

In the looking, Christ is with me.
He is enough in the digging.
In the opening, He is present.
The cross has paid the price.
In my groping,
I find “It is finished!

My eyes turn back to the bible, as I continue to read

“In the morning
the word of the LORD came to me…”
Ezekiel 12:8

There is always a morning! A new day! A fresh opportunity!

His Word transcends…
Truth penetrates…
Light overcomes…

His Word transcends… Truth penetrates… Light overcomes…

There must be present a purposeful intention both inwardly and outwardly; never so outwardly focused I am inwardly complacent nor inwardly minded that I am outwardly negligent.

Never so outwardly focused I am inwardly complacent nor inwardly minded that I am outwardly negligent. Click To Tweet

God was the One who directed Ezekiel’s sight-line. He is willing and able to aim my own.

With a Purpose

It is possible to maintain a quiet trust and confidence embedded within a surrendered heart. He turns my gaze, focusing my vision on what He wants me to see and become.

When He is says, “Dig”, I will have the strength to respond! When He says, “Look”, I will have the grace to see. Then, and only then, will He give me the wisdom to open the doorway to the next place of deliverance and freedom.

In it all, we see Christ and His divine purpose:

“We look at this Son and see the God
who cannot be seen.
We look at this Son and see God’s
original purpose in everything created.”
Colossians 1: 15 MSG

We look at this Son and see the God who cannot be seen.

It is astonishing to realize that in everything Christ can be seen, when we are willing to look. Regardless of circumstances, God’s wonder is revealed in every direction, including our common ordinary.

We look
to see,
surrendered,
moving beyond,
ever forward
from strength to strength.

The courage of one, raises the tidal mark of bravery for others. As one person strides forward in victory, others are inspired to take similar fragile steps. Is this not the appearance of faith? Looking and seeing! Keeping our eyes constantly open for the movements of God!

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Personal testimonies worth sharing again:

A Daughter’s Redemption! Dawn Enters a New Day!

The Prodigal Returns, Prayer Answered! Running No More!

The Lost Meaning of Repentance

Language is in constant fluid motion; words often change meaning over time. Repentance is one example of a word with value and meaning shifting over the years.

Linguists, those who studies language, tell us that youth culture changes language about every 6 months. Dictionary writers update, adding new words and adapting meanings of existing words, continuously. It’s not much wonder confusion arises when certain words are used. Some members of the population may understand one meaning, while another segment may have a totally different concept in mind.

Here are just a few words as examples:

  1. Awful now means something very bad or unpleasant, disgusting, horrible or terrible. At one time, awful meant “worthy of awe”.
  2. Fizzle once referred to the act of producing quiet flatulence. Now it simply means to come to a gradual end.
  3. Clue, or clew, was a ball of yarn. Today it has the meaning of “evidence or information used in the detection of a crime or solving of a mystery”.

Repentance

Biblical repentance goes beyond the dictionary’s definition of “sincere regret or remorse“. Remorse is a deep regret or guilt for wrong committed. A person can be sincerely remorseful without ever repenting.

Remorse, regret and repentance

“Why is definition important?” one might ask?

Jesus responded to accusations of socializing with the wrong crowd by saying,

“I have not come to call the righteous,
but sinners to repentance.”
Luke 5:32

If Jesus purposefully came to draw people to repentance, it is imperative we have a clear understanding of what He was actually meaning.

After hearing Peter’s first sermon, the people were deeply remorseful and knew they needed to do something about their spiritual condition, but they honestly had no idea what to do. Peter’s response was,

“… Repent and be baptized, every one of you,
in the name of Jesus Christ
for the forgiveness of your sins.
And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Acts 2: 38

Repentance to biblical writers reached beyond feelings of guilt or shame. It was necessary for anyone coming into relationship with God. Years later Peter’s message hadn’t changed:

“The Lord … is patient with you,
not wanting anyone to perish,
but everyone to come to repentance.”
2 Peter 3:9

Eternal Significance

Truth is truth! Whether I believe it or reject it, truth remains true forever. Where each of us will spend eternity hangs in the balance of this one word — repentance.

In a world of political correctness and apologetic niceties, I must be honest. Eternal hell is full of those deeply remorseful and in constant regret of sin.

Godly sorrow brings repentance
that leads to salvation and leaves no regret,
but worldly sorrow brings death.”
2 Corinthians 7:10

To repent is simply to change one’s mind toward God and sin. It is a voluntary change of will, feeling and action toward God involving not just a feeling bad about what one has done wrong or the consequences faced. It is a “godly sorrow” leading one to confess and renounce sin turning away from it completely.

Repentance is a changing of one's mind

Where once sin held great pleasure and lure, now it is seen clearly for its true destructive nature,

“For the wages of sin is death;
but the gift of God is eternal life
through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Romans 6:23

Sin is always deadly! Always! But when a person repents, God extends His wonderful gift of life, available because of Jesus’ work through His death and resurrection.

A Good Trade

Sometimes I have made what would be considered a “poor” trade to give someone else an advantage: taking the smaller portion of desert, using the broken pencil, choosing an uncomfortable position… I’m sure you have too.

A few years ago a man traded a single red paperclip. Fourteen trades later, he traded with the Town of Kipling Saskatchewan for a house. A paperclip for a house is a good trade, but not the best trade!

“If my people,
who are called by my name,
will humble themselves and pray
and seek my face
and turn from their wicked ways,
then I will hear from heaven,
and I will forgive their sin
and will heal their land.”
2 Chronicles 7:14

I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land

Now we are talking good trade! Trading pride for humility to draw close to God! Better yet, repenting and turning from “wicked ways” and receiving forgiveness and healing. That is a good trade!

I love the “I will”s of the bible. There are promises of God available if we assume our responsibility. This one verse contains three such amazing promises — all are connected directly to repentance.

No Regrets

Sometimes people genuinely feel so attached to their sinful life style they honestly feel to repent would deprive them of joy. It is a perceived “sacrifice” many are unwilling to make.

True repentance accesses indescribable freedom and pleasure in obeying God. Undoubtedly, there is a loathing of the sin that once held them in bondage. For Christians, life is not a list of “dos and don’ts”, but rather fullness of joy in fellowship with God and others.

“You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”
Psalm 16:11

The fullness of joy!Sin holds pleasure for only a season! Repentance is the path to enjoying life fully now and for eternity.  There are no regrets to such a life choice!

It remains vitally important that we maintain the biblical meaning of repentance as God intended. Individually and corporately it is a principle leading to life and spiritual wholeness.

“Repentance means turning from
as much as you know of your sin
to give as much as you know
of yourself to as much as
you know of your God,
and as our knowledge grows
at these three points so our practice
of repentance has to be enlarged.
J. I. Packer

Choice for Today

To the tender-hearted person of faith, repentance is a continuing process. Holy Spirit both convicts us of sin, bringing us into sharpened awareness of areas of rebellion toward God, while convincing us of the immeasurable grace available to all who believe.

Today is the day of salvation!

The liberating force within repentance is difficult to articulate and wonderful to experience.

“For he says,
“In the time of my favor I heard you,
and in the day of salvation I helped you.”
I tell you,
now is the time of God’s favor,
now is the day of salvation.”
2 Corinthians 6:2

There will be no better day than today! No better time than right now! Test and see just how good God is! I encourage you to take the step beyond remorse and regret to the freedom found in genuine repentance. It is the right time to experience God’s favor!

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Perspective and Choice – From the Bridge of the Cross

Since I’m nearsighted, I’ve worn corrective glasses since grade school. Being nearsighted may present problems, but having clear vision gives new perspective.

Failure to see clearly from an eternal viewpoint creates even more of a dilemma. Will I have a nearsighted perspective or choose a panoramic view? The cross of Christ is the bridge between two significant perspectives.

Paul put it this way:

“For now we see through a glass, darkly;
but then face to face: now I know in part;
but then shall I know even as also I am known.”
1 Corinthians 13:12

Now we see dimly!

Stick with me as I illustrate!

Boxes

In my office with laptop before me, dozens of national flags dot the wall beyond my desk. The telephone and my bible are tucked close. A travel mug of icy water completes the items within my limited view.

To my right, a picture of my husband, a thank you note and a certificate clutter my desk.  A reed basket of discipleship material sits atop a tote of children’s journals. Three prints of personal paintings fill the remaining desktop. They represent an invitation to worship, to intercession and to fullness of relationship with Christ. Above the desk, a hand painted banner from a young worship dancer declares “Church rules! God rules!

When I adjust my position a quarter turn, I view my office mate steadily working at her computer. A song of praise continuously flows both from her heart and the speaker beside her. Her backpack slumps lazily from a comfy corner chair.

From the final perspective, I view through a large window into a hallway. The window pane originated from the “mother” church planted within our city decades ago. Imprinted in the glass are images of the vibrancy of that little mission church with a sign announcing “Jesus Saves”.

Since I spend so much time here, I might be deceived into thinking this “box” I call my office is “my world.” Here the ceiling hangs low, the lighting artificial.

Boxes of familiarity will foster either love or hate!

We grow to love or hate our familiar boxes!

The Bridge

As I exit the church, the air is crisp as the wind wisps my hair in uncontrolled fashion. The noise of the street rises as I make my way unto the bridge spanning a busy bypass beneath. From the bridge, the view is drastically different from my office.

As I look back, my office is hidden within the larger church structure that dominates my view. A senior’s complex snuggles in the church’s shadow. On the opposite side of the roadway rests a cemetery sheltered by mature elm, maple and spruce. A condominium unit fills the remaining gap within focus.

Turning southward, I notice the university,  nestled by Wascana Creek. A teepee village circles the front lawn of one of the nearest buildings. The rush of traffic comes and goes from beneath my bridge.

To my right the view changes completely, as I look toward parks and walkways. Trees, wildflowers, and chirping birds invite me further.

Another quarter turn and I face the traffic full on: coming and going, crossing and merging, entering and exiting. The constant din of motors and wheels, exhaust fumes rising from hot pavement and rapid movement of vehicles bombards my senses.

Then I look up! Wisps of white swirl upon a otherwise barren canvas of cerulean blue. The sun’s warmth intensifying even at this early morning hour.

Spaces

I don’t stop here making my way to the other side. Though I am very close to the bridge the sounds and busyness are immediately hushed as I venture along this “natural” walkway. Trees gently bend their boughs in open arm movement overhead. Children laugh and play undisturbed in a nearby park. Birds swoop and twirl in the gentle breeze.

A space to breathe and then breathe again!

I look back wondering how I can still be so close to the bridge but so far removed from what was just steps away. My soul breathes, then breathes again.

I want to stay, to linger, to rest! Responsibility calls me back over the bridge to my office.

Perspective

My shared office is small with both limitations and opportunities. In this little “box” struggles, trials, and hurdles are overcome daily. I am thankful for the privileges and blessings here as well. “Boxes” bear many labels: marriage, life situation, illness, financial restraint…

My perspective of life can be viewed only from a “box” of duty or commitment. I can jealously look at other boxes and wonder why some are larger, more elaborate, with more benefits than mine! I can even begin to resent my box and its limitations.

Blessings are equally distracting! Opportunities or comfort obscure by vision, causing me to forget it is only a “box” – a part of the something much bigger.

Bridges span two realities. There is before me a solid bridge — the cross of Jesus Christ, connecting present reality to the truth of heaven’s eternal promise. From this bridge, perspective changes. Without ceiling, The Light is pure. It is the transition point between the world in which I walk and the eternal realm in which I truly live.

Under the cross all life flows! I am exposed to cultures beyond my own. It is fast paced, at times draining, but always satisfying. There is nothing boring about living the way of the cross!

From the cross I catch the breath-taking view of heaven’s domain. I touch a different reality, feeling the freedom of life fully lived. There are “cross-over” moments of resting in the Presence of the Almighty. Eternity welcomes me further!

Questions and Answers

The questions we have and the answers we seek will be determined by perspective. Sitting in nearsighted little boxes, questions of God may be self-seeking and self-motivated.

Questions and answers from the position of the cross usually focus outwardly toward others. Here a world view forms in line with scripture and the finished work of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.

As we taste and see the goodness of God in brief glimpses of what is to come, questions lose their urgency, answers become unnecessary in the Presence of the One who is The Answer!

We often fail to ask the right questions! Jesus, however, presented a question we all must ask. The answer will be a reflection of perspective.

“When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples,
Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist;
others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
“But what about you?” he asked. Who do you say I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah,
for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood,
but by my Father in heaven…”
Matthew 16:13-17

The ultimate question is, “Who is Jesus?”

While most people viewed Jesus from the lens of nearsighted religious perspective, Peter saw more. Jesus, the Messiah, Saviour, God with man, stood among them.

“Who do you say I am?”

The Answer

The answer to that question will determine how we face every other answer-less question. Is God who He said He is? Is He incomparably loving, immeasurably compassionate, completely just, righteous, gracious and kind. Do I know Him as all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-present? Can I trust Him?

Though the fig tree does not blossom
And there is no fruit on the vines,
Though the yield of the olive fails
And the fields produce no food,
Though the flock is cut off from the fold
And there are no cattle in the
stalls,
Yet I will [choose to] rejoice in the Lord;
I will [choose to] shout in exultation
in the [victorious] God of my salvation!

The Lord God is my strength
[my source of courage, my invincible army];

He has made my feet [steady and sure] like hinds’ feet
And makes me walk [forward with spiritual confidence]
on my high places [of challenge and responsibility].”
Habakkuk 3:17-19

In Him is courage and strength. Though weak in body, I consistently move forward in spite of challenges. Because of Jesus, I am free to enjoy the safety of my “box”, the connection of the bridge to God and others through the cross, as well as the wonder and abundance of heaven.

We shall be known, face to face!

With new perspective we can all “rejoice in the Lord” and “shout in exultation in the victorious God of (our) salvation.”

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Further Reading:

Something Better! God is Faithful to All He has Promised!

Hebrews 12 Throw Aside Every Weight and Sin

Second is Better Than First! When Second is Best!

No one intentionally aims to rank in second position. In fact, the desire to excel begins surprising young. For most people, expectations to consistently rank in top place is unrealistic. Is there ever a time when second is actually an advantage? Can second be best after all?

I have a lot of experience at second place! I was second oldest among my siblings. Scholastically I worked hard to achieve good grades, sometimes even coming in second best. At track meets the majority of ribbons earned were red, the reward for second. I even entered a writing competition in grade school. You guessed it — second place!

“Whatever is worth doing is worth doing right,” was my father’s motto for excellence. He was right! It is always a good practise to aim at doing our best.

Whatever your hand finds to do,
do it with all your might…”
Ecclesiastes 9:10

Trying for first! Achieving second!

Work willingly at whatever you do,
as though you were working for the Lord
rather than for people.”
Colossians 3:23

Often our best efforts don’t get us to the finish line the fastest, merit the achievement we hoped, or gain academic excellence. Then what?

The Issue of Pride

Jacob’s firstborn, and the one who should have received the birthright, was Reuben. But God rejected him for committing adultery with his father’s concubine. Simeon and Levi in vengeful anger annihilated an entire village. They too were checked off the list of eligible candidates for first place.

Jacob preferred Joseph’s son Ephraim for the honour of top choice. But God saw things differently!

“Then he rejected the tents of Joseph,
he did not choose the tribe of Ephraim;
but he chose the tribe of Judah…”
Psalm 78: 67-68

Why was Ephraim rejected as “first choice”?

You go first! I'll go second!

His name means “double fruitfulness“! What is more, the tribe of Ephraim was acclaimed for their skilled and mighty warriors. (1 Chron 12:30) Sounds like a top qualifier to me!

As we follow history, we see Ephraim’s descendants become overly proud of their abilities. On several occasions, they were more than a little upset about being excluded from battle or shunned from being chosen first. Pride, rebellion and disobedience enjoy cohabitation. The tribe of Ephraim accepted this ugly triad which ultimately led them away from God.

“Ephraim is joined to idols! Leave him alone!”
Hosea 4:17

Why Judah?

But why did God choose Judah? Judah was Jacob’s fourth son from his first wife Leah  — the wife he did not love. Jacob had two wives, two concubines, 12 sons and a daughter. To describe family life as dysfunctional would be a gross understatement!

First or second? Depends on the direction you're going!

In comparison to his older brothers, Judah would never be considered “righteous”. He had his own set of deviant behaviours! So why Judah?

Maybe, his mother started it!

“When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved,
he enabled her to conceive, but Rachel remained childless.
 
Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son.
She named him Reuben, for she said,
“It is because the Lord has seen my misery.
Surely my husband will love me now.”
She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son
she said, “Because the Lord heard that I am not loved,
he gave me this one too.”
So she named him Simeon.
Again she conceived, and when she gave birth to a son
she said, “Now at last my husband
will become attached to me,
because I have borne him three sons.”
So he was named Levi.
Genesis 29:31-34

Break Through

Second place is one thing; second place to a younger sister is unbearable. Especially when you share the same husband! Leah did everything she could to earn her husband’s favour. Nothing worked! She somehow reconciled herself to ever-present rejection, dwelling in the land of unloved.

It's my turn to be first!

Only those who have experienced such an agonizing existence, can appreciate her brave strength to praise God in the midst of her unending storm of pain.

She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son
she said, “This time I will praise the Lord.”
So she named him Judah.”
Genesis 29:35

Sacrificial praise extended in the midst of unbearable grief! Leah gave birth to more than a son. She brought forth undaunted worship, courageously choosing to turn her gaze away from people to God, Adonai, her Lord.

Judah’s birth was a turning point for Leah.

Another Second

Follow the family tree down a few generations and we come to David.

When the Israelites demanded a king, God agreed and sent Samuel to anoint Saul as the first king to rule over his people. (1 Sam 10) Saul, however, proved himself unfaithful being far more concerned with what people were thinking about him than how he stood before God.

“… Because you have rejected the word of the LORD,
he has rejected you as king.”
1 Samuel 15:23

Who is king now?

David’s father, Jesse, didn’t consider his young son even a remote possibility when Samuel came to anoint the future king. But God saw in David the perfect candidate to lead his people.

“So Samuel took the horn of oil
and anointed him in the presence of his brothers,
and from that day on the Spirit of the LORD
came powerfully upon David...”
1 Samuel 16:13

Undeniably, David as second king exceeding the first!

First and Second

The disciples felt an urgency to replace Judas Iscariot. They prayed, cast lots, and confidently chose Matthias. (Acts 1:24-26) God’s choice wasn’t on their list of applicants — Saul of Tarsus! The persecutor of the church, murderer of men, women and children? Saul? Yep, Saul! After Judas the traitor, Saul didn’t appear to be any step up, but he was. The second ultimately became the greatest Apostle of all, planting many churches and writing a large chunk of the New Testament.

Resting in place!

There is One “second” who is even greater. His name is Jesus. Jesus? Second? How could the Lord of all possibly be second?

 “So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”;
the last Adam, a life-giving spirit.
The spiritual did not come first,
but the natural, and after that the spiritual.
The first man was of the dust of the earth;
the second man is of heaven.”
1 Corinthians 15:45-47

The first Adam sinned in the garden gaining for all mankind death while losing most everything else. Through his death and resurrection, the second Adam, Jesus, restored all the first forfeited.

“But thanks be to God!
He gives us the victory
through our Lord Jesus Christ!”
1 Corinthians 15:57

There you have it!

After reading this, I know beyond a doubt that sometimes second so far exceeds the first, it is unbelievable to conceive it was ever second. In fact, Jesus was always God’s first plan, His only plan, His best plan.

Can second be best after all? Absolutely!