Tag Archives: forgiveness

Whose Open Tomb?

With two upcoming baptisms just around the corner, I think it’s only appropriate to reflect on what it means to be baptized. What does it symbolize? And why should baptism be celebrated?

Just as a wedding is a ceremony representing a commitment between husband and wife, so is a baptism a ceremony representing a covenant between God and man. Baptism is such an important public declaration of commitment to Christ that Jesus commands it in the scripture many refer to as the Great Commission. In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus says:

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

If Jesus commanded his disciples to baptize, he wants the same for you and me. He wants us to proudly proclaim that he is our Lord and Savior.

The act of baptism symbolizes Jesus’ death for our sins and burial in the tomb, and his miraculous resurrection on the third day. This is why so many prefer to be immersed in water versus the “sprinkle” baptism. The symbolism is perhaps better experienced in the immersion baptism.

So if the idea is that we die to our old lives of sin, and experience a “spiritual resurrection” when we emerge from the water, then is Jesus’ tomb the only empty grave? If we are truly made new, no longer spiritually dead in our sin, and alive through the cleansing/forgiveness of our sins, then aren’t our graves just as empty as Jesus’?

Visualize this, on the day that you take your last breath on earth, after that breath, you are in a garden, your body has never felt more alive, your skin is flawless, your conscience clear, all you concern yourself with is praising the Father for who he is, not just what he’s done. You look up from your prayer and praise and see your friends approaching a grave. As you look closer, you notice that your name is engraved in the headstone, the date is today. How can you be seeing your own grave, covered in fresh soil, flowers tossed on top? How can it be?

Then you remember that day you decided to give your life to God. You remember the day you were baptized, the symbolism the pastor described. You are taken back to his words, “When she emerges from the water, it symbolizes Christ’s resurrection. Like Him she is made new, alive again, born again, adopted into Christ’s family, a child of God.” You immediately know why you are looking at your grave. There may be a body inside, but your spirit was resurrected the day you accepted Jesus as the forgiver of your sin. You proclaimed it through your baptism, and now you have a first class seat to seeing it completed. You realize how faithful the Father is, how you had taken this step of faith for granted all those years ago, but now you see the reality of your decision to make that covenant with Christ. Do you think you’d have any regrets?

Whose tomb is empty? Is it yours? If it isn’t, do you want to invite Jesus into your life, accept him as your Lord and Savior, forgiver of your sins? You can make that decision now. Just talk to Jesus. Tell him you want to make a covenant with him for eternal, forgiven life as a child of God.

Advertisements

Lawlessness as a Pursuit of Freedom

As a resident of the San Francisco Bay Area, I experience first-hand the pursuit of freedom on all sorts of topics from racism to classism. Many feel in bondage by the so-called “men in black”, the people at the top telling the little people what they can and cannot do. This notion of oppression is often true. People are experiencing prejudice in one way or another. Our society rightly celebrates historical figures like Martin Luther King, Jr., that led the revolution against social injustices all in the name of freedom and equality.

While all of this is good and right and just, we’ve somehow lost sight of where freedom ends and selfishness, even lawlessness begins. Perhaps it is that we all don’t agree on the definition of freedom. Some may even venture to say that freedom is a dirty word that only hippies and liberals dare to proclaim. The reason being, freedom is now being translated into no control, no laws, no standards.

Picture this, you are driving your three kids to a soccer game when suddenly your minivan is plowed into by a shiny new sports car. For the sake of this illustration, no one is injured. You go to court to seek justice, but when you get there the defendant says, “I don’t see why what I did was wrong. It felt good.” This is the argument of so many today. Or what if you decide not to pay your taxes? Your argument could be, “I’m not hurting anyone.” Again, I’ve heard this excuse before. Most of us can agree that there is a time and place for laws, rules, standards, but when once applied to us it can be uncomfortable. Honestly, how many times have you gone far over the speed limit, but then that one time you slow down you look at the person speeding by you like they are the criminal? We’ve all done it or something similar.

So if we can all agree that we need laws and standards, and we all agree that it sometimes means we will be uncomfortable, then why do people use the “rules” of Christianity as an excuse not to be Christ-followers? I pondered this for several days and I have come to these conclusions.

1. They have not personally experienced Christ’s love and forgiveness. For me, it was like Pringles, once you pop you can’t stop. Once I experienced it for myself, I was sold. Perhaps those people have experienced or heard only of the manmade religion of Christianity without the joy of knowing him.

2. They have not differentiated their experience with man with their experience with God. Many people decide how big, how strict, how overbearing, or how loving God is by looking at their experience with their earthly parents. They have yet to experience God’s deliverance and forgiveness of others.

3. They are not ready to give up something they know is ungodly. Overcoming vices, habits, even addictions, starts with knowing God will meet you where you are. He does not expect you to overcome these on your own before coming to know Him.

4. They genuinely believe in another god or entity or have some other spiritual belief system. You probably know people of many other faiths, and that’s okay. We are not called to beat them with the Bible, but called to love them and by loving them we reveal the person, the God of Love.

There could be a number of other reasons as well.

The fact is we are living in a world that is increasingly becoming about self, hence the term “selfie”, but in the midst of a self-centered, highly technological world, there also many who are overly aware of the world around us. You can go on YouTube and see video after video of the “news” that actually wasn’t ever aired on the news, someone took it with their personal cell phone. With all this information about injustice at our fingertips, really who are we to trust? Ourselves? Or a God that loves above all else, but also sets “laws” in place to help us avoid injury to the body, soul, and spirit? Which sounds more freeing?

Please leave a comment or a like. I enjoy hearing from you. You can also follow my blog by clicking on one of the follow buttons.

While the Dew is Still on the Roses

10441466_10205042817645174_8265139601986918341_nFor those who grew up in the church there is probably a worship song or hymn you remember singing as a child that brings a smile to your face each time you hear it. For me this song is In the Garden (written by C. Austin Miles). All the kids in my Sunday School class would be on the edge of their seats waiting to be called to hold up the big 16 by 20 inch lyric book in front of the whole children’s church. You would get to go in front and turn the pages as the pianist played. Each page took you to a fantasy land where you could walk beside a real and beautiful savior in a lush garden filled with roses and baby animals. We all wanted so badly to be in that picture with him, holding hands with Jesus.

This last Sunday our worship band at Great Commission Christian Church sang In the Garden, and as I sang I think I was probably smiling from ear to ear thinking about those Sunday School memories. And as I smiled God whispered something in my ear. You see, I was thinking how great it would be to be innocent again, to feel pure and cleansed by God, to want to hold his hand and walk through fields of roses. While I my thoughts were drifting away into this fantasy land of my childhood, God said, “If you come to my garden you can be innocent again before the dew is even gone from the roses.” Then it struck me! Of course God is kind enough to meet me in my spiritual garden each morning when I wake up. He’s more than willing to listen to my thoughts and confessions before I have a chance to call or text a friend for advice. Not only that, He’s longing for me to enjoy his creation, walking through the garden of life.

What is your favorite Sunday School hymn? Does it remind you of your childhood innocence? If so, repent and then meditate on the words to this song. God can make you new, forgiven and cleansed, and excited to walk with Him each morning. Hallelujah!

Uploaded on Feb 20, 2011. Video created by Peter Tremblay. The traditional Hymn, “In The Garden” sung by Alan Jackson. I hope you enjoy the video. Lyrics are included in the video so you can sing along.

No Portion Control Needed

Ever wish for a healthy indulgence that is fat free, calorie free, allergen free, full of nutrients, and makes your heart yearn for more? Well, that does not just exist in your wildest foodie dreams, its existence is as real as you and I, and its benefits are far better than you can ever fathom. There is one thing you must do, however, before partaking in this delicious treat. You must give up all other cravings for which you get the munchies because it requires your whole plate. This dream food cannot coexist with any other items on your plate, but if you give up all your other snacks this treat promises to completely satisfy.

Are you ready to accept this challenge? The treat I speak of is God. God is made up of the Father, the Son (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit who are all one God. He loves you unconditionally from the beginning of time, before your birth parents ever met. Although you were created by Him he allows you to live with freewill, but unlike any of His other creations He gives you the opportunity to return to Him so He can adopt you into His family.

Here are some scriptures that will make your mouth water for more:

  • [The judgements of the Lord are] Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb. Psalm 19:10B
  • As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for You, O God. Psalm 42:1
  • Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14
  • Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. John 6:35
  •  But Jesus said to them, “They do not need to go away; you give them something to eat!” 17 They *said to Him, “We have here only five loaves and two fish.” 18 And He said, “Bring them here to Me.” 19 Ordering the people to sit down on the grass, He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food, and breaking the loaves He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds, 20 and they all ate and were satisfied. They picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve full baskets. 21 There were about five thousand men who ate, besides women and children. Matthew 14:16-21

I encourage you to turn from all the habits, strongholds, temptations. Repent (ask for forgiveness and tell God you will turn from them) of those areas where you have fallen short (sinned). If you need help ask God, wise counsel (a more mature believer), a prayer group. They will all help you overcome. It also helps to memorize scripture that relate to what you are struggling with. When your spiritual plate is cleared off, you’ve let go of all of that, I promise you will experience something far greater than any of those things. God will even give you a taste before you can get your plate clean.  Welcome to indulgence where everything nourishes and tastes so sweet.

For more on the character of God watch this Youtube video. “That’s My King” by Dr. S.M. Lockridge.

Uploaded to Youtube on Jul 22, 2008. Visuals set to the audio of the famous sermon “Seven Way King” (aka That’s My King) as spoken by Dr. S.M. Lockridge. The audio is slightly edited for a better flow in the video. The music in the background was performed live by the GCC band while the video played on the screens. It then led directly into the worship song “Here is Our King” (To see the performance in it’s entirety go here: gccwired.com/mediaplayer/playeropener.as­p?id=478 )Created entirely using After Effects with footage from the movie “The Passion of the Christ”. The video took 30 hours to create plus around 6 hours of rendering. The final After Effects project file totaled well over 600 layers.

Grace Unveiled

image

In some cultures and religions if one were to convert to another religion they would be disowned by family or would even be persecuted. Today I was asked by a dear friend what I would do if one of my future children decided to convert to Islam from Christianity. My answer was very long. Like my friend who is of another religion I would accept my child because family is first. Not only would I accept my child, but my faith community, my church body would too. My friend asked how can a body of Christian faith possibly accept someone who was formerly Christian now Muslim.
My answer was this. Jesus gives us the great commandment. Love the Lord your God with your whole being, and love your neighbor as yourself. So basically, love God, love yourself, love your neighbor. If the greatest commandment is to love, which in some scripture is actually translated “grace”, then I am called to accept my child, my friend, my coworker whatever their faith.
How can one accept a family member or a friend that they have taken time nurturing in the Christian faith if they convert? It may seem like time wasted to some, but it can be accomplished. Even the most broken-hearted parent or friend can show grace through the power of the Holy Spirit who stirs up words of wisdom and encouragement, speaks truth in love, and heals broken relationships.
Is there someone in your life who has broken your heart by offending you and God? Maybe they were unfaithful, dishonest, deceiving, abusive. You can find a way to show mercy and grace through the Holy Spirits counsel.
If you need a starting point visit a website I have found very helpful, http://www.iamsecond.com. There are videos there on all topics. Once you watch the video reflect in silence or through journaling. You might want to write a letter to that person, and you may not even send it, but find healing in writing down your message of forgiveness and grace.
I hope you have found this post helpful. Please leave your comments and likes if you so desire.

Identity Theft

1908003_10203204738934355_2235459256383836010_n

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Romans 7:24-25a

We live in a world of sin, and as Christians, somehow expect ourselves not to sin. I don’t know about you, but when I mess up I will fret for days about my mistake. Growing up my parents rarely had to discipline me because I would punish myself. Despite our constant self-applied guilt trips and sin’s attempts to rob us of our true identity, God expects us to live in freedom through His grace.

In Romans 7 Paul seems to ramble on and on about sin, the law, and the new way of the Spirit. I never quite understood this chapter until I read a Girlfriends in God devotion by Sharon Jaynes. Jaynes describes an untrained volunteer applying drywall. After hours of doing the job correctly he accidentally switches his power tool to reverse, and doesn’t understand why the screws won’t go into the drywall. The lesson here is that sometimes the problem is us and our sinful nature. We feel we can’t get ahead no matter how hard we try, and sometimes it comes down to resetting our direction through repentance.

There are a few things we should be aware of before over-analyzing our mistakes:

  1. We have direct access to grace and mercy. (Hebrews 4:14-16)
  2. From the time Adam and Eve sinned sin has lived within mankind, including you and me. (Romans 7:17-18)
  3. Despite the sin living within us we are a new creation. (2 Corinthians 5:7)

If you have given your life to Christ by repenting, declaring that Jesus is your Lord and Savior, and being baptized then these three things are true. What is your response to this? Often my response is to hide in fear of judgment, but that is not what God called us to do. No, He has already given us enough grace to cover our sins if we choose to repent daily. I believe the first step to repentance is believing their is an end result of forgiveness. The second is knowing that, because sin lives within us, we will sin despite our best efforts. Paul says in Romans 7, “Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.”

Friends, God shows you unlimited grace. Show yourselves some. Instead of fretting about mistakes you’ve made, admit to making them, repent to God, and move on in freedom.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.

Ephesians 2:8

I would like to thank Sharon Jaynes of Girlfriends in God who continues to inspire me with daily devotions, and to Robert and Marcia Scott, faithful and redeemed, for their sermon on Grace this last Sunday at Great Commission Christian Church in Richmond, California. You can listen to their sermon at http://www.gccubed.org. You are God’s mouthpiece in a broken world.

Heavenly Father, Your grace is more than sufficient. Remind us to turn from our sin daily, not by the law of Moses which we are sure to fail, but by loving you wholeheartedly and repenting genuinely. Help us to let go of our past and embrace our present, never missing a moment of joy for the fear of judgment. For Your unending, unconditional love, we thank you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

If you enjoyed this post please like it on Facebook, Twitter, etc., leave a comment, or share it via email. If you would like to subscribe to the blog, please select “follow” at the top of this page.

 

The Accused

Whether you are honestly guilty or completely innocent it hurts to be the accused, especially if that accusation becomes part of your identity.

In John 8 we read about Jesus’ reaction to the accusers, which in this instance happened to be the religious leaders. What a shame! John 8 is set on the Mount of Olives as Jesus enters the temple at dawn and begins teaching. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. Now remember this is pre-Christianity and the religious leaders are still operating under the law of Moses in which it says in Deuteronomy 22 that any woman caught in adultery should be stoned. At this moment when the religious leaders rush this woman into the temple, interrupting Jesus’ teaching, they are hoping he will disobey Moses’ law so they catch him going against God’s orders. Surely he could not disobey the law of Moses’ and still be God’s son, the Messiah. Or could he? As the Pharisees and the teachers of the law banded together questioning Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” (talk about a loaded question) Jesus kneels down and begins writing on the ground. Now the Bible does not tell us what exactly he wrote, but we can assume it was something convicting to the Pharisees and the teachers of the law because as he wrote and asked, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her” one by one they left the scene. So many left that eventually it was only Jesus and the woman left there. And do you know what happened?

Jesus did not stone the woman even though he was without sin and could have stoned her. He didn’t tell her to pack her bags and send her on a giant guilt trip. He didn’t say, “I told you so!” There’s a million, zillion things we do to shame people when we ourselves have done just the same, but he didn’t give her any punishment.

I recently heard of an artist named Steve Rosenfield who founded the “What I be Project.” He asked his subjects to fill in the blank “I am not my ____.” It could be anything. Their answers ranged from addictions to disabilities. Each subject chose a phrase which was written on them in black marker. He brings his subjects deepest insecurities to the forefront in order to bring awareness, but beyond that, freedom, instead of imprisonment, to those who do not fit the social norm. When I first looked at his work I felt uncomfortable, uneasy. Looking at others’ insecurities brought my own to the surface, but after imagining how they might feel, recognizing myself in their stories, I feel a sense of relief and peace because we were made to receive and give mercy. Looking at his work helped me receive mercy.

Think about Jesus’ actions kneeling on the temple floor. When all had left the room and it was just the woman and Jesus here is what he said, “Then neither do I condemn you.” Is there an area where you need to receive mercy? Or someone in your life to whom you need to show mercy?

 

“There is no God like you. You forgive those who are guilty of sin; you don’t look at the sins of your people who are left alive. You will not stay angry forever, because you enjoy being kind. You will have mercy on us again; you will conquer our sins. You will throw away all our sins into the deepest part of the sea” -Micah 7:18-19

For more about the “What I Be” Project and Steve Rosenfield visit: http://www.whatibeproject.com/.