Friday, September 26, 2014

Forgiven

Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends. (Proverbs 17:9 NIV)

Forgiven
In her 25 years of marriage, Deb has dealt with domestic violence and cheating, yet she chose to forgive her husband. She realized forgiveness was a crucial step in helping her heal. Deb and her husband had separated twice and gone through marriage counseling. She believes this has made their marriage stronger and they now tackle their issues together.

“Forgiveness is for you, not the other person,” Deb said, sharing her story at SheKnows.com with hopes of helping others. “It does not excuse them for what they did to you, but why carry that around with you for life? Release it and let it go.”

The Book of Hosea recorded for us another story of a loving husband who forgave his wife for unfaithfulness. Gomer left Hosea and found another man, but Hosea remained faithful. He searched for her, redeemed her, and brought her back home to himself.

“You are to live with me many days,” Hosea said to Gomer. “You must not … be intimate with any man, and I will behave the same way toward you” (Hosea 3:3).

Forgiving someone who hurts us badly is not going to be easy. It requires love and grace. Unless we love someone deeply, we will find it difficult to forgive, for love requires us to be patient and kind. It does not seek to dishonor the other, and is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered, and does not keep record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

Love is not condoning wrongdoings, but is forgiving someone the wrong done to us. It is not burying what had happened, but keeping no record of the wrongs done. Forgiveness is not something a wrongdoer can do or undo to restore a broken relationship or to redeem oneself. It is grace extended by the one who has been hurt to willingly forgive the other without seeking revenge or returning evil. Grace is love expressed in kind to another even while he or she has done nothing deserving of forgiveness (Romans 11:6; Ephesians 2:8).

In grace our Savior God came down to reveal His love to us that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. He forgave us all our sins, and in Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of God's grace. If we, therefore, confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins, and purify us from all unrighteousness (Titus 3:4; Romans 5:8; Ephesians 1:7; 1 John 1:9).

Are we storing up bitterness and hurting ourselves and our loved ones over the wrongdoings of our spouse? Are we too distraught to have the heart to forgive the wrong done to us? Are we able and willing to extend grace to the one who broke our heart and move on?

Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates relationships. We need to forgive and let go if we hope to move on and stop hurting ourselves and our loved ones. Just as our Lord loved us so much that He gave His life for us even while we were yet sinners, let us forgive the ones who hurt us, even if the relationship is not going to work out the way we hope (Proverbs 17:9; Ephesians 4:31-32).

Dear Lord, forgive us for hurting others because of the bitterness we store in our heart and our unwillingness to forgive. Teach us to let go and move on, regardless how the future develops in our relationships. Give us a heart of love that extends grace even to people who do not deserve our forgiveness. Purify us from all unrighteousness and set us free from our hurting heart to experience Your healing, love, and grace.

Friday, September 19, 2014

A Great Rescue

Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13 NAS)

A Great Rescue
When a child riding a bicycle was attacked by a neighbor's dog, his family cat ran to the rescue by hurling itself on the dog and chasing it off. This incident was caught on surveillance cameras and took place at Bakersfield in California on May 13, 2014. Four-year-old Jeremy sustained various bite marks which required stitches. The dog identified as an eight-month-old Labrador and Chow mix was reportedly surrendered by its owners to the police and was later put down. For its heroic deed, the cat was honored with the ceremonial first pitch at a minor league baseball game.

The story of the cat risking its life to save Jeremy was reported in the local and overseas news. Another story far greater than this of God becoming man and giving His life to save us all is found in the Bible. Surely, such good news deserves much more global coverage. For rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though perhaps for a good person someone might dare to die, but God demonstrates His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends (Romans 5:7-8; John 15:13).

Not all dogs are of course like the dog that bit Jeremy or all cats like the cat that saves the day. The decision to pursue the right or wrong path is entirely our own. Nevertheless, it is not doing good or bad that decides our eternity. For by grace we have been saved through faith and this is not of ourselves, it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so no one may boast. God did not send His Son, Jesus, into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life (Ephesians 2:8-9; John 3:16-17).

Whether to follow Jesus is our choice. But when the day comes for Him to sit on His glorious throne, He will separate the ones who are true to Him and those who are not of Him. Like the cat that received honor for doing good, those true to Him shall be blessed and inherit the kingdom. But like the dog that was put down for wrongdoing, those not of Him who continue to dwell in sin will face the eternal fire (Matthew 25:31-46).

Are we certain or in doubt of our eternity? Are we assuming we can earn our salvation through good works? Are we thinking to ourselves we are not that bad to warrant severe punishment?

The epistle to the Romans makes it clear that all have sin and the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. If we confess with our mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in our heart God raised Him from the dead, we will be saved (Romans 3:23; 6:23; 10:9-10).

This is the testimony that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (1 John 5:11-12; John 14:6).

If we have received Jesus as our Lord and Savior, rest assured our eternity is secured, for God has given us eternal life through His Son. Rather than be put down for our wrongdoings, therefore, choose to be honored for saving others by bringing them to Jesus and continue to walk in Him all the rest of the days of our lives (Colossians 2:6).

Dear Lord, thank You for laying down Your life to save us even while we were yet sinners. We know no amount of good works we do is good enough to save us or to earn our salvation, for You alone are the way, the truth, and the life. Forgive us and cleanse us from all our sins and iniquities. Grant us Your free gift of salvation as we confess with our heart and mouth You are our Lord and Savior in whom we have eternal life.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Spillovers

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. (Psalm 23:5 NAS)

Spillovers
Sipping a cup of coffee or tea is a pleasure for many of us, but have we ever wondered why a cup is usually accompanied by the saucer? The answer by a forum participant at Answers.Yahoo.com is it “keeps spills contained, provides a rest for the teaspoon, protects the table from the teacup's heat, and it looks elegant.” That, in essence, summarizes the role of a saucer to a cup. Its purpose is to provide containment for overflowing or drippings that flows down the side of the cup, besides looking good for those specially designed.

When King David in Psalm 23:5 said, “My cup overflows,” he was referring to God’s goodness and lovingkindness toward him, which more than abundantly exceeded beyond mere sufficiency. All of us, without a doubt, would like to be blessed far more abundantly beyond what we ask or think, but life in the real world is not always overflowing with milk and honey. Sometimes, we need to go through times of living humbly, and at times when blessings are found lacking, spillovers may temporarily be sufficient to see us through our desperate need (Psalm 23:5-6; Ephesians 3:20; Philippians 4:12).

The story of Ruth in the Old Testament is an example of the Lord’s provision, love and care for us during difficult times. Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi, were so poor she had to pick food fallen on the ground left behind by harvesters gathering the crops. So when Ruth rose to glean, Boaz commanded his servants and said, “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not insult her. Also you shall purposely pull out for her some grain from the bundles and leave it that she may glean, and do not rebuke her” (Ruth 2:15-16).

Gleaning from what is left behind on the ground is similar to the role of the saucer keeping in containment the spillovers from the cup. As humbling as it seems, spillovers might sometimes be the only means by which we are able to keep our loved ones and ourselves alive while we wait. During such times when our cup is not overflowing with plenty, humility to pick up leftovers may be the only solution to make ends meet.

Is our cup overflowing? Praise the Lord and forget none of His benefits. Is our cup empty with only spillovers in the saucer? Fret not, God will not leave us wanting and will restore to us all that we need. In the meantime, stay open to alternatives and do not despise roles that are seemingly humbling, so long as they are means to sustaining our loved ones and ourselves. Just as not all cups and saucers are designed elegant or beautiful, we need not concern ourselves as to how others look at us. Look ahead, for the days are coming when we shall rise again with cups overflowing and the saucers spilling over with plenty to bless others (Psalm 103:2; Job 42:10, 12; Joel 2:25).

Have this attitude in us while waiting, to keep deception and lies far from us. Seek God to give us neither poverty nor riches so we might not have too much and disown Him or be in want to steal and profane the name of our God (Proverbs 30:8-9).

Dear Lord, thank You for overflowing our cups with Your blessings, and for emptying our cups at times to lead us back to You. Open our eyes amid our struggles to see the roles we can play to make ends meet, so we might be able to provide for our loved ones and ourselves. Keep us looking up and looking out while we wait. Put away deception and lies far from us and give us neither poverty nor riches so we might not deny You or profane Your name. Restore to us, beyond spillovers, Your abundance so our cups might once again overflow with Your blessings to extend help to others who are struggling.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Unlocking the Power

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” (John 20:19 NIV)

Unlocking the Power
Those of us who use a smartphone or handheld tablet computer would probably be familiar with apps like OneDrive, Dropbox, iCloud Drive or Google Drive. These apps allow users to store photos, videos, information and other type of files remotely on the ‘cloud’ or the Internet using borrowed space provided by vendors on their storage devices, servers or computers. Files uploaded to the storage are secured through an algorithm built into the respective storage device, similar to the lock and key. Users who wish to retrieve their files from storage must first have the right key, which is the login user ID and password, in order to unlock the lock to access the system’s storage space.

Securing the things we consider important under lock and key is nothing unusual, but securing ourselves under closed doors out of fear is. On the evening of the first day of the week after Jesus’ death on the cross, the disciples were gathered together with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders. Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After He said this, He showed them His hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (John 20:19-21).

As followers of the Lord, we have been sent to share the gospel to the yet unsaved. But many a time, we ‘lock’ ourselves behind closed doors when it comes to sharing. Although we have been empowered with the Holy Spirit, we are fearful of what others would think of us if we speak out for the Lord. In so doing, we fall into the danger of being like the teachers of the law and Pharisees who shut the door of the kingdom of heaven and would not let those who are trying to enter get in. How sad it would be for us if by our actions or avoidance we prevent others from coming to the Lord (John 20:22-23; Matthew 23:13).

Are we ashamed or fearful of sharing the gospel? Are we preventing others from knowing the Lord by the way we live or by our action? Are we living out Jesus Christ in us? Are we waiting and still searching for the key to unlock the confidence in us to boldly share God’s grace and salvation to the world?

God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of His own purpose and grace. For by grace we have been saved through faith, and this is not from ourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so no one may boast. Let us, therefore, not be ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes (2 Timothy 1:7-9; Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 1:16). 

Rather than securing ourselves behind locked doors the next time around when opportunity knocks, let us let the Holy Spirit be our guide, and He will teach us what we should say. For He who dwells in us is greater than the one who is in this world, and He is the key to unlocking our confidence and boldness in God, of power, love and self-discipline (Luke 12:12; John 16:13; 1 John 4:4).

Dear Lord, thank You for giving us the key to unlocking Your power through the Holy Spirit to confidently and boldly share the gospel and the testimony about You. Help us not hold back the sharing of the faith to others that we might not unwittingly be the ones to prevent them from coming to You or from receiving salvation. Guide us what we should say so that Your grace may be extended to the yet unsaved through faith to accomplish Your purpose.

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