Motto

Colossians 3: 12 – 14

So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.

As you may have noticed, I am reading Colossians, the third chapter, and if you look at the digital Bible I am reading from, you will see that almost every verse is highlighted and the only reason it isn’t all highlighted is because I restrained myself. This chapter is a primer for the what the Christian life is to be. Today’s passage really spoke to me and I want to suggest that it is the seminal passage for this time in our history. However, we are so far from this paradigm right now, that I hesitate to speak what alit on my heart as I read it. Then again, many writers of truth have been shouted down throughout history and berated for speaking the truth. Just look at Paul, John and Peter for starters.

In trying times, and these certainly are, the kindness of God and His love are needed above all things. The language of love is what will resonate and it will resound above all else. Love is a hard thing, though, because it does not, under any circumstances, lie. Sometimes the truth is the hardest thing you will ever have to tell someone.

In trying to navigate the stress and to come to grips with a changing world, this advice from Paul resonates loudly. We must approach the changing dynamics from God’s perspective of compassion and love. Life is a challenged right now, I know, and that is why I want to offer this passage. I know some people feel trapped by the rhetoric. The political left has its message but on a different subject we are assailed by the right. Most people in the country can identify with some “ism”. Blacks, Asians, Hispanics, Native Americans, and every other identifiable race, excluding whites, has felt the sting of racism. Women have been abused, neglected, marginalized and discriminated against the world over. Even white males get old and are no longer viewed as valuable. It seems most are either the wrong race, gender or age. Then there is the gay and transgendered community. Many people would not think twice about making derogatory comments about this group. Not long ago people were saying that God created AIDS to eliminate them. Wow!

The only real answer for any of this is the love and compassion of God. If we don’t take our stressors to God in prayer and wield the love and patience of God, I fear we will never make any meaningful change. God changes hearts. I want to bring this discussion to a broad market. In response to the corona virus challenge, we all need to apply the love, patience, compassion and gentleness of God. I am not advocating passivity or a lack in your conviction. In fact, I advocate just the opposite. I want people of passion. I just wonder if we are taking our troubles to the Lord or just ranting on Facebook. We are the answer to the problem. If the Christians will adopt today’s passage and marry it with a strong dose, and a continuing practice of prayer, we can effect real change. God can soften hearts and change the course of human history. Whether right or left, the answer is the same – God! Faith only works by love which is why today’s passage is so important.

Paul had to deal with a changing environment too. He lived in very tumultuous times. For goodness sake, the Messiah had just been crucified. Followers of Jesus were facing the same fate. Those are dire circumstances. Yet, he understood that the real power in the community was love, compassion and prayer. Love moves mountains.

There are lots of stressors in our lives right now. Some of you are on furlough and worried about feeding your families. The number of cases of Covid 19 is still rising in some areas. The economy is fragile. People want the economy open; others see that as a risk. We have racial tension, police brutality and in some cases, lawlessness. It is a fine balancing act at this time. And in the wings is a Presidential election with all the turmoil that interjects. We need help.

Please hear me clearly, I am not criticizing anyone’s reactions to the situations or stress in their lives. I am recognizing that people are under enormous stress. The purpose of this writing is to suggest that God is the way and that we need Him like never before. Regardless of our beliefs, there is one constant and one ultimate truth: our God. This, then, is an appeal to adopt this language from Paul as our refrain and further, to passionately and resolutely take our problems to God. As we meditate upon these ideals, what will God speak to our hearts?

There is no one on the planet who has not been affected by the circumstances of 2020. God cares what is going on in your heart. He cares about your pains and worries. He cares that you feel stressed to the point of breaking or that you have been isolated from friends and family for months. He knows of your anxiety and is compassionate. He wants to aid you.

Let’s just look at this one more time – “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.” Though I have not written, specifically, on them, let us not overlook the words kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness and unity.

No matter where we stand politically or on any given issue, we are all those “who have been chosen of God.” We are the people God has in the earth. We have an awesome ability to take everything to Him in compassioned prayer. Let us not miss our calling oh chosen ones of God. Let us recommit ourselves to prayer and remember, that person across the aisle may not think like you, but they are, none the less, a child of God and valued in His sight.

The Crimson Lens

Romans 5:9

Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.

In 2015 I wrote a devotion titled “The Crimson Veil.” The substance of that article is about the effect the blood has on our relationship with the Father. When He looks at us, He looks through a crimson veil, that veil being the blood of Christ. God sees Jesus’ righteousness and worth when He looks at us because He looks through the veil of sacrificial blood. Speaking for myself, that is a powerful image and certainly helps me understand who I am in Christ. And, it is a relief because which of us wishes to stand in our own right?

I had another thought about the crimson veil, though. You have heard that we all perceive the world according to our own filters or through the lens of our world, hence the rose-colored lens. It dawned on me that if I saw the world through a crimson colored lens it would most certainly color my perspective. What if I was able to see other people through God’s crimson-colored lens? I think that would change my world, and that would be a good thing.

Imagine if we all looked at the world through crimson-colored glasses. Think of some of the challenges of 2020 and then put on Dad’s glasses and look at them anew. Does it change our thoughts, our prayers? What does the world look like when it is covered in Jesus’ blood? Oh my!

This one observation shows why God cannot be the judgmental, vengeful God some people make Him out to be. He sees Jesus’ blood everywhere He looks. Imagine if Christians saw every other person through the crimson lens. What if, when we looked at someone who might not even have a redeeming character, we, none the less, saw them splattered with that precious blood? How would that change things? Well, it is something to pray for. I think I would be much more gracious and accepting. Wouldn’t anger recede? What about a sense of betrayal? Think about someone who really gets under your skin and imagine Jesus’ blood covering them. Isn’t it harder to feel the anger and frustration that you might normally experience? Maybe we should all take a deep yoga breath, slowly and fully exhale, and picture our adversaries covered in the sacred blood. I believe this could change the world and in a hurry.

Behind My Back

Isaiah 38: 17      AMP

You have loved back my life from the pit of nothingness (destruction), for You have cast all my sins behind Your back.

Do you ever wonder what God is thinking about your sin? Well, here is your answer. He has forgotten it. He cast it behind Him. It is where He cannot see it or be reminded of it. Maybe you should cast it behind your back as well.

The God’s Word version adds this, “Now my bitter experience turns into peace.” Why? Because God has forgotten our sin. Our sadness and disappointment from our many mistakes and sins is changed to peace because God has looked upon us with compassion and never-ending mercy. Romans 8: 28 reads, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Did you ever consider this includes our sins? It does say “all things” does it not? So all of your errors, whether intentional sin or errors in judgement are cast behind God’s back because He cares for you. He is turning your bitter experience into peace; peace for you, peace between you and He.

God doesn’t want to be angry with you. He does not want you condemned or feeling guilty. He sent Jesus so that you could experience true freedom in your life and in your inner self. He has redeemed you from the pit of destruction by His own choice. Why would He hang on to your sin. Why would He continue to dangle it in front of you in that He gave His most precious asset in order to redeem you? That would make no sense.

Is there something that has troubled you for years? Let it go. God has put it behind Him so it is time for you to put it behind you too.

Unfair

Romans 12: 17 – 18

Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.

There are some verses in the Bible that, frankly, it would be more comfortable and convenient if God would remove them. And that is the problem with being a Bible person, you must deal with the uncomfortable one’s and you must do so honestly. This verse is one of those unpleasant scriptures.

Face it, there are times in life when someone just does you wrong. It is bewildering. Perhaps you have always been nice to that person. Maybe you are the only one who does treat them well but then they act out to you. You deserve better but this is what you get, a rude, ugly person who seems intent on making your life miserable. Well, join the club and be in good company because we have all had to deal with these unlovely folks.

When you encounter one of these people, just look to Jesus. He certainly had to deal with persecution. All he wanted to do was to love people and help them. He said that he came to earth to give us a good life (see John 10: 10 Amp.). Look how people hated him and how they treated him. Even his own family called him crazy and wanted to have him put away as a lunatic. And yet, in the midst of being hated, in the midst of being ill-treated he gave up his life for those people. When we didn’t love him, when we loved our sin rather than him, he laid down his life for us. Can you hear that truth at a deeper level today? While you hated God and didn’t love Jesus, they gave all they had for you.

So how are we to treat the ugly people in our lives? Now you understand why I don’t like this verse. God has called me to love them in an active (rather than passive) way even when they are being mean and ugly to me. It’s not fair God!!! No, it isn’t fair but it wasn’t fair when He put His son on a cross for us either. We must do our best to love these folks into the kingdom of God.

Look, Christianity isn’t easy, who said it was? And it is not a religion. It is a lifestyle, a way of being but that doesn’t even begin to say it all. It really is like our DNA gets changed when we give our lives over to God. We are aliens in this world. This is not our home. We are different and we are supposed to behave differently than the world. We are called to love those who revile us rather than fight them or have our revenge. We are supposed to perform acts of love to those who maltreat us. Does that make sense? Not if you think as the world thinks but if you will turn your face to God and let Him minister to you and through you, you will find that He will give you the strength to love the unlovely. He will even give you joy in the doing. I don’t know how He does it, but it is true. Once you quit fighting with Him about the fairness of the thing and complaining about how they treated you, then He can begin to show you His way of thinking. And He will reward you for your obedience. I think obedience is its own reward, but that is not His way. He likes to pour out a blessing on you. It is just His nature.

I know that what I am proposing to you today is difficult and I know all of the arguments about why it’s not fair and doesn’t feel right. I have felt all of the emotions, made all the claims, but now I know the truth. The only way these unlovely people are going to change is through the love of God. It is the most powerful force in the universe and you have been given the right to wield this power. So when you feel like calling down fire from heaven on someone remember what Jesus said to James and John in the same circumstance. “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of” (Luke 9: 55). In other words, you are of the spirit of love, so we move by and through love. Jesus could have French fried those soldiers that drove nails through his hands and feet but instead he prayed for them. He asked God to forgive them. So, pray for those people who are mistreating you. Bake them a cake. Go out of your way to love on them. Speak to them in kindness and forgiveness. I know they don’t deserve it but do something nice for them in Jesus’ name. Make it a gift to him for his kindness. Just pour your love for him onto them. You are going to be amazed at the results. Then write me and let me and let me hear your praise report.

God . . . is forgiving

1 Corinthians 13: 4 – 5

Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered.

Are you kidding me with this? Love does not count the wrongs done to it? The person who loves does not take into account the things a person does to them. Don’t get this wrong, though. This does not meant they are doormats letting people walk all over them. No, it’s just that they forgive and continue in love. They may not hang out with the offender anymore; they may know not to trust them, but they do not judge those people. They just keep on loving. That is amazing but that is what love does.

But Jesus was saying, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing’” (Luke 23: 34).  Jesus prayed this prayer for the people who were crucifying him. I have always found this passage remarkable. Wouldn’t you want to pray a hailstorm down on them? I would but Jesus was born of love. His Father is love so I guess this is the heritage of love that God passed down to Jesus.

You know, we have talked a lot about self-centeredness versus others-centeredness in this discussion of Chapter 13. I think God’s selflessness is at the root of many of the characteristics of love that we have seen from this chapter. God is forgiving, doesn’t take into account the wrongs we deal Him because He is not absorbed with self. He isn’t taking account of all the bad things we do to Him. He is looking after our interests. He is concerned with our needs and even our bad acts because often those actions are a reflection of our own hurts. I think He worries more about the injuries which are causing us to act out than the behaviors themselves. He wants to speed healing to us.

Maybe that is a bit of how we should look at people who do us wrong. Maybe there is a way for us to react with compassion instead of anger. We certainly do not have to be victims but we don’t have to be enemies either. We can pray for them with a clean heart like Jesus prayed and mostly, we just don’t have to keep score anymore.

Get Happy

Isaiah 43: 25

I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins.

You may have noticed that I have been giving you verses in which God declares that He is not holding onto your sin and further that He has actually put it behind Him and forgotten it. This verse from Isaiah says it about as plainly as can be stated. God, for His own reasons, decided not to remember your sins. That is such a great revelation and I am happy about it but I also see a message in here for our daily application.

Imagine how unhappily miserable God would be if He remembered every single thing we did wrong. Can you imagine how that would feel? It would be self-torture and yet this is the very thing many of us do in our lives. God chose to forgive us so that His love could flow. He chose love over judgment, over condemnation. The side effect is that He is happy and joyful. Hanging on to that judgment would have made it impossible for Him to constantly express joy towards us. Retaining our sin, keeping it before His eyes would have made him depressed and forlorn. So, rather than choose that lifestyle, He chose to forgive us and to shower His love upon us. We didn’t and we don’t deserve it but He chose the better way.

Think about how miserable we make our lives by being judgmental and angry. We hold onto unforgiveness and remember every sin and offense committed against us. No wonder we are despondent creatures. How can we look out of the lenses of our eyes to gaze upon the sunshine when we have cloaked our lives and habitats with the black sin of ourselves and others. No wonder we are depressed, angry and broken. In order to be healthy ourselves we must understand that Jesus told you not to judge because he was looking after you, not the other guy. God told you to forgive because He was guarding your life and health. The kids would say, “Get a clue!” Our father and big brother are looking after us, advising us for our best interests. They are not giving us laws, they are giving us life. Isn’t that what Jesus said his purpose was, to give us life and that in abundance? (John 10: 10).

It is time for you to be free of the guilt and condemnation of your soul. It is high time you let go of the past. Forgive yourself, be healed of a critical and judgmental tendency and forgive all those who have transgressed against you. Free your spirit from the oppression of anger and unforgiveness. You are killing yourself and this is not God’s will for you. I want you free from pain and living every day in the glory of the Lord. This is your right and inheritance. May it also be your reality. Amen.

The New Plan

Hebrews 10: 16 – 18

“THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THEM AFTER THOSE DAYS SAYS THE LORD: I WILL PUT MY LAWS UPON THEIR HEART, AND UPON THEIR MIND I WILL WRITE THEM,” He then says, “AND THEIR SINS AND THEIR LAWLESS DEEDS I WILL REMEMBER NO MORE.” NOW WHERE THERE IS FORGIVENESS OF THESE THINGS, THERE IS NO LONGER ANY OFFERING FOR SIN.

Have you ever wanted to know what the New Covenant is? Well, here it is. How amazingly exciting is this? One of the big keys to the New Covenant and its operation in our lives is that the Father, Himself, has come to live inside us. We are the temple of the New Covenant. If that wasn’t big enough, Yahweh God, brings with Him Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Of course His words are within us, by His presences and by His spirit He is writing them on our hearts and minds.

Now I could go on and on about this New Covenant but there is one specific point I want to bring to your attention. Look again at these words, “AND THEIR SINS AND THEIR LAWLESS DEEDS I WILL REMEMBER NO MORE.” What?! Are you hearing this? God made forgetting our sins and lawlessness part of His commitment under the New Covenant. Now should you think this is a powerless statement, remember that the New Covenant is written in Jesus’ blood. Would God, for one moment, minimize the blood of Jesus by not honoring the statements spoken here? If we was to retain even one of your sins, that would be to dishonor and disregard the sacrifice Jesus made for us all. It would also break the New Covenant and God would break His Word. Now, if God were even once break His word do you know that the entire earth would collapse? Think about it. God created the entire world and even you and I by His words. If He broke one it would break the underlying foundation, security and foundation of every word He has ever spoken. That He will not do.

Also, look at today’s verses this way. No one bargained the New Covenant with God. There was no one with any leverage who twisted His arm in order to get a single provision out of Him. Every single promise of the New Covenant was freely given. So, ask yourself why the provision of forgetting all of our trespasses and transgressions is part of the contract. It is only there because it reflects God’s heart. It is God’s desire to remember your sins no more. He weight your sin and mine, the sin of yesterday and even tomorrow and on the other side of the scale He placed the sacrificial lamb. That sin offering was the only one that could eradicate our sin from existence. The price has been paid. We are free.

So then this question arises and it is the one dealt with in the final sentence. If God has made a once for all sin offering for us, and in the doing washed away our sin forever, why are we still going through life trying to make sin offerings to God? You see, our part is the accept the sin offering. It is as simple as, “Father, I messed up but I thank you that Jesus paid the price for my sin. I apologize, Lord. I receive forgiveness and thank you for it.” We have no business wailing and groaning about our sin. We need to quickly change our behaviors and receive the grace that was won for us. Why are you hanging onto sin that Dad wants to put behind Him? Some people even act righteous over their sin by moaning and groaning about what a horrible sinner they are. They act like their sin is bigger than Jesus’ sacrifice. I tell you that is offensive to God and a stench in His nostrils. He has made a way for us all to put sin in the past and to move forward in the grace that is the unmerited gift of our dear Lord. So, don’t wallow in self-recrimination. It really is a slam on the blood of Christ. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and determine to make a better decision next time, all the while, though, appreciating that God has provided for the forgiveness of sin. Don’t be sin conscious, be Christ conscious. It is the way.