Friday, October 31, 2014

What are we really Celebrating on Halloween?

Matthew 15:3 Jesus replied, “And why do you, by your traditions, violate the direct commandments of God?
I posted this a couple years ago, but I think about it every year at this time, so let's revisit it. 

Today, we celebrate Halloween. Dressing up in costumes, going to parties, playing games and “trick or treating” for the little kids. But when I ask people what is the significance of the day and what exactly are we celebrating on this “second most popular” holiday in the United States of America?, the answer always seems to be the same: “I don’t know.”

I've listened to a couple Pastors this week explain that there is a confluence of three streams that flow together to form this modern celebration. The first goes back to the Druids, who were the pagan inhabitants of pre-Christian Ireland & Scotland. The Druid or Celtic year began on November 1, which was called “Samhain”. This was their New Year’s day, and consequently, October 31 was “New Year’s Eve”. It was also a combination of a “Harvest Festival” and thought of as a “Festival of the Dead”, for it was said that it was this night that the Earth came to its closest contact with the unseen and spiritual world. Consequently, ghosts, goblins and witches terrified the populous, supposedly destroying crops, killing babies, stealing farm animals, upsetting garbage cans and reeking all sorts of havoc on the people. Bon fires were set upon the hills, either to keep the ghosts away, or perhaps to guide the spirits of the dead back to their homes, where it was believed that the spirits of the deceased on the eve of Samhain find warmth and good cheer in the home of their kinfolk before the onslaught of winter. Therefore, we see a lot of the folk custom of Halloween has come from this Druid celebration.

Another one of them is the custom of “Trick or Treat”. It originated when the people of Ireland went around to homes asking for various treats for the celebration which was to follow later in the evening. Then, when the belief in the reality of goblins and ghosts began to decline, and it was no longer believed that they were really doing these mischievous things, the children decided to help out. So they dressed up in various costumes and put on masks, then went house to house asking for treats, but adding a little something extra … threatening also tricks if they failed to be generous. And so, there were garbage cans upset, gate posts found in trees, and all sorts of pandemonium that took place on that night, supposedly attributed to the ghosts and goblins, but, of course, wrought by the dressed up children.

Deuteronomy 18:9-11 “When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead.”
The second stream that flows into the modern celebration of Halloween comes from Central Europe, when the Christian church made its attack upon the pagan bastions, destroying the temples of the various heathen gods and goddesses. But it was never able to completely eradicate the pagan worship which reappeared in the “Dark Ages” in the form of witchcraft. One of the important aspects of witchcraft are a number of celebrations each year, which are called “Witch’s Sabbaths”. One of the highest witch’s Sabbaths, the “Black Sabbath” of witches, occurred on October 31. This was a night of feasting and revelry, and imagery includes themes of death, evil, the occult, black cats, bats, mythical monsters and other related Halloween paraphernalia. The source of much of our Halloween folklore today stems from the high witch’s Black Sabbath of October 31 celebrated in Central Europe in the Middle Ages.

1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus.

The third stream that completes the modern concept of Halloween comes from the Roman Catholic Church. The church was engaged had been engaged in appointing certain days to honor and reverence certain Saints that the church had appointed or declared. There had become so many of these days that it became impossible to have a specific day for each Saint, so they decided to have one day in which they would remember all of the Saints, called “All Saints Day”. In the 700’s A.D., Pope Gregory III changed the date if “All Saints Day” to November 1, and in the year 834 A.D., Pope Gregory IV extended this celebration to the entire Roman Catholic Church. There was a celebration associated with this, on the evening before called “All-Hallows-Mas” or “All-Hallows-Even” on October 31 and it is from these two words that we have the contraction “Halloween”.

Here you see the three-fold origin of the celebration of Halloween. Are you still excited to celebrate it? Well, unrelated, on October 31, 1517 @ noon in Wittenberg, Germany, a young professor of Theology by the name of Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the University door that sprung into existence the Protestant Reformation and churches. So October 31 is the birthday of Protestantism and the Evangelical faith. Saved by grace alone, saved by Christ alone, and saved by faith alone. Now that’s no trick, but the greatest treat of all.

In Christ, Brian

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The High Calling of God

1 Peter 2:1  Wherefore laying aside all malice...  desire the sincere milk of the Word that ye may be able to grow thereby.  Therefore, commit thyself to the Word of God.

To see life from God's point of view is one aspect of spiritual wisdom. Get wisdom, get knowledge, get understanding... but keep wisdom. Life in this world happens at the speed of light.  We learn of the things of the world in retrospect. What used to be good, righteous and virtuous is now evil in the eyes of the world. When we blinked, the culture flipped upside down and we didn't have time to realize the seismic shift toward the powers of darkness where the world calls good evil and evil good. Therefore rid yourself of all malice against the world which is not your friend.  According to 1 Peter 4:17-19, many Christians have fallen in their spiritual walk. The secular world and the adversary rejoices every time a man of God falls and fails in his walk. Fallen Christians are ridiculed and made examples of "hypocrisy" in the eyes of the culture.  It used to be that when a man or woman fell, the church and the culture would restore them back into fellowship and this would be an example of reconciliation. However, the culture now holds up the church as an example of failure and hypocrisy.  The church has been squeezed into the mold of the World's mold. However, the word of God says, be not conformed to this world but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

In order to be reconciled to God, we must be able to see our sin.To turn from sin, we must be able to see the mark of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.  Like Isaiah who said "woe is me" when confronted with God's holiness, we must first be broken of our pride.  We must recognize the holiness of God, to be able to stand in awe of his wondrous grace. Only when we are broken and with contrition humble our hearts before almighty God can we come boldly before the throne of the Lord Most High. The adversary's strategy is to divide and conquer. He sets cultures, ethnic groups and factions against each other. However, God is a God of reconciliation. To reconcile is to bring back together that which has been separated. To bring together God's church in unity, believers must have a common standard for truth. What you look at you become. Therefore, set your affections on things above. Love not the world, neither the things of the world.  If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  Everything that is of the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father but of the world.  And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof:  but he that doeth the  will of God abideth forever – 1 John 2:17.

The adversary will remind us of how far we have fallen from the mark of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. However, our righteousness is not in the flesh but in the spirit of life in Christ.  If we live in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with him and the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin. As men and women of God, we can only control those things over which God has entrusted us as stewards.  God has called us to pray...  to spend time in his presence and to seek his counsel...  to communicate with God one on one so that we can align our will with God's will and our heart with God's heart. What is it that you value?  All decisions are value judgments. Is it your Lord and Master Jesus Christ whom you seek to serve and please or is it your neighbor and your politically correct worldly culture?  It's not hard to follow Jesus if you concentrate on following in his footsteps.  A disciple is a disciplined follower who's heart's desire is to "eat his master's dust."  To know the will of God we must follow in Jesus' footsteps for Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life, no man cometh unto the father except by me."

If your eyes are not on the target, you'll miss the target. Sin is translated from the Greek word "hamartia" which means to miss the mark. The emphasis is not on the missing, but rather on the "mark."  Mark is from the Greek word "meros" which means allotment, providence, or allocation.  Sin, therefore, means to miss God's allotment, his provision, his portion, his purpose for our lives. Our portion and purpose in this life is Jesus Christ...  he must increase that I may decrease.  The Apostle Paul said, I press toward the mark of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Jesus said, "fear not the man who can take your life, rather fear, reverence, respect, and love the one who has power over your eternal life."  The ultimate goal is the ultimate mark is our heavenly calling. Therefore set your affection on things above, not on the things of this world.  Life is dying to self in order to live for God...  I was crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.

Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord to thee. 
May God richly bless you.
Your brother in Christ,

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Gift of God's Grace

Ephesians 2:1-9 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.

This passage of Holy Scripture will be forever one on my very favorite, because it is the first passage that I remember striking me to the heart with the truth that I was not “good enough” to get into heaven, as I previously had thought, and brought me face-to-face with the reality that I was dead in my sins and needed a Savior. I bought the whole line that “everybody is going to heaven” because that’s where you go when you die. It seemed that everyone around me believed this also … not like we didn’t believe in God, but that we believed that God let everyone into His heaven and we all lived eternal life happily ever after. It seemed that everyone agreed that the “good deeds” tremendously outweighed the occasional “bad things” that we did, which were never directed at God. Did you feel that way too? I don’t remember once saying: “God, I am going to sin against you right now.” As the Ephesians passage said, I was just gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. I know that I really didn’t understand what Sin was and God never seemed to come to mind. I was just “living the life” without a care, except what I wanted.

This passage changed my reality. I had sinned against my “just” and “holy” Creator God and the truth that my “not so bad” life was pure disobedience and transgression of the Lord. Transgression - The act of passing over or beyond any law or rule of moral duty; the violation of a law or known principle of rectitude; breach of command. I had taken God off the throne of my heart, my life, or my world and replaced Him with me. I accepted Jesus Christ as Savior, like a “get out of jail free” card, but never accepted Him as Lord. I, obviously, didn’t grasp the seriousness of sin and was playing right into Satan subtly-tempting hands. Looking back now, I see that I didn’t comprehend the spiritual, and relied on the physical … what I could sense (see hear, touch, smell or taste). Where was my faith? Here was my trust? For the first time, I saw the real filthiness of sin and understood that I was spiritually dead and deserving the wrath of God. I could not erase what I had done and the things that I left undone, and had no way to “earn my way to heaven”. I was so sorry. And then I found that I didn’t understand “grace” either. That next line in the Ephesians passage said; “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” Appropriately, the free unmerited love and favor of God, the spring and source of all the benefits men receive from him. God’s grace is unmerited: undeserved, unearned and cannot be purchased … it truly is the gift of God. And with it comes that favorable influence of God; Divine influence and the influence of the Spirit, in renewing the heart and restraining from sin. Merciful God to the rescue, to send His sinless Son to redeem me and you by exchanging our sin with His righteousness. This gift of God is the gospel. Faith is now in the right person. Now I live for Christ, for it is by grace that you and I are saved.

In Christ, Brian

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

God's Got This

2 Chronicles 20:17  You need not fight in this battle; station yourselves, stand and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out to face them, for the Lord is with you.”

Exodus 14:14  The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent.”

Monday, October 27, 2014

Be Still & Pray

Luke 18:1-8 Now He (Jesus) was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart, saying, “In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man. There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, ‘Give me legal protection from my opponent.’ For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge *said; now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”

This week’s Sunday message from Pastor Kyle was on the need to “Be Still and Pray”. He explained that we may have many reasons for prayer that we can think of: (1) physical health problems, (2) whether single or married – friends and family relationships problems, or maybe (3) personal anxiety problems in life. Well, prayer tells us two things about ourself: (A) You’re Human – we all have problems now and then, & (B) You’re Christian and what to see God do something in your life. It is not easy being solid men and women of God. It is a myth that if we are godly then everything that we pray for goes well. It is entirely possible (and fairly common) to be doing all the “right” things n relation to God without receiving the desired answer for our prayers. God is working the plan that we see in the circumstances of our life. But God is more interested in changing us than our circumstances. We must remember that our Almighty Father in Heaven is not some genie to grant our every desire also.

Romans 12:10-12 Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.”

In the opening Bible passage, we see it’s easier to tell the negative effects to explain a point, rather than proclaim the “don’t do” standards because stories paint an emotional word picture in our mind that creates an emotional response which allows value agreement. In life we find that hurt people hurt people. For the child of God, when things are not going or working out our way, we need to keep living life God’s way; trusting the Lord, but also remembering that keeping our end of the bargain in the Christian life is not bargaining with God. We serve the Lord. Justifying our Sin is really saying; “I like it and don’t want to stop doing it.” The only difference is our personal participation. Repent and pray. The child of God when bullied doesn’t get bitter. When wounded, they go to worship. When persecuted they go to prayer and turn answered prayer to praise.

Ephesians 6:18 With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit.”

Think of prayer as a personal conversation between you and God. Do not think of prayer as old-fashioned either. Lately, it seems that many in the church are so against religious rituals, standards, church seasons and schedules, or anything else that they determine as “dated” (translation: “too old”), but God meets us in godly  rituals, so maintain regular prayer. For example: The Lord’s Prayer is awesome and always significant. As I wrote once before: It is important to realize that since our Father in Heaven “knows the things you have need of before you ask Him”, that our prayers are for “our sake” because we need to be in personal relationship with active and lively conversation with God. Not some memorized sentences recited in vain repetition without thinking, but expressing our personal concerns and celebrations in every element that Jesus instructed in the Lord’s “model” Prayer. (1) Adoration/Worship, Love & Praise, (2) Declaration of Allegiance in Submission / Intercession, (3) Petition / Supplication / Intercession for our daily needs, (4) Confession / Expiation in Repentance of inequities, (5) for Deliverance / Protection (6) Meditation waiting on the Lord, and (7) Celebration / Rejoicing / Thanksgiving. The Lord Jesus gave us this model prayer and there is nothing wrong with reciting it. By reciting these treasured words in tender-hearted prayer, we are also in corporate prayer with brothers and sisters around the world, joining in prayer together with you and I. But, also do not forget to spend personal time in prayer with your Father, who art in Heaven.

Matthew 6:9-13 “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’

One Word: Pray!

1 Thessalonians 5:17 “pray without ceasing”

In Christ, Brian

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Forgiveness – Walking in Freedom

Psalm 130:3-5 If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you. I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.

The Friday night Small group that meets at our house is studying the Scriptures on the topic of “Forgiveness” this Fall season. A good friend told me lately that their Pastor told another group of longtime Believers that because they were professing Christians, he was not going to focus his lesson to them on “Salvation”, but on “Forgiveness”. They knew and understood from Ephesians 1:7 that In Him (Jesus) we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace”, but what really is this “forgiveness”? In every relationship it’s certain we’ll need to extend or seek forgiveness at some point, so the subject of forgiveness touches us all. But, how can we forgive when the pain is so great? Does forgiving mean we have to forget the insults and injuries? Is the other person going to get away with what they did? Forgiveness not only cleanses our soul and frees our mind but unlocks the chains that hold us captive to the person who wronged us. We need to know and trust that God has a grand plan and purpose for our life. We do not always see what God is doing and who is using to accomplish His purposes in the larger picture or why?

Genesis 50:19-20 Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.”

This lesson that our group studied this last week taught that to unleash the power of forgiveness in our lives lets it propel us our of painful and awkward situations, and frees us from the pain of the past to move forward. As a Believer, we can effuse to allow the past to determine our future. Everything we have endured, suffered and experienced can have eternal value if we choose to view it from God’s perspective. Joseph did not hold his brother’s mistreating of him against them, but felt compassion for them before they recognized him. His forgiveness was unconditional – not dependant on anything from them. You can read the complete account of Joseph in the book of Genesis, Chapters 37-50. To be sure, his brothers mistreated him, but he chose to see the past from God’s point of view. He recognized that God was working His good in Joseph’s life through the very evil that had been done to him. Joseph’s example reminds us that when we don’t know why certain things happen, we must remain confident that God is at work in every experience of our lives, even the painful ones and not allow situations to paralyze or render us ineffective in our walk with the Lord. Forgiveness is freedom.  

Ephesians 2:1-6 You He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.

When you look at this passage of Holy Scripture above, see, understand and know the forgiveness of God from His Divine mercy and grace, and walk in freedom toward the future, being graciously forgiving.

In Christ, Brian

Friday, October 24, 2014

Know that You are Blessed

Ephesians 1:3- “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,  just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.”

We have been blessed to be a blessing to the Lord and to others.

Matthew 5 :1-12 When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great.

Have a blessed day! In Christ, Brian

Thursday, October 23, 2014


1 Peter 2:9  You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”

Here is another Thursday message from Micheal: God has called his Remnant as his “chosen” generation by his own grace, mercy and love.  In the Old Testament, God called Israel, not because they were great, but because they were loved. Chosen is the antidote to elitism. He chose them not because they were choice people but because they were un-merited. He chose them by his own will.  Only by God's grace was Israel chosen. hey were not elite in themselves, but because of His having chosen them by His mercy and grace.  It's not a matter of deservedness...  If God had given them their "just deserts" they would be dead...  for the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus ChristRomans 6:23. A priest is the one who has access to God. Without God, we're on the outside looking in. But, we're included by his grace as a royal priesthood. The priest is chosen of God, having access through the tabernacle to God to represent the people in God's presence. Only the “High Priest” could enter into the “Holy of Holies”, once a year into the inner chamber that represented the presence of God on the high holy “Day of Atonement”, once a year.

Society talks about belonging and our need to be inclusive and included, to be on the inside, looking out.  However, only God allows his people into his Holy presence. There is a narrow gate to the narrow way to the heart of God. Only through our Lord Jesus Christ can we enter into the” Holy of Holies” into God's presence. Jesus said I am the way the truth and the life, no man cometh unto the father but by meJohn 14:6.  Having access to God through Jesus Christ, we now have fellowship with God.  Fellowship means communion, i.e. co-union with God.  For truly our fellowship is with God and his Son Jesus Christ and one with another in the household of faith. Holy means sanctified or set apart for the purpose intended by the designer. It means to live without pretense according to that for which we have been designed, according to his divine purpose for our lives.

An ethnic group is a group of people held together by a common culture. A sub-culture holds individuals together with a common language, a common experience and a common relationship. Friendships develop within each sub-culture. Orange County, California is a diverse region with many different sub-cultures. The melting pot of the general culture encompasses many different sub-cultures. Sub-cultures are exclusive and screened. However, a collective culture is not exclusive. The Christian culture must be inclusive and forgiving of the sub-cultures. Christianity must be free to encompass all facets of our lives and cross over to those who are different from us ethnically and sub-culturally. We are God's possession.  It's not who we are, it's whose we are.  We are not only God's possession, we are his prize possession.  For by grace we are saved, not of works lest any man should boast.  For we are his workmanship, his most prized possession, his “poema”, his poem, his masterpiece, created in Christ Jesus unto good works which he hath foreordained that we should walk in it.

God's providence, His allotment, His provision is in His chosen people.  As His chosen ones, our allotment, our blessing, our portion is in Him.  I in thee and thee in me.  Be thou my vision O Lord of my Heart, naught be all else to me save that thou art. It's none of me and all of thee.  That I should boast not in myself, but only in the Grace of God.

May God richly bless you.
Your Brother in Christ, Michael

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Walking in Forgiveness – Part 2

Matthew 18:23-35 Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. “At this the servant fell on his knees before him.  ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’ “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened. “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Pastor Bryan Loritts clarified that Jesus’ parable of the unmerciful servant message above is not about reconciliation, because reconciliation is the process of bringing together former enemies and involves two. Romans 12:18If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” is about reconciliation, and there is no excuse for not doing the hard work of either forgiveness or reconciliation. Yes, there should be justice and consequences for actions, but forgiveness has no loopholes. (2) Forgiveness is costly. If it doesn't cost anything or hurt some, then it isn't forgiveness. There is a cost to “letting it go. Normally, we want to lash back and hurt our offender, having a “you hurt me, so I hurt you” attitude. Blessing someone who harmed you is to willingly inflect suffering upon yourself, not them. But, isn’t that exactly what our Savior Jesus Christ did for us on the Cross?! Didn't our forgiveness come at a great, great cost? We may not want to extend forgiveness to those who wronged us. We all have that person in our life, but don’t wait until you “feel” lead by the Spirit to be obedient and forgive them. We may not feel excited about forgiving, but, by faith, are obedient in forgiveness, then “the feeling” come after. Don’t be led to forgive; forgive.

Psalm 32:1 How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered!”

(3) Forgiveness is “Freeing”. Every sin that we have committed and are going to commit in the future has been covered by the blood of Jesus Christ and forgiven (expunged), but are we still tripping over offenses (big or small) against us? In the parable, the denarius was a coin with a value equal to the average day’s wage for the common laborer in Jesus’ day. By contrast, the talent was the largest monetary unit and a man would have to work twenty years to earn just one talent, so ten thousand talents would have been a nearly inconceivable debt. He could not work off his debt, and neither can we. Do see and understand the comparison? Here is the symbolism of the parable: The king is God. The unforgiving servant is humanity. And the debt represents our sin. Do you know how many times that you have violated God? Everything wrong that we have ever done is forgiven, removed from our record and put upon Jesus on the Cross, but someone who does one thing to us … we are not going to let it go? Really? In Jesus’ parable, the unforgiving man has his freedom taken from him and he is put in prison for being shown mercy and then not showing mercy to others.

Mark 11:25-26 Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions.  But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions.”

Pastor Bryan explained that, naturally, unforgiving people take a “nobody in and nobody out” position, saying: “Never again will I get hurt this way.” “Never again will I feel the pain that I feel.” So, they hold people away and at bay. We think that the refusal to forgive will hurt the other person, but in reality they are not even thinking about it or us and we are the one who is really hurting. There is no sense of grace, vulnerability, closeness or joy, and you cannot minster effectively to others with bitterness, negativity and unforgiveness because you are stuck in bondage. Don’t let anyone allow you to lose your joy. Godly forgiveness is the most freeing gift that you can give yourself. Why should we forgive? We accrued a debt that we could not pay, but God did for us what we could never do for ourselves. He forgave us in Christ and let it go. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch let me. I once was lost, but now am found; was blind but now I see. God said: “I forgive you.” Forgiven child of God, are you walking in forgiveness as a person of forgiveness to others, as we have been forgiven? Be forgiving.

In Christ, Brian

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Walking in Forgiveness – Part 1

 Matthew 18:21-22 Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus *said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.

I find it a Devine coincidence that our Friday evening small group Bible Study discussed a lesson on the very same topic and verses on the very same day of Pastor Bryan’s final lecture. Keynote speaker Pastor Bryan Loritts’ reminded us that forgiveness for the Believer must know no bounds. According to the common rabbinic thought of the day, offended persons only had to forgive three times, so Peter that ought that he was being generous by doubling that number plus one for the number of perfection. But Jesus’ stunning reply was saying that love doesn’t keep score. What the Lord is saying is that in the kingdom of Heaven “forgiven people forgive”. The “right” thing to do is to forgive from the heart as we have been forgiven. We will have some people in our lives that will always push the boundaries, but we should show mercy to others as we have been shown mercy; not in words, but in action and from the heart.

Matthew 6:9-15 “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. ‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. ‘Give us this day our daily bread. ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’] For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.

Unforgiveness will land us in Hell … whoa! But Pastor Bryan explains that forgiveness is not a “works salvation”. We do not forgive to get to Heaven. One of the indicators of authentic faith, genuinely and generously received forgiveness from God in Jesus Christ, is that we forgive and forgive. For a Christian to hold a grudge and not forgive is a oxymoron. Forgiving is what Christians do because it is who they are and whose they are. Forgiveness is about relationships and requires “relational courage” to sit down, have an honest conversation to really talk and resolve the situation and drop the burden. But there are three things that we must know: (1) Forgiveness is ridiculously irrational. What is rational is to keep score and “up the ante”. We tend to become ‘passive aggressive” to someone who does something to us that we do not like. But, dress it up any way you like; it’s unforgiveness. In our flesh nature, something rejoices in our heart at “getting back” and “getting even”. But, as the late writer C.S. Lewis wrote: “Forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” This means remembering where we stand with the Lord and in the “Lord’s Prayer”, the meaning of the words “forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors”.  We are offered “forgiveness’ on no other terms. And to refuse it is to refuse God’s mercy for ourselves. There are no exceptions and God means what He says. Forgiveness is not “one, three or seven and done”, but a daily decision of “walking in forgiveness”.

Let’s pick up right here tomorrow to hear the conclusion of Pastor Bryan’s faithful and timely message on forgiveness.

In Christ, Brian

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Power of Christ

Colossians 2:8See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.

I wasn’t able to attend our denominational conference this year, but was able to watch the conference keynote speaker - Pastor Bryan Loritts of Fellowship Memphis in Memphis, Tennessee via the taped broadcasts on the internet, and I’m glad that I did. He parallels salvation through Jesus to the American “Emancipation Proclamation” in that the Sinner is a slave to their sin and the Believer has been set free by Christ. Besides “original sin”, we are guilty of “voluntary sins” that we commit. Whether one a day, week or month (and that  being generous since sin are committed in thoughts, words and actions), if we added them up over a lifetime, it’s a problem when the requirement is zero. And eternity is at sake! But, we can find freedom from our sin in Christ Jesus. By the power of Christ alone; not earn, bought or deserved. Why? The love and grace of God Almighty.  

Ephesians 2:4-9 “Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy,  made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.

Pastor Loritts warns: Don’t be taken captive by empty and deceptive philosophy: Jesus plus something is “nothing”, but Jesus plus nothing is “everything”. The work of our church’s pastors is to grow people from immaturity to maturity with patience, and sound biblical counsel, teaching and preaching. They true have the duty of watching over souls. God bless our clergy. Philosophy is based upon the love of wisdom to form our worldview of life and living. But, instead of our focus being upon human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world, the heart and center direct all to Jesus, who has the power to heal and transform.

Hebrews 12:1-2 “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, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

There are three hollow philosophies prevalent today in our society, which are deceptive and take people captive. (1) Individualism – which states that the world revolves around me and my desires; centered in pride and focuses on the unholy trinity of “me, myself, and I”. (2) Hedonism – which states that I exist for the pursuit of personal pleasure and works to transform the image of God’s Battleship into a luxury Cruise Ship. A Cruise Ship exists for comfort and enjoyment, while a Battleship exists for the “Mission” – God’s mission. (3) Materialism – which states that the one with the most toys at the end wins and is centered on what we have or what we don’t have … yet. It is a simple case of “You have stuff and the stuff has you”. None of these philosophies satisfies because they are truly empty. The Lord wants us to have a life philosophy; just the “right” one. To the Believer, Jesus is our all and our everything because: (1) Jesus is God, (2) Jesus saved you, (3) Jesus has forgiven you – blotted out, expunged and obliterated our sins, and (4) Jesus has triumphed over our enemies by His power. Do we need any more reason? Jesus Christ is Savior and Lord. Let us rejoice!

Psalm 113 Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord, you his servants; praise the name of the Lord. Let the name of the Lord be praised, both now and forevermore.

In Christ, Brian

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Show of Worship or Worship of Show

Matthew 16:15-18 He (Jesus) said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.

Do you remember the fun little hand game that we played when we were little? Here's the church and here's the steeple. Open the door and there are the people. It was a great way to illustrate that the Christian church is not the building, but the people of God worshipping and serving the Lord for the advancement of the kingdom of Jesus Christ. We must never lose site of what the church is here for because when the church takes its heart's eye off of the Lord and His work in the world, they put it on idols which they walk towards.  

Our particular protestant Christian denomination is held its annual conference this last week in California and keynote speaker Bryan Loritts, Senior Pastor of Fellowship Memphis in Memphis, Tennessee opened the convention with a challenging message to keep the main thing, the main thing in the church or else we lose our Christian witness and mirror the world. Never before has there been such an effort to silence Christians and secularize America into atheistic and hedonistic humanism and materialism, but never has there also been a greater opportunity for gospel ministry in action because distractions blind and bind; only the truth shall set you free. Why is it that the darkness of unbelief is advancing and attacking?  Pastor Loritts asked, "Could it be that the reason that the church of Jesus Christ is becoming so impotent in our culture and society today is because “church” is just another “Gig” … a platform, where Jesus is another stage and the Bible is another textbook because church is just another performance for the “professional Christian” and we flip the switch on each Sunday and get on with the show?" Where we operate from giftedness; not godliness and from competency; not connectedness. Where Jesus Christ is in our heads, but not in our hearts. People seeking spiritual truth in Christ are looking for authentic worship and praise in the presence of Almighty God in the church service, not entertainment at a quality scale. The purpose of church is not to put on a great show, but  a service that meets our spiritual need for our Holy Father, our Blessed Savior and loving Spirit. We are not worshipping worshipping. Its not a performance; its a humble, authentic relationship with God that the  world needs, separated from this lost world that is dying in sin and unbelief.  
“Professionals” in the world are concerned about their marketing exposure and public image, but  don't buy what they sell. Do we? Pastor Loritts tells us that we are not our ministry, we are not our Sunday Service, we are not our last Sermon … you and I are not our last at-bat; we are children of the Creator of the Universe. If the fancy flash of d├ęcor, smoke and lights go and the loud popular contemporary music disappears, will the people not show up? Does "No" show = No "Show"? Is a professional performance being projected as "the main thing" that they are focusing on and coming for, instead of Christ?  If so, then the church is not truly evangelizing and ministering properly to their spiritual needs as the Lord desires and people are there for the wrong reason. People, at their core, want and need reality, not emotional distractions. Jesus said that the child of God in in the world, but not of the world (meaning the God-rejection world-system of lawless sin). To be salt and light in the world means being set apart by God for God's purposes, holy different by authentically walking in a "right" relationship with God everywhere and at all times. Jesus Christ is Lord. We show our worship, but our worship is not a show.

In Christ, Brian