Jesus taught us to expect life in the Kingdom of God to be different than any other religious or secular tradition.
How do you evaluate your spirituality today on the spectrum of “cannot” and “have-to” on the one side, and “freedom” and “can I do that too?” on the other side.
If you are not happy with where you placed your spiritual life on this spectrum, today is a good day to start a series of conversations with God to find out how you can change this.
Jesus promises freedom, and abundant life. Awhile ago I was sitting with my friend on the porch of his million dollar house, and we were talking about how we live in one of most privileged times in history. Many people around the world are able to sit on their front porches without fear of marauders, which reminded us of this prophecy in the Old Testament.
Micah 4:4 Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the LORD Almighty has spoken.
Still, many Christians and non-Christians, wealthy and not-wealthy, are unhappy.
Think for a minute: “What would it take to make me truly happy, right now?” Once you have the answer, read on.
In my experience, and the Bible backs this up, we can only be really happy, and really content, when we are doing our best to walk with God on this earth. We can be eating grapes on our own porch, or we could be going through a dark night of the soul, or both. True happiness doesn’t really have to do with that. It has to do with walking in the destiny God has prepared for us. Maybe it is helpful to think of God holding a flashlight. As long as we are close to Him it is easy to see where to step next, and that really feels good. RGB.
We reflect our true values to those around us.
Thought for the Day
Today I had coffee with a friend I have not seen in twenty-six years. As we talked of missions, God, and our families, he relayed the following story.“Sometimes our friends in church mention that they wish their teen-agers wanted to sit with them, as ours do. While these parents would like to have a better relationship with their children, they do not see the bigger picture. They do not choose to organize their lives so they can eat together as a family, and spend quality time together. Sitting together on Sunday is the tip of the ice-burg, the fruit of many years of choosing to do things together with our children, even if we would rather be doing other things”.
This thought about serving others came out in a different way during our family devotions this week. Bella brought to our attention how the important centurion humbled himself before Jesus so his servant would be healed. This army leader stepped out of his comfort zone to help his servant.
Matthew 8:5-6 When Jesus returned to Capernaum, a Roman officer came and pleaded with him, “Lord, my young servant lies in bed, paralyzed and in terrible pain.”
God will give you opportunities to help others this week, but sometimes you will need to step out of your comfort zone…maybe way out. I am curious about your experiences or thoughts about this.
We are often amazed at the unfair, tragic stories of the people around us. The idea that a sinful lifestyle will make you happy, or that it is a person’s only option, passes naturally down the family lines. It takes divine intervention to stop the chain reactions of sin, and to start a new family story. Our church in Brazil allows our neighbours a chance to observe Christian families. For example, most of our neighbours still laugh when they hear that Deanna and I go out on Tuesdays for “date night”. They associate dating as something adults do outside of a marriage relationship. As these young people get married they need extra grace to figure out how to live in a godly relationship. Healthy ways of handling conflict have not been modelled for them. Stabbing, yelling, or going silent are no longer acceptable. Their children will have it easier, and their grandchildren easier yet…as long as each generation does their part to connect the next generation to God.
“…the LORD your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me. But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands. Exodus 20:5b-6 NLT
For a school report Bella and I studied her family heritage. “All my grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles, and all my cousins, they are all Christians”. (36 people). Wow. Now how many others can we help to start their own Christian family heritage?
Our Mennonite Brethren Christian heritage goes back many generations. For this reason I am certain I have an easier time than many people around me. Often I think, “I’ll bet if I had been born into their family, I would be reacting exactly as they are reacting”. I am blessed in part because of the prayers and actions of people who lived long ago.
Here is Emma with my Dad and Mom, George and Margaret Bergen.
There are great rewards as we work on our most important task in life, to do our best to pass on a Christian heritage to our children. What better way to do this than to include our families in helping other people start their own Christian heritage?
Emma has homeschooled from grades K-12, with the exception of Grade 10. High Road Academy allowed Emma to participate in the graduation ceremonies and celebrations along with all her friends she went to school with in 2011/2012. Then HCOS, the home school association with whom we have been registered these past several years, also hosted a graduation ceremony, banquet, and evening. This was an especially interesting event because this is the first time most of these grads met each other, even though they have worked together in forums and projects online for years. Emma graduated with honours, and we are very proud of her. The teachers chose Emma to give the 5 minute opening speech for this huge event.
Emma was chosen to be the saladictorian, the student to give the opening speech and prayer.
Emma’s Uncle Darrell drove her to the graduation ceremonies. He puta chrome 400 hp chrome racing motors in the ’55 Chevy he rebuilt. “It was so much fun. When Uncle Darrell stepped on the gas pedal we all got pinned back in our seats. And every person we passed on the freeway looked over and nodded at us”.
Harold and Joan, Deanna’s parents, continue to do all they can to help us thrive in Brazil. We celebrated Harold’s 77th birthday yesterday.
Thought for the Day
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” NIV.
Pastor Gary at the Abbotsford Vineyard gave a sermon on forgiveness today. He started by outlining some things that forgiveness is not.
Click here for a list of 8 things that are NOT forgiveness.
I have learned the following three truths about forgiveness this year.
1. We forgive others for our own benefit. (THIS IS A GIFT I GIVE MYSELF.)
a) This is the only way that we ourselves are forgiven, that we can pursue happiness, contentment, joy, and all that God offers.
b) Remember the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant in Matthew 18, we are forgiven as we forgive others.
2. We ask forgiveness from others for our own benefit. (THIS IS A GIFT I GIVE MYSELF.)
a) This is the only way to be released from legitimate guilt.
b) We do this so our gifts to God have value. Matthew 6:14 Gifts that have no value are worthless.
3. We explain to others when they have sinned against us for their benefit. (THIS IS A GIFT I GIVE TO OTHERS.)
a) This is a selfless act of service. It is like offering an olive branch to people who have sinned against us. We are offering them a chance to ask forgiveness, to release themselves from legitimate guilt.
b) “So watch yourselves. ‘If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them'” (Luke 17:3, NIV). See also Matthew 18:15.
c) Explaining to others when they have sinned against us can only be done effectively when it is done in love. We cannot do this well when we are angry, or when we are still reacting poorly to what was done to us.
d) This one is for me the most difficult because:
i) I would rather forget the matter, and hope it will just go away. The problem with this is that some situations do not just go away.
ii) The other person may not realize they have sinned against me, or they may not agree that they have sinned against me. The conversation may be awkward. After courageously talking to the other person, I may see things differently. This has the potential to put the relationship back on a healing track.
iii) The other person may think they have a right to sin against me, and it may feel to me like they are standing their with their emotional arms crossed. It may feel like I am asking them to say sorry to me for my benefit, instead of the real truth that I am extending to them an olive branch so they can be freed from legitimate guilt. This has the potential to be awkward. Of course, the other person may ask genuine forgiveness, which I may have trouble to give, because of the deepness of the wound.
iv) A real danger here is that the other person may ask forgiveness without really agreeing that they did something wrong, just to make the immediate conversation go away. This is the same as lying, even though both parties may have good intentions. In this case the sin will probably be intentionally repeated, with both parties feeling they are right. Deceiving one another is not nearly as helpful as having courageous conversations until both parties feel completely understood.
v) If this goes well, this is the first step to rebuilding trust. Trust can only be rebuilt when both sides agree that trust was broken. Then both sides can start taking steps towards reconciliation.
Conclusion: We cannot control other peoples actions and reactions. Our responsibility before God is to (1) Forgive everyone completely, (2) ask forgiveness if we know someone has something against us, and (3) to let others know when they have sinned against us.
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” Romans 12:18 NIV.
I am curious about your experiences or thoughts about this.
On June 6, 2014, Pastor Gary Stephens at the Abbotsford Vineyard Church talked about forgiveness, which included the following assumptions about what forgiveness is not.
- Forgiveness is not making excuses for what was done to you.
- Forgiveness is not pretending it never happened.
- Forgiveness is not waiting for an apology.
- Forgiveness is not pretending it doesn’t hurt.
- Forgiveness is not a one-time event.
- Forgiveness is not overlooking justice.
- Forgiveness is not trusting.
- Forgiveness is not restoration.
Posted with permission.