The Blessing of Offering Forgiveness

Perhaps you know the story.  (Genesis 27)

Jacob had tricked his brother Esau out of his birthright.  Esau was furious.  His preference would have been to get even. He was bigger and stronger.  Jacob had tricked him before. He had every right to seek revenge.  No one would have blamed him. 

What did his father advise?

You’ll live by your sword, hand-to-mouth, and you’ll serve your brother. But when you can’t take it any more you’ll break loose and run free. (Genesis 27:40 Message Version)

The English Standard Version says, “you shall break his yoke from your neck.”

I think what Isaac, Esau’s father, was sharing with his son was that the pain of disappointment would be difficult. Jacob would triumph even in his trickery. Esau would indeed lose his birthright. It would be difficult to accept.

I think, however, that Isaac, with his wisdom gained through years of experience, also shared with his son an important truth. Once Esau grew weary of his unforgiving spirit and he finally offered Jacob forgiveness, Esau could be free to fully live at peace again.

Isaac knew what it sometimes takes years for people to understand. When you choose to forgive the one who hurt you, you get the monkey of bondage that comes from an unforgiving spirit off your back. Offering forgiveness brings freedom to the one who injured, as well as to the one that did the injuring.

To whom do you need to extend forgiveness so you can freely live again?

Allow Your Painful Past To Minister To Others

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 2 Corinthians 1:3-6

As a minister, I often meet people at some of their lowest points in life. It has always been interesting to me the degree people will go to hide the painful parts of their life. We tend to portray our lives as struggle-free. We mask our hurts with fake smiles and half-hearted clichés of wellbeing.

I am not an advocate of blasting one’s struggles to everyone who will listen. I’m a private person myself. The truth is, however, that one person’s struggle helps another struggling with the same issue. It’s easier to identify with someone once you’ve experienced what he or she is experiencing. It is much more difficult to know how another person feels if you have never walked where he or she is walking.

For example:

  • If you have never been hungry, it’s harder to really know hunger.
  • If you have never been broken-hearted, it’s hard to know the pain of a broken heart.
  • If you have never received rejection, it’s harder to understand being rejected.
  • If you have never cried yourself to sleep, it’s harder to give empathy to those worn out from their tears.
  • If you have never struggled to make a house payment, or a payroll, or a utility bill, it’s harder to understand the fear money (or the lack of it) can bring.

Have you been trying to hide the hurts in your life?

Remember, the pain of your past is one of your best assets to ministering to others. Ask God how He can use your past to help heal someone who is currently suffering.

The Day After Christmas…What To Do?

And all they that heard it wondered at those things, which were told them by the shepherds. Luke 2:18 KJV

It’s the day after Christmas. Are you still wondering what all the “fuss” was about?

I can imagine the “wonder” going on in Bethlehem shortly after the birth of Christ. There was great wonder in the naming of this baby. Jesus, which means “salvation of God”, was not something someone like Joseph and Mary typically would have named their son. Talk about high hopes for your children!

With the excitement going on in the town because of the census, it is probable that few took notice of Jesus’ birth. Therefore, when the shepherds go about joyfully, almost ecstatically, proclaiming the Good News, people most likely wondered “what baby?”… “I didn’t see a baby”. They were so busy with their own celebrations; they had missed the birth of a Savior!

What about you? As you clean up the torn packages from yesterday, and you pack away all the new gifts; as you travel back home or prepare to head back to work, what difference has Christmas made in your life? Have you thought about it? Did the fact that a Savior was born make a difference in your life this week/this year? Are you living a life that reflects that truth? Or…are you still wondering what all the excitement is about?

Many celebrated Christmas this year. How many really understood the why behind the celebration? The parties are over and the gifts are open, and many will be sad that the celebration is over, but the celebration alone will never completely fill a person’s heart. Only the true gift of Christmas, the one they named Jesus, can fill the void in a heart that often dwells at the end of a Christmas celebration.

After the dust settles from the hustle and rush of buying, wrapping, opening gifts, stuffing ourselves with holiday treats and enjoying the company of friends and family is over, perhaps you and I should pause and really reflect on the true meaning of Christmas.  A Savior has been born…He is Christ the Lord!  That Savior grew, lived a sinless life, died on a cross, rose again, and now intercedes between God and man on behalf of those who believe.  He wants to be your friend that sticks closer than a brother.  He wants those who are weary and heavy-burdened to come to Him.  He wants to bless our lives with true peace.

…And that part of the Christmas season…will last throughout the coming year…and throughout eternity!

The Christmas Story

Luke 2:1-20

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus,
that all the world should be taxed .
(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
And all went to be taxed , every one into his own city.
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David,
which is called Bethlehem;
(because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
And so it was , that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered .
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes , and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
And there were in the same country
shepherds abiding in the field , keeping watch over their flockby night.
And, lo , the angel of the Lord came upon them,
and the glory of the Lord shone roundabout them: and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for,
behold , I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you;
Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes , lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying ,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
And it came to pass , as the angels were gone away from them into heaven , the shepherds said one to another,
Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass , which the Lord hath made known unto us.
And they came with haste , and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
But Mary kept all these things , and pondered them in her heart.
And the shepherds returned , glorifying and praising God for all the things
that they had heard and seen ,as it was told unto them.

Jesus Didn’t Come To Bring Peace To The World

Jesus didn’t come to bring peace to the world.

There.  I said it.  Now before you cast your religious stones my way and accuse me of blasphemy, please allow me to explain.

It may be simply a matter of terminology, but I think we often confuse the purpose of the coming of the Christ of Christmas.  We love the passage in Luke describing Jesus’ birth.  The “great company of the heavenly host” accompanying God’s angel told the shepherds, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14)  We often look for peace in this world and are disappointed when life appears anything but peaceful.  Don’t confuse that verse to mean that in this world, because Jesus came, there would be peace all around us.  That day here on earth may never come. We live in a very mixed up, shattered world where peace is often hard to find.

In fact, during Jesus’ ministry, he told the disciples, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34)  That doesn’t sound very peaceful, does it? The controversy over Christmas that remains today is that Jesus divides people over opinions of who He is and what He did and can do for the world.

Here’s the bottom line; Jesus didn’t come to bring peace to the world.  Jesus came to bring the world Peace. Jesus came to bring the world the One who is Peace.  He came to bring peace to the hearts of men that are imprisoned by “sin that so easily entangles.“ (Hebrews 12:1)  Jesus came to bring Himself to people who could not reach peace on their own.  The peace that came to the world at Christmas is to be found within you, the followers of Christ.

In light of this truth, if you desire to celebrate the real purpose of Christmas, understand that it is through you that the real meaning of Christmas is expressed…as you share the Peace of Christmas…the person of Christ…with others.  That peace is expressed as we share Christ’s love with people that feel unloved, forgive those that have injured us, feel joy when our world is falling apart around us or give expecting nothing in return.

There may never be peace in this world, but in this world, we can have Peace.  His name is Jesus, born in a manger, but raised to live a perfect life, die on a cross, and introduce the world to real peace…peace that surpasses understanding.

Do you think it is possible to have peace at Christmas apart from the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ?

Can God Forgive Tiger Woods?

tiger-woods3I wrote a few weeks ago about the true story about Tiger Woods. (Read that story HERE.) The fact is that Tiger is human, just like you and me. I’ve been amazed (not really) since then at how many people are crucifying him instead of loving him through this time in his life. If media reports are true, obviously Tiger Woods has made some huge mistakes. The biggest disappointment may be the amount of potential, success and influence the man has had in the field of golf and overall culture.

Here’s where my thoughts lead, however:

Can God forgive Tiger Woods? Absolutely. (Probably easier than most of us can…)

Can Tiger Woods’ marriage be saved? Yes! (Thankfully I’ve seen this kind of miracle many times this year.)

Can God use this situation in a way that brings Him glory? Without question. (God has used my failures for His glory countless times.)

It always seems to me that when a celebrity is involved in scandal even Christians forget the frailty of man or the power of redemption for God.  We get so caught up in the gossip of the story, that we forget that all of us are nothing apart from God’s grace.   I’m personally praying Tiger Woods seeks wise counsel, changes his life direction, restores his family, and even returns to golf. I will miss watching his game. More than anything, however, I’m praying Tiger Woods falls on his knees before a holy God and receives mercy, grace and forgiveness. It is as available to him as it is to me (or you).  What an incredible testimony he can give if God writes the ending to this story!

What are your thoughts?

As I was compiling this post for this afternoon, a great post on the same subject by my friend Pete Wilson popped up on my Google Reader. Read his thoughts HERE.

Making Decisions The Easy Way

It is the Lord your God you must follow, and Him you must revere. Keep His commands and obey Him; serve Him and hold fast to Him. Deuteronomy 13:4 NIV

We spend too much time in life trying to decide who and what we should be and which decision is best for us? Should I vote Democrat or Republican? Should I go to a state school or a private university? Should I be Baptist or Nazarene?  Should I go to that movie or not? Do I trust that pastor (or blogger) or some other who seems to contradict?

Decisions…decisions… Who is right? Who is wrong? Whom should I follow? Who is telling me the truth? Whom can I trust?

S T O P ! Stop the chase! God has given us the final answer! Here it is: FOLLOW HIM! If we follow God and God alone, if we will put Him first, revering Him as all-sufficient in our lives, it is then that we will begin to find direction in our lives. If we will keep His commands and obey Him, serving Him faithfully, holding to the truth of His word, then we will find real peace in our lives.

God’s will for us is right, good and pure! In Him we will find success in life. As we follow God, seeking Him with all our heart, we will begin to find the true meaning to the chaos in which we live. Decisions will become easier once we solicit answers from the great I Am!

Has 2009 Been A Difficult Year For You?


Has 2009 been a difficult year for you? I continue to hear from people what a stressful year 2009 has been for them. I know it has been in my life. As great a year as we have had as a church and as wonderful as my immediate family is doing, this year has seemed plagued at times with overwhelming stress. (It has kept me in prayer, so that is never a bad thing.)

This Sunday we are going to attempt to refocus our hearts and attention on the “Reason for the Season”, the person of Jesus Christ as we head into the year 2010. We will take a fresh look at a familiar Christmas story and attempt to find hope within burdened days. Jason Roy, lead singer for Building 429, and a member of Grace Community Church, will lead us in a special song of reflection following the morning message. I haven’t been this excited about a Sunday in a long time!

If you need a fresh perspective on life before a new year begins, I hope you will join us. We meet at Rossview High School at 8:30, 10:00 and 11:30 AM.

Check us out online at

Update, to listen to this message, click HERE

Daily Manna: Understanding This Verse Will Change Your Life









(An omer is one tenth of an ephah.) Exodus 16:36 NIV

Understanding this verse will change you life. I guarantee it.

Let me try to explain. Throughout the 16th chapter of Exodus, Moses recounts the story of the Israelites gathering manna, which were thin flakes of bread. Every morning, each person gathered the manna by a measure called an omer. For 35 verses in chapter 16, if you are inquisitive like me, you are wondering, “Moses, what is an omer? How much is that?”

Good ole Moses fills us in: an omer is one tenth of an ephah! Any questions? Thanks Moses, it’s clear in my mind.

Perhaps like me you are still confused, so I did a little research. According to a dictionary search, an omer is defined as “one-tenth of an ephah”. Okay, that didn’t help. Therefore, I looked up ephah. My dictionary says, “A Hebrew measurement”. Okay, that doesn’t help me much either. (I’m sure after this post you can send me a dozen definitions. Go for it…but it won’t change the purpose of this post.)

The fact is I don’t know what an ephah or an omer is exactly; we just don’t use those methods of measurement today. I think though it is almost like when your grandmother gave you the recipe for one of her famous pies and she says, “just add a pinch” of something. As we may know from that experience, the measurement isn’t as important as the person making the pie.

The purpose of the omer of bread was to supply just enough for the day. If they gathered more than an omer, it wouldn’t last beyond the day. If they gathered too little, they would not have enough to meet their physical needs. The omer was the perfect measurement. God was trying to teach His people that if they trusted in Him to provide for them, they would always have enough, but if they took matters into their own hands, the plan would fail to work. The measurement wasn’t he important part of this plan though; trusting in the Provider is what was important.

In John chapter 6, Jesus shares that He is the Bread of Life. The people, who knew the story of omers of manna their ancestors had received, came looking to Jesus to supply their daily bread. They wanted substance. They wanted provisions. They wanted Jesus to feed them. Instead of trusting in Jesus, however, the people wanted to trust in the bread He would provide them.

How many times do we trust based on what we have or do not have, rather than trusting in the One who can provide? When you and I stop looking at the quantity of our provisions and start trusting in the Provider, it will change the way we live our life. Instead of being happy when we have plenty or disappointed when we have less, we will learn the secret of contentment.

Remember, when you and I have Christ, the measurement doesn’t matter, because we have the Provider. Understanding this truth will change your life.

What Does It Mean To Surrender To Christ?

Here Are My PrayersI preached Sunday at Grace Community Church on the need to surrender everything to Christ.  What a lofty concept.  I realize how ambiguous that statement is.  I explained more, and you can listen to that message HERE (or watch it HERE), but I received additional questions after the message.  Personally, I love when that happens.  To me it means people left thinking.

A typical question went something like this:

What exactly does it mean to “surrender”?  How do you do that?

In an attempt to help continue this thought process, here is an answer I emailed to one questioner:

Dear _________:

You have asked a difficult question to answer.  If you can fully understand surrendering, you can help a whole lot of people…and sell some books.  Surrender is almost as mysterious as when Jesus was talking to Nicodemus in John 3 about being “born again”.  It’s a concept hard to get our minds to comprehend.

I need to start by saying:

Surrender is less about a formula and more about knowing the person of Christ.

Surrender is less about an action plan and more about devoting one’s self to Jesus.

Surrender is less about finding answers and more about obedience to His plan as He reveals it.

Surrender is less about solving a specific problem and more about creating a lifestyle of following Christ.

With those understandings, let me share that one way to understand the concept of surrender may be to compare it to something you do understand.  What does surrender look like in a relationship with Jesus?  Put it in terms of a relationship you have now and understand (at least most days).

The day you first met your husband, you may or may not have liked him at first, but almost certainly, if he had asked you that day to move to strange city with him, you may have looked at him as if he was crazy.  You may have even slapped his face.  As you began to get to know him, you started to trust him increasingly, and at some point, you were more willing to follow him.  Obviously, you moved here to be with him.

It is similar with your surrender to Christ.  While your husband may never be 100% trustworthy, because he’s human…God is!  The more you know Him, the more you will know His voice and the better you will hear His commands…And the more willing you will be to follow Him wherever He leads.

In my understanding, that’s what surrender is all about…

How would you have answered?

For more devotional thoughts, click HERE.