Thursday, January 31, 2013

Exercising Forgiveness Brings Freedom

I read somewhere that Karl Menninger once said that if he could convince the patients in psychiatric hospitals that their sins were forgiven, 75 percent of them could walk out the next day!  The Apostle Paul, writing to the church at Colossae, admonished the Believers there to “forebear and forgive one another, because Christ had forgiven them."

Failure to forgive makes one a slave to his unforgiveness.   Bitterness rises up, and robs him of the joy and exciting anticipation of living as a Child of The King, replacing it with dread, regret, and frustration.

Jesus seemed to tie our own forgiveness of others with The Father’s forgiveness of us when He said in Mark 11:25, “And when you pray forgive, if you have anything against another, in order that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your offenses."    Now that is some very heady stuff. 

In Luke 14:4, Jesus said we who profess to believe in Him as Lord should not limit our forgiveness when He said that if a person sins against you seven times in a day, you must be willing to forgive.

One reason you and I have difficulty forgiving others is that we have not transferred ownership of our lives and property to God.  If God owns us lock, stock, and barrel we have no standing to be angry with another for his misdeeds toward us, because it is God he is attacking.   Rather than live with angry bitterness,  why not allow God to set you free from the shackles of unforgiveness bondage by entreating Him to forgive you of your unforgiving spirit.

Since you are never more like Jesus than when you forgive, He will hear from heaven and bring joy and peace which surpasses all understanding.

I heard recently that justice is what we deserve, that mercy is not receiving what we deserve, and grace is receiving what we don’t deserve.  Exercise grace toward those who harm, misuse, and abuse you and you will be exercising a Christ like attitude in your doings.  God wants this for you, not so you miss out on life, but so that you enjoy living in this age to your maximum capacity.  You are not hurting the one who you are not forgiving of.  You're only hurting yourself.  I've been there, and I don't want it for others.

Purpose today to forgive, even as you’ve been forgiven.

From "A Word For Living"  by Mike Rasberry

©                         Mike Rasberry                        2013

Accepting God’s Forgiveness Brings Happiness

I am so thankful that Jesus is the place of beginning again.  All of us have things which we wish we could change.  However, Romans 8:1 tells us, that if we are genuine Believers, “there is no more condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit.”

Now that doesn't mean we'll be perfect, or that we won't be caught up in the temptations this world offers.  However, when we truly confess that sin to Christ according to 1 John 1:9, we are cleansed and restored.

One of the most debilitating and harmful things in this world is self-condemnation.  Christian men and women are crippled by it because they consider their past too heinous to ever be truly forgiven and restored.  They live in a kind of perpetual purgatory, never enjoying the freedom which God’s forgiveness brings.  This self-condemnation wrecks relationships, destroys health, and prevents real happiness.

Such people are unable to forgive because they can’t conceive of themselves having been fully forgiven.  They are constantly afraid they will be “found out” and their attempts at a new life destroyed. 

Scripture teaches that God doesn't condemn us, the devil can't condemn us, and we're so blessed if we enjoy the happiness which comes when we genuinely accept God's forgiveness and don't condemn ourselves.

A word of caution.  The enemy will often use those you most care about to attack you because he knows that it is only through such that he has a chance of gaining ground in your life.  Recognize it for what it is, and do not respond in anger to your loved ones.  Examine your life to see if there is unconfessed and unrepented of sin which can give credence to the accusation.  Claim 1 John 1:9 in the matter, purpose to right any wrong at the earliest opportunity, and accept God’s forgiveness.  Be careful, lest an attitude of bitterness and defeatism rise up in you robbing you of the opportunity to become the person and instrument God is molding you into.

From "A Word For Living" by Mike Rasberry

©                               Mike Rasberry                       2013

Friday, January 25, 2013

Thermostat Christians

        Are you a thermometer Christian, or a thermostat Christian? A thermometer doesn’t change anything around it -- it just registers the temperature. It’s always going up, or down. But a thermostat regulates the surroundings and changes them when they need to be changed.  Do you demonstrate the power to change things, or do you simply register the changes as circumstances mold you into the world’s likeness?

    The world is filled with thermometers.  One only need look at the church and note the seeming desire to conform to societal mores.  “New understanding” has given us a permissiveness where professing Christians differ little from those who reject Christ.  The “Come out from among them, and be separate” teachings have fallen prey to the belief that one must be “like” them in order to win them. 

    One should hardly be surprised at the contempt with which the world holds separatist Believers, because they are so accustomed to dealing with thermometers, that the thermostat appears extreme and cultic. 

    Romans 12:1,2 cautions Believers against being conformed to this world system.  We are to be conformed to the image of God, by the renewing of our minds in Christ Jesus.  When I stop to examine my own life, I’m appalled by the compromise I continue to allow in my life.  Even though I desire to be a thermostat, I find myself registering the changes around me, rather than regulating them.

    Lord, Help us this day to commit our ways to you in order that we might become more effective thermostats in the environment where we’ve been placed at this time.

From "A Word For Living"  by Mike Rasberry

©                               Mike Rasberry                    2013

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Would I Serve God For Nothing?

I recently read again the story of Chippie, the parakeet.  Chippie was enjoying the good life, when his owner decided to clean his cage with a vacuum.  She had just stuck the nozzle in to suck up the seeds and feathers on the bottom of the cage when the phone rang.  Instinctively she turned to pick it up, and had barely begun to say, “Hello,” when–sswwwwwpppppppp!  Chippie was sucked in.  She gasped, let the phone drop, and switched off the vacuum.  With her heart in her mouth, she unzipped the bag.

There was Chippie–alive but stunned–covered with heavy gray dust.  She grabbed him and rushed to the bathtub, turned on the faucet full blast, and held Chippie under a torrent of cold water, as she power washed him clean.  Then it dawned on her that Chippie was soaking wet and shivering.  So se did what any compassionate pet owner would do; she snatched up the hair dryer and blasted him with hot air.  Chippie survived, but he doesn’t talk much anymore.  He just sits and stares a lot.

Job must have felt a lot like Chippie.  Life was good until one day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. And the Lord said to Satan, “From where do you come?” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.”

Satan answered God with a question– “Does Job serve you for nothing?”  Satan was accusing Job of serving God because of the blessings God had bestowed upon him.  That begs the question–would I serve God for nothing?  Is my followship dependent upon God’s protecting me and my family?  Does it depend upon my health, wealth, position, or influence? 

The hard truth is that faith cannot be proven by prosperity. Anybody can praise the Lord as long as everything is going the way they want. Even a lost person can praise God.  But what if the opposite is true? What if suddenly the life is filled with tragedy that you don’t deserve?  I think the New Testament commentary on this is found in Hebrews Chapter 12.

When we find ourselves in situations like Job, the first thing we need to acknowledge is that is God, and because He is God, He has the right to do what ever He chooses. Who am I, a fragile created being, to question His doings. 

But I gain great comfort in knowing that God also has a reason for what He does.  I might not know, or understand it this side of Glory, but I’m confident that He has a purpose.  The writer of Hebrews made it clear in Chapter 12, and Job affirmed it in Job 42:2 when he said, “I know that you can do all things, and no purpose of yours can be hindered.”

The three Israelite children testified to the pagan king before they were cast into the fiery furnace, “Our God is able to deliver us, and He will, but if He doesn’t, we will still serve Him.”    I pray that my followship, and yours, is not dependent upon what God is doing for us right now, but rather I pray that it is dependent upon the sure knowledge that He is able, and He will, but if He doesn’t He has a purpose beyond that which I can understand at this point, and I’m simply going to trust Him.

From "A Word For Living" by Mike Rasberry

©                        Mike Rasberry                               2013

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Another Ignominious Day

On January 23, 1972 President Nixon announced that an agreement to end the Vietnam Way had been reached.  The Paris Peace Accords document was entitled "An Agreement Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam.”   It was officially signed on January 27.   The resulting carnage inflicted on the people of South Korea by the Hanoi government paved the way for the oppressive regime, which remains one of the world’s most cruel suppressors of Christianity, to replicate the atrocities associated with North Korea and China after the Korean “Cease Fire,” and the subjugation of Eastern Europe by Russia following the implementation of “The Marshall Plan.”  The sacrifice by freedom loving peoples of their brightest and bravest in that terrible war resulted in ignominious withdrawal without victory. 

But, dear friends, there is a far graver ignominy facing greater Christendom in these days.  The victorious shots were fired two thousand years ago when Jesus Christ defeated Satan upon Calvary’s tree by dying a victorious death, descending into the blackness of the earth, rising triumphantly on the third day, and ascending forty days later to prepare for His soon return when all peoples everywhere will acknowledge His victorious Kingship.

Yet, His followers today, often act as if they were on the losing side in that great battle.  Professing Believers wring their hands at the futile attempts by the defeated enemy to subjugate them, and cower at his apparent strength, seemingly forgetting that he has already been defeated and the evidence of that defeat resides in the hearts of genuine Believers everywhere.  The failure of those Believers to appropriate the power to live victoriously in this age, has resulted in the chastising hand of God upon His peoples because those whom He loves, He chastises.

It is therefore incumbent upon those of us who confess Him as Lord to discipline ourselves in light of Hebrews Chapter Twelve in the following areas:
    1. Honest self-examination of conscience to uncover that with which God is displeased.
    2. Earnest prayer for God’s intervention in the affairs of those who need to trust in Him, and for His guidance in our own daily doings.
    3. Persistent patience as molds us into instruments capable of demonstrating the “peaceable fruit of  righteousness” as our will is broken to His.
    4. Consistent faith which shows the oppressors that our joy is not dependent upon external circumstances.
    5. Confident expectation of the “Blessed Hope” which will eventually justify our dedication to His purposes over the temporal pleasures of this world.
    6. Love for The Father must so overflow our being that the enemy of Christ and His followers is amazed by its depth, breath, width, and its durability.

From “A Word For Living” by Mike Rasberry

©                       2013                     Mike Rasberry

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Training Which is Reflected in Living

Key Point: The true test of what we know, as Believers, is not how much we understand, but how that knowledge is affecting our lives.  It matters little how many verses of Scripture I’ve memorized, if I’m not honestly attempting to obey the principles I do know.

    The Hebrew Believers were undergoing extreme persecution from their own people.  Some were being tempted to renounce their faith and the author of Hebrews reminds them, in Chapter twelve, that they have not yet suffered martyrdom, so they really haven’t suffered much at all.  He uses the analogy of a young athlete, training for the public games who submits himself to rigorous training in order to excel, as an example of how the chastening of the Lord should be received.  Such training involved the willing participate often being beaten in such a way as to elicit pain by the more advanced trainer, thereby  requiring the trainee to either improve or quit to avoid the harsh beatings administered by the trainer.

    Certainly, some attacks are directly from the enemy, and others are given by The Father to reclaim His children when they have wandered from His way and been enticed by the dainties of this world system.  But much is simply training so that the Believer might become more conformed to the will of God in Christ Jesus, and thereby more adept at being a useful instrument of God’s grace in this world.

    One man has said that the most dangerous cult in America is “The Cult of Easy Living.”  Contemporary Believers seem more intent on what is happening in their lives right now, than what lies ahead.  We seem incapable of belaying the ease of the moment in order to prepare ourselves for a greater usefulness.  In another place the Apostle Paul declared that if the best reward we have is what we receive here on this world, then we must be the most miserable of all men.

    Genuine Believers deny themselves the dainties of this world in order to prepare for the coming world.  By faith, they understand that there is coming a time when they’ll rest in the bosom of Jesus Christ, and even though they may be misunderstood, abused, and misused in this age; it is only temporary.  After a short season, they will be transported into eternal victory.

    The writer says, therefore, to not give up when those who have been close to you attack you.  When those long forgotten, and seemingly buried, missteps catch you unprepared--When deliberate attacks from the enemy discombobulate your actions in an attempt to discredit you--When bad decisions pile up around you, threatening to bury you under a sea of failure–Remember those who’ve gone before, who’ve suffered even greater emotional, financial, physical, and even moral attacks.  Do not surrender.  As the sturdy athlete in training, step forward prepared to accept the blows the  Master Trainer administers in order to be more prepared to step into the big public arena so that the world might see how Genuine Believers comport themselves in this world system.  Whereby, many might come to faith in Christ by seeing such comportment.

From “A Word For Living” by Mike Rasberry

©                Mike Rasberry           2013

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Loving God

Scripture teaches in Deuteronomy 6:5 that one is to love God with all his being.  This command is repeated in the New Testament as the Great Commandment.  It is not a suggested path to greater happiness in life, it is a command of God to those who would be known as His followers.

Over the years, I’ve come to love God with my whole being, but I must confess I have not always done so.  For years after my conversion, even after my call to preach, I really did not love God with my whole being.  Had I loved Him so, I believe I would have been a much better man, a better husband, a better father, and much better pastor. 

I don’t think there was a time since my conversion that I did not have love for God, but the kind of love which put Him and His way first was missing from my life.  Even today, I struggle with always doing that which honors and glorifies God, but in my younger years, the love of God did not rule my life.

I believe that much of the problem Believers face today is rooted in that same failure to love God with their whole hearts.  Such love dictates one’s actions toward others and toward God.  When God is loved with all one’s being, an attitude of justice toward others, generosity toward the hurting, uprightness in dealings, selfless love toward spouse and family, and life-changing worship characterizes that individual. 

I wish I had learned to love God earlier in life.  I pray that each one who reads this, takes time to evaluate himself in light of how much he really loves God, and commits himself to learning how to really love God by learning of Him.

From: "A Word For Living" by Mike Rasberry

©                               Mike Rasberry                     2013

Monday, January 14, 2013

Making Sense of Life's Challenges

We are usually wont to consider the opposition and we face in this world as impediments placed in our path by our evil adversary, Satan.  It is true that the enemy goes about as both an angel of light to distract us and as a roaring lion to strike fear into us, lest we who are Genuine Believers living as children of The King effectively communicate God’s wondrous love and grace to receptive hearts.

At other times, we might acknowledge the chastisement of God upon our lives, by saying this which has befallen me is God’s call to turn from some path I have chosen which is contrary to His revealed will for my life.  Certainly Scripture points out that those who are His children will be chastened by Him as loving and redemptive correction.

There remains a third cause for the challenges of life, and one which I believe is more common than the other two.  That is that God leads through such difficulties and challenges in order that we who know Him personally might grow to be more like Him, and in so growing expand our effectiveness in this world.

Scripture teaches that God led the Israelites out of Egypt by a certain way.  It was a way of hardship, privation, and delay.  The trip, which encompassed almost two years before they arrived at Kadesh Barnea, could have been accomplished in a fraction of the time, but God was teaching His people some things.  Regrettably, they failed to apply the lessons learned and suffered the chastisement of God’s hand, and additional training. 

When you and I begin to look at everything that befalls us as “God’s Will,” we will be better able to face the future knowing, with certainty, that He holds everything in His hand.  Now, I’m not promoting senseless fatalism here, rather, an aggressive acceptance of 1 Thessalonians 5:18 where we, by faith, trust that God is molding and making us into more useful instruments for His glory.

Certainly we must deal with the adversary.  Certainly we must examine our lives to see if we conform to His plan for our lives.  But, we must also accept that growth comes by the exercising of one’s muscles, and faith is grown by trusting God to lead us through the challenges of living in this world.  Giving thanks in “all things” for we know that what is happening is the “will of God in Christ Jesus concerning us.”

From:  "A Word For Living" by Mike Rasberry

©                 Mike Rasberry                 2013