Archive for the ‘Forgiveness of God’ Category

The Truth Shall Make You Free, part 4

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

John 8:31 is certainly not the only verse where Jesus speaks to what the character of a disciple of His ought to be. He addresses this character in many parts of the Gospels, and the rest of the New Testament “fleshes out” what He taught. Naturally, the character of a Christian is the main “sermon fodder” in our Churches. Much is expected of us. We are saved by the free gift of His grace. We did nothing to earn that grace (Ephesians 2:8,9). But, the next step, which some call sanctification, takes up the rest of our lives.

Jesus tells these new “converts” who believe in Him: “If you continue in My word, then you will be disciples of Mine.” (John 8:31).

I looked up the word “continue” in the Treasury of Scripture Knowledge. Some of you know this book. It is on the Internet, I believe. It basically cross references every verse in the Bible. If you go through all of these links, you might discover how the Bible can comment on itself.

Consider one of these links: the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:18-23). My Ryrie study Bible interprets these four people this way: “There would be four different responses to the Word: no response; emotional response; worldly response and fruitful response.” I think that Matthew 8:20-21 is an example of not continuing in the word. A person hears the word and responds to it with great joy (emotion). But, he has no firm root in himself. Soon he falls away. Maybe that could be some of those Jews who came to believe in Jesus: they responded emotionally and it did not “stick.” Also see Luke 8:13.

To continue in His word is to abide in His word. Jesus describes Himself as the Vine. We, the branches, abide in Him (John 15:5-7). If we are rooted in Jesus, we will know that His love will fill us (Ephesians 3:17-19). Jesus has caused a reconciliation in our relationship with God if we continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast (Colossians 1:22-23).

We are told in Colossians 2:6,7: Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude .

In many respects, that verse sums up what is expected of us. Normally we view expectations as “work.” This is true here. Sanctification is hard work. It is never an easy path. One reason is that God intervenes in that path with life lessons. It is almost as if “school” is in session in our lives every day. A day that goes by without having learned something is a wasted day, I believe. God would certainly view this to be true in terms of the learning tree called sanctification.

Sometimes people can hear the word but because that hearing was not united in faith by the hearer, it did not profit them (Hebrews 4:2). Perhaps this might describe some of the people Jesus spoke to in John 8:31.

To continue in His word is to live in it, abide in it, imbibe it, seek it, spend time with it, and to let it become us. I firmly believe that when you open His word, you see yourself. I see myself in Adam, Jacob, David, Jonah, and Peter. That is just for starters. Often when I read His word I wonder how the heck He ever knew that was me he was talking about. Reading His word can be pretty disconcerting at times. It forces you to look at yourself.

So, we need to continue in His word, and if we do, we will become disciples of His, and we will know the truth and the truth will make us free.

So, what is this “truth that will make us free.” This is pretty much going to be the “meat” of what Dr. Stanley taught in that sermon set I mentioned.

But, before I do that, I want to explore, in the fifth installment, my own impressions of His Word — Scripture.

I am Michael the Penguin and I am a Christian in recovery.

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The Truth Shall Set You Free, Part 2

Saturday, July 19th, 2014

We all want to be free. The desire to be free is part of our make-up, and that means God/ gave us that desire. In my case, I want to be free to be the man God wants me to be. I have always wanted that. Wanting and achieving are two different things, however.

I have fears. These fears weigh me down. What caused them? I have ideas, theories, and sometimes even valid reasons why these fears exist. But, what matters is how I have handled these fears. Some people grow out of them. I didn’t. I took them with me into adulthood. And, in doing that I thought maybe I could use them in my favor. The best thing to do was to plan, anticipate, scheme, and prepare. The overall plan for the day was to control, control, control. That took a lot of thought. In the process I became an insomniac.

And, over time, I became an alcoholic.

Why? Because as life happened, it got more complex and there were too many loose ends. The pain of seeing these dangling ends was too much. Alcohol took care of that and, in an odd way, it helped. I could sit up at night and plan, anticipate, scheme, and prepare and be energized by the alcohol.

Eventually all of this came to a head: my world imploded, and my biology crashed. Suddenly there I was totally alone being a person I hated.

Trouble was, I really was that person.

So, what was I to do? In fact, I did not do anything. It was Jesus who did something. He confronted me. He got into my face. He tried a variety of ways to intervene which I, of course, either could not see or perhaps was too self-absorbed to see.

When you hit bottom, you are so alone. All of you who read this know that. I had failed myself and others, and others had failed me. I was desperately alone. I was so alone I was physically ill.

There I sat ill, on a glorious sunny Saturday, 21 October, 1994, in the midst of beautiful Colonial Williamsburg, surrounded by happy tourists, and there I was, slowly dying inside. That was when He spoke. There was no audible sound. He spoke in my spirit: “Michael, the reason you are in bad health is because of your drinking. Once you stop the drinking, your health will improve and everything will be all right.”

Jesus was using the word “health” in two ways. The first applied to the disease of alcoholism. The second applied to the deeper spiritual disease or malaise which I knew would force me to address long hidden issues out of my entire life. Frankly, it was the second disease that I feared the most.

So, where did I need to start?

I started through His Word. Scripture. Later that day, as I was sinking into withdrawal (I had not had any alcohol in 12 hours )I asked Him how. — How was I ever going to stop drinking? And, on top of that, what was I to do with myself once I stopped? Horrible fear overtook me — the fear that I would be so exposed and helpless for all to see with no place to hide, being a person even I did not like. It was terrible. I saw no way out.

He gave me two verses: Proverbs 3:5 and Philippians 4:13. I took out the Gideon bible in our motel room and found them:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5)

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13).

Suddenly the fear was gone. Thea “edge” of alcoholic withdrawal was taken away, and I felt human, real — and I even felt safe in the knowledge that I was there, in Him, and comfortable being who I really was. I claim this as a divine intervention in my life, and in many respects, the next day, 22 October, was really the first day of the rest of my life: a life that had to be grounded in God, not in my fears and need for control.

So, it was His Word that was put me on the road to freedom. I am not there yet. I was not instantly healed. I will be seeking good health in both of these areas for the rest of my life. Probably I will never quite get to the end of the road, but by then I will be in His arms and then it will be glorious.

Until then, I have His Word, and I want to continue in His Word in order to know truth and through that truth, have freedom.

In the next installment, I want to give some thought to the word “continue” as Jesus used that word.

My name is Michael the Penguin and I am a Christian in recovery.

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The Truth Shall Set You Free, part 1

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

My name is Michael the Penguin and I am a Christian in recovery.

I would like to think out loud with the rest of you for a while. One of my favorite verses in Scripture is John 8:32. “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” It seems, at first, to be a “no-brainer” in terms of interpretation:
(1) It is Jesus talking;
(2) He is the truth; and
(3) we can find freedom in life through Him.

The application to anyone in recovery is also obvious: in recovery we want to be free of our addictions, but we know we need to find a deeper freedom in order to achieve that. It is one thing to stop drinking, drugging, etc., but it is another thing to remain free and also have a life centered in God. The Steps are the tried and true way of helping any of us to find the freedom to be the person God wants us to be. For us as Christians, Scripture is a big part of those Steps. To me, Scripture is just about the one tried and true source of revelation from God. I can state categorically that Scripture is why I have remained sober for 12 years: the study, absorption and application of God’s truths for me.

You can find John 8:32 in a lot of secular situations. I have seen it on the front entrance to the Library where I did my Ph.D. work. I have seen it on certain places as a memorable quote. After all, truth and freedom are very universal attributes sought by all since the beginning of time. And, Christians view truth very different from other groups or faiths.
What I was not overly aware of was John 8:31. I want to quote it and include John 8:32.

So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of mine, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”

The key word is “if.” Although I am a student of Scripture, I don’t pretend to know it all. I just cannot recall very many conditional statements in the New Testament. That “If then” phrase is very common in the Old Testament. We tend to generalize that the Old Testament is “conditional” while the New Testament is “unconditional.” While I am sure these broad generalizations are true, I pause when I see the conditional statement in John 8:31-32. There is a lot to consider in the words “continue” – “disciple” “know” “truth” “free”, etc.

I want to pursue this and I would like you, the reader, to come with me.  This study is based on a set of sermons I heard from Dr. Charles Stanley back in the 80’s. There were ten sermons. I heard some of them while they were being presented on television, and bought the tape set and worked through a response study that came out of his ministry. Then, about ten years later I went through a crisis and used this study to help me get through it. I listened to the sermons again. I put together a 13 page outline-based study for my own use and it is in my files now as an article called “Truth for Me” And now, about ten years after that, I am going to do this study again since I am once again going through a crisis. I suspect I will eventually get into all of that personal stuff, but for now I suspect I had better just leave that out.

As Christians we know we have freedom. That freedom comes from the grace of God through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus. That is a given and a factual assurance. We are truly free. But, very often we just don’t live that way, and one of the reasons we don’t live that way is that we get wrapped up in our stuff and forget about our Christian walk. That has happened to me a lot of times. You are familiar with one of the important themes of Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life:  “It’s not about me.” Well, too often I have thought it was about me and this has caused me problems that have really burdened me over the years. Jesus has been with me on all of this, thankfully, but dear reader know this: you can find forgiveness for your actions and sins, but you still live with consequences. David was forgiven by God but there were many unfortunate events that proceeded after his adultery with Bathsheba, and the murder of her husband Uriah.

And so, my purpose here is to go back to the basics and realize that freedom in God one more time. I hope you will come along with me.

In Him
Michael the Penguin

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Are You Uncomfortable?

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

I’m stating the obvious with today’s word-of-the-week…

UNCOMFORTABLE

I’m acutely aware today that I don’t like being uncomfortable.

It’s awfully easy to write about stepping out of the comfort zone and trusting God, but this morning I feel like retreating. I want a big, wide safety net. I want someone else to take the risks.

It’s all about fear—of failure, of rejection, of looking foolish. And today, the fear’s winning.

I suspect we’ve all felt this at some point. Perhaps not, but for me it’s very real today. I’m hearing the lie that says “It’s not worth the risk.”

What do I do?

I talk to God. I fall back on the truth I know. And I allow myself the space and grace to admit my fear.

If you’re in a similar place, I hope you’ll join me in being gentle with yourself. We don’t have to live in fear, but we don’t have to deny it, either.

Have a great week.

Copyright by Rich Dixon

Do You Think God Does Not Accept You?

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

…having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:5-7, NKJV).

Years ago I served as a biblical counselor on the staff of a large Southern California church. As such, I heard stories and confessions of every imaginable sort. In return, I prayed and offered appropriate counsel from the Scriptures, never ceasing to be amazed that there was not one issue that came up during all those years which God hadn’t addressed in some way in His Word.

Those issues covered a wide variety of topics—relationships, addictions, heartache—but underlying all of them was the need for acceptance. The human heart cries out for unconditional love and acceptance. Sadly, most of us look for it everywhere except the one place it can be found: at the foot of the Cross. Even those of us who have accepted Christ as our Savior often struggle with the concept that we have truly been accepted just as we are. Of course, that doesn’t preclude the need to live a Christ-honoring life once we have received that love and acceptance. As the old saying goes, God loves us just as we are, but He loves us too much to leave us that way.

And that’s the whole point. As Ephesians 1:5-7 so simply and eloquently points out, it is God who has predestined us to be His children; He did it because it pleased Him to do so; the praise for that is due to His grace to us; and it is He who has accepted us in the Beloved.

Who is God the Father’s Beloved? His Son, of course. We see that throughout the Scriptures, the gospels in particular. When we receive His Son as our Lord and Savior, God’s Spirit comes to dwell in us, and we are then “hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3, NKJV). God no longer sees us or our sins when He looks at us; He sees only His Beloved Son, whose sacrifice He has fully accepted.

The next time you are tempted to believe God hasn’t (or can’t) fully accept you as you are, remember—when He looks at you, He sees Jesus. Rejoice in that acceptance, Beloved!

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Not a member of CIR yet? Join us Today! Copyright 2009-2013 Kathi Macias, all rights reserved. Used by permission.
Kathi Macias is a multi-award winning writer who has authored 30 books.
“Beyond Me. Living a You-first Life in a Me-first World”

“Mothers of the Bible Speak to Mothers of Today”

She also writes novels:

Deliver Me From Evil, (finalist for the Golden Scrolls Novel of the Year Award) and Special Delivery.
No Greater Love, More than Conquerors

The author can be reached at: http://www.kathimacias.com

One Pesky Word Changes A Lot

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

mt 6.33I used to think preachers were bragging a little when they talked about Greek or Hebrew translation. Frankly,I figured it was one way of quashing disagreement and showing who’s really the expert.

But as I learn, I’m amazed at how frequently a careful look at original words reveals a different understanding of an important point in scripture.

A couple of weeks ago I ran across a surprising (to me) assertion in a sermon. The preacher said, “Biblically, there’s no distinction between righteousness and justice.”

I thought that was a rather bold statement. His claim rested on a translation issue. Turns out there’s one Old Testament word—sadaq—and one New Testament Greek word—Dikaios­for righteousness and justice. So while we may consider them as two separate notions, the writers of scripture didn’t.

Justice is righteousness. Righteousness is justice.

Does that seem awkward to you? It did to me.

I think this changes a lot, but one thing it changes is: you can’t define these words differently. Whatever one means, the other means.

What’s your definition?

To me, justice means setting things right. Does that fit with righteousness?

Jesus said, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)

So, seek first his kingdom and his justice…how does that change your understanding of this familiar verse—or does it?

This was an eye-opening notion for me. I’m still digesting.  More next time.

Your thoughts?

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Copyright 2008-2013 by Rich Dixon, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.

Rich is an author and speaker. He is the author of:

Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance. Visit his web site www.relentlessgrace.com

Why We Need To Remember Less

Monday, March 17th, 2014

Grace doesn’t forget. Grace chooses not to remember.

question-marks1Can God really “not remember” my sins?

He’s God, right? He knows everything. And if He knows it all, how can He not remember?

I’ll bet it’s been debated in countless all-nighters at every seminary over coffee and, depending on the seminary, other adult beverages. Because if God’s all-powerful, then He can “not remember” if that’s what He wants to do. But wouldn’t He remember that He didn’t remember?

More coffee, please.

I raise the issue because it’s the sort of question that sidetracks the guys in my ongoing workshop. So we chase it around for a few minutes, but we have a go-to phrase to get us back on track.

I DON’T KNOW HOW THAT WORKS.

It’s good to seek understanding where we can. But faith involves accepting a certain measure of mystery. On this side of eternity, it won’t all make sense.

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12)

So there’s wisdom in acknowledging what I don’t know and leaving that to God. If He says He chooses not to remember, that’s good enough for me.

The real question isn’t—or shouldn’t be—God’s capability. We really ought to ask about our response.

If “grace chooses not to remember,” perhaps our public discourse (and our Facebook timelines) might reflect a less acute memory and accounting of wrongs.

I know He said I’m supposed to love my enemies. You don’t suppose He meant I’m to avoid publically criticizing people I don’t like, do you? Or, even worse, actually looking for something kind to say?

Nah. That’s just crazy talk.

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Copyright 2008-2013 by Rich Dixon, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.

Rich is an author and speaker. He is the author of:

Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance. Visit his web site www.relentlessgrace.com

Are You Serving or Shaming?

Monday, March 10th, 2014

I feel compelled to comment on today’s word-of-the-week…

SERVE

MondayJesus told a story we know as the Parable of the Good Samaritan. It’s about a man who’s attacked, beaten, robbed, and left half-dead by the side of the road.

A priest and a Levite (the religious good guys) passed by without stopping to help. Then a Samaritan, who was despised by the Jews, bandaged his wounds, took him to an inn, and paid for his care.

The Samaritan served a man who most likely hated him. At the end of the story Jesus says, “Go and do likewise.”

Another time, Jesus spent time at a well with a Samaritan woman. According to religious rules and traditions, He shouldn’t have even been there. The woman herself expresses shock when he asks her for a drink.

Jesus came to serve the world, not to shame it. He washed the feet of those whose sins He carried to the cross a few hours later. He said crazy things like, “Love your enemies” and “When you did it to the least of these you did it to me.”

He said, “If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles,” extending an oppressive Roman law which allowed a soldier to demand that a stranger carry his heavy pack up to one mile. Jesus told his followers to serve beyond the minimum requirements and walk two miles.

Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. (Matthew 5:42)

And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? (Matthew 5:47)

Over and over Jesus welcomed, associated with, and served those rejected by organized religion. And He reserved His strongest condemnation for religious leaders.

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Copyright 2008-2013 by Rich Dixon, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.Rich is an author and speaker. He is the author of:

Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance. Visit his web site www.relentlessgrace.com

How Big Is Grace?

Friday, March 7th, 2014

grace

Do you think you “get” grace?

I’ve been hanging out in a workshop with some guys who are trying to find their way out of addiction. Today one of them said he felt really blessed and wanted to know what God wanted in return.

Grace is a hard concept, isn’t it? We receive a priceless gift for which we’re required to pay nothing. We’re saved and forgiven simply by faith.

The guy who asked the question—he’s heard the words plenty of times. He’s been told over and over that nothing he can do can make God love him any more or any less.

He knows it’s true. He just doesn’t KNOW it. Does that make sense?

I’ll bet it does, because if we’re honest we all get there at some point. No matter how many times we say the words, we all get caught in the trap of feeling like we need to do a little more to pay God back. Or we get a little comfortable and believe we’ve earned a bit of extra favor.

My guess? Grace is really bigger than we can imagine. It’s probably good, at least for me, to always retain a sense of awe around it and to have people remind me that it makes no sense. If we turn it into a nice, simple theological idea we risk making it small.

It isn’t.

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Copyright 2008-2013 by Rich Dixon, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.

Rich is an author and speaker. He is the author of:

Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance. Visit his web site www.relentlessgrace.com

Clearing

Saturday, December 14th, 2013

from four corners of earth
from heavens
from deep
we are called

unsynchronized
disharmonious
competing
invitations

ideas clog senses
universal rejection tempting
peace craved

thicket along information highway
broken twigs
disturbed leaves
crunchy path
quiet clearing
unfiltered light

resistance released
weight falls
eyes lift
mist clears
arms raise
unmerited Grace

joy

“But You, O Lord, are a shield for me,
My glory and the One who lifts up my head.”
Psalm 3:3

_________________________
Be a Christian: Feel Helpless. Find Love. Be Empowered.

~ Roadrunner

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Used by Permission
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