'Forgiveness...in accordance with the riches of...grace.' Ephesians 1:7 NIV
'Peter asked, "How many times should I forgive someone who does...wrong to me? Is seven times enough?" Jesus answered: "Not...seven...but seventy-seven times"' (Matthew 18:21-22 CEV)! But we shouldn't stop there. If God gave each of us only seventy-seven 'forgiveness passes', we'd be in trouble! You can't bankrupt your 'forgiveness account' with God. But when you refuse to forgive others, you're overlooking the fact that 'next time it might be one of you who is in the wrong.' (Galatians 6:1 TLB). Jesus said, 'Forgive...so that your Father in Heaven will forgive the wrongs you have done' (Mark 11:25 GNT).
Whether it's seven, seventy-seven, or seven thousand times, you always reap what you sow (Galatians 6:7). We're all human, and when somebody hurts us we want justice. But God wants you to forgive the wrongdoer before he asks or shows any sign of remorse. Does that mean he will escape the consequences of his actions? No, it just means you're not responsible for making it happen - God is. Harbouring grudges is spiritually, emotionally and physically draining; forgiveness energises and frees you to move on. Remember, you've been forgiven 'in accordance with the riches of...grace...He lavished on us.' But it comes with the requirement that you forgive others!
When you think about the debt God forgave you, anything anyone could ever do to you pales by comparison, right? Hymnwriter Annie Johnson wrote: 'His love has no limits, His grace has no measure, His power no boundary known unto men; For out of His infinite riches in Jesus, He giveth and giveth and giveth again'. Now that's lavish grace!
SoulFood: 1 Chron 4:24 - 5:26; Luke 11:45-54; Ps 119:1-8; Pro 20:15-18
'Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.' Matthew 5:9 NKJV
Try to picture these two scenes. First: Christ in Heaven defending you and acting as your Advocate before God. 'If anybody does sin, we have One who speaks to the Father in our defence - Jesus Christ' (1 John 2:1 NIV). Second: You here on earth, accusing someone. The Bible calls Satan 'the accuser of our brothers... who accuses them before our God day and night' (Revelation 12:10 NIV).
Which side are you on? You say, 'But I heard it on the grapevine.' Has it ever occurred to you that you might not be connected to the right vine? Jesus said, 'I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit' (John 15:5 NIV). The fruit Jesus referred to here is 'good' fruit. He said, 'Blessed are the peacemakers.' And what's the opposite of a peacemaker? A stirrer! These are often people with inner turmoil, unresolved issues or a chip on their shoulder who go through life stirring stuff up. When they see a tapestry, they look for a thread to unravel it. Some do it deliberately, others unwittingly. When you have little or no joy in your own life, it's hard to celebrate joy in the lives of others.
To be a peacemaker you must nip conflict, criticism and complaining in the bud. Tactfully steer the conversation in a different direction. And if need be, talk to the person who is stirring things up. At best, you'll help them to change. At second best, they'll think twice about what they say to you.
SoulFood: 1 Chron 3:1 - 4:23; Luke 11:29-44; Ps 78:65-72; Pro 20:11-14
'A sensible man watches for problems ahead and prepares to meet them.' Proverbs 27:12 TLB
The path to your God-given destiny will have different challenges, so you must expect them. Indeed you must prepare yourself to face them. Solomon wrote, 'A sensible man watches for problems ahead and prepares to meet them.' Wouldn't you rather look ahead and prepare, instead of looking back with regret? Why does the Bible record the failures of great men like Abraham, Moses, Elijah and Peter? To give you hope; to let you know that nobody performs flawlessly; to help you believe if they can do it, by God's grace you can too.
The road to success has many potholes. You'll fall into some - and they're messy. Not only will you have to climb back out, you'll have to dust yourself off, refocus, recommit, and keep going. Since failure is inevitable, why not make it your friend by examining each experience and growing stronger through it? Once you learn to do that, you won't keep repeating the same mistakes, and you'll become more emotionally and spiritually stable. Timelines change, resources dry up, assumptions prove false, plans and people fail. As comedian Bill Cosby quipped, 'Nothing fits in a pigeonhole but a pigeon.' As you walk the pathway to your God-given dream, remember the old Italian proverb: 'Between saying and doing, many a pair of shoes is worn out'. No problem; you can get another pair of shoes! Just make sure you don't wear out and give up.
Here's God's promise to you: 'Keep travelling steadily along His pathway and in due season He will honour you with every blessing' (Psalms 37:34 TLB).
SoulFood: 1 Chron 1-2; Luke 11:14-28; Ps 78:56-64; Pro 20:7-10
'Don't you know Me...?' John 14:9 NIV
A fascinating encounter took place between Jesus and Philip. When 'Philip said, "Lord, show us the Father"...Jesus answered: "Don't you know Me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time"' (John 14:8-9 NIV)? There's a lesson here for all of us. You can go to church regularly, serve on the board and sing in the choir, yet not really 'know' the Lord.
To truly know someone, you must spend time with them, sharing and opening your heart. In other words, the relationship must become your top priority. What you are reading is called a 'devotional' because its aim is to bring you to the place where you're more devoted to Christ than anything else. Does that mean neglecting other things? No, it'll actually enhance every other area of your life. The Bible says, 'He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the children of Israel' (Psalms 103:7 NKJV). Israel knew God's acts because they were observers, whereas Moses knew His ways because he was intimate with Him. Israel saw what God did; Moses was close enough to understand His thinking and why He did what He did.
Three times Jesus asked Peter, 'Do you love Me' (John 21:15 NKJV)? The first two times Peter answered, 'Yes.' The third time, frustrated by the question, he answered, 'Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You' (John 21:17 NKJV). Note the words, 'Lord, You know.' You can fool others, and even yourself, but the Lord knows the quality of your love for Him. Today His desire is to draw you closer to Himself. Are you available?
SoulFood: 1 John 3:11 - 5:21; Luke 11:1-13; Ps 78:40-55; Pro 20:4-6
'Jesus was...tempted by the devil.' Matthew 4:1 NIV
The Bible says, 'Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.' Notice who led Jesus there: God! You're in training for your destiny, and a good trainer has one thing in mind - turning flab into muscle. So he takes you into the gym and increases the weights until you break a sweat and start thinking, 'I don't know how much more of this I can take'. But God does. It's only when you look back that you realise you're handling situations today you couldn't have handled a year ago.
Sometimes old temptations will return with a vengeance. They'll hound you until you think you need some new, novel, quick-fix strategy. Like the Israelites at the Red Sea, just when they thought they were finally free from a life of slavery, here comes Pharaoh. At that point they cried out to God in fear, saying, 'It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians...' (Exodus 14:12 NIV). 'Then the Lord said to Moses, "Why are you crying out to Me? Tell the Israelites to move on. Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water"' (Exodus 14:15-16). God used Moses' rod - again! Victory over the Egyptians didn't come from discovering something new; it came from using what God had already given them.
You have the power inside you today to overcome the temptation you're facing right now. You just need to tap into it. Paul said, 'Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us' (Ephesians 3:20 NKJV).
SoulFood: Ezra 9-10; Luke 10:16-28; Ps 78:17-31; Pro 19:27-29
'...If we could control our tongues, we...could also control ourselves in every other way.' James 3:2 NLT
The saying goes, 'We are like cats; we lick ourselves with our tongues!' When someone spreads gossip, mark that person carefully. Why? Because if they talk to you about somebody else, they'll talk to somebody else about you.
The Bible warns us about three things: (1) A hasty tongue. 'Do you see a man hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him' (Proverbs 29:20 NKJV). If you take time to get the facts, much of the time you'll speak differently. Hannah prayed so passionately for a child that Eli the high priest thought she was drunk. When the disciples saw Jesus walking toward them on the Sea of Galilee, they thought He was a ghost. So think, or better yet, pray before you jump to conclusions. (2) A flattering tongue. '...There is no faithfulness in their mouth...they flatter with their tongue' (Psalms 5:9 NKJV). Say what you mean and mean what you say. Be genuine. When you flatter people, you manipulate them for your own ends. Don't do that. Give it to them straight. If you love them, be truthful with them. (3) A judgmental tongue. Jesus said, 'Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you' (Matthew 7:1-2 NKJV).
If you live long enough, you'll be guilty of many of the same things you're so quick to condemn in others. The truth is, how you deal with other people determines how God deals with you.
SoulFood: Ezra 6-8, Luke 10:1-15, Ps 78:9-16, Pro 19:24-26
'Make up your mind not to put any stumbling block...in your brother's way.' Romans 14:13 NIV
Here are three more stumbling blocks you need to remove in order to win someone to Christ: (1) Boredom. Jesus isn't boring, but sometimes religion is. The story is told of a lady who fell asleep during the sermon. Pointing at the man sitting next to her, the pastor said, 'Please wake that woman up!' The man replied, 'You put her to sleep, Reverend, you wake her up!' Jesus is called 'the Good Shepherd' (John 10:11), and the Greek word for 'good' is 'kalos', which means 'captivating'; that's the Christ we need to present to those seeking spiritual direction.
(2) Money. It's been said the most sensitive nerve in a person's body is the one that runs to their wallet. Have there been financial scandals in the church? Yes. They even had them in the New Testament church (Acts 5). But don't throw the baby out with the bath water! It takes money to build churches, feed and clothe the needy and send out missionaries. When money is in the right hands, it's a solution, not a problem. Furthermore, if God can trust you to finance His plans, He will show you how to make more money. He said, '...I am the Lord your God, Who teaches you to profit...' (Isaiah 48:17 AMP).
(3) Discomfort. People say, 'I just don't feel comfortable in church.' The truth can do that to you! The Gospel is designed to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. When Paul preached, some people trembled, but when trembling leads to trusting in Christ, it's a good thing.
SoulFood: Ezra 3-5, Luke 9:46-62, Ps 78:1-8, Pro 19:21-23
'Make up your mind not to put any stumbling block...in your brother's way.' Romans 14:13 NIV
If you want to win someone to Christ, there are certain stumbling blocks you may have to remove. Let's be honest, people are turned off by religion for a lot of reasons - legitimate ones.
Let's look at some: (1) Hypocrisy. Think about the twelve disciples; one of them betrayed Jesus, one denied Him, and one doubted Him. That's a 25% failure rate! But the good news is, Jesus continues to love us and work with us in spite of our problems. (2) Terminology. If you grew up in the church, you're probably familiar with Bible terminology. But don't assume everybody else is, or you'll talk over their heads. When Jesus talked to shepherds, He discussed sheep. When He talked to farmers, He discussed sowing and reaping. Identify the person's interests and spiritual needs, then use language they understand. (3) Negative emphasis. If your major emphasis is on what people can't do, they'll run in the opposite direction. A well-known preacher says, 'I grew up understanding what our church was against, but never what it was for. Basically, we were against everything!' Smiling, he added, 'We preached against smoking and drinking. We especially preached against adultery, because we believed that could lead to dancing.' Seriously, the Gospel is not about what you lose when you come to Christ, but what you gain. Jesus said, '...I have come that they may have life and have it to the full' (John 10:10 NIV).
If you're serious about winning people to Christ, you must recognise the stumbling blocks that stand in their way and try to remove them.
SoulFood: Ezra 1-2, Luke 9:34-45, Ps 46, Pro 19:18-20