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Showing posts with label Perspective. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Perspective. Show all posts

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Misconceptions, Deal Breakers, and Love of God - Purity 551


 Misconceptions, Deal Breakers, and Love of God - Purity 551 

Purity 551 10/16/2021 Purity 551 Podcast

Good morning

Today’s photo of  “Happy Cows at Sunset in October” comes to us from Johnk Family Farm LLC in Greenville, NY.   I don’t know when I decided to “Like” Johnk Family Farm on FB but was pleasantly surprised when this photo of a trinity of bovine beauties grazing under a blazing sun and blue skies “popped up in my feed”.  While I question the hashtag for “sunsets” that accompanied this photo’s post, I had no doubts about its simple beauty and was moved to share it today.

It’s the weekend again, and I once again find myself in the “primitive” conditions of “cow country” at my fiancé’s home in Greenwich NY where we are just down the road from one of the largest “dairy farms” that I have ever seen! Okay, I initially wrote “cow farms” and then questioned myself “Is that what you call them?”

When I was getting to know the friend that would eventually become a “girlfriend” and a then quickly a fiancé, I had  the very wrong impression about her that she was a “country girl” or “a farm girl”.   This impression was a cause for concern because although I may have not been born in one of the five boroughs of NYC, and only hailed from the small town of Hudson NY, I considered myself more “city” than “county”.  

Even though I was attracted to my future fiancé from the first time she walked into my discipleship class back in the spring of this year, my covert investigations and observations lead me to the false conclusion that she was a “hayseed” and because of that impression I had my doubts about whether we could or should be a couple.  

Although I had my misgivings about the possibility of a romantic relationship with her, we became friends and began dialoging via FB messenger and increasingly began to share our lives with one another. I was conflicted because I really “liked her” but was trying to keep it “just friends” because of my standing as “the teacher”, because of our apparent “cultural differences”, and frankly because of the perceived complications that come with a divorcee that has multiple children.   But the more we got to know one another the deeper our friendship grew and eventually led to me suggesting that we have dinner at her place. 

In hindsight it may seem odd that I who was very concerned about being “just friends” would suggest having dinner in the intimate setting of her home, alone, but what may be even more surprising is the high levels of fear and anxiety I had in contemplating going to the dinner that I suggested!  Comments about “being open to the possibility of “being lovers” and “having a wonderful evening” in our conversations leading up to our first “dinner together”, had me freaking out.  ”, I had insisted  “It wasn’t a date“ because I have dinner with friends all the time, ya know” but in the hours leading up to our meal I was wrestling with my convictions of being chaste friends and the romantic possibilities that could happen when two vulnerable adults who were close friends and had mutual attraction for one another got together.

So being filled with fear and anxiety brought on by a fair share of sexual temptation, I turned the corner to go down the road to my future fiancé’s home for the first time only to discover one of the largest cattle farms I had ever seen. Upon seeing that farm, my impressions of Tammy Lyn’s “country girl” or “farm girl” status seemed to be completely confirmed! “Evidence!”  

Oh by the way, the fact that my fiancé had decided to go by her first and middle name and to take away the space between those names in some post-divorce reinventing of herself didn’t help my false impression of her as a country girl.  “TammyLyn” makes you think of the “country” penchant for “two-name names” like  “Ellie-Mae” or “Bobbie-Sue”.  

But in actuality, her first name is Tammy, and her middle name is Lyn and all her life, prior to her divorce, her family and friends only called her “Tammy” as I have been reminded by her family.  But in her liberating herself from her troubled marriage, “Tammy” took on qualities of bravery and independence that transformed her into a “different person” and she became “TammyLyn” to mark that change.  

Some people may think that is strange, but I totally understand it as I have decided to go by MT instead of “Marc”  in the aftermath of becoming a born again Christian, going through recovery, and liberating myself from my own troubled marriage.   Not surprisingly, TammyLyn and I fully support and insist that one another be referred to as their “new names” when introducing each other to family and friends and avoid referring to each other by our “old names” because we recognize the fact that “those people” are in many ways no longer with us. 

So, yeah as I pulled down the road to “TammyLyn’s” house, the farm was just the “deal breaker” I needed to dispel all thoughts of giving in to sexual temptation or entering into a romantic relationship for me as I envisioned some sort of “Hee Haw shot gun wedding  and getting’ hitched at a celebration that would feature moonshine and chewing tobacco and a reception that would feature a country western band that would sing about “friends in low places” and the fact that country girls “think my tractor’s sexy”.      

So I walked through the door to our first meal freed from the ideas of becoming more than friends and actively sought to look for more clues that TammyLyn was not right for me.  There wasn’t much to “hold against her” but “my mind was made up”. We were “no go” for romance.   So we had a pleasant meal as friends, but I was sure to make a hasty exit at the end of the meal for fear that I would be seduced by TammyLyn’s “country charms”, which in actuality didn’t manifest in any way, shape, or form because it was a fiction based on circumstantial evidence.

In the days following that first meal, TammyLyn and I had some very deep and revealing conversations that revealed the errors in my interpretations and conclusions about who TammyLyn is as a person and exposed the fact of our deep affections for one another. Together we acknowledged how our lives were “complicated” and our discussions revealed that they weren’t as complicated as I had thought as we were both in love with one another and equally committed to working through whatever issues that may arise to be together. We discussed that a casual relationship outside of the bonds of marriage was against our intentions to live as Christians and we agreed in principle to be married before we officially announced we were “in a relationship”. The period of boyfriend and girlfriend was only two weeks and now we are betrothed to one another, and both confess to one another how we can’t imagine being with anyone else for the rest of our lives. 

So here I sit in the midst of “cow country” perfectly at peace, because although my fiancé lives in the country, is a vegetarian, and is into essential oils, she is not a “country or farm girl”.   Her current location down the road from the “dairy empire” is out of convenience and cost more than cultural identity and she currently has a month to month lease and is considering moving to a less rural location.  

You know, before coming to Christ, you really could have had some different impressions of who I was as a person.  Thank God it didn’t exist at the time but if FB had been a thing when I was growing up and there was an online archive all the twists and turns of my journey out there on the web for people to look at you could have all types of ideas of who I was.  And the fact was, unlike my ponderings over TammyLyn’s “country girl” status, your impressions of me probably would have been pretty accurate. Depending on what era of my life you were looking at you could have concluded that I was a “fraternity guy”, “a drunk”, “a family man”, or maybe even a “a Buddhist” but it is doubtful you would have found much to lead you to label me as a “Christian”. 

But you know who would have seen that?  God.  With God there are no wrong impressions.  He knows us perfectly, warts and all.  And He loves us. Unlike us, who have certain conditions that we would consider “deal breakers” for being in a loving relationship, God loves us all unconditionally. 

God also can see our futures. The word says that He sees the end from the beginning, and He is not surprised by how things will play out in time and space.  So even though I was outside of the love relationship that He knew I would one day enter into by making Jesus my Lord and Savior, He knew I would come to Him someday.

God also knew that I would choose to repent of my sins, be transformed from my former life of addiction and reactive emotions and choose to follow Him on the path of Christian Discipleship.  He knew I would seek to know Him more through studying His word and get degrees in Biblical Studies and Christian Counseling.  He also knew that would lead to my deciding to begin a Community Freedom Ministry at my local church which would lead to me starting a podcast to share the teachings from the discipleship classes I would do on Thursday nights.  

And as amazing as it sounds God knew that a woman who was trying to draw closer to Him would find that podcast and eventually feel compelled to drive an hour to attend the classes in person.

The love of God has no conditions and while He loves all of us, He works all things for good only for those who love Him and are called to His purpose.  TammyLyn and I love Him, and we answered the call to know Him more and to be used for His purposes and even though it took some work to get beyond my misconceptions and fears, God knew that the love that He poured into us would flow between us as we would eventually find one another and choose to honor His plan to agree to become husband and wife with Him at the center of our relationship.  

So keep walking and talking with God. Life is a journey and a mystery, but God knows where it is going. If we our faith in Christ, love God, and follow the call to His purposes we will find that no matter how crazy our walk is or how wrong we were in our ideas about things, He will show us the truth and lead us to an abundant life of purpose and meaning that we will show us who we were always meant to be.  


Today’s Bible verse is drawn from “The NLT Bible Promise Book for Men”.  

This morning’s meditation verse is:

James 5:16 (NLT2)
16  Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.

Today’s verse reminds us of the true purpose of confession and reminds us of the power of the fellowship of the saints  and communication with God.  

Today’s verse in James paints a picture of Christian fellowship and practice.  Repenting of our sins and living according to God’s way of life are a revolutionary choice that flies in the face of worldly wisdom.  

Our current culture tells us that as long as we are not overtly harming other people virtually all forms of behavior are permissible.  The word of God teaches that some things are just “sin” and just should not be done.   God writes His law on our hearts so try as we might to dismiss “biblical morality” if we are honest with ourselves we know what is “right” and would have to admit that no matter what society’s views on certain behaviors are now, that some things are wrong.  And Christians don’t base their sense of right and wrong on feelings or the views of society, they base what is sin by the wisdom of God’s word.   

So when Christians sin, they know that they have gone against the commands of the One who gave them life itself and the One who died to give them eternal life.  This realization fills us with guilt and shame and should draw us to repentance. 

So today’s verse teaches that we are to seek the comfort of the community of believers to confess their sins and to be prayed for.  

The confession of sin is not for forgiveness. Christ’s work on the cross has covered all our sins so if we understand that we know that no matter what we do our sins are forgiven and cannot separate us from the love of God. 

However, our harmonious relationship with the Lord is compromised and so confession of our sins to the saints we are in fellowship with serves two purposes. 

1.    Our heartfelt confession reestablishes our harmonious relationship with God.   We properly confess when we “agree’ with God that what we did was wrong and when we make the profession and make the intention to not repeat our sin. 

2.    Our confession to our fellow Christians makes us accountable to them to be true to our confession by seeking help to overcome our struggles with sin through community, instruction, and accountability relationships.

So these two factors that are the result of confession lead us to be “healed”.  

Today’s verse also points to the power of prayer to assist us in our walk.  Our prayerful communications with God can be powerful when we ask God for strength and guidance to walk away from our sins. Our prayers form the basis for our continuing relationship with God as we seek to be in contact with our heavenly Father to lead us through life.

Today’s verse also indicates that our righteous standing with God can give us powerful results.  A committed Christian in relationship will know the will of God  is consistent with His word and thus will not only have a clear channel of communication to the Father because of the lack of sin in their life, they will also direct their prayers to be pleasing to the Lord.  

So this weekend be sure to connect with a local fellowship of believers where you can pray for one another and form relationships in which you can unburden yourselves through confession and receive support as you conform your attitudes and behaviors to align with God’s word.  As we have been forgiven, we can walk in righteousness and know that our heavenly Father hears us and is encouraging us to keep living according to His ways, but we are not called to go it alone and need to be a support to and be supported by other Christians.

 

 

 

As always, I invite all to go to mt4christ.org where I always share insights from prominent Christian counselors to assist my brothers and sisters in Christ with their walk. 

 

Today we continue sharing from June Hunt’s Dating: Secrets to Great Relating When Dating  

 

As always, I share this information for educational purposes and encourage all to purchase June Hunt’s books for your own private study and to support her work. If you need this title you can find it online at several sites for less than $5.00:

C. What Do Women Want?

Emotionally healthy women will be attracted to different qualities in men in contrast to women who struggle with emotional immaturity.

Because men generally possess more physical strength than women, self-control can be a determining factor in how safe a woman feels with a man. He doesn't have to be a knight in shining armor who tries to rescue and protect all women everywhere, but he does have to be a safe man. He must provide a sense of physical security if he has any hope of developing a dating relationship. The importance of this point to God is obvious in Peter's words to husbands....

"Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers." (1 Peter 3:7)

  • Self-control is defined as "restraint exercised over one's own impulses, emotions, or desires."
  • Self-control "involves mastery of oneself, one's passions, one's egocentrism, one's lust for attention, power, and dominance."

The Bible describes a man who lacks self-control....

"Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control." (Proverbs 25:28)

In addition to self-control, a woman generally prefers to go out with a man who is...

  • Balanced—practices moderation in all areas of life, enjoys a variety of activities but avoids extremes
  • Boundaried—knows when and how to say no, sets appropriate limits in relationships and is not easily manipulated
  • Conscientious—thinks before speaking, chooses words that don't harm or offend others
  • Consistent—remains the same in the dark as in the light, whether at work, play, school, home, or on a date
  • Dependable—fulfills commitments and makes appointments, follows through on agreements and keeps his word
  • Even-tempered—keeps his temper under control in stressful situations, remains calm and levelheaded when under duress
  • Health-conscious—maintains a balanced routine of good eating, exercising, and sleeping habits
  • Honest—values integrity and deals truthfully with others
  • Relational—nurtures relationships and maintains friendships
  • Respectful—treats others politely, exhibits good manners, is courteous, considerate, honors and values others
  • Responsible—holds down a regular job, meets financial obligations, avoids excessive spending, and maintains a clean and orderly living environment
  • Self-assured—projects confidence and inner strength, knows who he is and accepts himself without being conceited or egocentric
  • Self-aware—recognizes his strengths and admits areas of weakness, guards against falling into sinful patterns or being trapped by temptation
  • Sensible—demonstrates good sense in decision making and expresses emotions in a balanced way
  • Spiritual maturity—commits to regular Bible study and prayer, actively participates in church, pursues opportunities to serve others
  • Unselfish—considers her needs just as important as his, makes adjustments in the little things
  • Well-groomed—attends to personal hygiene and appearance, dresses neatly
  • Wise—listens to advice and seeks counsel of trusted confidants
  • Zealous—is fervent in devotion to God, family, and friends, and is committed to developing godly character

The Bible paints a beautiful picture of the defining characteristics of someone who maintains a close walk with the Lord....

"Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers."

(Psalm 1:1-3)

Widowhood and Remarriage

Question: "Since my husband's death, I have not been open to dating. I feel guilty when I enjoy being around another man. Are these feelings appropriate?"

Answer: Yes. If you find yourself having feelings for another man, it may mean you are healing from the loss of the loving relationship you had with your husband and your heart is naturally opening up again to the possibility of a new relationship. It is not unusual for devoted, surviving spouses to initially feel guilty when experiencing these feelings for the first time, especially if they have not fully grieved their losses and released their former marriage and mate to God. Ask God to confirm in your heart:

  • If your feelings of guilt are the result of unresolved issues from your previous marriage.
  • If it is false guilt. The Bible clearly states that you are free to pursue new relationships and to remarry.

When mates who've been in loving, caring marriages die, the surviving mates are often more likely to explore the possibility of remarriage because they've experienced the joy and fulfillment such a partnership can bring. Conversely, those who had difficult marriages may be less open to remarriage. In either case, the Bible states...

"By law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law that binds her to him.... But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress if she marries another man." (Romans 7:2-3)


Biblical Counseling Keys: Dating: Secrets to Great Relating When Dating.

---------------------------more tomorrow------------------------

 

Join our “Victory over the Darkness” or “The Bondage Breaker” series of Discipleship Classes via the mt4christ247 podcast!

at https://mt4christ247.podbean.com, You can also find it on Apple podcasts (https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-mt4christ247s-podcast/id1551615154). The mt4christ247 podcast is also available on Google Podcasts, Amazon Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartradio, and Audible.com. 

Email me at mt4christ247@gmail.com to receive the class materials, share your progress, and to be encouraged.

 

Encouragement for the Path of Christian Discipleship

Monday, August 30, 2021

Things to Keep in Mind – God's Pathway to Peace - Purity 510


 Things to Keep in Mind  – God’s Pathway to Peace                                                                                          

Purity 510 08/30/2021   Purity 510 Podcast

Good morning

Today’s photo of blue skies over Lake Lanier comes to us from a friend who enjoyed a boating excursion over the weekend with friends near Cumming, Georgia. As someone who had the opportunity to go boating with friends earlier this summer I know what great fun and peace can be experienced when you get out upon the waters.   

Reflecting on this photo last night, I thought of Ray Charles’ version of “Georgia on my Mind” that “old sweet song” that tells of a man who can find “No peace” but keeps his beloved Georgia on His mind.  The song has been interpreted as either a man reflecting on His home state of Georgia or of a woman named Georgia.  I like to cover all the bases and think of the song being about a woman named Georgia, who also lives in Georgia, the singer’s home state. 

But seriously, the key to the song is that while the singer has “No peace”, he is comforted by his thoughts of, and his musical homage to, Georgia.  He has no peace but finds some through his remembrance of Georgia.

I think we all hope the singer of the song will see His beloved Georgia again. But those of us familiar with heartache, the consequences of the choices we make, or the circumstances we are forced to accept in life sometimes, know that returning to Georgia may not be in the cards. The overall tone of the song isn’t particularly hopeful, and the singer’s lyrics admit that its “just an old sweet song” that keeps Georgia on his mind.  

But the thing I wanted to point out is not how we can be separated from the things we love and left in a state of depression and nostalgia, I wanted to point out the power that God has given us to find a measure of peace by directing our thoughts to determine our emotions.   

While we can find some peace in remembering old loves, familiar haunts of yester year, or things we once had, scripture repeatedly directs us to look forward, not back, and to look at the Lord and not things of this earth. Why? 

We are to look forward because we can’t change the past.  One of the things I stress to people that I disciple is that “It’s not where you start that matters, it’s how you finish that counts.” Yeah, things may have gone wrong but how can we find peace in the days ahead? What can we do now to make a better tomorrow?  I advise to look forward, make plans, and take actions today that will bring you closer to where you want to go. 

Also we must be realists, we only have so much time to live our lives so our greatest concern should be the contemplation of eternity and finding peace with God.  The good news is that I have done a lot of spiritual legwork in my life, and I can assure you that what scripture says about Jesus being “the way, the truth, and the life” is true. John 14:6 is the verse if you want to look it up and see its implications.

Placing your faith in Christ is the key to eternity but it also is the answer to life here and now.  While thinking back to dear old Georgia may give us some peace, reflecting on and actively following and communing with God gives an infinite amount of peace because there are no limits to His wisdom and love for you to receive.  

So look ahead and look to the Lord, you will find that when you do that the depression you have over the tragedies of the past lifts.  As you begin to trust the Lord, you discover He has a purpose for your life and that no matter where your road takes you He will guide you along on your journey, will bring you to a good place, and will show you amazing things along the way.  

Well it’s Monday again, and its August 30th, I don’t mean to bum you out, but I hope you accomplished what you were hoping to accomplish this summer because September is a couple days away and the season is going fast. 

But guess what, you still have time. You can make plans and take action to create milestone moments for the summer of ’21.  Just turn your thoughts from the days gone by and look forward to the days ahead. Draw close to the Lord and find the peace and joy of life that He has for you.  He wants you find some happiness in this world and believe me when I tell you that your happiness is elevated to joy when you continually walk and talk with Him.


This morning’s meditation verse is:

2 Timothy 1:10 (NKJV)
10  but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,

Today’s verse points to what has been revealed by Jesus Christ coming to earth, dying for our sins, being raised to life, and ascending to heaven.   

The context of the preceding verses in this passage refers to the gospel – the good news.  What’s the good news? What has been revealed by Christ’s appearing? 

Well, Jesus’ atoning work on the cross, and the confirmation of His deity through His resurrection has abolished death and revealed that immortality comes through the “gospel”, the amazing news about Jesus that tells us that “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” as Jesus said in John 3:16.     

As I often have stated, the most important question of life is “Who is Jesus to you?” 

While we are free to hold what ever opinions we want and can choose to believe or not,  the historicity of Christ can not be denied. He lived on earth and died on the cross. People testified that He was resurrected and ascended to heaven.  You can believe that or not. 

But whether we “believe” those reports to be true or not, it doesn’t matter unless you take the next step and personally put your faith in Christ as your Lord and Savior.  We must not only “swallow” the hard to believe reports that come to us from the pages of scripture, we also must come into a relationship with God by confessing the truth of those events and by asking for God’s mercy and grace and proclaiming that we belong to God by placing our faith in Jesus.

Immortality certainly is worth seriously investigating and contemplating putting your faith in Christ. For anyone unsure and who hasn’t made Christ their Lord, I would you to encourage you to honestly seek the truth concerning Christ.  Lee Strobel’s documentary “The Case for Christ” is good place to start (https://youtu.be/rbTSyqbUz1A) .   

But our faith in Christ isn’t about getting a “ticket to heaven” it is about coming into a relationship with the living God of all creation and discovering the new life and purpose that He has for you.  

So for those on the path of Christian discipleship already, rejoice over your salvation, share the good news, and keep walking to where the Lord leads you.    

For those not there yet,  open your eyes, minds, and hearts to the possibility that God is real, alive, and is calling you to Him. If you seek Him, you will find Him, and I pray that you find Him today. 

 

As always, I invite all to go to mt4christ.org where I always share insights from prominent Christian counselors to assist my brothers and sisters in Christ with their walk. 

 

Today we continue with Dr. Neil Anderson’s Victory Over the Darkness, continuing  Chapter 13.

 

As always, I share this information for educational purposes and encourage all to purchase Dr. Anderson’s books for your own private study and to support his work. If you need this title you can find it online at several sites for less than $15.00:

Designs for Discipleship

Level II: Built Up in Christ (Colossians 2:7)

Building up people in Christ begins in the spiritual dimension by helping them distinguish between walking according to the flesh and walking according to the Spirit. The more they choose to walk according to the flesh, the longer they will remain immature. The more they choose to walk according to the Spirit, the faster they will grow. Fundamental to this truth is the believers' understanding that outside circumstances do not determine who they are, how they walk or what they will someday become. Only God and our response to Him determine that.

Rationally, when Christians buy into Satan's lies or worldly philosophies, they will not be able to grow (see Col. 2:8, 18, 19). The battle is for the mind, and we must learn to take "every thought captive to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor. 10:5). Discipleship requires mental discipline. People who will not assume responsibility for their thoughts cannot be discipled.

Emotions are a product of our thoughts. If our thoughts and beliefs are wrong, we will struggle with negative emotions. Persistent anger, anxiety and depression reveal a faulty belief system. The greatest determinants of mental and emotional health are a true knowledge of God, an acceptance of His ways and the assurance of His forgiveness.

Volitionally, Christians need to exercise the spiritual fruit of self-control instead of succumbing to the fleshly impulses.

Relationally, forgiveness is the key to freedom in Christ. It is the glue that holds families and churches together. Satan uses unforgiveness more than any other human deficiency to stop the growth of individuals and ministries. The unforgiving person is yoked to the past and is not free to move on in Christ.

The second goal of discipleship is to accept God's goal of sanctification and grow in the likeness of Christ. This entails the following:

  • Helping people learn to walk by faith in the power of the Holy Spirit
  • Guiding them to discipline their minds to believe the truth
  • Helping them get off the emotional roller coaster by focusing their thoughts on God instead of on their circumstances
  • Encouraging them to develop self-control
  • Challenging them to resolve personal problems by forgiving others and seeking forgiveness


Victory Over the Darkness: Realizing the Power of Your Identity in Christ.

---------------------------more tomorrow------------------------

 

God bless you all!

 

Join our “Victory over the Darkness” or “The Bondage Breaker” series of Discipleship Classes via the mt4christ247 podcast!

at https://mt4christ247.podbean.com, You can also find it on Apple podcasts (https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-mt4christ247s-podcast/id1551615154). The mt4christ247 podcast is also available on Google Podcasts, Amazon Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartradio, and Audible.com. 

Email me at mt4christ247@gmail.com to receive the class materials, share your progress, and to be encouraged.

 

Encouragement for the Path of Christian Discipleship

Monday, August 16, 2021

Black Box – Remembering to Forget, Discovering the New Life - Purity 498


 
Black Box – Remembering to Forget, Discovering the New Life

Purity 498 08/16/2021  Purity 498 Podcast

Good morning

Today’s photo of a spectacular sunset over the darkened landscape of Mount Osmond in South Australia comes to us from our friends at Dave Baun Photography as they took a hike there near the end of July. As our friends were heading to their car to “beat the darkness” the setting sun appeared before them, and Dave knew that he just had to capture the moment. They lingered there to enjoy it for a while and luckily escaped unharmed on their return trip down the steep hill without the sun. Dave’s final remarks stated how he loved the fact that there are so many beautiful places to explore where he lives that are pretty much in his “own back yard”. 

As the sun sets on another weekend and we begin a new work week, I share my friend’s enthusiasm for the beauty that surrounds us, regardless of where we live, and actually enjoyed an evening of discovering the simple beauty of a gathering of friends around a bonfire in a friend’s back yard.  The gathering really was quite special because most of didn’t even know one another just a few months ago but since then our fellowship has grown as we had shared with one another our experiences of the past and our hopes for the future as each one of us looks to walk further into the light of our new lives beyond the shadows of heartache and pain.  

Yesterday, I watched the Amazon original film “Black Box”, which features a man’s search for truth as he seeks to recover his memories and a sense of his identity after suffering a traumatic accident that resulted in amnesia.   As the film progresses, the main character begins to recall memories that are disturbing that he fears reveal that he isn’t the wholesome person he thinks he is. Can these shadowy memories that feature people with their faces blurred out indicate that he is not the man he thought he was or that he was living a double life that his friends and family were unaware of?   

Well, if you want to know you will have to go to Amazon to check it out. I’m not into being a spoiler and went into the film with little or no expectations, which is usually for the best.  Those with Prime Video might be at a loss for something to watch and I would recommend it because it was entertaining and somewhat thought provoking as it could cause us to examine the concepts of identity and what makes us the people we are.

For those of us that are seeking answers in life and finding them through our relationship with God after placing our faith in Jesus Christ, our “black boxes” of the memories of our pasts can be a frightening thing that we wish to keep closed and buried because the memories of the harm we have suffered or inflicted on others could tell us that we are not the wholesome people that we are now and that the changing circumstances of the world will one day cause us to go back into the darkness with which our “black boxes” are filled.      

I have recently been forced to recall things from the distant past that are on my “permanent record” which don’t reflect who I am anymore but all the same must be reported so others can make an informed decision when they decided to come into a relationship with me.   The things in my past may cause people to decide to “go with someone else” and quite frankly I couldn’t blame them.  We are responsible for the things we do in life and the negative consequences for our past actions may be far reaching.    

So, should we hide everything in our little “black boxes” and hope no one finds out?  Should we only reveal what we absolutely need to and explain things on a “need to know” basis?

While there is great wisdom in choosing to be discerning in what personal information we reveal to others in life, as a Christian, I have endeavored to tell the truth and choose to be as transparent as I can be with people. Quite frankly, it’s a lot easier to just tell the truth because when you open up your “black box” that’s when the Lord can bring His light into your life.   Light dispels darkness and when we decide to testify about what we have suffered, our pain and darkness loses its power over us, and our transformed lives give glory to God.   

But here is a key to living out your transformed life: remember to forget.  I am not saying that we deny what we have done. I am also not telling you to dwell on the things of the past.  Instead we should acknowledge the mistakes of the past, forgive those who have hurt us, and make amends for the harm we have done.   When we do these things, repenting of our former ways and making things right to the best of our abilities with God and men, then we can “choose to forget” about what we have done and walk forward into our freedom and victory.   

Did I do all those foolish things in the past? Yup, I am not proud of it, but I did. Am I still that person? Yes, and possibly No. 

I am the person who did those things, and I will be responsible for what I have done until the day I die.  No matter what I do going forward, my present and future actions will not erase the things of the past.  So yeah, I am the person responsible for those things in the past, that’s me. 

However, coming to faith in Jesus Christ makes one a new creation, according to God’s word.   Beyond “re-inventing ourselves” by putting on new clothes, mannerisms, or habits, faith in Jesus Christ makes us new by “killing us”.  

The word of God describes a Christian’s life as being crucified and resurrected with Christ. It tells us the old has passed away and all things have become new. The word tells us we have new life in Christ.   

So, if you have truly put your faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior, you are no longer that “old man”.  You are a new creation. 

But if we expect to experience our new lives in Christ, we must decide to live the rest of our lives as new creations.   If we live like our “old selves” with a Christian hat that says, “I’m forgiven”, we won’t experience the new life and others will feel they are correct when they say that “people don’t change” or that “faith is a joke.”  If we live like our old selves, we just sit in place and start to fill our little “black boxes” all over again and never feel free.     

No, in order to claim that we “are not that person anymore”, we are going to have to put our faith in the spiritual reality of what the Lord has done for us when we placed our faith in Jesus and continually and progressively turn from the “man we used to be” through our thoughts, words, and actions.  Our transformation into the new life that Christ has for us doesn’t end with a sinner’s prayer. That’s just the beginning.  

Instead of “sitting” in the patterns of our past, we have to rise up and start walking towards the light of what the Lord is calling us to.   When we do that, people may fail to recognize who we are.   While some will never forgive us and never see what the Lord has done for us,  others will recognize that we aren’t who we used to be, and they will forgive us and rejoice with us over our new lives.  It’s a lot easier to forgive a “dead guy” than it is to forgive someone whose “fouls spirits” of the past continually haunt those around them.    

So, keep walking and talking with God. It’s a new day and a new work week.  The bad news is that the job of living a new life and leaving our pasts behind can be hard work with long hours, but the good news is that the as we gain experience in our new profession the workloads get lighter, and we become more skilled at handling adversity.   Plus no matter what we run into “on the job”, we have a close relationship with the One in charge, know that benefits of our new life are amazing, and that our futures are assured.    


This morning’s meditation verse is:

1 Thessalonians 4:12 (NLT2)
12  Then people who are not Christians will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others.

Today’s verse speaks of the benefits of living a quiet life with an honest work ethic.

Some saint once said to always preach the gospel and to sometimes use words pointing to the fact that our conduct will reveal our Christian faith possibly better than the words that we speak.      

The previous verse in Thessalonians four advises Christians to lead a quiet life, mind our own business, and to work with our hands.  Today’s verse tells us that when we do that, non-believers will take notice and our efforts at honest work will provide for our needs and not make us dependent on others.  

The word of God indicates that we are going to have to work to meet our needs, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t also work in a manner that can represent the interests of the kingdom of God.  

A quiet life of character and work can be our best apologetic as we do not burden others for our needs and establish a reputation as someone who can be trusted.  If we are “straight shooters” in caring for our needs and interacting with others, we could establish relationships and dialogs with people outside of God’s grace and use our position to draw people to the truth.    

So if you are not the most skilled evangelist, just mind your business and do your job in such a way that your work will give glory to God. Not only will our hard work result in the means to meet our needs, but it could also possibly be used for the Lord’s purposes. 

    

As always, I invite all to go to mt4christ.org where I always share insights from prominent Christian counselors to assist my brothers and sisters in Christ with their walk. 

 

Today we continue with Dr. Neil Anderson’s Victory Over the Darkness, concluding Chapter 11.

 

As always, I share this information for educational purposes and encourage all to purchase Dr. Anderson’s books for your own private study and to support his work. If you need this title you can find it online at several sites for less than $15.00:

A Second Touch

One of the greatest personal crises I have faced in the ministry revolved around the problem of forgiveness and a board member I will call Calvin. I struggled relating to this man, so I asked if he would meet with me weekly. I had only one goal: trying to establish a meaningful relationship with him.

About four months after Calvin and I started meeting, I asked the board if I could lead a tour group from the church to Israel. Calvin's hand shot up. "I'm against it because, as the tour leader, the pastor will go free, and that's like giving him a bonus." After assuring Calvin and the board I would pay my own way and use my vacation time for the trip, they agreed.

Despite the burden I carried in my heart about my conflict with Calvin, the trip to Israel was a tremendous spiritual experience for me. On one of my free days in Jerusalem, I spent several hours alone in the Church of All Nations pouring out my heart to God about Calvin. I sat there staring at the rock where Christ reportedly had sweat great drops of blood as He anticipated taking upon Himself the sins of the world. I concluded by telling God that if Jesus could take all the world's sins upon Himself, I could surely endure the sins of one difficult person. I left that historical monument thinking I had let it go.

Two weeks after I returned, Calvin shifted his attack to our youth pastor. That did it. I could handle Calvin's resistance to me, but when he started blasting my youth pastor, I reached the end of my patience. I confronted the board and demanded they do something about Calvin. If they didn't, I would resign. Although they agreed with me in private, they wouldn't stand with me in public, so I decided to resign.

The week before I was going to read my resignation to the congregation, I got sick. I was flat on my back with a 103.5 temperature and I totally lost my voice. I had never been so sick before; nor have I since. It doesn't take a genius to recognize that God was not pleased with my decision. When you are flat on your back, you have nowhere to look but up. So I began reading the Gospels and came to Mark 8:22-26 where some people led a blind man to Jesus. After Jesus touched him, the blind man said, "I see men . . . like trees" (Mark 8:24). I got the message. I was seeing Calvin like a tree, an obstacle in my path. He was blocking my goal! Oh no he wasn't. I was. I am the only person on planet Earth who can keep me from being the person God created me to be. God used that man more than any other man to make me the pastor God wanted me to be.

Then Jesus touched the blind man again and he began to see people as people, not trees. "Lord, I don't love that man, but I know you do and I want to. I need a second touch from You." God did touch me, and I chose at that moment to forgive Calvin completely.

The next Sunday I went to church, not to resign, but to preach. My voice was still so husky that I almost couldn't speak. I croaked out a message from Mark 8:22-26 about our tendency to be independent in the face of our great need for God and for each other. I confessed to the congregation my own independence and my desire for the Lord to touch me, to help me see people as people and not as obstacles in my path. I explained that there are three kinds of people. Some are blind and need to be led to Jesus. Others see people like trees. They scratch one another or compare their leaves with one another. But we are not trees. We are children of God who are created in His image. Finally, there are those who have been touched by God and consequently see others for who they really are.

At the end of the sermon, I invited anyone who needed a touch from the Lord to join me at the altar. We sang a hymn and people streamed forward. Soon the altar area and the aisles in the front were packed with people. They were going across the aisles to ask forgiveness and to be forgiven. We opened the side doors and people spilled out onto the lawn. Eventually, all but a few people had come forward. It was a revival!

Would you care to guess who was one of the few who did not go forward? To my knowledge Calvin never changed, but I did. I continued to take a stand against what I believed was wrong because I was not about to tolerate sin. I no longer responded in bitterness though. I also learned a hard lesson in life. God is fully capable of cleaning His own fish. My responsibility is to catch them and love them the way Christ loves me. I thank God to this day that God put me flat on my back to make me the pastor He wanted me to be.

 


Victory Over the Darkness: Realizing the Power of Your Identity in Christ.

---------------------------more tomorrow------------------------

 

God bless you all!

 

Join our “Victory over the Darkness” or “The Bondage Breaker” series of Discipleship Classes via the mt4christ247 podcast!

at https://mt4christ247.podbean.com, You can also find it on Apple podcasts (https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-mt4christ247s-podcast/id1551615154). The mt4christ247 podcast is also available on Google Podcasts, Amazon Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartradio, and Audible.com. 

Email me at mt4christ247@gmail.com to receive the class materials, share your progress, and to be encouraged.

 

Encouragement for the Path of Christian Discipleship