Monthly Archives: January 2014

Body, Soul, and Spirit Part 1

Peninsula Community Church

Body, Soul and Spirit

January, 26, 2014

1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 – Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

This week I want to begin our “Body, Soul and Spirit” series. I have been praying about this study for some time and now feel that the time has come to begin. The question to be asked here, “Is why should we do a study such as this?” For me, I believe that as we study this together we will find that we will be better Christians, we will be more productive as agents of Christ in His ministry, and we will experience greater growth in Christ. I also believe that we can shed many of the unhealthy thoughts and false ideas about life and what it means to live a fulfilled Christian life.

The passage we just read will be our theme verse for this study. Throughout the study, we will supplement it with many other passages in the Bible. This particular passage is a part of Paul’s conclusion to I Thessalonians. This is a prayer prayed by Paul for those to whom he was writing. He prayed that their whole being which includes the spirit, soul, and body would be kept blameless to the coming of the Lord. His desire was for them to understand that this is an ongoing process of the recognition of what Christ has done in them and for them that results in their growth in purification and sanctification. It is also a message of hope that says that we must take action to be blameless but that God is doing the work of sanctification in them. It is a work that has already been achieved for them and continues to be achieved in them as they understand what He has done.

The basis of this study is founded in the fact that man is a creation of God. As a creation of God, man was created as a three-part being. This means that man is not just physical or spiritual but has at all times a physical, spiritual, and soul component. We find the story of creation in Genesis 2-3. Here, we find that man was created in God’s image. When we understand this concept of being created in His image, we understand that we are like Him as a three-part being. We are not three separate people but we are one person living with three components. These three parts make us who we are. They form our perceptions and our ideologies. These components also form and shape what others think of us. These components form the template through which the stimuli of life are processed. 

While other creatures may live, they do not have life. In Genesis 2:7 it is important to see that God breathed life into man. Moses stated Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. The result of God breathing into man is that he became a living creature. This is the one thing more than any other sets man apart from the rest of God’s creation. God breathed into man and he was given life. Mankind was created to have life, to be a ruler over the rest of creation, and to enjoy all that God had created. How awesome is that?

While this is true, as you know by reading the Bible, the intent of God was upset when man sinned through Adam. When man fell into disobedience, all of life changed. Something died in man that day. Prior to the fall of man, he did not know pain, he did not know shame, he did not know failure, and he did not know sin. A second result of man’s sin that day was that the order of man’s created person was upset. Instead of living from the spirit and living from the life that had been breathed into him, man began living in distortion, lies, and doubt. Instead of living out of the spirit, man now lives by being driven by the body and/or the soul rather than from the spirit that had been breathed within him. It was at this juncture that man became disoriented about who he was and about his purpose here on earth. This is why we see Adam and Eve hiding from God. This is why we see that Adam and Eve were ashamed of their nakedness.

To understand God’s purpose in creating man and our role in life as a created being of God we must understand the role that our body, soul and spirit plays in determining how we live and what we we expect. When we have these in right alignment, we will experience life from a new perspective and a new vision of what is possible for us.

As noted we are a three-part being. God has created us as body, soul, and spirit. To understand these three parts, let me take a moment to explain what each of these parts represent. Please note that these definitions are simplistic, but we will look into each of these with more detail as we continue this study. 

The body is that part of us that is visible. We see the body. It is obvious to us. The body involves the five senses. This includes smell, touch, vision, hearing, and taste. The body allows us to experience life through the senses. The body also helps to identify who we are to others. 

Secondly, we have the soul. The soul is that part of man that involves the mind, the will, and the emotions. It is in the soul of man that the things he learns are processed. It is in the soul that God desires to bring change. The word soul can and is often exchanged for the word heart.

Finally, we have that part of man which is called the spirit. The spirit is that part of us that sets us apart from all other created beings. The spirit is that part of us that was breathed into by God himself. The spirit is that part of us that relates to God and begins to truly know God. It is for this reason that we can never be good enough to know God. We must accept God and Christ and his ways so that our spirit is aligned with God.

The problem we have is that when Adam sinned in the garden of Eden, man’s spirit died. It was darkened by sin. Christ came to restore life to man’s spirit. For that reason, it is only by God’s Spirit that our spirit is quickened. We are made alive again when God touches us and we become a new creation. Apart from the quickening of God’s spirit within us we are dead in our trespass and sin. For that reason, we can never be good enough to inherit the kingdom of God.

The following passage details this new life for us. Ephesians 2:1-7 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

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January 26, 2014 · 11:04 pm

Are You Living as a Free Man or as a Slave

Peninsula Community Church

Are you living as a free man or as a slave?

January 19, 2014

Galatians 4:4-6 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

Today, we are going to look at a important subject that will assist us in understanding how to live life to the fullest as a church and as believers. We touched on this principle just a couple weeks ago, but I believe it is necessary that we spend some time on it this morning. The principle that I want to talk about today is whether or not you are living as a free man in Christ or do you still live as a slave to sin and your past.

As we look at the children of Israel who traveled from Egypt to the promised land, we see that they were a restless and discontented people. One day they were excited about what God was doing, and they were in support of Moses as their leader; but quickly they would turn from expressing thanksgiving and gratitude to wallowing in a spirit of complaining and murmuring. 

When we analyze a complaining spirit one thing is clear. The spirit of murmuring and complaining never brings about positive results. When we exhibit a murmuring or complaining spirit we are never satisfied or content. We are forever lacking a sense of joy and peace. When we complain and murmur it is difficult to live as a free man because we expend too much time looking back at what was and not what is or is to come. 

When we walk in a spirit of criticism and we are filled with murmuring, we exude a negative heart and a negative desire to see things for the good. When we walk in a spirit of criticism, there are times that it does not matter what positive things an individual might do or what a group might do, because when we walk in criticism and complaining, there will always be something to criticize. As we look at this, we must recognize that there is a difference between a critical, complaining, and murmuring spirit; and one that offers constructive criticism. Constructive criticism focuses on the resolution of a problem and it speaks directly to the one that can exact change rather than everyone one else.  

The problem with a critical, complaining, murmuring spirit is that it exudes a mindset that we would rather live as a slave rather than as a free man. A murmuring and complaining spirit can present itself as a slave rather than walking in freedom. To understand this, we only need to look at the life of the Children of Israel. Too often, they lived as if they were still under the control the Pharaoh and not under the control of God. What we see in their heart is that while they were out of Egypt, the Egypt mindset was still in control of their heart. It is like the old saying “you can take the girl out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the girl.” For the children of Israel, you could take them out of Egypt but it was much more difficult to take Egypt out of their hearts. The desire was that they would begin to live as freemen who were free from the bondage of Egypt, free from the slavery of Pharaoh, and free from the labor that was to be given to another. 

For the purpose of our discussion today, let me share with you a couple of thoughts about living as slaves rather than as free men. The first thought is that we can believe the lie that says we cannot change rather than speaking the truth that I am already changed by the power of the Gospel. The lie and the truth are opposed to one another. In other words, we will live in torment when we try to live both the lie and the truth in our lives. It behooves us, therefore, to come to the place where we determine that we will live from the truth that I have been changed by the power of the gospel and that I do not have to live as a slave any longer. To overcome the lie, we must accept the fact that the work of Christ is complete in us. We must begin to take the steps to accept the truth that change is possible. Listen to what Paul says to us:

Galatians 4:4-7 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

Romans 6:15-18 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.

We do not have to live as slaves because we are sons of God.

The second issue we face is that we can fear change more than we fear slavery itself. The problem is that we can become so familiar and comfortable with the lifestyle of slavery that we  we don’t know recognize freedom when we have it. Too often we have lived in slavery for so long; we have become comfortable as slaves. The problem is that slavery has become a familiar place for us to reside. We know where we have come from, but we can be afraid of where we are headed. We walk in fear because we don’t know what the future will look like. Too often, we would rather live in the past than trust the Lord who knows the future. We must be shaken from our complacency and move toward change. Sometimes, when we fail to do this God sends a catalysis that will encourage our change. It may be an earthquake. It may be sickness. It may be a revelation of who we really are to others. 

The third issue is this that too often we can be bound by loyalty to our personal and family history. The problem here is that we all have an identity. You see our friends see us one way. Our families see us another way. Our coworkers may see us in a total different way. We can be afraid that if we begin to follow God, remove ourselves from a spirit of slavery, and begin to see change in our lives, we will get criticized and belittled for the changes we make. Perhaps we are afraid of what we may have to give up in order to see change come. Perhaps there is a feeling that we need to be true to our family, we need to be true to a history, we need to be true to who we are you, and we need to be true to our culture. The answer to this is that we need to be true to who we are as a new creation in Christ. Only as we see ourselves as a new creation will we begin to see the right change come to our hearts.

The fourth issue that is that too often we can continue to return to enslaving habits. We do this because these habits are comfortable for us. These habits are a safeguard for us. They are the place we go to when we don’t know what else to do. When we get stressed out, we overindulge in alcohol. When things do not go our way, we get angry and lash out at others. When we face difficulty, we clam up rather than dealing with the issues before us. For others, when things are uncomfortable or issues arise, they turn to food or to things that are not beneficial to their health.

Is interesting to note that the children of Israel who had everything they needed had a desire to go back to Egypt and eat the food of the Pharaoh rather than live under freedom they had. You can look at the children of Israel with scorn and displeasure at this decision, but we too are guilty of doing the same thing in our lives. Too often, we desire the things of the past rather than the new life that is ahead of us.

The last issue is that too often we can practice self deception about our past slavery. How quickly we can forget how painful slavery is for us? If we do not continue to feed upon the word of God, if we do not continue to look at the blessings that God has bestowed upon us, it is so easy for us to live out of the past rather than in the present hope that is ours. The cry of the Israelites was for God to get them out of this horrible place now! God answers and sets them free from Egypt. They pass through the Red Sea and now they are in the wilderness. It is interesting to note that rather than giving praise to God for what God is doing, they are reminiscing about the good old days when they were slaves. Yes that’s right, they were having a conversation and looking back at their slavery, as if somehow it were freedom and better than their current circumstance.

Have you every lived that way before? God gets you out of a serious situation and then look back and proclaim that those were good times. But, they were not good times, and they won’t be good times if you revisit them now. We are good at exchanging reality for fantasy. How many of you, you have old friends like this? You get together and you’re like, “Remember when we were in high school?” No, I don’t, because we were alcoholics. I blacked out from my sophomore year to graduation. No, I don’t remember high school. “It was awesome. Remember that time you threw up?” Yeah, it wasn’t that awesome, right? Some of you have friends like that, and they only want to talk about the old days and romanticize and fantasize about the old days.

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The Parable of the Soils A.K.A. The Heart

Peninsula Community Church

The Parable of the Sower

January 12, 2014

Today’s text is a lengthy one but well worth the read. So, let’s read together.

Matthew 13:1-9; 18-23 – That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.”

“Hear then the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.

As you read the New Testament, you will find that one of the literary tools used by Jesus to teach those around him was the parable. A parable is basically a story that is used to make a point but it is also a story that is based on some real life story or event. Often as Jesus was speaking, he would look at the surroundings around him and would use examples from everyday life to teach biblical principles. As you read the Gospels you find he used sheep, a farmer, a shepherd, a vineyard, a rich man, and so on to bring to light an understanding of some spiritual truth. You see parables were not just good stories, they were tools used by Christ to point the way to spiritual principles that would guide the believer toward a better understanding of kingdom living and kingdom life.

In the text before us today, we have one of the more popular parables used by Jesus. As noted, He uses this parable to present powerful spiritual principles. In the case of this parable, Christ provides the opportunity to enlighten understanding of the need to grow, to mature and to bear fruit as a passionate follower of Christ. The idea communicated here is that we are not to just look pretty and fill a spot on a chair on Sunday. We are to bear fruit worthy of repentance and worthy of ministering to others. The second lesson, which is just as important as the first, is that the condition of our heart will determine the level of growth and the level and volume of fruit to be produced in our lives. 

Related to this particular parable, let me make a couple of observations. First, this parable is not so much for the nonbeliever as it is for the believer, that is the one who is already a believer. This does not mean that the nonbeliever should not heed the words of this parable, but that this particular parable is fully directed to the believer. 

A second observation to be noted is that the farmer and the seed are the same. There is only one farmer and only one seed. The sower or the farmer is representative of Christ himself. The seed is representative of the word of God.

A third observation is this. while the seed is the same and the sower is the same, the soil is quite different. We find here four types of soils described. Each soil type describes a different type of heart. Each heart is exhibited in different ways and for different reasons. I would describe these hearts as the hardened/callous heart, the shallow heart, the strangled heart, and the satisfied heart. Jesus understands and he wants us to understand that the condition of our hearts will determine the level of growth that we will experience. The condition of our hearts wild determine the fruit we will have. The condition of our hearts wild determine the effect we will have on others and on life itself.

In this parable, Jesus begins with the hard soil which is that soil that has been trampled under the foot as it is on a pathway. This soil is on the path that is used for travel. The ground is so hard that the seed cannot penetrate. Because of the hardness of the soil, the seed never germinates and the roots never have the opportunity to grow. How do we interpret this? The hardened soil represents the heart that has become hardened and calloused. As a result they become hardened to the things that God wants to do in them. This heart has become closed and rejects the very truth that can bring healing. This is the heart that rejects understanding and wisdom. 

Everyone of us, I am sure, has encountered a person in our life that refuses to heed advice no matter how good or how important that advice might be. We might call this stubbornness and hardness. There is no place to allow the seed to germinate because truth is being rejected. Rather than living a fruitful life that manifests God’s love and God’s will, these hearts are lifeless and fruitless.

There are so many reasons for this phenomena. It could be the result of what Paul describes in Romans 1 where people would rather believe the lie than the truth. The problem is that they believe the lie so long that they become hardened to the truth. Because of the lie that is lived the truth has no room to grow and bear fruit. 

The second kind of soil is the soil that represents the shallow heart. This is the heart that never fully grows. They have received the word but they are every superficial in the way they live and the way they act. The word does not impact them or their life. Because they live a superficial life, they are easily effected by the trials and the persecutions of life. The problem is that the who lives superficially is one who is more easily led by one’s circumstances rather than by faith. They are led more than by the events of their life that negatively effect them rather than they are by the truth of God’s word that brings stability and direction. Because they have shallow hearts, they are neutralized by difficulty and by persecution which negates any possible opportunity for growth.

The third kind of soil represents the strangled heart. This heart has the word implanted but those who have this heart are caught off guard by the issues of life. They are distracted by the process of gathering wealth rather than enjoying the wealth they already have. They are more concerned about what people think of them than they are about growing in Christ. When things are good they believe they do not need Christ. They move from trusting God to trusting themselves solely as their provider. This is the kind of person that worries about everything which distracts them from God’s word and understanding.

The fourth soil is the soil that is good soil. The good soil is ground that is ready to receive the seed. As the sower sows the seed, the seed finds ready soil which aids in the germination process and is therefore ready to bring forth fruit. Look at what Jesus says As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.

Notice that the one who has good soil, not only hears the word but understands. It is critical that we see that Jesus begins and end the parable with the idea that we must understand the word. Our heart and our understanding of the word impacts our ability to bear fruit. It is not enough to know the word but we must also understand the principles that are provided and we must make application of those principles into our life. Understanding must result in the proper application of the word into our lives.

The result of understanding is that the believer will bear fruit in multiple quantities. As we look at this we must understand that God’s goal for us is that we would bear fruit in our life. In fact, he desires that we bear much fruit. We are to be fruitful. This is not one dimensional fruit bearing but is multidimensional in that every area of our life should be bearing fruit. Let me just use one example. Let’s use one example our finances. When we understand the truth of God’s word that we are stewards of what we possess, then we will begin to handle things a lot different. How we handle we our finances will change and our commitment to giving our first fruits to God through tithing will be a priority for us. When we obey God’s word about giving and finances we will realize fruit beyond measure. God will provide for us health and wisdom, both financially and relationally when we are obedient to be good stewards.

The writer of Proverbs understood this. Read Proverbs 2 as one example. Job 28:28 And he said to man, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.'” 

So where do you fall in the first three categories. What do we do? The Bible offers us a solution. Two passages come to mind here. The first is found in Jeremiah 4:3. For thus says the Lord to the men of Judah and Jerusalem: “Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns. The second is found in Hosea 10:12. Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you

We must break up the fallow ground through prayer, through reading the word and by removing the distractions from our life that prevent us from experiencing the growth we need to have. For some we need to remove the thorns from our life. How are the thorns evidenced? Maybe it’s bitterness, unforgiveness, lust, pride or anger. Even if you’re a Christian, these thorns, and the demonic forces they represent, can show up in your life. But God has given us the only tool, His Word, to get rid of the thorns for good and walk in freedom.

It is our choice today. What do you choose? Do you want fruit and life or do you want to be strangled out which results in death? 


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5 Commitments for 2014

Peninsula Community Church

5 Commitments for 2014

January 5, 2013

Philippians 3:12-16 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

In preparing for this message I began to consider the idea of making New Years resolutions. As you might guess, the idea of making New Years resolutions is nothing new but I wondered where the concept of making resolutions come from. In researching this, I found that the ancient Babylonians made promises to their gods at the start of each year that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts. If you were the one who loaned an item that would be a great resolution for someone else to make. The Romans began each year by making promises to the god Janus, for whom the month of January is named. In the Medieval era, the knights took the “peacock vow” at the end of the Christmas season each year to re-affirm their commitment to chivalry. (From Wikipedia).

I am sure that each of us has in some way considered the idea of making resolutions going into this new year. Perhaps you have considered losing weight which by the way is the most popular resolution made each year. For others, it could be the idea of being nicer. For others it could be the idea of doing more for others. It could be watching less TV and spending more time in the Word and in prayer. While all of these are good ideas it is interesting to note that 88% of all resolutions made end in failure. It has also been noted however that 22% more resolutions are kept when they are shared with someone else. 

For us as believers, who are passionate followers of Christ, the idea of resolutions can also be a part of our lives. To come to the end of one year and begin another year is very much a time of evaluation and renewal. For me personally, I try to use the week between Christmas and New Years as a time to reevaluate where I am. What are my goals? How did I do with my goals from the previous year? When I was growing up it was a common event to have watch night services where we would close the year with thanksgiving and a commitment to follow Christ with a renewed spirit of trust and faith. 

As I thought about this idea of resolutions, I would like to suggest a couple of commitments for you consideration. Now I will quickly say that this is not an inclusive list. In fact, if you were to be in my place and were sharing this message, you might share a different list and that would be fine. In fact, if I were to preach this same message at some point in the future, I might use a different list. The idea is that this is not an inclusive list but are simple some key commitments for us to consider.

The first consideration is to commit to seeing the miracles and blessings of God around you. This is important for us as we can get sidetracked by the circumstances and cares of life. A heart that looks for the miracles and blessings of God around us is one that is filled with gratitude and thankfulness. There is so much in our world that can pull us down and create in us a ungrateful heart. When we don’t look for the miracles of God around us, our hearts can be filled with grumbling, complaining, and ungratefulness. We see this in the life of the Children of Israel. It is amazing to me that there appears to be a huge cycle of gratefulness and then murmuring and complaining. You see God would meet their need and would provide for them. Miracles were happening all around them, and yet they would fall into a grumbling and complaining attitude. One day they are angry with God. On another day they are trying to get rid of Moses as their leader. But when we commit to see the miracles of God around us we will be less likely to complain and grumble. When we focus on God’s blessings and on what He has done for us, we are more likely to be filled with a heart of gratitude and blessings.

The second consideration is to be less judgmental and more understanding of others. I have been reading a couple of books here lately. One of the books is by Pastor Jack Graham, the senior pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Dallas Texas. In his book, Unseen, Jack makes an observation about his life as he is getting older. He stated that as he is aging, there is a tendency for him to be more judgmental. He commented that he can begin to judge the way others act, what they say, how they dress, and so on. I too have recognized this tendency in my own life. As we get older, we have the potential to believe that we have arrived and can develop “a know it all attitude.” I am sure that I am not the only one with such a mentality as they get older. When we experience a judgmental attitude we can miss out on seeing others for who they are or from understanding where they are coming from and why they do what they do. For me, I never want to become John and Max from “Grumpy Old Men.” These two men are played by Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon. John and Max have habitual complained and argued so much in their life that they do not know how to live without arguing and fighting and trying to one up each other. While they fought you also realize that inwardly they are miserable and unsatisfied with life. They are grumpy old men. May we never become grumpy old men.

The third consideration is to have a greater commitment to sharing your faith with others. Studies have shown that those believers who share their faith are happier and more grateful for their own relationship with Christ. To clarify, this applies to those who have developed a commitment to share their faith as a lifestyle rather than a legalistic need to accomplish some task so they can check that action off of their spiritual list of things to do. Sharing our faith can come in many styles, ways, and ideas. For example, sharing an encouraging word to one who is discouraged is one way we share our faith. Sharing our faith has as much to do with our attitude as it does our words. When we share our faith with others we are more appreciative of our own relationship with others. There is a principle that applies here that says as we give away to others we understand the value of what we have. We also appreciate what we have in Christ even more.

The fourth consideration is to determine to live as one forgiven and as a forgiver of others. A second book I have been reading highlights this idea of forgiveness. Forgiveness initiates healing and right focus. The story is of Abraham Lincoln who attempted to walk in forgiveness to the best of his ability. Secondly the author rehearsed a story from the civil war that has always been a powerful story in my mind. When the war was over and the surrender documents had been signed, there were a couple of actions taken by the northern army that changed the course of American history. Because of the pain and death exhibited by the civil war, Grant and those under him could have been antagonistic and demoralizing to the southern army. 

After the signing of the surrender documents by Lee and Grant, we see Grant do something that expressed honor and forgiveness to General Lee. As Grant stood on the porch of the McClain home, Grant tipped his hat to Lee as Lee mounted his horse. In those days this was a sign of respect and honor. Even though Lee had been the enemy, Grant recognized that a greater result would come from moving forward with honor more than dishonor. Grant realized that the nation could only heal as forgiveness was given freely whether Lee and the army of the South would ever receive the act of forgiveness or whether they deserved it for that matter. By accomplishing this act, Grant not only released Lee from the past but Grant himself was releasing himself from the burden of the past experiences and the past hurts of the war. Grant was also an example to his troops, as well. For example, John Chamberlain, commander of the 20th Maine, who stood against the charge of the Alabama troops at Gettysburg also showed great honor to Lee and his men. As Lee was retreating from the McClain house, Chamberlain without a thought and in a spontaneous manner called his troops to attention and a salute. It was these acts that began to bring to healing to a divided nation. For us too, the act of forgiveness can begin that process of healing broken lives and broken hearts. Remember, forgiveness is always about the one doing the forgiveness (Matthew 6:12-14). Jesus Himself says that when we forgive we too are forgiven. When we forgive there is a reciprocal spiritual act of forgiveness in us. You see when we forgive others, we are released from our own issues of failure, regret, and guilt. With that said, it is often harder to forgive ourselves than it is to forgive others. We are driven by our guilt, fear and failures than by the wholeness we have through forgiveness. But, forgiving others is the start to forgiving ourselves.

The fifth consideration is to commit to renew or deepen your love for God. As we read the Book of Revelation, we see in the letters to the Seven Churches that one of the complaints against the Church of Ephesus was that they had lost their first love (Revelations 2:2-4). They were no longer motivated by love and by the gifts that God had given them. They were motivated more by legalism and a regimented fulfillment of the law than by God’s love as a motivator. Their actions were not aligned with the love that had been given them and that should be the motivator of their heart. The result was that they were good about keeping the law but the growth of their heart was stunted. They were much like the Israelites in the Old Testament who were condemned for offering sacrifices without the heart to back it up (Isaiah 29:13-14 and Matthew 15:8-9).

Are you ready? Do any of these resonate with you today? Are any of the above doable for you? Are there other prospects for change to make your life more effective for Christ? You can do it. You can change. You can be an effective warrior for Christ.

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