There’s someone in my past where our relationship was rancid, and if I see them in the future—which I hope to do—it may be helpful for both of us if I forgive them for some of their past behavior. But with what kind of forgiveness?
I now believe there are two kinds of forgiveness. There’s worldly forgiveness, the kind we so often see, which is a forgiveness that has to be earned somehow by the offending party. Then there’s God’s forgiveness, which is unearned, always offered, just waiting to be accepted. All we have to do, as those who offend God with our sins, is acknowledge those sins, believe in God’s forgiveness, reach out to Him, and accept His forgiveness.
Now regarding that person from my past, God calls me to forgive as He forgives. That person doesn’t need to ask for my forgiveness, they don’t need to earn my forgiveness in any way. Thanks to God and how He has worked within me, my forgiveness is already given. If that person and I meet again, all they have to do is accept my forgiveness.
So what do you think about this idea of earned verses accepted forgiveness?
For many years now, I’ve gotten up early each morning so I could have some quiet prayer time with God before heading off to work. Of course, since early 2020 heading off to work means closing my home laptop and opening my work laptop.
The nature of my time with God has varied over the years, often frequently interrupted by random, worldly, pinball thoughts bouncing my attention around to everything but God. Yet I’ve usually been able to wrestle my thoughts back to God long enough to have some quality alone time with Him.
Anyway, this morning I saw something new in my time with God. Shortly before He returned to heaven, Jesus said to His apostles, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me talk about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. … You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you” (Acts 1:4-5, 8).
I believe that message applies to us as well, in our morning time with God. I believe that Jesus is telling me to not leave my time alone with God until His Spirit has fully come upon me. Don’t work on my writing, don’t interact with others, don’t open my work laptop, until I’ve escaped captivity to all those worldly pinball thoughts and felt the Spirit take control. Yes, control. For as Paul said in Romans, “The mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace. … You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature (e.g., many of my worldly thoughts) but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you” (Romans 8:6, 9).
For me, there’s no better way to start my day than hand-in-hand with the Holy Spirit of God and Jesus. He in me, and me in Him, with Him in control. He will lead, and I will follow.
Jesus was under attack from the beginning. When He walked the roads of ancient Israel, His enemies constantly challenged Him, and even had Him killed. But that couldn’t stop Him. For Jesus then sent the Holy Spirit to keep His way—what we now call Christianity—alive.
Yet as His followers increased, so did His enemies, who soon included Roman Emperors. They tried to kill the movement Jesus had started by feeding His followers to the lions. Oops, it didn’t work. I suspect over the centuries, many others have tried to harm Christianity. They all failed.
Today, many Christians in the US feel under attack from the left and liberal media—they have for years. Some of them live in fear that their rights to worship God and Jesus as they chose will be taken away by their enemies. They take their fear and vote for people they believe will help protect them and their Christianity.
However, have God and Jesus needed any help in the past?
Jesus said, “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” (Matthew 16:18, NASB)
If Hades can’t overpower Jesus’ Christianity, some measly group of liberal politicians or media outlets certainly aren’t going to make a dent. So why are so many Christians afraid?
It can be hard to find hope these days. Too many things fight against it. The ongoing pandemic, a new virus, climate change, wars, political and social chaos— Stop CJ, we get the point. Okay. Anyway, I found some hope, without even looking for it. Or, maybe I was looking.
I’ve been thinking about something Jesus once said, when He began to teach His disciples how to pray. “This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors’” (Matthew 6:9-12).
Well, since Jesus told us to pray for that stuff, it must be important. But it’s that first part that kept pulling me deeper into my thoughts. I think Jesus is asking us to pray that God be glorified—that’s how I interpret “hallowed be your name.” So I’ve been thinking a lot about God being glorified on earth as He is in heaven. Though I’m not sure what that would look like, I don’t think we see much of it in the world these days.
Also, I noticed that Jesus taught us to pray first for God’s glory, kingdom, and will. The priority is God, which I think is as it should be. And in speaking about prayer, Jesus also said, “I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13). Again, our prayers should be for God’s glory, not only for our needs. And Paul said, “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). But again, what would such glory look like?
Well, something that happened recently gave me an image to visualize. With the death of Queen Elizabeth, it seems like much of the world is thinking of her with fondness and even love. What if most of the world thought of God in the same way? I’ve been picturing that, where it’s God who’s getting all the attention. Can you conjure up an image in your mind? How might such glory for God influence our experiences here on earth? I mean, could we experience a life on earth as it is in heaven?
This morning I again found myself thinking about a world where God is glorified, where His kingdom reigns, and His will is done. I found myself imagining a worldwide revival of God’s love, truth, His kingdom, and His glory. And I got excited. And I found hope, a deep, energizing, love-infused, tear-inducing hope.
God created humanity in His image. It wasn’t physical attributes or personality, but the presence of God within them that made those first humans little images of God. But then, tempted by Satan, they ignored God, perhaps in a way denied His image within them, and took on something of the image of Satan. I know that last bit may sound harsh, but I can’t ignore the fact that humanity currently shares some of those devilish traits, such as pride and self-centeredness. Instead of worshipping God, I guess Adam and Eve began to worship Self. And with that, they lost God’s presence and His image.
But we can get His image back. That’s why Jesus sent the Holy Spirit when He returned to heaven. The Holy Spirit can lead us to deny our Self, and worship only God. The Holy Spirit can enter our lives and fill us with His presence. Jesus came to free us from the penalty of our pride-influenced sins. His Spirit then came to free us from captivity to Self, and make us once again an image of God, as it was in the beginning.
Here’s some Bible backup, to show I’m not imagining any of this:
“You have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” (Colossians 3:9-10)
“And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)
“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-24)
I guess I didn’t know what to expect. Not this, that’s for sure. I think I was hoping for a strong sense of peace, the peace Jesus promised. Oh, I got that. Not a constant peace, but still, a deep, detached-from-this-crazy-world kind of peace, whenever I put myself completely in His hands.
It was the love I hadn’t expected. It was the love I felt for God and Jesus whenever I was able to focus all my attention upon Them, and see Them in my minds eye, and feel Their presence within me, and feel Their love for me. That’s when my love for Them would show itself in the tears welling up in my eyes.
But it wasn’t just Their love for me and my love for Them that surprised me. It was my growing love for all God’s children. I now care, I feel, I anguish over their suffering, no matter how lovable or unlovable they are. But I realize that it’s not my love for God’s children that I feel growing inside me. It’s God’s love for the children that I now feel. It’s the presence of His Holy Spirit living within me and loving through me, for God is love. To feel God’s presence within you is to feel His love, and that’s what I feel. Much more than I’d expected.
It’s this inner presence of the Spirit of God and Jesus and their love, that God desires for all His children. And that’s what I pray for today, and every day. Dear Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, your Spirit be present and your love be poured into all your children on earth, as it is in heaven. Amen.
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1)
The lies, distortions, and misconceptions have built up over the centuries. They’re now so thick, it’s hard to see what it really means to be a Christian. Many people who call themselves Christian don’t look very Christian. But it’s not necessarily their fault.
They’re victims, and not just of politicians. They’re victims of human nature and church history. They’ve been deceived by a manmade version of Christianity, deceived into believing a false image of what it means to be Christian. There’s a Christianity prevalent in the US that’s more worldly than Christian, more human than Godly, creating victims of lies rather than disciples of Jesus. The inflicted wounds are many, and some go deep, such as:
Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). For Christians who vehemently support Donald Trump, it appears they’re denying Jesus and following Trump. Yet they call themselves Christian.
Jesus also said, “In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me” (John 18:37). But some Christian supporters of Trump seem to prefer listening to Trump rather than Jesus, and their allegiance to the truth appears questionable.
The Apostle Paul said, “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). What these Trump supporters do and say appears to glorify Trump, and deny God. And they call themselves Christian.
Jesus said, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples” (John 15:8). I believe Jesus was referring to spiritual fruit, things like the healing and salvation of others, along with the fruits of the Spirit: the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I can’t imagine their support of Trump bearing any of these fruits. Yet they still call themselves Christian.
They fear attacks from the left and liberal media. So they’ve put their trust in Trump to protect them and their Christianity—in Trump we trust—that appears to be their motto. Yet the Bible says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5), and “How blessed is the man who has made the Lord his trust, and has not turned to the proud, nor to those who become involved in falsehood” (Psalm 40:4).
And Jesus said, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35). Well, they certainly appear to love Trump and fellow MAGA people. But by their actions, words, and continued support of Trump, that appears to be the limit of their love. Jesus has no limits on His love, and He calls us to do the same. Now, He also said, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. … Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them” (Luke 6:27-28, 31-32). Their support of someone like Trump doesn’t display that kind of love. But they call themselves Christian anyway.
Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth” (Matthew 6:24). These Christian Trump supporters appear to believe they can serve both God and Trump. What does their servitude to Trump imply about their supposed devotion to God?
Paul said, “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ” (Romans 8:9). I suspect if someone has the Spirit of Christ, they would behave like Christ. Yet many of these Trump supporters seem to behave like Trump. And they call themselves Christ’s.
As the apostle John prepared to fall on his knees and worship the angel who had opened his mind to all those revelations, John tells us: “But he (the angel) said to me, ‘You must not do that! … Worship God!’” (Revelation 22:9). Many of them appear to worship Trump. Yet they still insist on calling themselves Christian.
Jesus might say to all these people, “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns” (Mark 8:33).
Yes, many people are deceived victims of not only Donald Trump, but also a perverted, manmade version of Jesus’ Christianity. However, Jesus also said, “Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man (Jesus) will be forgiven” (Matthew 12:32), and He said, “Come, follow me” (Matthew 4:19). Yes, Jesus wants His Christianity back, and He also wants His followers back.
There’s always forgiveness. And like the father in the story of the prodigal son, Jesus will compassionately welcome back all so-called Christians who choose to return to Him, follow Him, listen to Him, trust Him, love Him, and worship Him. By that act, they will glorify Him. And then, they will be Christian.
A major battle has been launched in the war against Christianity. But like all attacks that inflict the most damage, this one’s coming from people who call themselves Christian.
I’m talking about the apparent push in the US Supreme Court and among certain conservative politicians to abolish the separation of church and state and bring about the rise of Christian nationalism. These people appear to want the church to run the state, or at least greatly influence the laws of the state. For them, Christianity isn’t about honoring and glorifying God. It’s about exerting their power to force their so-called Christian values upon others. It’s all about them, not God. And talk about painting a target on Christianity. If these Christians thought there was a war against Christianity before, they ain’t seen nothin yet.
But if these so-called Christians succeed, that could mean the death of Christianity in the US, the manmade version that is. It will further pull Christianity into the workings of the state, making it even more worldly than it currently is. And this will entice so-called Christians to rely still more on the state and less on their relationship with God and Jesus.
Yet God and Jesus are speaking to these Christian nationalists, and this is what They’re saying:
“You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.1 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.3 Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly.4 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.5 For our citizenship is in heaven.6 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”7
HOWEVER, while the manmade version of Christianity dies in the US, Jesus wants His Christianity back, the one true Christianity, and He’s going to get it. Do you want to help Him?
Christianity appears to be dying in the US, the war is nearly lost. The manmade (per)version has nearly won. Yet with its rise, it will soon fall, for it hasn’t the strength to stand as Jesus’ Christianity has stood for the last 2000 years. And with the looming death of manmade Christianity and the void left behind, maybe there can be a revival of Jesus’ true Christianity.
Yes, what is often seen and experienced is not true Christianity, but rather the 2000-year accumulation of human influence and human nature. I’ve felt the weight of those 2000 years of manmade baggage. I first noticed it at the so-called Christian church I was once a member of. I now see it in my news feed almost every day.
But I escaped captivity to false Christianity. I quit that church I’d attended, and found freedom in the truth. Yet like I once was, many people are prisoners in this war for Christianity, mostly unaware of their confinement. They’re held captive to false ideas about what it means to be Christian.
It’s time for a truth revival. For a long time, Christianity has relied on worldly methods and manmade doctrine. It’s time to rely on God and His truth. Then, as Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)
So, until I’m reassigned, I’m on a mission to help Jesus in His efforts to win His Christianity back. Anyone want to join me? My future posts will all be in support of the mission. Until next time …
“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.” (Colossians 2:8)
Many people these days are prisoners, held captive by false information and lies. But if we turn to Jesus and listen to Him, as He said, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)
During the chaotic days surrounding the last US presidential election, I just couldn’t understand why so many Christians supported a candidate who seems to be so un-Christian. It didn’t make sense to me. Yes, I’m referring to the candidate who considers truth as whatever comes out of his mouth—if he can imagine it, it must be true. And many Christians believed, and continue to believe, his self-defined versions of “truth.”
Oh sure, I’ve heard that some Christians voted for Trump because he’s supposedly anti-abortion and promises to protect Christianity from left-wing anti-Christians and the cancel culture. First, I don’t think God and Jesus need help protecting Christianity—They’ve done just fine on their own the past 2000 years. And, as I’ve written before, I don’t think legislation is the right way to address abortion and morality.
I’m sure there are other reasons Christians voted for Trump. But for me, a candidate’s character is more important than whatever those reasons could be. I wish I’d heard God’s voice telling me who to vote for in that last election—I didn’t, I think. But since the character of that particular candidate is the antithesis of everything the Bible tells me about how we should live, well, you know how I voted.
Here’s another thought: Some Christians will believe someone like Trump when he spouts made-up stuff about election results, but they won’t believe God when He gives them the promise that His Spirit wants to live within them and guide them through this turbulent world. They’ll believe every word that comes out of Trump’s mouth, but won’t believe the Words of God in the Bible. Well, that’s how it looks from my perspective. I hope I’m wrong.
Also, I believe Christians should look only to God for the truth, look only to God for protection, look only to God for guidance in how to best deal with issues like abortion and the decay of morality in our society. And, to roughly paraphrase something Peter and John said in reply to challenges from the leaders of their day: Judge whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to a very un-Christian, un-truthful, dishonorable, self-centered politician, rather than God.
I know what I’ve said will upset some people. I’m sorry, sincerely. But, I’m more concerned with how God feels about what I’m saying. And, I’m concerned about the image of Christianity others see in Christians.
Finally, I’m curious. Am I alone in my sense of confusion regarding all the Christians who supported, and continue to support, that particular politician? Am I alone on my side of the chasm that separates Christian Trump supporters from confused Christians like me?
As the dominant religion in many countries, has Christianity become prideful and arrogant, like a cocky big kid on the block? For some reason, this idea seeped into my mind this morning as I waited for the coffee to sweep away the nightly fog. Though this idea of arrogant Christianity may sound odd, for me it explains a lot.
It explains why many Christian churches are shrinking, and why there are more de-churched Christians every year. It explains why many Christians and churches behave in ways that appear very un-Christian. It explains why many churches try to exercise their imagined power by pushing their opinions upon others, opinions, such as political preferences, that are completely worldly. It explains why, as some surveys indicate, many de-churched Christians as well as current churchgoers never felt the presence of God in church. Maybe there was so much pride, there was no room for God.
You see, arrogance and pride are exclusively human characteristics, not from God but from Satan. Because of what I see on the surface, yes, I believe modern Christianity has become infected and sometimes dominated by pride and arrogance. And many Christians and their churches are suffering because of it.
But, it doesn’t have to be that way. Instead of relying on self and worldly things such as organizational structure, politicians, traditions, how nice your church building is, or other such pride-driven things, we just need to rely on God, Jesus, and their Spirit—yes, the Holy Spirit of God and Jesus, the Spirit who’s often missing from sermons. It’s the Spirit of Jesus living and breathing within the bodies of believers who will set Christianity free from pride and the damage pride causes.
Many churches are prisoners of pride. I pray it’s time for the Spirit of God to set them free.
“Oh, fine. You know how it is. So, haven’t seen you at church for a long time. Heard you checked out for good.”
“Ah, yep. Just felt like the right thing for me to do. I’d rather not get into it … please.”
“Oh sure. So, where do you go to church now? Where do you worship?”
“Me?” Where do I worship? Well, will he understand? Lord, if this conversation starts to get sticky, I rely on You to give me the words that’ll help him. “To be truthful, I worship everywhere.”
“Everywhere? Really? How do you do that? And when do you do this everywhere worship?”
“For me, worship is when I turn my mind away from the world and focus on God and Jesus in heaven and their Spirit within me. Whenever I can wrestle my mind away from this noisy world and look to Jesus within me, that’s when I worship, no matter where I am.”
“So, for you worship isn’t singing praise songs and the others things we do in church?”
“Well, maybe that is what I’m doing? But I’m singing praises to God and Jesus within my mind, and heart, rather than in a building.”
Many Christians no longer attend a church, though they still believe in God and Jesus. I’ve seen the survey results.* Those surveys also found than many of the de-churched, as well as some who still attend a church, feel that God was missing from their experience of church. Maybe that’s why so many people leave—they go to church looking for God, but don’t find Him there.
Have you gone to a church looking for God? I think you needed to look somewhere else, for as Jesus said:
“On that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you are in Me, and I in you.” (John 14:20, emphasis added)
“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, so that He may be with you forever; the Helper is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him; but you know Him because He remains with you and will be in you.” (John 14:16-17, emphasis added)
You’ll find God by looking within yourself. Want more assurance? How about this:
“And I will put My Spirit within you and you will come to life, … declares the Lord.” (Ezekiel 37:14, emphasis added)
“If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God.” (1 John 4:15, emphasis added)
“Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you?” (2 Corinthians 13:5)
Convinced? So how do you find God and get a sense of His presence? How can you feel God within you? Here’s the path that worked for me:
It starts with faith.
A growing craving for God’s presence.
Keep praying, and wait for God to reveal Himself to you.
First, you need to believe you can feel God’s presence within you. You need to believe in the Holy Spirit and Jesus’ promises about He being in you, and you being in Him. As Jesus and God are one, so can you and Jesus be one. And like all things, to experience it you must first believe it.
Faith will automatically lead to an ever-growing hunger for God’s presence. And, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matthew 5:6)
Hunger will lead you to prayer. I’m talking about an unceasing and silent prayer, not an asking-for-favors prayer, but a prayer where you’re listening and looking for the Spirit of God and Jesus within you. The more you pray and look, the sooner you’ll find God. And,“If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” (Matthew 21:22)
So keep praying, and waiting. This part, the waiting part, requires patience, the hardest part for me—I hope your wait is shorter than mine was. But while you wait, read the Bible and look for where God and Jesus promise their presence. Let their promises encourage you and strengthen your belief. For me, waiting was where I grew the most. So I think waiting is as critical a step on this path to God as the others. “Wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 1:4-5)
* You can see the survey results for yourself in two very interesting books, both by David Kinnaman of the Barna Group. “Churchless; Understanding Today’s Unchurched and How to Connect with Them,” and “unChristian; What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity.”
How do you think it would be if Jesus walked the earth again, in a human body? As man or woman, it doesn’t matter. Take your pick. Just picture Jesus as human, creating an image in your mind, making Jesus look however you like. Now let’s say this Jesus person lived near you and sometimes hung out with you and your family and friends. How do you think this Jesus person would interact with everyone, what would Jesus say and do, and how might Jesus’ presence affect your lives?
Since God has no limits, now imagine Jesus walking the earth in hundreds of human bodies, or thousands, even millions! How would that be? What kind of impact do you think Jesus could have on the well-being of humanity? Image the power of the truth and love Jesus could spread.
Okay, so is all this talk just fantasy? Please consider that what you’ve just imagined is also what Jesus hopes for. It’s why He sent His Holy Spirit to reside in those who believe and accept His presence in their lives. Fantasy? Not at all.
What Would Jesus Do? Somewhere around here I think I still have a colorful wristband with WWJD on it, and even a necktie. I don’t know if it’s still a popular slogan, but I remember using it many years ago when I helped lead a church youth group. The problem was, WWJD became so widespread and so popular that I think it sometimes lost its meaning, which is, if Jesus found himself in my situation, what would He do.
I reminded myself of the WWJD thing this morning, as I was reading something in my Bible. Lots of messages in there that basically encourage us to do as Jesus would do. Good advice. But with us, it’s doomed to failure.
For me to do as Jesus would do is simply impossible. I know. I’ve tried. Whenever Jesus told us to do as He would do, He knew exactly how futile our efforts would be. He knew it would be impossible for us to always do as he would do. Yet as he also told us, what’s impossible for us is possible for God (Luke 18:27).
So, why did Jesus tell us to do the impossible? Because he wants to bring us to a state of despair over our own weak and failing efforts so that we will finally surrender to him and let His Spirit live through us. By His Spirit, Jesus can do what only He can do, what’s impossible for me to do.
WWJD is still a good slogan, but it needs a redefinition, a reboot. Instead of What Would Jesus Do, how about What Will Jesus Do? Instead of being a statement of reflection and struggling for impossibilities, it could be a statement of anticipation of certainties. Instead of being a question of what I might do under my own power, it becomes a question of what Jesus will do within me by His power.
How you choose to ask this WWJD question may indicate how you choose to consider Jesus. Do you see Him as a passive influence in your life? Or, do you see Him as alive, God’s Son actively involved? If you believe, you can live looking forward to what the Spirit of Jesus might do next in your life.