TWO MEN, A ROAD, AND A RESURRECTION

Luke 24 chronicles their story. Two men walking along the road to a village called Emmaus about 60 furlongs (7-1/2 miles) from Jerusalem, talking about the things which had happened. Jesus Christ, the miracle worker, had been betrayed by one of his own. He had been sentenced to die and crucified like a common thief. The disciples were scattered. There were claims that his tomb was empty, attended by an angel proclaiming his resurrection. It was plenty to talk about. 

Then the scripture says, “while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them.”

The Stranger who attached himself to them joined in their conversation and “expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” It was late in the evening and they invited him in for supper. 

Luke tells it this way: “And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight. And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?”

These men were among the company of individuals who had left everything to follow Jesus. Every hope, every dream, every plan for their future involved their service to the Christ. Now he was gone. Where would they go? What would they do? The city had become stifling; so they chose a walk in the country. They had to get away from it all. They needed to escape their shattered lives that it now seemed impossible to rebuild. In fact, it seemed futile to even try to go on without Him. They wondered if they had done something wrong. They wondered what they were supposed to do now.
So they find themselves on the road to Emmaus. It’s the road one takes after a trip to Golgotha. Ken Gire said, “It’s the road we take when the other roads we’ve taken turn out to be dead ends.”

There’s nothing left for them in Jerusalem. It’s a lonely city now, as it echoes with the memories of what might have been – memories of a crucified Messiah. It is the proverbial “dark night of the soul” for them. 

Again I quote the writer, Ken Gire, who put it this way: “They leave behind the rumors of his resurrection. They carry with them only the reality of his death. And their sadness. The road they travel slopes away from the city and then squirms around a convergence of hills…The expansive starkness of the terrain mirrors the landscape of their soul. The starkness makes room for solitude. And the solitude makes room for their thoughts, giving them a chance to uncurl from the fetal position they have been in the past few days. As they walk, their thoughts stretch into conversation. But the conversations are overcase with emotion. Tears come and go. So do their thoughts.”

“They think of the beautiful dream the Savior had – the coming of God’s kingdom. When his will would be done on earth as it is in heaven. When nations would beat their swords into plowshares. When the wolf would lie down with the lamb. And there would be peace on earth. All the earth. And there would be goodwill among the people. All the people. It was a beautiful dream. But Friday shattered it.”

As they comfort and console each other, the Stranger joins himself to them. And they tell him their version of his own story. “Since the time they first met Jesus, they hoped he was the king he claimed to be. And they waited for him to usher in the kingdom. But then he died. And they hoped again, based on his word, that in three days he would return. And they waited again. Friday, Saturday, Sunday morning. Sunday noon. Sunday afternoon. Then they lost hope. Another one of Friday’s casualties. Without hope they couldn’t wait any longer. So they left.”

It’s interesting to note that Jesus was not angered by their fear and doubt. He didn’t blame them or chastise them for not believing the report of the women who said the tomb was empty. He did, though, blame them for not believing the Scripture. “”How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” (Luke 24:25-26, NIV). 

What transpired next, though, is the real message of the resurrection. You see, they stopped at the edge of town and they begged him to stay on with them. When he brake the bread and gave thanks – suddenly – they recognized him. The Stranger is no stranger at all! He is the their Savior! And then suddenly, He is gone again. Vanished!

But that still was not the end of the story. Luke goes on to tell that they, “… rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them, Saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon. And they told what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread” (Luke 24:33-35, KJV). Just a glimpse of Him was enough to give new life to their dreams. It was enough to strengthen them in their sorrow. It gave them enough hope not to give up on living, believing, trusting in Him. Just a glimpse was enough to go back to Jerusalem and share the hope – He is alive! Alive forevermore.

This Easter season my prayer for you is that you will see Who it is that walks with you. There are some conversations that can only take place on Emmaus roads – some times that we will only see you when we allow you to break the bread of our lives and give thanks for it. I close this article with an excerpt from a prayer by Ken Gire:

“Stay with me, Lord, especially in times when I am disheartened. Show yourself to me, even if it is only for a moment. For your presence means more to me than my understanding. And seeing you when life doesn’t make sense is better than not seeing you when it does. Just as I pray you would be with me in my suffering, I pray I would bee with you in yours. Help me to be with you in your weakness in the wilderness, with you in your tears on the road to Jerusalem, with you in your agony in Gethsemane, with you in your tortures on the cross. Help me to understand something of the depths of your pain that I may appreciate more fully the depths of your love…”

A Man Named Horatio

Recently, while preparing a sermon, the lyric to an old hymn kept coming to my mind and heart. A little research on the matter, made it an appropriate illustration to go with the message. I share the story here:

Horatio G. Spafford, was a Chicago Presbyterian layman. He was born in North Troy, New York on October 20, 1828. After graduating for college, passing the bar exam, he established a quite successful legal practice in Chicago. He enjoyed a very lucrative law practice, yet always maintained a keen interest in Christian activities. He was personally acquainted with D. L. Moody and the other evangelical leaderes of that era. George Stebbins, a noted Gospel musician of the day, described H. G. Spafford as, “a man of unusual intelligence and refinement, deeply spiritual, and a devoted student of the Scriptures.”

In 1870 and 1871, H. G. Spafford encountered some troubled waters in both his personal and professional life. His only son died, which, of course, brought great sorrow to the remaining family. He invested heavily in real estate on the shore of Lake Michigan. The Chicago Fire of 1871 entirely wiped out his holdings. The repercussions were far-reaching. Desiring a time of rest and rejuvenation for his wife and four daughters, and wanting to be with D. L. Moody and Ira Sankey in one of their campaigns, the Spafford family planned a trip to Europe. Last minute business developments caused H. G. Spafford to remain in Chicago, but he sent his wife and daughters on ahead a s schedule. They embarked on the S. S. Ville du Havre. He was to follow a few days later on another ship. 

November 22, 1873 the S. S. Ville du Havre was struck by the Lochearn, an English vessel. It sank in twelve minutes. Several days later the rescued survivors landed at Cardiff, Wales. Mrs. Spafford cabled her husband a two word message: “Saved alone.” 

Spafford left Chicago to join his bereaved wife. On the sea near the area where it was thought the shipwreck had occurred, Spafford penned words poignantly describing his own grief. Yet, as you read through the entire lyric of the song, you see that H. G. Spafford was able to turn his thoughts from his own life’s sorrow and trial to the redemptive work of Christ – and ultimately to the promise of His return. H. G. Spafford is the writer of:

It Is Well With My Soul
Lyrics by Horatio G. Spafford (1828-1888)
Music by Philip Bliss (1838-1876)

When peace like a river attendeth my way
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Tho Satan should buffet, tho trials should come
Let this blest assurance control
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate
And hath shed His own blood for my soul

My sin – O the bliss of this glorious thought
My sin, not in part, but the whole
Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more
Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord, O my soul.

And, Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll
The trumpet shall resound and the Lord shall descend
“Even so” it is well with my soul.

It is well with my soul.

It is well, it is well with my soul.

The Bible tells us the story of the woman whose son had died in her arms embarking on a journey to the house of the prophet. The servant went out to meet her and asked, “Is it well with thee? is it well with thy husband? is it well with the child? And she answered, It is well” (II Kings 4:26). There was a miracle in her house that day.

Whether you are reading this today in the midst of a personal storm or sailing on calm waters, whether your heart is rejoicing or broken by sorrow – if in the midst of your tragedy and turmoil, you like the Shunamite woman can even whisper, “It is well…”

Perhaps you, too, will find a miracle is just waiting to happen. 

It is well – it is well with my soul! 

Building Trust

The word “build” connotes tools and the expertise to handle them. Two of the greatest tools for respect are actions and words. The scriptures say that by Him actions are weighed. It’s not just what you say, but why and how. What is the motive behind what you do and say? How are our actions and words interpreted? These are the things that build trust, respect and confidence.

Warren Bennis claims that trust is one of the basic ingredients of leadership. He adds: “Integrity is the basis of trust, which is not so much an ingredient of leadership as it is a product of it. It is the one quality that cannot be acquired but must be earned. It is given by co-workers and followers and without it the leader cannot function. Trust is the foundation upon which relationships in every setting are built.”

Charles Christian, in one of his periodicals, gave ten rules for respect. I want to utilize them with my own comments added in. Let’s take a slow mental journey, stopping occasionally to ask, “Are these my tools and am I handling them properly?”

If you have a problem with me, come to me privately. All of us have been disappointed by hearing others pre-judge us without ever having inquired of our own rationale for the problem at hand. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” It’s not just the golden rule, it’s the only rule.

If I have a problem with you, I’ll come to you privately. One of the questions I have most asked people in conflict with one another is, “Have you been to them privately?” After all, this is what our Lord taught. It would amaze you to know how many private things could stay private without going public if you would just go and ask, “Did you say this?” or “Did you do it?” or “Why?”

If someone has a problem with me and comes to you, send them to me. I’ll do the same for you. Just recently a man called me with reference to something he alleged a friend had done. My retort was immediate. “Have you been to him?” He said, “No.” I said, “Let me advise you. Before you make another call, or discuss this any further, go to him immediately.” I found a few days later that he had done that and the problem was solved. Reconciliation came. If he had not have done it, he would have simmered, stewed, cooked, and finally ended up half-baked over something that mattered very little. If it matters little, make little of the matter. 

If someone consistently will not come to me, say, “Let’s go to the pastor together. I am sure he will see us about this.” Again, I promise I’ll do the same to you. Third party involvement at this juncture can be important. If they don’t want to just discuss it with you, offer to bring another authority figure in on the discussion.

Be careful how you interpret me. I’d rather do that. Perception is everything. Something can be repeated and a wrong perception or slant given on words or actions. On matters that are unclear do not feel pressured to interpret my feelings or thoughts. It’s easy to misinterpret my intentions. 

I will be careful how I interpret you. That, too, is a promise. I may have seen or heard what you did. But I’ve not heard why you did it. 

If it is confidential, don’t tell it. The second rule to this is – Be sure and don’t tell it. And the third rule is, if you don’t want it repeated, don’t tell it. Recently I had a brother who was discussing a situation with me. He kept prodding me and finally said, “I know that you know the truth of this matter.” I looked at him and said, “There are some things I will carry to my grave.” He looked back at me and said, “I’ll accept that.”

I do not read unsigned letters or notes. I have a round file called a wastebasket that’s full of them. Occasionally, I might glance – but the first thing I do is look to see if it was signed. And, sometimes, even when it’s signed sometimes it’s necessary to “consider the source.” Cain was mad at God but he took it out on his brother.

I do not manipulate. I will not be manipulate. Do not let others manipulate you. There’s a difference in motivation and manipulation. If you are manipulating, it is strictly for your own advantage. If you are motivating, it is for the advantage of all. 

When in doubt, just say it. The only dumb questions are those that don’t get asked. Vernon Grounds was president of Denver Theological Seminary for years. At his retirement he was asked if there was anything he would do over in his career. He said, “Yes, I would quit playing God. There would be times when I’d look across the desk at my inquisitioner and say, “I don’t have the foggiest idea what you ought to do.” There are times when I just don’t know.

There you have it. I have often said that loyalty and respect are never demanded; they are earned. I tell preachers often that an election may give you the title of pastor, but only living with them gives you that position in their hearts. I end with the words of John Maxwell, “Respect is almost always gained on difficult ground.”

Running the Race . . .

Those who know me well will attest that I am not very athletic-minded. Generally, I am not caught up in any of the sports craze – be it golf, football, basketball, hockey or any of the rest. However, in the early 1990s, there was a picture and story that emerged from the Olympic games that is indelibly imprinted on my heart and mind. 

Derek Redmond, a British runner, was favored to win the gold medal in the 400-meter dash. Thirty or forty yards into the race he developed leg cramps, slowed and fell down writhing in pain. It was apparent that he was in tears and great pain while lying on the track. In just moments, the other runners had far outstripped him. 

Suddenly, Derek’s father came out of the stands and started to climb the protective fence. The security guards ran and grabbed him. He literally fought them off, jumped over the fence, and ran onto the track to the side of his fallen son. He then picked Derek up, put his arms around him, and literally carried the limping young man across the finish line. 

Quite frankly, I couldn’t tell you who won the gold, silver, or bronze that year. But I will never forget the picture that I saw of Derek Redmond and his father crossing the finish line together. It took great courage to finish the race but it was worth it! He would never have made it if someone hadn’t cared enough to help – if someone hadn’t broke rank, jumped the fence, taken a chance – and put his arm around a fallen son!

So what does that have to do with a New Year – and renewal and revival? Simply this: It’s a challenge to you, the reader, to make this a year when you reach out and help someone…and by a simple act of kindness toward another find yourself renewed – renewed in your commitment to God, renewed in your spirit by a singular selfless act.. 

We live in a world of people who need help. Some are in grave financial situations – and just a simple “offering” of some extra groceries would bless that family that is struggling to make ends meet. Others are physically challenged – perhaps an elder couple in your church or neighborhood would see Jesus in you if you would drop by and mow their lawn. Some are lonely – and just a simple smile and a moment’s conversation would be an immeasurable blessing to them.

Believe it or not, there is a gift of helps mentioned in I Corinthians 12:28. It may not be as auspicious as some of the vocal gifts or the government gifts, but there is none that is more needful. Are there any candidates for the gift of helps? I’ve often heard it said, “I want God to use me….” You make yourself available and I promise you, God will wear you out. If nothing else, just by helping others who are in need He will use you. It should be our desire for this New Year to be used of God in the gift of helps.

In this day of non-involvement, may God baptize all of us with the gift of helps. Someone on the job is hurting. Are you sensitive enough to note or care? You may not be the gold winner – but are you willing to help the leader finish first and look good? That’s what it is all about – helping.

Make up your mind that in this year, both in the secular and the sacred world, you are going to help. Volunteer to your pastor and church staff now by simply saying, “What can I do to help?” You will then be operating in the gifts of the Spirit. This could be your New Year’s pledge – and it could change your entire life.

Paul wrote to Timothy about “forgetting the things which are behind” and “pressing toward the mark.” It was a sports analogy – striving for the prize. Renewal and restoration – hope and healing – will come to those who learn the lesson of looking forward not backward – of reaching out to others, rather than forever clutching things tightly for selfish gain. 

F. B. Meyer wrote,

“It is a mistake to be always turning back to recover the past. The law for Christian living is not backward, but forward; not for experiences that lie behind, but for doing the will of God, which is always ahead and beckoning us to follow. Leave the things that are behind, and reach forward to those that are before, for on each new height to which we attain, there are the appropriate joys that befit the new experience. Don’t fret because life’s joys are fled. There are more in front. Look up, press forward, the best is yet to be!”

So reach out and help someone this year. Be the one to come down from the grandstand of life – climb over whatever obstacles may be in your way – and put your arm around a struggling brother or sister – and finish the race together! 

Happy New Year!

The Old Man and The Prophetess

Toward the end of Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus, there are two characters who are more often than not, not even included in our telling of the Christmas story. They are usually not the starring characters in the children’s Christmas musical nor the adult Christmas pageant. Their story, however, was vital enough to be included in the Scripture and cannot be overlooked this season.

The baby is born. The angels are now silent. The shepherds have returned to their flocks. Mary and Joseph are about the business of being parents. On the eighth day they named him Jesus and he was circumcised according to the law and the custom of the day. Luke says:

“When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.” (Luke 2:22-24, NIV)

It was there – in Jerusalem – in the temple where they had gone to offer their sacrifice of consecration – that they encountered the old man. 

His name was Simeon. It means “the hearing one.” Luke tells us he was just and devout and that the Holy Ghost was upon him. He was “waiting for the consolation of Israel.” In his waiting, the Holy Ghost had moved on him and promised him that he would not see death until he had first seen the Christ, the promised Messiah. He no doubt woke up that morning and went about his daily routines until – the Bible tell us “he came by the Spirit into the Temple.” That probably wasn’t the first time he had allowed the Holy Spirit to direct his steps. We can only wonder if he arose that morning and somehow knew, “This is the day….” His name was Simeon. It means “the hearing one” – and now we catch a glimpse of what listening – and hearing – what the Spirit is saying can mean in one man’s life.

In the Temple, led by the Spirit, his path crossed with the new parents of a baby boy brought for circumcision and consecration. He took the child from them and praised God. He who had been hearing spoke these words back to the God who keeps His promises: 

“Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.” (Luke 2:29-32, KJV)

Simeon, the old man who had been frequenting the temple for years, waiting for a promise to come suddenly found himself holding that Promise in his arms. While others may have been expecting a conquering King, apparently this old man was not in the least dismayed or discomfited by the fact that he held a newborn baby boy. This man – this one who heard the Spirit – knew that his eyes had seen the salvation of the Lord – that light had come to the Gentiles, that glory had come to Israel. It would be years before his words were understood, before the light and glory was seen. But he who had waited for the promise knew that even in a newborn babe his promise was fulfilled.

As Mary and Joseph marveled at his words, Samuel turned to them. The Scripture tells us he blessed them both, then said to Mary: “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” Was there a sudden chill in the air? Did Mary shiver involuntarily at the thought of a sword piercing not just her heart – but her very soul? Did she stand at the foot of a cross some thirty-three and a half years later and remember the old man in the Temple?

Then enters the Prophetess. She was a widow of “four score and four” – which is 84 years of age. In trying to piece together her story, Luke said she had lived with her husband seven years before his demise. So somewhere probably in her early twenties she had been widowed – and since that time spent her days and nights in worship to the Lord. Luke 2:38 says:

“Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38, NIV). 

She saw Him, she believed who He was, and she proclaimed Him to all who were seeking Him! 

As we celebrate Christmas in 2003 and look forward to 2004, let us not forget the old man and the prophetess. Many of stand in the place Simeon was – waiting on the fulfillment of a promise. To you, hear what the Spirit is saying – and know that the answer to your prayer is almost in sight. 

May this be the year when you say, “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the Lord…” May we all become like Anna, the Prophetess – recognizing Him for who He is – and proclaiming Him to all who seek Him! 

Give Thanks!

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was killed in the Holocaust. He was a prolific Christian writer before and during his incarceration in a Nazi concentration camp. He was a Christian who participated in a small Protestant resistance movement. His helping Jews escape to Switzerland is what ultimately cost him his life. Yet, among his writings is this simple statement: “It is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.” 

So it is this Thanksgiving season, that we go to the Scripture and study briefly the instruction to “Give thanks…”

The phrase “give thanks” occurs 35 times in the Scripture in 34 verses. From the song of David in II Samuel 22:50 after listing so many of the Lord’s accomplishments he cried, “Therefore I will give thanks unto thee, O Lord…” to the final reference in Thessalonians when Paul said, “We are bound to always give thanks to God for you . . . “ we find plenty of examples of thankfulness, examples of things to be thankful for, ideas from which gratefulness should spring into our hearts and lives.

I Chronicles 16:8 reads: “Give thanks unto the LORD, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the people.” Has He done something special for you recently? Answered a special prayer? Tell somebody about it – and call upon His name when you do! 

“O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever” (I Chronicles 16:34). Have you experienced His goodness – are you aware of His mercy – new every morning in your life? Give thanks!

Sometimes thanksgiving is a prayer: “Save us, O God of our salvation, and gather us together, and deliver us from the heathen, that we may give thanks to thy holy name, and glory in thy praise” (I Chronicles 16:35). 

Your name may not be listed here with “Heman and Jeduthun and the rest” listed here – but you have been chosen – to give thanks to the Lord! “And with them Heman and Jeduthun, and the rest that were chosen, who were expressed by name, to give thanks to the LORD, because his mercy endureth for ever…” (I Chronicles 16:41).

Nine chapters later we find “Juduthun” listed again. His name literally meant “praise” and we find that he exampled gratitude as he “…prophesied with a harp, to give thanks and to praise the LORD.”

II Chronicles 31:12 – we find Hezekiah making appointments: “And Hezekiah appointed the courses of the priests and the Levites after their courses, every man according to his service, the priests and Levites for burnt offerings and for peace offerings, to minister, and to give thanks, and to praise in the gates of the tents of the LORD.” You and I must follow the priestly example – Give thanks – praise in the gates – every man according to his service! 

Nehemiah gives us a different list of names from a different time and place – but the instruction was the same: “And the chief of the Levites: Hashabiah, Sherebiah, and Jeshua the son of Kadmiel, with their brethren over against them, to praise and to give thanks, according to the commandment of David the man of God…” (Nehemiah 12:24).
Where do we praise him? “Therefore will I give thanks unto thee, O LORD, among the heathen, and sing praises unto thy name” (Psalm 18:49).

When we remember how holy our God is – “Sing unto the LORD, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness” (Psalm 30:4).

How long are we to be thankful? “O LORD my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever” (Psalm 30:12)

Psalm 75:1 is where we get the “give thanks” phrase twice in one verse. Perhaps it was because it was a song – or perhaps it’s because sometimes we need to be doubly grateful: “Unto thee, O God, do we give thanks, unto thee do we give thanks: for that thy name is near thy wondrous works declare.”

Psalm 92 is labeled “A Song for the Sabbath Day” – it begins with a simple statement about thankfulness – it is good! “It is a good thing to give thanks unto the LORD, and to sing praises unto thy name, O most High…”

Psalm 97:12 echoes Psalm 30: “Rejoice in the LORD, ye righteous; and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.” He is a holy God!

Psalm 105 echoes I Chronicles 16:8: “O give thanks unto the LORD; call upon his name: make known his deeds among the people.” Psalm 106 picks up I Chronicles 16:34: “Praise ye the LORD. O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.” Psalm 106 again cries for deliverance: “Save us, O LORD our God, and gather us from among the heathen, to give thanks unto thy holy name, and to triumph in thy praise” as heard in I Chronicles 16:35.

Psalms repetitive cry – from 106 to 107 to 118 to 136- it’s God’s goodness and mercy that endureth forever that makes David cry out: “O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.”

Psalm 119 reads, “At midnight I will rise to give thanks unto thee because of thy righteous judgments.” David had a solution for restlessness at in the midnight hours – arise and give thanks!

Psalm 122 declares Jerusalem a place of thanks: “Jerusalem is builded as a city that is compact together whither the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD, unto the testimony of Israel, to give thanks unto the name of the LORD.”

Psalm 140 reads: “Surely the righteous shall give thanks unto thy name: the upright shall dwell in thy presence.” 

When we reach the New Testament we find Paul’s references to giving thanks to be frequently about the people to whom he was writing. In Romans, he expressed his thanks to Priscilla and Aquilla: “Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus:who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.”

To the Ephesians he wrote, “(I) cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers…”

To the Colossians his words were: “We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you…”

To the Thessalonians he said: “We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers…”He went on to give them – and us – the instruction: “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (I Thessalonians 5:8). Then finally he said: “But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Thessalonians 2:13-14).

So this Thanksgiving season…Give thanks…for His mercy that endures forever – for His salvation that has delivered you – for His goodness and His care for you. Take the time, too, to tell the people He has placed in your life to help you – your pastor, your teachers, your friends – that you are thankful to Him for their place in your life. 

For each new morning with its light,
Father, we thank thee,
For rest and shelter of the night,
Father, we thank thee,
For health and food, for love and friends,
For everything thy goodness sends,
Father, in heaven, we thank thee.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

The Hungry Christ

Jesus, the incarnate God, was hungry. In the story of the fig tree, it says, “And He hungered.” His response in cursing the fruitless fig tree, when he was hungry and “found nothing” was perhaps the only destructive act recorded in his entire ministry. On the other hand, when He sent the disciples to town for food and lingered by the well in order to interact with the Samaritan woman, he said to the disciples, “I have meat to eat ye know not of.” I think if we pay attention here we can see that God does indeed get hungry. He craves prayer and hungers for worship. He is anxious for the fruit of the Spirit. What disappoints Him the most? When He comes expecting it – and it is not there.

God not interested in just a few mumbles called prayer – but an incessant and enormous and insatiable hunger for change. God is never drawn to full. He is drawn to empty.
We read in Proverbs 30:15-16: “The horseleach hath two daughters, crying, Give, give. There are three things that are never satisfied, yea, four things say not, It is enough: The grave; and the barren womb; the earth that is not filled with water; and the fire that saith not, It is enough.”

As the thirsty ocean swallows rivers and is not quenched – as hungry as the fire that eats up everything and still looks for more fuel – as unsatisfied as the grave is to take in millions and yet cry daily for more – that’s how insistent a barren woman is that God give her children or she will die – That’s how much we must desire to see the promises of God fulfilled in our lifetime.

This passionate prayer will only be birthed in us when we experience true communion with Him. It is never borne of a shallow experience. Power comes out of passion. God doesn’t lend Himself to casual relationships. He is not for rent; He is not for lease; He is not for sale. He is absolutely available to those who will passionately seek Him.

The word “travail” associates with prayer – and also with birth. Just as ocean desires water – fire, fuel – the grave hungers for bones – God’s people must crave something that will bear souls and bring revival. When God gets ready to birth a promise, He looks for a barren soul that will cry “Give! Give! Give! Give!” God is looking for people who will cling to Him and desperately cry until power comes out of Him.

Rachel cried, “Give me children or I die!” In that desperation, the Bible said, God remembered Rachel and God listened to her and opened her womb. Before the womb was opened, there was a crying and a listening. God is not listening for political cries. Or for the cries of “Have my way, Lord!” He is longing for the cries of those who will do anything to bring birth to new children.

The apostles were torn between the work of the ministry and time spent in prayer. Ultimately they made their choice: “But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4). Notice the order: first to prayer, then to the ministry of the Word. 

This was the first administrative decision of the New Testament. In every collective meeting of the saints and the elders they gave themselves first to prayer because they needed power.

In Luke 18 we see an example of the power of persistent prayer. This woman made herself a spiritual pest. Every time the judge looked up, she was there crying out, “Avenge me of my adversary.” Finally, the judge relented. Jesus made the application of the parable for them. “And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily.”

Every time God looks up let Him see us crying, “Give! Give!” 

The question is, “Will whatever I’m praying for – whatever I’m doing – enhance anybody’s ability to see Jesus and to know Him and to come to truth?” Anything that leads to soul-winning and outreach must be utilized. Any method that distracts from that – any conversation that is negative about that – must go. The first thing we lay on our altar is our pride. It is not about us. It is about Him and His hunger. It is about the lost and their hunger for salvation. 

In Acts 15 the preacher was in jail and the church was having a closed-door prayer meeting. Peter, freed from the prison by divine intervention, knocked at the door. “No, it can’t be him!” Sometimes we get locked into believing it is our job to pray for revival, not have one. People pray and pray and no answers come. Why? They’re not in a position to open the door.

I cannot live knowing that there is more available and I didn’t access it. Praying about it – wanting it – but not enough faith to believe it into being. 

The true value of a thing is the price it will bring in eternity. History making prayers come when there is corporate unity and agreement with God and one another. God does not reveal Himself in a casual manner. When they corporately prayed the house and place was shaken. An unshaken church cannot shake the world. 

The disciples didn’t pray to Jesus; they prayed with Him. Find out what He prayed about and adjust your prayer list. Find out what He is hungry for and put it on your life’s menu. Commit yourself to feed the One who hungers for your praise and craves your worship. He alone is worthy!

The Power of First Judgement

The edict of the Word enjoins us, “Judge nothing before its time.” We all agree there are occasions when longevity and patience are both noteworthy and necessary for proper judgement. Yet, there are other times – times when delay can be disastrous.
How is that there are occasions when you just know. The secular world might call it intuition. In the church we could call it “the word of wisdom” or the “word of knowledge.” Something is seen or heard or felt – and instantly there is a witness in the spirit that this is either true and authentic or a forgery and a fraud. In today’s world it is so necessary to know when judgement should be crock-pot and when it should leap into the microwave world age.

I cannot tell you why there have been times when something looked real and sounded real – and was even saying the right things – but something in my spirit registered, “This is not right.” The Bible tells us to “try the spirits.” The emphasis is not simply to listen closely to the words but to discern the spirit in which the words are spoken. A man can say the right thing with the wrong spirit. In today’s world of spiritual forgery and charlatanism, we need the operation of the gifts of the Spirit and the five-fold ministry as never before. Diminished judgement in spiritual things is dangerous. Our mistakes can be eternal mistakes, not just temporal. Is this of God – even if it’s in embryonic stages – or is this the nemesis or a fraud?

Malcolm Gladwell who wrote The Tipping Point also wrote the now bestselling Blink. The book is just what its name infers. Its premise is that in a blink you know something – and accept it – or disdain it and reject it. The book is built around the attempt of a renown museum, financed by the oil mogul Getty, to purchase the Kouros. It’s simply a nude statue of a young Greek with his arms at his side and one leg stretching forward. It allegedly was hewn out of marble in the 5th or 6th century.

Strangely enough, many experts when they saw or heard of the statue in a blink called it a forgery. Thomas Hoving, who was at one time Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art stated that the first word that came to his mind when he saw the statue was “fresh” – indicating that it had the appearance of being too new to be so old. Another expert, when he heard the museum was purchasing the Kouros said, “I’m so sorry to hear that.”
Gladwell said these experts took a look at that statue and some part of their brains did a series of instant calculations. Before any kind of conscious thought took place – they felt something. Did they know why they knew? Not at all. But still they knew.
Another expert said the statue was obviously a fake. Yet, none of these had time to thoroughly examine it. You would call it – in their world – the intuition of an expert. They could spot it in a blink.

Do we have that kind of discernment in the spiritual world? Ten million dollars was at stake in this statue. Was it real or not? The Museum has decided to go ahead and display it when the Getty’s new exhibit hall is opened. The statue will bear this inscription: “It is either a product of about 530 B.C. or a modern forgery.” It’s simply a way of saying, “We don’t know for sure.” 

A ten million dollar mistake is one thing – but an eternal mistake is another. There are times when in the spirit immediate judgement is necessary. There are other times when it must incubate. The apostolic ministry must make room for both. There’s a great difference between “Agree with the adversary while you are in the way…” and “Lay hands suddenly on no man.” Yet, they are both scriptural. I plead again for a resurgence of faith and authority in the five-fold ministry. If judgement immediate and in longevity was needed among the early apostles, it is more so needed today.

A case in point was the demon-possessed woman at Philippi. Paul had gone into Macedonia with a direct word from the Lord – a vision. And, not only that, the disciples assuredly gathered that the Lord had called them to go. He not only had direct communication from the Lord but filtered that through the apostolic authority at Troas. When he arrived he found a group of women by the river in a prayer meeting. Then he found a certain damsel. The scripture said, “The damsel followed them for many days saying, ‘These men are the servants of the Most High God which show us the way of salvation.’” What she was saying was true. Paul did not execute instant judgement. He waited many days and then he discerned. 

The Bible said she had a spirit of divination. This is the only place in the New Testament the word Python is used. She had the spirit of Python. Python was a legendary Greek mythical serpent that fought with the Greek god Apollo. The word was actually used as a synonym for a ventriloquist. Paul discerned that the words coming from the woman did not have their source in the woman. She was literally voicing a spirit from an agent of hell. The devil began as a serpent in the Garden. He had grown to Python in Acts. But ended up a dragon in Revelation. He is ever-increasing in knowledge. He knows more about the church today than he did two thousand years ago. 

The spirit of Python will put the squeeze on you – as does the snake that bears its name. Yet, the great Apostle Paul was many days discerning. This is a case for “judge nothing before its time.” There are some things you have to wait, listen, discern – even if they’re saying the right thing – in order to acquaint yourself with the spirit that is behind it.
I have heard men say things that were right but their spirit was tainted. A spring cannot give forth bitter and sweet waters at the same time. We must worship and preach Him both in Spirit and in truth. Why does Spirit precede truth? Truth can be contaminated if it comes through the sewage content of a wrong spirit.

So, there is a power in instant discernment. But, there is also the legacy of length. You cannot believe everything you see or feel. There’s got to be that still, small voice. Sometimes it only crystallizes in the quietness of time. On other occasions it instantly erupts like the power of a volcano. 

A few years ago I was on vacation and checked in at the office. A Southern Baptist minister was trying to reach me by phone. I had never met this man. I had no idea what he wanted. My initial response was, “I’ll handle that when I get home.” Yet something clicked in my spirit. I had a word of knowledge come to me. This was a man who was very hungry for God and needed immediate attention. So, I took his number and called him from our vacation location. This man had seen me in a service and the Lord spoke to him and said, “Find this man and he will tell you what to do.” When I spoke with him that day and relayed that I would be home the next week, he immediately made arrangements and drove over 1,000 miles to come see me in person. He now has the Holy Ghost. This was an example to me of an “instant word.”

Some time ago I was in a service in southern Louisiana. A man came to me and told me about his daughter who was in Virginia, desperately in need of God. She had a dream and knew she needed to be baptized. I took her name and address and forwarded it to the pastor in that area., asking him to contact her. I explained that she knew very little about Pentecostalism but asked that he contact her personally and extend an invitation to attend his church to her. He did. She went – and fell in love with church and scheduled to be baptized. This word of knowledge – that the man’s story about his daughter was genuine and God-sent – resulted in appropriate action being taken and ultimately the salvation of a soul. Had it been ignored – had too much time passed before action was taken – the story might have been much different. 

There was a time when there were very few females in symphonic and philharmonic orchestras. Could it have been that those who made the choice had a male bias? Gladwell makes an interesting observation. Since the early ‘70s a revolution has occurred in musical auditions. They introduced what is known as the screen. Consequently, judges cannot see the players. All they can do is hear them. The musicians are not identified by their names, but rather by a number. Since the screen was introduced the number of women in top echelon United States orchestras has sky-rocketed five-fold. During one of the earliest recorded instances, a screen was introduced into New York’s Metropolitan Opera auditions. At that time, all four winning violinists were women. Yet, up until then, that was about the total number of women in the whole orchestra.

The lesson is apparent. There are times when the judgement made by an expert in the blink of an eye is right. There are other times when it isn’t. The problem is to tell when you are right and when you are not. 

May God send us sincere purveyors of apostolic ministry – Men who fear nothing but God, hate every aspect of hell and its attendant sin, and have as the magnificent obsession of their soul the exaltation of the Lordship of Jesus and the healing of hurting humanity through His Gospel. This is no day for religious playboys. I can remember old Brother V. A. Guidroz saying, “Fellas, if you want flesh go to the meat market. The pulpit is no place to parade it.” 

I understand the leading television shows today are called “Reality TV.” Wouldn’t it be tragic if the world had to go to the television for reality and come to church for a show? No need for religious charlatans but a dire and desperate need is present for men who walk in the operation of the Holy Ghost and are not just apostolic in word but in power, demonstration, and discernment of the Holy Spirit.

Worth the Gamble?

An insidious evil has been visited on our state. It’s brought with it the expected blight of financial ruin and leaves in its aftermath the rubble of broken homes and broken lives. And it is an addiction of the worst kind. As with all addictions, it doesn’t just affect the addicted, it affects everyone who is around them. It drives them to the destruction of all they hold dear, irreparably damaging reputations in the workplace, and irrevocably destroying family relationships and lifelong friendship.

In my travels in our state, I’ve seen the attractive buildings – the beckoning billboards – and read the advertisements for the best of the best in the entertainment world – and seen the extraordinary prices offered at their buffets. Despite a great public outcry against it, over the past couple of years we’ve seen off-track betting parlors, the lottery, and now the advent of casino gambling come to Louisiana.

In grocery stores, gas stations, and “quick stops” across the Bayou State there is a Friday afternoon line-up at the checkout as the family grocery money goes to take a chance and hope for the big lottery, while using the kids’ lunch money to purchase some additional scratch-and-win tickets. A struggling single parent has a few bucks left over when she pays for her gas mid-week and joins the foray into the “Pick Three” nightly drawing.

So, what’s wrong with that? The lottery has contributed some big money into our state coffers. In Louisiana, riverboat gambling brought increased revenues to the New Orleans area. (Though, if they were honest they would admit some of the increase resulted from increased motel/hotel and food costs in that city.) But, I will say again what I have said before, Something cannot be politically right if it is morally wrong. Casino gambling, the lottery, off-track betting, or on-track betting for that matter will not pass Biblical muster.

Far more than economic revenue is at stake when gambling is the issue. There appear to be benefits. These supposed advantages will never compensate for the detrimental effects on the social order. Inevitably the fallout from the advent of gambling in our state will be broken homes, blighted lives, criminal activity, twisted values, social decline, moral corruption. U. S. News & World Report carried this interesting assessment of the issue from Harry Reid, Chairman of the Nevada Gambling Control Commission, “Any state trying to follow Nevada’s lead will find that social costs far outweigh any economic benefits.”

Gambling was not a widespread mania during Bible times. There wasn’t an off-track betting parlor on the outskirts of Bethany. There was no riverboat gambling on the Jordan. However, God’s Word does, as one writer put it, “condemn the substitution of Lady Luck for divine guidance.” God stands in opposition to those, “…who forsake the Lord, who forget my holy mountain, who set a table for Fortune and fill cups of mixed wine for Destiny” (Isaiah 65:11 RSV). The deities mentioned here, Fortune and Destiny, were the pagan gods of Fate who served as symbols of good luck and bad luck.

When you legalize gambling, you change the image, but not the character. It will always be basically dishonest and deceptive. Gambling has been made to appear respectable in some circles, but it is no more honorable than a dice game in a back alley.

Probably the most notorious incident of the crass wickedness of gambling occurred at the foot of the cross. In the light of Calvary, then and now, every sin is exposed for its true color. While Jesus Christ gave His life’s blood for human redemption, Roman soldiers had a dice game under his feet. While He was staking His very life’s blood to save them, they were casting lots for his seamless robe. It happened before He died, not afterwards. He had to watch their crass greed. Could it be the last thing He saw before His Calvary sacrifice was a dice game? Jesus saw them gamble and He always sees what we do. Think of the terrible paradox. While Jesus was giving all he had, they were taking all they could. This was in fulfillment of the Scriptures, “They parted my garments among them and upon my vesture did they cast lots” (Matthew 27:35).

A prominent layman in a Baptist church in Louisiana shared an excellent insight from his former pastor. He observed that the Bible condemns gambling because the final prohibition of the Ten Commandments is “Thou shalt not covet.” All gambling is a form of covetousness, avarice, and greed.

Again, you ask, what’s really wrong with gambling? One writer answered that question quite simply. He said, “I wish to remind you that gambling is wrong because it violates the Ten Commandments, the Golden Rule, the Work Ethic, Personal Dignity, and Social Justice. There is a difference between a wasteful pastime and a sinister obsession. You realize that gambling is not a solution to our economic problems but just an illusion of something for nothing.” Gambling is the god of illusion. Most assuredly, the god of North America is the god of greed.

Gambling has become a multi-billion dollar industry or racket in this country. According to Forbes Magazine, the estimated income of organized crime from illegal gambling in one year alone was $30 billion. Some estimate that’s only about half of what American wagered in that year. Do you wonder that those who prey upon an unwary segment of our society reach further into American life like the tentacles of a giant octopus? You are talking about mega-bucks, which has a way of attracting organized crime.

Once you drag the trojan horse into the city, the fallout has just begun. Such an opinion is confirmed by a statement from the Massachusetts Crime Commission: “There is considerable evidence to indicate that legislation of gambling represented a greater boom to the mob than prohibition.”

Americans are learning the hard way that there is no free lunch – and Louisianians in particular are in the midst of their own lessons. Those who subscribe to the old cliche’ of “something for nothing” will likely find it just the reverse in gambling. It isn’t something for nothing, but nothing for something. You don’t even receive back what you invest in this sinister racket. Something that troubles me deeply in my conscience is this question: Why would a nation that claims to be interested in the welfare of all it’s people dangle an illusive prize of a million dollar jackpot or perhaps twenty million, before the minds of people who struggle to have enough to eat and to wear?

Who are the people most victimized by the gambling mania? “Critics also say that gambling preys on those who can afford it least – persons with low incomes. A study of Michigan players confirms that people with less spend a bigger percentage of their small incomes on the lottery.” What are the odds of people cashing in on a huge bonanza?

According to Larry Braidfoot, of the Southern Baptist Christian Life Commission, who has researched legalized gambling for the last two years, very little is ever said about the tremendous odds against winning. Then he cites two current examples: “An official of the New York Lottery admitted the odds of being struck by lightning – 1 in 2 million – were better than the 1 in 3.5 million odds of winning that state’s recent 22.1 million dollar jackpot.” In the same article appeared this information, “In Ohio, where the recent lottery jackpot of 27 million dollars made national headlines, the odds were even greater – about one in 9 million.

Carefully consider the refutation of those claims contained in national magazines, cited by the Louisiana Moral and Civic Foundation. In U.S. News and World Report, “Legalized gambling, as it spreads from state to state, is not reaping the huge benefits expected from legalized gambling.” An article published in Business Week stated, “Legalized gambling is an ineffectual and inequitable way to raise revenues.” According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, “Legalized gambling just doesn’t work out as it’s proponents promise.”

Is there a link between organized crime and gambling? The answer is an unqualified yes. Officials in this nefarious business will loudly protest that they are not affiliated with organized crime. What are the facts? Sean McWeeney, Chief, Organized Crime Section, Criminal Investigation Division, F.B.I., would not agree with such misleading propaganda. He states, “Gambling is among the major sources of revenue for organized crime. It provides the seed money for the drug traffic.”

It is a well-documented fact that Las Vegas continues year after year to have the highest per capita crime rate of that nation. Some of the tragedies from wholesale gambling in the state of Nevada need to be recognized. Did you know that Nevada, which leads the nation in gambling, has the highest suicide and homicide rates every year? That certainly sounds like fun and games, doesn’t it?

What about legalized gambling in New Jersey? In the Atlantic City area, there was a thirty-nine percent increase in crime during the first seven months following the opening of the first legal gambling casino. What are some of the attending problems with gambling which are not mentioned by the proponents? From extensive research done by the Louisiana Moral and Civic Foundation, comes the following information: “Unpaid bills, bankruptcy, embezzlement, employee pilferage, bad checks, and broken families often accompany gambling according to a number of sources including Dunn’s of Dunn & Bradstreet.”

A reporter for a prominent magazine was sent to Atlantic City to do a survey on what gambling had done to enhance that city. After collecting his baggage at the airport, the first person he saw to talk with was his cab driver. When he got in, he asked the taxi driver this one question, “What has gambling in Atlantic City meant to you?” The man stopped the cab, turned around, and looked at him. He said, “I’ll tell you what it’s meant to me. It’s turned my daughter into a hooker, and my son into a pimp.” With those words, he turned around and drove on.

The story is yet to be told of what the full effects of gambling on our beloved Bayou State. In my judgment, gambling will never substitute for good government, strong leadership, sound management, and honest work. Is it worth the gamble? Not on your life!

THE POWER OF FORGIVENESS

From “Secret Sources of Power” by T. F. Tenney: Purchase this book in our online bookstore!

Our Lord on Calvary spoke the words, “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.” It seems that many in this generation pray, “Father, forgive us. We know exactly what we are doing and are doing it anyway.”

Forgiveness is an essential grace of God. Forgiveness is one of the necessary components of salvation. Forgiveness is one of the fruits that should be evident in the lives of Christians. All of these statements are true. However, what has been illuminated to my thinking is the tremendous power of forgiveness.

In one sense of the word it was an ignorant crowd that gathered around the cross that day. We know so much more about Him than they did. When Jesus said “forgive” there was a tremendous release of energy and power that permeated the universe and funneled down to earth. Grace was released to do its mediatorial work. Jesus was not just speaking of those gathered around the cross. Potentially, if it is accepted, the sins of the ages prior to Calvary and from Calvary forward to the coming of the Lord, were forgiven with His shed blood.

When people forgive one another, the power of God is released. Individuals, families, churches all experience revival when forgiveness is present. When such an outpouring of grace is given, the principalities and powers of hell are neutralized. The enemy has to back up without a word being said to him when forgiveness is present. His hands are tied and he cannot work in the presence of forgiveness. Forgiveness puts the handcuffs of heaven on hell itself.

When Jesus said, “Forgive…” hell was bound. The veil in the temple was ripped in twain and mercy came dancing out from between the mercy seat, jigged down the streets of Jerusalem and touched a thief on one side and reached down and took a Centurion by the hand. She continued her dance of joy to the graveyard, kicked over several tombs. Certain of those who had been dead, enjoyed a mini-rapture and went in and appeared to those who were in the city. Mercy dove into hell and wrestled the keys from the devil himself and came out triumphantly shouting, “I am He that liveth and was dead but behold I am alive forevermore.” Jesus brought with the keys to death, hell, and the grave. What power was released in the universe when Jesus said, “Forgive!”

We must come into the presence of forgiveness. You can culturally enjoy church and not be changed by an experience with God. Nothing typifies the transforming, cleansing power of God experienced when a soul gives and receives forgiveness. There is the power of a new life, the power of new hope, and the power of new joy.

When Jesus said, “Forgive” three worlds were affected. The world before His incarnation, the present world in which He dwelt, and the world that would be after Him. When He forgave, flesh was affected, angels were affected, Hell was affected, demons were affected, and the devil himself was bound. The river of God flows again into cold, bitter, hardened valleys when we come into the presence of forgiveness.

Forgiveness is the spirit of revival itself. Why is it that the most persecuted countries on earth today are among those experiencing the greatest revivals? Reports of great revival are coming out of countries formerly living under the oppressive yoke of communism. The Chinese are coming to the gospel at a rate of 23,000 per day! My ministry in the country of Ethiopia has been enlightening. Virtually every full gospel preacher there has been in jail, beaten, persecuted in some way. I personally know one of the church leaders whose infant was thrown through the window of their church by a soldier and died of the injuries sustained in the fall. That same leader’s wife has been in jail. Yet thousands of people have come the Lord in Ethiopia. It is one of the greatest revival nations in our world today. Why?

People in persecuted countries have to live in a constant spirit of forgiveness. They could not survive if they did not get up every morning and say, “I forgive this system. I forgive these soldiers. I forgive this government. I forgive these circumstances.” There is a tremendous power surge of the Holy Spirit that accompanies a spirit of forgiveness.

Jesus Christ comes into our lives equipped with forgiveness. To walk in the power of His might, you have to live in a spirit of forgiveness. When Jesus said, “I forgive…”
You may ask, “How can I forgive someone who doesn’t ask for that forgiveness?” Show me one man or woman kneeling at the cross of Calvary, looking up into the face of the dying Savior and asking, “Forgive us.” They weren’t there. It didn’t happen. He just said, “Forgive them…” anyway. No one asked for it. No one negotiated for it. The very ones who were putting Him to death could have cared less at the moment whether He forgave them or not. It wasn’t the usual chatter at crucifixion time. 

Colossians 2:15 says that at that moment when Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them…” that he spoiled the principalities and powers. He triumphed over them. There is power in forgiveness.

Sometimes you have to forgive circumstances. I’ve known people who had no trouble at all forgiving other people, but struggled intensely with forgiving circumstances. Have you ever heard anyone say, “I am just a victim of my circumstances…” Remember the Gibeonites in the Old Testament? They deceived Israel by entering into a covenant with them saying they came from a long way off, when in fact they were really next door neighbors. Israel promised, “We won’t hurt you.” Suddenly, Israel woke up one morning and found out that the Gibeonites had deceived them. Circumstances. They made the Gibeonites hewers of wood and drawers of water. They said, “We cannot change this circumstance, but we are going to make it serve us.”

Spikes were driven into the hands and feet of Jesus Christ. While that was happening, He was pleading, “…for they know not what they do.” He forgave them. Hell’s gates were unlocked and tombs were opened. The veil in the temple was rent as Heaven itself opened. All because He said, “…forgive….”

Forgiveness is not cheap. What Jesus gives is not a gimmick to give you goose bumps. It is not the product of a pep rally. It is not a positive mental attitude that you can prime. The kind of forgiveness Jesus brings is radical reconstruction of the human heart. Circumstances cannot always be changed. But I will not become a slave to unforgiveness. I will forgive.

In Luke 17:4, Jesus said, “…if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.” Peter said, Ah-hah! I’ve got it. Seven times in a day. Jesus began talking about forgiveness again in Matthew 18 and Peter said, I’ve got to forgive seven times a day, haven’t I? 
Jesus said, No, Peter. You’ve missed the spirit. You’ve got a calculator heart. You’re trying to put the ruler to God and you can’t do that. Peter, it’s seventy-times seven. 
Some of us think we have it figured out. Peter thought he had it figured out. All I have to do is forgive them seven times and then I can kick them in the appropriate portion of the anatomy. 

Jesus keeps raising the ante on forgiveness until He gets beyond us. He gets in such high capitol, like thirty-five million that we just can’t pay it, we’ve got to forgive. He fixes it to where we’ve got to forgive. Seventy times seven in a day. Do you know that is four hundred and ninety times? If you are only awake sixteen hours a day, that is thirty times an hour. That is once every two minutes. Forgiveness is a full-time job! Forgiveness is a lifestyle. You cannot keep score on it.

Forgive.
Forgive. 
Forgive. 
And keep on forgiving.

I forgive. If I am never asked, I forgive. I am not going to keep score.
You will be crossed up if you operate in anything but the dimension of love. I forgive. Who is right and who is wrong is not important. I forgive because I’ve got to have the power of God in my life.

Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.

Are you looking for hope in life? The missing link that will release you? Somehow you have found it. I’ve held people in bondage. I have been held in bondage. The armies of the enemy are encamped around me and how can I disperse them? 
Sin cannot stain so deeply that the blood of Jesus cannot penetrate and eradicate the stain. What can make me white as snow? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. No other fount I know, nothing but the blood of Jesus. The Holy Spirit is offering to release you, if you will forgive. If you need to ask Him of forgiveness, He that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out. Potentially, you were forgiven on Calvary. Come appropriate it. Find the sweet release that comes when the God of heaven forgives you.

I’ve been wronged. Who hasn’t? 

Life’s dealt me a bad hand. So what? Join the club. 

I was lied on. You’re not the first one. You won’t be the last one. You’re master was lied on. Are you any better than he is? 

Those that were supposed to have been my friends forsook me. Join the club. Jesus is president. They all forsook Him and fled.

Do you want to be a Christian? Take up my cross and follow me.

Experience the power of forgiveness.