My February message was called the LAF-fing Church. That message was an introduction to the concepts of love, acceptance and forgiveness. In this message, I will present a more in depth look at these with a focus on being introspective and honest enough with ourselves to see what parts of these need improvement.
In 1979, Pastor Jerry Cook wrote a book that to this day I believe is one of the most powerful Christian works ever written; Love, Acceptance, and Forgiveness. In his book, Jerry presents the idea that without mastering these, we cannot serve God at the level He desires and is entitled. The sub-title of his book is, Equipping the Church to be Truly Christian In a Non-Christian world. We cannot truly represent God until we practice what we preach and though we may believe we do this, hopefully by the end of this message, each of us will be able to identify and work on those areas where improvement is still needed.
If we truly desire to serve God and the world God’s way, we must not just learn the definitions of these words but imbed them into our very being. With that in mind, ask yourself the following:
what does God expect from the church?
What does God consider the church?
What is my part in the church?
What is the mission of the church?
These are questions that make you go “hmmmm.” Understanding all of them is extremely important because knowing the answers equips us to draw people to God rather than chase them away. Now that you know that, you are on the hook to figure out how serious you are about learning to love, accept, and forgive others. Now consider this; whatever God expects from the church, He also expects some or all of it from you.
Webster’s Dictionary (online) defines introspection as, “a reflective looking inward : an examination of one's own thoughts and feelings.” To be introspective, we must set aside all of our thoughts, feelings, and beliefs related to what we think we believe and how we think we are perceived by God and others; only then are we releasing ourselves in such a way that we are allowing God to bring correction. Psalm 1:2 says, “But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night.” It is with this type of meditation we can learn to be introspective. This type of introspection is a form of prayer and is simply allowing the Holy Spirit to help us by fixing any errant issues inside us.
Historically, tradition has played a significant role Christianity. Like everyone, Christians frequently do what has been handed down from generation to generation without considering its accuracy or impact on their walk with God. Although some traditions positively influence us, others may keep us from hearing God. We must learn to separate the good traditions, those founded on Biblical principles (in context) from the bad ones. The bad traditions include those that come from the world and/or Satan. They can even come from God when we do not consider what He is saying in its appropriate context.
For example, if a man has a problem with lust and God directs him what he is to do to overcome it, obviously, he should follow Gods guidance. The problem occurs when he finds God’s guidance works so well for him, that he uses his influence to force this correction on everyone, even those who do not suffer from the issue he was. This can lead to discord, church splits, arguments and so forth. Generally, this is not a part of what God told him. He is now establishing a tradition that is not founded on the Bible.
There are different types of traditions such as, Social Traditions, Oversight (governing, law and rules) Traditions, and Celebratory Traditions. Any Christian Oversight traditions that are void of a Biblically sound foundation, must be evaluated and most likely scrapped. Many traditions are not Godly and will cause strife in a church, in a home, or in a community. Many of the rules that were prevalent in the church, even into the 1980’s, were religious and not based on the Bible. For example, many denominations had a rule that did not allow a father to swim with his daughter. People leave churches in droves over such foolish rules. While a pastor somewhere may have had a personal problem with this and God told him what he needed to do to avoid the conflict, God never told him to make this a rule for everyone-this type of regulation was dictated by the person and not by God.
It is preposterous rules such as this that show we have learned very little from Jesus’ rebuke of the Pharisees; they also created rules that even they could not follow (Matthew 23:3-4):
Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. 4 For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.
Before you try to force instructions, God has given you on others, you better make sure He intended it for others. When you don’t, He may hold you accountable for the resulting chaos.
When it comes to social and celebratory traditions do not participate in any if they conflict with the Bible, cause others to stumble and so forth; however, it is ok to participate in those that do not take away from them. Many draw families, friends and communities together. If this is done and do not conflict with our Christian beliefs, I encourage participation.
So, what does tradition have to do with love, acceptance, or forgiveness? Traditions that prevent us from living the Christian life to the fullest will affect how we relate to others. For example, if we are practicing governing traditions that do not allow certain people, perhaps adulterers or homosexuals, to enter our church, how are we demonstrating Christian love to them? We certainly are not accepting them (remember from February’s message, acceptance does not mean agreeing with them).
We are not here to judge the world but to be used by God to help others, especially in the area of salvation. Traditions that prevent us from loving, accepting and forgiving others are contrary to God’s Word and must be stopped. Please understand there may be exceptions. For example, if a person is continuously disruptive or obviously is placing undue hardships on others (intentional or not), an Usher, Elder or Pastor may ask them to leave or perhaps, depending on the severity, they may eventually be excommunicated (instructed not to return). On the rare occasion something like this happens, it does not release us from the Christian obligations of love, acceptance and forgiveness towards them; it only changes when and how we will have contact with them. Never shun another Christian or even non-Christian for that matter; it is not scriptural and does not reflect well on Christianity as a whole.
Lamentations 3:40, “Let us search out and examine our ways, And turn back to the Lord;”
When our vision is to live according to God’s Word and the life Jesus exemplified, we must find a way to evaluate where we are so we can do what is necessary to continue to advance towards it. 1 John 2:5-6 says, “5 But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. 6 He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.” We see that when we obey God, His love is perfect in us and with that we should walk as Jesus walked, talk as Jesus talked, and influence as Jesus influenced.
Jesus is our standard; the standard by which we can and should measure our successes. When it is our desire to live according to God’s principles and instructions, we must strive to live as Jesus did. That is much easier to say than to do. So, how do we determine if we are actually living that way? The answer is, using the Biblical expectation of introspection.
At the beginning of this section, we saw Lamentations 3:40 which instructs us to “examine our ways.” We examine ourselves through introspection.
Other verses that discuss introspection include:
2 Corinthians 13:5-6 – “5 Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified. 6 But I trust that you will know that we are not disqualified”
Psalm 139:23 – “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties;”
Psalm 77:6 – “I call to remembrance my song in the night; I meditate within my heart, And my spirit makes diligent search.”
Please understand, when I say you need to set your attitude aside and be honest with yourself as you practice introspection, there is a reason. Introspection can be painful; painful because it is self-examination and one of the goals is to reveal sin and spiritual failure. Some sin we may not be aware of while other sin, we probably know and may even encourage within us.
Another purpose of introspection is to uncover areas of contentment. In this context, contentment refers to areas we have chosen, consciously or not, to ignore even though they prevent us from walking fully with Jesus. These may include poor attitudes, lack of forgiveness (see the section later on forgiveness), lack of love towards one or more people and so forth. The Holy Spirit may reveal times and events from our past that have been hurting our spiritual growth because of they caused physical, emotional, or intellectual pain which we hid and did not deal with.
Introspection also reveals the good things in us; the things that please Jesus. These are the things we can celebrate because they honor God. So, the purpose of introspection is to reveal both the good and the bad and help us to distinguish between them and work towards overcoming the bad ones as we celebrate the good. Never forget though, that the good in us is because of Jesus and not something we can boast about.
Introspection that reveals the good in us is a great encourager; one that helps us realize how much God has already accomplished in us. Because there are both positive and negative aspects of introspection, we can find a balance of sin and grace within us.
One of the pitfalls of introspection is we may try to justify the bad with excuses. For example, “I had a bad upbringing,” “my teachers picked on me,” or the most well-known, “the devil made me do it.” If you are going to make excuses for what you uncover, you have wasted your time. Don’t bother being introspective; even though it is an important discipline, if you are just going to make excuses and continue on the same path it will retard your relationship with God, not enhance it.
The Bible is the foundation whose guidance we will use to confirm what we find. The Holy Spirit is the ‘coach’ of introspection; As we press in and listen, He will help us uncover both the good and bad areas. As the Holy Spirit reveals things to you, study these in the Bible. This is the source where you will find the correction you need to implant in yourself. Knowing the source of the difficulties is ok because it helps you overcome them; however, avoid the trap of using them as an excuse for what you do or have done.
I should clarify at this point the goal of introspection is not to see if we are good enough to be accepted by God. We already know the answer to this NO, at least not on our own. However, through our salvation experience we have Jesus whose righteousness has become ours. Because of this, if we approach introspection in an effort to be accepted by God, once again we are wasting our time and will accomplish nothing.
Instead, we must make sure we are searching ourselves to see where we are and are not honoring God. As we uncover areas needing improvement, we should ask for forgiveness, ask for guidance to overcome the issues, and of course receiving forgiveness and repenting so we no longer are burdened by this or any issues uncovered.
While you may want to seek assistance to overcome areas that need improvement carefully select people you can trust. Those, such as the pharisees of the New Testament, who find out things about someone, may twist them and broadcast them with a misguided belief that this will help you. Nothing could be further from the truth. I knew a pastor who would preach on Sunday what one of his parishioners had discussed with him during the week. He did not reveal the identity of the person but none the less, that person and others who knew of the situation were all too aware of whom he was slamming. Members of his church continued to leave until it eventually closed.
As we have seen, God expects us to be introspective and He does so for two purposes. First, it will repair voids in our lives that may affect relationships and our ability to succeed. Second, but more importantly, it allows us to better serve God. He knows this and wants us to serve Him with all we have.
Presbyterian minister Robert Boyd Munger (1911-2001), wrote a short book in 1951 called My Heart Christ’s Home. In this book, Munger described Jesus discussing different rooms of his home as Munger gave Him a tour. The first room discussed was the library, then the dining room, and so forth. In each room, Jesus would ask questions and reveal different events that happened. Munger would think about the discussion and then answer Him. One day, Jesus was waiting by a door to the Hall closet. Munger did not want to open that door because that was where he hid so much of the worst parts of his life. He discusses the terrible smell as he approached the closet.
This is the difficult part of introspection and where we have to be most honest with ourselves and of course the Holy Spirit. We love uncovering the good things; however, uncovering and revealing the bad things is how we will grow spiritually. When you do not cooperate with the Holy Spirit and allow Him to uncover the bad things, you may feel Him retreating. This is how Munger said it,
“When you have come to know and love Christ, the worst thing that can happen is to sense His fellowship retreating from you. I had to surrender. "I'll give You the key," I said sadly, "but You'll have to open the closet and clean it out. I haven't the strength to do it.””
It is at this point Munger realized He had never relinquished the title to his heart to God and because he continued to hold on to it, all of this rotten, stinky, stuff continued to be active and available inside him. It is through introspection, that we can identify these problems and the best part is it will start us on a journey that ends with us being much closer to Jesus—while we are still in this world.
34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
We know from the Bible we are to love; sadly, most of us have a difficult time knowing if the love we exhibit is what God wants. Even when we try to meditate on His word and seek His guidance concerning this (as well as forgiveness and acceptance), we are distracted or basically fail to press in sufficiently to figure out where we stand. We are not sure what to ask, how to press in, and how to listen for answers. I will be using 1 John 4 to help answer these questions and then go a bit deeper concerning introspection.
We must Love God and Others
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.
I discussed tradition earlier. Tradition is just one way we can be misguided – as verse 1 says we can also be misguided due to false spirits and false prophets. The Greek word for spirits in this context is pneuma which can refer to God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, and angels as spirits but also, men and Satanic beings as spirits. The instruction here is to make sure you are listening to the correct ones. The test is simple, do the spirits confess Jesus Christ has come in the flesh or don’t they? Anyone who denies the deity and fleshly visit of Jesus reflects the spirit of the antichrist.
4 You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 5 They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. 6 We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
This is the promise – WE HAVE OVERCOME THE ANTICHRIST already because God’s Spirit is alive in us. We must ensure that our words line up with the Bible and not the world. Especially today where our own nation is being divided by worldly spirits and the denial of Jesus Christ as anything more than a historical figure. While there is a good side to being politically correct, the undertones of the expectations being placed on us these days by our own friends, families and neighbors are founded on the world and are in conflict with God. Be careful concerning what you hear, and how it impacts what you believe. Test everything that seems foreign to you, and the Holy Spirit living in you, by studying the details within the Bible. I promise you if you do this, you will have much greater insight concerning the source for many of these ideas – and you will not like that you may have been deceived.
We can learn to know God better Through Love
7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
These are very powerful verses that show us that God loved us so much He sent Jesus to mask our sins from Him. By accepting Jesus as our Savior, we now can love as God does because of the Holy Spirit in us. Then in verse 11, we are told “if God so loved us,” we ought to love others with the same love. Anytime you attack someone emotionally, verbally or physically, you are not demonstrating this love. [1 John 4:7-11]
1 John 3:10-11 say, “In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.” This verse tells us in no uncertain terms, if we do not love our brothers, we do not have God in us and therefore are not saved. We will discuss this more in the section on forgiveness.
Do you know what causes us the most trouble when it comes to love? There are a few things such as,
Here is the good news, God is in us and we do not have to practice this, just step out and let the Holy Spirit direct your words. Your personality does not matter because this love comes from God, not you; so, quit preventing God from helping you. As you do, you will find your relationship with God getting stronger.
We can See God Through Love
12 No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.
When we love others in the manner God loves us, we will experience God through that love.
17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. 19 We love [Him] because He first loved us.
Some versions of the Bible include the word Him in verse 19 while others do not. In my opinion, it works both ways; we love Him because He loved us first and we love __________ because God first loved us (you can fill in the blank with anyone’s name or any groups name or any nations name…). 1 Corinthians 13:1-4 says:
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.
For love to work, it has to be more than lip service. We must allow the Holy Spirit to work through us. According to these verses, no matter what we do, it is futile without love. Further on through Chapter 13 of 1 Corinthians we learn this about love:
Love suffers long and is kind
love does not envy
love does not parade itself
love is not puffed up
love does not behave rudely
love does not seek its own
love is not provoked
love thinks no evil
love does not rejoice in iniquity
love rejoices in the truth
love bears all things
love believes all things
love hopes all things
love endures all things
Love never fails
This is not a Chinese restaurant menu where we can pick a couple from each column; it is not a multiple choice in any way mean or form. It is a list of just some of the expectations of love. Can you honestly say, you are successfully living according to all of these? I must admit, I cannot; however, I keep trying and God keeps growing me and if we (you and I) pursue Him, you too will soon learn to love God’s way.
We can learn more about God’s way to love in verse thirteen, “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” Love overshadows all other areas of our lives when we pressed into the things of God and learned to love His way.
The Love Expectations associated with Living the Christian Life
20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? 21 And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.
This is a fairly clear message – one cannot be saved if he does not love God and others. Here are some introspective style questions to ponder as you try to determine where you are in the area of Christian love:
Who don’t I love?
Why can’t I love some people?
What am I going to do to connect with those I do not seem to love?
What do I think God thinks about the way I exhibit love to others (Christian and not)?
Can I set aside all judgments I have about others so I can love them unconditionally?
All of these questions are designed to help you examine yourself to see what you are failing to do in the area of agapé, the love Christ lived and demonstrated, and we are also to exhibit.
I will admit to you right up front that acceptance is a more difficult concept for me than either love or forgiveness. While I believe I make a valiant effort to accept everyone as and where they are, I fall short when it comes to really doing it. I have a difficult time accepting slothful/lazy people, self-centered/arrogant people, people who put their personal agendas ahead of God (and others), and people who think its ok to text and drive (the last one I recently added to my list).
I recognize this weakness (in me) and continue to work towards overcoming it in order to better represent Christ. I also have issues in the love and forgiveness areas; I share this to help you understand, none of us are perfect and God has work to do in each of us. We do not forfeit our salvation by not doing all of this correctly, but the more introspective we are about it, the better we will represent Jesus and the less difficulty we will have in our Christian walk—plus the more we overcome, the closer we will be able to draw to God. Then, the closer we are to God, the more powerful our testimony will be towards helping others to receive salvation or advance in their spiritual walk.
Acceptance is love in action, but it is not a license to do wrong. When others see us accepting others where they are in life, they may misinterpret this as a license to live inappropriately because we will openly receive them. Yes, acceptance is love being exercised but as I said earlier, there may be times the church will have to take a firm stand and dismiss someone who is repeatedly and intentionally failing. Once again I will say, that acceptance may be love in action but it does not equate to agreement with a person concerning the way they live.
Have you ever participated with a group that made you feel uncomfortable and your gut told you ‘they don’t like me,’ ‘they are judging me,’ or perhaps, ‘I don’t belong?’ Perhaps it was as a freshman in high school or being a member of a club or team. Maybe it was because you were a Christian and the others were not. How did it make you feel to be UNACCEPTED? Now, climb into the other guys shoes and be a member of a church where a vagrant shows up and sits at the door of the church. What will you do when you approach the door where he is sitting? Walk by, ignoring him? Tell him with words or a look he does not belong here? Or, Will you invite him in, get him some food, and ask him to stay through the service?
God wants people to know that He loves and accepts them just the way they are. They can’t do anything to earn His acceptance and that is how we should be. Accepting them as they are and letting God do what He wants in and through them.
In Acts 15, the disciples were debating circumcision. Some felt if the gentiles were serving God as they were, they should be circumcised while others felt it was unnecessary. In verses 7-11, Peter said,
…“Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, 9 and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. 10 Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? 11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they.”
My interpretation of what Peter was saying in these and the verses following these is who are we to impose our traditions on those who are not a part of us? Just because they now believe as we do, does not require they follow the traditions associated with our religion. We need not put this expectation on them for it is not something God has ordained, and we should accept them as they are which means to allow God to give them guidance about such matters.
Consider what Romans 14:1-4 says,
Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with—even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently.
For instance, a person who has been around for a while might well be convinced that he can eat anything on the table, while another, with a different background, might assume he should only be a vegetarian and eat accordingly. But since both are guests at Christ’s table, wouldn’t it be terribly rude if they fell to criticizing what the other ate or didn’t eat? God, after all, invited them both to the table. Do you have any business crossing people off the guest list or interfering with God’s welcome? If there are corrections to be made or manners to be learned, God can handle that without your help. [MSG]
These verses use food to describe how we should accept each other however, the food is just an example, and this should carry to all areas. While these verses refer specifically to how we treat other Christians, I believe it is safe to say God wants us to treat everyone with the same or more acceptance and love as we do each other.
We have already seen that God accepts people as they are so who are we then to judge them and treat them harshly just because they do not live the way we think they should. In Matthew 7:1-2, Jesus said, ““Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” We all have a story and we all have a past that includes events of which we are not proud. How can we possibly think others who have not yet received Jesus or who have fallen away can live up to the standards we throw at them? God made a promise in these verses, if you judge others, you too will be judged, but by Him, not man.
Yes, I must learn to accept the slothful, the arrogant, the driving/texting folks; yes, I have a long way to go. I will not give in until I get there and I encourage you to do the same. I do not want to be judged by almighty God because I did not at least try to accept everyone as they are when I meet them. Therefore, I set aside my pride and look inside (introspection) and honestly seek to know what is in there. Of course, I am aware the Holy Spirit is within me and I try diligently to receive direction from Him so I can tear down and throw away any parts of me that do not honor God. Again, I have a long way to go but I am making the effort and sharing this with you as encouragement to do the same thing.
Here are some introspective style questions to ponder as you try to determine where you are in the area of Christian acceptance:
Who don’t I accept?
Why can’t I accept some people?
What am I going to do to connect with those I do not accept?
What do I think God thinks about the way I exhibit my acceptance of others (Christian and not)?
Can I set aside all judgments I have about others so I can accept them unconditionally?
Can I accept others whose lifestyles are not appropriate in my view?
Romans 12:19-20 says,
19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”
And in Luke 6:37 Jesus says, “37 “Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
What these verses are communicating is when we do not forgive, we are actually playing God. Personally, I do not want the responsibility that goes with being almighty God, do you? Then of course, I do not want to disobey God and have His judgment on me for these failures. Therefore, to be successful in God's work, you must first learn to love, accept and forgive others; only then will you be able to perform the miracles God wants to work through you. By the way, you can be a catalyst to a new ‘love revival’ if you figure all this out and live it. After all, when one person in a church starts living like this, others will follow. It starts with others bringing prayer requests, counseling requests, confession, and so forth to you. When people see God functioning in your life, they believe you may be able to help; because they feel God flowing through you, they want what you have. They may not realize that is what it is at first, but they will as they get to know you.
When two people in a church live like this, the churches image will start to change and then more in both the church and community will start to live according to the love, acceptance, and forgiveness principles. Jesus said where two or more are gathered in my name…, well with two, we can bring positive change to the community and even the world. The instructions to live this way and the changes we need to make can be found in Ephesians 4:17-32,
17 This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; 19 who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.
20 But you have not so learned Christ, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22 that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.
25 Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another. 26 “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, 27 nor give place to the devil. 28 Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. 29 Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. 32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.
I hope you carefully read all of these verses; however, in verse 32, it is all summed up with an instruction to be kind and forgive each other – just as God forgave us. If God can forgive us, then who are we not to forgive another; after all, it is our sin that necessitated Him dying on the cross.
As difficult as it is for you at times to forgive others, it can be even more difficult to forgive yourself. However, we have to learn to forgive others and we have to learn to forgive ourselves. God has forgiven us, who are we to not forgive ourselves. As you introspectively consider forgiveness do it from two perspectives, forgiving others and forgiving yourself. Actually, the same self-evaluation should be extended to love and acceptance. This is very important: if I cannot love, accept and forgive myself, how can I love, accept and forgive others? Let’s go a step further, if I cannot love, accept and forgive myself, how can I be sure God loves, accepts and forgives me?
Here are some introspective style questions to ponder as you try to determine where you are in the area of forgiveness:
Who don’t I forgive?
Why can’t I forgive some people?
What am I going to do to connect with those I have been unable to forgive?
Have I sought God concerning those I want to forgive but am no longer able to contact?
What do I think God thinks about the way I exhibit my forgiveness of others (Christian and not)?
Can I set aside all judgments I have about others so I can forgive them?
Can I forgive others whose lifestyles are not appropriate in my view and who criticize me for my beliefs?
Don’t hate tradition but only embrace those traditions that are supportive and do not conflict with God’s word; these are the ones that will help you grow and not to stumble. At the same time, learn to be introspective about traditions, just as you should be about anything that influences your life. Continue the theme of introspection into all aspects of your life, family church, work, community, etc. and determine where you may not be exhibiting love, acceptance and forgiveness to the fullest. As you uncover areas needing improvement, let God guide you forward – never retreat.
I may not like what those candidates are saying or doing but I am expected by God to learn to love, accept, and forgive them. I may not like what this or that organization does; however, I am expected by God to learn to love, accept, and forgive those who belong to them.
Remember, Jesus was the quintessential example of pure love and this love can and should be the solid foundation of your Christian walk – your ongoing testimony. If you are truly building on this foundation, your Christian walk will be amazing. Will it make you perfect? Absolutely not! You even have to make sure that it doesn’t cause you to become arrogant. However, when you learn to love the way Jesus did, this will not be an issue. The Bible teaches us to pray unceasingly so as a part of that, never stop asking God’s help at revealing those areas of your life that still need improvement.
The better you learn to love, accept, and forgive, the more positive the influence you will have on others (both Christians and non-Christians). Why not set as one of your key goals or even a part of your lifelong vision, ‘start a LOVE REVIVAL’ (Agapé Revival) in my church, my community, my nation or even the world. Love is contagious.
Pun-ishment – Camping
I spent much of my youth in the Boy Scouts and my favorite part of scouting was camping. My troop in Virginia went camping at least once a month and the camaraderie, activities, and education were incredible. Around the campfire we would do various skits and tell the worst jokes such as, “A vulture boards an airplane, carrying two dead raccoons. The stewardess says, “I'm sorry, sir, only one carrion allowed per passenger.”” It is to Scouts and campers everywhere that I dedicate this month’s pun-ishment.
As a Scout, I was especially good at tying knots; my demonstrations generally went without a hitch though I hated that they kept roping me in to give them. Eventually I got tired of doing them and shouted knot again! I skipped one of the demonstrations because I was being knotty though I did ask a friend to take my place, but he said, “frayed knot.”
Well, here I am getting nostalgic about childhood camping; I must be living in the past tents. I recently asked a camper if he preferred tents made of nylon or older fabrics. While he gave his opinion, he suggested I canvas the other campers too. He was extremely experienced at setting up his tent; he had perfect pitch.
I have noticed in the last few years a rekindling of interest in camping and outdoor activities. Recently the news reported a few artists who had gone camping were missing from their tents; the rangers canvassed the area. One child who they thought had disappeared was found following an in-tents search; they found him asleep. It turned out to be a case of kid napping.
My brother and I were camping in rural Kansas and had to evacuate because of a tornado. We hunkered down in a motel where my brother said, “I guess we’re not in canvas anymore!” On another adventure, my brother asked if I was awake. I said, “yes.” He then said, look up at the stars and tell me what I deduce. In my most intellectual voice I said, “there appear to be an infinite number of them many of which are probably suns for undiscovered planets; what do you deduce?” He replied, “someone stole our tent.”
These days, I camp in an RV but there are still many who prefer more meager accommodations. I guess they are more in-tents than I. One such young man, who shall remain nameless to protect his identity, loved to talk with the other campers. Well, on one occasion, Mark (oops) went around the campground taking a poll at each site; he found 100% of the campers became upset when their tents collapsed.
Mark even found an escaped convict in the campground, a clear case of criminal in-tent. The convict was found with stolen camping equipment which law enforcement laid out on a picnic table. They referred to it as the table of con-tents.
While hiking, Mark fell and broke both his left leg and left arm; guess he’s all right now! Mark says, although it is not well-known, it was campers sitting by the fire who first invented the secure internet – after all, how can you have a fire if you don’t log in? Marks sleeping bag was substantially longer than most. He says it comes from sleeping too long.
During the winter, Mark decided to go kayaking. He got very cold so started a fire in his boat so he could warm up. He learned a valuable lesson that day, you can’t have your kayak and heat it too.
Before I finish this month, here are a few tips for you campers:
You Can’t Run Through A Campsite. You Can Only Ran…Because It’s Past Tents
Llamas make great camping partners because they always say, “Alpaca tent!”
If you place a tuba on the table in your campsite, you will never have neighbors.
The guitar belonging to a nearby camper makes great kindling.
Waterproof clothing isn’t; on the other hand, it is excellen