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Amen and Amen

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Amen and Amen

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

Now to Him who is able to establish you:
According to my gospel
And the preaching of Jesus Christ,
According to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began

But now has been made manifest,
And by the prophetic Scriptures has been made known to all nations, According to the commandment of the everlasting God,
For obedience to the faith—

To God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.

Romans 16:24-27

False Accusations

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False Accusations

Why would God allow His children to experience false accusations?

Job was accused by his friends of sin. He knew they were wrong. Their accusations persisted. How was he to deal with that? How could he live with those accusations that he knew were wrong?

Joseph in Egypt lived a Godly life. He was falsely accused. He went to prison. What kinds of taunts might he have received in prison? What about his own mental and emotional health? How could he survive?

As Jesus interacted with the religious leaders, they said, we are not born of fornication. How could Jesus and His earthly father, Joseph deal with that? They lived a life of reproach.

Naboth was falsely accused. He was killed so Ahab could steal the vineyard. Why does God allow this?

Perhaps the most un-understandable example would be John Baptist. Jesus was here. Why did Jesus not prevent his cousin from being mercilessly imprisoned and killed by the order of an angry, powerful woman? What better way could Jesus have demonstrated His power and deliverance?

Was John simply expendable for the Kingdom of God? Yes. He was expendable for the Kingdom of God. Are you expendable? Am I expendable? Is that OK? It is OK.

Why do we suffer?
Jesus was falsely accused. He said that we would be also

Luke 6:22 Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake.

John 15:25 But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause.

When we suffer for righteousness, we identify with God and His Son, Jesus. Suffering for wrong is only right. Suffering for right is wrong but is in keeping with God’s plan for us to identify with Jesus. Jesus learned obedience by suffering. We learn obedience the same way.

How to respond?
Do not retaliate
Consider yourself blessed and counted worthy to suffer for Christ
Rejoice and be exceeding glad

Great is your reward in Heaven

The only way to really know Jesus is to experience things in life that He experienced. False accusations are one way that God brings suffering into our lives so we can know His Son.

Forgiveness and Redemption

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Forgiveness and Redemption

If moral life has been a struggle for you – do not despair.
God is in the business of forgiveness and redemption. You can be forgiven and you can be redeemed.

David in Psalm 51 makes this abundantly clear.
Joel says that God can restore the years that the locusts have eaten.
Psalm 84 is replete with encouragement –
“One day with the Lord is worth a thousand elsewhere.”
“They go from strength to strength”
You can go from victory to victory.

Turn from sin and claim the promise that with the temptation God will make a way of escape. And then take that way.
Psalm 4 – stand in awe of God and do not sin.
Allow God to meet you in the time of temptation and stand in awe of what He is going to do with and for you.

A Message of Victory

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A Message of Victory on the Subject of Sexuality

This is a message of my personal testimony on the subject of sexual purity. It is a message of victory and not of defeat. It is a message of the power of the Holy Spirit of God in human life. In an age of so many messages of defeat, I humbly submit this message of the power of God in the human life.

 

Joseph and Joseph – Joseph was tested in Egypt. He was innocent. He was falsely accused. He suffered for the stand he took for God and against sexual sin.

Joseph was told to marry Mary even though she was with child before they were married. “He married her and “kept her as a virgin until she gave birth to a son…”

Bible stories are there for a purpose. These amazing stories of amazing men in the Bible illustrate that it is possible for men to live lives of control over their sexual passions.

Porn – My first exposure to porn happened at public school when I was eleven years old. Several boys were huddled over something on the playground at recess time. I looked. There were pictures of naked people. I had never seen pictures like that before and no one had warned me about them.

God spoke to me at that moment, “Frank, you should not look at things like that.” I walked away and I have not looked back. Porn is not part of my life. It has never been a part of my life. When I see it, it does not stay in my mind. How can it become so addicting? I really do not know. With so much blessing and hunger for knowledge and for God, I cannot really understand how it can be so addicting.

There are no images of porn in my mind. Do I see porn on occasion? Yes. Does it remain in my mind? No. Sometimes I wonder how long the images that I encounter in places of business will remain in my mind – typically in less than a day, the images are gone. How is that possible? It is possible because I do not entertain the images. Ps. 101 says, “Sin will not cling to me if I hate the sin.” If we do not entertain the images, they will not cling to our minds to become problems later.

Girls – I respect and protect their lives in every way and every day. Girls are so very beautiful. I am spell-bound and mesmerized by their beauty. The Creator’s beauty evokes awe in me but never produces lust. My mind never imagines sexual activity with their bodies. I never joined the discussion about girl’s bodies that I heard among the men at school and at church. God made me a man to respect and protect the women and girls in my life and to never exploit them with words or with actions.

Lust – Lust is an experience that I have not known. Why should I lust? It is enough for me to admire and appreciate the beauty that the Creator has placed in girls and women. To lust is to contaminate the experience of admiration and reduce it to unacceptable impulses. In public school sports and music there was always exposure to immodesty and sinful language and behavior. God spared me from that by bringing Godly girls into my life – girls who exemplified holy and healthy living and whose friendships could be trusted, admired, appreciated, respected, and enjoyed.

Dating – I started dating at age sixteen. That may sound a bit young today but it was an amazing experience. Two young people can respect and bless each other with Godly friendship and grow together as healthy Christians.

Purity culture – The purity culture for all of its promises, has done us no favors. “I Kissed Dating Goodbye”, “Every Man’s Battle” and other attempts not withstanding, the purity culture presented well but has only taken us deeper into clandestine, ungodly actions.

To tell young men that their passions are a source of problem when they desperately need those passions to carry them through the difficulties of life is destructive. To tell young ladies that their bodies are a cause of making men lust is to make the girls fear their own bodies and make them responsible for the moral integrity of the men. How preposterous!

To ignore the way God made us and think that is the answer? Sorry. It did not work. Porn is more prevalent than ever in our circles and now the girls are doing porn also. We were sold a bill of goods that could never deliver anything good and has produced nothing good.

Victory – Is possible – Godly music, the Holy Spirit, the Bible are such powerful agencies of victory. Godly music is so cleansing. The Holy Spirit is so powerful. Jesus countered temptation with Scripture. If He needed to do that, how much more do we need to do that?

Scripture – Romans 8, Psalm 101, II Timothy 1:7, John 15 are such cleansing passages. The incredible and life-changing power of the Word of God is never really realized in the lives of most people. Why not? If and since Romans 8 is true, then the Spirit of life and power control my life with the same power that raised Jesus from the dead.

Raising Jesus from the dead required war with the spirits of darkness. That same war happens in our hearts and will be won by the side to which we give the power. God has not given us the spirit of fear but He has given us the (Spirit of) love, power, and clear thinking from a healthy mind. Unfruitful branches of the vine will be removed and discarded. Fruitful branches will be pruned so they produce more fruit.

Jesus – Can you really imagine Jesus looking at porn or looking and thinking lustfully about a girl? Really? You cannot imagine that and if you are His disciple, controlled by the Holy Spirit, then you cannot imagine or do that either.

Repentance is available – Memories persist in many people’s minds – images with emotional content burn themselves into memories. God can and will restore if people are truly repentant and leave their sinful ways and replace the sinful memories with the Word of God which will wash our hearts and minds clean. Jesus said, “You are clean through the Word which I have spoken to you.”

Summary –The power of God living in me is a Spiritual and physical reality and has been for all of my life. My heart would be horrified if thoughts of immoral behavior would ever enter my mind. The renewed mind does not need those kinds of thoughts. The renewed mind rejects those thoughts and brings them into captivity to Jesus Christ.

Normal – What is normal? Who sets the standards for ‘normal’? Those standards are changing with the technological advances in communication and information transfer. Those advances are proving to be a challenge for which the church is not prepared. Availability seems to indicate that accessing the information is OK, no matter the content.
Before marriage I did not participate in sexual behaviors – not with my body and not with anyone else’s body. As one fellow counselor told me, “Do you realize that you are abnormal?” Who constitutes normal? What percentage of men involved in some level of porn? Is that normal? That is not God’s normal.

The current situation – In a recent discussion with an official from the Children and Youth agency, three areas were mentioned where Anabaptist youth are struggling.
1. They do not see the connection between cause and effect –
That ideas and actions have consequences.
2. They accept instant gratification as normal to life.
3. They have not developed internal controls of their personal life.

Our opportunity – Until we begin to raise our children to accept responsibility for life of self and others, we will continue on the current path of struggle and defeat. Victory is possible. It is Christ in you, the hope of glory! Realizing that this life is preparation for eternity, we press on to the high calling of life in Christ Jesus! We have the power available to us. Like Joseph and Joseph, we have choices to make. We can make them for God or for ourselves. Which will it be for you?

Personal note – as an aged man of seventy two years old, I reflect on life. Marriage and family have been a blessing. Teaching in the Mennonite school system has been an honor. Having a clean heart is not the product of my strength but the result of God in my life. Hopefully what I have written will bless other young men to make choices that will produce a legacy of integrity and honor for the glory of God for many generations.

Remember Joseph and Joseph.
God has placed their stories in His Bible for His purposes.
God has placed their stories in His Bible for you.
As men, God is calling us to be the Josephs of our day.
We can be accused. We may suffer. But our hearts, minds, and bodies must be kept pure by the power of the Holy Spirit of the Living God living in us.

Mark 3:1-5

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Mark 3:1-5

1 And He entered the synagogue again, and a man was there who had a withered hand. 2 So they watched Him closely, whether He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him. 3 And He said to the man who had the withered hand, “Step forward.” 4 Then He said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they kept silent. 5 And when He had looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored as whole as the other.

Jesus noticed a man who had need of healing.
The religious leaders watched Jesus closely – would He break the law?
They wanted to accuse Him.
Jesus told the man to come close to him. He then asked the religious leaders a question. He wanted to discover what was in their hearts. They were silent.

Jesus was angry. Jesus was also grieved that the hearts of the leaders were so hardened. He told the man to stretch out his hand. The man was healed by his obedience to Jesus.

What can we learn?
Jesus was able to heal the man’s hand. Jesus was also able to heal the leader’s hearts. Jesus was angry but He was also grieved.

Sin should make us angry but it should also call us to grief and sadness.
Our righteous angry must always be accompanied by sadness for the effects of sin in our life and in the lives of those who are physically or Spiritually crippled.

It is so difficult for us to see Spiritual injury in our lives. Our hearts can become hardened by pride or by self-righteousness. Jesus calls us to healing by accepting His love and care for Him and for each other. As we obey Him He makes us whole.

Love as Healing for Life Part XIV

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Love as Healing for Life Part XIV

Hiding From Love

If love is the answer, why do we run away from love?
Love requires vulnerability
Love requires thinking the best of people
Love requires telling the truth
Love requires forgiveness
Love requires sacrifice
Love requires being honest with your self
Love requires being kindly honest with others
Love requires giving and receiving

Does God pursue us?
God pursued Adam and Eve when they disobeyed.
Jesus did get-in-people’s-faces.
Peter is a classic example in John 21. Jesus kept coming to Peter and asking, ‘Do you love me?’ He did this until Peter became frustrated and grieved. Why would Jesus do something like that? How does that make friends and influence people?

Nicodemus is another example. Jesus did not even acknowledge his statements. Jesus proceeded to explain how and what Nicodemus should have known and what he should do. He made Nicodemus responsible for his thoughts, knowledge, and actions. Jesus proceeded to explain concepts including the most well known Bible verse ever recorded in John 3:16.

Do we pursue each other?
Not allowed in this self-centered sanitized age. But without it we will die. We are dying. We are each islands adrift in the sea of life. That is not real life. That is not the life God intended. That is Satan’s counterfeit for the reality of life with our Father in Heaven and His children here on His earth.

God pursues us because He loves us. Jesus died for us because He loves us. We pursue each other because we love each other.

Jesus’ words
Matthew 5:23 Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

We are the body of Christ
Ephesians 5:28 Husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.

We love ourselves. We love our bodies. No healthy person hates his/her body. Even those who are not pleased with their body still feed and care for it. That is how we are to treat each other. “Nourish, cherish, care, love. That is how Jesus treats us. That is how we are to treat each other because we love and value each other. We are each parts of one body, the Church.

Self harm
We can become so fearful and so full of pain that we harm ourselves: physically, emotionally, socially, relationally, and Spiritually. We are afraid because we do not feel lovable and so cannot accept love that we do not believe that we deserve.

Love
The only answer is Love – Love that we withhold and Love that we reject when it is offered. Better to be self willed and self sufficient than to Love and be Loved when we do not feel worthy of Love and care. That is not God’s way.

Life’s ills can only be cured by the ‘sense of being adequately loved.’ The perfect love of God and imperfect love of each other are the answer and the cure for the pain and hurt in our lives. All love is God’s love. God is love. It is ours to share. It is ours to give and receive. He loved first. He also loves last, and all the times and places in between.

Don’t run away from love. Don’t hide from love. There is enough to go around and there will be plenty left over. The beginning of the Holy Spirit of truth is love, then peace, then joy….
Open your heart to love today. You are chosen by Father God to receive His love. He loved so much that He gave. If you love Him and receive the love He gave you, you will have love to give. Today.

Love as Healing For Life Part XIII

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Love as Healing for Life Part XIII
Forgiveness – the process and the product

Will you forgive me? I forgive you. We hasten to the product – forgiveness. We want to hear the words, I forgive you. Or maybe to say the words, you are forgiven. Done.

We can forget, and sometimes resist the process – the messiness and the pain of letting go of what hurt you and being open and honest with those who have caused the hurt. Sometimes people try to hurt you. Sometimes they hurt you but did not intent to hurt you. In any case, forgive.

Accountable
That said, it is OK to hold people accountable. Joseph told his brothers, “I am Joseph whom you sold…” He did not ignore the damage but he did forgive. More than that, he blessed his brothers after he proved them to see if they had changed. But, in all of that, he forgave. His heart forgave before they got there. That was the only he could stay emotionally healthy and Spiritually sane. “God was with Joseph.” Joseph saw the hand of God in and above the circumstances.

Attitude
Live with an attitude of forgiveness.
Forgiveness means to cancel the debt.
Forgiveness means to hold no grudge
Forgiveness means to open the door to restoration

It means forgiving and not holding grudges. It means forgiving and not holding people hostage. It means forgiving and working through problems that could divide very friends. It means opening our hearts to healing so we can experience the joy of healing and restoration.

In an age of pain and desperation, it means seeing the best of God’s creation. It means to focus on the positive and not the negative. It means to open your heart to the one offending or offended. It means not being offendable. It means being unoffendable.

If people hurt you, forgive. Do not wear your feelings on your sleeves. Do not be ‘hurt’ all the time. That is a control measure. It helps no one and it hurts you.

Jesus said,
Go the person and tell them the matter between you and him alone.
Read about Jesus manner of forgiveness in Matt. 18. It would solve most of our difficulties. Jesus exemplified this on the cross in His death.

You
Forgive your self
What you resist persists
What you focus on will control you
What you fight against will eventually destroy youth
Those you vilify will infest your thinking
The tools you use to fix your problems can become your greater problem

When you eliminate someone from your life and put them out of your life, they enter your life more forcefully because you have continued your focus on them and you give them control over you. That is overcome by forgiveness. Your lack of forgiveness means that the person remains in control of your life.

Trust or not?
Forgiveness does not mean that trust is established. That may take time. It may never happen. If someone stole money, forgive. Expect them to earn trust. If someone has intentionally harmed a child, forgive. Do not trust them alone with children.

God has a plan
Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. If someone has wronged us, we need to offer them forgiveness. If we have wronged someone, we need to ask forgiveness. That is our way of keeping responsibility with and for and to each other. God will forgive us as we forgive others.

Modern counseling keeps self on the throne
There can be no death to self as the Bible tells us. Self is so insecure that self has to assert itself. Self has to defend itself. There can be no forgiveness from an insecure self because that would compromise the fragile components of the self. If self is the essence of life, then self must be enhanced and defended at all costs. This approach feels good and makes people feel alive. Sadly, it is a dead-end street with no goal or direction. Self is the problem, not the answer.

These people have no choice but to blame. They blame God. They blame other people. They find scapegoats to blame and to carry the load of shame that they cannot or are not willing to carry.

The Biblical way – the way of Jesus is not to denigrate self but to submit the self to Him who loves us and gives Himself for us. Only in that secure love can self find its real identity. When that is found, self not longer has to hurt and blame. Self is so secure and significant that it revels in its new-found love and welcomes others with open and safe arms. Forgiveness becomes a way of life. Peace and harmony reign and God’s Kingdom comes into our lives.

Remember that forgiveness is a product but the product requires a process. If we do not go through the process we cannot really forgive. What we can do is live with a forgiveness mindset. That will prepare our heart to be ready for the process. That readiness will prepare us to follow God’s plan for forgiveness. It will prepare us to follow Joseph’s pattern. It will prepare us to live a life of blessing and healing for our self and others.