Saturday, September 24, 2011

FORGIVENESS: A Changed Heart

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. Matthew 18:21-22

What is forgiveness? It's a decision that we make, a conscious choice involving the will. Are our actions by our choice or forced upon us  . . . God wants us to be sincere.  I have so many thoughts about forgiving, but clearly, forgiveness is a choice, a decision out of our obedience to God and His command to forgive.

Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Colossians 3:13

Often we have a strong sense of justice and we don't feel like forgiving.  In order to translate the decision to forgive into a changed heart, first, we must trust God to do the work in us that needs to be done. We must surrender to God's command whether we 'feel' like it or not. In surrendering to the work of the Holy Spirit, we posture ourselves 'open' and 'sincere' as we seek refinement. We must continue to forgive by faith, until the work of forgiveness is done in our hearts.  Our faith, prayers and reverence to God are necessary to bring about authentic change.

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. Philippians 1:6

We know the work of forgiveness is complete when freedom comes as a result.  Our heart is set free from the past. The anger subsides, bitterness and resentment no longer permeate our thoughts and most of all, there's healing from the pain.  We feel honest and sincere as we move in the relationship. Although the memories of the past are never erased, they become manageable and somewhat diminished in their effect. Forgiveness takes time and is often a slow process . . .  but the peace that God gives is such a blessing! 
Yes, God does a work in us!  To God be the glory!

(Art by G. Hisayasu)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Divine Boldness In Early 70's . . .

(by Linda Craft-Hisayasu)
In the early 70's, revival broke out at Asbury College in Wilmore, Kentucky and swept across the country, especially at Christian colleges.  I was a freshman at Spring Arbor College (now Spring Arbor University).  The divine work of the Holy Spirit was amazing and beyond anything I'd ever imagined!  We were captured by God's miracles and took to the streets with our testimonies.  It's impossible to describe it! 
". . . they were all filled with the Holy Spirit,
and they spoke the word of God with boldness."
Acts 4:31

Anointed and full of desire to serve, we started a street ministry (coffee house) in downtown Jackson Michigan.  I can't remember how the location came about, but it was under a building, not in the building.  No utilities, just a space where the foundation connected to the earth.  The floor was dirt and we had to either stoop or sit.  It looked like an underground passage of some kind, but to us it was a piece of heaven.  We named it the 'Catacombs'  (in reference of the underground place where the bodies of the Apostle Paul and Peter were said to have been laid). We ministered with such boldness in an atmosphere of candles. guitar music, soft singing . . . His Word was the central focus of everything! We were overwhelmed and  excited that God had given us a place.   In spite of the Catacombs being somewhat open to the cold weather, the love of Lord brought warmth and comfort.  Many people came off the streets and into the Catacombs to hear the message.  It was beyond special, it was amazing! 
 "When the day of Pentecost had come,
they were all together in one place. 
And suddenly a sound came from heaven
like a rush of a mighty wind, and it filled
all the house where they were sitting."
Acts 2:1-2
Now 40 years later, I wonder what happened to my Christian brothers and sisters who were on fire for the Lord?  It's as if we were experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit described in the 'upper room' on the day of Pentecost.  Surely such an out- pouring was unforgettable. Or was it?   Are we still consumed by the love of Jesus and desperate to reach others? Much of today's Christianity seems so structured, planned, organized, man made religion so to speak. I wonder if my brothers and sisters are still flooded with memories from those days?  More importantly, are they still on fire?  Do they long for the simplicity of our faith back then, which was fully surrendered and open to whatever the Lord had in store?  Are our lives today too distracted and consumed with our possessions, hobbies, schedules, careers, commitments and social interactions?  Are we available for the work of the Holy Spirit.  If ever there was evidence of the work of Holy Spirit transforming lives, it was during that period in the 70's.  

He is still the same Lord and Savior, but are we still surrendered and open   Are we as desperate to share the good news about Him as we were back then?   Or have we rationalized our way of thinking, proclaiming it's a new world, new times?  The scripture is clear, "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever" (Hebrews 13:8). . . are we the same?  Hopefully we have not chalked it up to 'youthful folly' or framed it as just an event in our history.  To diminish it in any capacity may mean that we are no longer a candidate for the Holy Spirit to use.   Are we as desperate to reach out to others today as we were back then?  Remember?
". . . you shall receive power,
when the Holy Spirit has come upon you,
and you shall be my witnesses . . ."

Acts 1:8

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Dying To See You!

(Short Story)
Your earthly life has ended. You arrive at Heaven and Saint Peter meets you at the gate.

"Nice to see you, we were expecting you. As a matter of fact, there’s a lot of people up here waiting to see you. However, on the first day, you are only allowed to see one person because it's quite overwhelming up here. Eventually you are free to be with everyone. After you choose who it will be, the two of you can dine together and enjoy the beauty of Heaven. So think about it for a second, who is the one you’d like to spend your very first day with in Heaven?"

You’re trembling at the thought of holding your baby girl who passed away at childbirth. Then your mind races with the neediness of seeing your mother, as you recall the endless nights of wishing she could comfort you. Cascading memories of others, like your dad and how special he made you feel. Your smile widens at the thought of seeing your best friend, who you always confided in. You are excited and overwhelmed at the thought of so many. Surely Heaven is a great place to spend eternity with all these marvelous people you so dearly love...

Finally St. Peter says, "it is time for you to make your choice, who do you want to spend your first day with?"

Tears streaming down your face, you say, "I choose  my mother, she’s the one I missed the very most."

"Ok, have a seat, I will send for her, she’s definitely waiting to see you. I will also notify Jesus that you didn’t choose Him, so He can take you off His schedule today. He had hoped that you would want to spend your very the first day with Him."              

Interesting isn’t it, that your Heavenly Father, The Son of God, Jesus Christ, The Lord of Your Life, The Creator of All, The Supreme Being, The Savior of the World, The Omnipotent One, The Lord of Lords, The King of Kings, The Holy Spirit, The Maker of Heaven and Earth, The Divine One, The Great Comforter, THE LORD GOD ALMIGHTY was NOT chosen first!

Although we do not know what that day will be like, our longing to be with our Lord should overwhelm us with excitement. We say we have a personal relationship with Christ. But what kind of a relationship do we have, if we aren’t desperate to meet Him first? You may say, "oh yeah, I forgot Him, but of course I want to see Him first." If you are forgetting Christ and have to be reminded of His existence, then there’s something serious lacking in your personal relationship with Him. If you truly have a committed relationship with Jesus Christ, then there’s no relationship on this earth that can compare with that one! It’s authenticity could never allow you to ever think of HIM as a second choice.

Our number one goal, motivation, aspiration, desire, journey, plan, and hope should be to finally be with HIM. So think about how much you truly love your family and others, then ask yourself, how much do I really LOVE HIM? 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus . . .

     As Christians we say that our devotional time with the Lord is special.    Lately I've been  thinking about it.  What are the reasons behind devotions and worship time?  So pondering such questions, I decided to spend an entire day alone with the Lord.  I chose to only focus on Him.  Fasting, praying, reading the Scriptures, writing about Him, attending a hour Soaking Room and pondering only thoughts about His glory and grace.  Twenty-four hours of focus, love and worship alone with Him.
     Before I get into how I was so overwhelmed by this day (and still am), I must admit there were challenges.  I quickly identified distractions and surrendered them to the Lord. I could be poetic here and write something inspiring, but the world and it's realities are deeply ingraned and I had to keep re-focusing.  No phone, no computer, no iPad, no TV, no interactions with anyone, no news, no music except Christian music with no focus on the musicians. no travel (other than to and from the Soaking Room), no food or planning meals . . . IN ALL TRUTH, it was an amazing day! 
     The morning began with complete focus and dedication.   Prayer with periods of silence and openness.  Then time spent in the Word.  Victory Christian Center provided a wonderful environment for soaking in His presence.  As the day grew, my heart was overflowing with such gratitude.  The afternoon spent in silence, pondering, writing and listening.  Overwhelmed with His presence . . .  I could go on, but there are no words to explain it.   I found myself drenched in all of it and singing the song written by Helen H. Lemmel in 1922:
        "Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
        Look full in His wonderful face,
        And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
        In the light of His glory and grace."
     Yes, that was the truth.  It was heavenly to be in "the light of His glory and grace.". No fast pace world, no earthly pull on me . . .   My mind was no longer saturated with thoughts about news, crime, disasters....  No TV, concerts, football games or entertainment distractions drawing me into mundane silliness.  No bills or financial statements, no need to figure out my net worth.  No fighting with health care or insurance companies.  No discouragement from politics or what's happening in Washington, D.C.   MY ONLY FOCUS was on my Lord and Savior.  I felt victorious, complete, secure, overwhelmed, renewed.... The vulnerability I normally felt from life's chaotic realities now gone.  Truly the 'things of this earth' had 'grown strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.'
     There's no therapy more healing than spending time with the Lord. I was flooded with His wisdom and truth. There's no earthly activities or attractions that compare to the intimacy of being in His presence.  His Word provides such hope and direction....    Clarity from prayer came with time, silence, and vulnerability before Him.  Sadly, our consumed lives have reduced our time with the Lord as nothing more than something on our 'to do list.'  Shouldn't we be desperate to spend time with Him??? In the end will we be reaching out to Him or fighting to hold on to this world?  My testimony from that day can be summed up in the words of Helen H. Lemmel's song :  

         "the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
        In the light of His glory and grace."

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Do What's Right . . .

Of all things I know, God gives us wisdom to do what is right...  
                               *     *     *     *     *

I had a restless night because I knowingly made a poor decision yesterday.  Such a decision would not be considered a mistake by most, but for me it was wrong.  Most of our lessons are learned in our youth.  Those seem to be the years of our risk taking and seeking to taste life in the fullest ways....   As youth, we chalk up the poor decisions as part of our learning curve.  As we get older, we have the wisdom from evidence we collected throughout yesteryears experiences. 
It's disturbing that I knowingly decided to go against the wisdom I gained throughout life.  Why would I do that?   That renegade attitude from my youth presented itself.. that powerful pull from my risk taking days .... I still like the fact that it exists, although tempered now by aging. When will I start to value the wisdom gleamed from days gone by?  To value wisdom is to learn and live by it.  Throughout my life,  I just didn't fall into little potholes, I also fell into a few huge ones...  There's something about dusting myself off and surviving that's captivating. Maybe that's my issue, living safe based on wisdom doesn't make me feel as a live as trying to survive the potholes of life.  Could that be it?  To even think that is not rational...
Of all things I know, God gives us wisdom to do what is right... no doubt that is the most powerful of all my thoughts today.