Forgiveness Always Wins

Sara Horn

Today we have the pleasure of sharing a guest post from Author of the Month, Sara Horn on the topic of forgiveness. Sara has written more than seven books including the popular My So-Called Life as a Proverbs 31 Wife and her latest release How Can I Possibly Forgive? Rescuing Your Heart from Resentment and RegretGet it now!  

He walked into their church on a Wednesday evening and they welcomed him. As they did every week, the members of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church settled into a time of Bible study, with no idea that before they were through, Dylann Roof would pull out a gun and murder nine of them solely for the color of their skin.

We have no words when something like that happens. How could something so ugly, so vile, and so heartbreaking happen in a place that should never know those things?

But then we hear the words of the victims’ families, words they spoke to Roof after he was arrested and he stood in court to hear the charges against him.

“Hate will not win.”

“I forgive you.”

“May God have mercy on your soul.”

No one might expect any of these families to utter those words in the aftermath of what happened, but they did. Through muffled sobs and obvious pain, they released what our world would say was their right—to hate, to seek revenge—and relied instead on God’s grace to sustain them. They made the choice to put their trust for justice not in man, but in their Heavenly Father. Though Roof had showed no mercy where their loved ones were concerned, those families instead looked to God for his mercy in their time of need, and for his strength in their time of sorrow.

They forgave someone who didn’t deserve forgiving.

As believers in Christ, we know that forgiveness should be our auto response but generally it’s not. Maybe that’s why the Bible talks about it so much.

Here are just a few of the verses we find in Scripture about forgiveness:

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)

“Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” (Colossians 3:13)

“For if you forgive others their wrongdoing, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well. But if you don’t forgive people, your Father will not forgive your wrongdoing.” (Matthew 6:14-15)

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Shortly after I’d turned in the manuscript to my last book, How Can I Possibly Forgive?, I was confronted with a situation that required forgiveness—and brought its own share of deep pain, hurt and a realization that my trust in this person had been sharply betrayed. Though they were sorry for their actions, there were lingering consequences—consequences which directly impacted me, though I’d done nothing to deserve what I suddenly faced.

In that moment of my friend’s confession, I realized I had a choice: forgive this person, or withhold forgiveness. I could willingly keep a suddenly broken, far from perfect relationship and take steps to repair it, or I could cut it off completely. Though it was difficult, choosing to forgive my friend reinforced what God had taught me in the previous months before.

Not every situation we encounter will result in a renewed relationship or friendship and in certain cases, it shouldn’t. Some relationships can be toxic, or distracting. Sometimes we’ll encounter someone who refuses to be sorry or admit any responsibility for what’s happened between you. Sometimes filtering a relationship out of your life is necessary.

But is forgiveness still possible in every situation? I believe it is [Click to Tweet!], especially when we think less about that person’s unforgivable actions and more about the forgiveness God extends towards each of us.

Forgiveness is intentional.

It is a daily choice to “forgive freely,” as we find in the meaning of the Greek word charis or charizomenoi. Do a word study as I did—it was interesting to me how often the word “forgive” is used as a verb. Something to act on.

If we believe that “love is a verb,” as the popular phrase goes—then doesn’t it make sense that forgiveness is a verb as well?

Here are three truths about forgiveness we can remember and act on, starting today:

1. Forgiveness is possible with God’s help. God loves to help us come back to him, and when we are dealing with a hurt that brings up pain and resentment and other negative emotions, we are inching or sometimes leaping away from him. But forgiving someone will never keep us at arm’s length from God; our forgiving actions will only bring us closer to him.

2. God expects us to forgive. This has no room for negotiation, friends. God wants us to forgive. He wants us to forgive our enemies who do us wrong, forgive our friends who say careless things, forgive our family members who make us want to cry or tear our hair out. He wants us to let it go, and he expects us to do it. Jesus said in Luke 6:37, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.”

3. True forgiveness releases hard feelings. The person you need to forgive may never offer an apology or admit any wrongdoing. But your forgiveness for their wrong releases those feelings that keep you from walking forward, maybe even from starting a new friendship or pouring into your current relationships because you’re afraid or because you now have great doubt and mistrust of other people.

Other emotions could be holding you back from the plan God has for you. When we keep kindness and compassion in our hearts (Ephesians 4:32), it’s difficult to hold anger and cynicism at the same time. Get rid of the junky feelings —get rid of those negative emotions that come when we refuse to forgive someone. Offer up forgiveness, breathe in God’s grace, and let that grace shine out to others.

That day my friend came to me with news that hurt our relationship could have been the last day we spoke. But instead, it was the day God led me to lead my friend back to a renewed and right relationship with God. It’s now been over a year, and I have had the blessing of watching my friend grow stronger in their relationship with the Lord, something that might not have happened had forgiveness not occurred. You never know how God will use you for his purpose if you make yourself available to be used. [Click to Tweet!]

The families of the victims of the Emanuel AME church shooting chose to show God’s love to Dylann Roof despite their own human pain and emotion. Roof reportedly wanted to start a race war, but he failed. Because of the actions of those families—not of hatred but of hope, not of spite but sincerity—Roof lost. But there is hope even for this killer.

Even through the process he will undergo for conviction and sentencing, he may still have time to confess, repent and receive salvation as one victim’s son implored him to do, the same opportunity Jesus offered to the thief who hung next to him on a cross. We never know how God may use what those family members willingly offered—grace and forgiveness—to change a killer’s life.

Hate will not win.

Forgiveness always will.

 ———

Get Sara’s ebook, How Can I Possibly Forgive? today!

 To learn more about Sara, visit her website at sarahorn.com, sign up to receive updates and receive a free printable of Forgiveness Scripture Memory Cards to help you in your own study and pursuit of forgiveness. It IS possible!

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The Next Great Move of God

The Next Great Move of God

Today’s guest post is by Jennifer LeClaire, director of the Awakening House of Prayer in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, co-founder and president of Christian Harvest International and Strategic Prayer Action Network, author of several books, and an internationally-known speaker.

Today, LeClaire focuses on themes from her newest release The Next Great Move of God: An Appeal to Heaven for Spiritual Awakening.  

 ———

A Divine Crisis. . .

Natural disasters are claiming lives in America. Economic disasters are driving poverty in America. Agronomists are predicting famine in America. Politicians and schoolchildren are being shot in America. Pastors are falling into sexual immorality in America. Violent protesters are taking to the streets in America. All the while some Americans are arming themselves for another Civil War.

Christians are meeting with persecution in the marketplace.

“Without divine intervention, what we call America will be gone within the next couple of years. It’s that critical,” says Evangelist Rodney Howard-Browne, pastor at The River at Tampa Bay. “The handwriting is on the wall. Only God can save us now. This is not a game. If we don’t see a turn in the next two or three years, America as we know it will sink into the abyss and will be gone forever.”

No politician can fix the problems our nation is facing. We need another Great Awakening.

The good news is God wants to bring another spiritual awakening to America [Click to Tweet!].

Making an Appeal to Heaven. . .

The revelation of making an appeal to heaven as it relates to taking back our nation for God unfolded to Dutch Sheets, an internationally recognized author, teacher and conference speaker, through several prophetic encounters over the course of about 12 years—and it’s igniting fires of revival and awakening in the United States and beyond.

Many, including myself, believe that it relates directly to a Third Great Awakening in America.

One of those prophetic encounters was a dream a young man named Thomas shared with Sheets.

In the dream, Sheets was a boxer facing five giants in five rounds. One by one, he knocked out those giants with a single punch, alternating fists. One of the boxing gloves said “Everlast,” which is a common brand name for boxing gloves but nevertheless prophetic. The other glove said “Evergreen.” Sheets knew God was talking to him about taking out the giants in America.

“When I look at the giants in America, I get overwhelmed,” Sheets says. “I have to get my focus off the giants and get my focus on the Lord. He can do this. This is not too hard for God.”

Transforming Revival Is Possible. . .

Transformation is possible in America and indeed transforming revival has broken out in communities around the world.

A transformed community is a neighborhood, city or nation whose values and institutions have been overrun by the grace and presence of God; a place where divine fire has not merely been summoned, it has fallen; a society disrupted by supernatural power; a culture that has been impacted comprehensively and undeniably by the kingdom of God; and a location where kingdom values are celebrated publicly and passed on to future generations.

Transforming revival starts with an appeal to heaven [Click to Tweet!].

It’s time to make an appeal to heaven and many are responding to the call in what some are calling the next great move of God.

In my book, The Next Great Move of God: An Appeal to Heaven for Spiritual Awakening, I was struck by how so many voices from so many camps in the body of Christ—Sheets, Greg Laurie, Reinhard Bonnke, Mike Huckabee, Kenneth Copeland, Howard-Browne, Cindy Jacobs, and the list goes on and on—are essentially saying the same thing. America is a nation in crisis—and God wants to wake us up, bring us in line with his heart and heal our land.

For all the doom and gloom prophecies over America, there is yet a rising cry from respected voices from various streams of the body of Christ that sense God’s heart—and God’s hope—for America even in the midst of discipline.

———

Want to know more about this topic? Get The Next Great Move of God today,  featuring Dutch Sheets, Reinhard Bonnke, Jonathan Cahn, Billy Graham, and others.

You can learn more about author Jennifer LeClaire at JenniferLeClaire.org.

 

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3 Things We Can Learn from Elisabeth Elliot

Elisabeth Elliot was a true servant of the Lord! She impacted many through her lifetime and found God at every bump in the road. She is a true inspiration to all men and women looking to serve the church.

There are so many valuable lessons we can learn from her example, including:

1. Take a leap of faith

Elisabeth grew up in a home where the gospel was preached and as she developed a deep love for Christ, she saw it as her calling to spread his Word.

She didn’t waste any time—her adventure began upon graduating from Wheaton College in the 1940s. She took a leap of faith and moved as single woman to Ecuador so she could reach out and spread God’s love to the Quichua Indians.

2. Don’t quit when times get hard

In Ecuador, Elisabeth not only spread God’s love in the tribal areas, she also developed a relationship with Jim Elliot and they were soon married. They were given the opportunity to minister to the unreached Aucas tribe. Jim and four missionaries entered the area and met with the Aucas, unfortunately their tribe was fierce and the five men were speared to death.

Elisabeth didn’t quit, pack her bags, and go home. Instead she and her ten-month-old, Valerie, stayed in Ecuador and continued to build relationships with the Auca people, the very ones that murdered her husband.

3. Share your experiences

Eventually Elliot and her daughter, Valerie, returned to the U.S. When they were back, Elisabeth wasted no time in reflecting on her experiences and sharing them through various writings and speaking engagements.

She shared her experiences and expressed God’s great love for her at all times in the good and the bad. She has written many influential books that will continue to inspire those after her and encourage us to follow in her legacy.

———

Elisabeth Elliot‘s life was dedicated to serving God and building up his kingdom. Christ calls us to follow in her footsteps, to take that leap of faith in order to more fully serve him, to preserve through times of suffering and love those who we have every reason to hate, and most importantly to  share our experiences and encourage others to follow in God’s footsteps.

Elisabeth Elliot Quote

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Finding Friendship: An Interview with Dr. Leslie Parrott

Soul Friends

We had the privilege to speak with Dr. Leslie Parrott, a family and marriage therapist and speaker who has co-authored many books with her husband, Dr. Les Parrott, including the New York Times best-seller, Saving Your Marriage Before it StartsMaking Happy, and many others.

What are “soul friendships” and why are they important for women looking to grow in their faith?

I don’t think that there is a woman out there that would be surprised by the thought that as women, we deeply desire great friendships . . . . In general what sociologists have discovered is that women fear a rupture in a relationship more than they fear a loss of independence. Most women I know resonate to their core that, yes, relationships matter to me.

I think of a soul friend as a deep-spirited friend. We know intuitively what it means to be a deep-spirited friend, where it isn’t just based on shared lifestyles or shared interests or the same quirky sense of humor. There’s a sense that there’s a connection that’s soul-to-soul. . . .We’re acknowledging the journey that we’re all taking and we’re walking through it together.

You’ve written and co-written many titles on relationships and marriage. What called you to write Soul Friends and focus on friendship rather than romantic relationships?

This book is different in that what I’m talking about is not just that we need friends, but how to create great friendship, which is an important thing. I myself started a small group 12 years ago that has been a central thing in my life and I can’t imagine traveling the last dozen years without the company of the sisterhood. The depth of our spiritual growth is accelerated by the gift of sharing it with a friend. [Click to tweet!] [In the book, I’m] talking about the beauty of friendship and the importance of spiritual growth, and how those two things go hand-in-hand.

 

What do you think are some of the greatest challenges for women looking to develop and maintain these deep and spiritual friendships?

There are a lot of challenges. One of those is we’re all so completely aware of our failings and there’s a timidity in [reaching out to other women] that comes from that.

Also, I think there are stages and seasons of life where we feel kind of lonely. For example, if you’ve got an infant, your life is ordered around the needs of that baby and that can be a monastic experience sometimes. Or if your work schedule is demanding and you don’t feel as if you have one inch of margin for some optional activity with girlfriends.

There are sacrifices we all make on the alters of our heart where friendship feels like it doesn’t get nurtured because life doesn’t make room for it in this season, and there are also private insecurities that hold us back sometimes from risking connecting with friends.

In the context of Bible study and devotional time with God, often times there is encouragement to break off into individual “quiet time” to reflect and pray. How do you see this interacting with the importance of community and friendships?

Gary Thomas who wrote Sacred Pathways, really influenced my thinking about spiritual growth—it’s one of my favorites because I think he nailed it when he talks about how God has hardwired us all differently to lean into certain things to grow spiritually. Some of us are relational, and if we try to pray on our own we fall asleep or lose track, but if you put us in a small group we can pray for hours and our spirits come alive because we’re hardwired to grow relationally. Other people aren’t hardwired like that, they might be hardwired to grow intellectually or out in creation. All of these ways are biblical, but we each have our own growth pathways. I love that concept. It freed me up for the richness of diversity in how to grow [spiritually.]

The small group I started wasn’t a devotional, we didn’t read a book together. Our structure was that we’d come together and someone would ask one opening question. We’ve prayed together and grown together, been immersed in Scripture, and read together out of those questions. Community is important but I don’t think there’s a formula that works for every woman on her Jesus journey.

I would encourage women to open their eyes—there might be ways to connect around them that they never even thought were points of connection that turn out to be these beautiful, deep-spirited places.

How can women and moms begin to fit time for friendships in to a busy life to start creating those deep friendships? Where can women and busy moms begin to find friends?

Be willing to join a MOPS group or small group at church. Volunteer for something where you know you’re likely to connect with people who have the same values. Women are longing for this and even if they aren’t able to say, “Yes,” because of the season of their life, it leaves them feeling encouraged that someone actually cared enough to reach out and invite them.

I took a big risk when I was in that season [as a mom]—it was a season for me where my mom had some major health concerns,  I was professionally in a demanding season, I had a toddler who was a one-pound, pre-mature baby and had special needs, and I discovered I was pregnant. Life just felt undoable for me.

The surprising thing I did was not cut back, but I felt that I needed to start a small group, which felt absurd at the time. I invited six women I knew, none of whom knew each other, and I thought they would all turn me down because they were all so busy, but we were all so hungry for it that we made it work. We tried scheduling our time together and in the beginning we could only meet once every three weeks. But we did it! We would start at night after the kids had gone to bed and we’d meet until midnight. It was an unbelievable thing to make it work, but 12 years later the fruit of that is unmistakable. I would encourage anyone, even though it doesn’t seem easy, or convenient, or make sense, to risk it!

Women might have friends from different places—other moms, a friend at church, a few connections at work—but they don’t coalesce so you don’t feel this synergy with your friends. Be a little risky—don’t think in terms that [all of the people in a potential group] have to already fit together or click or connect. Don’t feel limited by what’s already happening—create a way to get together!

————

Check out Dr. Leslie Parrott’s, Soul Friends: What Every Woman Needs to Grow in Her Faith to learn more about friendship, spiritual growth, and the importance of deep-spirited friendships.

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Why R.C. Sproul Believes Every Concerned American Should Read This Book

The Other Worldview

A cataclysmic change has occurred over the past few decades: our culture as a whole has switched worldviews. Today’s predominate worldview has abandoned the distinction between God and his creation, instead asserting that everything is essentially one. What should Christians think about this?

In his new book, The Other Worldview, Peter Jones explains the difference between what he calls “Oneism” and “Twoism.” He exposes the pagan roots of Oneism, and he traces its spread and influence throughout Western culture. Most importantly, he shows us why Oneism is incapable of saving anyone or truly changing the world for the better.

Pre-order The Other Worldview today.

 

 

 

R.C. Sproul so strongly supports the message of The Other Worldview that he wrote the foreword to the book.

Here’s an excerpt of what he had to say about it:

We have seen the noonday sun reveal the destruction of the sanctity of life, the sanctity of marriage, the sanctity of sex, and the sanctity of the sacred itself. The culture is not merely post-Christian and postmodern. It has become not only neopagan, but neo-barbarian.

Ideas have consequences. The ideas of the New Age, of our age, have their roots in ancient Gnosticism. That particular philosophy embraced a form of pantheism or monism: God is ‘the One’—the sum of everything. All is God, and God is all.

Of course if everything is God, then nothing is God. The very word ‘God’ can point to nothing individuated from everything. It becomes a meaningless, unintelligible word.

Peter Jones has labored to show the distinction and impact of a zeitgeist of Oneism (monism) versus Twoism (duality). The Twoism of which Dr. Jones speaks is not an ancient form of dualism which embraced equal and opposite forces of good and evil. No, it is a cosmic duality that sees—sharply and vividly—the distinction between creature and Creator, and the relationship between the two.

This is not a simple problem of arithmetic wherein we learn to count from one to two. These numbers have suffixes. The suffix -ism is added to the one and the two. The suffix -ism adds to a simple number an entire worldview or philosophical standpoint embraced by either.

Dr. Jones provides for us a clear map. This map traces the historical paths, the philosophical routes, and the cultural lanes that have brought us to the Age of Aquarius. It is a must-read for every concerned American—and especially for every Christian who weeps at the graveside of his culture.

The Other Worldview is currently available for pre-order, and you can get it on sale for $9.99.

Pre-order today and save!

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From Elizabeth George: Your Number One Human Relationship

A Woman After God's Own Heart

Elizabeth George is a Christian writer, teacher, and popular public speaker. She has written over 21 books mainly aimed at Christian women, focusing on Christian living and personal Bible study.  Her titles are geared to help women remain focused on God’s truths for them along with real-life applications.  

Check out this excerpt from the chapter “A Heart that Loves—Part 1,” in Elizabeth Geoerge’s title, A Woman After God’s Own Heart. Through May 30, you can get this ebook plus 17 more devotionals and study guides from Elizabeth George in the Elizabeth George Bundle for $69.99 and save 65%!

How can a wife nurture a heart of love, a heart prepared to support her husband in practical ways “until death us do part”?

Decide to make your husband your Number One human relationship—Our relationship with our husband is meant to be more important than the relationships we enjoy with our parents, friends, a good neighbor, a brother or sister, a best friend, and even our children—and the way we use our time should reflect that ranking.

I learned a lot about this kind of decision while reading a book written by a mother and her married daughter, Jill Briscoe and Judy Golz. Right before her daughter was married, Jill sat her down and told her that once she was married, she couldn’t come running home and she was no longer to be dependent on her parents for anything.

Then the daughter wrote: “When [Greg and I] were first married, I almost automatically reached for the telephone whenever I had a certain problem or very good news to share. Usually before I finished dialing your number, Mom, I realized what I was doing, and I made sure Greg knew about it first before calling you.”

Judy also asked her mother, “Do you remember the time Greg and I had a newly married tiff and I called you in tears? The first thing you said to me was, ‘Judy, does Greg know you are calling me?’”

I say, “Bravo!” to this mother who voluntarily stepped out of a Number One relationship with her daughter and showed her the way to make her husband her new Number One human relationship! After all, God said that we are to “leave and cleave”—to leave our parents and cleave to our mate (Genesis 2:24). When parents are overly involved in a child’s marriage, problems can arise.

In Building a Great Marriage, author Anne Ortlund suggests that couples consider signing an agreement that spells out the status between marriage partners and parents. She suggests the wording might go something like this: “I am no longer accountable to obey my parents. I am freed from that authority, to be bound, joyfully and securely, to my mate.” A pastor I know includes vows for the parents during the wedding ceremony: They basically vow to stay out of the new couple’s marriage!

Whenever I counsel a young married woman, I enthusiastically encourage her to talk to her mother and mother-in-law about recipes, skills, crafts, interests, the Bible, and spiritual growth. But I am emphatic when I say not to talk to either woman about her husband. (And that works the other way, too. Mothers and mothers-in-law shouldn’t be discussing their husbands with their daughters and daughters-in-law.)

To make your husband Number One will take some work as you deal with drop-in parents, learn not to plan things with either set of parents (or anyone else for that matter) without asking Mr. Number One first, and handle expectations (“Of course you’ll be spending Christmas with us?. . .Or coming over every Sunday?. . .Or calling every day?”). Your husband is to be Number One in your life (after God)—and he needs to know it. [Click to tweet!] And everyone else needs to know it too.

Begin to choose your husband over all other human relationships—Again, this includes your children. Two psychologists stated, “The point at which many marriages jump the track is in over-investing in children and under-investing in the marriage.”

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Elizabeth George’s ebook, A Woman After God’s Own Heart is available with 17 other titles that focus on spiritual growth as a woman, wife, and mother in the Elizabeth George Bundle—on sale for $69.99 through May 30

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Interview: Lysa Terkeurst on Faithlife Today and The Best Yes

Managing our time, stress levels, and spiritual health usually can be boiled down to two words—”yes” and “no.” So how do we make wise decisions on a daily basis? Lysa Terkeurst, president of Proverbs 31 Ministries, explores this question and how to find “space for our souls” in her ebook, The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands

Check out this episode of Faithlife Today and hear from Lysa Terkeurst on her ministry and her new ebook, The Best Yes:

In this interview, Terkeurst imparts a small, but effective, piece of wisdom on how to spend quality time with God on a daily basis—“Give God, who should be first, the first five minutes of our day.” [Click to tweet!] Terkeurst illustrates this with her morning routine—when her alarm goes off in the morning, she spends the first five minutes of her day reading the Bible rather than scrolling through social media on her phone.

Terkeurst’s new release, The Best Yes, is all about “learning to find and play the role God wants most for you to play, not the ones you feel pressured into playing for the sake of others or even our sense of accomplishment and worth.”

How can you start giving God the first five minutes of you day? How can you begin to combat “busy” and spend more time with God? Check out Lysa Terkeurst’s The Best Yes on Vyrso!

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See more interviews and lectures with authors, speakers, and scholars on Faithlife Today, a new video series showcasing powerful insights, biblical inspiration, exclusive interviews, and more—all from your friends at Faithlife.

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The Two Cliffs of Sin and Legalism

The Two Cliffs of Sin and Legalism

Today’s excerpt is from Radically Normal: You Don’t Have to Live Crazy to Follow Jesus by Josh Kelley, on sale for $1.99 April 13 through April 17. The book is a call away from both obsessive and complacent Christianity and towards radical devotion lived out in surprisingly normal ways.  Josh has been a pastor for 15 years and holds a BA in biblical studies from Pacific Life College.

Years ago, my friend Jason went hiking in the mountains of   Tajikistan along the border of Afghanistan. Americans weren’t particularly popular in that part of the world, so he admits it wasn’t one of the brighter things he’s done. He said the trip up the mountain was hard enough, but coming down was a nightmare. His party was thousands of feet above the valley, making its way down what could be called a path only in the most generous sense of the word. It ran along a narrow ridge and was covered with jagged, loose gravel. Because the decline was so steep on each side, he didn’t actually walk down the path—he slid.

“The trickiest part was staying on the ridge with only a couple feet of leeway on either side,” Jason said. “If you focused too much on the dangers of one side, you naturally overcompensated and started to slide down the other side. The whole way down we had to constantly adjust our slide to avoid going too far off either side to a rather painful end.”

Jason survived and went on to get married, have kids, and take up safer activities, including raising poison dart frogs (he assures me they lose their poison in captivity) and being a missionary in Bolivia.

Picture yourself on that same path, but make it narrower and the drop-off steeper than whatever you imagined. Add fierce winds howling around you, nearly pushing you off one side and then the other. Now imagine a rope anchored every 20 feet and running the entire length of the path. Only when you’re grasping the rope do you dare to look up and enjoy the stunning view before you.

That path describes your Christian journey. The cliff to the left is destructive disobedience. This is complacent Christianity. The cliff to the right is legalism, trying to earn God’s favor by doing all the right things and being a good person. This is obsessive Christianity. Fall off either cliff, and you’ll end up in slavery.

The apostle Paul wrote, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1). He wrote “burdened again” because the Galatians had been saved from slavery to idols and sin, and now they were on the verge of being enslaved to legalism. Jesus had saved them from one cliff, and they were getting ready to cannonball off the other.

What does this have to do with grace? Grace is the rope that keeps you on the path. God’s grace, secured by Christ’s death, got us on the path in the first place. Grasping onto his grace is the only way we can stay on the path and enjoy the journey. And only by his grace can we safely make it home. No matter how many times we fall off the path, Jesus is ready to pull us back up by his grace. [Click to tweet!]

Now I want you to imagine staying on that path without the rope. Does it sound difficult? Actually, it’s not difficult—it’s impossible. The winds of selfishness, lust, bitterness, and a host of other sinful desires threaten to blow us over the left cliff of destructive sin. As soon as we get control over those desires, we begin to feel pretty good about ourselves, and we’re hit by winds of pride and self-righteousness, pushing us toward the right cliff of legalism. Our only hope, every step of the way, is desperate dependence on God’s grace.

To be radically normal is to stay on the path and avoid both cliffs, completely dependent on grace.

The problem with the analogy is that it doesn’t convey how joy-filled the journey is. Try to imagine experiencing some of your happiest moments while walking along that narrow path—seeing your newborn child, going to Disneyland, enjoying your favorite meal. . . .

Now we’re getting closer.

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Good Friday: Death Has Been Defeated

good-friday

Today’s Good Friday guest post is by Rebecca Greenwood, author of Let Our Children GoDefeating Strongholds of the Mind, and Breaking the Bonds of Evil.

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. . . .”
—Matthew 28:5–6, NIV

Death seems so harsh and final. I can imagine that the disciples were feeling the finality of the Crucifixion as they had witnessed the cruel death of their friend, teacher, and Lord. After all, they had left everything to follow him, and the end result was a torturous death that in appearance seemed absolute. I am sure they were confused and emotionally overcome. But the truth is, if they would have gone back in their memories, they would have recalled an important event and statement Jesus had made.

But standing there at Lazarus’ tomb, Jesus spoke forth these hope-filled words: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he may die, yet shall he live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:25–26, MEV).

The disciples would have recalled Jesus standing at the tomb of his close friend Lazarus. They would have remembered that Jesus did something totally unexpected: he wept (John 11:35). These two words reveal the deep sympathy God feels for the sorrow, death, and suffering of his people. The Greek word for wept, dakruo, indicates that Jesus burst into tears and then wept silently. This should be a great comfort to all of us who experience sorrow. Jesus feels the same sympathy for each of us that he felt at the tomb of Lazarus and for the relatives and friends of Lazarus. He loves each of us that much. I believe he knew that death was not part of God’s original plan. Humanity was not meant to grow old, to suffer with disease, or to die. But because of the sin of Adam and Eve, sin entered the human race, and death followed with it. And death spread to all of us. Jesus wept because it broke his heart.

The resurrection of Jesus is one of the unchangeable central truths of the gospel. It is the good news that forever stands as a testament that he is truly the son of God, our Redeemer who lives, the risen Lamb, and the Messiah and Savior of all mankind.

What does this mean for each of us who have chosen through faith to walk in the gracious gift of salvation? Friends, death has been defeated! It is not the end! [Click to tweet!]

It is the foundation for Jesus’ gift of the Holy Spirit and spiritual life to those who believe.

It is the establishment for Jesus’ heavenly intercession for every believer.

It makes available to us the presence of Jesus and his power over sin in our everyday lives and experiences.

It provides a way for us to enter into heavenly intercession with our Lord.

It assures us, as believers, of our future heavenly inheritance.

Physical death is not a tragic end, instead it is the gateway to abundant hope, eternal life, and fellowship with our heavenly Father and risen Lord.

Just as Jesus lives forever, we too, as resurrected believers, will never die.

We will have new bodies, immortal and incorruptible.

If we put our faith and belief in Jesus, then his resurrection means that we will not be devastated by death, but we will live forever in the holy and majestic presence of God in a glorious fellowship with him.

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Redemption for All

discipline

Today’s guest post is by Rebecca Greenwood, author of Let Our Children GoDefeating Strongholds of the Mind, and Breaking the Bonds of Evil. She’s also the cofounder and president of Christian Harvest International and Strategic Prayer Action Network, and an internationally-known speaker. Her articles on prayer have appeared in The SpiritLed Woman BibleCharisma magazine, and Pray! magazine. She lives with her husband and three daughters in Colorado Springs.

 

“And Jesus cried again with a loud voice and gave up His spirit. And at once the curtain of the sanctuary of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; the earth shook and the rocks were split. The tombs were opened and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep in death were raised [to life]; and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many people. When the centurion and those who were with him keeping watch over Jesus observed the earthquake and all that was happening, they were terribly frightened and filled with awe, and said, Truly this was God’s Son!”

—Matthew 27:50–54 (AMP)

God did not forget his covenant plan for mankind. When Adam failed, God in his perfect time sent his Son, Jesus, to save humanity from its lost state. Jesus laid down his heavenly robes to walk the earth and restore that which was forfeited by Adam and Eve. He came as a servant, priest, deliverer, savior, and redeemer to defeat and strip Satan of his grip over our lives and to give us redemption through the price that he paid by shedding his blood and dying on the Cross.

Can you imagine what those painful final days of earthly ministry must have been like for Jesus?  After three awesome years of deliverances, healings, supernatural encounters, raising the dead, teaching, and performing numerous signs and wonders, our Jesus experienced one wounding after another as circumstances tragically turned against him.

There were the religious leaders who were jealous of Jesus’s popularity and threatened by his power and authority. To put it bluntly, it appears that they hated Jesus. There was Judas, the sadly-deceived disciple who thought the payment of 30 pieces of silver was worth betraying his friend and master. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for Jesus to be betrayed by someone who had intimately walked with him for three years. They had experienced life together, incredible kingdom moments of ministry together.

After Judas there was Pilate, the weak governor of the Roman province of Judea, who attempted to wash his hands of any personal responsibility of Jesus’s suffering and death. Then there was Herod, the powerless Jewish king who mocked our Lord. The chief priests and teachers of the law observed the unfolding drama and ridiculed him as well. And we can’t forget about the crowd shouting, “Crucify Him!” I often wonder how many were in that crowd who had earlier witnessed Jesus performing a healing, salvation, or supernatural miracle.

There was Barabbas, the renowned criminal who gained his unjust freedom at Jesus’s expense. And then there were those in the Roman army who mercilessly beat and tortured our Savior beyond the point of recognition. Then there were the three denials of Peter at the exact time when Jesus needed his most cherished friends and disciples the most. Finally, the Roman soldiers who hung him on the cross and mocked him, saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself,” (Luke 23:37, MEV).

As Jesus hung on that cross, he carried the weight of the sin of every person who had walked and who would walk the earth, including you and me. [Click to tweet!] Yet after his persecution, the numerous betrayals, the excruciating torture, and the unimaginable agony of his crucifixion, our magnificent savior, Jesus, became the ultimate example of forgiveness. While facing the very ones beating and killing him, he cried out from the cross, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do,” (Luke 23:34, KJV). It was a demonstration of mercy unlike any that had been witnessed in that day and time, and a powerful example for each of us.

The particular time of day and year that Jesus gave up his Spirit coincided with the annual sacrifice of the Passover lamb as the priests made atonement for the sins of the Jews. At that moment Jesus became the ultimate sacrifice, making atonement for the sins of all mankind. The veil in the temple was rent in two from top to bottom, making a new way for all people, Jew and Gentile, male or female, free man or slave to enter into the Lord’s presence through a personal relationship with Jesus. No longer were animal sacrifices required. They were not necessary because Jesus was the perfect sacrifice given for each of us once and for all.

The temple itself was divided into various courts—the holy of holies, the holy place, the priest’s court, Israel’s court, and the courts for women and Gentiles. A dividing wall, approximately three to four feet high, ran through the temple area separating the court of the Gentiles from the inner court into which only the Jews were permitted. No longer was man’s relationship with God dependent on trying to fulfill the law as determined by the Jewish religious leaders. No longer was there any separation based on sex, race, ethnicity, or political status of those who desired to worship the true King.

The power of death was defeated once and for all at the death and resurrection of Jesus. One of the miraculous signs was the opening of the tombs with many bodies of dead saints coming forth and appearing in the city. Can you imagine the response of those in the city to whom they appeared? It must have been a frightening and awesome experience to witness the power of death being defeated.

Many say that the tombs were opened as a result of the earthquake, which is a highly probable explanation. But, friends, earthquakes do not have the supernatural power to raise the dead! I find it interesting that the Greek word anoigo means “to open,” and it refers to God as the one who does the opening. And egeiro is the word used for “to be raised, to wake up, arouse or rise from the dead.” When the power of death was defeated by Jesus, the ground could not hold the dead. This also serves as a prophetic sign that the redeemed, those who have believed upon and given their lives to him and his saving grace, will be raised and with him upon his return.

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