70 X 7 Turns out to be a Great Deal After all!

20140501_205343

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

When Jesus told Peter to forgive his brother 70 X 7 times, Peter may have raised his eyebrows, questioning if that was a little much. But after Peter cut off a man’s ear, and denied he even knew Jesus, while weeping in bitterness for his own sins, I imagine 70 X 7 didn’t seem too much after all.

Much hope can be drawn from Peter’s ministry. He made big mistakes, like cutting off a man’s ear and even denying he knew Jesus. If Peter was anything like us, I imagine those mistakes deeply haunted Peter while Jesus was in the tomb. Imagine his surprise and joy, when the angels said,

go, tell His disciples—and Peter—that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.” Mark 16:7 NKJV

After a series of disgraceful blunders Jesus still loved and wanted Peter to stay with Him. Not only did Jesus live, but hope for Peter lived as well! No matter our mistakes, hope lives for us as long as Jesus lives! When Jesus and Peter first met, Peter said,

“Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” Luke 5:8 NKJV

Jesus refused to leave Peter to perish in his sins. Its ironic that while Peter tried to convince Jesus he was a sinful man, Jesus knew way more than Peter did as to just how sinful Peter really was. When they both met there were two things Peter had no comprehension of. He was much more sinful than he could even imagine, but he was also more loved than he could ever dream possible!

Jesus did not leave Peter to perish in his sins when he first met him. As time went on Peter made even bigger and more disastrous mistakes than before, but Jesus still refused to leave him to perish in his sins. I imagine resurrection morning Peter was pretty glad the limit for forgiveness had been raised from his suggested 7 times to an astronomical number of times. Peter thought 70 X 7 was a great deal for his brother, but it turned out to be a great deal for him too!

The amazing grace Jesus had for Peter was not in vain. This relentless loved drastically changed Peter’s life. When Peter surrendered to this love he was just like Jesus in many ways. Many think that walking on water was a sign of divinity, but even in the midst of Peter’s blemished ministry, he too walked on water while surrendered to God’s love. Many think Jesus raised the dead as a sign of His divinity, but Jesus said in John 14:10 that it was actually His Father doing all the work. In Acts 9 the same God that worked in Jesus was working in Peter when Peter raised Tabitha from the dead. And now wonder, didn’t Jesus say,

“he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.” John 14:12 NKJV

And didn’t Paul say,

that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:19 NKJV

Peter was practicing what he preached when he wrote:

you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. 2 Peter 1:4 NKJV

When Peter walked on water, raised the dead, and even surrendered his own life to crucifixion he was partaking of the divine nature. Peter’s ministry became very amazing when he became immersed in God’s forgiveness and love. Peter’s ministry is an example of what your ministry will be as God immerses you in His forgiving love.

When Jesus told Peter to forgive his brother 70 x 7, Peter may have thought that was a little much. I imagine when Peter was bitterly weeping over his terrible mistakes, he was glad the forgiveness bar had been raised from his suggested 7 times, to 70 X 7. Don’t hesitate to forgive your brother and sister 70 X 7. If you are like Peter and me, it will turn out to be a great deal for you too.

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.

God’s Idea of Repentance

Heron Channelside (5)

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. Genesis 6:5-6

Here we see God’s idea of repentance. When God repented that He had made man on earth, He wiped man out with a flood and started all over with Noah’s family. God’s example of repentance includes change. God repented by changing what He had done. The American Sign Language sign for change is making the “c” sign and twisting your hands signaling a change. The sign for repentance is the same motion, but with the “R” sign. So when a deaf person (or hearing for that matter) sees the word “repentance,” they see “change.”

I saw a meme on Facebook the other day that I think says it best.

“Repentance is not when you cry. It is when you change.”

Unfortunately we can’t change ourselves.

Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil. Jeremiah 13:23

Fortunately God can change us!

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17

A while back I was convicted that I was drinking too many sodas. I prayed about it. I started drinking a lot more water, and then one day decided to “splurge” and have a Pepsi. That was a waste of $1.06, because after two sips it tasted so sickening sweet, I dumped the rest out and refilled the cup with water. God changed and converted my taste buds when I was totally powerless.

The repentant thief on the cross never actually said he was sorry (at least there is no record of it). He repented by changing his attitude and behavior towards Jesus. He called Him Lord and professed his faith in Jesus and the resurrection, while everyone else was still mocking Him.

God made no mistakes to be repented of, but in the story of the flood we see that when God changed something it was called repenting.

You may study this week’s SS lesson here. 

God Doesn’t Want You Bringing Dead Cats to His Door

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14 NKJV

Ever been haunted by your past? Sometimes I will have a flashback of some off-the-cuff smart remark I made to an elder when I was kid, and I will still cringe and want to go hide under a rock 40 years later! I believe Paul’s history of persecuting Christians may have haunted him too. Except for the fact that Paul never persecuted the Christians. That was Saul. Paul was a new creature,

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV

Saul the persecutor was converted, and became Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles. -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 233

God wants to give us all a fresh, new start.

The story goes of a man who was driving down an old highway out in the country when he accidentally ran over a cat. He pulled over and inspected the cat, which sure enough was dead. He looked and saw a house in the distance at the top of a hill. He took the dead cat to the door and knocked. An old lady answered the door, and he said, “I am sorry Ma’m is this your cat?”

“Well it was she responded.” The man told her how sorry he was that he had just hit and killed her cat. She forgave him and they both took the cat to the backyard and buried it. A few weeks later the man found himself driving past the house again. The terrible memories came back again, and he drove up to the house, went in the backyard, dug up the dead cat and took it to the front door again. When the lady answered, he started telling her all over how sorry he was! She reminded him she already forgave him and she helped the man bury the cat again. A few more weeks went by and the man found himself driving by the house again and once again was overcome with grief, and went and dug the cat back up and took it to the house. By this time the woman was fed up and ordered him to stop bringing the dead cat to her door!

God does not want us bringing dead cats to His door either. Don’t go digging up what His grace has buried. He wants us to leave our dead cats behind us and press for the goal. God wants to make you a new creature, just like He made Saul a new creature and turned him into Paul.

You may study this week’s SS lesson here.

Proverbs in Light of the Cross; Let God Pay You Back

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Don’t say, “I will get even for this wrong.” Wait for the Lord to handle the matter. Proverbs 20:22 NLT 

A while back, after a friend had wrongfully taken money from me, I was reading in Romans 12:19,

Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.

While I had read this many times before, this particular time I saw it in a new light. Yes,  it is true that people will hang on their own gallows, Yet rather than just seeing those who have wronged us getting paid back for their wrong, I saw God was telling me, He would repay me what my friend had wrongfully taken.

In Philemon 1:17-18 NLT Paul is pleading for everyone to give Onesimus a second chance in the ministry. Paul tells them,

So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. If he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge it to me.  I, PAUL, WRITE THIS WITH MY OWN HAND: I WILL REPAY IT. AND I WON’T MENTION THAT YOU OWE ME YOUR VERY SOUL!

Likewise I heard God telling me in Romans 12, “if your friend has robbed you, don’t worry. I will pay you back what they owe you. Don’t take it out on him. Leave him alone, and let Me make it right.”

That is exactly what happened. Right after I read Romans 12, another friend called who had bought some new furniture and wanted to give me their old furniture even thought it was still in excellent condition. God has continued to bless me in many other ways. God has more than paid me back for what my friend had stolen from  me.

You can study more Proverbs here. 

Proverbs in Light of the Cross; Holding a Grudge is no fun!

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends. Proverbs 17:9 NLT

Have you wondered what it would be like if Jesus reacted the way we do to people who mistreat us?

What if Jesus had called Judas a backstabber instead of friend? See Matthew 26:50.

What if Jesus had refused to forgive the repentant thief on the cross? What if, instead of promising to remember Him when He came into His kingdom, Jesus had reacted with, “No way! You were mean to me!” But instead of holding a grudge Love prospered. See Luke 23.

What if after the Resurrection, Jesus had sent a message to His disciples that He would be meeting them in Galilee, except for Peter, because of course He denied Him? Instead He told them tell everyone including Peter I will meet them in Galilee. See Mark 16. 

In all three scenarios Jesus let Love prosper. 1 Corinthians 13:5 NLT tells us love

 is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.

When 1 Corinthians 13 describes love it is describing God for

God is love. 1 John 4:8 NLT 

In the three scenarios we just examined, Jesus gave us an example of love, and how it prospers.

While love prospers us, its no fun to hold a grudge. It is much more fun to forgive and love. Dwelling on love brings healing. Dwelling on other’s faults only brings pain. Jesus knew this. Don’t you find that forgiving and loving people feels a lot better than holding a grudge?

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson on Proverbs here.

Proverbs in Light of The Cross; Emotional Healing

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Don’t rejoice when your enemies fall; don’t be happy when they stumble. For the Lord will be displeased with you  and will turn his anger away from them. Proverbs 24:17-18 NLT

In the sports world we celebrate when our team eliminates another team in the playoffs and we see them fall. In the corporate world people celebrate when another company closes doors enabling their company to create a monopoly on the market. Love triangles have created even more sinister  behavior, even bloodshed, when someone comes between them and the one they have a crush on. Its almost as if people think their healing has to come from  someone else’s downfall.

Christian’s don’t celebrate the downfall of their enemy. Christians do not derive any “healing” from the disaster of their enemies. Christians find their healing in Jesus.

He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. Isaiah 53:5 NLT

Jesus did not only suffer the punishment we deserve. He also suffered the punishment our enemy deserves. We are not healed by our enemy being beaten and whipped. We are healed by Jesus being beaten and whipped.

Studies have shown that many people return from war with PTSD and emotional scars from the pain and violence they inflicted on others. Hurting your enemy will not bring you healing. It will bring you trauma. Instead of healing, the act or revenge is trauma to your own soul.

Jesus was beaten and whipped for your enemy. Is that not enough? it is insane to believe that seeing our enemy fall, could bring us any healing or make us whole.

Jesus went to the cross to heal us and make us whole. Look to Jesus and not your enemy for healing.

He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. Isaiah 53:5 NLT

Thinking we need to see our enemy suffer in order to be healed and made whole, is saying Jesus did not suffer enough on the cross to heal and make me whole.

Proverbs in Light of The Cross; Character Traits

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

 

An evil man is held captive by his own sins; they are ropes that catch and hold him.
He will die for lack of self-control;    he will be lost because of his great foolishness. Proverbs 5:22-23 NLT 

 

Even one wrong trait of character, one sinful desire, persistently cherished, will eventually neutralize all the power of the gospel. Every sinful indulgence strengthens the soul’s aversion to God. The man who manifests an infidel hardihood, or a stolid indifference to divine truth, is but reaping the harvest of that which he has himself sown. In all the Bible there is not a more fearful warning against trifling with evil than the words of the wise man that the sinner “shall be holden with the cords of his sins.” Proverbs 5:22.  
Christ is ready to set us free from sin, but He does not force the will; and if by persistent transgression the will itself is wholly bent on evil, and we do not desire to be set free, if we will not accept His grace, what more can He do? We have destroyed ourselves by our determined rejection of His love. “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” “Today if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts.” 2 Corinthians 6:2; Hebrews 3:7, 8.-Ellen White, Steps to Christ, Page 34 

Do not listen to the enemy’s suggestion to stay away from Christ until you have made yourself better; until you are good enough to come to God. If you wait until then, you will never come. When Satan points to your filthy garments, repeat the promise of Jesus, “Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out.” John 6:37. Tell the enemy that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from all sin. Make the prayer of David your own, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” Psalm 51:7-Ellen White, Christ Object Lessons, Page 205