Bolt Cutters



 
Angry, the king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt. Matt 18:34

It has been said that unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. That's exactly what Jesus meant when He told this parable about the king and the ungrateful servant. The servant had been forgiven of a huge debt he could never repay; yet, he refused to extend that same kindness to his fellow servant. When he refused to forgive as he had been forgiven, he paid the price for his selfishness. He had to live in torment because of his unforgiveness. So do we. 


The idea of forgiveness is often offensive to us when we’ve been deeply hurt. We think that forgiveness means we are letting someone off the hook or saying that what they did was okay. Neither is true. If we refuse to forgive, we suffer for it. We open the door to the tormentors such as resentment, rage, bitterness, depression, fear, and physical ailments. Unforgiveness is a heavy chain wrapped around our lives, preventing us from enjoying the season we are in. Jesus offers us a pair of bolt cutters called Forgiveness. When we forgive, we cut those chains that keep us enslaved to the ones who hurt us. Forgiveness transfers ownership of that wrong into the hands of God and trusts Him with the outcome. With chains gone, we can enjoy life’s seasons, freed from the bondage of someone else’s choices.

Are you bound by chains of offense? Take the bolt cutters Jesus offers and free yourself. 

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Regret, Remorse, or Repentance



Godly sorrow brings repentance…and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. 2 Cor. 7:10

There are three responses we can make in dealing with past mistakes: regret, remorse, or repentance. Although similar, they produce completely different results. Consider this illustration: A man has struggled with pornography addiction for years. After every indulgence, he berates himself for his weakness. He calls himself every name he can think of and sets his heart to self-loathing mode in an effort to show God he is sorry. That is remorse. The next time he gives in, he remembers the stricken look on his wife's face when she found the pornographic material on his phone and computer. His stomach fills with acid and he shuts his eyes to try to blot out the memory. If only he hadn't done it...but it's too late now. That is regret.

One night as he prepares to click on the link that will pull him back into his private nightmare, he has a vision of Jesus gazing back at him from the screen. His eyes are filled with compassion, but His white robe is stained and bloody, smeared with filth. In his arms he carries the photos and movies the man has been watching. "I paid for this with my life," Jesus says. “Go and sin no more." The vision is gone as quickly as it came and now all the man sees is the triple-X link on his computer screen. In fury, he slams the lid and quickly dials a Christian friend to ask for help. No matter what it costs him, from now on he will do whatever it takes to forsake this evil. How could He put more of this filth on the Son of God? That is repentance.

Two men betrayed Jesus on the night he was crucified. Judas felt remorse and his life ended. Peter repented and his life was transformed. Repentance is the doorway into God’s presence and into the victory waiting for you.

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The Anchor of Regret



 
…forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead… Philippians 3:13

“It is finished!” The cry from the bloody cross echoed through the crowd and left a question in the minds of Jesus’ friends. What was finished? His life? No, Jesus had already prophesied that He would rise from the dead in three days. That cry signaled the completion of a plan put into motion before time began. The meaning of that cry transformed a ragtag bunch of crooks and fishermen into world-changing revolutionaries. That cry has continued to change the world, declaring victory for anyone who would call upon His name. Calling Jesus Lord means that no one need remain captive to past mistakes. Jesus used His own blood to cancel the debt we owe God. Nothing was left to be accomplished. He bought the ticket out of our past.

But regret is an anchor that prevents us from moving on. We even convince ourselves that we are honoring God by refusing to forgive ourselves. But when Jesus cried, “It is finished,” He cut the cable to that anchor. When we place our souls under the blood that cleanses us, we can forget what lies behind and reach forward to what lies ahead. We don’t have to be defined by anything except our relationship to Him. Regret is a false humility that reminds us continually how we have failed. But when we transfer ownership of our lives to the lordship of Jesus, regret goes with it. He gives us a new heart and a new future (2 Cor. 5:17).

Has regret prevented you from moving on? Jesus offers to cut the cable to that anchor. 

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Understand the Times



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All these men understood the signs of the times and knew the best course… 1 Chronicles 12:32 

Unwed Teen Pregnancy at All-time High. ISIS Claims Responsibility for More Murders. Pastor Sued for Comments About Gay Marriage. These are the signs of our times. A sign means a symptom of a deeper moral and spiritual issue affecting a culture. Addiction, for example, is a sign of an idolatry problem. The teen suicide epidemic is a sign of a culture that has lost its purpose and moral compass. Violence, sexual perversion, fatherless families, and drug addiction are all signs that our culture has switched gods. We need leaders today who understand the signs of the times and know the best course for our country.

To understand the times means that we recognize the changes in our culture, embrace the positive ones, and discern the best ways to address the negative. We learn to see problems in our world from God’s perspective. Rather than stab wildly at every surface issue, those who understand the times address the deeper spiritual causes behind them. Understanding the times means we refuse to be unduly influenced by popular opinion, personal ambition, or selfish gain. We learn from the patterns in history and are unaffected by the empty promises of ambitious leaders who have no substance. People with discernment can see the root cause of a problem and the steps needed to overcome it. We implement those steps, even if it means temporarily enduring unpleasant circumstances. We become such people by walking with God, knowing His word, and obeying it.  
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What Season is It?



 

For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1



“Not yet” is a handy answer when a child begs to do something for which the parent believes he or she is not ready. “Can I drive the car?” “Can I wear makeup?” Can I go out on a date?”  The parents answer “Not yet,” because they know it is too soon. When the right season arrives, the answer will be “yes.” Waiting feels cruel to eager children, but wise parents know that disaster comes to those who are given adult responsibilities and privileges before they have the maturity to handle them. During the season of waiting, children are growing up and preparing for the next season.


Seasons may be clear during childhood and adolescence, but they are not so clear in adulthood. “Can I get married? Can I stop my education? Can I have my dream job?” Sometimes our heavenly Father also answers, “Not yet.” Waiting feels cruel to us, but it is often during that season of waiting that real growth takes place. In the winter, it’s hard to remember spring. But God sees all seasons simultaneously. He knows what we need in order to become all He’s created us to be, and sometimes that means the answer is “not yet.” How many disasters could have been avoided if we had only waited on His timing?  When we wait on Him, we develop patience, self-control, and character that prepare us for the next season.  

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Write Your Own Funeral



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 A time to be born and a time to die... Ecclesiastes 3:2

"It's a boy!" Shouts of joy fill the delivery room. When a new life enters the world, we instinctively rejoice because life is worth celebrating. We send out birth announcements and tie pink or blue balloons on our mailboxes. Moms talk for months about names, nursery colors, and diaper choices. Dads start browsing little league equipment and worrying about college costs. Each parent secretly dreams that this son or daughter might play major league baseball or become President. Anticipation builds as the due date approaches and no one fears discussing it. But we don't do that with death.

At the mention of death, the room goes still. Awkward silence holds everyone captive. We treat it as a swear word, lowering our voices and our eyes as though the very mention of it is obscene. Yet, the Bible says that death has its season just as much

as birth does. As we thoughtfully prepare for the birth of a child, so should we thoughtfully prepare for death. We do that by being mindful of the way we live during this season of life. 

Jesus called it storing up “treasure in heaven” (Matt. 6:19-20). When He is Lord of our lives, death is merely the entrance into His presence (1 Cor. 15:55), a simple change of address. If we have lived for Him during this season, then we have been preparing for the next. Every kind word, selfless deed, monetary sacrifice, or soul won to Christ is a treasure for which God desires to reward His children. By obeying Him here, we are sending treasure on ahead where it is waiting for us. We understand that we should prepare for every season of life—death is no exception.

We write our own funerals by the way we live our lives. Do you like the epitaph that your life is writing? 

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Your Days Are Numbered



 
Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12

“I’m five-and-a-half,” boasted the preschooler when asked his age. His older sister rolled her eyes. “Well, I’m nine-and-three-quarters,” she announced. Adults hide indulgent smiles in hearing the nit-picky details children give about their ages; and yet, maybe the kids are on to something. Children are extremely conscious of the passing of time. Every minute feels like an hour to a child before Christmas. They have a low threshold for boredom; a ten-minute time-out can feel like a life sentence. We excuse it as childish impatience, but maybe this is exactly what scripture is telling us to do.

Imagine that you learned you have only a week to live. How would you spend the next 7 days? Before you think about lavish vacations or a nonstop party, remember what immediately follows your last breath (Heb. 9:27). To leave this season of life is to step into the next season—eternity. We will each stand before God to give an account of ourselves. He has been numbering our days whether we have or not. When we live with eternity in mind, our priorities shift. We make wiser decisions that have eternal significance. Numbering our days means we view this earthly life as the season in which we prepare for the next.

If you knew your time on earth was short, how would you fill your final days? 

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Peter Pompous and His Cronies



 
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Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. Proverbs 16:18

Peter Pompous is the image that comes to mind when we think of pride. Some snooty guy or girl who struts around like they are all that and box of bubble gum. But a haughty spirit can show up in ways that are not so obvious. Toddlers demonstrate this side of pride when they insist that they want to “Do it myself!” They try to do it themselves and end up with a mess, after which they throw a fit. We often throw fits like that too when we end up with a mess. We may become irrationally angry, blame someone else, or pretend we don’t care, never realizing that pride is the passion behind the tantrum.

Some people even brag about their pride, as though it was a virtue. “I’ve got my pride!” some good ol’ boy announces when he refuses help during hard times. It also presents as spiritual excuses: “I didn’t want to bother God with this.”God gave me a brain, so why should I have to ask Him what to do?” “I dropped out of church because I can’t find one I agree with.”  We may strive to appear autonomous, like baby turtles hatching from our shells, but we’re not baby turtles. We’re human beings and we need help—from God and from others. Refusing to admit that fact often results in a humbling crash. Wise people have learned to welcome opportunities to humble themselves, because it is far better to humble ourselves than for God to do it.

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Corrupting Pride



 

Your heart was corrupted by pride…your wisdom corrupted by your love of splendor.” Ezekiel 28:17

He was breathtakingly beautiful. Dazzling colors flashed from his jewel-encrusted body, while music emanated from him as though his very being was a symphony. He breathed out harmonies that filled the universe and made distant stars sing for joy. His power and authority were unchallenged, limited only by the One who created him. But it wasn’t enough. Being second in command was not enough. He narrowed his amethyst eyes and said to himself, “I will be like the Most High” (Is. 14:14).

If we ever wonder how God feels about pride, we have only to look at Lucifer’s downfall. Pride is the elevation of one’s own importance beyond what God has allotted. Pride was the first sin. It twisted God’s perfect universe and defiled the humans who were created to be like Him. And God despises it. He can’t work in and through us when we are drenched in pride. Lucifer’s pride was obvious, but ours is not always so clear. Lucifer’s pride manifested itself as overt arrogance and defiance of God’s right to be God. We sometimes follow his example when we refuse to bow the knee or the heart to God’s authority in our lives. But pride wears many other masks and can disguise itself so well that we hardly recognize it. This week we will look at a few of those masks and identify some places where pride may be limiting God’s power and presence in our lives.

Are you mimicking Lucifer’s pride? Are there areas of your life in which you insist on being your own god? 

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