Posted in A Great Irony, Knowing Jesus, MY JOURNEY WITH CHRIST, Personal Relationships, The Journey Back, The journey begins, The Journey Continues, The Meaning of Life

I CAN ONLY IMAGINE

Life is a funny thing. For many of us, we can look around and find a host of people, to compare to ourselves, who seem to face nothing of the rejection that we have experienced. However, at the same time, we can look around at others, who when we consider their plight in life, we just want to fall on the ground and thank God for sparing us their heartache, and then cry for them.

Personally, I have been married for forty-three years to a person who delights in others. She is warm and friendly, and many people over the years have expressed how much they wait for and enjoy her hugs. She loves to care for children, even though because of her partial disability due to back surgery, it is very difficult physically to care for them they way that she would prefer.

For many years it has been my privilege to observe the concern my wife has for people, and her willingness to give herself to those that others would deplore and avoid. It’s a strange thing, that the most common reaction that people have, who have experienced the kind of life as my wife, is to become hateful and try to avoid others as much as possible. On the other hand some try to gain the acceptance of others at any cost, that is, without really caring and giving of themselves to them. I have observed all three kinds of people many times in my lifetime.

I have had the good fortune, under the sovereign design of Almighty God, to enjoy the loving protection and care of two very loving and giving parents. My mother lost her own mom when she was barely four, and spent almost a year searching for her. My father possesses the manor, wisdom, and grace of sheriff Andy Taylor. Therefore, I cannot imagine what life is like to be brought up in a home, having been sent to my grandmother because my father didn’t want me.

My wife’s grandmother was a very godly and loving woman, who herself met with betrayal, rejection, and trials that no sane person would choose to face. However, in time she returned her granddaughter to her daughter-in-law so she could be with her mom. Her stepfather was very abusive and brought her up as though she was in the military and not a family.

Rejection defines my wife’s existence during her formative years. I cannot imagine what it would be like to have my grandmother tell me my real dad is not the man, who is married to my mom. I would like to be able to say that abuse ended with my wife’s childhood, but that would misrepresent her life.

We all begin with the inclination to be selfish, hateful, jealous, spiteful, gossipy, and judgmental because we are all part of a fallen and sinful race – the human race. We begin innocent in the sense that we are born naive, and then we have to grow into an intelligent and discerning human being. The heart of every boy and girl learns from their parents, family members, peers, and culture as a whole, how to act and react to their environment.

The heart of each person begins soft and hardens over time, to some extent. For this reason the bible says, “Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts…” (Hebrews 3:7, 8a) Some people hear the gospel of Jesus Christ and harden their hearts to the truth of His salvation. They refuse to accept the call to be saved from their own sins, being too self-righteous to accept the fact that they sin. Others, by the grace of God, turn from their sins, regardless of the suffering they have faced throughout the course of their lives, and turn to Jesus Christ as the Bible reveals Him.

Last night my wife, a friend, and I went to see, I CAN ONLY IMAGINE. Sitting their and observing the life of Bart Millard, I could only think about my own wife. During the eighties we went to visit her birth dad, whom she forgave for abandonment, and who never tried to contact her. As if feeling rejected for her whole life up to that point were not enough, she was rejected yet again.

Because of the love of Christ, my wife forgave even her stepdad, and has only said good things about him to me since that time. She honors him as a military man, having given himself to the service of his country for many years.

It is all too easy to become bitter because of difficult circumstances we face. It is also possible to respond in a positive way to the evils that befall us. We can pick our self up from trials and send our life in a new direction. I have witnessed numerous people make such decisions, as in the case of drug addicts. There is, however, a vast difference between picking up one self and being picked up by Jesus Christ.

It is one thing to be brought up in a Christian home, with all the advantages that such an environment brings, and still another to respond in faith to Him amidst all the pain and suffering that a wicked world can provide. It is one thing to see Jesus through the lens of our own perceived goodness, and still another to see Jesus through the lens of our own wicked reactions to the evils of this present world. For this reason Jesus said to a religious leader, who was consumed with his own goodness, who was judging Jesus for having kept company with a street woman.

“Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. “You gave Me no kiss; but she, since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss My feet. “You did not anoint My head with oil, but she anointed My feet with perfume. “For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” (Mark 7:44-47)

Those who TRULY love much have been forgiven for much, because they have recognized the depth of their own vile and sinful soul, and found forgiveness, grace, mercy, and love at the cross of Jesus Christ.

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In the heart of a person that has been rejected through neglect, and abused physically and emotionally by the one that should exemplify sacrificial love and respect, there is an absence of belief in the ability of others to love them.

Only God in Christ can fix it!

 

 

 

Posted in Knowing Jesus, MY JOURNEY WITH CHRIST, The Journey Back, The journey begins, The Journey Continues

DO YOU LOVE JESUS MORE THAN THESE

Jesus did not seek to impart love as it is measured by earthly standards. The love that God desires must first be received from Him by faith in the matchless work and person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Sinful men in their own strength cannot even exercise acceptable faith without God’s impute. For this reason, twelve men who followed Jesus largely in their own strength for 3 years, denied Him during His greatest hour of need. However, though they fell away in the garden, they soon returned to the savior of their souls.

Feed-My-SheepAt that time Jesus restored them to the fullness of their faith, with the responsibility of being sent out as Apostles.

“So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, [son] of John, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My lambs.” He said to him again a second time, “Simon, [son] of John, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, [son] of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep.” (John 21:15-17)

On all three occasions Jesus called Peter by his  Simon birth name, meaning unstable one, do you love me. Jesus used two different Greek words. On the first two occasions He used the word, agapaó; this word is a word denoting the truest, deepest, and most sincere love. It is a love born out of self-sacrifice. On both occasions, Peter (The immovable rock) responded with the word, phileó, a word of warm affection, characterized by tender, heartfelt consideration and kinship. This was a good word but a love not at all at the level of the word Jesus used.

Peter had taken a serious fall in denying Jesus. Three times He denied that he knew Jesus, and the last time he took an oath and used cursed words to say he did not know Jesus (Matthew 26:74). When the rooster crowed at that moment, as Jesus predicted, Peter went out and wept bitterly or (violently).

When I was a youngster and living on the streets of Brooklyn, New York, in the sixties, it was not uncommon to hear the roaring of an engine as a foolish teenager raced down the block. On one particular occasion, after the roar, one block over, their was a screech and a loud thud. I ran between the houses and came out on the street to see a woman, probably in her fifties, come out of her house and scream, “You killed my mother.” Even now it makes me want to cry. It was the scream of a person in the deepest kind of pain, at the loss of a person, of the closest relation, forever, without any hope of recovery.

Peter was going to need some serious encouragement and restoration, if he were to do the work to which he had been called. Jesus asked him the third time, do you Phileo me, or do you even have fond affection for Me? Peter was grieved that Jesus would even question his affection. Peter responded once again, you know I Phileo You. Peter had confidence in his affection, but he was not proud anymore in his ability to follow through with agapao action. It is this kind of humility, which allows a person to flee to Christ for help, to receive the imparted resurrection life of Christ, to meet the greatest temptations, persecutions, and suffering in order to be faithful to Him.

In conclusion,  the phrase Jesus used in John 21:15, “more than these” was meant to remind Peter of his words at the last supper, “Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away.” It is always foolish to compare ourselves with others, and think more highly of ourselves. Jesus wanted to bring this lesson home to ensure that Peter would fulfill his calling as an Apostle and not with foolish pride in himself.

To fall away from Jesus is bad, and such an attitude and action should be avoided at all costs. However, should it take place, take heart because the restoration that Jesus will impart will make you a better, humbler, and more immovable Christian than you were before.

Always be encouraged in the transforming love of Christ!

Thoughts like these can be found in my book, THE JESUS YOU NEED TO KNOW

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Available on Amazon, kindle, and eBook

There is nothing worth knowing better than the person, work, love, and righteousness of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Posted in Knowing Jesus, MY JOURNEY WITH CHRIST, Personal Relationships, THE JESUS YOU NEED TO KNOW, The Meaning of Life, The Priority of Christian Knowledge

THE JOURNEY BACK

From the time that I repented of my sin and placed my faith in Jesus Christ for my salvation, until I began to understand the Bible was about six years.

There can be no substantial spiritual growth in the grace of God apart from faith in God’s word. It is impossible to have faith in God when we do not understand His will and what He expects of us. At the sixth year mark with no learning for support, I chose to go the way of sinful behavior.

My soul was torn within me, so that I could say with king David, “For my life is spent with sorrow and my years with sighing; My strength has failed because of my iniquity, and my body has wasted away” (Psalm 31: 10). As wonderful as it is to experience the joy of forgiveness, mercy, and grace, it is equally awful to grow distant from God, and turn back to a sinful way of life.

trust in GodSo desperate were my feelings of guilt that on the way home from work, seeing a phone booth (long before cell phones), I hopped out of the car, and called the Billy Graham organization for the phone number of a church, to seek counsel. Then a man stepped into my life, who held the truth in his heart, and who returned me toward an accountable relationship with Christ and the Church.

The only thing comparable to the experience of enjoying the grace of God for the first time is experiencing it for the second time. Every subsequent return to God for the saint is not for salvation but to restore fellowship with God. Returning to God has no meaning if a person is not united with God for the first time.

I am so thankful to God for having called me to Himself because apart from His calling and enabling me to exercise faith, I never would have come to 36724-cross-sunset-humility-pexels.1200w.tnHim for the first time.

Praise God for the cross, apart from it there is no turning or returning to God.

Some believe that turning to God is a one time act. You come to Christ and for the rest of your life you are right with God. However, while that is true by God’s accounting, that is not true in experience. The Christian is called to a life of obedience, which is possible by faith in God’s promises and the fellowship of the saints. Nonetheless, there is no sinless perfection this side of heaven.

In conclusionJonah and Great Fish for now, there are sins that we commit in ignorance or passively, in such a case there should be short accounts kept the Christian. Confession of sin (1 John 1) should be daily. There is a life style of willful disobedience, which is not acceptable for the Christian. Such willful disobedience brings chastisement by God, and should bring discipline by the local church (in love). Till next time!

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Don’t forget to check out my book,                       THE JESUS YOU NEED TO KNOW.

The greatest story ever told, 

NOW AVAILABLE ON AMAZON

Posted in A PERSON OVER A PRINCIPLE, Jesus Christ: The Character of God, Knowing God, Knowing Jesus, MY JOURNEY WITH CHRIST, Personal Relationships, THE JESUS YOU NEED TO KNOW

THE JOURNEY CONTINUES

It is one thing to hear the gospel call to receive Jesus Christ as Lord, and it is still another to to follow Him as set forth in the scripture. Barely a teen and a failure at reading the Bible, the way to follow Jesus was foreign to me.

The great lesson learned during those years was discipleship. There was no one in my life to help me navigate the terrain of the Christian walk, which involves separation from the world, war with our own flesh, and spiritual warfare. Some paths are best walked with an experienced guide.

My high school years were spent growing in the fine art of becoming an odd ball. As a typical teenager there was a desire to fit in, but there were some things I would not do. Something was different about me but I couldn’t identify what it was. When speaking to my dad on one occasion, the words rang out of my mouth with an assurance that had not been present before, “I know that there is a God.”

It is good to have assurance of God’s existence, however, the devil is assured of God’s existence and trembles. Furthermore, it is equally important to understand God’s will and to be empowered to carry it out. You can only coast for so long, where there is no growth the world, the flesh, and the devil will become too much to resist. So it was in my case, sin got the best of me after high school.

The authentic Christian cannot live with wrongdoing for very long, the Holy Spirit convicts of sin, and makes living in sin completely unbearable. It is a hard lesson to learn but in the end it makes the student more empathetic toward those he/she will seek to help through similar circumstances.

As a along time teacher, it is never a good idea to be tolerant of sin. Furthermore, even though empathy is an important part of helping others to know that you love them, it is equally important to teach well that sin is the most destructive force in everyone’s life.

There is always a consequence to sin in this life and for the Christian that means discipline from a heavenly Father who loves us very much.

Posted in A PERSON OVER A PRINCIPLE, FALSE RELIGION AND TRUE FAITH, MY JOURNEY WITH CHRIST, THE TRUTH IS A PERSON

THE JOURNEY BEGINS

 

Every person that is born of a woman is on a journey. It is true that life is a journey, but life is not about the journey; life is about the glory of God. Therefore, here is my journey for God’s glory.

 

I am the grandson of Italian immigrant grandparents; whose children survived the great depression and a world war. My father was wounded a couple of days after landing on Anzio Beach, Italy. As a boy he lived to play baseball, but I watched him drag his leg for forty years of my life.

He was a war hero, but what everyone that knew him understood about my Dad was his understanding spirit, ability to turn tense times into a reason to laugh, and a natural wisdom that could only have been given to him by God.

At five or six years old while sitting in a Catholic church, and noticing a little box sitting on the altar at the front of the building, I said, “what’s in the box,” to which my cousin responded, “God”, to which I answered, “How does He fit in there?”

It is amazing the things that we believe, or rather accept simply because they are told to us by people we trust, or perhaps do not want to disappoint. Only by the grace of God working within me have my eyes been opened to foolish falsehoods.

Who opens the eyes of the blind

As a student at a religious school for eight years it was easy to develop the attitude that the path laid before me was the correct one. One day the teacher answered someone’s question, “What about people that have never heard what we believe?” The answer came back, “There is only hope for those who believe as we do.” I remember thinking to myself, “I am so glad I am a Catholic.”

One night while praying in bed the thought came to me, “If I were to die right now, I don’t know that there’s a God or a heaven. Under my breath the words came out, “I don’t know if there is a God, but if there is, please help me go to sleep because I don’t want to think about this anymore.”

Shortly thereafter, while sitting in front of the TV and hearing the Gospel as never before, a consciousness of sins guilt came upon me, and the weight of the world landed squarely upon my shoulders. After inching down the couch ever closer to the TV, I rose, went to the bedroom, and from the edge of my bed cried out, “God help me.” The weight was lifted and all was right with the world – for a time.