Beyond Redemption

A few weeks ago I preached a message on how the church should treat gay people.  I called it Out of the Closet and Into the Church. (http://sc.fhview.com/sc_customplayer/seriesitems/1/118751) The goal of this message was for the church to examine our attitudes towards this particular people group.  After the message an elderly woman approached me.  She was wearing oxygen and walking with a walker.  I must admit I thought, “Here we go.”  I expected her to rebuke me for not condemning homosexuality during the sermon.  Much to my surprise she asked a simple question…

“What about murderers?” she inquired.

There was an unexpected brightness in her eyes, a curiosity and vigor for life one wouldn’t expect given her frail frame.

“Excuse me?” I muttered.  Really it wasn’t that I didn’t hear her, I just needed a moment to collect my thoughts.  I was prepared for an onslaught of fire and brimstone senior saints, not an inquisitive truth seeker.

After all, I had just preached the most controversial sermon of my career.  I opened with “If you came here expecting me to condemn homosexuality today, you will be disappointed.” I chastised the church asking why we celebrated a straight couple who was sexually active, even living together, coming to church. We allowed them time for God to work on them without judgment but let a gay couple walk in holding hands…whoooo.  They weren’t welcome.  I did my best Jesus imitation calling us hypocrites.  The church just nodded.  I the weeks to follow, not one letter or disagreement.  I’m so proud of our local church and their Christ-like love.

Anyways, here I was after that sermon, expecting a fight, instead facing a sweet senior saint who still wanted to grow and learn in her last years on this earth.  Humbling.

“Excuse me?” I muttered.  “Murderers.” She repeated more forcefully. “They are much harder to love and accept than homosexuals. What about murderers? Can they be forgiven and go to heaven?”

I explained that the Apostle Paul helped to kill early Christians before his conversion and that god didn’t just forgive Paul but wrote 2/3 of the New Testament through his hands.  I excitedly told her that Michael Franzese was coming to answer that very question.  To tell her how a Mafia Boss, a murderer, can be forgiven…and that no one is beyond redemption.

Three weeks later, my eyes lighted upon a pair of bright, excited eyes in a back section of a packed sanctuary. She was back to hear the former Mob Boss’ story of redemption. She smiled at me as she pointed to a row full of her family.  Full of confidence in God’s love for all sinners, she had brought her family to hear that there is no one beyond redemption.

Advertisements

Lent and Self Examination

I was raised Catholic and always participated in Lent growing up.  I would give up candy, not eat meat on Fridays etc. While I know longer participate in the ritualistic practices of Lent, I appreciate the idea behind the Catholic Sacrament that takes place during the season. Abstaining from certain pleasures and foods for the purpose of getting closer to God is a biblical practice I often do called fasting & prayer. In the Catholic Sacrament of Lent, they also set aside time for mourning ones sin.  I’m not advocating that part because we don’t need to mourn sin that God has forgiven. If we’ve repented we’re clean (1 John 1:9).

There is Biblical reference for Lent, I do however think the practice of examining our lives and praying with fasting during the days prior to Easter is a good habit to get into.

We are fasting and praying for people to accept God’s gift of salvation this Easter.  Our church is fasting and gathering the Wednesday before Easter to pray together. I cancelled our satellite TV subscription for a while to spend more time reading and praying.  (Extra bonus, the kids are actually playing outside.  No joke, really, it’s true.)

I encourage you to turn of the T.V., skip a meal and pray more between now and Easter.  You may find yourself ‘mourning’ for  someone who hasn’t yet accepted God’s grace or maybe even ‘mourning’ and repenting a sin in your own life you didn’t even know was there.  I know I will.

30 Days to Live, Day 7: Do you want a good life?

Do you want a good life?

I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! – Deuteronomy 30:19

It sound silly but we have to choose to have a better life.  He wasn’t saying choose between “suicide and breathing.”  The Lord made it clearer by saying choose between blessing and cursing, between having a good life and terrible one.  Choose between hope for the future (That’s what He was talking about when He mentioned your descendants.) and hopelessness.

Do you want a good life?  It seems like a silly question but it’s not.  Our choices play a huge part in determining how good are life is.  God says choose life or death and then just in case we can’t get it, He say “OH!!!! That you would choose life!”  He’s yelling louder than any coach, “Please! Choose right! I love you and want you to have a good life.”

So, do you want a good life? Then choose to follow the ways that will bring God’s blessing, not the devil’s curses.

These 30 days can be the greatest spiritual growth of your entire life, if you’ll choose to do the work, to learn, to change, to have a good life.  I’m choosing change, I’m choosing LIFE.

Prayer

Dear Jesus, help me to choose life today.  Help me to avoid that patterns that cause me to make poor choices. I give you my fears that may keep me from making good and Godly choices.

Thoughts for Today

  • What choices do I make that make my life harder?
  • How can I choose blessing instead of cursing today?

Action List

  • Make a good choice today that you have been putting off!
  • Choose to put God first today by spending 15 minutes with Him.

Facing Forever

We brought my mother home from the hospital, home to face forever.  The doctors say that she will leave this earth soon, leave it forever.  Nothing more they can do they say.  I know my God is a healer but somehow I know that’s not part of His plan here.  As we mournfully, painfully, watch her breathing slow we begrudgingly acknowledge that she will soon be facing forever.  Was she ready?

I prayed a week ago, “Lord either heal her or wake her to give me a chance to talk with her about forever.”  I know my mom had asked Jesus to be her Lord and Savior, to forgive her sins.  she had attended church for almost two years with me while she was well enough and we would pray, talk scripture and take communion together at home when she could no longer go to church.  I had only one concern really, unforgiveness.  Had she forgiven all sins against her?

The Lord gave me my petition and she awoke, clear minded and able to talk for over a day.  She spoke that she had forgiven all who had hurt her.  Then I had the honor of leading her to pray asking God to forgive her sins again.

Mom told me she love me and that she was ready to face forever, knowing she would spend it with her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Now I’m ready too.

New Life

Have you ever known someone that continues to struggle with the same issue in their life over and over?  I’m sure we all do. It can be a sin habit, unforgiveness, low-self esteem, bad relationship or career decisions or simply not staying put in one place long enough for God to change them.

Israel disobeyed the Lord to enter into the promised land and traveled around the same mountain for 40 years!  If we don’t want to go around the same mountain for our whole lives then what needs to change?

To have a new life we have to learn new ways of living.

Let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. – Ephesians 4:23-24

Change isn’t easy.  We have to let God change us, we have to put on the new life.  New Life is messy.  Ever seen a baby being born?  New life is messy and sometimes gross!  To change we need the messiest of all sacraments, confession.

Confession?  Isn’t that just a Roman Catholic thing?

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. – James 5:16

We are only as sick as our secrets.  Confession brings forgiveness and freedom.

Adam and Eve after they disobeyed God felt the wait of their sin and hid.  “I’m not staying in this church.  There’s too many rules.”  “Don’t tell me how to live. It’s nobody’s business but mine.”  Sound familiar?  It’s all just fig leaves.  Covering rebellion with a blame-game smoke screen of “I’m being mistreatreated” or “I don’t believe that way.”

Adam blamed God & Eve, The woman you gave me asked me to eat it.  Eve blamed the serpent.  The snake didn’t have a leg to stand on. (haha)  The shocking thing is everything they said was true but they took no personal responsibility, no repentance.

Repent, and turn from your sins. Don’t let them destroy you! Put all your rebellion behind you, and find yourselves a new heart and a new spirit.
– Ezekiel 18:30-31

Life’s too short to travel around the same mountain for years.  We must repent, change the way we think, and seek the Lord for new ways while we have time.

Keys to the Kingdom

I spoke at the Indian Christian Fellowship (ICF) at University of Albany tonight.  I thought I’d share my thoughts from the message there.

The Keys to accessing the Kingdom of Heaven are simple.

1. Put the Kingdom of Heaven First.
Matthew 6:31 – “So don’t worry about having enough food or drink or clothing. Why be like the pagans who are so deeply concerned about these things? Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs, and He will give you all you need from day to day IF you live for Him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern.

God knows all our needs.  He understands our desire for love, a good family, a good job, financial security etc.  He makes us a promise that He would take care of all those things if we would just put His Kingdom first.  As we take care of His business, He takes care of ours!!

2. Stay Humble
Mark 10:14-15 – He said to them, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I assure you, anyone who doesn’t have their kind of faith will never get into the Kingdom of God.

We have to have child-like faith to come to God in two ways.  First expecting God to do what He said He would do.

Romans 8:14-16 – For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. So you should not be like cowering, fearful slaves. You should behave instead like God’s very own children, adopted into his family—calling him “Father, dear Father.” For His Holy Spirit speaks to us deep in our hearts and tells us that we are God’s children.

Second acknowledging our dependence upon Him.

Proverbs 3:5-7 – Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take. Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil.

3. Repentance
Matthew 4:17 – From then on, Jesus began to preach, “Turn from your sins and turn to God, because the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”

We don’t like this one, especially as followers of Jesus.  “Well I repented when I got saved.”  No, Jesus is saying you want to unlock the door to the Kingdom of Heaven right now?  Learn to repent.

1 John 1:8-10 – If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that His word has no place in our hearts.

Be quick to repent of all disobedience because we know sin puts a wall up between us and the Kingdom.  We want God’s plan for our lives.  We want access to God’s kingdom power because He has great things for us.

Jeremiah 29:11For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.