Using the ‘F’ word

C&S media publications | 972-442-5515 OPINION & COMMENTARY July 26 – 27, 2017 7A

article-pic Using the ‘F’ word

Did I get your attention? Hopefully I did. In our church we’ve been in a series on prayer in an effort to make people aware of the power and necessity of a generous prayer life. Most people desire a prayerful relationship with God, but many of us don’t know what to say or how to even begin. This is not unusual…the disciples had the same challenge during the days of Jesus. Obviously, the disciples were deeply moved when they observed Jesus praying…so deeply moved that one of them asked Jesus to teach him to pray in Luke chapter 11.

In Matthew chapter 6 Jesus gives instructions concerning prayer and He includes a model prayer, commonly known as the Lord’s Prayer in verses 9 through 13. But there’s one portion of the prayer that seems to be emphasized more than the others. And as many times as I’ve read these verses I’ve never noticed it until recently. At the end of the prayer, Jesus actually takes time to go back and re-emphasize a specific part of the model prayer. Here’s Jesus’s re-emphasis found in verses 14 and 15, “ For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Jesus identifies verse 12 as a critical part of His model prayer and re-emphasizes it in verses 14 and 15. Verse 12 contains the ‘F’ word…forgiveness.

Verse 12, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”, may very well be the most critical part of the prayer. The whole process of forgiveness is found throughout scripture, and is one of the foundational aspects for our relationship with God. The simple fact that God forgave us and sent His Son to die for us is the reason why we can have a relationship with Him today. All because God forgave us.

So, the question is ‘Why is forgiveness so important?’ Further understanding of scripture reveals the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant in Matthew 18. In summary, Jesus tells of a king who forgives his servant of an amount that the servant could never possibly repay, but that same servant refused to forgive someone who owed him a very small debt. When the king heard of the actions of the servant, he was handed over to be tortured. But the most important aspect of the story is found in verse 35 where Jesus states “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

You and I are in the same predicament as the servant…we owe a large debt that we cannot repay, it’s the debt of sin. But God forgave us of a debt that we could not pay and He cannot compute how we could be unforgiving to those who sin against us…our actions of unforgiveness are unconceivable to Him. Thus the ‘F’ word should be a more common part of our daily conversations and actions.

So, here’s some million dollar questions…whom have you not forgiven? What anger are you harboring in your heart against someone? What are you doing about it? Have you reconciled with the person who has hurt you? What’s your next step to restore the relationship? And if you’re thinking that this is not that important, go back and read verse 35 of Matthew 18 and think again. Maybe you’re on the fence about something and not completely sure if you’ve really forgiven someone in your heart. If so, I have a quick one-question test for you to take that’ll help provide an answer for you. Are you ready for the question? The question is “Do you still find yourself talking about what this person did to you?” If you do, maybe you haven’t quite forgiven the way that God desires you to. May God bless you in your efforts to be like Him in the area of forgiveness.

Turning Fathers to Dads

C&S media publications | 972-442-5515 OPINION & COMMENTARY June 13 – 14, 2017 7A

article-pic Turning Fathers to Dads

Father’s Day is upon us in just a few days and I’m pretty sure that the spending won’t change…year after year there has been more spending for Mother’s Day than there has been for Father’s Day. As a matter of fact, I don’t think there has ever been a year in which there was more spending on fathers than for mothers. I’m a father of three children and I truly enjoy being one! It has nothing to do with how much my children spend on me (although I’ve been hinting to them to get me a new car), but I enjoy watching them grow up and become great assets to society. I must admit that I’m still learning how to be a father, and more importantly a dad…it’s a lifelong lesson.

Whenever it comes to learning how to be a father, the best model is found in our Heavenly Father. The Bible depicts a time when Jesus was about to experience a defining moment in His life, and God the Father was present during that moment. This must have been a very important defining moment because it was recorded in all three synoptic Gospels. But it was during this moment that God the Father said something to His Son Jesus that was very impactful. The scriptures reveal in Luke 3:22b the Father’s words: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” Very short and simple, but extremely powerful.

When I read this, I learn how to not just be a father, but to be a dad. Here we see our Heavenly Father speaking to His Son with encouraging words. Some people may not think much of this, but it is not uncommon in society today for parents, especially fathers, to be so busy that they barely have time for their children. But the example of God is clearly seen as He not only shows up for Jesus’s defining moment, but He also speaks to Him and tells Him that He (Jesus) is His Son. Can I ask you a question? When was the last time you had a meaningful talk with your child where you’ve imparted encouraging words into their life? For most of us, it’s probably been a very long time.

But not only that, there’s a deeper meaning to the words of God the Father to His Son Jesus. Not only is the Father present, but He acknowledges His Son. He states, “You are my Son…” You may think these words don’t mean much, but they do. The Father was making a verbal acknowledgement of His Son. Have you ever thought about how it makes your child(ren) feel when they verbally hear your loving acknowledgement of them? It provides them with a sense of security in knowing that they are not just yours biologically, but intimately.
From a biblical perspective, calling someone a ‘son’ had multiple meanings. One of the meanings is identified when God installed a king on the throne. When this was done, God called the king His son. An example of this is found in 2 Samuel 7:14a where God speaks to David about his son Solomon and says, “I will be his father, and he will be my son.” God the Father was not the biological father of Solomon, but God’s words indicate that Solomon would enjoy a father/son relationship with God. This was an intimate loving relationship that God promised He would have with Solomon.

It’s a wonderful thing when fathers ‘enthrone’ their children through loving verbal acknowledgement and calling them their sons and daughters…it’s as if we lift them up and declare God’s blessings and favor in their lives. This is the difference between a father and a dad. So, the very next time you see your child(ren), hug them, love on them and tell them that they’re yours. No matter what your relationship with your child(ren) is at this moment, you can begin the transition from father to dad right now…what’s stopping you?

Right Things Begin With You

C&S media publications | 972-442-5515 OPINION & COMMENTARY April 27 – 28, 2016 9A

article-pic Right Things Begin With You

It was three decades ago when I first saw the woman who is now my wife. I’ll
have to admit that I was in awe when I saw her…and even though I knew
absolutely nothing about her, she was captivating in a way that I could not
explain. As shy and introverted as I was, I made a choice (and a good one I
might add), to pursue her…I wanted to know everything there was to know
about her.

We all have a lot of ‘wants’ in our lives…as a matter of fact, our hearts are filled with so many wants that we could probably never have them all filled. Just imagine someone giving you the opportunity to have whatever you want…you probably wouldn’t know where to begin! That’s because, in many cases, our eyes are bigger than our stomachs. In other words, we think or feel that there are many things that we want or even need, but later find that we really don’t want or need those things as much as we thought. I find this to be true during Christmas time…children beg and plead for things that they want, only to find those things buried in a closet a month later.

The scriptures tell the story of a man who had a want…a big want; he had been sick for thirty-eight years. He was amongst a crowd of sick people who laid around a pool where healing would take place from time to time. Simply, whoever got into the pool first when the water was stirred would be healed. This sounds easy enough, but obviously it wasn’t because Jesus asked this man a very pivotal question at the end of John 5:6. Jesus asked him, “Do you want to get well?” On the surface, this doesn’t seem like a very smart question that was asked by Jesus. Many of us would obviously agree that being sick for thirty-eight years is an extremely long time, and the man’s presence at the healing pool was an apparent indication of his desire to be well. But Jesus learned that this man had been lying there in the same condition for a very long time. Why was this man not yet healed?

When Jesus asked the question “Do you want to get well?”, He asked it for a reason. Better put, Jesus was asking “Do you want to change your situation?” Maybe there was something about this man that Jesus either saw outwardly or inwardly that caused him to ask the question. Yes, the man was in the place to be healed, yet he was still sick. Did he really want to get well? In other words, was there an authentic desire in his mind and heart to get well, or had he sadly positioned himself amongst other sick people and subconsciously become comfortable in his state of being? Did he really want his situation to change?

I find the state of this man like many of us today…there’s something we want to accomplish, but not really doing all that we can to see it to fruition. We’ve been in our current unwanted state for a long period of time with no change. Maybe we have the right resources and are surrounded with the right people, but there’s something within that is hindering us from being in the place or state that God desires us to be. Maybe it’s to be in a better financial state, better physical condition or most importantly, better relationship with God. Whatever it is, are you doing all that you could possibly do to change your situation? What’s hindering you, because Jesus is asking you the same question He asked the sick man in John chapter 5, “Do you truly want to change your situation?” Jesus is here to help you just as He did the sick man.

Lead us not into temptation

C&S media publications | 972-442-5515 OPINION & COMMENTARY September 6-7, 2017 5A

article-pic Lead us not into temptation

Growing up as a child there were some fundamental things that my parents instilled in us. In addition to being mannerable and respectful to adults, we were also required to know some Christian basics. Two of those basics were the Ten Commandments and what is commonly known as the Lord’s Prayer, which we had to commit to memory. I can vividly remember the awe and excitement that I felt every year around Easter time when the movie ‘The Ten Commandments’ came on television. We would huddle around the 21-inch screen for two nights watching Charlton Heston at his best.

But I must admit that while growing up into adulthood, there was a part of the Jesus’s model prayer that made me think a little…it just didn’t sound right. It’s the part found in verse 13 of Matthew chapter 6 when Jesus said ‘and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us form the evil one’. It was strange to me that I would have to pray that God would not lead me into temptation. Why would God want to lead me into a place where I would be tempted to sin? This was puzzling to me.

My misunderstanding stemmed from the word ‘temptation’. When this word is used we immediately think of being enticed to evil. But looking at James chapter 1 revealed something about the word ‘temptation’ that most people do not consider. James writes in verse 12a, ‘Blessed is the man that endureth temptation.’ The word ‘temptation’ in its original language is translated ‘test’ or ‘trial’. So really James is saying, ‘Blessed is the man that endureth trial’. But the very next verse (verse 13), uses the same word (temptation) with a different meaning. James writes, ‘ When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone…’. This time the word is used to describe the enticement to sin. The same word is being used but in an entirely different context. This helped me to understand the words of Jesus in Matthew 6.

Trials and seduction to sin are not the same, but are closely related. Trials can have an effect on us to the point that it may entice us to sin. We know that God will never entice us to sin…that’s not the nature of God. But we also know from James that though it’s a blessing to endure trials, trials can lead us to sin…how do we make sense of the two? When Jesus tells us to pray ‘and lead us not into temptation’ He’s telling us to pray that we don’t have more tests because even though the tests can make us strong, we don’t want them all the time…we may become weary and fail. Just like in school, the tests were good for us because it showed us our strengths and weaknesses concerning our knowledge of the subject, but we didn’t pray for tests all the time…as a matter of fact, we prayed just the opposite! It’s the same way with God.

Though God would never entice us to sin, He can very well lead us to a place where temptation lies. I know this may be hard to believe, but it’s true. Even Jesus Himself was led into the wilderness by the Spirit to be tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:1). See, God allows us to be in a place where temptation is strong and could possible overtake us so that the posture of our hearts can be revealed. Jesus was offered the kingdoms of this world if He would bow down and worship Satan, but He refused. Jesus chose to do the right thing, it exposed the posture of His heart because it was more important for Him to obey God than to gain materials and power.

So the next time you pray a prayer similar to the model prayer that Jesus gave us, just remember that you’re not asking God to not entice you to sin, but rather that your trials would be minimal so that you would not become weary. Now you can pray with confidence and understanding.