Is what you see, what you get?

Jesus tells us of an account he had with a fig tree when he was hungry.  It can be found in Mark 11:12-14 (NLT):

The next morning as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus felt hungry.  He noticed a fig tree a little way off that was in full leaf, so he went over to see if he could find any figs on it.  But there were only leaves because it was too early in the season for fruit.  Then Jesus said to the tree, “May no one ever eat your fruit again!”  And the disciples heard him say it.

Jesus expected to find figs on the tree to satisfy His hunger because the tree advertised it was carrying figs evidenced by its foliage, but when Jesus didn’t find figs, he cursed the tree.  What Jesus expected to find, he didn’t.

When people look at you, a professing born-again believer in Jesus Christ, what do they see?  Do they see the evidence of your union with the Holy Spirit or do they see your association with the world?

The fruit of your foliage is supposed to be the fruit of the Spirit:

(love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.)

Is that what people see when they examine you?

Be who you say you are; a born-again believer in Jesus Christ.  Let the phrases: it is, what it is or what you see, is what you get be true of you.

An Eternal Sleep

I laid on my bed one night tumultuously struggling with thoughts of death.  My emotions were overwhelmed with the terror of not being able to escape such a dreadful fate.  I pulled the covers over my head wishing I could find some refuge but my fear only grew in intensity.  As I tossed from side to side I could not stop myself from trembling and crying.  In my mind and in my spirit I keep saying, “I don’t want to die; I don’t want to die” but my thoughts were oppressive and kept me terrorized with fear.

Then a calm overtook me, like when clouds roll back from a storm and you feel the warmth of the summer sun come out and light your face with a cool accompanying breeze.  I heard the voice of the Lord speak softly to my spirit.  He said, “You are my child because you have accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior and Lord and you, therefore, belong to Me.”  He told me that He loves me and is always with me.  He told me how His unfailing love for me has been graciously preparing me for the very moment that I found myself so fearful of.  He reminded me how I have practiced every night of my life for the very moment when I will physically die.  And He assured me that I had become well versed in the process.  That process is called “falling asleep.”

Peacefully, every night of my life I have rehearsed my grand exit from this world.  As I fall asleep each night I cannot recall exactly when I lose consciousness and fall into a state of sleep, but it is something that happens regularly with no fanfare or fear.  How peaceful those moments are; how unafraid I am of falling asleep at those times.

The Lord reminds me that that is exactly what is going to happen to me when I physically die.  He says I am going to go to sleep one more time, then when I awake, because I belong to Him, I will wake up to find myself with Him in paradise for eternity.

Understand one thing: People will have an experience of thinking about death at some point in their lives.  For some, it may come when they are small children.  For others, it may come when something has threatened their life.  Some might witness a loved one die right before their eyes and wonder where they have gone to.  Regardless of the circumstance, rest assured, people are destined to confront their mortality at some point in their lives.

Death has become a reality:  Death was never in God’s original design for man.  Man’s sin brought the consequences of physical death from this world and spiritual death from God into existence.

Death affects the human spirit in two ways.  It separates the human spirit from the presence of God and it separates the human spirit from the physical body.

Adam and Eve brought a curse on all humanity in the Garden of Eden when they sinned against God.  As a result, everyone’s spirit is separated from the presence of God at birth.  Everyone is “spiritually dead” at birth.

In addition, everyone will experience a “physical death”, where there will be a separation of their spirit from their physical body at the end of their physical life.  Both of these deaths are a reality we all face.

Unless you have knowledge concerning your human spirit, the thought of death creates anxiety, fear, and trepidation. Unless you have knowledge of God’s love for you and what He has done to resolve the dilemma of your human spirit, the thought of death stings your very soul.

Scripture identifies two resting places for the human spirit when physical death comes.  One is for those who are reunited with the presence of God through rebirth and the other is for those who remain separated from the presence of God through the rejection of Jesus Christ.  The location of the former is the bosom of Abraham; the location of the latter is Hell.

You see, man cannot change the reality of his physical death; the separation of his human spirit from his physical body.  But he can change the reality of his separation from the presence of God.

By believing in Jesus Christ’s death as the propitiation for man in satisfying God’s judgment for Adam’s sin and by believing in Jesus Christ’s resurrection as God’s justification for man, a provision is given to man that resolves his separation from the presence of God.  The provision is a manifestation of God’s grace. The provision is a gift of God.  It is salvation.  The provision is Jesus Christ.

Accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior brings you into perfect fellowship with God.  It answers the question, which resting place will my spirit go to when it is separated from my physical body.  It will go to the bosom of Abraham.  Positioned to receive a new body that will never be separated from God but united with God eternally.

Scripture says:

1Corinthians 15:50-57 (TLB)

I tell you this, my brothers: an earthly body made of flesh and blood cannot get into God’s Kingdom.  These perishable bodies of ours are not the right kind to live forever.

But I am telling you this strange and wonderful secret: we shall not all die, but we shall all be given new bodies!  It will all happen in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown.  For there will be a trumpet blast from the sky, and all the Christians who have died will suddenly become alive, with new bodies that will never, never die; and then we who are still alive shall suddenly have new bodies too.  For our earthly bodies, the ones we have now that can die, must be transformed into heavenly bodies that cannot perish but will live forever.  When this happens, then at last this Scripture will come true – “Death is swallowed up in victory.”  O death, where then your victory? Where then your sting?  For sin – the sting that causes death – will all be gone; and the law, which reveals our sins, will no longer be our judge. How we thank God for all of this!  It is he who makes us victorious through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Therefore, if you have accepted Jesus Christ, you can continue your “dress rehearsals” with a peace that surpasses all human understanding.  You never again will have to become fearful about death.

Memory and Forgiveness

In this blog, I am going to present an academic view and a practical perspective, on how the capacity of our memory influences our decisions to forgive and forget an offense that someone has committed against us.

Have you ever thought about how the memories you have concerning an offense influence the decisions you make about forgiving or forgetting?

Ever consider what power your memory exerts over your behaviors, emotions, and thoughts?

If the truth is told, without memory there would be no need to worry about forgiveness, because you would not be able to remember that an offense ever occurred.

What do I mean by that statement?

Well, before I can give insight into the meaning, I must first lay down this foundation:

All memory does is to recall all of our experiences; specifically our past experiences.

MEMORY recalls THE HISTORY OF OUR LIVES

Now here’s the academic view:

The Merriam-Webster dictionary classifies the word memory as a noun and uses a definition that fits our context:  It says that:

“Memory is the power or process of reproducing or recalling what has been learned and retained especially through associative mechanisms.”

It goes on to say that:

“Memory is the store of things learned and retained from an organism’s activity or experience as evidenced by modification, structure, or behavior or by recall and recognition.”

As this definition implies, memory is the foundation for all learning, conditioning, habits, behaviors, and thoughts.

Without the capacity of memory, you would only know how to live for the moment, and that moment would be a new moment, every moment.

For when that moment was over, without a memory, you would not be able to recall it.  It would be gone, non-existent; like it never happened.

But through the process or power of memory, you are able to recall what happened at that moment that had just passed.

You see, memory is needed to bring back to mind those things of your yesterday.

Memory is always past tense, and it is a very critical component of what your present and future tenses can be.

Now consider this interesting insight about “man.”

His experiences of yesterday are the things that influence his here and now; his today.

His yesterday experiences give meaning to his present, here and now, and consequently, help him decide what he has to do in his current situation or in the future.

Therefore “man,” in addition to always learning new things from moment to moment is always in a state of reacting to things or modifying things by recalling past experiences of those things every second of every day of his life.

His world is one of not just continual enlightenment as he relates to those things that are in his environment, or with people whom he interacts, it is a world dominated by present and future decisions that are influenced by past experiences.

The acronym:

“(M)y (E)nlightened (M)ind (O)nly (R)emembers (Y)esterday” …

Is a phrase the Lord gave to me to use for the word “memory.”

Therefore, with regard to forgiveness; when someone offends me, it immediately becomes a historical event one second after it happens.

The incident is then immediately stored in the mind of both the offender and the offended.

It is locked away with all of the particulars that were connected to it; (such as words, emotions, actions, thoughts, sights, smells, sounds, etc.) – all locked away.  It is now historical.

It is something that happened in the past.  It can never be physically relived, only mentally remembered.   It is something that has happened – not something that is happening.

So, thus far, we have successfully laid the foundation that gives meaning to our opening statement which was: If the truth is told, without memory there would be no need to worry about forgiveness because you would not be able to remember that an offense ever occurred.

Therefore, one must rely on the recollection of this historical data in order to bring resolve to the issue of offense.  Without this information, without this memory of the offense, no knowledge of an offense would ever exist.

Think for a moment about this precious capacity of memory we have.  What a wonderful capacity the Lord has given to us.

It is something we use to remind us of where we have been, what we have done, what we have said, what we have learned;

It is something we use to remind us of where we have failed, where we have succeeded, where we have error, where we have fault;

It is something we use to remind us of where we are strong, where we are weak, where we are vulnerable, what we like and what we don’t like.

I believe with the utmost assurance that the capacity of memory is one of the many vital capacities the Lord has equipped us with for growth and maturation not only as human beings but as Christians.

Let us take a look at another academic view of how the Lord tells us to use this capacity of memory in the area of forgiving and forgetting.

First, let us build another foundation by looking at the definitions of both words – Forgive and Forget

The word “Forgive” is a verb (an action word) that has three definitions which say:

  1. To cease to feel resentment against (an offender): pardon.
  2. To give up resentment of or claim to requital.
  3. To send forth, send away, let go from

The implication of these definitions is that a volitional, purposeful, and intentional decision is made to cease to feel resentment; to give up resentment and to let go from oneself.

The word “forget” is also a verb (an action word). BUT we must use its proper form if we are to understand how God uses it in context with the verb forgive.  That verb form would be the intransitive form of the verb which says:

To cease remembering or noticing.  The implication is that a volitional, purposeful, and intentional choice has been made not to remember or bring to mind the offense.

Now, let us put all of this together.

Memory influences our decisions to grant forgiveness or to forget an offense because it precisely brings to mind the entire travesty of the offense, which could and many times does hinder any of our efforts to resolve and/or reconcile our relationship with the one who has offended us.

As the offender, our memories are of all the precipitating circumstances that brought us to the point of committing the offense.

As an offender, our memories could be of that desire we had for selfish gain at the expense of another; or that desire we had to hurt, harm, or destroy the person because of prideful motivations we had, or maybe our memories are cloudy and confused from an unwitting innocence.

As the offended, our memories are of all the emotional hurt, physical hurt, financial loss, personal violation, betrayal, injustice, anger, disappointment, which we suffered.

Memory recalls these historical facts – brings them to mind, BUT it stops there.

Memory only reminds us of those facts.  Memory does not make us act on those historical facts; something else does.

So that brings us to the crossroad.  Regardless of whatever perspective we come from (offender or offended), the question is what decisions are we to make concerning the historical facts of the offense, what are we to do?

Now the practical perspective is this:

As born-again believers in Jesus Christ, we are to simply be obedient to what Jesus has commanded us to do in the area of forgiving and forgetting an offense.

Even though many will say that there has to be more to it than that, in reality, for the born-again believer, it is the only practical answer.

And just how is that played out?

As the one who was offended – you must make a volitional, purposeful, and intentional decision to choose to forgive and let go from yourself the feelings of resentment toward the offender (when you have had your heart healed and restored by the Lord), and to also volitionally, purposefully, and intentionally choose to biblically forget by not bringing the offense to mind.

As the one who did the offense – you must make a volitional, purposeful, and intentional decision to go and be reconciled to the person you have offended by confessing your guilt and asking for their forgiveness.

Understand that reconciliation can only come from the offended, not the offender.

The syntax is: “go and be reconciled”, notgo and reconcile” – Matthew 5:23.

You might be saying right now: That is not the answer.  Elder, you have no clue.

Well, you are 100% correct. As a human being, I have no clue, BUT my creator and Lord does. He has the just, righteous, and holy answer.

To the offended:   He tells you in Matthew 6:14-15 –

“that if you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you.  But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

To the one who offended someone:   He tells you in Matthew 5:23-24 –

“that if you are standing before the altar in the Temple, offering a sacrifice to God, and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, 24leave your sacrifice there beside the altar.  Go and be reconciled to that person.  Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.”

You see after all the emotions have died down and you have returned to your ability to think rational thoughts, then as a born-again believer in Jesus Christ, you are left with only one thing to do and that is to obey what Jesus has commanded.

You are to forgive and forget offenses committed against you as the Lord has commanded you, even though the knowledge of the historical facts are locked away in the memory banks of your mind.

And those facts will always be there because they are facts that actually occurred. But it should be your heart’s desire to do what God has commanded if you are born-again.

Scripture says:

“And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live.  Remember, He has identified you as His own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.  Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”  (Ephesians 4:30-32)

And

“Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you.  Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.”   (Colossians 3:13)

Therefore “Memory”:

  1. Stores all of our past experiences.
  2. Reminds us of those experiences.
  3. Reminds us also of what the Lord has commanded us to do, especially in the area of forgiving and forgetting an offense.
  4. Reminds us also of the love, grace, and mercy of our Father in heaven and what He has done for us in forgiving our sins and reconciling us back to Himself.

So now you can see what role memory plays in our decision making.

MEMORY ONLY ACTS AS A REMINDER OF WHAT HAPPENED 

The heart is what motivates us to do in response to our memory.  And our heart’s desire should always be to honor the Lord and bring glory to His precious name by following His command to forgive as the Lord has forgiven you.

So, take some time and marinate on this instructional message and I pray that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.  Amen

Beware of the teaching…

Read this passage of Scripture carefully before you proceed:

Matthew 16:5-12 (NASB): 

5 And the disciples came to the other side and had forgotten to take bread.  6 And Jesus said to them, “Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 7 And they began to discuss among themselves, saying, “It is because we took no bread.”8 But Jesus, aware of this, said, “You men of little faith, why do you discuss among yourselves that you have no bread? 9 “Do you not yet understand or remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets you took up? 10 “Or the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many large baskets you took up? 11 “How is it that you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread?  But beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12 Then they understood that He did not say to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. 

Consider this:

In the climate of Christianity today there is much “teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees” going on.  By this I mean there is a myriad of teaching going on in various denominations that are not truly reflective of God’s perfect will as it pertains to man’s final destiny.

We must all be cognizant of the warning of Christ to His disciples concerning the teaching that was coming from the two most influential denominations in His time.  He warned them of the (leaven) being taught; the untruths of God’s message, direction, purpose and plan for unredeemed man.

What Jesus was saying is there is only one gospel message of salvation, redemption, reconciliation, atonement, forgiveness and eternal life; and there is only one body of Christ – His Church.

We live in an era where there has been an exponential growth in the number of Christian denominations since the time of Christ’s ministry on earth.  The batch is therefore larger and the false teachings (leaven)  is more pronounced.

Therefore, train yourself to search the Scriptures and evaluate any and all messages presented to you concerning your need for an eternal relationship with the Godhead.  Be sure that the message of Christ is crystal clear, for it is not the message from any man-derived denomination that matters – it is the truth of God that matters.

Therefore, train yourself to put to the test what you hear being taught to you about salvation, redemption, reconciliation, atonement, forgiveness and eternal life by filtering that message through the Word of God and prayer.

Remember what the Apostle Paul said to the Church at Ephesus:

There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.  Ephesians 4:4-6 (NASB)