"Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:" (Luke 6:36-37)
As a mental health therapist, I meet a lot of people, especially children, who have been greatly hurt by someone. Their pain manifests itself in so many different ways from anger to anxiety, and many other emotions in between. When I bring up the idea of forgiveness to them, I never take for granted that they probably do not understand what such an action truly means. Usually the children will tell me, “someone says sorry, and you say it’s okay.” I love the simplicity in a child, but I am not satisfied with that answer. I will go on to explain that the offender may never say, “I’m sorry,” and you can still forgive; and what that person did to you is not “okay.”
Forgiveness does not mean that the offender is not guilty, nor does it mean that he/she “deserves” forgiveness. Forgiveness really has nothing to do with the other person, but everything to do with you. In fact, withholding forgiveness may affect the offender, but nothing like the way it affects the offended. The longer one holds on to unforgiveness, the more harmful it is to his/her mental health and spiritual well-being.
Forgiveness does not necessarily mean restoration of a relationship. Some people are too harmful to be restored to a place where they can cause more pain. I believe this is where a lot of people get forgiveness wrong. They feel as though they have not truly forgiven if they have not returned everything and everyone to the way it used to be. This is a very important aspect when it comes to abuse, whether it is physical, emotional, or sexual. The old adage “Forgive and forget” adds to this misunderstanding. Especially in cases of abuse, one should not “forget” what this person is capable of doing.
True forgiveness takes place when the offended releases the need/desire to see the offender punished for their crime. The dictionary defines forgiveness as “to cease to feel resentment against; to give up resentment of or claim to requital; or to grant relief from payment of.” Some people feel as though they cannot move on until that person "gets what is coming to them!” Or, they may think/say, “I want you to feel the same pain you have caused me to feel!” This is what unforgiveness looks like.
In the cases of spouses, you see this take place every time the offended reminds the offender of his/her crime. Every shortcoming is an opportunity to remind that person of the wrong they have done. This is also what unforgiveness looks like.
Stop allowing the offender to keep you in bondage within yourself and allow the release of resentment and payment to take place. May today be a new beginning for you!
Written by Pastor Daniel Cox
Suggested Reading: Psalm 29; Psalm 40:13-17
I was reading a meme the other day that summarizes some of my days. It said, “Some days I amaze myself. Other days I look for my phone while I’m talking on it!”
No one has it figured out all of the time. No one’s life is perfect. Yes, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media platforms might have persuaded you that your neighbor’s muffins never burn in the oven, that their children are always impeccably dressed, that their marriage is ideal, and that their son always scores the winning goal at the soccer game, but no one has it all figured out all of the time.
Perfection is an internet sensation, but life is messy. We do things that we should not do as Christians. We snipe at the people we love the most. We forget to throw the clothes in the dryer. We get speeding tickets. I often crave for a pastor to send this tweet out:
“Today was the worst Sunday ever. No one showed up. Everyone was moody. I preached like a rookie…resigning next Sunday!” I can empathize more with that than the carefully crafted digital signature of impossible perfection!
The only One who ever had it all figured out was the Lord Jesus Christ. Hallelujah, He never spoke in an untoward way. He never sniped at those He loved. He always did the thing that pleased the Father! Today, glory in Him. Worship His perfection. Praise His untarnished Name! Rejoice in the fact that He found you in all of your imperfection and made you His own, and remember that the only thing that you really need to have all figured out is that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God! He’ll take it from there. Selah!
The Scripture says, "Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil." (Jeremiah 13:23)
There is in the Christian life that which comes naturally and that which comes supernaturally. Oh, that we may come to experience the supernatural work of God!
Habits are an interesting thing. That which we are "accustomed to do" becomes the destiny of our lives.
Watch your thoughts; for they become words. Watch your words; for they become actions. Watch your actions; for they become habits. Watch your habits; for they become character. Watch your character for it will become your destiny.
Or, as the Bible says, "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting." (Galatians 6:7-8)
Alexander Maclaren said, "It is strange how much easier a second time is than a first, especially in regard to evil acts. The hedge once broken down, it is very easy to get through it again. There is all the difference between once and never; there is small difference between once and twice. By habit we come to do things mechanically and without effort.”
As you and I go about our day may we be oh so careful as to the habits that we are developing. Do I want this word to become a habit of thought? Do I want this desire to become a habit of behavior? Do I want this attitude to become a habit of demeanor?
No, leopards cannot change their spots, but this is the miracle of grace. God's power can work in us to make us more like Jesus! Are you accustomed to do evil or to walk in the fear of the Lord? Selah!
We cannot get very far into our study of “crowns” without realizing that the five crown mentioned in the epistles of the New Testament were preceded by one crown in the gospel records— Jesus’ crown of thorns. What an act of incredible grace that Jesus bore the crown of thorns so that we might bear an incorruptible crown of life, glory, righteousness, and rejoicing!
Much has been stated as to how Heaven will be affected by all of these crowns, yet how could we not assume that there is only one reasonable thing to do with them— we shall cast our crowns at Jesus’ feet! (Revelation 4:10)
“It is time for thee, Lord, to work: for they have made void thy law.”
Written by Pastor Daniel Cox
Suggested Reading: Psalm 119
King David was once a shepherd boy and a royal-musician to Saul. He knew well the value of work and shirked not when duty called, but Psalm 119:126 is not the summons of David to Saul’s court or to the sheepfolds of Judea. It was the humble plea of God’s servants to the King of all Kings— It is time for thee, Lord, to work.
Have you reached the point in your life or family when all of your striving and all of your labor cannot stem the tide of the wicked? Has any of your persistent conduct resulted in any change in the obstinate storms? Pray, “Master, your hand is needed!”
Abraham doubted the promise of a son but calmed his heart to say— It is time for thee, Lord, to work.
Israel awaited their deliverer for 400 years in Egypt; then, when Moses was drawn out of the Nile an echo could be heard in Egypt— It is time for thee, Lord, to work.
The disciples wondered for three long days about the absence of their Messiah, but the Scripture cannot be broken! He promised that He would arise— It is time for thee, Lord, to work.
Spurgeon stated, “When the earth was without form and void, the Spirit came and moved upon the face of the waters; should He not come when society is returning to a like chaos!?”
Oh, Lord, bring order out of chaos in our lives, in our homes, in our cities, and in our world! Man has tried his “Utopian” best, but It is time for thee, Lord, to work! Selah!
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Saviour, and Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope; Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord. As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine, Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do. Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned: I Timothy 1:1-5
Nearly every great theological word is in this text of Scripture. Grace. Mercy. Peace. Faith. Doctrine. Godly edifying. Charity. Pure heart. Good conscience. Faith unfeigned.
Yet, if there be one word which sums up all that Paul is talking about here it would be the word hope. Jesus Christ, which is our hope.
The word for hope is ἐλπίς. It means to anticipate, usually with pleasure, to have expectation or confidence.
Jesus Christ is our anticipation. What are you anticipating for your life? Jesus Christ!
Jesus Christ is our expectation. What do you expect in life? Jesus Christ!
Jesus Christ is our confidence. What are you confident about in your life? Jesus Christ!
Dr. Ellicott noted, “Jesus Christ is more than just the author and object of our hope— He is the very substance and foundation of it!”
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ the solid Rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand
Every great theological truth listed here in the opening salvo of the book is dependent upon this expectation…this anticipation…this confidence. The impartation of God’s grace— hope. The expectation of God’s mercy from wrath— hope. The prospects of peace in the midst of life’s storms— hope. The pursuit of a clean heart— hope.
Our hope is personal because it is wrapped up in a divine Person— Jesus!
Do not seek to claim the truth without understanding its foundation in hope, for you cannot be grounded in grace, mercy, peace, love, joy, or faith unfeigned without it.
When reading through the book of Galatians you are tempted to forget the audience to which Paul is speaking. If false doctrine is not your thing— his audience is not your crowd! To the church at Thessalonica, if confusion about the imminent return of Christ is not your thing— his audience is not your crowd! To the church at Corinth, if you do not understand carnality, sectarianism, or insubordination— Paul’s audience is not your crowd! But if you understand the human condition and know how it feels to be tempted and tried— you are Paul’s audience and the ignorant and carnal is your crowd. Paul calls them his brethren.
It is easy for us to pick up our copy of God’s inspired Words and condescendingly disassociate with the writer’s audience. We see conclusions in the middle of climactic scenes, and then blame the Bible character for acting the way that they did without the light that we now have. We scorn failures, while also giving little credit to over-comers, seeing that we often known the ends of their pursuits.
At the end of the day, the brethren are those who are born to the same Father. Doubting Thomas is my brother. Denying Peter and megalomaniacal James and John are brethren all. Demas, having loved the present world, is my brother. So, too, is Lot. Shockingly...a brother.
Ten times in the epistle to the Galatians Paul reminds the reader that through each trial of faith, he speaks to the brethren. Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness: considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. (6:1)
You are one of the brethren, and when one of your brothers falls, pick him up, for in our seasons of failure, we can only hope to reap from the brethren what we have sown into their lives through the spirit of meekness.
The following article was written for the "Sword of the Lord" Christian paper and has a strong ministerial connotation. I would encourage you, however, to read it with your life, your family, and your business in mind. The principle thus described is universally-applied to every aspect of the Christian life. Enjoy! -Daniel
If the Lord Jesus set before you today the option of being a great man with a great ministry or a good man with a good ministry, which would you choose? What are the moral implications of your choice and how might your life be affected by this decision?
In a recent conversation with an intimate friend I asked him a searing question whose implications still reverberate in my soul. “What makes a great preacher?”
Clearly, my question was based upon criteria I have long-held on the characteristics of a great man of God, to which I have always aspired to be. Chief among them, in typical fashion, are an insatiable desire to know God and His truth, to walk with God in devotion and prayer, to exude the compassion of Christ to the world around us, and to express a genuine and relatable ministry among the sheep to which he ministers. We all feel like we have known great men.
Regardless if it be intentional or unintentional, the pressure to be great is felt by many young preachers. The goal of building a great church is huge. The desire to build a great name, a great reputation, and a great life are inherent in the human condition. Singers want to sing great songs. Preachers want to preach great sermons. Parents want to raise great kids and build great marriages. The acrosticly-crafted national cry of our nation is #MAGA. Let’s say it together— Make America Great Again!
I pivot on this point to prove many others. It was Alexis de Tocqueville whose wrote, “America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”
How many of us are willing to trade in our selfish desire “to be great” in order to be unquestionably good? Have many of us are willing to say, “I was not called to realize the fruits of a great ministry; I was called to produce the fruit of the Spirit in goodness to others!” Will we forfeit our carefully-crafted paradigms of greatness in order to be wonderfully good?
We have believed the “undeniable lie” that the only way to reclaim America is to build great churches and do great works. We have bought into archetypes of success that maximize greatness, while minimizing goodness. We think that the country needs greater churches, while she starves for better men.
Burning wicks at both ends, we have no time to foster a relationship with the soul out of which we seek to win and disciple them, and at the end of many long days, our ministries spread miles wide, and our souls are chiseled paper thin. Are you done with “greatness” yet?
What has greatness done for you lately? Has it enriched your marriage and made your wife feel like she is the most important human relationship in your entire universe? After long days of compassionate empathy, has it brought any kindness and patience home to the little ones you call your children? Has it ever allowed you to sit alone on an empty beach late at night with only the stars as a light upon the Holy Scriptures and allowed to feel that such solitary exercises are in themselves a good work? Has greatness allowed you to rejoice in what the Lord has done, or are you the measuring rod of ultimate success? Has your pursuit of greatness ever allowed you to work an entire year with only the judgment seat in mind? Brethren, does our own conscience not persuade us that in our pursuit of greatness we missed goodness?
You might find it interesting that the expression “great men” is found once in the New Testament. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains. (Revelation 6:15)
The Hebrew connotation of great has the idea of greatness in any sense, whether it speaks of that which is older, insolent, exceeding, or high. There were great cities (Joshua 10:2), great stones (Joshua 10:18), great sins (I Samuel 2:17), great destruction (I Samuel 5:9), great riches (I Samuel 17:25), and great houses (Jeremiah 52:13).
David was given a great name. And I was with thee whithersoever thou wentest, and have cut off all thine enemies out of thy sight, and have made thee a great name, like unto the name of the great men that are in the earth. (II Samuel 7:9)
Job was given great riches. His substance also was seven thousand sheep, and three thousand
camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she asses, and a very great household; so that this man was the greatest of all the men of the east. (Job 1:3)
Daniel was made a great man. Then the king made Daniel a great man, and gave him many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief of the governors over all the wise men of Babylon. (Daniel 2:48)
The Old Testament distinction of great men reflects a quantity of days, riches, influence or power. Webster defined it as “large in bulk or dimension; being of extended length or breadth; large in number; expressing an extensive degree of any thing.” Thus, greatness deals with quantity. There is no moral or ethical quality in relation to the term at all.
Thus, Elihu rebuked Job’s miserable comforters when he said, Great men are not always wise: neither do the aged understand judgment. (Job 32:9) And upon Jehovah’s inspection of the sins of Judah, Jeremiah gat himself to the great men, but sadly noted, they have known the way of the LORD, and the judgment of their God: but these have altogether broken the yoke, and burst the bonds. (Jeremiah 5:5)
Greatness then is a quantitative evaluation of life and ministry. Take, however, the word “goodness.”
Goodness means, “valid; legally firm; not weak or defective; sound; compete or sufficiently perfect in its kind, having moral qualities best adapted to its design and use.” Goodness, then, by its very definition and implication is a value statement which lends itself to qualitative criteria. The question, then, is, “Is my ministry great in quantity or morally good in quality?”
Remember, in the parable of the talents, the lord said unto his servant, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. (Matthew 25:21) We see, then, that the servant was evaluated according to the depth of his goodness and faithfulness and not the breadth of his greatness and fruit.
For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. (I Corinthians 3:11-15)
In the fall of 2016 Hurricane Matthew passed over my house as a Category 1 hurricane. Last year, Hurricane Irma passed over as a Category 2. Believe you me, I know the quantity of wood, hay, and stubble! Lord willing, before the Rapture, I hope to bundle and burn that which remains! What’s the difference in gold, silver, precious stones and wood, hay, and stubble?
The first trinity is quite valuable, while the second is helplessly worthless. Also, I cannot produce the first set, but I can produce the second. In this case I would take quality over quantity without any questions.
Has your striving for greatness snarled the organic growth of your goodness? Stop striving! Is your pursuit of of greatness manward? Look Godward for goodness (James 1:17)! The hunger for greatness leads to empathy fatigue, despair, disillusionment, and discontent. Strive, then, for that which keeps the heart and mind, ensures the spirituality of the minister, and makes for a blessed life that enriches the servant of Christ and those who hear him.
If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained. (I Timothy 4:6) Dear Lord, make me a good man! Selah!
The glorious ambiance of the Red Sea deliverance is awesome: enjoy it while it lasts. The sea only parts one time! And while we relish in worship at our sin’s passed-over when the blood has been applied, the Christian life moves on to its next challenge.
Please do not misunderstand me. I am not suggesting that you stop singing and shouting about your salvation, nor am I belittling our celebration of the victories our God has won. What is clear, however, is that the Christian life will naturally progress us to the harder challenges of our faith.
For God’s children the way from Egypt to Canaan was via the wilderness. There was no other way for them, nor shall there be any other way for us. You cannot avoid the wilderness! God will turn you towards it. There would seemingly be an easier way, but there is no other way!
When Moses was led by God to make a late turn to encamp before Pihahiroth by the sea, the obvious outcome was that the wilderness had shut them in, for that is certainly what Pharaoh would say (Exodus 14:1-4). However, when you look at the story, as well as the story of our lives, the children were not turned towards the wilderness to be shut in to it; rather, they were turned to it so that they might be shut in with God! There, the Divine Presence awaited them. There, miraculous provision awaited them. There, the glory of God in cloud and pillar of fire would lead them. You cannot avoid the wilderness, because like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, God’s presence precedes you into it!
The wilderness shows up often in the Word of God (289 verses & 1,275 references to be exact) and God’s choicest servants did their time in it! Elijah went to the wilderness after the fire fell from Heaven on Mt. Carmel. Paul was taken to the wilderness after his conversion. John’s ministry was centered in the wilderness where he baptized Jesus before He Himself was driven by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the Devil for 40 days.
As opposed to a cultivated land, a wilderness is a wild field where animals graze and wild beasts live (Joel 1:19-20). It is often an uninhabited place, a land without water, that lies in desolation. It is a place of great need, where is felt a stark need for food and water.
It has been noted that there is a psychology, as well as a geography, to the wilderness, and spiritually speaking, it is a place of isolation and danger. Yet, it proves to be a place of divine deliverance and renewal. No believer loves the wilderness, but the growth we experience in God is without parallel.
This place of distress, doubt, and alienation is where we, like John Baptist, question our faith— and the God of that faith. It is the place where we think that God has forgotten about us, therefore feeling abandoned…where our past efforts are viewed as questionable wastes. It is where we feel unspiritual and unlovable. Should we return to our old life, or move forward in God?
Have you ever experienced a crisis of faith or a form of spiritual depression? Have you ever doubted the promises of God? Have you ever questioned God’s goodness? Have you ever fallen to temptation? Have you ever read your Bible and seen nothing but blank words on lifeless paper? Have you ever prayed and felt the heavens were brass? Have you ever had a dry spiritual season that followed the greatest mountaintop moment of your spiritual life? Welcome to the wilderness!
The Lord who brought us out of Egypt knows that to enjoy the pleasures, peace, and profits of Canaan we must enter the wilderness. There has to be a seven-circuit march arounds the walls of Jericho before they come tumbling down! There has to be a famine in Bethlehem-Judah to prove to doubting mothers that God is able to care of her children! There has to be a Gethsemane! There has to be the death of the Messiah to prove to fledgling disciples that Jesus is everything He said that He is! There has to be a cross before the crown!
Someone suggested that when you accept the fact that dry seasons and difficult times exist, yet God is in control of them both, you will discover a sense of divine refuge, because your hope then is in God and not in yourself. Brother, do not be discouraged: the wilderness is for you!
Why does God choose the wilderness for us?
The children of God would first need to come to know God for who He is, not what they imagined Him to be. Keep in mind they were just coming to know this God. For over 400 years their forefathers lived in the land of Egypt. They had no sacrifice— no temple— no priesthood. What do they know about Jehovah God? Little! The gods of Egypt, which they seemingly knew more, were essentially mean and onerous, but this God was loving and kind. Egyptian gods demanded your death for their pleasure, but this God deemed His Son’s death to be His pleasure for us!
Every single day in the wilderness God provided evidence of His sustaining grace. After having seen the Lord move over each of their homes in approbation to the blood on their lentils, and after having seen the mighty hand of God part the mighty waters of the Sea, one can only imagine what they assumed awaited them on the other side of sweet deliverance! Surely there were trees, lakes, lush vales, teeming forests, and growing gardens! There, they would find built cities, with terraced landscapes, and pleasures a-plenty!
There was nothing there. Few trees. No water. Vast emptiness. The exclamation points of their assumptions of goodness turned quickly into question marks aimed like sharp arrows at the heart of Moses and Aaron. “This is not a place of life! This is a place to die!”
Their assumptions about God quickly changed. Everything thus far had been easy and occurred in moments. Forty-five days later, however, Exodus sixteen declares that this part of their salvation, also known as sanctification, was not so immediate.
Their false assumption was that God was easily predictable and that His love and provision would exceed their expectations! Yet, now, they say, “How can God do this to us? He is not at all what we expected! We don’t want this kind of God! We want a molten calf! We want visible proof! We want a God that we can predict!” What if God’s goodness, grace, and mercy does not come to you in the ways in which you expected it. Would you still say, “God is good!”?
What they were learning, however, is that the wilderness is where you come to know this great God. It is the place where He strips all pretenses and peripheral things away. The wilderness is where all extenuating criteria are removed, and we come to a desperate need of God. If we are to eat, He must provide bread! If we are to drink, He must send forth rivers of water! If we are to walk, He must stretch our shoes and deepen the “souls” of our shoes! If we are to be warmed, His fire must envelope us! If we are to know the way home, we must follow His cloud! If we are to be forgiven, we must seek His tabernacle! If we are to live peaceably with Him, ourselves, and others, we must follow His law!
Even today, people do not go to the city to see the stars; they go to the desert. In a remarkable way you can see Heaven clearer from the desert places, because God removes all of your distractions. Sure, the people will learn much about themselves. They will learn how to properly worship. They will learn how to properly eat and drink. They will learn how to govern, how to marry, how to be intimate, and how to be clean. Yet, all this self-knowledge proceeds from the knowledge of knowing God!
The wilderness is where you find yourself in Him…like Moses and Paul and David and John. Removed from the city life of distractions, there is no place like the wilderness to see Heaven and Him!
Everyone wants worship but few want the wilderness. Learn to sing in the wilderness. Embrace it as your friend. If you learn to be patient and to wait upon the Lord, you will sing upon Zion, too, but do not waste the wilderness. It is your friend—- for there, God for you awaits. Selah.
You are guaranteed to live the rest of your life with someone-- yourself!
Those of us who are married made such a commitment to a special someone, to have and to hold from this day forward, yet the person that we bring to that marriage union is inextricably connected to us for time and eternity. How are you caring for the real you?
John the Beloved spoke unto Gaius, his well beloved friend, and gave him what might be the highest compliment paid in all of the New Testament writings: Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth. (III John 2) Gaius had a healthy soul, and John prayed that the other facets of Gaius' life might be as blessed and whole as was his friend in the inner man.
The real you is the offering you will make to God someday: not all of your doing but all of your being! As we plan our days, budget our time, and manage our affairs let us be quite sure to be at peace in the inner man. We are guaranteed to be with this someone for the rest of our days. May the Holy Spirit this day guide us into caring for the needs of our souls!
Daniel & Marie Cox are best friends, soulmates, and co-laborers in the ministry. They and their four children live in Florida, where they have established a church, a private, Christian school, and a fun-loving family!