Forgive Always

We put up the Christmas tree this weekend. Everyone was there except my son, who landed in the hospital two weeks ago. We are still trying to understand what is going on with him. I am sure that whatever it is, the good doctors in town will provide a proper diagnosis soon. I guess the one positive thing I can take away from this experience is that the hospital is only four minutes away from our home. Yes, I timed it.

For my final post of 2017, before I go on hiatus, I wanted to talk a bit about forgiveness. I know I have written about this subject in the past, and I have preached about it, too. And I have written a book called When Forgiveness Is Enough regarding this topic. So, I would say, I am fully aware of the details and nuances concerning forgiveness, and of what it does to the person who is doing the forgiving.

Given it is the season to be merry I find I cannot be merry if I am harboring a grudge. More times than not, a grudge eats away at the very fabric of who we are and takes away from the enjoyment of whatever it is we are doing. I cannot say how important it is to let go of the past in order to move forward with the future. Part of that also is removing bitterness from our lives. As it says in Hebrews:

“See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled” (Heb. 12:15 ESV throughout).

If we allow bitterness to infect our heart, that root will grow and spread to all our other relationships, ruining everything we have worked to build. The remedy is to let go of that root, dig it out of our hearts, and live lives free from the burden of bitterness, anger and resentment.

My sermon on forgiveness from November 5, 2017:

Yes, it is easy to say, but when has a hard thing been easy to do? The Apostle Luke has a solution we can take to heart:

“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27-28).

In other words, Luke says to do good, bless and pray for those who hate, curse and abuse us. That is tough to do, especially if some of us have experienced physical and sexual abuse. How can we forgive a predator?

As Christians, though, the act of forgiving another human being needs to be part of our nature. We cannot allow a root of bitterness to grow and fester until it is too late. We have to get rid of it, and replace vengeance with doing good. Only then will we become selfless as Christ Jesus, who gave himself on the cross as a sacrifice for the sin of the world, thereby saving us from sin’s penalty (Rom. 6:23).

That is the one message I would like to leave with you during this holiday season. Forgive, as you would like others to forgive you. In so doing, your reward will be great in heaven.

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Give, and It Will Be Given to You

The preparation for the holidays is one of my favorite times of the year. I like the hustle and bustle of shopping, eating out, visiting with friends and family, watching all the seasonal movies on TV. More importantly, I get more of a thrill by giving to those who are lacking.

I have had experiences where I have seen people give their coats to the homeless and provide meals to them on the street. Jesus said:

“Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:38 ESV).

This principle of giving works. It actually works!

I cannot say how many times I have given to others without expecting anything in return, only to have someone give to me in the very same way I did. It is like a law of physics, except this is more of a law of giving. The more I give the more comes back to me, sometimes even ten-fold.

I guess what I am trying to say today with this post is, we cannot take what we have with us. As much as we try in this lifetime to accumulate wealth, at the end of our lives, we will leave it all behind, and in some cases, the government takes it all.

During this time of year, let us give without holding back. Let us be examples for others to follow. The more we give, the more will come back to us. Then, the cycle will continue until we would not know what to do with all the blessings.

Receive the Unexpected

Last week I had the opportunity to preach my message of forgiveness at my church. The event turned out to be a great way to spread the gospel and it gave me the chance to lay my hands on those wanting prayer. I had also brought a stack of my new book WHEN FORGIVENESS IS ENOUGH with me that quickly vanished.

The funny thing about the whole thing is that I had written my sermon twice, months in advance, only to accidentally delete both on separate occasions. So I had resolved to prepare my message a week before without any forethought as to what I was going to preach.

Sure enough, that was when I knew God was there with me while I was delivering his message.

I tend to stumble over my words, simply because I race through what I want to say and my mouth has trouble keeping up with all the ideas firing through my brain. In this case, though, I purposely slowed my speech, and with the Holy Spirit leading me, everything I wanted to say, I said.

What happened to me reminds me of what happened to Moses:

“But Moses said to the Lord, ‘Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.’ Then the Lord said to him, ‘Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak’” (Ex. 4:10-12 ESV).

This took place just before Moses and his brother Aaron went before Pharaoh to ask him to let his people go.

I am thinking now if God could do that with me, untie my tongue just as he had done with Moses, imagine what else he could do if Christians lay all their burdens at God’s feet. I say this because I sometimes feel I may be bothering God with what I ask of him. Yet Jesus made it clear that if I ask for my heart’s desire in his name, if it is his will, I would receive it (John 16:24).

Therefore, we should not think it strange when we do not receive what we ask for, because we may have asked for it not needing it. Yet when we do receive our heart’s desire, it was God’s will all along. And that presses us forward to believe even more in Jesus’ sovereignty as King of King and Lord of Lords.

What a wonderful thing to know when life becomes what we do not expect.

God’s Mercy

Next Sunday, I will be at Catch the Fire Newmarket speaking about forgiveness (details in Latest News). Given I have written about forgiveness on multiple occasions, including releasing a book last week about the topic, I thought it would be appropriate to condense my thoughts in a sermon.

For today’s post, however, I would like to talk a bit about God’s mercy. I know for some people, evidence of God’s mercy may seem non-existent. After all, there is so much chaos in the world, who would believe God has any mercy? But for us Christians, who look to him for guidance and support, God is not only real, but also the source of our strength, in spite of the trials and problems we may face.

I know in my case, I have had a horrendous few months to the point where it makes me want to go back to the spring when everything was perfect. Life does not work that way, though. We have to take what we receive, grow from it, become stronger, and help others who face similar situations. We cannot pick and choose our trials, God does that for us.

And yet, God will never give us a trial that is greater than what we can handle. Have a look at what the apostle Paul writes to the Corinthians:

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13 ESV).

Temptation, trial or test, is God’s way of building our faith in him. Even more so, if you read the last part of that verse, Paul is saying, God shows us mercy by providing a way of escape.

In other words, every trial has a way out.

That is how I have been able to endure so much pain recently. I am dropping on my knees, petitioning God for that way of escape. And every time, and it may not be soon, he shows me that way of escape.

I just would like every reader today to know that God is a merciful god. He is a loving God. He will test us, but he will always provide a way out. Know that his will is for us to grow in the light, knowledge and faith in Christ Jesus. Only then will we have the endurance to overcome in order to be perfect as he is perfect.

Now Available!

Jack Flacco is pleased to announce his latest book WHEN FORGIVENESS IS ENOUGH: MAKING SENSE OF GOD’S CALLING is now available to purchase:

When the apostle Peter asked Jesus how many times he should forgive his brother, Jesus answered seventy-seven times. This was to illustrate God’s forgiveness is boundless, without end. A week after that conversation, God gave his only son as a sacrifice to save many from the penalty of sin.

What would it be like to forgive as God forgives? Is it possible to erase from memory someone else’s slight, in spite of the lingering bad feelings brought on by bitterness?

God’s calling to forgive one another is just the beginning. His desire is to overwhelm people with his spirit so that a hardened heart may melt to become loving and generous. Above everything else, God wants a relationship with every person who hears his word. In this practical guide, Jack Flacco recounts the events that led to his transformation and explores techniques that has allowed him to overcome hatred, envy and resentment.

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God Allows Suffering

Over the weekend, my friends and I participated in a lively discussion about God’s role in a person’s suffering. My friends were of the mindset that God does not allow suffering. Considering all that my son has gone through these past few months with his health, and the automobile accident my wife experienced, I was of a differing opinion.

I expressed that suffering for a Christian is necessary and even welcomed, as it is God’s way to build faith within a person. God did not promise we would not go through trials in this lifetime. On the contrary, he promised that we would (John 15:20). And they would be fiery trials, the kind that molds us into his image and binds us to his spirit (1 Pet. 4:12-13).

The scripture I brought up was that of Job. Now Job, he was a righteous man, and there was a day that the sons of God came before God to give a report of their doings. Among them was Satan. God asked, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” (Job 1:8 ESV throughout).

God loved Job, but at the same time, he wanted to test Job to see if his righteousness was true and not self-serving. He could have chosen to do that any number of ways. In this case, God was going to use Satan to bring calamity upon Job.

That does not sound right, does it? How could God do that to someone he loves?

Yet Satan, not knowing it was God’s plan all along, said to God, “Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face” (v. 10-11).

And so God said, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand” (v. 12).

In other words, God allowed Satan to touch Job’s life, destroy his property and kill his family, but he could not physically touch Job himself. It was not until later in the book that we find out that God eventually allowed Satan to affect Job’s health also.

From what I see, God is in control not only of Job’s suffering, but also of Satan’s ability to hurt Job. Saying it another way, God allowed Job to suffer.

God has reasons people suffer. For Job, he had to see how self-righteous he was before God blessed him with double his possessions and family. However, the one person who suffered the most in this world, and whom God allowed that suffering to take place, was Christ Jesus. For a moment in time, God had to let events play out while Jesus suffered the humiliation of a criminal, whipped until his flesh hung from his bone, nailed to a tree until he gasped for every ounce of life, and died to the pleasure of the Romans who crucified him.

But, and this was God’s plan all along, Jesus rose from the dead, took his seat at the right hand of the father (Eph. 1:20), and through him, believing in him, Christians have salvation (Acts 4:11-12).

No one on this planet can convince me that God does not allow people to suffer. It is unbiblical and a lie. What is not a lie is that all the apostles except for John died awful deaths, persecuted for believing in Jesus, so that their faith in God may strengthen those who come after them.

We, Christians, are those who come after them.

Having Faith

Why do bad things happen in waves? I mean, I know sometimes bad things happen for a reason, but why all bunched up, one after the other?

Just this past Saturday morning, for example, I needed to drive my son to his part-time job. We woke up early, ate, and we were out the door right on schedule. I clicked the remote several times and there was no response from the car. I even tried to use the physical key to get in, but the car would not cooperate. It was dead.

My son ended up taking the bus, while I ended up on the phone with the rental car company trying to sort out the roadside assistance call. I am thankful for the insurance company paying for all the expenses until we received our car back from the repair shop for the accident my wife had had two weeks ago. Still, I was left scratching my head trying to make sense of it all.

Sometimes God allows things to happen in order to test our faith.

I cannot help but think of Hebrews 11. This chapter of the bible is often referred to as the faith chapter, and the one scripture that pops into my mind, when I think of all that has happened these past few weeks, is the one scripture that demonstrates absolute faith in God:

“By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, ‘Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.’ He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back” (Heb. 11:17-19 ESV).

I find it inspiring that even though my family may feel the burden of multiple trials, I have yet to hear God’s voice asking me to sacrifice my son as a means to test my faith. In other words, I would gladly suffer these minor setbacks to relieve myself of the responsibility of deciding between life and death.

I know, it sounds extreme. But God is an overwhelming God. He strengthens me when I am weak. He picks me up when I have fallen. And, most of all, he shows mercy to me when I cry out to him in repentance.

Oh, how I wish I could come into his full glory now.

What a wonderful God I serve.