Tag Archives: deliverance

Three Reasons to Wait on God

 

Job 38:1

And now, finally, GOD answered Job from the eye of a violent storm

Introduction

Some of you grew up like I did. When thunderstorms would arise, mamma would call us in the living room, make us sit down, turn out the lights and caution us to be quiet because every time it thundered that meant God was talking.

 

And now, finally, God answered Job.  Job had been through hell. He lost family, property, wealth, and reputation. All while maintaining his integrity and clinging to his finite knowledge of God. After praying and fasting, while enduring his affliction along with emotional trauma, God had said nothing.

 

And Now, Finally, God Answered. Can you hear Job’s exasperation? Job, the man God loved.  Job, the man God bragged to satan about his righteousness and faithfulness. Job suffered without hearing a Word from God. Can you with Job the test of his faith?

 

And now, finally, God answered. God chose to answer Job in God’s own timing. God chose to answer Job from within the eye of a violent storm. From a interlude, a quiet place, within a violent storm, before the worst of the storm would pass. God answered Job from within the eye of the storm. From the eye of the storm that Job was in or the eye of the storm God created just from which to talk to Job.  But Job had to be still so Job could hear God’s answer. Is there a storm raging in your life? Are you expecting, are you listening for God?

 

Transition

 

The text says:  And now, finally, GOD answered Job from the eye of a violent storm. Job has waited.  Job is suffering. He and his friends have debated the righteousness of God and the sinfulness of man and how justice is administered within that context. And now, finally, God speaks from the eye of a violent storm. In other words, God has decided God has heard enough of human reasoning about a situation that God created. Lord, have mercy.

 

But the question I’m wrestling with in this text is what does the context of God’s answer say about God?

 

Move 1

First, it says God knows. God knows everything concerning you.  Job declared, “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I shall come out like gold.”  God is intimately aware of what you’re going through. God is not in some far off universe, taking care of other things and leaving you holding the bag.  No, God, the Holy Spirit is present in the earth and God knows what you’re going through.

 

Our ancestors left us the knowledge of the spirit world complete with angels, ancestors, and God.  This world is not our home nor is it the only dimension of existence.  And declared to us that God operates in every dimension.  They said God is everywhere present at the same time and God knows all things.  Somebody say God knows.

 

Beloved, nothing that you experience is experienced apart from the knowledge of your God.  He knows.  Hallelujah!

 

Move 2

But let us move on.  Second, it says God is Sovereign. God answered Job from within the eye of a violent storm.  God met a storm with a storm. And spoke with Job in the most dangerous, deceitful part of the storm.  It’s called the eye of the storm.

 

The eye of the storm is the only peaceful part of the hurricane. … The center of low pressure in the storm is the eye. The lower the central pressure, the fiercer the storm, and the higher the winds – nevertheless, the eye is calm and peaceful.

 

God said time out to both storms and showed his sovereignty over both storms.  The storms in Job’s life and the storm he came to speak with Job from. This shows us Beloved that God is Sovereign over any circumstance or situation you face in life. God is not intimidated by any storm that comes up in your life. Lord, have mercy.

 

Move 3

Third, it says God can be trusted and that God wants us to trust Him.  Trust His Knowledge, His Judgement, and His Power all of which are rooted in His love. I hear Job speak his faith when says, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him.”

 

Job is determined to trust God despite the violent storm he is experiencing in his life.  All his foundations have been destroyed, his reputation, his family, his prosperity.  Yet, Job holds on to his faith. Job keeps on praying, refusing to accuse God of injustice concerning him, and praises God no matter how tough his life gets.

 

Job is determined to trust God even if he died.  He declares, “If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come.”  Anybody here determined to trust God even unto death.  Hallelujah!

 

Move 4 Conclusion

The fact of the matter is that there will be storms in your life.  But be of good cheer, because God your God knows all about you. Not only that, but your God is Sovereign over your life.  Is there anything too hard for God?  So, beloved you can trust God when you can’t trace God.  Hallelujah!

God came to Job in the eye of a violent storm, the winds were gushing over 120 mph, the rain was falling with cyclone force, the trees were toppling over, and the roofs were torn from the foundations, property was demolished and God came to Job in the eye of a violent storm.

Somebody say, the storms are passing over hallelujah!  The context of God’s answer indeed says that our God is an awesome God.  He knows, He is Sovereign, and He can be trusted no matter the test.

 

 

God’s Restoration Plan

Text:  Isaiah 12:1-6

(v. 1) You will say in that day: I will give thanks to you, O Lord, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, and you comforted me. (v. 2) Surely God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid, for the Lord God is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation. (v. 3) With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. (v. 4) And you will say in that day: Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known his deeds among the nations; proclaim that his name is exalted. (v. 5) Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously; let this be known in all the earth. (v. 6) Shout aloud and sing for joy, O royal Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.

Move 1
This brief chapter of the book of the prophet Isaiah is a song of praise. Reminiscent of a Davidic psalm, this composition heralds the prospect of a reunited people, a “new Jerusalem,” and new world order. It points to the future Church and Kingdom redeemed and ruled by the righteous Messiah who will judge and save.

It speaks of a personal deliverance expressed in collective salvation. The content of the song is, therefore, spiritual and political. The song begins with acknowledgement of the exile experience as evidence of judgment. A post-exilic remnant seeks redemption in spite of spiritual and physical separation.  They also seek a political-economic restoration that attends a restored kingdom. Consequently, the preeminent grace of God’s salvation wins out and is worthy of thanksgiving praise.

As with many psalms set for worship, this song of praise evokes physical expressions that demonstrate the meaning of the sentiment “to give thanks.” The Hebrew word for praise employed here is yadah, which signifies the stretching out of one’s hands in thanks while singing. It is a confession of utter dependence upon God for the inferred gift, namely God’s deliverance. A people who were once scattered and symbolically disconnected from their God are now reunited, and thus reconnected to the One who has created them. There is an eschatological hope that has been fulfilled “in that day.”

Their profound longings for “home” are now met in a glorious family reunion made possible by a God who promised not to forsake them.  More importantly, they can bow before their true King without inhibition or recrimination. They can now wave their hands in joyous gratitude, for three essential reasons: God remembers, God redeems and God restores.

Move 2

First of all, God remembers. Verse one states: “You will say in that day: I will give thanks to you, O Lord, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, and you comforted me.” The original meaning of remembrance is “to re-member” or recollect. In other words, what was once literally and figuratively detached and incoherent is now connected and coherent.

One of the most egregious offenses that any Hebrew could commit was to forget who God was and what God has done. Likewise, the worst tragedy that any Hebrew could experience was for God to forget them. God’s wrath and judgment on a people resulted in a lack of memory of them, i.e. their abandonment and alienation from God and one another. Likewise, our African ancestors’ ultimate act of honor was to “keep alive” the saints in living memory. One is “forgotten” when their name and legacy are no longer mentioned. The fact that the remnant, once displaced and disconnected, has been re-collected is reason to give thanks.

It should also be noted that an act of remembrance can be a profoundly political act. There is a kind of “anamnestic solidarity,”1 to use Archie Smith’s term, in a communal worship that recounts their common past and collective salvation.

Black worship is a type of liturgical anamnesis, the opposite of amnesia. Anamnesis means “to recollect the forgotten past and to participate in a common memory and a common hope.”2 Authentic corporate worship takes seriously the scripture, “Where two or three are gathered in my Name, I am in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20)

Christ becomes fully present as both redeemer and liberator. James H. White discusses anamnesis as an objective of the Eucharist, or the Lord’s Supper, “No single English word conveys its full meaning; remembrance, recalling, representation, experiencing are all weak approximations.

Anamnesis expresses the sense that in repeating these actions one experiences once again the reality of Jesus himself present.”3 This certainly characterizes the spirit of the sentiment that an African American congregation has not “had church” until the presence of Jesus is felt in the house. Consequently, Thanksgiving is about “re-membering” who we are and whose we are. It is a defining feature of black worship that serves a psycho-social purpose in liberation and salvation. This enables black folk to shout, “Thank you!” in spite of receiving unmerited suffering, historically and presently. We remember to give thanks because God remembers us.

Second, God redeems. Verses 2-3 state: “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid, for the Lord God is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation. With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” Every Hebrew embodied a sacred identity derived from their relationship to God. Separation from God resulted in a fractured identity.  Before one could be restored, one had to be redeemed, and only God could redeem an alienated people.

Ed Wimberly describes redemption through John Wesley’s “therapeutic soteriology,”4 a key component of the evangelical enterprise that Africans in America first understood about the Gospel, as it was re-presented to an oppressed people. Sin, personal and social, separated individuals and communities from God. In the ancient worldview, to be disconnected from God is to not be a person.

A people who have been redeemed have a reason to give thanks: God has redeemed their privilege as a child of God and as a member of the redeemed community. I can sing, “I am redeemed, bought with a price. Jesus has changed my whole life. If anybody asks you, just who I am, tell them, I am redeemed.” (Jesse Dixon and the Chicago Community Choir)

Celebration
Finally, God restores. Verses 4-6 state: “Among the nations; proclaim that his name is exalted. Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously; let this be known in all the earth. Shout aloud and sing for joy, O royal Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.” This second “stanza” of the hymn signals a crescendo of appreciation for being redeemed and restored to privileged status as “royal Zion.”

The people of God are reminded to consider their present favor in light of their former plight. They have been restored, in the way that the book of I Peter asserts: “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, his own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.” (I Peter 2:9-10). This is what the saints had in mind when they sang, “When I think of the goodness of Jesus and all he has done for me. My soul sings ‘hallelujah.’ I thank God for saving me!”

Move 3

And so Mt. Olive, God is our redeemer and the one who restores us.  God wants us to remember his acts of mercy and kindness by giving him thanks.  God wants us to appreciate just how far he has brought us.

He has brought us from slavery to emancipation, from emancipation to liberation, from liberation to freedom.  God has brought us from the outhouse to the white house.  That’s the kind of God we serve; I know I’m right about it.

And this redemption, this restoration is not a singular event.  Every time I turn around, God keeps on blessing me.  I don’t know about you, but God picked me up this week.  God lit a fire under me and caused me to get up from my chair of depression and put on me a garment of hope.  God caused me to see beyond my suffering into his divine plan for my life.  And I can truly say, thank you.

Thank you Lord for all you’ve done and continue to do for me.  Thank you Father for continuing to forgive me, bless me, and defend me.  Thank you Father for making a way out of no way.  Thank you Father for blessing me when I didn’t deserve a blessing; thank you Father for picking me up out of the miry clay and planting my feet on a rock to stay.  Hallelujah! Hallelujah to your name.  Praise be unto our God and His Christ.  I thank you Lord for this great salvation!

The Walking Dead

Living without hope of change or living apart from the presence of God is a never ending nightmare. Truly, it can be likened to death row where the phrase “Dead Man Walking” rings true.

This kind of depression is clinical; prayer and meditation on God’s Word are the only tools from whence deliverance comes. All else is a bandaid covering a deep and festering sore. Medicine, therapy, and exercise can contain this potential life destroyer but only God can heal a broken heart.

There is a solution to depression and it is found in developing a relationship with Jesus Christ.  “For there is one Mediator between God and man, the man Jesus Christ.”  If you’re suffering from depression imitate the writer of Psalm 88 and cry out to God for salvation.

You Can Win Again!

If you’re experiencing defeat due to a failure in your personal life or career, my coaching program “You Can Win Again!” may be a great option for you.  Listen to this wise person, “If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.”  My three pronged coaching program is designed to rebuild your personal power.  As you engage with me you will see a noticeable difference in the way you dress, the way you talk, and the way you approach the life you’ve been given.

I remember after my setback, I would stay in the house all day drinking beer, watching martial arts movies and playing Tupac’s All Eyes on Me double CD set.  Talk about depressed; I was down.  Everything that had gone wrong in my life took center stage and my mind said, you’re done; it’s over for you, stop dreaming, stop planning for success; this is the end.  And I’d grab another beer, a glass of wine and just languish in my mess.  All I was waiting for was my supervisor to call me in and end my career.  I had worked in that field 13 years and now I had gone into a dark place from which most people never recover.  Humiliated, embarrassed, and plain distraught I resolved to just live on my pension and let others have all the fun that success brings.

But thank God, my faith did not die.  God sent me an angel, in fact he sent me host of angels.  People came to me with assurance that I could win again; over and over they came until finally my strength began to return.  I accepted the fact that I didn’t have to stay in my broken state; I could indeed be transformed.  My favorite book is the Bible and I found a story that climaxed with this statement, “And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.”  Faith in this person’s story empowered me to believe that I too could win again.

My spirit overruled my mind; I got my body together; renewed my mind; and began to fight my way out of that horrible place.  I would love to share with you the path that led me back to strength of mind and spirit; the path that empowered me to win again.  If you’re in that place, let me coach you back to spiritual, mental, and physical strength.  This virtual mastermind group begins soon.  Give yourself a gift of new purpose for the holidays.  Enter the New Year by becoming a New You!  You can win again!

With me as your coach, you will be educated, motivated, and challenged to soar!  You will engage in practical exercises designed to move you from mourning your loss to celebrating your new life.  Your friends and family will be inspired by your ability to win again and what better payoff can you have than to regain your self-confidence!  This program works; how do I know; I know because I tested it on me!  If you’re interested email me at earlgrffn2@gmail.com or inbox me with your contact information.  Join me and discover “You Can Win Again!”

 

 

#brandstorychallenge #day7

Good News in Tough Times

Luke 2:7-10

Introduction

This text describes some tough times. First, it was tax time. Time to pay those infamous taxes that make the middle class and the poor cringe. It was tax time. And in order to pay the tax, Joseph and Mary had to travel all the way back to Bethlehem, the city of David the place of their inheritance. It was the place where all the deeds to the family property were held in store; the place where their wealth could be assessed with all the proper documentation readily available for verification. It was tax time. Second, it was winter. This was to be no ordinary journey. Mary who was almost eight months pregnant and ready to deliver had to take this journey in freezing temperatures with no hospitals along the way. Thieves and bandits would lie in wait on this journey to deceive and rob unsuspecting travelers. Thieves and robbers would take advantage of travelers unaware of the road and its turns and crooks. It was cold; it was dangerous; it was mandatory. Thirdly, it was crowded. Taxpayers filled the roads going to Bethlehem to pay their taxes. It was like going from Manchester to Atlanta on I-85 in the middle of the day and then having to drive thru downtown Atlanta during rush hour. It was crowded; it was frustrating; it was hectic. Still Joseph and Mary had to persevere.

Then having finally arrived in Bethlehem, they found themselves one-room short of having a place to stay. When they reached the front desk to Hotel Bethlehem, the clerk said, “We just sold our last room. There is no more room here or anywhere else in town.” Imagine traveling a great distance in the freezing cold winter climate to pay taxes and upon arrival the desk clerk saying, “We have no more rooms available.” Imagine that on top of all this, you were almost nine months pregnant, even with money in your husband’s pocket; money couldn’t fix your situation. Imagine how you would feel.

Moreover, imagine how you would feel if told the only place you could lodge would be a small courtyard where the animals had been housed. Imagine wrapping your baby in swaddling clothes and laying him in a manger. Now swaddling clothes were customary, no big deal. Swaddling clothes were just a bunch of bandages or clothes that Mary used to wrap the baby’s arms and legs to keep him from moving. But a manger, the place where the animals’ food was placed. These three-foot long, eighteen inches wide, and two feet deep, troughs were cold and hard. Imagine that. I guarantee you that this was not Mary’s idea of a bed for her first child. Yet, Jesus, our Savior was born in an animal courtyard and Mary made his first bed out of an animal’s feeding trough. Isn’t that the mark of a good mother? She uses what she has to make the best environment she can for her children. Hallelujah!

Move 2

Notwithstanding their personal struggles, Joseph and Mary lived in austere time. There were political, social, religious and economic hardships that the people of God had to live through.. Politically, they had just experienced the Maccabean revolts against the Greek General Alexander and his sons, the Ptolemy. Then, the Romans came, occupied their lands and confiscated their treasures. Roman taxation had nearly robbed the temple treasury and caused countless Jews to loose their land and valuables. They just could not afford the taxes and through a government process, lost all that they had worked hard to maintain. Socially, the Jews were broken down into the poor, middle class, upper class, and elitist – or what we call “the haves and the have nots.” There was racial division among brethren and social taboos that society dared people to cross. In other words, captivity had produced a strain on familial relationships that caused many squabbles and clashes between brothers. Religiously, there were the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Zealots. The Pharisees were legalistically superior in their external religious observance, while the Sadducees were more concerned with prosperity and position in the world. Meanwhile, the Zealots were frequently causing revolutions among the populace that always threatened the existence of the other Jews. Yet, for all these the majority of the people disowned membership in any of these groups. They were the simple people who mixed a little prosperity with a little religion to help fuel a little protest every now and then. They were the cosmopolitan – heard to utter – “can’t we all just get along.”

Economically, times were tough. It was hard for the common person just to make ends meet. The updraft would catch the common person because of the political upheavals and the religious tyranny. Loyalties to the Romans could produce suits in the courts against family members who refused to play along. It could also cause family members to become jobless and the authorities could strip them of their land, livelihood, and status overnight. These were indeed tough and perilous times.

Move 3

To top all this off, God was angry with the people. They had disobeyed his laws, trampled over his commandments, disgraced his rituals, and taken advantage of his grace. These people had been obstinate, stubborn, and incorrigible toward God. God, who had successfully led them out of bondage in Egypt, into the Promised Land, and through numerous hardships looked and saw how the people had totally denied his existence and taken him for granted. He had every right to be furious at them, yet he loved them more than life itself. God could not envision abandoning them; he could not envision life without his beloved people. Therefore, after more than 430 years of silence, God spoke.

In the toughest of tough times, God speaks. He did not speak to condemn humanity. He did not deal out justice against their sinful nature. He did not add insult to injury. Rather, God spoke a word of grace. He sent his angels in the midst of those tough times and this is what they said, Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. They broke out singing, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

What an awesome word! What a change of heart. God who had every right to be angry and to mete out justice on the world, spoke a word of love and forgiveness. God spoke of a Savior, a deliverer, a person who would save his people from their sins. Hallelujah!

And what of you this Christmas morning. Do you know anyone who deserves your wrath? Yet, you will impute your love and forgiveness to them. Do you know someone with whom you have every right to be angry? Yet, you have chosen to give that person love instead of hate, forgiveness instead of wrath.

Do you know how tough it can be to have everything in your life going wrong, and experience the anger of God as well? That’s what these people were experiencing. If it had not been the Lord move in their favor, they would not have made it. Moreover, some of you, right now, hold in your hands the key to someone’s release into their destiny. God wants you to give them the greatest gift they could ever receive this holiday – love and forgiveness.

This was truly good news in tough times. This was news that made the difference in their lives. This was news that despite what had happened to them as a family, politically, socially, or economically, God was with them. God was no longer angry with them. God did not want to inflame their misery; he wanted to ignite their passion to excel above their misfortunes. Beloved, whatever you are going through right now, God wants to inspire your creativity to reach above it. Do not let your tough times defeat you. Receive the word of God this morning. There is good news for your tough time! You are greater than your misfortune; you are stronger than your trouble; you are a child of Gold, rejoice in Him!

Move 4 (Celebration)

The good news is that Jesus Christ was born. He came that you might have life and that more abundantly. He came so that you would no longer be a stranger in the household of faith. He came so that you would no longer be an alien and stranger to your covenant with God. He came so that you would embrace God as God has embraced you. This is the good news this morning – Jesus Christ has come! Hallelujah!

You can achieve; you can succeed; you can be free from the burdens of life because Jesus Christ is come! You can receive God’s love and forgiveness this holiday season. You can experience his grace in your life right now. The good news is that because of Jesus Christ, you can rise up from the pit of despair and put on the joy of hope that springs eternal. The good news is that because of Jesus Christ, trouble can make you better rather than bitter. The good news is that because of Jesus Christ, there is strength for the weary and power for the faint. The good news is that you are not alone any more, Jesus Christ has come, and if you will receive him this morning, he will make a difference in your life. Hallelujah!

The Investment Factor: Investing in the Jesus Brand

Introduction

Back in the 1500s, people didn’t have a Bible they could read. The Catholic Church controlled the translating of Scripture and only offered it in Latin. But when Martin Luther rebelled against the abuses of the Church of his day he worked hard to make a translation available in German (the language of his people). The daughter of the printer Luther used was cleaning in her dad’s shop and she picked up a piece of paper off the floor. It read, “For God so loved that He gave…” and that was all. The rest of the verse was not printed yet, but what she saw excited her. The thought that God would give her anything moved her. Her mother noticed a change in her and asked her why she seemed so happy. The girl pulled a crumpled piece of paper out of her pocket and showed it to her mother. The mother read it and asked, “What did He give?” The girl said, “I don’t know but if God loved us enough to give us anything we should not be afraid of Him.” What she read on that scrap of paper changed how she looked at God.

This is the investment factor at its finest: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Oh yes, God gave! God invested his best for us and now his best is asking us to invest our best in him!

Some time ago, a teenager, Arthur Hinkley, lifted a 3,000-pound tractor with his bare hands. He wasn’t a weight lifter, but his friend, Lloyd Bachelder, 18, was pinned under a tractor on a farm near Rome, Maine. Hearing Lloyd scream, Arthur somehow lifted the tractor enough for Lloyd to wriggle out. Love motivated him to do it.

Our Father in heaven heard the screams of lost humanity, crying out for deliverance. He sent His one and only precious Son to the cross so that our sins could be lifted off of us and on to Himself. Love motivated Him to do it.

The question for us today is: Have I invested in the Jesus Brand? A Brand has been defined as a particular product or a characteristic that serves to identify a particular product; a product that has its own name, and is made by a particular company; or simply a recognizable kind. A factor has been defined as “an active contribution to production of a result; a substance of a particular process or system. For Christians Jesus is that factor that produces results in our lives by filling us with his Holy Spirit. For Christians, we have a particular product, that of salvation, we which make available through the marketing of the plan of salvation through the spreading of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Yet, in order for this plan to be successful, Christians must invest in the brand name Jesus. The message of Jesus, the life of Jesus, has to become the identifying mark of the Christian to the world.

Move 1

What is the Jesus Brand? In his own words, Jesus states the characteristics of His Brand:

The spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. (Luke 4:18-19)

 “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10)

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10)

“When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Mark 2:17)

“Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)

Jesus is a reconciler; Jesus is in the reconciliation business and he invites each of us to invest in the business of reconciliation. The Jesus brand is summed up in 2 Corinthians 5:18-21:  All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 20 So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

Plainly put this is the identifying brand of Jesus. Jesus came to reach, teach, train, and send disciples into the world to redeem, restore, and reconcile people alienated from their heavenly Father by sin.

Move 2

Next question:  How I can invest in the Jesus Brand. Again Jesus makes this clear:

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:24-25)

Peter replied, “repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off- for all whom the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:38-39)

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God- this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- His good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-2)

“If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. 11 The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. 13 For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:9-13)

Plainly put you buy into this company with faith in the President of the Company, the Lord Jesus Christ. Faith in Jesus Christ will get you in and keep you in even when sales are sluggish or profits are minimal. Faith in Jesus Christ will ensure your franchise will not go under; you will be successful with team Jesus. Hallelujah!

Move 3

Finally, once you have Accepted the Jesus Brand, Invested in the Jesus Brand, then Jesus calls on you to Promote the Jesus Brand. There are other brands vying for the customers Jesus sends you to reach, teach, train, and send. How then shall we recruit and outdistance the competition? Let us explore the method Jesus left for us to follow:

Then Jesus came to them and said. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

He said to them “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.” After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven, and he sat at the right hand of God. Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.” (Mark 16:15-20)

However, to do that will require a consistent effort against the opposition. And for those who think this promotion strategy too risky, too dangerous or too overwhelming, Jesus says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit come on you; and you will be my witness in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

This power is supernatural power. This power is the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. This power once activated conquers all fear of the competition. This power once received separates your brand from any other brand. This power once charged to capacity turns you into a person that can easily be recognized. Men and women, devils and demons will recognize the mark of distinction you wear. All because you have connected to the Jesus Brand.

Now, I want you to remember that every successful company has a logo. Well, when you invest in the Jesus Brand there is a Logo. That Logo is the Cross and the Dove. That Cross represents what Jesus did. That Dove represents what you will do in Jesus Name. That Cross which was a symbol of shame Jesus turned into a symbol of victory. That Dove which was noted as gentle and meek has become an unseen source of strength and power. That Dove provides insight that is unmatched in the world and wisdom that is unstoppable in the spread of the gospel. That cross reminds us that we are all human, but that Dove reminds us that we are forgiven.

Bryan Chapell tells this story that happened in his hometown: Two brothers were playing on the sandbanks by the river. One ran after another up a large mound of sand. Unfortunately, the mound was not solid, and their weight caused them to sink in quickly. When the boys did not return home for dinner, the family and neighbors organized a search. They found the younger brother unconscious, with his head and shoulders sticking out above the sand. When they cleared the sand to his waist, he awakened. The searchers asked, “Where is your brother?” The child replied, “I’m standing on his shoulders!”

When you accept the Jesus Brand, you’ll be standing on Jesus shoulders.  When you promote the Jesus Brand, you will be standing on His Shoulders. And when the storms of life are raging, he’ll lift you above the dangerous waters.

I don’t know about you but I have invested in the Jesus Brand! Want you join me? Want you buy in to this product called Jesus? Want you begin to sale this product to those who Jesus came to save? Yes, I’m so glad to be invested with Jesus! Hallelujah!

Forgiveness: Where Do I Draw the Line?

Introduction

Forgiveness is the one weapon Satan cannot defeat in the Church. And this week our lectionary text answers the question: “How often should I forgive somebody who offends me?” Or “When is enough enough?” I want to deal with this issue of how often we should forgive those who offend us. I want to help us come to grips with the type of behavior that Jesus expects of his disciples. Here again the parable of the unmerciful servant:

One day a king decided to call in his officials and ask them to give an account of what they owed him. 24As he was doing this, one official was brought in who owed him fifty million silver coins. 25But he didn’t have any money to pay what he owed. The king ordered him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all he owned, in order to pay the debt. 26The official got down on his knees and began begging, “Have pity on me, and I will pay you every cent I owe!” 27The king felt sorry for him and let him go free. He even told the official that he did not have to pay back the money. 28As the official was leaving, he happened to meet another official, who owed him a hundred silver coins. So he grabbed the man by the throat. He started choking him and said, “Pay me what you owe!” 29The man got down on his knees and began begging, “Have pity on me, and I will pay you back.” 30But the first official refused to have pity. Instead, he went and had the other official put in jail until he could pay what he owed. 31When some other officials found out what had happened, they felt sorry for the man who had been put in jail. Then they told the king what had happened. 32The king called the first official back in and said, “You’re an evil man! When you begged for mercy, I said you did not have to pay back a cent. 33Don’t you think you should show pity to someone else, as I did to you?” 34The king was so angry that he ordered the official to be tortured until he could pay back everything he owed.

Move 1
Some of us do some pretty strange things when we have been slighted or wronged. In a 1930s edition of the Chicago Herald Examiner there was an article, “Man Spites His Wife by Staying Blindfolded in Bed Seven Years,” which read:

The strange story of Harry Havens of Indiana, who went to bed—and stayed there—for seven years with a blindfold over his eyes because he was peeved at his wife, was revealed here today when he decided to get out of bed. Havens was the kind of husband who liked to help around the house—hang pictures, wipe the dishes, and such. His wife scolded him for the way he was performing one of these tasks, and he resented it. He is reported to have said: “All right. If that’s the way you feel, I’m going to bed. I’m going to stay there the rest of my life. And I don’t want to see you or anyone else again.” His last remark explains the blindfold. He got up, he explained, when the bed started to feel uncomfortable after seven years.

Still others like the official in our text try to get payback from the other person who wronged them. Max Lucado tells this story about such a person. He writes,
Each week Kevin Tunell is required to mail a dollar to a family he’d rather forget. They sued him for $1.5 million but settled for $936, to be paid a dollar at a time. The family expects the payment each Friday so Tunell won’t forget what happened on the first Friday of 1982.

That’s the day their daughter was killed. Tunell was convicted of manslaughter and drunken driving. He was 17. She was 18. Tunell served a court sentence. He also spent seven years campaigning against drunk driving, six years more than his sentence required. But he keeps forgetting to send the dollar.
The weekly restitution is to last until the year 2000. Eighteen years. Tunell makes the check out to the victim, mails it to her family, and then the money is deposited in a scholarship fund.

The family has taken him to court four times for failure to comply. After the most recent appearance, Tunell spent thirty days in jail. He insists that he’s not defying the order but rather is haunted by the girl’s death and tormented by the reminders. He offered the family two boxes of checks covering the payments until the year 2001, one year more than required. They refused. It’s not money they seek, but penance.
Quoting the mother, “We want to receive the check every week on time. He must understand we are going to pursue this until August of the year 2000. We will go back to court every month if we have to.”
Few would question the anger of the family. Only the naïve would think it fair to leave the guilty unpunished. But I do have one concern. Is 936 payments enough? Not for Tunell to send, mind you, but for the family to demand? When they receive the final payment, will they be at peace? In August 2000, will the family be able to put the matter to rest? Is 18 years’ worth of restitution sufficient? Will 196 months’ worth of remorse be adequate?

How much is enough? Were you in the family and were Tunell your target, how many payments would you require? Better stated, how many payments do you require?

No one—I repeat, no one— makes it through life free of injury. Someone somewhere has hurt you. Like the 18-year-old, you’ve been a victim. She died because someone drank too much. Part of you has died because someone spoke too much, demanded too much, or neglected too much.

Move 2
In contrast, we need to know that each act of forgiveness has the potential to transform another person’s life. Forgiveness is so powerful because forgiveness affords a person three opportunities: to repent, to be transformed, and to help someone else.

When Shannon Ethridge was just 16 years old, an act of forgiveness and love changed her life forever. While driving to her high school one day, Ethridge ran over Marjorie Jarstfar, a woman who was riding her bicycle along a country road. Marjorie died as a result, and Ethridge, who was found completely at fault by authorities, was consumed by intense guilt. She contemplated suicide several times, but she never took her life because of the healing response of one man: Gary, Jarstfar’s husband.

Gary forgave the 16-year-old and asked the attorney to drop all charges against her, saving her from a probable guilty verdict. Instead, he simply asked that Ethridge continue on in the godly footsteps that his wife had taken. “You can’t let this ruin your life,” Gary told her more than 20 years ago. “God wants to strengthen you through this. In fact, I am passing Marjorie’s legacy on to you.”

Gary’s act of forgiveness showed Ethridge the amazing love of God. Today, Ethridge is the bestselling author of Every Girl’s Battle and Every Woman’s Battle, and her recent book, Completely His: Loving Jesus Without Limits, helps women overcome guilt-ridden, wounded lives.

Shannon repented for her actions, was totally transformed by Gary’s act of forgiveness, and is now helping others to overcome their guilt and shame about past indiscretions. That’s what Jesus wants from you. Jesus wants you to become the type of disciple that can offer God’s grace not God’s wrath to those who do you wrong. Lord, have mercy!

Move 3
I hear ya, Reverend, but you haven’t answered the question: How many times do I have to forgive someone who offends me? Even moreover, how often do I have to forgive if it’s the same person hurting me over and over again?

Here is what Jesus replied when asked this same question by Peter? Look at Matthew 18: 22, “Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, until seven times: but, until seventy times seven.” Long story short, we are to forgive others until forgiving becomes second nature; until forgiveness becomes a lifestyle; until forgiveness is given so freely the devil cannot use an offense to keep you from fulfilling the will of God for your life. What Jesus is after is a lifestyle of forgiveness, grace, and mercy shown toward others, most especially your enemies.

Did he not say? 11-12 “Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.

Did not Jesus say? 38-42 “Here’s another old saying that deserves a second look: ‘Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.’ Is that going to get us anywhere? Here’s what I propose: ‘Don’t hit back at all.’ If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.

Did not Jesus say? 43-47 “You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.

48 “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you. ”

Move 4 (Conclusion)
There it is. “Grow up. You have to resist the urge to live in your old nature of sin and evil and determine, decide to walk intentionally in your new nature which reflects God and your Savior Jesus Christ. I urge you to do that; I urge you to offer forgiveness to those who you know have wronged you and forgive yourself for those times that you have offended others. The altar is open for you right now. Come and have a talk with Jesus about changing your heart to one of forgiveness and love.

To the one to whom the Holy Spirit is speaking, let me invite you to come this morning. God offers you forgiveness right now. Is there anyone standing in need of the love of God found in God’s forgiveness? God wants to give you this gift of grace called salvation right here and right now. Come and accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. The doors of the church are open; the altar of God is open for you this morning. Come and ask God to come into your hearts this morning through the grace and mercy found in Jesus Christ! Will you come?