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HYDRATE — WINNING FROM THE INSIDE 27 (Mt. 6:14-15) “Forgive”

“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:14-15

Is God forgiveness conditional? According to Jesus, Yes, forgiveness is not something you receive just because Jesus died on the cross to pay for your sins. This is a tough teaching. Jesus’ death on the cross ended God’s anger towards mankind for sin and satisfied God’s character trait of Justice. (Thank God that He is also Mercy.) Jesus’ death doesn’t automatically grant us forgiveness. We have to go to Jesus, then through Jesus and be made new in Jesus. We have to accept Jesus as Lord of our life. We have to receive His blood. This is where forgiveness is received as the free gift that it is.

But…

What if, I have done all those things…is it still possible to not receive Jesus’ forgiveness? I will ask you to answer that question yourself after you read a few passages of Scripture. Here are some passages to help us answer this question.

Matthew 18:23-35 (NLT)
Parable of the Unforgiving Debtor
21 Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone* who sins against me? Seven times?”
22 “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!*
23 “Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. 24 In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars.* 25 He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold—along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned—to pay the debt.
26 “But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’ 27 Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt.
28 “But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars.* He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment.
29 “His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded. 30 But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full.
31 “When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened. 32 Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ 34 Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.
35 “That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters* from your heart.”

Question: Did the servant receive forgiveness? The answer is yes. Did the servant have his forgiveness revoked? The answer is yes. Why did the servant, after receiving the status of forgiven, return to the status of unforgiven? The answer is, because the forgiven servant refused to forgive someone else.

Matthew 6:14-15 (NLT)
Jesus said, “14 “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. 15 But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Those two passages give me clear proof that if I refuse to forgive anyone, then God will not forgive me. It’s unimaginable to me that anyone would beg for forgiveness from God and at the same time refuse forgiveness to others who have sinned against us.

Our forgiveness is tied in directly with our willingness to forgive those who have sinned against us. Anybody I have spoken with about this agrees, until they have personally been hurt. Its easy to tell others that they need to forgive. Its not so easy to do it ourselves. So maybe the next few thoughts will help all of us understand why un-forgiveness is like a nasty disease and the quicker we forgive, the healthier we will be personally.

Un-forgiveness not only hurts ourselves but also the person who hurt us. In most cases when someone sins against us and hurts us deeply, the person who hurt us doesn’t sit around thinking about us. The person who hurt us, more likely than not, is not waking up every morning thinking about us. People who cause deep pain, usually do so because they have a tendency to think selfishly. If this is the case, and the person who hurt us is not thinking about us, but we are frequently thinking about the person who hurt us, then we are actually hurting ourselves. Pain makes us think about who, what, why and when we are hurt. Its very time consuming.

With un-forgiveness in our heart, we are consumed by the one who hurt us. I’ve heard it said that thinking about the person who hurt you is like letting that person live in your heart rent free. Again…they are not thinking about us much at all. We are dwelling on them and how they hurt us. It begins to fester. Its all consuming. We find ourselves lashing out at others. Why? Because of un-forgiveness. Un-forgiveness means we don’t heal. Without healing, there is still pain. Pain makes us focus. If we have un-forgiveness towards a person who hurt us then we will focus on the person and the pain. Focus is commitment. We become what we are committed to. If we are committed to feeling the pain and not giving forgiveness then we will become people of pain and un-forgiveness. You will become a person of hurt. Hurt people, hurt other people, or as I like to say, “hurt people, hurt people.

I know we do not want to be hurt people that go about hurting other people. The temptation is to think that the anger we feel inside is good. The temptation is to enjoy the anger feeling we have inside. Sometimes it can make us rage internally and sometimes outwardly. Watch enough Hollywood movies and you will actually begin to believe that the rage and anger you feel is empowering. You will think it feels good and makes you powerful. It makes us think we are strong. It will tempt you to seek revenge and you will begin to believe your revenge is justified. Do you see how dangerous this is? Compare it to man who is taking steroids. He is injecting a chemical inside his body that makes him bulk up and look good. His muscles grow and he becomes an impressive specimen. However, he is poisoning his body. That same steroid that made us all think this person is extremely healthy actually causes him to die. Sterilization, bouts of rage and emotions that are out of control, are all side effects of steroids. But the user thought it was all good. This is what un-forgiveness does to us. Its slowly kills us from the inside or causes us to physically lash out and have sinful reactions.

Mother Theresa said it best, “Un-forgiveness is like you drinking poison and hoping it kills the person who hurt you.”

So what must we do to rid ourselves of un-forgiveness? We have to give forgiveness. Now, in full transparency, I have never felt like forgiving someone who has hurt me. If we are waiting on the feeling to come around, it won’t. Forgiveness is an act of discipline. Forgiveness is an act of sheer holy will. Forgiveness is a choice to be healthy. Forgiveness is one of the most difficult decisions we can make.

I hope the following thoughts will help us give forgiveness to the one(s) who have hurt us. First of all we are dying a slow death if we don’t forgive. It will rot us. Think about this. Just because we forgive someone doesn’t mean they just get off without any consequences. A murderer who is about to receive a lethal injection for his crime can be forgiven by the family of the loved one he murdered. But he still receives the lethal injection. If a family member wounded me deeply, I can forgive the person, and I will be smarter in my dealings with this person from now on. I will create boundaries. If a woman has been abused by a family member, she can forgive that family member, and from that point forward not spend any more time with her abuser. To forgive someone doesn’t mean that we have to be in each others company in the future. If we have been hurt by someone, forgive them and then create boundaries. Don’t forget that God is a god of Restoration. He deeply desires us to be in healed and holy relationships. God desires for you to forgive and restore, but God also understands that if one of the parties doesn’t honor the new boundaries set, then God doesn’t expect us to stay around abusive and unholy behavior. Especially if the person who is abusive and displaying unholy behavior calls themselves a Christian. Be smart with this. Don’t trust your feelings on this issue. Trust God’s Word and common sense. We may need to seek some trustworthy counsel from holy friends or seek a good Christian counselor to advise us on these life altering issues.

The critical factor in all this is to triple check our motives as to why we are creating boundaries as we give forgiveness and work on whatever this restored relationship is going to look like. If we are creating boundaries to control and hurt the person back, then we truly haven’t given the person forgiveness and we now are having sinful reactions towards the person who hurt us. How? All control, judgement and praise belong to God only. If we ever do anything for the purpose of control, praise or judgement then we are taking the role of God. If we do this, even if we won’t say it, our actions are screaming, “I am God!” As we create boundaries for the person who hurt us, we must carefully guard that we aren’t actually having sinful reactions of control and judgement.

Forgiveness ultimately frees us from the prison we have been trapped in. If we are trapped in a prison of forgiveness then we must recognize that we hold the keys to our freedom in our own hands. The keys that unlock our jail cell of un-forgiveness are in our hands. The key is forgiveness. Forgiveness allows us to let the person who hurt us go. By doing this they can no longer live in our hearts rent free. We unlock ourselves from the prison we have been in. A popular “churchy” phrase is “let go-and let God.” When we forgive we release this person into the hands of God and trust that God will do what is right to and for that person. If we try to control the situation because we believe that God will be too kind to the person, then we actually believe that God will make a mistake and that we can do a better job of making this person face the consequences they deserve. Again, if we do this, we actually act as if we are God. We think we can do a better job than God. How dangerous is that?

If what I have written above still is not helping us grant forgiveness to the people who have hurt us, then here is my last desperate attempt.

I am going to write this as if I am talking directly with you.

Have you ever hurt someone?
Do you agree that what you did to hurt that person was a sin?
Did Jesus die to pay for your sin?
Did Jesus die to pay for the sins of the person who hurt you?
As I personally answer the four questions above…The answer is yes to all.

Forgive.

How.
Write a letter.
Send a text.
Facebook Message.
Skype.
Phone call.
Personal visit.

We cannot control how the person will respond when we tell them we are forgiving them. They may not even know that they hurt you. They may get angry, lash out, try to hurt more. Don’t worry about or try to control how they respond. Remember forgiveness is for us to be free. Give forgiveness. Live free.

Don’t forget 1 John 1:9(NLT) I would recommend that we all memorize it. “If we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”

Forgive.
Be Forgiven!
Its the good life.


HYDRATE — WINNING FROM THE INSIDE 17 (Mt. 5:31-32) “Divorce”

“It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.”
Matthew 5:31-32

DRINK IT IN:

Let me be clear in this “nasty” teaching of Jesus’.
Jesus loves people who have never been married.
Jesus loves people who are married.
Jesus loves people who are fighting in their marriage.
Jesus loves people who are filing for divorce in their marriage.
Jesus loves people who are divorced.
Jesus loves people who have been divorced multiple times.
Jesus loves people.
Jesus loves you.

Is that clear as mud?

Let me be even more clear. JESUS HATES DIVORCE. There is a HUGE difference in hating divorce and hating people. They are not the same thing. Jesus loves the sinner and hates the sin. Jesus hates divorce but loves the divorcee. We all need to be extremely honest here, and call divorce what it is. Divorce is a sin and, yes, God/Jesus hate it. They hate it as much as lying, murder, drunkenness, gossip, idol worship, foul language and all other sins.

I have a big question for you to think about. When did divorce seem to become the unforgivable sin? I’m not trying to let divorce off the hook. I’m not trying to justify it. I am simply fascinated at how people tend to think and feel that divorce is worse than other sins. What is fascinating to me is how different cultures view different sins. In America, adultery and divorce are the big nasties and yet we are almost numb to murder. I traveled to Africa recently where divorce and adultery are rampant, but if you neighbor steals something from you, the whole village goes into an uproar, while sexual sin seems to be overlooked. I traveled to Jerusalem, where you cannot mix meat and cheese together (horrible pizza there) because of Old Testament Jewish Law, but revenge and being judgmental towards others is a daily occurrence and doesn’t seem to upset many people at all. There is something deep inside us that causes us to rank sins, overlooking some and being appalled by others. I’m not sure why.

What am I saying in all this? I’m saying that God hates sin…period. Be careful if you are really picking on one sin at the ignoring of others. Its really not our job to be judging what sins are stronger than others. That is God’s job. This teaching of Jesus’ is a tough one. Again, like in other teachings, Jesus is being very direct. He is “stirring it up” with those who are listening to Him as He teaches this, and He’s “stirring it up” with us as we read it nearly 2000 years later. I think its fair for me to say that Jesus had a “no holds barred” teaching philosophy and in this teaching He opened up a can of “whoop awes!” Do you know what this can is? “Awwwe…I wish He wouldn’t have taught that!”

Let’s get into the nitty gritty of this teaching. First of all, I think it is important that we recognize that God’s law of marriage is a bit different than the governments law of marriage. The government produces a piece of paper, that you pay for as a “couple,” and after some witnesses under the guidance of a state approved officiant sign it with you, you are viewed as married. That is State Marriage.

A God ordained marriage is when God observes you having sex. (God does know and see everything right? This doesn’t make Him a “peeping Tom” is makes Him God of ALL.) When a male goes into a female sexually, they have become what the Bible calls, “one flesh.” In God’s eyes, that is marriage…with or without the paper signed by your local government. With or without a Pastor officiating the ceremony. SEX = MARRIAGE. Why? Because sex is the full consummation of the Mental, Physical, Emotional and Spiritual union between a male and a female. It is how God designed it. The two becoming one flesh can go even one step further. If the sperm and the egg meet up and the timing is right, they create another person, thus “one flesh” is created from the two who were “wed.” Make sense? The two became one flesh and often created one more flesh together, a baby. This is all Marriage!

God created marriage to be a beautiful, sensual, adventurous, vulnerable, emotional, physical, mental, social and spiritual experience. MARRIAGE. Marriage is community. Marriage is how God ordained the entire world order to flow. Marriage is the #1 theme throughout the entire Bible. Some might argue and say that Salvation is the #1 theme in the Bible. I would ask, “What is salvation?” Salvation is the restoring of a person who broke their relationship with God. For a person to become restored with God is to reunite with God. To reunite is union. Marriage is union. God titled it sufficiently in the Bible, by calling Jesus the Bridegroom and the Church the Bride. You are the church. When someone doesn’t’ commit to a local church and also chooses to not be in a relationship with God….this is a form of divorce. God desires marriage. God said from the beginning, right after creating Adam, “its not good for man to be alone…therefore He created woman. God is a God of community. From the very beginning there has always existed The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. Its community, union, relationship, thus marriage.

Understanding what marriage is created by God to be, is the best way to understand why God hates divorce. Marriage is a man and woman teaming together to live life to the full. They compliment each other because they each bring different strengths and weaknesses into the relationship. I love the Hebrew understanding of Man and Woman. The ancient Hebrew spelling for Man is spelled in word pictures. We might better understand them as what we know as ancient hieroglyphics. The word-picture for man, husband and father is…

You might say…”That looks like greek to me.” Well…its actually Hebrew! Now remember, when reading Hebrew, one reads from the right to the left. So, the first letter for man/husband is the letter, “A”. In its most ancient form, written language was written by using “word-pictures.” The A that we have today was first an “Ox-Head.” If you use your imagination you can see that the letter “A” we have today could be an ox head, if you tilt it sideways. The legs of the “A” would then become the horns of an ox head. Got it? This, in the Hebrew language, is called the “Aleph.” Pronounced “u-lef.” Its where we get our English “A”. The ox-head, or the Aleph means, “Strength, Protector, and Leader.” The other hieroglyphic that is on the left side of the Aleph is where we get our English letter “b”. In Hebrew this is called the “beth”. Pronounced, “bet.” The word picture that this letter depicts is a “tent.” If you use your imagination you can see how this could be a tent. The tent, or the bet means, “Family, House.” Again we should read these two word pictures from right to left, opposite of how we read English. When we read these two word pictures as if they were actual letters, this is where we get our word, “Ab.” Translated…Abe, Abraham, “FATHER” Abraham. Thus Father! Jesus said, while dying on the cross, “ABBA.” That means Father. Are you learning Hebrew with me here? So, in this word picture, the man of the house is the husband and father. He is “Abe…Ab” This means the husband is the STRONG(ox) protector of the house(tent). Strong protector of the house. Now the ‘Ab’ has a very difficult task. To protect the house means more than packing your 9mm hand gun and being prepared to take-out the bad guy who is breaking in to your home. Protector of the house, means protector of the Social, Mental, Physical, Spiritual, and emotional state of the household. Wife, Children and self. This is no easy task. As the ‘Ab’ of the house, you are to protect those elements of the home with the same kind of focus and passion you would if an intruder came into your house and you had to use your handgun to protect. The reality is that an actual intruder coming into your home, in the form of a thief or rapist is very rare. But the intruders of greed, selfishness, hate, laziness, anger, etc are intruders that many times live under our own rooftops on a daily basis. Father/Husbands…are you the strong protector of your tents? You are the “Ab.”

Now the word picture for woman, wife and mom is just as fascinating.

Now you are probably recognizing that there is a similarity in the word images for Husband and Wife. The ‘Aleph’ is also in the word-picture of woman. Which means she is strong, protector and leader as well. (Christians who argue about who is the leader of the household, who is in charge, who is over who…miss the entire idea of who Jesus is. He never argued about position. He served and earned His leadership. He washed the feet of those under Him. The best way to husband and wife and who is “over” who is to picture the body. Jesus is the head and the husband and wife are the shoulders.) Woman is also strong leader and protector, but in a different way. Not so much of the “tent/house,” but as the image on the left depicts. The image on the left is the Hebrew letter called the “mem.” It is pronounced like it looks. It is where we get the English letter “m”. So if you say these letters you get “am”…but pronounce it with a short “o….om…am…mam.” Its where we get “mom.” Now the cool thing is the fact that the Hebrew “mem” is a letter that paints the picture of water. Look at the word picture and you will see waves and the “tail” at the bottom of the waves demonstrate the water coming and going just like waves on a beach. There are two different meanings for this letter in the Hebrew culture. The first meaning for water here is…chaos. So mom is the protector of chaos. If that doesn’t fully make sense to you, then understand the second meaning and put them together. The second meaning of “AM” in the Hebrew life was this. A = ox = Strong. M = water=chaos. “AM” was translated to mean “Strong-Water.” Now in the Hebrew world, after a successful hunt, the rawhide of the killed animal, would be skinned and placed in boiling water. The hide would begin to breakdown and the fatty and left over substance from the hide would float to the surface of the boiling water. A trowel would be used to skim this sticky substance off of the boiling water’s surface and the “goo” would be placed on a piece of wood where the extra moisture would be absorbed into the wood leaving a very sticky substance left over. This left over sticky substance was called, “Strong-Water.” This strong water was used for purposes of glue. So, in the Hebrew culture, the ‘AM’…the mother…was the STRONG WATER of the family. Mom is the “glue” that holds everything together. I love that word picture! It is such a true word picture…in most cases.

BUT…hold on…there is another word image for wife/mom/female that is vital in understanding marriage. The word is translated “Helpmate.” God created woman to be a helpmate for man. She is created to be just as powerful as man, but in different ways. (Adam said, bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh.) She is just as powerful as man, but in different ways. She is a true compliment/helpmate to man. God didn’t created her to be man’s servant, dish washer, house cleaner…kind of helpmate. But “co-protector.” Both powerful, both serving and loving and needing one another. The best word picture for helpmate is this.

Helpmate is best understood as “She has an “eye” for the “enemy.” The hieroglyphic on the left is a picture of a person with a weapon and is using it to strike…thus…”enemy. ”

The wife of the household has this innate ability to discern things. God has given a majority of women the gift of discernment. The most important ability a wife can have to help protect her family is to be able to ‘Have an eye for the enemy.” She is always watching for the enemy. A mother is very watchful. She see’s things that the kids do, that we as men don’t see them do, and the act took place right in front of our own eyes! We husbands and fathers of the family have a tendency to be very competitive and we have a strong desire to physically protect our family. The wife can help us see people who are dangerous that we didn’t notice. So understand this…the greatest enemy the wife can see, that we as a man rarely ever see, is the “enemy within.” Sometimes, men, the biggest enemy to our family is ourselves. The dad…the husband…the man, we can be the worst enemy. Our pride sometimes prevents us from seeing ourselves as an enemy and a danger to ourselves and to our families. We can be our own worst enemies. Many times we feel like our wives are nagging us about things we could do different or better and it can be deeply frustrating for a man. Even the Bible says that “a nagging wife is like a dripping faucet.” But…what if…we recognized that a majority of the time, our wives aren’t actually nagging us, as much as she is warning us of the enemy in ourselves, that she sees, but we don’t. She is trying to warn us about an up and coming danger because she is discerning that we as the husband/father/man are headed in a direction that is not healthy…and we don’t see it ourselves. We are our own worst enemies. Our wives see it, try to warn us of it, and we want to divorce her. (God hates divorce!) Is this all beginning to make sense?

Do you understand this? She is helping us! She has an eye for the enemy. The problem usually is that when she “alerts” us of this enemy, she does it in a demeaning or disrespectful and damaging way. When this happens we see this as nagging and we don’t listen. But the matter of fact is that she sees an enemy prowling around the “tent” and it happens to be ourselves. Love her for this God given ability, don’t reject her for it. If you are the “AM” of the family and you see your husband becoming an enemy to himself and his family, then figure out a very loving and kind way of alerting him. Disrespecting him and ‘nagging’ him about it will only make it worse.

So…why does God hate divorce? Because He knows a man and woman who make a commitment to one-another (vows) to spend the rest of their lives together being “strong-protectors” of the tent, and all the chaos, but then have sex with other people, or reject one-another because we think we can live better apart, and thus break the vow, will end up worse off.

There is more to this divorce thing…but this is enough to “digest” for now. In a future Hydrate Devotional we will get to some other issues of divorce and marriage.

Don’t divorce your spouse by having sex with another person. Remember sex is marriage. If you have sex with someone else other than your spouse you are divorcing your current spouse and marrying the person you are having sex with. Divorce and Adultery are really the same thing. It is a sin. It is adultery. It is evil.

SWEAT IT OUT:
Recognize each others differences and see them as complimentary protection services.
Talk with your spouse about the ancient Hebrew Hieroglyphics that I have placed in this devotion.
Recognize that you are better together than a part. (Share with each other the things you are thankful for in each other.)
You obviously will have some tensions that you will have to work through. Talk them through with respect and love and gentleness.
Give each other grace and love and forgiveness.
Laugh at yourself a little more. You are not perfect.
Understanding what marriage IS, is the strongest way to prevent divorce and adultery.
Having a great marriage and preventing divorce is not easy. In fact, its extremely difficult. You will have to be unselfish.
Just like Jesus.


HYDRATE –WINNING FROM THE INSIDE 16 (Mt.5:29-30) “Sin”

29 “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.”
Matthew 5:29-30

DRINK IT IN:
When you and I chose to sin, it broke our relationship with God. God had to pull back from us. God will not be around sin. He had to distance Himself from us, because we sinned. Oh…please don’t’ misunderstand, it didn’t change how much God loves us. It did not change the fact that nothing can separate us from His love. But, it did change our ability to join Him in Heaven for eternity. When God created us, He simply had Heaven and Earth as the same place. Then we sinned, and Heaven and Earth had to become separate places. That’s why in the prayer Jesus taught the Apostles to pray, “The Lord’s Prayer,” Jesus taught us to pray to the Father this, “Thy Kingdom come on Earth as it is in Heaven.” To repeat myself, they used to be the same place. This teaching of Jesus that is recorded in Matthew 5, is what I call a “Salvation Issue.” Jesus is being very direct in this teaching.

When we chose to sin and go against God, we joined the curse that was placed on the world, when Adam and Eve chose to sin. When we chose to join that curse, even unknowingly, we opened the door to Hell for us. It was closed to us prior to this sin thing. The Bible actually says that Hell was created for Satan and the angels that followed him and disobeyed God.(Matthew 25:41) I wish people understood this better. So many people don’t want to believe in God because they say they can’t believe in a God that would send people to Hell. God never intended for people to go to Hell and He doesn’t “send” people there either. I think the following thoughts will explain this fact.

The Bible says, that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, thus God separated Himself from us in our sin. You and I have sinned, and if the sin isn’t paid for, we will remain separated from God.

This is why Jesus was sent to earth from Heaven. God the Father, made Jesus leave their “gated community” in Heaven to become one of us. To come and live “on the other side of the tracks” with us, among us, and in us.” When we sinned, God was forced to make a choice. You see, if God is a God of integrity, then He must follow His own rules. God created two rules soon after He created everything. You can find the rules recorded in Genesis 9:4-5 and Leviticus 17:11. The two rules, are 1.) “Life is in the Blood.” 2. “The blood makes atonement by the life.” Hang in here with me as I explain this a little bit. Put on your thinking caps.

God is the one who created the rules/laws that are referenced in the Bible. These rules/laws are meant for us to follow. Have you thought about the following question? “Does God have to follow the rules? I mean, He is God, and He can do anything He wants, right? Here’s the answer. The very nature of God is perfection and Holiness. Perfection and Holiness ARE Integrity. For God, not to follow His own rules/laws, it would make God a Hypocrite, because He would be asking us to do something that He doesn’t do Himself. A hypocrite lacks integrity. If God lacks integrity, then He is not God at all. God must follow His own rules. It’s the only real guarantees we have in life. God is integrity and God is the same yesterday, today and forever!

So God has these two “strange” rules that He created. One, Life is in the blood, and two, the blood makes atonement by the life.

So, when God’s prized possession, which is mankind(that means You), broke His rules… we sinned. When we sinned, we separated ourselves from God, who is pure holiness and perfection. This is where Rule #2 of God’s, comes into play. “Blood makes atonement.” This word, “atonement,” can be best understood when broken up into three words. “At-One-Ment.” When we all chose to sin, God had to remove Himself from us. But God loves us and wants us to be with Him for eternity. This put God in a situation where He had to appeal to His own law. God says that a life must be taken, in order for a sin to be forgiven. God knew at this point that we needed to be made pure in order for Himself to be with us again. So, God has a major dilemma. The Bible explains God as being two parts. God is JUSTICE. And, God is MERCY. God knows that blood must be taken, which means somebody dies, in order for “at-one-ment” to happen. Atonement means forgiveness. For JUSTICE to be served, a life has to be taken. For MERCY to be served, a life must be spared. Do you see the dilemma that God is facing at this point in time?

So, it makes sense that God chose for animals to be the “life-blood” that is taken to pay for the sins of mankind. This is the way of the Old Testament. A man/woman who had sinned and separated themselves from God, would choose a perfect animal and take it to Jerusalem to the priests of the Temple, and the priests would sacrifice the animal, by taking all its blood from its body, and putting some of the blood on the person who sinned, and then took some of the blood and sprinkled it on the altar of the Temple to show God that blood was shed to pay for the sin. Any left over blood would be burnt as an offering to God. When the blood was shed and placed on the person and then offered to God, God forgave that person for their sins. This was done once a year, every year and had to be done in Jerusalem. By doing this, God’s justice was fulfilled because a life was taken to pay for the sin, and God’s mercy was fulfilled because He was able to spare the life of his most beloved of Creation, and instead took the life of an animal. (To you animal lovers out there…God does love all animals, but not as much as people.) In this plan of God’s…. Justice and Mercy are both fulfilled. That’s a good plan.

However, over time, and for reasons I can’t fully explain, the animal sacrifices became insufficient for mankind as an offering. My opinion is that the offering and killing of an animal was supposed to be a way to prevent people from sinning. I think God was wishing that we as mankind would have enough compassion towards animals that we would want to stop sinning to spare the life of the animal. However, I think, it turned out to be a form of a free ride for people. People became apathetic towards the animal sacrifices and began doing the sacrifices for the purpose of fulfilling religious laws instead of doing the sacrifice as a way of sorrowful regret and repentance. To say it more succinctly, people kept on sinning and did even more sin, knowing that a simple killing of an animal would pay for the sin. It became an easy out for people.

God determines that this Old Testament payment for sins was not sufficient anymore. He needed to “up the stakes.” This is a serious dilemma for God. If animal sacrifices weren’t working, then what sacrifice, in all of creation, would work? There isn’t much more to choose from. It basically left US to be the ones who needed to die, to pay for sin, so we could be “at-one-ment” again with God. This dilemma is intense, because if God chooses to kill us, to pay for our own sins, then He kills us…thus loses us and our relationship with him. You can’t have a relationship with dead people. In this scenario, Justice would be served because the sin would be paid for, but mercy would be left unfulfilled, because we would be dead. The opposite idea of this doesn’t work either. The opposite would leave Justice undone. The opposite would be to let you and me off the hook for our sins by simply forgiving us and letting mercy rule the day…but then Justice would be unfulfilled. God is Justice AND Mercy. God is the same Yesterday, today and forever. He can’t just change His very nature. God is who He is. He is the great “I Am.” Anyway, that would mean that God broke His own rules, thus He would not be integrity anymore and thus would not be God. Big dilemma. Right?

So, God comes up with the perfect solution to this grand dilemma. God, the Father, while in Heaven, looks to His right, and there sits Jesus, the only Son of God. Jesus is the one whom God created everything with and through. Jesus and the Holy Spirit are the “Us” in the very beginning of the Bible when God said, “Let US create mankind in OUR image, to be like US.” Jesus is the ONLY SON OF GOD and has always existed with God.

Can you imagine how much God must love us in order for Him to look at His only Son and choose Him to be the one who is killed, so the Life-Blood would be shed and our sins forgiven, thus fulfilling His Justice. But, because Jesus is the Only Son of God, God knew that He could raise Him from the dead and also fulfill His Mercy. And…its gets better! Since this is such an incredible Sacrifice. God would only do it once for all time and for all sins. This IS what is called Grace. Grace is nothing more than this but it is everything. The fact that Jesus came to earth and had His life blood shed for us…IS GRACE. Grace is a free gift. You couldn’t make Jesus not give His blood. You couldn’t make Jesus give His blood. He chose to go and give His blood because He wanted to please and honor His Father. This is a free gift! This IS Grace.

How hard must it have been to be the Father in Heaven and for Him to ask His only Son to leave the comforts of Heaven, be born as a vulnerable baby, live a perfect life, be beaten, scourged, humiliated, and crucified?…………….So you and I could have our sins washed clean? So God could have you and me back? What a price!

Don’t tell me, or anyone else, that God doesn’t love you. Don’t tell me, or anyone else that God sends you to Hell. He only honors our choices after paying such a huge price for us.

God did EVERYTHING He could do for you. To do anything else…to make it easier for you…would make God break His own rules and thus not be integrity, thus not be God. Please do not tell me that you actually wished God would have done more for you? What a price. For me. For you.

All that…to pay for our sins. We are loved.

So when Jesus says, “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell,” you and I can understand why, right?

So here is the big question…Jesus didn’t mean this literally did He? Because, if He meant this teaching literally the Apostles would have plucked their eyes out on the spot. The Apostles would have been walking around with no hands. If this were literal, can you imagine what the Church services each weekend, around the world would, look like? We wouldn’t need multi-media presentations because none of us would have eyes to see it. We would have to sing our worship songs a cappella because all our musicians wouldn’t have any hands. None of us would have eyes or hands.

So what was Jesus teaching here if He didn’t mean it literally?

Jesus loved to get our attention. He used some pretty cool and amazing illustrations to make us ponder, as long as possible, about His ways. All Jesus is saying here is this….”Do everything you can in your power and with me helping you, to not sin.” If every time you get on the computer, you sin, then wouldn’t it be better to get rid of the computer than to continue in your sin and eternally be separated from God the Father?

The computer is just one example of a million things that we use when we choose to sin. What Jesus is saying here is simply this, “Stop CHOOSING to sin!”

If there is anything in your life that helps you choose to sin and you keep using it as an excuse as to why you sin….then put it away until you can have the self-discipline and the strength to resist the sin. Throw it away forever, if that is what it takes for you to quit using it as an example to continue to live in sin. Jesus is saying…”Please…after all the crap I went through to show you how much My Father in Heaven loves you…please don’t keep on sinning….Please don’t make My pain and sacrifice a waste of your eternal life….please.”

SWEAT IT OUT:
Is there anything in your life that you are using as an excuse to continue sinning?
What are you continuing as sin?
What does God have to do in His relationship with you if you choose to keep on sinning? (If you don’t know that answer, please go back above and read about what God has to do when we sin.)
What sin or sins do you HAVE to keep on doing? _________________________________________________ (fill in the blank…and seriously think about whether or not you HAVE to keep on committing it.) Remember, when Jesus died, He broke the power of sin and its curse over you. By giving your life to Jesus you “can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.”
Be a conqueror! Not an excuse maker!

This is tough stuff!
You can do it!

Remember these two passages and it will help you conquer all sin in your life.

1 Corinthians 10:13, “13 The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.

1 John 1:9, 9 But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.

Live Holy! A huge price was paid so that Justice would be served to pay for your sins and Mercy was served so that God could keep you in a relationship with Him.

Don’t keep Crucifying Jesus because you choose to live in sin. You and I are not perfect and we will make mistakes. But there is a big difference between making mistakes and CHOOSING to sin.

Choose Holiness.
You will be eternally grateful.
The Father in Heaven will be too.


HYDRATE — WINNING FROM THE INSIDE 15 (Mt.5:27) “Adultery/Lust”


“You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:27

DRINK IT IN:
I think Jesus had the gift of being direct. Wouldn’t you agree? It doesn’t seem like Jesus’ listeners ever had to wonder what He was thinking, because He just said it. I find this trait refreshing about people. Oh, it can be irritating, but to me, its better to know what’s going on inside the head of someone, than to wonder. Which do you prefer and why?

Jesus was being very direct here. He was leaving nothing up in the air for interpretation alterations. He made it very clear that Adultery is sin and He took it one step further. He said to even look lustfully upon a person is adultery as well. We should all be in agreement that “Actions speak louder than words.” The action of adultery is sin and evil. But Jesus takes this issue deeper. I think Jesus loved to talk about foundations and origins. In my opinion, Jesus was warning us about the dangers of what goes unspoken in our lives yet impacts us. The thoughts, feelings, emotions, mental images, that are alive inside our brains and hearts, are just as serious to God as real actions. In my Hydrate post #12 titled “Words,” I wrote about how Jesus says that the WORD itself is not where the evil resides. The evil resides inside the heart and becomes evident through the spoken word. Jesus is saying that what is in the heart ends up being spoken as words. So it is in this case with adultery. It starts in the heart. It starts internally. Its starts as a secret. I don’t know who originally said it, but someone once said, “a secret is the beginning of sin.”

Jesus doesn’t give us any “wiggle room” here. (As I typed the word wiggle, my mind just sang the lyrics “wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle…Yeah” to the popularly funny and inappropriate song sung by LMFAO) And that just proves a point I am trying to make. When we see and hear and think about things it is a natural thing to internalize them. It just happens. I have only heard that song on the radio a few times, but its inside my head now and probably always will be. And this brings me right to the point I want us to have great clarity about. Before I go there, let me pause and ask…Do I have to go any further about Adultery being wrong? Just in case you are trying justify any sexually deviant behavior outside your relationship with your spouse, as non-adulterous, I want to clarify. Sex with another person, who is not your spouse of the opposite sex, is adulterous. It is Adultery. Period. The End. Done. If you desire to argue that…there is something deeply wrong in you. Stop it.

Let’s get to clarity as we go through this writing. I have a question for you. Just because I thought about the inappropriate song by LMFAO, did I sin? The answer is no. Because to have an initial thought about something is not sin. You would have to remove your brain to not have this happen. To have an initial thought about something like this, is called temptation. TEMPTATION IS NOT SIN. Temptation to sin, is not sin. Let’s make this practical to the subject at hand, adultery.

Jesus says that if we even look upon a person with lust in our heart, we have committed adultery. So what does it mean to “look upon a person with lust in our heart?” Have you noticed that Jesus never says it is a sin to lust? Go back and look up the verses. Lust, by itself is not sin. For if this is the case, then Lusting for Life would be sin. Lusting for Holiness would be sin. According to Wikipedia, “Lust is an emotional force that is directly associated with the thinking or fantasizing about one’s desire.” Did you get that? Please read it one more time. I can lust for God and other things. Its fascinating to me that we link lust with sex, but lust can be linked to anything holy OR unholy. Lust, in and of itself is simply a desire that God created us to have. It’s closely linked with passion and drive. So, here is the deal. WHAT we lust upon makes it holy or not. Please agree with me on this. I know its a different kind of thinking, but its important to have clarity on this. I speak with men, frequently, who feel like they are cursed, because of the strong desire that they have inside of them. When I explain to them that they have the gift of lust inside of them, and every person does, and that they need to manage and guide that lust, IT FREES THEM! There is a popular book out called “Every man’s battle.” I know the premise of the book and how its about helping men conquer sexual temptation. I would just prefer that the book be titled, “Every man’s Gift!” Desire is a gift! Desire is a synonym of lust. To call this desire, a battle, is to set a premise that there is something wrong with the way God created man. I know the authors did not intend this reality, but I have visited with many men who believe they have a curse, and it is titles like this book that instigate such feelings. So, does it bother you that I say that, “lust is a gift that we must manage…not a battle that we fight.” Do you sense the difference? Its a little tweak with a big difference. My definition gives a man an adventure to live, the standard definition gives a man a “disease” that he hopes he can survive with.

To remove lust/desire from a man would be to remove the engine from a Corvette. The engine is the power that drives the corvette to achieve the great feats that it can. To remove the engine from a corvette, because it’s too dangerous…now that would be a sad day! Do not forget that God created man with feelings, emotions, strengths, desire and then He created woman to compliment and team with man. God then created this incredible thing called sex for us to enjoy and to use as a form of creation that gives us little people that grow into big people and the cycle continues! Managed in a holy and honorable way and It remains exciting and thrilling. It most definitely is not a curse. Sin is the curse, not desire/lust. Lust unmanaged and focused on ungodly things is sin, but not lust itself. Again, we can lust for God and life! Let me create a hypothetical situation. Its not really hypothetical, because every man and maybe every woman has experienced it. I am going to make this hypothetical situation about a man who sees a beautiful woman walk by. Does the man notice that the she walked by? The only way he didn’t notice, is if this hypothetical situation happened in a hospital room and the man is in a coma! But I think He still would notice! LOL. Let’s imagine that this beautiful woman walked by, as the man was sitting in an outdoor patio by himself, having lunch. Once the man notices that she walks by, what happens next is critical, when it comes to spiritual health. If the man begins to mentally undress her and think of doing sexual acts with her, then he has taken his lust and turned it into adultery. But, if the man, as he notices her, takes his eyes off of her and says a prayer like this, “Lord, you are a wonderful creator, please help me to appreciate you by giving you thanks for how you have created woman, I do not want to dishonor you by worshipping the created, but you the creator,” now, he has not committed adultery and he has actually turned a sexually tempting scenario into a form of worshipping to God. There is no doubt that God was honored in that hypothetical situation.

The man managed his desire/lust. This management is a holy thing that honors God. Lust for the Creator, not the created. Big difference. Let me reinforce it this way. Thoughts aren’t sin, evil thoughts are. Sex isn’t sin, sexual immorality is. Testimony isn’t sin, false testimony is. Alcohol is not sin, drunkenness is. Money is not evil, love of money is. Taking naps is not evil, slothfulness is. Actions are not sin, evil actions are. Material goods are not sin, greed is. Anger is not sin, anger out of control is sin. I could go on and on. Please understand this, and if you do, it will free you to live like you’ve always dreamed as a Christian.

Jesus obviously hates sin. I also think that Jesus’ greatest focus was on the origins of sin. It is simple wisdom to want to prevent the action of sin by managing the seed of internal thoughts. Thoughts are the seeds that grow into a full fledged plants that produce fruit. Jesus is challenging us to focus on the seed and the plant will grow from there. He says, adultery is sin, but even thinking lustfully upon a person is sin as well. Be careful what you do with the God created lust that lives inside of you. Manage it well.

SWEAT IT OUT:
Do you have any Secrets that left unchecked can become sin?

What did you wake up thinking about this morning?

If you continue to dwell on what you woke up thinking about, will it lead to holiness or evil?
What “controversial” things do you have in your life that if taken too far become evil? (Things that tend to “stir” up controversy are Alcohol, sex, power, money, tattoos, materialism, _______________________, __________________________. (What am I leaving out?)

Today, I challenge you to guard your thoughts. They are the origins of Holy or Evil behavior. A great passage of Scripture to help you do this is

Philippians 4:8-9…
“8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your THOUGHTS on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. THINK about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. 9 Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. THEN the God of peace will be with you.”

What a challenge!
Lust for it.


HYDRATE — WINNING FROM THE INSIDE 14 (Mt.5:25-26) “Before Court”

“Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.”
Matthew 5:25-26, See also Luke 12:57-59.

DRINK IT IN:
I humbly suggest a better idea than what Jesus says in this passage. Live your life in such a way that nobody ever wants to take you to court. Jesus actually said this anyway…Its really not my idea. I should give credit where credit is due! This seems like a simple passage. Jesus knows we live in a fallen world and that we are going to face many trials. It seems clear to me that Jesus was using his own advice found in Matthew 10:16 where He says, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” I translate that passage this way, “Sly as a snake — Innocent as a dove!” I love that passage.

Jesus is a strategist. He is a holy and innocent strategist. I think that we as people have to be very careful about this thing called strategy, because every single one of us is tempted to justify our motives of why we do what we do by simply saying, “its just strategy.” It would be very easy to take advantage of people and call it taking Jesus’ advice about being shrewd. But Jesus also commands us to be innocent. And even stronger than innocent, He calls us to live above reproach. The fact though, is this, Jesus calls us the Sheep, and the people of world, the Wolves. You are to live as a sheep, not a wolf.

I grew up on a farm and for many years we had hundreds of sheep…there may have even been a time where we had a thousand sheep…if not…it seemed like it. I learned from my experience that sheep are fast. Sheep can be very dumb and at other times be very smart. Its easy to cause sheep to panic. Sheep will protect the things they love, like their babies. Sheep are very playful with one another. Sheep love to eat. So, in reality, its a fair comparison for Jesus to call us sheep. Does this sound like ewe? (Bad sheep joke there.)

It does sound like us. Now, we didn’t have wolves on the farm, but we had coyotes.(Close enough.) They would sneak in and kill and steal and destroy. Jesus said, “I am sending you out as sheep among wolves.” Are you ready for me to get personal? Here’s the deal. If you behave like a wolf, you are a not a follower of Jesus, even if you give yourself the “Christian” title. People who call themselves Christians but have the behavior of a wolf are what I call “Sheep in Wolves’ Clothing.” (I said it like I meant it.) I’m not talking about a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.” I meant it when I said, “sheep in wolves clothing.” These types of people are really very insecure and weak, but they hide behind their title of Christian and their position of power and they appear tough/wise and strategic, but really are not. This type of person is what we, in America, call a Bully. Bullies really aren’t tough like a wolf…they are insecure inside and have the timid character traits of a sheep, but they put on this tough exterior of words, and positional power and hold all that over people, thus, acting like a wolf. A sheep in wolves’ clothing.

Don’t be a sheep in wolves’ clothing.
Be a sheep. (If this title bothers you, then please take it up with Jesus.)

If you are a sheep then you will have to trust in your Shepherd to protect you. You will have to sometimes finish last and rely on the promise of The Shepherd, “The last shall be first.” This one promise is critical, and it encourages us to live like sheep with confidence in the fact that the Shepherd has our backs! Jesus is our Shepherd and He made sure there would be a Bible created, loaded with wisdom, that would help us live our lives as the kind of sheep, He will return for, and spend eternity with. This Hydrate series is simply a form of teaching from the things Jesus said in the Bible. “Hydrate” is a “thinking out loud” about all the things Jesus commanded or taught in the gospels of the Bible. Hydrate is meant to inspire you and induce within you a desire to focus more on Jesus Christ and understand what He believes about you and asks of you.

All Jesus is saying in this teaching is, “If someone is taking you to court, settle it ahead of time.” He is saying, “Don’t let others determine your future.” I think Jesus is saying, “Your future is your reputation, your position, your hard work, don’t hold onto it all too tightly, but don’t let its’ future be determined by anyone else other than you and me.” Jesus is warning you and me in this passage, to make sure we don’t live in such a way, that we end up being controlled by other people. Jesus is saying the best hands to “land” in are God’s hands and the 2nd best hands to end up in are your own. If you allow yourself and your future to be left in the hands of another person…that’s just not smart and its a form of prison. Its especially not smart when its your adversary. IF you are headed to court with your adversary, settle quickly and keep your future in the hands of God and yourself…not anyone else!

Try to settle ahead of time.
Give.
Take the High Road.
Be sacrificial.
Be like Jesus…who was led “like a lamb to slaughter.”
Do what is necessary to make sure you are able to keep your eyes on eternity. That means be “sly” and “innocent.”

If you fight for the things of the world and win…it’s probably the only reward you’re going to end up with. (I Hope you REALLY enjoy it!) Jesus warned us in other passages of the Bible by saying something like this…I paraphrase… “If you do anything on earth for a reward, that is the only reward you are going to get.” Then He says, “Store up for yourselves treasure in Heaven!” Think of it this way…To those who live for this world…this is as close to Heaven as they are going to get. For those who sacrifice now and live for Heaven…this is as close to Hell as they are going to get.

There is so much more to live for in eternity. Don’t fight so hard for the now.
Fight for eternity.

SWEAT IT OUT:
Are there THINGS in your life, that you have in your own grip so tightly controlled, that God can’t even use it, because you won’t let go of it and trust Him with it?
Here are some ideas when I say “Things you control”…
“Your” work’s success.
“Your” Marriage.
“Your” Children.
“Your” Money.
“Your” Security.
“Your” Habits.
“Your” goals.
“Your” material items.
“Your” stress.
The list could go for miles…

I don’t want to get to detailed on this one. You are smart enough to know if you are holding on to something to tightly and controlling it.
The question is, will you be honest enough with yourself to admit that you are trying too hard and holding on too tightly with____________________________________? (I dare you to fill in the blank and then trust God with it!)

Here are some closing thoughts. Jesus says, “settle things quickly before you go to court.” Now, why again? Because if it goes to court you allow your life and future to be determined by someone else other than you or God. That’s not a good place to be. So…think about the following Bible verses and work with a determined heart to live accordingly.

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
Romans 12:18

“Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.”
Romans 14:19

“Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
Matthew 22:21

Is God “speaking” to you right now about some change you could make in your life about anything that you have just read.

Who are you waiting on to make the change for you?
You are “sly” enough to know that you are the one who makes change in your own life.
Stay sly…and remember…its more important to be innocent.
Sly and Innocent are what Jesus asks you to be.
To know Jesus asks us this, is empowering.
You own the daily choices that determine WHO holds your future.
Keep your future in the hands of God and yourself.
That’s the good life.