A BORN-AGAIN BELIEVER

Home » 2022 » April (Page 2)

Monthly Archives: April 2022

THE ECSTASY OF FORGIVENESS

For God, forgiveness is miraculously instantaneous. When he forgives us, he does so perfectly, and we are miraculously healed.

For us, however, mercy is a process that unfolds over time.

When we forgive, that isn’t the end of the process. It’s just the beginning.

A true act of forgiveness continues for the lifetime of the person doing the forgiving.

It has three main steps.

STEP 1: MAKING THE CHOICE TO FORGIVE

Forgiveness is not a feeling, at least not initially. Many people drag their heels on making the choice to forgive, as they “don’t feel like forgiving” or they say “I can NEVER forgive him for doing that!” But for born-again believers, forgiveness is not optional: It is a command. There is no time and no circumstance when you can righteously choose not to forgive.

Forgiveness is first and foremost a decision of the will.

In other words, it’s a choice. It’s a decision you make of your own free will.

You CHOOSE to forgive, you don’t always necessarily feel like forgiving.

You make the choice to forgive, and then the process of forgiveness begins.

STEP 2: FOLLOWING THROUGH ON THE CHOICE TO FORGIVE

I watched a video a few months ago posted by a pastor who claimed to have forgiven his wife for having an affair with his father. I’m not naming the pastor (to protect the identity of his wife and father), but the whole thing blew me away. It was essentially a textbook case of what NOT to do after you make the choice to forgive. It was clear from the video that the pastor was still hurt and angry about the affair and was still pointing fingers of blame. The anger and the pointed fingers are clear indications that no genuine forgiveness has taken place. I find this deeply saddening for everyone involved.

After you choose to forgive, you don’t talk about the grievance anymore, not even as an example. I can’t stress enough how important this is. You don’t say “Oh, I chose to forgive him for what he did to me, even though it nearly destroyed my life”, you just simply say (if anyone asks) “I don’t talk about it anymore, thank you”. And people will ask, trust me. The devil will prompt someone every now and then to remind you about the grievance. Don’t give into the temptation. Similarly, if the grievance pops into your mind (as a test or temptation), simply dismiss it with “I’ve chosen to forgive”, and say another prayer for whoever it is you’ve forgiven. And thank God for his love and mercy.

That is how you follow through on your choice to forgive: You don’t talk about it anymore and you don’t choose to think about it anymore, even when you’re tempted and tested to do so.

It’s also critically important not to put yourself in a position to be hurt again. Your decision to forgive the person who hurt you doesn’t require their repentance. Of all the people in my life I’ve forgiven, none have come to me with an apology. I don’t expect an apology. Their apology isn’t required for me to forgive them. However, I also will not put myself in a position to be hurt again. To do so would not be using the brain and common sense that God gives us all. Forgiving does not mean to look past the physical or emotional danger and pretend it doesn’t exist; forgiving means stopping blaming someone and refusing to think or talk about it anymore. But it NEVER involves putting yourself into the position to be hurt again. That is not part of the forgiveness process.

STEP 3: HONORING THE CHOICE TO FORGIVE FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE

The decision to forgive is just the start of the process. You must honor your choice for the rest of your life. Just as in the short term you’ll be tempted on occasion to remember and relive the grievance, you’ll also be tempted to do so over the long term. The temptation to blame will likely not leave you until the day you die. Your response should be the same regardless of the time that’s elapsed between your choice to forgive and the test or temptation to resurrect the grievance: You simply say that you don’t talk about it anymore or think about it anymore, thank you very much. And then you say a prayer for the person you’ve chosen to forgive, and you thank God for his love and mercy.

The best and most representative example of how to forgive is Jesus’ final prayer just before he dies on the cross. He simply states: “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.” In this statement, he doesn’t name the grievance, he simply indicates his choice to forgive while at the same time praying to God to forgive them. This prayer of Jesus is, hands down, the best example of how to choose to forgive, regardless of the extremity of the circumstances.

The three-step process of forgiveness outlined above I have used myself for the past 23 years (and counting) since my rebirth. I have tested it on numerous occasions, and I guarantee you that it works 100% of the time.

THE MIRACULOUS HEALING OF FORGIVENESS

The miraculous part – the part where God gets involved – is when the choice to forgive turns into the feeling of forgiveness and then the ongoing desire to forgive. When God knows that your choice to forgive is genuine, he then effects the feeling of forgiveness in you. That means, he certifies the forgiveness with his own personal seal of approval. When that happens, you feel God’s mercy flowing through you, directly from God.

There is no greater feeling on Earth. It’s God’s love, straight from the source.

God’s love straight from the source was in fact the first feeling I felt when I was reborn 23 years ago.

When we make the genuine choice to forgive (and God knows whether or not it’s genuine), God then forgives us whatever sins we’ve accumulated. The feeling that results is the feeling of God’s grace and mercy interacting with our soul.

It’s healing and feeling all at once, giving us a taste of divine ecstasy.

And once you’ve tasted divine ecstasy, you want more and more. You don’t want it ever to stop.

That’s when the directive to forgive becomes the desire to forgive and you cannot imagine not forgiving.

But remember – God forgives us only to the same extent that we forgive others. That is the fair exchange that Jesus spoke about when he gave us examples of prayer topics. For one topic, he advised us to pray the following: “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us”. In this request (which is actually a formula), we are to forgive first, and then God will forgive us to the same extent and at the same time as we’ve forgiven others.

My advice is always to forgive entirely, holding nothing back.

And rush to forgive. Don’t drag your feet – RUSH TO FORGIVE.

And God will rush to forgive you.

I WILL NOT COVER MY FACE

The marketplace is supposed to be neutral ground. It’s supposed to be an area where everyone can buy and sell, regardless of their beliefs or opinions, race or gender, age or fashion style, socioeconomic status or nationality, or physical or intellectual abilities. That’s why every town throughout the ages has had a market square or commons or bazaar: it was a designated zone where everyone was welcome, because money has the same value regardless of who’s holding it, and money is what the marketplace is all about. The marketplace is supposed to be entirely neutral, meaning that it’s not supposed to advertise or promote identifiers that would prevent anyone from participating for any reason.

The neutrality of the marketplace has recently been heavily compromised by government policy in Canada. I was effectively shut out of most stores in the country for nearly two years because I could not/would not cover my face. I’m still shut out of not-very-aptly-named public transportation for the same reason: I cannot fly, sail on an inter-provincial ferry, or take the train. For someone like me who’s never been able to drive, this has become a major barrier to getting around. So I take taxis and buses instead, but I’m still goaded by taxi drivers to cover my face. Legally I don’t have to, so I don’t. I give the drivers the option to refuse me service, but they all relent. When push comes to shove, my money has the same value as that of customers with covered faces.

Yet I’m still prompted by signs on the door of every business I enter, including banks and hotels, to cover my face, despite the masking mandate having been dropped. The face coverings are, according to the signs, “recommended”. Even without a government-imposed masking mandate for the general marketplace, most people in Nova Scotia continue to cover their faces. The glowering looks I get for not covering my face are a sight to behold. I do not feel welcome in this marketplace because I am not welcome. My bare face is considered as much of a cultural affront as it is for women in Muslim-majority countries. After only two years of being mandated by government edicts to cover their faces, most people in Nova Scotia have adopted face coverings as a cultural norm.

A compromised marketplace that either shuts out certain people or dissuades them from doing commerce is no longer a genuine marketplace. It’s a populist propaganda center that rewards and welcomes those who comply with popular majority opinion while shunning everyone else. I have backed away from criticizing government policy because it’s the business of the worldly government, and the business of the worldly government is not my business as a born-again believer who lives in the kingdom. But the marketplace itself has been set up by God to be a neutral zone that’s open to all. It’s a place where everyone should be able to do business.

Absent government-mandated restrictions that were borne of the state of emergency that existed in Nova Scotia from March 2020 to March 2022, no-one has the right to interfere with free commerce in the marketplace. The current populist-imposed restrictions of glares and rudeness, of “Mask Recommended” signs at the door that say to me “Go Away!” instead of “Welcome!”, are an affront to me and to my God-given right to participate in the marketplace. If the worldly government no longer demands face covering, then neither should the marketplace.

It’s that simple.

I will continue to live and breathe and shop and take local public transit with my face uncovered. I will smile at the glares. I will offer to leave if my bare face is too upsetting.

But I will not cover my face.

FLOATING THROUGH THE UNBELIEF

The world is a hostile place for believers. Everything we go through and experience, Jesus went through and experienced before us, including living in an unbelieving world. Yes, many people were slavishly religious (at least on the surface) in Jesus’ day, but there was precious little genuine faith, any more than there is today. Had there been genuine faith, more people would have known, by God’s Spirit, that Jesus was the Messiah. As it was, very few knew, and of those who claimed to know, some still doubted.

In fact, the conditions that Jesus lived under were uncannily like the conditions that Moses lived under, which were uncannily like the conditions that David lived under, which were uncannily like the conditions that Elijah lived under, and those which Isaiah lived under, and Paul lived under, and so on and so on, all the way up to now.

In other words, nothing much has changed spiritually in the world. The ratio of genuine believers to religious believers has remained pretty much stable over the millennia, with a few minor peaks and troughs. However, Jesus warned us that, at the very end of time, there would be a precipitous trough that would bottom out, never to rise again. Thank God we’re not there yet.

Thank God there’s still time.

But that’s not to say that believers don’t have a hard run of it these days. For the past several decades at least, across former Christian nations, fewer and fewer people identify as believers. That puts Christians in the minority in those nations. Of those who do identify as Christian, most have very little knowledge of the Bible or even of the Ten Commandments. They have a vague notion of the importance of being “charitable” or forgiving, but otherwise their lives resemble the lives of those in the world in nearly every regard – they marry, divorce, remarry, have children, get a job, get a mortgage, worry about money, worry about their kids, worry about their health, support the troops, etc. They may or may not attend church services, and if they do attend, they may or may not actually want to be there or to pay attention to the sermon. In fact, many claim to be Christian based solely on their weekly attendance at a church service. Otherwise, they live the life of the world, never wanting more.

Yes, I’m generalizing here, but my experience over the past few decades bears me out. Genuine born-again believers are a rare commodity, and even of those, few live their lives according to the example set by Jesus. Even sadder, very few express a desire to live like Jesus and his disciples. They dismiss that lifestyle as an historical relic that has no relevance in the 21st century. Walking away from your job and your family and everything that ties you to the world is crazy talk, right? Right?

Wrong. Jesus’ example of how to live and move through the world is as valid today as it was 2000 years ago. And just as he and his disciples were thought crazy for choosing to live as they did, we, too, are thought crazy – even by Christians – for believing that we should be living as Jesus did.

I’ve spent the better part of the past two years living in isolation out in the country for no other reason than I felt driven to be there. Now I feel driven to be back among the unwashed hordes. It’s been a culture shock of sorts. I’d forgotten how deeply anti-Christ mainstream Canadian society is. That’s not to say there aren’t pockets of light among the gloom. That’s not to say I haven’t encountered unusual kindnesses in unexpected places. But it still takes some getting used to that hotels don’t as a general rule put Bibles in the night tables anymore. It takes some getting used to that saying the name of Jesus in a public place draws sneers (and in some cases growls). It takes some getting used to that the only time God’s name comes out of most people’s mouths is as a curse. It takes some getting used to that crosswalks are now synonymous with multi-colors, even in the smallest of small towns.

This is the world. I was insulated from it for a while, and now I’m not. Even so, I feel like I’m moving through a parallel universe that is in the world but separate from it. No, thank you, I don’t drink. No, thank you, I don’t smoke. No, thank you, I don’t do drugs. No, thank you, I don’t date. Yes, I’m a Christian. I feel like I should get a card made up, like the gypsies in the Paris subway. I could flash the card to people so they’d know upfront who and what I am and could either dismiss or engage me. I’ve taken to wearing a simple gold cross necklace that may or may not have belonged to my great-grandmother (it’s passed through too many hands and stories to know for sure) as an identifier. Yes, I’m Christian. Yes, I really am a Christian. Yes, I believe that how Jesus lived is how his followers should live. No, thank you, I don’t date.

The world is a hostile place for believers. It might even be ever so slightly more hostile to female believers. Certainly, the Marys in scripture were perpetually getting psychologically back-handed by the male disciples. Jesus had to defend them on more than one occasion. True to his promise and true to form, Jesus is right here with me now through God’s Holy Spirit, protecting me as he protected the Marys. I never feel alone or vulnerable. The world may be hostile, but the Kingdom wraps around me like a warm and soft bubble with the toughest of outer sheaths. Nothing evil can penetrate as long as I, like Jesus, remain loyal to God.

IN TIME OF WAR

As the world prepares once more for war, as sides are chosen and alliances formed, we need to remember who we are, what we stand for, why we’re here, and who has our loyalty.

In case you’ve forgotten, we’re followers of Jesus, we stand for God’s Truth, we’re here to preach and teach the Word and to do whatever God guides us to do, and God alone has all our loyalty.

God alone has all our loyalty, as it was for Jesus.

These facts are indisputable and non-negotiable.

*****

We do not choose sides in a war. We have the God-given right to abstain from choosing sides.

We do not kill, we do not injure, we do not support one side over the other.

We do not point fingers. We do not hate or kill our enemies.

We love them.

Even if it means we have to die ourselves for them, we love our enemies. That is a commandment from Jesus, which means it comes straight from God. There are no exceptions to God’s commandments, not under any circumstances.

*****

We do not take sides.  

We do not pick up weapons to hurt or kill.

We do not support those who hurt or kill.

We do not hurt or kill in self-defence or in defence of our loved ones or property.

Our weapons are for deterrence only.

We do not hurt or kill.

*****

As the world once again turns to war, we need to remember who we are.

We are NOT the world.

We are the Kingdom.

THE ANNUAL PURGE

Once again, we born-again believers are tasked with throwing caution and all yeasted products to the wind in our annual fridge and cupboard purge. It doesn’t matter if the bread’s still good or the crackers are still crunchy – if they’ve got yeast in them, out they go.

Some people are real sticklers about yeast, yeasted products, and leavening agents. My understanding of scripture is that the yeast that’s verboten during the Feast of Unleavened Bread is the slow-acting yeast used to make dough rise. The Hebrews were so hasty in their departure from Egypt, they had no time to let their dough rise before leaving, which meant they later had to bake unleavened bread. Yeast requires time to work its magic, but the Hebrews didn’t have the luxury of time. When we choose to celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread for a week, as commanded us by God, we honor the memory of our spiritual forefathers. We remember and celebrate the miracles that got them their freedom at the very small cost of having to eat unyeasted flat bread until the flour ran out.

Then they ate manna for 40 years.

The spiritual concept of leaving in haste is built-in to being a believer. You don’t do things in your time; you do them in God’s time. And God’s time can be any time, which is why you should always be ready to leave at the drop of a hat – to always have (as scripture describes) your loins girded, your staff in your hand, and your shoes on your feet. That’s how you’re to eat the the Passover meal and that’s also pretty much how you should be going through life as a born-again believer. We no longer do things because we want to do them our way and in our time; we do things because God advises or commands us to do them, in his way and in his time. And often his time is in haste.

We also have the option not to live that way. We have a free-will right to hunker down when we want to and disobey God. We can prep 10 years’ worth of food and supplies and refuse to budge in our mortgaged house, even as the waters start rising all around us. We can still choose the world’s way. But if we do, it won’t turn out well for us in the end. That’s a guarantee.

God intervened in the Hebrews’ sufferings and sprung them from their Egyptian prison in answer to their prayers. In return, they took on a life of wandering and relative hardship, but they never went hungry and all their basic needs were met as long as they stayed the course. Those who didn’t stay the course were unceremoniously removed from the collective.

The same is going on with us born-again believers. Through rebirth, God sprung us from our spiritual prison where Satan was our overlord. In return, he placed us in the spiritual realm of the Kingdom, outside the spiritual reach of the world. He’s given us all jobs to do and rules to follow, and he amply provides for us, as long as we stay our allotted course. If we don’t, the same thing will happen to us as happened to the children of Israel who rebelled against God.

I don’t know about you, but I think giving up yeasted products for a week and purging your home of yeast is a small price to pay for everything God does for us – both those things we know about and the things we don’t. Getting rid of yeast is a timely reminder that when God moves in our lives, it’s usually unexpected and requires of us that we be ready to move IN HASTE, sometimes at just a moment’s notice. When that happens, don’t expect to be able to take anything with you but the clothes on your back and what you can easily carry in your hands.

As always, God will provide for your needs. He always provides for his children.

No matter how insanely impossible it looks, God will provide.

When has he not?

LEAVING JESUS

As born-again believers, we can only imagine the shame the disciples felt when they realized they’d left Jesus all alone to face the soldiers, and certain death. Peter in particular, after boasting he’d rather die than desert Jesus, must have himself felt like dying. But Jesus was undeterred: He knew beforehand that all his followers would leave him, and so he’d prepared himself accordingly.

He didn’t blame them; he pitied them, knowing their weaknesses.

And he forgave them.

Tonight at midnight marks the anniversary of when all of Jesus’ disciples deserted him. The spirit of fear is a powerful force that can make you do things you hadn’t expected you’d do. For instance, God gives women that charming involuntary response of a loud piercing scream whenever they encounter something that makes them unexpectedly afraid. It’s a defense mechanism. I’ve experienced that involuntary defense mechanism myself on occasion: The scream rips out of you before you can stop it. It’s like a reflex.

I think the disciples’ desertion of Jesus all those years ago was also like a reflex. They vamoosed before they realized what they were doing; maybe they even thought at first that Jesus had vamoosed with them.

But Jesus hadn’t vamoosed. He’d stood his ground, completely immune to the fear reflex. No scream escaped his lips. He went to his crucifixion willingly. He even took a moment to lecture one of his followers on the right way to treat others, including the soldiers who were arresting him. As the storm of evil churned and howled around him, Jesus stood in the eye of it, calm and unflappable.

**********

We are to celebrate Passover as Jesus taught us to celebrate it, in memory of him.

Tonight is Passover.

We are to purge our homes of yeast, as Moses taught us to do. The Feast of Unleavened Bread is the continuum of the Passover feast. We’re to purge our homes of yeast because God said to keep this feast for all time. That means it’s ongoing until the end of time. We’re not at the end of time yet, so we keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread. We keep keeping it, because we are the spiritual offspring of the children of Israel, and the children of Israel must keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread for all time. That is a scriptural command straight from God.

If you haven’t yet done so, now is a good time to identify anything in your cupboards or fridge that has yeast in it, and throw it out. Better still, instead of throwing it out, give it to the birds. Don’t give it to people – give it to the birds. Don’t poke it away for later – give it to the birds. But get it out of your house.

That is a command from God.

We’re to celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread just as we’re to celebrate the Passover.

The Passover is tonight, and the Feast of Unleavened Bread continues where the Passover lets off and goes for seven days. The Passover is a reminder of God’s supernatural protection of his people, and the Feast of Unleavened Bread is a celebration of the Hebrews being sprung from slavery. Their freedom came so quickly and unexpectedly, they didn’t even have the chance to put yeast in their bread dough. They had to vamoose with unyeasted dough. Jesus tells us we should live our lives with loins girded and shoes on our feet, always ready to leave at a moment’s notice with little more than the clothes on our back. That’s how the Hebrews left Egypt; that’s how Jesus’ parents left with him when they fled Herod’s murderous decree; and that’s how the early Christians lived: Always ready to leave at a moment’s notice.

These feasts are not optional: they are a command.

Jesus told us to celebrate the Passover – not Easter, not Good Friday, not the Last Supper – Passover.

Passover is tonight.

We celebrate the Passover the way Jesus showed us to, and we keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread for the following seven days.

We do this because we’ve been told to do it.

We do this because man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.

Jesus told us to do it and Moses told us to do it, which means that God told us to do it.

I hope you enjoy your Passover celebrations tonight and that you purge your home of yeast for the next week.

Blessings will follow if you keep God’s commands.

Curses will follow if you don’t.

WHAT IS THE RIGHT WAY TO FAST?

As Passover once again approaches, and with it the ceremony that Jesus asked us to do in memory of him, fasting assumes a more important role than at other times of the year. When asked why his disciples didn’t fast like John the Baptist’s, Jesus said that while the bridegroom was with them, they had no need to fast, but when the bridegroom would be taken away, then they should fast.

So while fasting is not something we should neglect as born-again believers, it’s also not something we should rush into on a whim. As with everything else we do, we should first wait for the green light from God, and then we should fast for the right reason and in the right way.

But what is the right way to fast?

In Isaiah 58: 5-11, we learn the right reason for fasting and also the right way to do it.

If you break the passage down, you see that fasting isn’t about abstaining from food, but abstaining from evil. It’s about disciplining your soul, not your body. It’s about choosing to do what’s good and right in God’s eyes, rather than what’s good and right in the eyes of the world.

This is the fast that has value to God – to fast from doing evil, which Jesus so aptly summed up as treating all others as we’d want to be treated.

And just look at the rewards you get for doing it!

“Thy light shall break forth as the morning”

“Thine health shall spring forth speedily”

 “Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer”

“Thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am”

 “And thy darkness be as the noonday”

“And the Lord shall guide thee continually”

“And thou shalt be like a spring of water, whose waters fail not”.

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have even just one of those rewards than all the money or accolades or pleasures in the world. To have God’s Holy Spirit like a spring continually welling up inside of you, with the joy and insight that brings – nothing on Earth can rival that. To have God’s protection, to have his constant presence, to have his guidance, to have our worst moments be no darker spiritually than noonday (that is to say, not dark at all) – there is nothing on Earth better than that, and all we have to do to earn those rewards is to spend at least $250 before tax in a single purchase (not to be combined with any other offer) – KIDDING!

All we have to do to earn the only rewards that have any real value in this life is to fast from doing evil.

Well, you say, I don’t do evil. Where are my rewards?

And here’s where it gets tricky for us mere mortals.

Very few people like to think of themselves as doing evil. And yet God in the Isaiah passage above is very clear about what he considers as doing evil – accusing people, whether falsely or otherwise; pointing people out as doing this or that or the other thing wrong; standing in judgement of someone; having the ability to help someone who’s come to you for help, but making excuses why you won’t do it; gossiping; and being rude and mean-spirited, either outright or in your heart. For many people, this is all in a day’s work, and yet to God, it’s evil.

Jesus taught us that we have to be careful about what comes of our mouth, as what comes out of our mouth reveals what’s in our heart.

I guess we should start first with giving our heart a good scrubbing, and then we won’t have to worry so much about what comes out of our mouth.

This is why the desire and necessity to fast from doing evil is so important for us born-again believers. It’s like renewing our rebirth state. Remember the passage where Jesus tells his disciples that certain demons can only be cast out by prayer and fasting? I’m pretty sure the kind of fasting he meant was the Isaiah kind of fasting, not fasting from food. The Pharisees and Sadducees fasted all the time, yet I doubt they would have been able to cast out demons the way Jesus did. Jesus cast them out by the power of God’s Holy Spirit, and we know the Spirit only works through those who have a clean heart, those who, in other words, fast from doing evil.

I hope that, before Passover, you seriously consider doing an Isaiah kind of fast rather than a Pharisee or Sadducee one. I hope you scrub your heart right down to the rebirth state and enjoy all the rewards that come with a more powerful presence of God’s Spirit, because that’s what Isaiah is describing. Fasting from doing evil brings you back into alignment with God, just like sincere repentance and spiritual rebirth do.

We need to realign periodically. God will let us know when.

There is no greater joy than living fully in God’s presence.

Fasting from doing evil will get you there.