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Thanks (Ontario Hydro) for all the positive energy!

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Recently someone asked me about the emerging trend of people sending ‘positive energy’ instead of praying for a person as requested.  I’m not sure what this means.  Every month I get a bill from Ontario Hydro for all the ‘positive’ energy they sent me.  It has to be ‘positive’ because they charged me for what I used.  How is energy interchangeable with prayer?  The former is of the physical universe and the latter is spiritual.

Many people are confused by energy because they can’t see it, except maybe when lightning slashes across the sky.  They think it is insubstantial because it’s invisible yet any physics teacher will tell you that one definition of energy  is ‘the ability to perform work’.  There’s nothing insubstantial about that. Sadly a lot of people forget their high school physics if they even bothered to listen in the first place.  Thinking that energy is the same as prayer is very superstitious and reveals an ignorance of physics and things spiritual.

The ‘Well Trained Mind’ community looked at this question and one respondent honestly stated; “When I say it, I mean that I am wishing them well, thinking about them, hoping for the best, and sending up prayers. It is pretty much just like  ‘I’m praying for you,’  but I will only say ‘praying’ if I know someone is definitely the official praying kind and that they are OK with God-talk in public (not in church, lol). For anyone else, or for someone I don’t know well enough to be sure, I never say ‘praying’ in any context.”  This seems to be the most likely meaning. People don’t want to openly say that they believe in prayer.  They would rather make a pseudoscientific statement that they are capable of some kind of mental broadcasting out into the void like a radio transmitter.  Some think that’s way better than sounding ‘religious’!

Spiritually speaking, prayer is powerful.  The Bible tells us;  “ Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.”  (James 5:14,15)  Prayer works in the context of a community – a community of Christian faith.  Prayer works through humility; admitting that you are a sinner and in need of forgiveness.  This humble realization forms the basis of authentic righteousness because there is only one person – Jesus – that has the ‘power’ to forgive sins.  (Matthew 9:4,5,6)  People with that kind of humility and righteousness in Jesus Christ are very effective in prayer (James 5:16).  Seek them out for your prayer requests.

If someone is ‘beaming’ positive energy toward you just be thankful you’re not going to be billed for it.  The air we breathe is comprised largely of a gas called nitrogen (70 percent) that doesn’t sustain us nor does it kill us.   These kind of transmissions of positive energy are like the nitrogen in our atmosphere – mostly inert and harmless.  Let well-meaning people ‘beam positive energy’ to you all they want.  Pray for them.  Pray that God’s Holy Spirit will draw them into His truth (John 14:6). God extends His mercy to all people everywhere (Matthew 5:45)!

Pray also and most importantly that God will provide you with the opportunity to witness to your ‘positive energy senders’.  “Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”  (Matthew 5:15,16)

The very best light to share with all your friends (especially those that don’t believe in Jesus) is His Word!

 

Love your neighbor

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We live in a multicultural society. Some say multiculturalism isn’t working as it should. Others argue that it is our only hope for the future. I’ll leave the debate to the experts. What I would like to share is what Jesus taught me about getting along in a multicultural society.

     Jesus said; “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” (Matthew 19:19) As the world gets smaller and as people from all over the world come to Canada we will need to do as Jesus tells us. My parents were immigrants and I remember how important a kind word and friendly help was to our family. A few months ago I found myself driving a young Muslim man to Friday prayers at an Ottawa Mosque. He was my neighbor in the sense that I knew him and we were friends. I have prayed for him many times in the name of Jesus and I helped him get to the Mosque because of Jesus’ command to ‘love my neighbor’. My young Muslim friend was not offended. Rather he was thankful for my neighborly help.

Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:29-37 teaches that strangers who may have cultural habits very different from ours are capable of great acts of compassion. Jesus taught that a person’s neighbor is anyone who responds to a need for mercy or help when misfortune falls. The Bible tells us that of the three who came upon the injured man it was the stranger who provided help that was the real neighbor rather than the injured man’s ‘countrymen’. Sometimes we get uneasy when surrounded by people who don’t share our cultural mindset but faith in Jesus provides a solid foundation on which to build relationships.

Tolerance is a long held Biblical tradition; “Also thou shalt not oppress a stranger: for ye know the heart of a stranger, seeing ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 23:9) God based this requirement on empathy which is an essential ingredient in a pluralistic society. Sometimes, people with differences will rub each other the wrong way. Jesus taught us what to do in those circumstances as well. We are to use selfless love not force. Jesus taught me that love is the most persuasive weapon available to us; “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:44,45) Jesus knew that we are all in this together.

Jesus’ teachings have so much to offer us in our journey in a multicultural society. You will find them in the Holy Bible.   Praise the Lord!

Spiritual Sobriety

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Spiritual Sobriety like regular sobriety deals with effective and healthy ways of handling yourself in the world. That being said spiritual sobriety differs in that it goes way deeper than your bones and way beyond your skin!

Pastor David Martin says; “When we think of someone who is not sober we often think of a drunkard or a drug addict. Such a person is said to be physically under the influence or control of alcohol or drugs and therefore not in their right state of mind. Because an intoxicated person’s mind is impaired his/her five physical senses become impaired. Consequently, such a person becomes vulnerable to a multitude of hazards that can result in injury even death and in some instances injury or death to others.”

Pastor Martin defines spiritual sobriety in this way; “Spiritual insobriety exists among those whose minds are under the influence of other things besides the Word of God. . . . anything influencing our minds over and above the Word of God can become a factor which results in our being intoxicated in a spiritual sense. In such a condition a believer’s ability to spiritually discern self and/or surroundings in the light of the Word of God becomes impaired.”

The Bible tells us; “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8) The world is full of distractions that entice people away from sobriety.   There are lots of ways to enlightenment, empowerment and success offered up in the guise of spiritual awakenings, many of them have a bit of truth in them to provide a little legitimacy.

Step programs all claim that giving your life over to ‘a higher power’ is crucial to becoming sober physically and spiritually. Wikipedia says; “In current twelve-step program usage a higher power can be anything at all that the member believes is adequate. Reported examples include their twelve-step group, Nature, consciousness, existential freedom, God, science, Buddha. It is frequently stipulated that as long as a higher power is “greater” than the individual, then the only condition is that it should also be loving and caring”

The problem is that there are many higher powers. This is ok when things are going great but what happens when a person inevitably hits a rough spot? Will your higher power help you understand or give you hope? And which higher power is better – yours even though you’re in trouble or the next guy’s who is doing great? Mayby you hitched your cart to the wrong higher power. You start chasing bigger better higher powers.

The Bible tells us what spiritual sobriety really looks like; “we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.  Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.” (Ephesians 4:13,14)

For a person in recovery ‘being tossed about by every wind’ is deadly. It creates doubt and threatens your stability Scripture calls this condition ‘double mindedness’; “the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.” (James 1:6-8) If you’re full of self-doubt, double minded and searching for a better god you become inattentive. And you do live in a world where spiritual forces are seeking your destruction.

Pastor Martin leaves us with a very sobering caution; “Insobriety impairs the believer, while inattentiveness exposes the believer to the enemy. These two elements work together to provide the enemy an unguarded opportunity to tempt one to sin. Such spiritual carelessness in a believer’s life is costly.”

Stick with God’s Word; “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.” (2 Timothy 3:16)

When sobriety is turned down

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This has been a difficult week.

My friend was released from Jail. I drove him to an intake interview with Jericho Road. Jericho Road is a Christian Residential Rehab in Ottawa. My friend was accepted and stayed about a day before he left. I’m disappointed, his family is beyond disappointed. They seem to have come to a place of numbing ‘dare not hope it hurts too much’.   I’ve been there myself and understand what living in that cold, empty and overcast place is like. I’m not sure where my friend is or what he is doing. But, I’m pretty sure he isn’t living a sober lifestyle.

Is he still my friend? Yes! Do I still care about him? Yes! Can I do anything for him right now? No! I can’t make him choose sobriety. I can’t make him think reasonably. I can’t make him do anything.

You see, my friend has lost his power of choice and thought to his addiction. He is caught up in the insanity of using. AA step talk describes it this way; ‘He’s powerless over his addiction and his life has become unmanageable.’ My friend realizes this. He’s done his step 1!

What’s holding him back? Maybe he hasn’t done steps 2 and 3? Has he come to believe only a power greater than himself can restore him to sanity and given his life over to that power or God as he understands Him. Or maybe he has? Prior to going to jail, he was in rehab before for over a year working the steps. Then he left, relapsed and got in trouble.

But if a guy suffers from the insanity of his addiction yet has moments of clarity enough to realize his life is out of control, he’s in trouble. And even goes to the step of giving his life over to a greater power, he’s still in a lot of trouble! Because the God of your understanding can’t be of much help if you’re insane because of the dope you crave. If you’re insane what good is your demented understanding? No disrespect to AA’s twelve steps – a lot of people find help through it – I’m just thinking things through.

The Bible tells us; “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” (Proverbs 3:5,6) This is a different from giving control over to a ‘god of our understanding’. If my friend had trusted in the Lord with all his heart and not relied on his own thinking he would still be in rehab today. I believe that!

So what does my friend need? Who can really help him now? He needs Grace! The kind of Grace that goes out and looks for lost people. The kind of Grace that forgives and lifts up. The kind of Grace that reaches out grabs a hold of a drowning man and does not let go!!!! There’s a name for that Grace – Jesus!   Without Jesus the Bible tells us in tough and rough terms that the gods of our own understanding will always lead us in circles; “Like a dog that returns to its vomit Is a fool who repeats his folly.” (Proverbs 26:11)

Jesus’ mission was all about finding and saving guys like my friend; “. . . the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10) What can I do for my friend? Pray and pray hard for Jesus’ Holy Spirit to convict him of his self-made disaster and walk back towards home and sanity like the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32).

And I can be ready to help him if Jesus leads him my way!

Praise the Lord!

Coming back from idolatry

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Deuteronomy 4:28,29 “There you will worship man-made gods of wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or eat or smell. But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.”

     Idolatry is the natural inclination of a carnal man.   We all have the urge to worship.  Left to our own devices we’ll make gods that are agreeable with our own wants.  These fake gods can’t see, hear, eat or smell because they are made in our own image and so reflect what we see, hear, eat and smell.  When you talk to yourself in the mirror, your image’s mouth moves but you’re the one that does the talking not the image.  You hear words but you’re really just talking to yourself!

     How do you know when you’re following a false god?  You’re fooled.  You chase your own ‘tail’ running around in circles.   You’re boxed in, not able to enjoy life because your worship conforms you to what you idolize until your senses are so dimmed and dulled you walk a living death.  Your idol, once so sweet and so much like yourself, becomes a harsh and indifferent master conforming you to its comfort and your torment.  Scripture tells us to; “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.” (Colossians 3:5,6)

     Idolatry rushes into the spiritual void when God is abandoned by people:  “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,  having a form of godliness but denying its power.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5)  If you believe in nothing you are apt to believe in everything and anything.

     Isn’t this our story today?  So many people smartly insisting there is no God or that God is just a figment of our silly imagination.  The new priests of unholiness spread their gospel; “Beware the irrational, however seductive. Shun the ‘transcendent’ and all who invite you to subordinate or annihilate yourself. Distrust compassion; prefer dignity for yourself and others. Don’t be afraid to be thought arrogant or selfish. Picture all experts as if they were mammals. Never be a spectator of unfairness or stupidity. Seek out argument and disputation for their own sake; the grave will supply plenty of time for silence. Suspect your own motives, and all excuses. Do not live for others any more than you would expect others to live for you.” (Christopher Hitchens)

     Paul knew the social outcome of God hating unholiness; “. . . just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.” (Romans 1:28-32) Welcome to our world!

     There is way out of the pit!  In this world of the lost we can still seek and search for God.  The reward for perseverance is that He will come;  “if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)  The only thing holding us back is pride!

     Thankfully, the Bible describes the heart of our Father in Heaven.    Scripture shows that for those of us  like the Prodigal son  (Luke 15:17-20) who wake up to our pitiful situation,  He will welcome us  back with open arms; “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20)

     Praise the Lord!

Others hate and Jesus takes the blame!

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Hate is like any fire – it doesn’t care where it gets its fuel.  Hate can burn in a fundamentalist and it can burn in an atheist just as easily.  Hate ignites where ever there is dry tinder and a spark.  Jesus knew this all too well that’s why He said; “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 16:35,36) Jesus isn’t the god of the ‘fundamentalists’ who lie when they say ‘God hates homosexuals’.  And Jesus  isn’t the god of those who blame all the world’s hate on religion and Christianity in particular.

An article in the ‘Daily Beast‘ presents a typical view:  “The first time I remember reading the name Fred Phelps was in 1998 when he, along with members from his Westboro Baptist Church, picketed the funeral of Matthew Shepherd, the University of Wyoming student who was targeted, tortured, and murdered because he was gay. As mourners grieved the loss of Shepherd, Phelps & Co. stood outside holding signs promoting their ‘God-inspired’ homophobia. Like many others, I was appalled that a so-called man of God would exploit a community’s tragedy and heartbreak to advance such a hateful message. But having grown up in Christian fundamentalism, I wasn’t surprised. As a child, one of the things I learned about Jesus-focused fundamentalism is that ‘God’s truth’ contained no compassion for the people it hurt, offended, or mocked.”

Since when does ‘Jesus-focused’ equal homophobia?  People read this and believe that all fundamentalist Christians are homophobic.  Yet a Jesus-focused fundamentalist would know what Jesus actually tells us (Luke 16:35,36).  But people rarely go to the bother of checking out what Jesus actually says.  Instead they rely on what others tell them.

King David was distressed by the death of his good friend Jonathan and was mourning him – but this little sign doesn’t tell you that. The sign is setting up a strawman to fool the ignorant. Is it working on you?

This is a problem common to Christians and anti-Christians alike.      Today, we can find all sorts of examples of how the Bible’s message to humanity is twisted and misrepresented.  Ignorance is dry tinder for hate.  

All that is needed is a spark. Albert Mohler writes about one Canadian politician; “Svend Robinson, the Member of Parliament for Burnaby-Douglas. Robinson is a notoriously liberal and flamboyant legislator, who also promotes himself as something of a symbolic leader for Canada’s gay community. Robinson’s animus toward Christianity has been evident for some time, and he has described Christian leaders as ‘ecclesiastical dictators’. Responding to one critic, Robinson showed his true colours: ‘You people are sick. God should strike you dead‘ [emphasis mine].” (Evangelicals Now) Hate doesn’t care who  you are, it will feed on anyone and grow.

Sadly, many are left with what has become a majority view of God and Christianity; “Fred’s hateful God left nothing to the imagination, and was easy to reject. But for countless American Christians, finding a God who doesn’t hate them for what they are is a long and painful journey.”  (Fred Phelps May Be Dead, But His Fundamentalist God Lives )   That journey is only as far away as an honest and open reading of the Gospels in the Bible; “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged . . . ” (John 3:17,18)

Many people who haven’t read or studied the Bible have come to hate it and often their ‘Bible hate’ is based  solely on what its critics  say; “The Bible may, indeed does, contain a warrant for trafficking in humans, for ethnic cleansing, for slavery, for bride-price, and for indiscriminate massacre, but we are not bound by any of it because it was put together by crude, uncultured human mammals.”  (Christopher Hitchens)    Here is what Jesus says in the Bible  about hate and love; “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?” (Matthew  5:43-47)

I am a fundamentalist Christian.  I believe and live by the Holy Bible, not perfectly but I practice every day.  If that means that you hate me and believe I should be in jail my response as a fundamentalist will be to strive to do what Jesus tells me to do – Love you and pray for you.  You have nothing to fear from me – I won’t fight you because Jesus tells me not to.

Praise the Lord!

You brood of vipers!

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Luke 3:7-9 “John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.’”

     John the Baptist was not a crowd pleaser!  He didn’t welcome the ‘crowd’  with open arms and a loving smile.  He nailed them!  He called them out for their nasty ways.  He told them their pedigree wouldn’t protect them from the consequences of their sin.  John told them that God was bigger than their crowd and was capable of making something new out of dead rocks without them! The ‘axe’ was ready to strike and they would feel its bite.  Would you listen to ‘crazy talk’ like that?  Does it apply to you?  Do you catch yourself condemning or judging – even if its only people that clearly deserve it?

   Matthew Henry takes John’s words to heart; “If we are not really holy, both in heart and life, our profession of religion and relation to God and his church, will stand us in no stead at all; the sorer will our destruction be, if we do not bring forth fruits meet for repentance.”  Religious pride hardens the heart, dulls the hearing brings unanticipated destruction.  Religious pride reaps a terrible ‘reward’ for those who wallow in it.  The fires of hell are the hottest for those who make a profession of condemning others to it.

     The crowds back in John the Baptist’s day did listen to his rebuke and call for repentance.  They asked him; “What should we do then?” (Luke 3:10)  John told them; “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.” (v. 11) Others approached;  “Even tax collectors came to be baptized. ‘Teacher,’ they asked, ‘what should we do?'” (v 12)  To the tax collectors, John said; “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” (v 13)  To the soldiers; “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.” (v 14)

     What John said was an echo of what Jesus was later to sum up as the essence of the Law and the Prophets;  God is first and foremost – love him enough to change by loving your neighbor as yourself!  Some listened, many did not.  Those that did listen changed their lifestyle.  Notice John wasn’t calling for a change of doctrine he was calling for a change of heart.  Jesus made the same call to Matthew (a tax collector). And to those self-righteous ones who wouldn’t listen to Him, He said; “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT SACRIFICE,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:12,13)

   Do we listen today?  How much religious  ‘wax’ plugs our ears?  How much doctrinal dirt crusts our eyes?  How much hate hardens our heart? Righteous acts proceed out of a repentant heart.   The fruit of which are mercy and compassion.  Try to look at the world through Jesus’ eyes.  It’s hard and thankfully, we have many examples of how He treated sinners in the Gospel.  Did He condemn the woman caught in adultery to hell? (John 8:1-11)  Then, why in God’s name would we condemn?

     How about the person who condemns – do we condemn the condemner?  Now the infamous, Fred Phelps is in very poor health.  Some say he is near death.  Some think he is going to the very place he condemned others to. Some condemn Fred Phelps because of his actions towards them and others. Keith Brekhus when contemplating Phelps’ approaching death wrote; “As Fred Phelps approaches his final days, the temptation to attend his funeral, once he passes, with a ‘God hates Fred’ sign, might be tough to resist. However, a stronger message would be to avoid his funeral altogether rather than answering hate with hate.”

     God never hated Fred Phelps (John 3:16).  Jesus died for Fred Phelps (Romans 5:8).  It is never God’s intention that any should perish; “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)  Right now I hope Phelps repents at the 11th hour like the thief on the cross beside Jesus (Luke 23:39-43)  I don’t know if he will.  It’s not likely given Phelps’ habits of hate but I know it’s not my place or competence to  make that particular judgement. Jesus loved the rich young ruler even though the fellow loved his own riches more: “And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’ Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” (Mark 10:21,22)

     Never  having felt the cruel bite of Phelps’ hatred it is easy for me not to condemn him.Nor will I judge those who have to struggle with their own hatred for Phelps.  There are people who hurt my family and hurt me that, in hot anger, I condemned to hell.  This was wrong and sinful.  I struggle with my sin and I repent.   Jesus tells us; “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions.” (Mark 11:25,26)  This is so very hard for me to do.  And as a Christian I MUST DO IT.  Only by the Strength and Grace of Jesus Christ am I able to forgive my enemies.

     Lord, help us all to stop our religious pride parades!

     Lord, give us the strength to forgive and to openly repent of our sins.

     Help us Jesus,  to forgive so that we will be forgiven.

     Praise the Lord!

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