Archive for October, 2012

Making Restitution


                “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Mathew 5: 23-24.)               


                No one can have a close relationship with God in a vacuum; everyone lives within a social structure; a community made up of family, friends, neighbors, acquaintances, and even complete strangers.  Our relationships with others are a reflection of our relationship with God; when we sin against our neighbor, we also sin against our Lord; if we have cheated anyone, we have also cheated our God.  If we lie, slander, and hate another person, we have lied, slandered, and hated our own creator.  In the first century many Jewish families journeyed long distances to sacrifice animals to atone for their sins and to be restored to a right relationship with God.  Jesus has taught us that we are to first be reconciled to our neighbor; only then, are we permitted to approach God in order to honor Him with our sacrifices (and receive atonement for our sins.)  This commandment, known as ‘making amends,’ is still an essential part of true Christianity today.

                When I came to California over 7 years ago, I began to work a 12 step program; a program whose original founding members were almost entirely Christian; therefore the formation of the steps were heavily influenced by the teachings found within the book of James, the Sermon on the Mount, and 1 Corinthians 13.  After becoming a Christian myself, I came to realize that Christ’s command to make amends likely influenced the formation of the 8th and the 9th steps.  The eighth step reads, “Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to amends to them all;” the ninth step reads, Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”  From 2005 until today, I have continued to make amends to those I have harmed.  I have made restitution; I have paid off nearly every delinquent debt, and I have asked for forgiveness from those who were affected by my sins.  With every debt paid and every apology given, I have felt my spirit drawing ever nearer to my teacher, my Lord, my God, and my friend.

                Today, if you desire to grow closer to God, you might consider examining the mistakes of your past; if you have stolen from anyone, you are obligated to approach that person and make restitution.  If you have lied, and your lies have caused hardship, you must return and speak the truth.  If your mistreatment of others has created resentments, you are commanded to humble yourself and request forgiveness.  Making amends is an essential part of what it means to be a Christian; frequently, the pathway toward a more intimate fellowship with God in the future, leads through the sins of our past.  We have all sinned, but what we do with those sins will determine whether we go deeper with the Lord, or remain at a distance.  The choice is ours to make.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, bring to our remembrance the names of those we have sinned against; inspire us to approach them and to make restitution.  Give us the strength and the humility to ask for forgiveness; that we might be reconciled to those who are resentful.  We love You Father, we praise You, and we thank You, and we ask and pray all of these things, in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.

In Spirit and in Truth


                Then he said, “Assuredly, I say to you, no prophet is accepted within his own country.  But I tell you truly, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a great famine throughout all the land; but to none of them was Elijah sent except to Zaraphath, in the region of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow.  And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.”  So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up and thrust him out of the city; and they led him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built that they might throw him down over the cliff.  Then passing through the midst of them he went his way (Luke 4: 24-30.)


                Jesus Christ encountered extreme opposition while preaching near the city where he had been raised.  Many had seen him grow from infancy in to adulthood; they were very familiar with his family; and that familiarity created in their hearts great disrespect and disdain.  The Son of God therefore prophesied that they would reject him and that, in turn, he would bring the message to complete strangers.  Jesus referenced two Old Testament prophets who endured similar experiences.  Elijah and Elisha were messengers of God who were rejected by many of their fellow Hebrews; therefore, God used them to bless foreigners.  Elijah for instance, pronounced a three year drought upon the nation of Israel due to the wickedness of King Ahab.  During that time Elijah stayed with a poor widow woman in a foreign land where God miraculously provided for all of their needs.

                The Lord’s initial priority was to bring the gift of salvation to his own countrymen.  The majority of them however rejected Jesus as their messiah; therefore God, in His wisdom, offered the kingdom to anyone who was willing to receive it.  Paul was a disciple who boldly preached the gospel throughout the ancient world; he planted numerous churches, and was used to bring many to the faith.  Yet his love for his fellow Jews never waned.  Upon entering a city, he would first venture in to the synagogue to preach; after he was rejected, he would take the message to the gentiles (non-jews) (who were more than eager to receive the Holy Spirit.)  God’s plan has always been to use his Son to bless all nations, and tribes, and tongues; because Jesus Christ was rejected, those who are strangers have been lovingly received.

                Today membership within the body of Christ is open to all; there are no limitations; there are no ungodly requirements; true faith is not bound by race, language, or ethnicity.  God in His wisdom has chosen to make salvation available to everyone.  No longer can one nation claim God for themselves.  He has ceased to reside solely amongst the descendents of a single individual; nor, does He dwell within sacred buildings and religious institutions.  He cannot be worshipped at the temple in Jerusalem; instead He lives within the hearts and minds of those who have received Him (for God is seeking men and women who will worship Him “in spirit and in truth.”)  May you receive the Lord and be blessed; may His peace overwhelm you; may His love possess you; that you may be the man or woman God has called you to be.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we praise You for Your plan of salvation.  We thank You that all who desire to know You today can.  May we receive more of Your Holy Spirit.  May we draw near to You with our hearts and with our minds.  May we worship You, honor You, and praise You with every word that we speak, and with every action that we take.  We love You Father, we praise You, and we thank You, and we ask and pray all of these things, in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.    

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