Saturday, June 23, 2012

Healing, forgiveness, and reconciliation when a brother sins against you

By Mark Ellis
In one of the earliest teachings Jesus gave to the church, he taught about a process to find healing and reconciliation when a brother or sister sins against you.
In the Book of Matthew, chapter 18, Jesus said:
”If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.
“But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”
Here Jesus gave some instructions about how to deal with a fellow believer who sins against us. Jesus did not say if your brother irritates or offends you in a minor way, that you confront them in this manner.
Pastor Ray Stedman noted that there is another word in the Christian life that covers irritations coming from difficult people: that word is forbearance. We are called to bear with one another. We put up with difficult people, the grace-growers around us, often without saying anything. Sometimes they drive us to our knees – if not almost crazy.
If the offense rises to the level of sin, you must take the initiative to go to the person privately, just the two of you. Don’t wait for the person to come to you. Often, they will never take the initiative. They may be blissfully unaware they’ve even hurt you.
One of our former senior pastors, Steve Krantz, warned in a sermon about “triangle-ing.” Triangle-ing is when you go to somebody else first, instead of directly to the person who sinned against you.
This is our human tendency, to go to somebody else and say, “Whoa, do you know what so and so did to me?” Then we unload the dump truck in their lap. Then it gets passes around.
Triangle-ing can quickly turn into gossip, which leads to dysfunctional families and dysfunctional churches. If we start telling other people, that in itself is a sin.
None of us likes confronting someone else about a sin matter. Your attitude when you go is all-important. You should go in a spirit of gentleness, speaking the truth in love, with compassion, sympathy and mercy.
You should not be self-righteous, harsh, or condemning. If the person listens and accepts what you’ve said and stops their sin, there is nothing more you need to do. You’ve won your brother or sister.
If the person won’t listen and rejects what you’ve said, then you take one or two others with you. Our model for this process is God Himself. He goes after his sinning children to bring them back. And he uses the church as a means to do that.
If the person still refuses to listen, tell it to the church. In my experience this is extremely rare that it would get to this level, and usually this is reserved for a church leader who has had a significant moral failure.
But these are the instructions of Jesus himself. At the last stage of this process, if the person refuses to listen to the church, Jesus says to treat them like a pagan or a tax collector.
In our church, we would probably treat a pagan or tax collector pretty well. But in that day they were not treated well; they were treated like outcasts. So I believe Jesus wants  the church to protect its holiness and keep the sin from spreading. To accomplish that, the person was removed from fellowship.
Again, this would be extremely rare today in any church. But even if we give up dealing with a person caught up in habitual sin, even if our human efforts fail, God can take over the process, and that is what usually happens.
God has his ways of getting the person’s attention, and that can be very painful for that individual.
I went through a Matthew 18 process many years ago as an elder who had to confront a pastor that I loved and admired. I put this man on a pedestal, which I should not have done. When he had a moral failure, it almost destroyed my young faith. It was one of the most painful times of my life.
This man finally broke down and admitted what he had down, with great emotion, in front of a group of elders meeting in his home. After that, he went around the room and asked each of us to forgive him.
And that was really difficult for me to do. In fact, I couldn’t do it at that moment. I was too deeply hurt, my wounds were too raw. But I came to realize much later the importance of forgiveness, that it often involves a decision rather than a feeling.
If I waited until I felt like forgiving him that would have been a long, long time.
Just as loving your spouse if a decision, not necessarily a feeling (our feelings go up and down) forgiveness involves a very important decision at a time when we may not have any inclination within ourselves to forgive.
There are times when I really don’t want to forgive someone else. But Jesus’ parable at the end of chapter 18 has become very important to me in understanding why I should forgive. In this parable, Jesus responded to a question that came from Peter.
Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”
Jesus answered,”I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. ”Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents (equivalent to more than $10 million) was brought to him.
Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
”The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
”But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii (equivalent to about $20). He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.”
His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’
”But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened.
Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger, his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
”This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”
In this parable, Jesus holds up a mirror so we can see ourselves. The great king represents God, who has forgiven us all our sins, an enormous debt. The amount he forgave was way beyond our capacity to repay.
At a staggering cost to himself, the king forgave this huge debt. What was the huge cost to God? The death of his only begotten son, Jesus, to pay for your sins.
But this man, who should have been grateful because he was forgiven so much, refuses to forgive someone who owes him the equivalent of about $20 dollars.
The rabbis had a rule at the time of Jesus that you should only forgive someone three times for the same offense. Peter thought he was being generous when he asked if we should forgive someone seven times.
But Jesus says, no, don’t forgive seven times, forgive seven times seventy times. His point to Peter is that we shouldn’t even bother to count. He said there should be no limit on the times we forgive our brother or sister in Christ.
In human terms, this seems completely unfair. I might say I try to forgive someone, but often I don’t forget and it feels awkward around that person. I say that I bury the hatchet, but I leave the handle showing so I can grab it whenever I need it.
Do I really have to forgive?  It goes against everything I’m feeling. I want justice! Justice! I want them to pay.
It seems unreasonable until I think about how many times God has forgiven me. How many times have I gone to God and confessed the same darn sin? I can’t count that high. What if God said there was a limit of three times or even 7 times to forgive me for that? What if God had a three strikes rule?
There is no limit on how many times you can come before God and ask for forgiveness. Aren’t you thankful for that? He never counts the times we come before his throne of grace. He freely forgives us and washes us clean.
God not only forgives our sins, he forgets our sins. The Scripture says that as far as the east is from the west, that is how far God has removed our transgressions from us.
Why should I forgive those who hurt me? First, God has forgiven me so much. He cancelled all my debts; he wiped the slate clean. If he has forgiven $10 million of my debt, how can I withhold the forgiveness of $20 in debt from somebody else?
Why should I forgive those who hurt me? If you notice the end of the parable, the unmerciful servant is thrown into prison, to be tortured by his jailers. Unforgiveness is like a torturous prison.
By not forgiving that person, you end up hurting yourself even more, as the resentment and bitterness eat away at your heart. You can even make yourself sick due to this self-torture.
Why should I forgive? Because I need forgiveness every day myself.
When I forgive that person who wounded me, I don’t let them off the hook. I simply take them off my hook, and place them on God’s hook. I relinquish my right to get even and give all those rights over to God. He has a better arsenal than I do.
There is a day coming when God will settle the score completely on all sin and injustice in the world.
But there won’t be healing in the world until there is healing in our hearts. It begins right here. Because of the grace God has shown each one of us, we can begin to extend grace to each other.
 Because of the grace God has shown you and me, you can be an instrument in his process of healing, one heart at a time.
Mark Ellis is a senior correspondent for ASSIST News Service and the founder  He is available to speak to groups about the plight of the church in restricted countries, to share stories and testimonies from the mission field, and to preach the gospel.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Seven questions in light of heaven

By Mark Ellis
Many believers entertain vague, incomplete, or even faulty views about heaven, a condition that may rob them of fullness and joy during their relatively brief lives on this side of eternity.
Author Randy Alcorn, in his outstanding book, “Heaven” (Tyndale House), seeks to rectify this problem in an exhaustive treatment that answers almost every question the most imaginative minds could conjure about our lives to come.
The stark reality is that about 250,000 people worldwide die every day and go to either heaven or hell, as Alcorn notes.
As we pass through the doorway of death, like a ship disappearing over the horizon headed for a better land, Christians enter into an “intermediate” heavenly state, which is temporary, according to Alcorn’s understanding of Scripture.
This represents the transitional period between our lives on Earth and our future resurrection to life on the New Earth. But Christians often miss the crucial distinction between this temporary place and our true eternal home.
“When we tell our children ‘Grandma’s now in Heaven,’ we’re referring to the intermediate Heaven,” Alcorn notes. “The intermediate Heaven is not our final destination. Though it will be a wonderful place, the intermediate Heaven is not the place we are made for – the place God promises to refashion for us to live forever.”
In the intermediate Heaven, we’ll await the time of Christ’s return to the earth, our bodily resurrection, the final judgment, and the creation of the new heavens and the New Earth, Alcorn notes. “If we fail to grasp this truth, we will fail to grasp the biblical doctrine of Heaven.”
Randy Alcorn
Alcorn devotes most of his book to exploring the beauty, greatness, and grandeur of our lives on the New Earth. “God’s children are destined for life as resurrected beings on a resurrected Earth,” he notes. “We must not lose sight of our true destination. If we do, we’ll be confused and disoriented in our thinking about where, and in what form, we will spend eternity.”
“Just as we die, the earth will be destroyed; and just as we will be raised, the earth will be renewed,” Alcorn notes.
A New Heaven and a New Earth will be merged together. “The future Heaven will be in the human realm, on Earth,” he writes. “The dwelling place of God will be the dwelling place of humanity, in a resurrected universe.”
As the Apostle John foresaw in the Book of Revelation, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them.”
In the vastness of the universe, it is sometimes hard to grasp God’s exclusive plan for planet Earth. “Earth is unique,” Alcorn notes. “It’s the one planet – perhaps among billions – where God chose to act out the unfolding drama of redemption and reveal the wonders of his grace. It’s on the New Earth, the capital planet of the new universe, that he will establish an eternal kingdom.”
In the light of the many facts presented in Alcorn’s book about Heaven, he asks every Christian to ponder these all-important questions:
  1. Do I daily reflect on my own morality?
  2. Do I daily realize there are only two destinations – Heaven or Hell – and that I and every person I know will go to one or the other?
  3. Do I daily remind myself that this world is not my home and that everything in it will burn, leaving behind only what’s eternal?
  4. Do I daily recognize that my choices and actions have a direct influence on the world to come?
  5. Do I daily realize that my life is being examined by God, the Audience of One?
  6. Do I daily recognize that the only appraisal of my life that will ultimately matter is his?
  7. Do I daily reflect on the fact that my ultimate home will be the New Earth, where I will see God and serve him as a resurrected being in a resurrected human society, where I will overflow with joy and delight nearer to God by studying him and his creation, and where I will exercise, to God’s glory, dominion over his creation?
Alcorn relates the story that after Columbus discovered the New World, Spain struck coins with the Latin slogan “Plus Ultra.” It meant “More Beyond.” This was a horizon-expanding message, encouraging the people to believe there was more beyond their shores.
Likewise, every Christian should have their imaginations set aflame with anticipation of the wonders of the New Heaven and the New Earth. In God’s new universe there will always be more beyond…

Mark Ellis is a senior correspondent for ASSIST News Service and the founder  He is available to speak to groups about the plight of the church in restricted countries, to share stories and testimonies from the mission field, and to preach the gospel.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Enabled Not Disabled

Oscar Pistorius: ‘The Fastest thing on no legs’

By Nico Bougas
Special to ASSIST News Service

SOUTH AFRICA (ANS) -- Oscar Pistorius is an inspiration and one of the world’s great sporting icons who was voted in Time Magazine's top 100 People of Influence.

Oscar Pistorius in action
This 25-year old South African, described as “the fastest thing on no legs”, is a real-life champion, and no fictional figure.

He was born with missing fibulae in both his legs due to a congenital condition. Before his first birthday, his legs were amputated below the knee.

At school he excelled in rugby and water polo, but a knee injury terminated his rugby career.

He was introduced to athletics while undergoing rehabilitation.

Oscar’s first major competition was the 2004 Summer Paralympics in Athens. He came third overall in the T44 100 m event, which included single amputees.

According to,  he qualified for the final after falling in the preliminary round for the 200 m, but Oscar has a different version of the truth. “I did not fall. There were several false starts and the starter didn’t give us enough time to pause on the set position before starting the race so when he fired, I presumed that he had false started again.”

But there was nothing accidental about the final. Pistorius went on to win it in a world record time of 21.97 seconds, beating single amputee American runners Marion Shirley and Brian Frasuee.

Oscar runs on carbon-fiber and steel blades attached to his knees. They were especially developed  and are called Cheetahs.

Recently, Pistorius finished a 100 m race in a magnificent time of 10.91 seconds.
By the way, Oscar does not perceive himself as disabled. “I don’t see myself as disabled. I just don’t have lower legs.”

In 2007, Pistorius took part in his first international competitions for able-bodied athletes. However, his artificial lower legs, while enabling him to compete, have generated claims that he has an unfair advantage over able-bodied athletes. The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) amended its competition rules to ban the use of “any technical device that incorporates springs, wheels or any other element that provides a user with an advantage over another athlete not using such a device”. The federation claimed that the amendment was not specifically aimed at Pistorius. After monitoring his track performances and carrying out tests, scientists took the view that Pistorius enjoyed considerable advantages over athletes without prosthetic limbs. On the strength of these findings, on 14 January 2008 the IAAF ruled him ineligible for competitions conducted under its rules, including the 2008 Summer Olympics. This decision was reversed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport on 16 May 2008, the Court ruling overall there was no evidence that Pistorius had any net advantage over able-bodied athletes.

Pistorius is annoyed about allegations that his so-called bionic legs give him an edge over other runners. “I train as hard if not harder than many athletes. I diet, sleep and base my life around athletics and it is a shame as too when either spectators or critics try and base my success on my apparent bionic body or my prosthetic feet.”

The 25-year old athlete is extremely popular internationally. In March 2007, journalists of a German magazine, Der Spiegel, spent two days in South Africa to do an extensive article on Pistorius. There are plans to write a biography on him.

But he keeps his feet firmly on the ground, and he knows who the source of his strength is.

“God is the most important person in the world to me. If I’m on the right patch spiritually, it helps with everything else.”

He grew up in a Christian home, and accepted Christ as His savior “more or less before I could remember.”

Asked why he needs Christ in his life, he says: “Because He is the reason for my success and the one that takes me from strength to strength.

“Christ makes all the difference. He aids me in my struggles and makes my glories that much greater.”

To other athletes, Pistorius has this advice: “Believe in yourself. In the final seconds before a race, I tell myself: I wouldn’t be here unless I qualified, and I know I can do this.”

Nico Bougas is the International Development Director for Hellenic Ministries.He has a master's degree in communications from Wheaton Graduate School and M. Div and D. Min degrees from Trinity Theological Seminary. He is the author of five books. He previously worked for Youth for Christ in South Africa and was Editor of In Magazine and Christian Living TODAY and currently serves as Consulting Editor for JOY Magazine and is an Associate of Sports Outreach Africa. For further, information contact:

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Old Man Is Gone and a New Man Appears

The Holy Ghost brings salvation and new-found freedom in Christ Jesus

By Grelan Muse Sr., founder of Inside The Pew
Special to ASSIST News Service

BATON ROUGE, LA (ANS) -- Going to church on Sunday as a kid was always interesting. My family and I used to attend an old wooden church which sat on the hill in Amite, Louisiana. We did not have central air to keep us cool, only a box fan. Service got going at 11 a.m. and the time we shared with the Lord and in fellowship with each other was priceless. The only heat that went on at our church was the fire the congregation showed for the Lord.

The old saints would rejoice and all we had was one big drum and a few tambourines to work with. We clapped our hands and sang praises to the Lord such as “Payday is Coming After While” and “It’s Gonna Rain.” Then, the spirit of God encompassed us. The young people had to get up and testify as well. We were so happy to do so and tell how good God had been to us that week. I could feel the power moving all around me and others in the room.

As a teenager, I didn't understand everything that was going on, but I knew it was the anointing that destroyed the yoke, and, at that time, the anointing had broken down the strong holds of the enemy. We were so enthralled with the spirit the physical conditions of the church were no longer a concern.

Rural Louisiana Church
Now I can appreciate what was happening within my congregation. The Bible says we all were born into sin. The experience of falling in love with Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Ghost and being born again in the spirit separates us from sin. Once we allow the Holy Spirit to enter our minds and heart, we can live the life Jesus lived. At this point we are free, and we graciously allow the Holy Ghost to come into our lives. This is why you see adults and teenagers crying like babies because there is no more sin in their lives; they are new creatures in Jesus Christ. We are babes in God's sight (1 Corinthians 3:1, KJV).

My experience reminds me of the story in Acts 2:1-4 when the Holy Spirit comes at Pentecost: “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (KJV).

The old man is gone, and a new man is here. The scripture shows the importance of letting the new spirit come in. I can see God working even as I write this column. I encourage those who have allowed the eternal flame to fizzle out to rekindle it. I pray the Holy Ghost will move in your life once again and bring you closer to the One who loves dearly loves you.

Grelan Muse Sr. is founder of Inside The Pew and Emanuel and The Mainline Ministries. Email responses to this column to Follow Pastor Muse on Twitter @gremuse.