The 490 Forgiveness Club

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Mathew 18:21-22 “Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive Him? Till seven times? Jesus said to him, “I say not to thee until seven times, but, until seventy times seven” 

There’s a tremendous amount of liberty that comes with recognizing and releasing Christ in you. When you’re really angry with someone, don’t turn the other cheek and say through gritted teeth, “I love you”.  It’s better to say, “Father, in my flesh, I’d like to punch them in the nose right now.  But in my spirit, I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me”. Please live through me, help me to release supernatural compassion for this person so I can love them!”  

Peter thought he was being generous when he asked, “How many times should I forgive my brother, up to seven times a day?” Jesus answered, “Not seven times, but seventy times seven”…490 times in one day!  In other words, there shouldn’t be a limit on your forgiveness. 

In your flesh you might be able to forgive a person for something once, twice, or maybe seven times in a day, but what Jesus asked goes far beyond your human ability.  The only way you can forgive like that is by saying, “Father, I can’t do it, but You can.  Lord please love them through me.” 

When you humble yourself, and turn away from your own natural ability and look to God and His divine ability, you’ll discover a supernatural strength flowing through you.  You have an unlimited supply of the God-kind-of-love in your spirit. In your spirit, you have an unlimited ability to forgive, endure, believe, and hope. 

If you catch yourself saying, “I can’t stand this anymore, I just can’t take it, I’m at the end of my rope”, this is good news.  What you’re really saying is, “I’ve come to the end of my flesh!”  Now let your spirit take over. Pray, God, I’ve been trying this myself, which is why I’m burned out, frustrated, and angry. Live Your life through me.  I believe you’re Word. In my spirit, I’m a brand new person, in my spirit I know I can do this!”  Join the 490 Forgiveness Club, the membership is free!

 

Jesus Adds Life to Your Years

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John 6:51 "I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he will live forever and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world" 

In this powerful verse, Jesus is telling us that He has given us a conduit for HIS life to affect every area of OUR life…Holy Communion.  Jesus said, "the bread that I will give is my flesh".  The more you partake in communion, the more life is released into your physical body and every other natural part of your life. The more you partake the stronger you become, the more you partake your youth is renewed.  

He has prepared a table of benefits in the presence of all of your enemies. The more you partake the more prosperous you become. He said "as often as you do this you remember His death till He come".  When Jesus died, Colossians 2:15 says that He "disarmed" principalities and powers.  So if you're going through a battle today, release the total disarming of every enemy through Holy Communion.  Fear is an enemy, depression is an enemy, arthritis is an enemy.  

Yes, you can add years to your life and life to your years! How often? It depends, how often you want to disarm you're enemies? It depends how much life you want released into your organs, your brain, your arteries, your joints. How often do you want life released into your finances? Into your home? Into your marriage? You decide!

 

Comparison: The Thief of Joy

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John 21:21-22  "When Peter saw him [John], he asked, 'Lord, what about him?' Jesus answered, 'If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you, you must follow me'" 

Theodore Roosevelt once said, "Comparison is the thief of joy".  Folks, there is no joy to be found in measuring your life against anyone else's. One of the best pieces of advice I've received is, "Never compare your beginning to someone else's middle".  

I hear all the time…I want to be further along in my career. I want to provide better financially.  I want a bigger house.  I want a nicer car.  Why is it easy for her to talk to people?  Everyone loves her.  Why am I not more like that?  I wish I was more outgoing and popular.  He has such a good handle on life, why do I constantly feel like I am struggling to figure things out?  I wish it would be easier, why not me?  These thoughts are like a vacuum that sucks the joy right out of life.   

In John 21, Peter was consumed with what John was going to do.  He was comparing himself to John, and Jesus answered and said "What is that to you?" In other words, Jesus had something unique and special for both John and Peter, but in essence was saying, "Get your eyes off of what he's doing and get your focus on what I've told you to do and Me". 

Listen family, you’re an original, you're not meant to be a copy of someone else.  Don't let comparison be a thief in your life.  Comparing who God has made you to be to someone else, comparing your child to someone else's, or comparing your spouse to someone else's.  That’s a recipe for frustration, disappointment, bitterness, and resentment.  Listen to what Jesus is saying to you…"Don't worry about everyone else, follow Me, listen to me, keep your eyes on ME!

 

Cloud Nine

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1 John 4:17 - "Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as He is so are we in this world" 

According to the International Cloud Atlas, which defined ten types of clouds, the ninth type of cloud is a cumulonimbus, which rises over six miles, the highest a cloud can be.  Hence the phrase, "floating on cloud nine"…or a state of bliss, happiness, elation, and euphoria.  

Cloud nine seems pretty awesome, huh.  Well here's nine words that are even more amazing - "As He is so are we in this world".  Those are the nine words I wake up saying every morning.  Notice the verse doesn't say "as He was" or "as we will be".  It says, "as He is", right now, present tense, "so are we". 

Let me ask you a question, is Jesus healthy?  Of course He is.  As He is so are you.  Is Jesus worried today?  No.  As He is so are you.  Is Jesus poor?  No.  As He is so are you.  Is Jesus righteous?  Yes.  As He is so are you.  In your born again spirit, you are wall to wall Holy Spirit.  When the Father looks at you, He sees Jesus.    

These are the most powerful nine words in all the universe.  As you say them out  loud, you are declaring that everything that Jesus IS right at this moment, is released into your life.  Into your marriage.  Into your business.  Into your body.  Cloud nine?  It's no match to the "1 John 4:17 nine"!  

 

Fix or Facts by Natalie Fortunato

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James 1:14 - "But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed" 

Some of you might remember a song from the early 70's called If Loving You is Wrong (I Don't Want to Be Right).  It's a song about a man that's in love with a woman, but he's married, and the woman he's in love with is not his wife!  For some reason, that title has always stuck with me.  I guess it's because I've seen it play out over and over again in people's lives.  They know that something's totally wrong for them, but they want it anyway.   

Are you holding on to or involved in something that you know is not good for you, but you want it anyway?  Are you holding on to something that's hurting you, but you think that letting go will hurt even more?  If yes, then you have a choice to make, do you want a fix or the facts?  

A fix: when you take matters into your own hands, and try to satisfy your desires your way.  When you do things, and won't allow God to do them for you, in His way and in His time. When you decide what's best.  When you answer your own prayers.     

The facts: When you surround yourself with people who will tell you the truth from God's Word, and you make yourself accountable to them.  When you know who you are in Christ and find your value and identity in Him. When you stick to what God has told you to do, no matter what.  

A fix or facts.  You choose.  (Choose facts!)

 

 

Step Into Peace

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Mark 5:34 "and He said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague" 

Imagine being healed of a blood disorder after 12 years of going to every doctor you could find, spending every penny had, and things just getting worse.  Just like that, one encounter with Jesus and she was instantly healed.  What happened next?  He said to her "Go in peace", or in the original Greek, "Go into peace".  This is really important.  Jesus wasn't bidding her farewell.  He was telling her to step into the realm of peace, the way you would step into a house. 

You might be going through a prolonged season of challenges where nothing you have done seems to work. Perhaps you are dealing with a chronic condition.  Or maybe you’re a single parent struggling to make ends meet. Or possibly you have done all that you can to mend a broken relationship, but all your efforts have come up short.  

Jesus is inviting you to receive grace for your situation, step out of your place of fear, worry, and anxiety, and step into the realm of peace.  Peace is a key component to keeping what grace has given through the finished work of the cross.  Grace and peace always go together, as seen in so many of Paul's epistles.  So, go ahead, receive your victory, and step into peace, it will change the course of your life.  

 

Wounded Time, Is Wasted Time

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by Natalie Fortunato

Romans 8:1 "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit." 

"If you're going through hell, don't stop!".  Heard this line in a country song while I was waiting at the car dealership for my oil change.  Loved it!  Totally got my attention.  Such great advice, right?  

When we really mess up, totally miss God, sometimes the guilt and shame is paralyzing.  It's almost unbearable.  But the worse thing we can do is stay there. All wounded and condemned, kicking ourselves.  What a waste of time.  

The enemy loves to rehearse the incident over and over again in our minds.  How we failed.  But the Holy Spirit is the exact opposite.  When we miss it, He loves to remind us of who we are in Christ.  He reminds us that we are loved, accepted, forgiven and righteous.  He reminds us of our calling and our assignment.  

If you've messed up big time, change your mind and change your direction.  Admit where you got off track, take responsibility for your actions, take dominion and authority over the enemy, and allow the Holy Spirit to get you back on track…and move on!  

 

Grace Goggles

by Natalie Fortunato

"For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  1 Samuel 16:7

The term "Beer Goggles" has been around for quite awhile, but I first heard it several years ago.  It refers to "the supposed influence of alcohol on one's visual perception, whereby one is attracted to people who would not otherwise be appealing".   All I can say is, what a sad substitute for learning good social skills, and a sure way to make some really stupid and hurtful mistakes. 

But in all fairness, heavy beer drinkers are not the only ones who wear "goggles".  We've all had at one time, or still do, see through "goggles" that impair our vision or perception about others.  Some people see others through the goggles of their past, and can't seem to get past their failures.  Some see others through the goggles of what the world deems valuable, and they judge others as invaluable. 

But then there's those who see others through the eyes of grace…like Jesus did. He sees past the outward appearance, the past mistakes, the present mess, and sees a life worth dying for.  When we put on our "grace goggles", we also see others through the lens of the Word.  We see others through the "finished work of the cross".  We see that everyone has capacity and value and a God-given purpose for their lives.  

 

My Pillow

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Mark 4:38 "And He was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master carest thou not that we perish?" 

Have you heard the pillow commercial on TV and Radio with a catchy jingle that says, "For the best night's sleep in the whole wide world, mypillow.com".  Now, I’m not endorsing "My Pillow", but I love the concept. You probably didn’t know that My Pillow is the official pillow of the National Sleep Foundation.  Founder, Mike Lindell, tells the purpose behind the pillow, "When I invented My Pillow, my dream was to help as many people get a good night's sleep as possible". 

In Mark 4:38, it says that Jesus was in the back of a ship sleeping on a pillow in the middle of a storm. I think most of us would be busy bailing water out of the ship, or screaming for help!  Not Jesus, He's asleep on a pillow in the middle of the storm.  It was the peace that was already on the inside of Him, that allowed Him to sleep through a storm.  It was that same peace that was spoken out of His mouth, "Peace, be still", that calmed the storm.  Jesus shows us a picture of restful increase.  His sleep was evidence of his trust, faith and rest that "all is well".  

We have that same peace, the fruit of the Holy Spirit, on the inside of our born again spirit, that is to be exhibited in our actions and our words. When we rest He works, but when we work He rests.  More happens when we rest, than when we don't rest.  So grab your grace pillow, lay your head down, and rest on the promises of God.  

 

Blank Slate Baby by Natalie Fortunato

Colossians 2:14 (The Message) "Think of it!  All sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant canceled and nailed to Christ’s cross".  

In 2014, Taylor Swift wrote a song called Blank Space, poking fun at all her multiple failed romances and the casualties she's left behind.  Though her relationships were at a loss, her song won a Grammy for Song of the Year..crazy! 

I'd like to put a little twist to her song title, to help you remember this very helpful principle when dealing with your close relationships.  Here it is: Blank Slate!  If God has wiped the slate clean with all our sin, how about if we wipe the slate clean at the close of every day with other's sins against us?  

Ephesians 4:26-27 says to “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil."  In other words, wipe the slate clean every night and wake up the next day with a clean slate, totally empty, no records of wrongdoing against anyone.  Don't mess up today with your wife, or husband, or best friend, or boss, or neighbor's mess ups (intentional or unintentional) from yesterday.  

Paul said there is one thing that he does…forget those things that are behind and reach forward to those things ahead (Phil. 3:13). If you need to confront something, do it in a godly way, then regardless of the outcome, move on!  Forgive!  Let it go!  Start each day with a blank slate baby! 

 

Recipe for a Tender Heart

Ephesians 4:32 "And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you". 

I recently grilled some thin pieces of beef on skewers, marinated in a teriyaki sauce with sesames, delicious...uh, no.  Even though I only cooked them for five minutes on each side, they became a "burnt offering", really tough, dry and chewy.  Then next time, I definitely decreased the time on both sides and they came out perfect, really tender, and…delicious! 

The word tender means having a soft or yielded texture, to soften. Similarly, the word tenderhearted means easily moved with love and compassion.  And the word tenderize means to make tender or soft by applying a process or substance that breaks down the hardness. 

In Ephesians 4:32, Paul says for our hearts to be tender towards ourselves and other people, to "be kind" one to another. That simply means to be nice or to be easy with one to another.  But he goes on to say that a tender heart comes from one thing and one thing alone - forgiving one another even as God for Christ's sake has forgiven you!  In other words, know that you are forgiven of past present and future sins, and forgive one another, as God for Christ's sake has forgiven you.  

So, here's a recipe for a tender heart!  "Cook it" the right amount of time in God's presence, listen for His voice and follow His instructions, be nice to each other and forgive one another, even as God for Christ's sake has forgiven you.  Have a kind day.  Voila!

 

Say Goodbye to Guilt

Gal 4:17 (The Message Bible)  "Those heretical teachers go to great lengths to flatter you, but their motives are rotten. They want to shut you out of the free world of God's grace so that you will always depend on them for approval and direction, making themselves important." 

The biggest curse in the body of Christ today is the enormous amount of guilt, condemnation, shame, and fear.  These destructive behaviors are totally disarming and paralyzing the people of God. Sadly, statistics have shown that Pentecostals, Charismatic's and full gospel people suffer with guilt and guilt related disorders more than any other religious group in the world. 

The dictionary defines guilt as, the feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, or crime, whether real or imagined.  The reason why is we get hooked on what I call a toxic mixture of old testament law and new testament grace.  Once you mix the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life, it will poison every area of your Christian life. 

For the majority of believers in the church today, guilt is their drug of choice.  For many, if they don't feel guilty, they wonder how they be motivated to serve God!  Some actually think guilt is a Christian emotion. IT"S NOT! Paul calls this mixture "another gospel".  Any time a person tries to earn the love, acceptance, forgiveness and favor of God, it is going to result in guilt, condemnation, shame and fear. God's unmerited favor is the answer that will deliver God's people from this addiction.  God loves, accepts, and forgives every one of us unconditionally.  It's time to kick the habit!

 

The Accepting Church

Romans 15 :7 NIV "Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God" 

For too long the church has been known as a place of rejection, judgment, and condemnation.  This is the consequence of mixing grace with law, which makes people fearful of their heavenly Father.  Under the law, they prayed for the day when the LORD would "make his face shine on you and be gracious to you" (Numbers 6:25). The good news is, you and I are living in that day.  He is looking at us and smiling from ear to ear.  We are the accepted and a member of "the accepting church".

 I recently read this and thought it would be a perfect way to open a Sunday morning church service… 

We extend a special welcome to those who are single, married, divorced, widowed, gay, rich, poor, yo no hablo ingles.  We love crying newborns, people who are skinny as a rail, or those who could afford to lose a few pounds. You're welcome here if you are just browsing, just woke up, or just got out of jail.  If you can sing like a rock star or can’t carry a note in a bucket.  We don’t care if you’re in church every Sunday, or haven’t been in church since little Joey’s baptism. 

If you blew all your offering money at the casino, you’re welcome here. We offer a special welcome to those who think the earth is flat, work too hard, don’t work, can’t spell or came because Grandma is in town and wanted to go to church. We welcome soccer moms, football dads, starving artists, tree-huggers, latte-sippers, vegetarians, and junk-food eaters. We welcome those who are in recovery or still addicted. We welcome you if you’re having problems or you’re down in the dumps or if you don’t like “organized religion.” We’ve been there too. 

We welcome those who are inked, pierced or both. We’re glad you’re here if you could use a prayer right now, had religion shoved down your throat as a kid, or got lost and wound up here by mistake. We welcome visitors, seekers, doubters, bleeding hearts … and you!  Welcome home!  We accept you just as Christ accepted us!

 

Who is Your First Love?

Revelation 2:4 "Nevertheless I have a complaint, you have left your first love" 

How much do you love your smart phone?  Probably not as much as the California man who married his phone in a Las Vegas wedding chapel last summer.  Ok, so the ceremony in Vegas may have been ridiculous, but this man made his point about how people are connected to their phones.  As crazy as it sounds to wed your phone, there's no denying the degree to which smart phones have infiltrated our daily lives.  Studies show that Americans check their phones every six and a half minutes during waking hours or one hundred fifty times a day. 

After a busy day at work or caring for children, couples desperately need meaningful conversation to help them reconnect, but for many the habit of conversation falls by the wayside, from long intimate talks focused on getting to know each other to short exchanges focused on administrating their lives, budget, to do lists, working through conflict and putting out the latest fire. 

After speaking of all the church of Ephesus had accomplished, and all they had labored to do, the Lord says in Revelation 2:4, "Oh, there's one important thing, I want you to return to your first love".  You first love is God's over the top love for you.  Here's the question, are you spending more time on the work of the Lord, or on the Lord of the work?  God loves you, that’s what brought you to Him!  His love for you!  Make that your focus today.  Take some time and think about just how madly in love Jesus is with you! 

*Excerpts taken from Focus on the Family

 

It's Worth the Wait

Acts 1:4-5 - "And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” 

Jesus didn't recommend or suggest that the disciples not depart from Jerusalem until the "Promise of the Father" had come, He commanded them. After His resurrection, they had spent many amazing days together, He taught them kingdom principles, and He knew the disciples were eager to share the good news all over the world.  But He commanded them not to get started until they had been clothed with the Spirit's power (Luke 24:49).  

In 1 Corinthians it says that He gave this command to about 500 people, yet in Acts 1:15 it says there were only 120 men and women in the upper room filled with the Holy Spirit.  What happened to the other 380?  Perhaps they didn't want to wait.  They wanted to get started doing the work of the ministry…without the power of the Holy Spirit!

When God calls us to do something, we need to make sure that we don't get so excited about the task, that we move out ahead of Him.  Moving out in our own power and timing will actually interfere with what He wants to do in our lives, and interrupt the process.  Our decisions greatly affect the lives of those around us, and the people that God has called us to reach.  Slow down!  Don't worry, you'll know when the Holy Spirit says to move, and He will empower you for the task at hand.  It's worth the wait.

 

Loose Lips Sink Ships

Ecclesiastes 10:20 "No, don't even make fun of the king, even in your bedroom. For a little bird might deliver your message and tell them what you said" 

Have you ever heard someone say, "loose lips sink ships".  Did you know that this phrase was coined as a slogan during World War II, as an attempt to limit the possibility of people inadvertently giving useful information to enemy spies. This was one of several similar slogans as part of the campaign's basic message - "careless talk costs lives". 

So what does this mean to you and me? It means that unguarded talk may give useful information to the enemy!   In other words, victory in our public life really begins with what we say in our private conversations at work, at home, and with our friends and family.  

We need to make sure that what we pray lines up with what we say.  We can't pray in agreement with God's Word in one area, and then try to be politically correct and speak contrary to the Word as we go about our day, it won't work. Our words need to work for us and not against us or what we're praying for.  

 

Honk Lessons From Geese - Part III

Ecclesiastes 4:10 "For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!" 

Geese care for one another!  I still remember where I was and how I felt, when I received very timely and caring messages from two friends.  It was one of the toughest times in my whole life, just after my first wife passed.  After the funeral I spent a week in Florida with my Pastor and his family.  When I arrived home, the message light was flashing on my answering machine.  I pressed the button, I and there were two messages from young pastor friends of mine, who shared their love and concern for me.  I still remember their words, almost twenty years later.  It truly made an impact on me. 

When a goose gets sick, wounded, or shot down, two geese drop out of formation and follow it down to help and protect it. They stay with it until it dies or is able to fly again.  Then they launch out into formation with another flock or catch up with their flock.  If we have as much sense as geese, we will stand by each other in difficult times as well as the good times!  Here's a great bumper sticker, "Honk if you love Jesus and people".

 

Honk Lessons From Geese

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 "Two people can accomplish more than twice as much as one; they get a better return for their labor. If one person falls , the other can reach out and help. But people who are alone when they fall are in real trouble" 

Last Saturday night it was kind of cloudy but warm outside, so I took my dog for a walk.  Then the strangest thing happened.  We were walking along, and I couldn’t see anythingin the sky but I could hear geese honking directly over my head.  

As a goose flaps its wings it creates an "uplift" for the birds that follow.  I learned that by flying a "V" formation, the whole flock adds 71% greater flying range then if each bird on its own.  When a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and the resistance of flying alone. It quickly moves back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front of it. 

If we have as much sense as a goose, we would stay in formation with those headed where we want to go.  Are we willing to accept their help and give our help to others?  Two are always so much better than one.  HONK if you're willing to work with others!  You'll accomplish so much more.  It's called " synergy", where two or more people work together to produce a result not obtainable by any one independently.  Two are better than one.  Stay tuned next week for Part Two of "Honk Lessons From Geese".  

 

The Real Mr. Universe by Natalie Fortunato

"And he blessed Abram, saying, "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth."  Genesis 14:19 

No matter how strong and mighty and powerful and magnificent someone might appear to be, none can compare to "God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth".  Heaven is His throne and the earth is His footstool (Isaiah 66:1).  He is all knowing, all powerful, and everywhere at one time.  He is God. 

Yet, He is our Papa, our Abba, our Father.  Imagine that. The One who holds the world in His hand (Psalm 95:4), holds our hand (Isaiah 42:6).  The One who called the universe into existence (Gen. 1:1), calls us sons and daughters (2 Cor. 6:18).  The One whose expanse exceeds galaxies and has no end, chose to live and abide in us (John 15:4) (2 Cor. 4:7).  

He is MY Dad, and He is the real, and the one and only Mr. Universe.

 

Home "Sick"


Indeed, nearly all people miss something about home when they are away, making homesickness a nearly universal experience.  However, an intense desire to go "back" to a familiar place and time can be very debilitating.  A longing for the "good ol' days" and what "used to be" makes it impossible to look with hope to the future.
 
According to Hebrews 11:15, you follow the direction of your most dominant thought.  You don't go anywhere in the natural that you haven't first gone in your imagination. This can be good or bad, depending on where your mind is taking you.  If you spend your time meditating on God's promises in His Word, by faith you'll move forward and fulfill God's plan and purpose for your life.  If you follow thoughts that want to take you backwards, you will find "constant opportunity to return to it".  You'll be home "sick", instead of enjoying and being content with and trusting in God's goodness and faithfulness in the place He has for you today and every day to come.