The Blessing of Confession

PhotoGrid_1469807035387Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.”-Psalm 32:5

For the last few days I have been meditating on this scripture; and reflecting over the many times in my life that I wanted to live in rebellion rather than experience redemption. I remember the countless times I tried to justify certain thoughts, behaviors, and motives. I can recall the plethora of times that I lingered in sin a little longer than I should have and the consequences that accompanied such dumb life decisions.

Once I started to get serious about my relationship with God honesty became a requirement for it to function properly. As I began to spend time in prayer and studying scripture, sin was not so easy to commit or leave unconfessed. The magnitude of His love compelled me to tell the truth about me. I could no longer pretend that the life I was living was one that pleased Him. I had two options: to live a lie and remain outside of his presence or to start confessing so that I could fully enjoy His presence. Like the psalmist I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.”

I John 1:9 tells us “if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” As I did this I began to experience freedom from guilt, shame, and public opinion of my past. Assurance in God’s forgiveness produces freedom. However, we will NEVER know that freedom if we choose to remain in rebellion and unconfessed sin. We will spend our time trying to justify our actions to ourselves and to those around us. Even worse we will become reprobate and sever our relationship with God. He never leaves us, but we will leave Him as we allow both shame and pride to keep us from confessing what we have done. One of the most cunning weapons of the enemy is to convince us that we have done too much wrong to receive the love and forgiveness of God; and I am here to tell you that as the “Father of Lies” that is one of his greatest lies!!!

The Truth of the matter is “God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation.” (Rom. 5:8,9) There is no sin, outside of blaspheming the Holy Ghost, that will keep you from the forgiving grace of God. If he sent His son while we were in sin, surely any sin we have committed is forgivable if we are willing to confess it. Do not allow the enemy of your soul or even yourself talk you out of receiving the freedom from guilt that is made available to us through confession.

God sent Christ so that we could have the opportunity to have a relationship with Him if we so desire it. Do not let the moments of slipping or even falling into sin keep you out experiencing the beauty of having a relationship with the Creator of the universe. He gave us an anecdote for renewing our relationship with Him after we have fallen prey to the sin and our selfish desires. Confession is the key, and it is a blessing to those who will humble themselves and tell God the truth. I pray from this day forward you will choose to confess instead of cover up. You will never have peace inside until you reconcile your relationship with the One who made you, and confession makes it possible. I pray you will find the time to do it.-Charity Israel

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Goodbye Thirty, Hello Freedom!!!

So be strong and courageous all you who put your hope in the Lord!-Psalm 31:24

Six months before I turned 30, I went on the pursuit of finding out what the decade would entail for me. I talked to women who were in their early thirties, late thirties, and well into their sixties. I made it my mission to come up with a plan to prepare myself for this monumental shift from being a “young” adult to just an ADULT! I read books, blogs, and anything that would give me a glimpse into my future; but NOTHING prepared me for what I would describe as the most painfully liberating year of my life.

Thirty was pure hell, darkness, chaos, and confusion. It started with my birthday plans for the year. A friend and I planned to watch a play on Broadway. However, I ended up spending my day alone in Manhattan sipping a glass of Riesling and contemplating the meaning of life. LOL  Eleven days after the worst birthday ever my grandmother on my father side passed away, and six days after her my mother’s mom passed away. Two of the most loveliest souls on the planet left without my permission. Life has not been the same without them.

September was spent trying to cope with the events of August, and trying to convince myself that I was happy when in fact I was hurting. The hardest truth for me to admit was that I was starting to despise the two things that meant so much to me, my job and living in the city of my dreams, New York.  I suppose this discontentment with my life was God’s way of preparing me to do what he requested of me in June, which was to stop being a Flight Attendant and move back to Atlanta. However the 401k, great health insurance, and the steady income made that request hard to comply with until December 2015. Between continuously getting sick and the anxiety attacks I was having, it became quite apparent it was time to let it go and I did.

By March my savings had dwindled, and all I had left was my knight in shining armor that I was planning to marry in August 2016. As fate would have it March 5, we decided it was best to go our separate ways due to the chaos that both of us was experiencing. I cannot express the pain that comes with saying “Goodbye” to the person you were ready to share the rest of your life with. Everything that I was so certain of in 2015 had slipped through my fingers by March 2016. I was jobless, super single AGAIN, and found myself embarking upon the darkest night of my soul to date.

It was during this time of chaos, confusion, and loneliness that something beautiful was being formed. I was stripped of everything that I allowed to define me throughout my years, and I was left at the mercies of God. I had to admit to my idol worship of marriage, success, fame, and prestige. I had to find purpose outside of my possessions or the lack thereof. I had to clean out the skeletons in my closet, and I had to confront the insecurities within me that were sabotaging my future. As I sat in the dark room of my life, I was forced to deal with the truth of my self-image. I had to wrestle on a few occasions with the demons of my past that were doing all they could to keep me in fear. It was here I became content with my own being and confident in the God who created me.

It was in my weakness that I found God’s strength to be perfect. It was in choosing to receive His love that fear had to flee. It was sitting in darkness that I discovered the beauty of His marvelous light of Truth. Thirty was the year that my pride was crucified; my selfishness was exposed; and my greatest fears were realized. It was also the year I learned what it meant to live free, strong, and courageous. I literally have nothing to lose in this life, and it puts me in a place to gain all that God has in store for me. I say goodbye to 30 joyously, and I tell it thank you for introducing me to myself!

Thirty-one will be an amazing year for me because it is the first time, I will actually be living unapologetically as Charity. The freedom that becomes available on the other side of facing your fears and confronting the lies you have lived for so long is indescribable. It expels all the shame, and it leaves you confident in who God has created you to be. I embrace 31 as a completely different person; and I look forward to the lessons it will teach me and the opportunities it will present me as I have decided to let go of fear and live in God’s love for me. Happy Birthday Charity Israel!!! Freedom looks good on you!!!!!!!!

P.S. The book is coming soon. I had to live it before I could write it!!!

The Lord is my Shepherd not my Genie: Reflections on Psalm 23:1

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.-Psalm 23:1

shepherdBefore I started becoming a devout student of the Bible, I used to be a devout believer in the Prosperity Gospel/Word of Faith movement. I used to feel entitled to all this world has to offer because I was a “child of the King!” I would take scriptures that were specifically for the children of Israel and use them as assurance that God owed me stuff according to His word. I was doing foolish things in the name of “faith” in order to position myself to “blessed,” and with all the giving I was doing I NEVER reached a place of “having no room to receive” (Mal. 3:10).

It was shortly after graduating ORU that I left the Charismatic/ Word of Faith sect, and I started seeking a more accurate biblical interpretation of how  New Testament Christians should live and approach God. It has taken me years to detox from some of the bad theology that came from that teaching; but I must admit there are moments I find myself interpreting scripture from a place of entitlement and not within its proper context.

For the last two weeks I have been meditating on Psalms 23, and I found myself reverting back to some of  the bad habits of the “Name It and Claim It” tradition. I made a list of some simple things I wanted that I felt would take God no time to supply. The week passed by, and I felt myself being frustrated that God did not give me the wants I requested. How dare him, right?!? Then I had the audacity to say out loud, “You are my shepherd. Why don’t I have what I want?” #bratface Before I could finish the Holy Spirit said, “study to find out what “I shall not want” truly means.” So I went into Theology student mode, and I started to read commentaries on the verse.

Not one of the commentators sided with my self-serving interpretation of scripture. Quickly I discovered, my understanding of “want” was not what the scripture meant. “Want” here is not the random, fleeting, and ever changing desires of my selfish heart. “Want” refers to the needs of those being shepherded. In context, the Shepherd supplies all his sheep needs, leaving no wants for the sheep. The sheep is provided water, food, shade, protection and guidance. What more could a sheep want for? NOTHING! I know this may come as a surprise for some as it did with me, and I would encourage you not to take my word for it. Listed below are a few of the commentaries I used, feel free to come up with your own conclusion from them. They were helpful in adjusting my theology to God my Shepherd not God my genie:

The Treasury of David Commentary states:

The Lord is my shepherd.” What condescension is this that the Infinite Lord assumes towards his people the office and character of a Shepherd! It should be the subject of grateful admiration that the great God allows himself to be compared to anything which will set forth his great love and care for his own people. David had himself been a keeper of sheep, and understood both the needs of the sheep and the many cares of a shepherd. He compares himself to a creature weak, defenseless, and foolish, and he takes God to be his Provider, Preserver, Director, and, indeed, his everything. No man has a right to consider himself the Lord’s sheep unless his nature has been renewed, for the scriptural description of unconverted men does not picture them as sheep, but as wolves or goats. A sheep is an object of property, not a wild animal; its owner sets great store by it, and frequently it is bought with a great price. It is well to know, as certainly as David did, that we belong to the Lord. There is a noble tone of confidence about this sentence. There is no “if” nor “but,” nor even “I hope so;” but he says, “The Lord is my shepherd.” We must cultivate the spirit of assured dependence upon our heavenly Father. The sweetest word of the whole is that monosyllable, “My.” He does not say, “The Lord is the shepherd of the world at large, and leadeth forth the multitude as his flock,” but “The Lord is my shepherd;” if he be a Shepherd to no one else, he is a Shepherd to me; he cares for me, watches over me, and preserves me. The words are in the present tense. Whatever be the believer’s position, he is even now under the pastoral care of Jehovah.

The next words are a sort of inference from the first statement – they are sententious and positive – “I shall not want.” I might want otherwise, but when the Lord is my Shepherd he is able to supply my needs, and he is certainly willing to do so, for his heart is full of love, and therefore “I shall not want.” I shall not lack for temporal things. Does he not feed the ravens, and cause the lilies to grow? How, then, can he leave his children to starve? I shall not want for spirituals, I know that his grace will be sufficient for me. Resting in him he will say to me, “As thy day so shall thy strength be.” I may not possess all that I wish for, but “I shall not want.” Others, far wealthier and wiser than I, may want, but I shall not.” “The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing.” It is not only “I do not want,” but “I shall not want.” Come what may, if famine should devastate the land, or calamity destroy the city, “I shall not want.” Old age with its feebleness shall not bring me any lack, and even death with its gloom shall not find me destitute. I have all things and abound; not because I have a good store of money in the bank, not because I have skill and wit with which to win my bread, but because “The Lord is my Shepherd.” The wicked always want, but the righteous never; a sinner’s heart is far from satisfaction, but a gracious spirit dwells in the palace of content.

Benson Commentary states:

I shall not want—Namely, anything that is really necessary for me, either for this life, or for the next. But foolish men may think many things to be necessary for them, which the all-wise God knows to be, not only unnecessary, but hurtful, and therefore mercifully denies what men ignorantly desire to their hurt.

Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible writes:

I shall not want; not anything, as the Targum and Aben Ezra interpret it; not any temporal good thing, as none of Christ’s sheep do, that he in his wisdom sees proper and convenient for them; nor any spiritual good things, since a fullness of them is in him, out of which all their wants are supplied; they cannot want food, for by him they go in and out and find pasture; in him their bread is given them, where they have enough and to spare, and their waters are sure unto them; nor clothing, for he is the Lord their righteousness, and they are clothed with the robe of his righteousness; nor rest, for he is their resting place, in whom they find rest for their souls, and are by him led to waters of rest, as in Psalm 23:2, the words may be rendered, “I shall not fail”, or “come short” (s); that is, of eternal glory and happiness; for Christ’s sheep are in his hands, out of which none can pluck them, and therefore shall not perish, but have everlasting life, John 10:27.

If you are a believer, what you just read should be exciting news. It should also build your confidence in the love, care, and concern the Great Shepherd has for you as his sheep. As a good shepherd, he sees to it that all our needs are provided for and that we “lack no good thing” (Ps 34:10). Tonight I hope you can find blessed assurance in the fact that Jehovah is your shepherd. All your needs will be met, and you will want for nothing. Have a lovely night beautiful people.-Charity Israel

P.S. As a Bible student and teacher, I know I was doing some lazy studying and meditation on Psalm 23:1. One look at a different translation of the Bible could have given me a better understanding of the scripture. However, I believe the route I took was necessary because God wanted me to get rid of my bad theology; be mindful of how I am interpreting scripture; and come into a better understanding of how amazing He truly is. God is greater than a genie because it has a limit to what it can give. He is my Shepherd, and I shall not want. That’s good news!!!

 

 

Photo Credit: https://wordmadefleshblog.wordpress.com/tag/sheep/

 

Life Observation: Five Things Mature Adults Do

I won’t bore you with a long introduction. I’ll just get right to it. Here are five things I have noticed mature adults do:

  1. THEY COMMUNICATE. Adults who have matured pass high school in their brains have learned how to express themselves. They tactfully express their opinions, and they do not waste their time beating around the bush concerning a matter. They are not afraid of conflict, and they do not argue for the sake of being heard. They recognize the weight of their words, so they use discretion in both their tone and word choices. Mature adults do not wait for someone to figure out the problem. They voice it and seek ways to resolve it.
  2. THEY TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THEIR OWN ACTIONS. Mature adults do not play the Blame Game. If the job was not done correctly, they admit where they messed up. If their marriage is failing, they accept their part in its’ failure. If their life is not where they desire it to be, they CHANGE IT. Mature adults introspect instead of project their issues on other people. They weigh the consequences of their actions. Once they recognize they made the wrong mistake, they acknowledge it. Mature adults DO NOT rely on others to fix the problems they have created. They assess the situation, rectify it, and move forward.
  3. THEY ARE COMFORTABLE IN THEIR OWN SKIN. Mature adults have accepted who they are and who they will never be. They have accepted their flaws, and they live free from the weight of being perfect. They are beautifully flawed individuals, and they celebrate what makes them unique. They do NOT waste their time comparing, envying, or desiring what others have. Wholeness of mind, body, and soul is their pursuit. They are so fixed on the idea of becoming a better person that they do not have time to worry about what others do. They are not perfect, and that truth does not bother them. They free themselves to enjoy life, and they encourage others to do the same.
  4. THEY ACCEPT PEOPLE FOR WHO THEY ARE. Mature adults do not waste their time trying to change other people. They recognize that we are all evolving, and when change is desired people will seek it. Instead of trying to force change, mature adults choose to stick around (remain in relationship) or move around (end the relationship). They give people the freedom to be who they have decided to be. This does not mean mature adults do not address self-harming behaviors of friends, but they do give others the liberty to discover and enjoy life for themselves.
  5. THEY DO NOT TRY TO FIX BROKEN PEOPLE. Considering the time and effort mature adults have put into becoming whole, they do not waste their time trying to fix people who are unwilling to admit they are broken.  They recognize the value of their time and they choose to invest it in things that will produce a great return. Mature adults surrender broken people to their Creator, and they love broken people at a distance until they want more for themselves.

This list could and should be much longer, but this will do for now. If you see some you disagree with feel free to voice your thoughts. Different points of view are welcomed and respected. I encourage all of us to spend our time becoming better people. If you find yourself doing the opposite of these five things, I admonish you to reconsider your ways. You deserve to live in the freedom that responsibility offers those who take control of their own actions, decisions, and relationships. Thanks for reading and have a wonderful Wednesday!-Charity Israel

 

 

 

Photo Credit: http://cdn.halloftheblackdragon.com/reel/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/man-and-woman-gaming.jpg

Dear Christian: Listener Beware of Periscope Preaching

pulpit-preacherJesus Christ  the same yesterday, today, and forever. So do not be distracted by strange, new ideas. Your strength comes from God’s grace, not rules about food which, do no help those who follow them.-Hebrews 13:8,9

Let me start this post off by saying, “I come in peace, love, and hair grease!” This blog is in no way taking a shot at anyone who claims to be an apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher. However, I do write this as a warning and encouragement to those who are in these positions and to those who aspire to be in them.

In a world that is fixed on finding the new trend, new face, new word, and etc. we as ministers must be careful not to follow behind them. We cannot allow our desires to be trendy, relevant, or popular to take us away from the never changing Truth of the Gospel. Here are some things we should be checking before we choose to subscribe to a Periscope Preacher or become one:

  1. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. His story does not change and the way he becomes our Lord does not change. If someone is presenting another Jesus other than the one our Bible teaches UNSUBSCRIBE. If someone is suggesting that you should do more than Romans 10:9 to be saved you should UNSUBSCRIBE.
  2. Do not be attracted by strange, new ideas. If your new revelation cannot be supported by anything found in Genesis through Revelation, please discard of it. We do NOT need it in the body of Christ! Everything we teach or preach must have its’ roots deeply embedded in the word of God. The bible is complete and your ideas outside of it are not helpful to the Body of Christ. To those listening, if there is never a Bible verse mentioned from the mouth of the man or woman of God you are listening to UNSUBSCRIBE. If you find their message more appealing to your pride, vanity, and temporal things that don’t encourage you in your walk with God, UNSUBSCRIBE. There are a lot of people using Jesus as their get rich or popular real quick scheme. Please do NOT assist them in their madness.
  3. Your strength comes from God’s grace, not from rules about food, which do NOT help those who follow them. As a Christian if you are unfamiliar with the concept of God’s Grace I would encourage you to get to know what it entails. It is a beautiful gift from God that saves us from sin and enables us to refrain from sin. The grace of God is what gives us strength to live righteously. If a person is suggesting that you have to do anything more than live in the grace that God has provided UNSUBSCRIBE. Ephesians 2:8,9 reveals it is grace alone that saves us, and there is nothing we can do besides having faith in God to keeps us saved. “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.” If a person is suggesting anything differently, UNSUBSCRIBE. Our salvation, our righteousness, our sanctification, EVERYTHING comes from God and do not allow anyone to have you thinking it’s all done by your strength. Our boast should be in the Lord and not in us.

I hope this blog was received in the love that it was written. Social Media is a great platform to get the Gospel of Jesus Christ out. However we must make sure that our messages always line up with the word of God. It is not just the litmus test for life, but it should be the way we filter through messages that will honor Him, ourselves, or some false teaching. I hope this will help you filter through what is worthy of your time and attention. Have a Marvelous Monday and thanks for reading!-Charity Israel

 

Photo Credit: http://www.considerup.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/pulpit-preacher.jpg

 

 

The Love Factor

love factor“For you have heard the law that says, “Love your neighbor,’ and hate your enemy. 44But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 45In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven…”-Matthew 5:43-45

I’m not sure if anyone has taken notice, but in the last few years of preaching there has been a shift towards focusing on our “Haters.” Particularly in the Black Church setting, there seems to be this crazy fixation on “tell your hater this, show your hater that, and blah blah blah.” I personally feel that this Hater Obsession is doing more harm to the Body of Christ than good. I believe it has assisted the enemy in his plot to keep us separated. It has produced competition, suspicion, and mistrust among believers, and it is has moved us further away from what we have been commanded to do (Matthew 22:36-40, 28:18-20)

I also believe it has distracted us from who our real enemies are and none of these enemies are humans. Ephesians 6:12 says, “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world; and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” If we aren’t careful, we will have Christians hating one another instead of confronting that spirit working through an individual. Okay we’ll save “Spiritual Warfare” for another date. However, we are doing a grave injustice to the Body of Christ when we spend a whole sermon on How to Handle a Hater, but we fail to help people identify who our enemies truly are.

Oh and let me get this off my chest, most of us do not have enemies like we liked to believe. Many of us do not have enough going on in our lives to give someone a reason to sabotage our success. I include myself in this number, and this is why I do not spend my time worrying about a “hater” or enemy as the Bible calls them. Many of us have not acquired enough to have people plotting to take it. If you want to know how real enemies behave read the book of Judges, I Kings, II Kings, and Psalms to name a few. Real enemies seek your position, your authority, your power, and your life. If you have not had someone to literally try to kill you or sabotage your job, ministry, marriage, and etc. have several seats in the Petty Christian section. Someone stealing your facebook post, hairstyle, or outfit does not count as an attack against you.

Jesus gives us the anecdote to dealing with people who choose to be enemies against us. He tells us to LOVE YOUR ENEMIES! Say it with me, “LOVE YOUR ENEMIES!” By doing this people are able to determine who our God truly is. We are most like our Father when we choose to love those who refuse to love us. Remember Romans 5:10, “since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while WE WERE STILL HIS ENEMIES..” Surely if God loved us, we can love them. I pray we consider this the next time we are faced with the decision of How to Handle a Hater. Truth be told, we were all once enemies of God and had he not decided to extend His love to us, we would not know the blessing of being his friends (John 15:15).

Here is my point, the actions of others never remove our responsibility to love them as God commanded. Whether the person has decided to be a friend or an enemy against us, we are called to LOVE them both the same. Our feelings and our flesh will never suggest we love someone who continues to mistreat us. However, if we want the world to know that we truly belong to God, we must act like him. He gives us the ability to do it, and he gives us the wisdom to know when this Love should be expressed from a safe distance. Please know that I am continually praying that we as the Body will be found doing what John 15: 17 commands of us and that is to “Love each other!”

 

Have a Magnificent Monday, thanks for reading, and remember LOVE LIVES FREE!!!-Charity Israel

 

Keep Calm and Just Trust God!


isaiah

“For since the world, no ear has heard, and no eyes has seen a God like you, who works for those wait for him.”Isaiah 64:4

At this present moment life appears to be working against me, and I feel like I’m in a holding pattern waiting to land in a beautiful place. Needless to say, I was in dire need of encouragement and this scripture provided it. After reading it, all I could do was pray “Holy Spirit teach me how to rest while I wait for you.”

As I uttered that prayer, Isaiah 26:3,4 came to mind. It says, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you. Trust in the Lord always for the Lord God is the eternal Rock.” Before I could finish writing that verse out to encourage myself, Proverbs 3:5,6 started to flow out my mouth like water. It says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.”

It suddenly clicked that it is in Total Trust that I find rest while waiting for God.  What is Total Trust? It is the complete surrender of our hearts and minds to the faithfulness of God. Total Trust is where we exchange the pride of life for his Presence. It is where we yield our anxiety for His peace. It is where we cast our cares at his feet and soak in his Love. Total Trust is the place where we surrender our limited knowledge and take rest in his Omniscience. It is where we yield our worry to bask in the beauty of his Sovereignty.

As believers, God made it possible for us to go through the worst of life trials with “peace that surpasses our understanding.”(Philippians 4:7) But we will never tap into that peace if we keep our minds on everything other than Him. Our focus in the midst of tribulations is what determines whether we rest in Him or become consumed by circumstances.

Today I pray we choose to rest in Him. I pray we choose to turn our focus on the ETERNAL faithfulness of our God instead of the temporary reality of life. I’m not asking that we pretend that life does not hurt at the moment, but I am encouraging us to focus on the Truth of our Father’s love instead of the facts of life. When it is over we will look back in awe of His provision, and we will laugh at how stressed out we were about the situation.

I encourage us to skip past the worry this time and fast forward to worship. God is going to be faithful to perform His word over our life, and I pray we take rest in that truth. God loves us; and this trial is another opportunity to learn how to rest while waiting for God to come through. I pray we learn the lesson this time. Isaiah tells us, God “works for those who wait for Him.” Hang in there, the Father is coming to see about you.

 

 

Forgive Them!!!

intercessorForgiveness is one of the greatest jewels of the Christian faith. It is what God graciously extends to us through Jesus Christ, and it our Christian response to others. Intercession is also a jewel. God in his kindness was often times willing to forgive a nation because of the prayers of one person (Exo. 32:32, 34:7-9; Deut. 21:8; Ps 79:9; Isa 2:9; Dan. 9:19; Amos 7:2) Throughout the ages, people have selflessly stood in the gap for those who had no desire to please God. They have been a saving grace to our human race, and all their prayers are appreciated.
In the Old Testament, we find that those being persecuted by pagan nations often prayed for the destruction of their enemies. They did not just pray for their destruction, but they fought many battles to ensure it. In the New Testament, however, there is a new response to those being persecuted by their enemies; and that is praying that they are forgiven. Many of us would not consider forgiveness as a form of intercession. We do not consider it intercession because we often focus on the offense instead of the proper response to it. We often let the hurt fester, and we adopt it as a new chip on our shoulder to stay angry at the world. It is the bitterness from unforgiven offenses that operates as a toxin in the Body of Christ (Heb. 12:14, 15). In the New Testament, we discover the proper response of an Intercessor when the offense becomes a physical attack instead of a spiritual one. We must forgive, and that forgiveness becomes an intercession for those who attack us.
There is leader in the Bible who used forgiveness as a form of intercession. This man led a small core group of 12; fed over 5,000 people with two fish and five loaves of bread; and he gave up his life so that everyone would have an opportunity to know God. This man is named Jesus. It was Jesus who spent his life exemplifying what it meant to love God and your neighbor only to be, at the end of it, wrongfully accused and sentenced to death. It was Jesus, who while visiting one city, heard the crowd shouting “Hosanna, Hosanna!” one week and chanting “crucify him!” the following week. It was Jesus, the one who healed the withered hand and crippled feet, who had to have his hands and feet secured to a cross by nails. It was Jesus, the one possessing eternal life, with his last breath uttered these words in Luke 23:34, “Father forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.” Jesus who had every right to be upset, offended, furious, and betrayed made his last words an intercession. I would assert that if Jesus was praying “Father forgive them,” that he had already forgiven them (us) in his heart. He made an “allowance for our offenses” as Paul admonishes each believer to do in Colossians 3:13, “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” Jesus showed us by example how we should respond to those who would love nothing more than to see us dead, FORGIVE THEM.
In the book of Acts chapter 6 and 7, we find the story of a man named Stephen. The bible described him as “a man full of faith, the Holy Spirit, grace, and the power of God. He performed amazing miracles and signs among the people.” (Acts 6:5, 8) He was loved by the brethren and hated by religious leaders because of his wisdom and the Holy Spirit in him. These men conspired against him and found people to lie on him. Their lies led to Stephen’s arrest and a meeting with the Council (vv. 6:9-7:53). It was during this meeting that he spoke only what the Spirit told him to say. His words of truth made those living a lie furious. Out of their anger, they drugged him outside of the city and began to stone him (vv. 7:54-58) This man who was obedient to what the Holy Spirit asked of him was now facing death by the hands of those claiming to know God. His response to their actions was a prayer. Acts 7:59, 60 says, “As they stoned him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 He fell to his knees, shouting, “Lord don’t charge them with this sin!” And with that, he died.” Stephen like Jesus interceded on behalf of his murderers so that their sins would not be counted against them.
As intercessors it is important that we are found, even in the face of death, interceding for our offenders. It should be the desire of every intercessor that all come to know God, including those who hurt us. The story of Jesus and Stephen proves that we can be completely in the will of God and have to suffer persecution. They show us that the very people we are called to help may bring us the greatest harm; but we must forgive them. In our humanity, holding an offense will always be justified, but our call to “live according to the Spirit” nullifies that human right (Rom. 8:5). The life of an intercessor will present us with moments to be greatly offended; but we have to be wise intercessors and keep “allowances for offenses” in stock. The enemy would love nothing more than to hold you hostage, from you assignment, by the offenses you refuse to let go. Effective intercessions are those wrapped in love, grace, and forgiveness. Reinhold Niebuhr says “Forgiveness is the final form of love.” It is my prayer that if any of us are found having to surrender our life for this great Gospel that our last prayer would be, “Father forgive them!”

Have You Talked to God Today?

Today I found myself humming the hymn What a Friend We Have in Jesus by Joseph M. Scriven. I will admit I only knew the first verse, and I thought it would be cool to add it as part of today’s blog. I soon discovered that a hymn written in 1855, said everything I desired to say as an encouragement to others on February 17, 2015. I hope that as you read the lyrics of this song, you find solace in talking with God. I hope you come to realize as His child that he takes delight in listening to the things that weigh on your heart. If you do not have a relationship with God, I hope these lyrics reveal the magnitude of God’s love for you and His desire to have a relationship with you:

What a Friend We Have in Jesus by Joseph M. Scriven

What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful,
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
Take it to the Lord in prayer

 Are we weak and heavy-laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,
Thou wilt find a solace there.

Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised
Thou wilt all our burdens bear;
May we ever, Lord, be bringing
All to Thee in earnest prayer.
Soon in glory bright, unclouded,
There will be no need for prayer—
Rapture, praise, and endless worship
Will be our sweet portion there

Point of it All: As a Christian, one of the beautiful things about our faith is we are considered friends not just servants (John 15:15). Considering the fact, Jesus gave His life so that we can have direct access to God, it would behoove us to converse with Him about everything! We have two options: live in the peace found in prayer or worry like the world does. Our anecdote for dealing with the affairs of this world is taking them to the Lord in prayer. Today, I hope you have a conversation with God. He’s looking forward to hearing from you and taking the load of this life you are carrying.-Charity Israel

Hymn Credit: http://library.timelesstruths.org/music/What_a_Friend_We_Have_in_Jesus/