Friday, September 04, 2020

Preemptive Forgiveness

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I’m Doug Apple...and my heart is on fire!  (Luke 24:32)

“...and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

“Lord, right now I forgive everyone for everything, past, present...and future.  God, I forgive everyone in advance for anything they might do or say today, so that I am free to love them with the power of Your Holy Spirit flowing through me.”

That’s how I do it.  That is how I practice what I call “preemptive forgiveness.”

Preemptive forgiveness means forgiving in advance.

Look, you know something dumb is going to happen, right?  You don’t know who.  You don’t know when.  You don’t know what.  You don’t know why, but sure enough, there it is.  Someone is going to say something, they’re going to do something, it might be on accident, it might be on purpose, it might even be with criminal intent, but I say we forgive them IN ADVANCE and get that part out of the way, so then we can be completely free to love them in the way that God wants us to love them.

Jesus told us to love another.  He told us to love our neighbor.  He told us to love our enemies.  

But listen.  You can’t love someone you hate.  You can’t love someone properly while at the same time harboring unforgiveness.  A house divided against itself cannot stand.

In Mark 11:25, Jesus told us that if we have anything against anyone, we must forgive them.

Let it go.

And we do that with a very specific purpose in mind.  We forgive them so that we can be completely free to love them just as God wants us to love them.

The fruit of the Spirit is…love, among other things, but the first on the list is love.  God wants us to love people, He empowers us to love people, and to properly do that, we must walk in forgiveness.  

And what I’m promoting is something a bit unusual.  It is forgiving...in advance.  It is preemptive forgiveness.  

In Luke 17:1, Jesus said, “It is impossible that no offenses should come…”  Offenses are coming.  Knowing that, what should we do?

I say we forgive them in advance, preemptively.  We bomb the enemy’s base before he even gets the offense rocket off the ground.  

That eliminates the offense altogether.  I’m not offended because hey, I forgave that already.  Now I’m free to love them in whatever way God wants me to love them, in whatever way they need to be loved, in whatever way is best for them, for their life and their future and their own walk with God, and their eternity.  

That doesn’t make us doormats.  That doesn’t mean people can walk all over us.  Listen.  Love is the power position.  Perfect love casts out fear.  Love causes you to lay down your life for others, and a person who is so sold out that they are willing to lay down their life like that...like I said, love is the power position, the very opposite of a doormat.

When you love someone, you want what is best for them.  Sometimes accountability is exactly what they need.  Sometimes being arrested is what they need.  Yes, you can call the police on someone you dearly love, because sometimes that is exactly what they need.  But you don’t do it because you are offended and hurt and bitter and harboring unforgiveness.  Listen, you can forgive...and press charges.  It can be done in love.

The point is, remove offenses from the equation.  I’m saying, never get offended again by practicing preemptive forgiveness, which sets us free from all offense, which sets us free to love people which is what we must do anyway.

And the way I do that is very practical.  Each morning I pray through the Lord’s prayer, and when I come to that part about trespasses I pray “Lord, right now I forgive everyone for everything, past, present...and future.  God, I forgive everyone in advance for anything they might do or say, so that I am free to love them with the power of Your Holy Spirit flowing through me.”

Amen.

May God bless you today.

I’m Doug Apple.


Thursday, September 03, 2020

Is That God Speaking to Me?

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I’m Doug Apple...and my heart is on fire!  (Luke 24:32)

In John chapter 10, Jesus said that He is the good shepherd, that He speaks to His sheep, and that His sheep hear His voice and follow Him, for they know His voice.

So the question is, do I know the voice of the Good Shepherd?  How do I know if God is speaking to me?  

First of all, in John 4:24, Jesus said, “God is Spirit.”  In John 6:63, Jesus said that the words He speaks are “spirit.”  

So when we talk about hearing the voice of God, we’re usually not talking about hearing a physical voice.

Romans 8:16 says that His Spirit bears witness with our spirit.

That’s spirit to spirit communication.  I know, it’s getting deep, but I would expect nothing less.

So God is Spirit, His words are spirit, and His Spirit bears witness with our spirit.

As born again, blood-bought believers, we each have God’s Holy Spirit inside of us, teaching us and guiding us.

Now listen to this.  I’m leading up to a key that will help us answer the question, “Is that God speaking to me?”

In John 16:13, Jesus said that the Holy Spirit “will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak.”

In the next verse Jesus said, “He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.”

So when the Holy Spirit speaks to us, He speaks the words of Jesus.  It’s Jesus talking to us, through the Holy Spirit inside of us.  Back to Romans 8:16, it is His Spirit communicating with our spirit.

But the question is, when you hear that little voice, how do you know it is God speaking and not just some random thought, or worse, some random devil?

Now here is the main key of this lesson.  Luke chapter 4 verse 32 says that people were astonished at the teaching of Jesus.  Why?  Because His word was “with authority.”

And that’s the key.  That is one way we might discern the voice of God.  We answer this question.  Did it come with authority?

Some translations say, “His word was with power.”

So when we are seeking God, trying to hear from Him, and suddenly we hear a voice speaking inside of us, here’s a question to ask, “Did this message come with authority?  Did it come with the power and authority of Jesus?”

His sheep know His voice.  How?  Because our Shepherd speaks with authority.  He speaks with power.  His words come with conviction.

Yes, there are other considerations.  We should consult Scripture.  We should consult the body, by which I mean our fellow believers.  And another key is what Jesus said in John 16:14, that the Holy Spirit would glorify Jesus, so another question is, “Does this glorify Jesus?”

But here’s the main point we’re focusing on today.  When we are asking, “Is that God speaking?” we can remember the example of Luke 4:32.  His word comes with authority.

May God bless you today.

I’m Doug Apple.


Wednesday, September 02, 2020

Soul Issues and Goal Issues

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I’m Doug Apple...and my heart is on fire!  (Luke 24:32)

God can solve our soul issues and our goal issues.

Think about it.  Many of our problems are either soul issues, or goal issues.

Our soul issues include our identity, “Who am I?” and our value, “Am I worth anything?”

And our goal issues include our purpose, “What am I here for?  What am I supposed to be doing with my life?”

Fortunately, God can solve all of our soul issues and goal issues, and they are actually summed up very tidily in Ephesians chapter two.

The foundation of all of our soul issues is that we start out dead in our sins.  We are sons of disobedience.  We conduct ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and are by nature children of wrath, separated from God.

The good news is that there is actually a quick solution to our soul issues, and I’m still in Ephesians chapter two.  It says that God, who is rich in mercy, loves us with His great love!  He loves us so much that, through Jesus, even though we start out dead in our sins, He makes us alive through Christ!

And it’s not because we start doing good, or because we finally get our act together.  He does it by His grace and kindness toward us, not by our own good deeds.  

This solves our soul issues.  Who am I?  Through Christ, I am a very much loved, born again child of God!  Am I worth anything?  I’m worth so much that the creator of the world, God Himself, loved me and saved me and calls me His child!

Now what about the goal issues, what am I here for?  What am I supposed to be doing with my life?

We are still in Ephesians chapter two.  Verse ten says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

What am I here for?  What am I supposed to be doing with my life?  Good works!

Just look around and say, “What good works can I be doing today?”  Then do them!

Ephesians 2:10 says we were “created in Christ Jesus for good works,” and it says that “God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

God CREATED us to do good works, and He PREPARED BEFOREHAND that we should live this way...doing good works.

One more soul issue:  the idea of loneliness.  We find the solution again in Ephesians chapter two.  We are not in this alone.  Verse 19 says we are “...fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God…”  

All the Christian believers all over the world?  We are all in this together!  

And as God’s children, we have His Holy Spirit inside of us.  Ephesians 2 concludes with verse 22 which says we are “being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”

Yes, we are all born with many soul issues and goal issues, but the good news is that God can solve them all as we turn to Him!  

And we can find them all summed up rather tidily right here in Ephesians chapter two.

May God bless you today.

I’m Doug Apple. 


Friday, August 28, 2020

Skip Regret Go Directly to Repentance

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I’m Doug Apple...and my heart is on fire!  (Luke 24:32)

I don’t have regrets.  

I do have a lot of repentances.

Regrets are like weights.  They can drag you down, even long after the fact.

You did something you regret.  It was bad.  It was wrong.  It was dumb.  It was embarrassing.  

You hurt someone.  You committed a crime.  You failed.  You stumbled.  You fell.

Regrets can come in unlimited ways.  Every story is different, but they end up in the same stinking valley called Regret.

Fortunately God has given us a mechanism to deal with regret.  It’s called repentance.

Whatever you did.  Whatever sin you committed.  Whatever way you went off the rails and into the weeds, here is the solution.  Repent.

What does repent mean?  It means you admit it, you confess it, you own up to it, you’re sorry for it, you don’t ever want to do it again, you give it up to God, and you receive His forgiveness for it.

And then it is done.  You have repented and it is done.

And then that old snake Regret comes calling.  Old memories come back.  It’s vivid in your mind.  Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I did that, said that, went there, it’s so awful.

But wait a minute.  What are you supposed to do about it?  

You can’t go back in time and make it not happen.  

Sometimes the people involved aren’t even alive anymore.  Now what?  You can’t even tell them you’re sorry.

 It doesn’t matter.  You can’t change the past and it doesn’t matter because God has given us the solution.  Repentance.

Don’t wallow in regret.  It does no good.  It helps no one.  It changes nothing.  It makes no difference.  It only drags you down, wastes time, drains your energy, saps your emotions, and for no good reason.

So when Regret comes knocking, don’t answer.  Don’t listen.  Don’t waste a minute thinking about it.

Skip regret and go directly to repentance.  That is God’s gift to us for handling all the stains.

In Isaiah 1:18, God says, “...though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow...”

Psalm 103:12 says, “As far as the east is from the west,” that’s how far God has removed our transgressions from us.

Hallelujah.

So how to handle regrets?  Don’t handle them at all.  Skip it.

Skip regret, go directly to repentance, and be done with it once and for all.

May God bless you today.

I’m Doug Apple.


Thursday, August 27, 2020

How to Overlook an Offense

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I’m Doug Apple...and my heart is on fire!  (Luke 24:32)

The Bible talks about overlooking offenses.

Why would you ever overlook an offense?

Because it is wise to overlook an offense.  It is prudent.  It is honorable.  It is virtuous.  It is to your glory.  It is to your credit.  The Message version of Proverbs 19:11 says it is to your grandeur.

And when you refuse to overlook offenses you basically waste your life in drama, burning every bridge, cutting every tie and destroying every relationship.  

But God has a better plan!

Proverbs 19:11 says, “...it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.”

Proverbs 12:16 says, “Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult.”

And I love the use of this word “overlook.”  When you overlook something, you do it because it is small, because your eyes are trained on something bigger.  

You overlook an offense because your eyes are trained on something bigger.

And what would that be?

Loving people.  

We are called to love people.  God told us to love our neighbor, and even our enemy.

So we overlook the smaller thing of the offense because our eyes are on the bigger thing of loving this person.  How can I love them?  Lord, show me, how can I love this person with Your love flowing through me?

First Corinthians 13:5, the love chapter, seems to say something crazy.  It says that love keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not keep an account of all the offenses.  Why not?

Because love is overlooking them, looking to the bigger picture which is:  what is best for this person?

They were made in the image of God.  They have been gifted by God and called by God.  Jesus died for them.  He died for these very offenses.

And Jesus told us to love them.  He wants what is best for them, and so should we.

That is the big picture.  What is best for them?  How can we love them?  How can we let God love them through us?  

Galatians 5:22 says that the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives is...love...

God puts His Spirit inside of His people, and His Spirit is going to bear the good fruit of love through us as long as we don’t block Him up.

And what is one key to not blocking up the Holy Spirit?

It is this.  Overlook the offense.  We can overlook offenses because our eyes are fixed on the bigger picture of loving people.

And that is how you overlook an offense.

May God bless you today.

I’m Doug Apple. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Neither Boredom Nor Burnout




I’m Doug Apple...and my heart is on fire. (Luke 24:32)

I’m about to say something crazy, but it’s true.

It’s not the usual way of thinking, but it’s God’s way, so listen up.

If your church has a total of a hundred people including one pastor, then your pastor should be doing one percent of the work of that church.

Pause.

Think about it.

Let me say it again. If your church has a total of a hundred people including one pastor, then your pastor should be doing one percent of the work of that church.

Did you just spit up a little?

I’m telling you, this is the way the body of Christ is designed to work. We each have a vital part in the body, and we each need to fulfill our part.

Now you might be thinking, “That’s the pastor’s full time job. I have to go to work everyday. I can’t be doing the same amount of church work as the pastor. That’s ridiculous!”

That’s true...IF you have pigeon-holed the work of the church into, like, 5 duties that a pastor does. Forget about that.

The question is, are you fulfilling your part in the body of Christ? You have a unique part, with unique giftings and callings from God Himself. And your part in the body is your part in the body, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The pastor has HIS part in the body, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. EVERY BELIEVER has their part in the body, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Are you fulfilling your part in the body? If everyone in your local congregation of one hundred people is fulfilling their part in the body, then each person is doing one percent of the work of that local congregation.

Don’t pigeon-hole God’s work into the, like, 10 jobs that you think of as “church work.” God’s work is the work of His entire body, which is explosively loaded with gifts and callings, the vast majority of which never see the light of day.

But Doug, I can’t be doing all that church work. I have to go to work, and look after my kids, and take a little time just to enjoy life, you know.”

Yes, I know. And more importantly, God knows. He created you. He knows EXACTLY, PRECISELY WHAT YOU NEED. He put inside of every believer just what you need in the form of His Holy Spirit. He has gifted you and called you; and your most fulfilling, abundant life will come when you fulfill your part in the body of Christ.

Now the title of this lesson is, “Neither Boredom Nor Burnout.” Many Christians go sailing off in one of those two directions.

First, boredom. My daughter told me the other day, “I think so many Christians are drinking alcohol today because they are bored.” What? If you tap into the Holy Spirit and all that God has for you, boredom will go flying out the window. Fulfilling your part in the body of Christ will be the most exciting adventure you have ever been on, if you will just take the time to diligently seek God and let His Spirit lead you.

Second, burnout. Many Christians will hear a message like this, get fired up, and dive head first into church work, doing everything that comes their way.

Listen. I’m telling you to seek God and fulfill YOUR PART in the body of Christ – and that’s not anyone else’s part. You can’t do anyone else’s part. When you try to do your part and other people’s parts in the body, you will burn out. Then you can drop out altogether and say, “I got burned out in church.” Don’t fall for it.

But when you truly follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in order to understand and follow and fulfill YOUR part in the body, then you will not burn out.

Pastors who are overwhelmed? You are likely trying to fulfill several parts in the body that aren’t yours, which you cannot do.

Deacons or elders or teachers or whatever who are getting burned out in church – you are probably doing more than you are called and gifted to do. You need to fulfill your part in the body, no more (that leads to burnout) and no less (that leads to boredom).

So I close with the shocking line I opened with, and I’ll leave you to pray about it and seek God.

If your church has a total of a hundred people including one pastor, then your pastor should be doing one percent of the work of that church.

May God bless you today.

I’m Doug Apple.


Friday, May 29, 2020

Comparison Competition Provision Pleasure

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I’m Doug Apple...and my heart is on fire!  (Luke 24:32)

How are you doing in life?

How do you know?

Is it by comparing yourself to others?

“I’m doing cruddy because I’m not on a plane to Hawaii like my friends on Facebook.”

Comparing ourselves to others is a terrible trap and a waste of time.  Either we feel bad because others are doing better, or we can feel proud because we are doing better.

But how can you know how you are doing in life if you don’t compare yourself to others?

“I guess I’m doing okay.  At least I’m not as bad as those people, wow, look at them.”

That’s comparison.

And then there is comparison’s evil twin:  competition.

Competition is basically organized comparison.  It’s adding standings and prizes and gold medals.  

“How am I doing in life?  Why, I’m the XYZ trophy winner.  I’m doing great!”

But again, that’s just comparing ourselves to others.  Is there a way to know how we are doing in life without comparison?

Well, there is provision.  How am I providing for myself?  

Leave out comparing yourself to others, because someone else will always be providing more.  The question is, are you providing enough to meet your needs, and then the needs of your family? 

Provision is an important measurement for how you are doing in life, but it probably takes less than you think.  Providing all the latest whizmos for your kids is not the measurement.

“But then they won’t be happy!”

And that brings us to our final measurement for how we are doing in life:  our pleasure.  Are we happy?

We can measure that, minute by minute, but is pleasure a good measure for how we are doing in life?

So much of life isn’t what you would call pleasure.  Even the addict whose only goal is seeking pleasure doesn’t feel that much pleasure.

If you lived on a yacht on a beautiful island full of beautiful people and music and non-stop good times, before long it would just be boring.

So how are we doing in life?  We often answer that question by comparison (I’m winning!), or provision (I’m rich!), or pleasure (I’m so happy!)

But I want to suggest a different measurement for how we are doing in life.

God created us.  God put inside each of us fantastic raw materials.  We have gifts.  We have callings.  We have a purpose.  We have a part to play, assigned by God. 

So the question is, are we doing it?  Are we doing what God has gifted us to do and called us to do?  Are we running in the lane that God has assigned to us, and running for all we’re worth?

That is a measurement worth measuring.

That is a standard worth rising to.

That will bring us the best answer to that pesky, age-old question, “How am I doing in life?”

May God bless you today.

I’m Doug Apple.