Monday, July 4, 2016

Is a Christian Called to Forgive and Be Reconciled to a Sinner?

Last week I got a message from woman I have known for years, and who has come to me for straight biblical answers.  Once again she challenged me, asking some really tough questions in the light of the well-meaning advice many Christians around her were giving in relation to her need to forgive and be reconciled to her husband, who once again had betrayed her trust.  This dear woman has lived through years of lies and manipulation which her husband, even under the noses of their church leadership, has used to hide his deeper heart problems.  Deep wounds and much mistrust are once again opened and hurting, so quick submission to religious commands, which have worn thin after repeated attempts over the years, are far from the answers she was looking for.   

The battle my friend asked me to stand by her side in, was not one I felt deserved a quick shot of truth in the dark…but rather a long prayerful walk by her side.  I gave her my time by praying and also seeking from God, His plan to defeat the enemy who was working so hard to destroy her marriage and family.  As I prayed not only for my friend, her husband, their children, and her church elders, I also prayed for wisdom, truth and clarity to speak to her what God wanted her to hear in this time of need.  In the end, God led me not to search for certain verses on forgiveness and reconciliation, but rather to do a word study in the New Testament Greek text of all the words which are translated into forgive, forgiven, forgiveness, etc.; of which there are four, as I explain the meaning of each below.  Here is the information I sent along that I hope will open your eyes, as they did mine, to what God really asks from believers in regards to forgiving others.

In praying about how to answer your questions, I felt led to do a Greek word study on forgiveness...what I found was profound to my personally understanding of how God asks Christians to act in the light of forgiveness, so bear with me as I give you my homework findings

The first word, “aphesis”, means to release sins from a sinner and therefore no longer hold them accountable for their past sins. Or, to wipe the slate clean of the offender because their debt has been paid by another. The second word, “aphiemi,” means to actually carry out the act of removing another person's sins.  What is interesting to note though is that both of these instances of forgiveness are never acts that people are intended to do, only God. We cannot remove another person's guilt because we can't pay the debt another person should have to paid for their sin. It is through God alone a person is forgiven, and it through the work of the cross and the blood Jesus shed that pays the debt that a person’s sin has brought upon them.

The third and fourth words are “apoluo”, which means to loose or set free from any bondage that holds another person to your requirements or to a legal bond with you, and “charizomai” means to do another person a favor by being kind to them out of the good will you show them, not by something they earned. These two words are applied to believers when they are commanded to forgive their fellow man, including believers, unbelievers, and even their enemies.

In essence, God forgives. He has always commanded that the weight of forgiveness of all sins be on Him. We are unable to forgive others (pay their debt or even release them from their sins) because to do so requires the perfect sacrifice only Christ was able to pay. All He asks of us is that we believe in His ability to pay the debt for others and their sins, and be willing to set those people free of our expectations or any chains that would bind them to us and our need to be repaid for any harm they have done to us.

Thus, if someone else wrongs you in a manner that is against God's will then you must hold onto that relationship through holding on to God and turning that person's actions back to Him. God is your firewall of defense because the enemy is not the person who sinned against you, but rather the sin itself separates you from the sinner just as that sin separates that person from God when they do not admit their sinfulness to Him.  It is up to the sinner to deal with the sin and God.  The one granting, on the other hand, can pardon only because God first was willing to pay the penalty for the other person’s sin.  The pardoning of another person’s sin is just a confirmation of God’s payment in full being recognized.

Reconciliation therefore can only happen when both parties are reconciled to God. As the one being hurt by a person who is living in sin, your only job is to keep yourself reconciled to God by asking Him to forgive you and anything you may be doing to hinder a perfect relationship with Him, including not allowing the person hurting you to be pardoned by Him. On the other hand, it is up to the person living in sin to allow himself to be reconciled to God from the other side...only then can a relationship between both people meet in the middle, perfectly joined by Christ.

All a Christian can do it whatever God has given him or her the power to do, the rest we must keep giving back to Him to do His perfect will, whatever that may be.  Trusting, obeying, believing, and living each day with our eye and our hope on Him alone.

As I finished typing up my response and telling my friend I would continue to pray and place this situation before the throne of God, I wished I could have given her a quick 5 step process to healing her hurts and finding all the answers to the things she was experiencing, but then again that is not the way God works.  Instead He draws us in during these difficult times, to come sit with Him, learn from Him, walk with Him, trust in Him, and believe in His words that He is working all things out for good...because He always does!

Maybe you have some new or old wounds that still need to be pardoned in your own heart.  What a difficult weight God has lifted from our shoulders by not only paying the price for our own sinful acts, but also the sinful acts of those who have harmed us.  Be reconciled to Christ today by accepting his forgiveness, for yourself and for those He desires you to love.  And while forgiveness by granting another person's pardon may never change your situation, or the other person, it is the one thing commanded by God we must do to live in peace and be open for reconciliation with others, should they choose it.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Wrestling with God

Yesterday I was disciplining a newer believer in my home, when she asked me to further explain about Jacob wrestling with God from Genesis 32:  22-32.  Now, I have wrestled intensely with God many times and was able to share with her my experiences and how those times changed me.  But, it was the point my 17-year-old son, who had been listening in on our conversation (the benefit and detriment of disciplining in your home with kids around), made that gave me a new perspective on how God really works when we take the time to wrestle with Him over issues that are pressing in on us.

My son made the point that as a wrestler there is a certain amount of respect that each of the wrestlers bring to the match, which allows both of them to go through the experience with a certain sense of gain, whether they win or lose.  In thinking about that after my guest left, I realized that if two wrestlers were to just meet on the mat and one was to tell the other the outcome of the match before they wrestled, and it was that the one giving the results was going to have the upper hand, that it would be much more difficult to accept the results as the other wrestler.  Basically, the second wrestler would have been given no chance to put forth his best effort to change the results to be better in his favor.  The contest itself was the necessary component in which to confirm the final results of the match.

Jacob was going to face his brother Esau, from whom he had stolen his birthright and barely escaped his wrath of when he had last seen him.  This issue was pressing in on his heart and bringing up all kinds of fears and worries, and yet God was calling Jacob to return and make peace with Esau.  It was then that Jacob sent forth his family and spent the entire night alone wrestling with God.  The circumstances of God’s call on Jacob’s life did not change in the end, God still won the fight and Jacob was sent forth to make peace with his brother.  But, throughout the events that took place that night, Jacob came to understand God from a whole new perspective.  In that wrestling match, Jacob further learned to respect God’s authority, and thus he was willing afterwards to submit to what God was calling him to do.  The wrestling match showed Jacob clearly he had done all he could to work against God, and God did not relent to any of his moves.  But also, God's will became part of who Jacob was because Jacob took the time and energy to allow God to work it into his own will through facing God head on.

Often times we teach in our “good Christian” theology that we just need to be a robot doing all that God commands us to do without interacting with Him, talking things through with Him, and even wrestling with Him.  This type of teaching is such a lie.  The fact is, the bible is full of stories of people like Jacob who lived contrary to his type of theology.  Instead, God wants us to be obedient to His will, but not until that will becomes so much of our fiber that we desire to do His will above our own instead of just doing it because it is expected of us as a Christian.  

This makes me think of 2 Corinthians 9:7 “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly; for God loves a cheerful giver.  Cheerfulness is not happiness, but deep down satisfaction in doing what you know is purposed in your life. A purpose that God has given me the most understanding of as I have sorted out His truth for myself and in the unique ways He has worked over the years to reveal Himself to me as I have pressed into Him and wrestled with His truth and His commands.

I am thankful for the times God has pressed me into places that have forced me to wrestle with Him.  I am even more thankful for the ways He has changed me during those times to be willing to accept all the purposes and plans He has put before me.  From those experiences, I have come forth stronger and all the more willing to follow Him and fight for His purposes without fear.  Because, in wresting, I have seen God intimately working in my life and reconfirming the fact He is walking before me and working everything out ahead of me to His perfect victorious will.  A will that no longer is just His will, but one that has become part of my own will for His glory.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Homemade 5-Pepper Texas Jack Cheese

I know it has been a long time since I have posted a new cheese recipe, but as an adjusting "city dweller" I have found that cheese making has taken more of a hobby status in my life and the recipes I perfected on the farm have served me well to make over and over again as my family in turn consumes them directly out of our refrigerator.

But, one cheese that I have been working on this past year is a more spicy alternative to my Hot Pepper Havarti.  I have found that using fresh peppers (and specific ones in particular) make the cheese turn out fresh with  perfect amount of heat.

So, here we go. 

To make this 2 pound batch, you will need 2 gallons of raw whole milk and a mix of the following peppers:  1/3 of a sweet red pepper (or a single red jalapeno if you want it a bit hotter), 1/3 of a sweet yellow pepper, 3 orange habanero peppers, 1/4 of a sweet orange pepper, and 1 green jalapeno pepper.

Heat he milk to 89 degrees Fahrenheit.

I was making an 8 gallon batch of Colby the same day.  The two gallon pot is on the right.

Next, measure 1/4 teaspoon of mesophilic culture and sprinkle it on top of the heated milk.  Let hydrate for a few minutes and then stir it in, with an up and down motion for at least 20 strokes to make sure the entire vat of milk is cultured.

I order all my cultures and rennet from

It is hard to see, but the culture is a bit yellowish and floats on the top of the milk when it is sprinkled on top.

When stirring with an up and down motion the milk will rise from the bottom and the top milk will be sucked down making sure the culture is evenly distributed.
Now, hold the temperature (put the lid and and keep the pot somewhere warm) and leave for 45 minutes.

During that wait time, cut up your peppers into very small uniform pieces, cover them with an inch of water and add in a pinch of salt.  Bring the mixture to a boil and continue to boil for 10 minutes.  When the mixture has finished its boil time, remove it from the burner and cover the pot to keep the peppers warm.

When the wait time on the cultured milk is over.  Stir the milk a bit to incorporate the cream back into the milk (some separation always happens) and then mix in a mixture of 1/4 cup water mixed with 1/2 teaspoon of rennet.  Again use the up and down mixing motion and make sure to count at least 20 strokes.

Cover the milk again and hold the temperature for 40 minutes.

 When the hold time is done, cut the curds into even cubes.  This is done best with a long knife and at an angle to the top surface, turning the pot a 1/3 turn as you go.  Once the curds are cut, let them firm up by leaving them sit undisturbed for 10 minutes.

Now, with the heat on low, heat the curds up, while stirring, to 100 degrees Fahrenheit.  This should take about 40 minutes.

One you have reached the desired temperature, turn off the heat and allow the curds to settle to the bottom of the pot. (As you can see, I switched thermometers.  Actually my digital one stopped working and I thought I would point it out since it is always a good thing to have a back up thermomemter around.  I have had batteries die, glass ones break, and ones just stop registering on me when cheese making and since cheese making requires such specific temperatures you never want to be without one when it is most necessary!)

Next, skim off as much whey as you can without taking out any curds (save it for fermenting or bread baking) and then ladle the curds into a strainer that is lined with a cheese cloth.

Now, before the cheese drops too much in temperature, put the curds back into the cheese pot and then add the pepper mixture and mix it all for about 10 minutes while breaking down the curds into small pieces so the peppers get evenly distributed.

Then put your curds into a prepared mould and press for 1 hour.

After the hour is up, flip the cheese over and then press for another 12 hours or overnight.

I am not all that thrilled with this smaller press, although is does the job, but as you can see the larger press I have is gravity driven with the jug to put pressure on the cheese and it turns out a much more uniformly pressed cheese because of the constant pressure, something that is very difficult to get with the screw press when pressing overnight.

In the morning, remove the cheese from the press and soak in a 18% salt brine for 12 hours (flipping half way to make sure the cheese gets evenly salted, and then place the cheese on a drying mat and allow to dry in the refrigerator until it has lost its excess moisture. 

Once the cheese is dry, you can wrap it in cheese paper, wax it, shrink wrap it, or eat it...that is usually what happens around here.  Enjoy!