Monthly Archives: January 2015

Forgive

Jesus told us we should forgive as we have been forgiven. Yet Peter asked him how many times was he required to forgive someone who wronged him. Seven?

I mean, seven sound generous if that person continues to do things that hurt you. Jesus answered: No. Not seven. Seventy times seven. (Matt 18)

In other words, there should be no limit. Forgive as God forgives. I, for one, am thankful God didn’t reach his limit after the first seven times I did something that required his forgiveness.

Having an unforgiving heart, holding a grudge, wanting revenge, are feelings that destroy. I used to tell my students I’m too lazy to carry a grudge because it takes too much effort. And the longer you carry it, the heavier it gets.

To carry a grudge you have to feed it. You’ve got to think about that person who wronged you. You’ve got to keep replaying the memory of what they did. You find yourself talking about them. Or you purposefully ignore them. You plan your actions against them or spend time dreaming about a building falling on them.

The thing about unforgiveness is, it needs fed to stay alive. But the more you feed it, the bigger and angrier it becomes, and the harder it is to carry. Jesus knew that, and wants better for all of us.

Now don’t misunderstand. Forgiveness isn’t the same as permission. If you are in an abusive or unhealthy relationship, you need to take action. Get to safety. Report the abuse. Find other friends. Apply for another job.  Don’t just stand there and allow the abuse to continue.

Then after you have walked away, forgive. But, you say, he assaulted my child, she stole my husband, he abuses me verbally, she talks about me behind my back. He doesn’t deserve my forgiveness.

Forgive.

You tell me I don’t understand, that it’s easy for me to say because I haven’t experienced what you’ve experienced. But, my friend. I’m not the one telling you to forgive. Jesus is.

Forgive.

Forgiveness isn’t the same as permission. And it’s not the same as allowing the evil to continue. What it is is a turning over to God that which hurts you. It’s trusting him to work things out for your good and his glory.

If you don’t forgive, you allow that person who hurt you to continue to hurt you. You do that. You give them control over you.

Forgive.

But, you say, she’s never asked me to forgive her.

Forgive.

Forgiveness isn’t only about the person who wronged you. It’s about you. It’s about your happiness, your health, your well-being. I personally think many emotional problems people face today have an element of unforgivness in them.

God wants us to walk with him in joy. He wants a clear path between us and him. Don’t let the actions of anyone keep you from that sweet fellowship.

Forgive.

God forgave you. Pass it on.

Advertisements

Can You Hear Me? Can You Hear Me Now?

I thought that ad for a cellular company several years ago was a clever one. That phrase was everywhere for a while.

Who of us has never picked up a microphone and said, “Testing. Testing”?

The Bible speaks a lot about testing. Joseph tested his brothers before revealing himself to them in Egypt. (Gen 43-45) Jesus told Peter to get out of the boat and walk to him, testing Peter’s faith. (Matt 14) Psalm 11 tells us God’s “eyelids test the sons of men. The Lord tests the righteous…”

Why so much testing? (I sound like an Ohio public school teacher… and I was) Does God depend on the results of his tests to know where we stand with him?

That’s ridiculous. God already knows our hearts.

Testing, for us, has become about the test-giver. Results tell the DMV who is ready to drive a car. A math test is given so the teacher can assign a grade. But more than that, testing reveals to the test-taker what they know and how much more they can learn.

When God tests the righteous, it’s so we can know where we stand, we can identify our weaknesses, go to him and confess sin.

Do you feel you are undergoing a test from God himself? Maybe God is showing you a strength you didn’t know you had, or a weakness he’s able to strengthen, or a sin you need to confess. Maybe he wants you to know that you really do have faith in him, that you can do all things through Jesus, that you are more than a conqueror, that his promises are true.

No testing is pleasant. But the results can be life changing. Joseph discovered his brothers had truly changed in the years since they sold him into slavery. His brothers learned that they really could be faithful to their father. All of Jacob’s family learned that God can bring about good from anything Satan tries to use for evil. Peter learned he did have faith in Jesus and could walk on water in a storm. He also learned his faith wasn’t perfect.

So, what have you learned through your own times of testing?

Father, I hate tests. I hated taking tests and, as the person in charge of state testing in the middle school where I worked, I hated giving tests. So it feels kind of weird to thank you for the tests you throw my way. May I accept each test as a gift from you to encourage me, to prompt me to action, to learn more about you and walk closer to you. And, yes, may I thank you for testing me so I can know where I stand. May I use the results of those test to allow you to mold me into the woman you would have me be.

A Grieving Father

My mom died in 1996, but I can still remember how hard it was to watch my father’s grief. He was lost without her. I remember making the 60 mile trip every weekend to be with him, just to sit with him, take a ride in the car with him, watch an old movie with him, just to do what I could to help ease the burden of his grief. It’s not that I wasn’t grieving. I was. But somehow his grief looked different than mine.

When my sister lost her son in an automobile accident, watching her grief was, and is hard. There is a sadness in her smile, a tear in her laughter. And as someone who loves her, her grief breaks my heart. Watching someone you love go through tremendous grief has to effect you, too, doesn’t it?

So when I was reading in Genesis 37 this morning about Jacob’s grief over his son Joseph’s supposed death, I thought of Dad and Peggy. I could almost picture the look on Jacob’s face in the days and weeks following the horrible news because I could picture their look.

Then I found myself getting a little angry at Joseph’s brothers. How could those ten men watch their father’s grief over losing Joseph, when any one of them could have stepped up and told the truth? They had it within their power to relieve Jacob’s grief. And they did nothing. Jacob would have paid any price to buy Joseph’s freedom from slavery. Couldn’t just one of the ten of them care enough for their father to do what could be done to bring their brother back?

Maybe the brothers really did hate Joseph. But didn’t they love their dad?

Then it hit me. My Heavenly Father is grieving over his own lost children. His heart is broken when any of his children deny him, or ignore him. He agonizes over those who have yet to hear of Jesus. Every sin committed against my Heavenly Father is like a knife in the heart.

Couldn’t just one of us who are a part of his household, his family, care enough about our Father to do what can be done to relieve our Father’s grief? God will pay anything… he’s paid with his life… to buy his children out of slavery to sin.

Witnessing to a lost friend isn’t just about that friend. It’s also about our grieving Heavenly Father’s agony over our lost friend. I have to ask myself if I’m ok, knowing my Father grieves, and doing nothing about it. Can I love my Father and still be ok if he is grieving?

We Christians are in the same place Joseph’s brothers were in. We know the truth. Maybe it’s time we stepped up and did something about it.

Dear Heavenly Father, picturing you grieving over unsaved people breaks my heart. I love you. I want to picture you with a smile on your face, not tears streaming down your cheeks. What can I do to bring that smile back? Do you want me to talk to my neighbor today? Do you want me to call that person you’ve laid on my heart? Do you want me to introduce you to the waitress at the restaurant, my hair dresser, my child’s teacher? May I never be ok with the fact that you are grieving. May you find me a faithful daughter, sharing your Truth, and bringing a smile to your face. May I never be satisfied with just saying, I love you. Help me to show you how much I love you today by bringing one of your lost children home.

The Son of Man

I was reading in Matthew this morning where Jesus called himself the Son of Man. (12:8) I was reminded of an explanation I heard last night from Dr. Nabeel Querishi, an associate of Ravi Zacharias about that very thing. He explained the title, “Son of Man”,  in a way I had never heard before. If you haven’t heard of Ravi Zacharias International, I highly recommend you check out this ministry.

Dr. Querishi said that grasping the truth of the Son of Man is one of the things that helped him to leave the Islamic religion and accept Jesus as his Savior. Here is what I took away from what he shared:

The Jews often referred to themselves as Children of God or Sons of God. Their humanity was a given. It was their identification with God that made them unique among men.

Jesus, by calling himself the Son of Man, is saying he is God. That’s the given. It’s his identification with man that makes him unique. The ancient Jews knew what Jesus was saying. In no uncertain terms Jesus was telling them he is God. And, as God, he was walking right there among them in a human body.

That thrills me! I’ll never read the words, “Son of Man” the same way again.

I thank God for that truth. The Creator of the universe, Almighty God, came to earth fully God and fully human.  And calling himself The Son of Man assures me he understands me like no one else can.

Dear Son of Man, thank you for loving me enough to put on human form so that I can know you identify with me. I am humbled and grateful for this truth. May I live my life, knowing who you are, and sharing you unashamedly. Jesus. God with us. You amaze me.

Piece of Cake

I was reading in Matthew 9 this morning where Jesus said that forgiving the sins of a paralytic man was easier than healing the man’s paralysis. He said this before he went to the cross, so as far as everyone there knew, forgiveness from sin required an animal sacrifice. Yet here was this guy, granting forgiveness and there’s no blood being shed.

I can understand why the people were shocked, why they questioned Jesus about it. This went against everything they had been taught up to now. Jesus, to prove he had the power, healed the sick man. But he said that act was harder than the forgiving of the sick man’s sin.

Yesterday at church, the pastor spoke about God’s ability and desire to forgive our sins. He reminded us that there is no such thing as a sin too great for God’s forgiveness if we just go to him and ask. Being washed clean by God is not all that complicated. Ask. Receive.

That forgiveness was bought at a very high price – the painful death of Jesus on the cross. He could forgive the paralytic because, for one he is God, and he knew he was willing and able to pay the price required of that man’s sin.

Today, forgiving us is a matter already done. My sins, your sins, are forgiven. Period. Jesus doesn’t have to go to the cross again and again each time we disobey him, each time someone goes to him with a repentant heart. He’s been there, done that.

God doesn’t require any of us to do something, pray a number of prayers, beat ourselves, or carry a wooden cross to make up for some deficit his own death couldn’t cover. Forgiveness is already ours (John 3:16, I John 1:9) Receiving it requires confession of sin, a repentant heart, and a request.

Us: Jesus, will you forgive me?

Jesus: Sure.

Piece of cake.

Jesus, I don’t want to minimize what it cost you to purchase my forgiveness. I read about what you went through at the hands of your murderers and I shutter to think you did that for me. I don’t want to minimize your holiness, your fierce hatred of sin, your demand that I be holy before you, a holy God. But I want to thank you for your grace, for the simple act of asking you to forgive me, knowing you already have and are just waiting to shower me with your love and forgiveness. Thank you for making it so easy to come to you. Forgive me when I try to make it so difficult. 

It’s just a tiny sin

I find it interesting that Christians can assign degrees of seriousness to sin. Some, they say, are small sins. Some sins send you straight to hell. But I don’t see the Bible teaching that.

What degree of sin did Ham commit? In Genesis 9 we see that Ham saw his father, Noah, drunk and naked, then ran to tell his brothers what he had seen. Sounds serious to me. But he didn’t murder anyone.

How can you tell where any sin falls on the mortal scale of degrees of sin? Jesus pretty much answers that. He said, in Matthew 5: You think murder is a big sin? I’m saying if you hate someone you are a murderer. You think adultery’s bad? You better be careful how you look at someone you’re not married to because you commit adultery if you even think about having sex with them.

Jesus didn’t come to abolish the law. He came to fulfill all the requirements of the law. But that doesn’t mean we have it easier than those Old Testament saints.

In fact, Jesus takes us one step further. He makes it plain that we can and do sin in our minds. The point is that sin is sin, there is no such thing as a big or a little sin. Committing a sin makes me a sinner, whether I act it out in my mind or in my body. And being a sinner, I need a Savior.

The good news is that all sin is forgivable. (I John 1:9) I need to go to Jesus with every sin I commit. When I ask him to forgive me, he does! Jesus reminds us his standard of behavior is perfection, holiness. (Matthew 5:48).

I, for one, need Jesus’ holiness because that train has already left the station in my life.

Dear Jesus, may your people recognize the seriousness of any sin in our lives. May we be quick to come to you for forgiveness when our thoughts, our feelings, our actions become sin. May we allow you to place your holiness on our shoulders, because frankly, we have none of our own. We want to stand before you wearing your perfection, and we thank you for the privilege you’ve given us through your own precious blood. Defeat Satan in our lives today. And may we show an unbelieving world what your holiness looks in us.

A Common Thread

For some time I have read through the Bible each year with a chronological plan. I love reading the Bible that way. But this year I decided to mix it up a bit, rebel that I am. I’m reading the New King James Version with a plan that includes some Old Testament, a Psalm or two, some Proverbs, and a passage from the New Testament each day for a year.

Not sure how I feel about that yet. But I’m excited to see what God has in store for me as I read His Word. What has occurred to me this first week of 2015, is how the Bible isn’t just a book of one thought after another, once account after another. It is an incredible piece of literature, inspired by God Himself, and it has a message that is consistent from Genesis to Revelation. Like what I read today.

The book of Genesis tells us that several years after the flood, people were beginning to feel pretty powerful. They began to build the Tower of Babel (11:1-9) and with each brick they laid. they felt more prideful. They were going to build their way to God.

Solomon tells us there are seven things God hates: pride, lies, murder, wickedness, choosing evil, slander, and troublemakers. (Proverbs 6:16-19) Pride heads Solomon’s list. Jesus tells us not to give, fast or pray in order to receive praise. (Matthew 6:2,5,16)

One of the biggest stumbling blocks in our walk with the Lord just might be pride. Receiving Christ as our Savior involves humbling ourselves, pouring our “selves” out, relinquishing control, and admitting our worthlessness.

For some, that’s too much to ask. Some would rather climb a mountain or fight a giant instead of falling on their knees in repentance. Even some who know Christ still battle pride, and want their walk or their sacrifice to be noticed by others. God hates that. God cannot bless that. And I believe unsaved people label that attitude in a believer hypocrisy.

God is asking me about my motives. Am I doing something in Jesus name in order to get to him on my own terms, like the Jews at Babel? Am I volunteering at church so that people will tell me how great it is that I do? Do my public prayers consist of flowery words meant to impress those in attendance, my weekly offering in the collection plate given so someone will comment about my sacrifice?

I love how the different passages I read today all share the same message. This Bible I have in front of me is truly amazing. May I read it, learn from it, and be the woman God would have me be for Jesus’ sake, not mine.

So what is the common thread I’ve seen as I read from the entire Bible? Put simply: this life isn’t about me. It’s all about Jesus. All of it.

Dear God, thank you for your Word. Thank you that it is relevant, powerful, and true. I pray that your children will spend time in these precious pages, that we will think on it, learn from it, and use it to lead others to the Savior. I also pray that in all we do, the sin of pride will not have a foothold. May we look to you and not ourselves. And may you find us faithful, in Jesus’ name.