Forgiveness

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March 15

Monday, March 15th, 2021

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to get hard? Three Dog Night had a song in the late 60s (1969) titled Easy to be Hard with the lyrics “Easy to be hard/Easy to be cold.” (From the musical Hair). 

It is easy to get hard toward people. Maybe you’ve worked with them and thought you had a pretty good relationship when suddenly they give you the cold shoulder. It is easy to think, “Well, if that’s the way they want to be.” Several years ago I had developed what I thought was a good friendship. We talked a lot.  Our families spent time together. We ate out together. He and I went to a Saturday morning Bible study together. Then Boom! He withdrew and wanted nothing to do with me. To this day I still don’t know what happened, although before I moved the relationship was restored.

It is more tragic when that happens with God. We are told not to grieve the Holy Spirit. but I know there are times I test those limits. I disappoint Him with my words and actions. The relationship which was so dear and so vital is now cool, even cold. My heart grows hard to the things of the Spirit. I have trouble hearing His quiet whisper, or even His loud shouts for that matter! It is easy to be hard, easy to be cold as the song said.

Don’t let that happen. Stay sensitive to the Spirit. If sin is there, confess it and get rid of it. If something else has crept in to take His place, renounce it! Ask Him to restore your heart to the love you once knew.

“Father,  You don’t move. It is me who gets cold and hard. Forgive me when that happens.  Help me to once again be sensitive to the voice of Your Spirit.”

Here is a song to get you to think some more about what I have written.

March 4

Thursday, March 4th, 2021

Several years ago-around 2006/2007-I read a book which changed my perspective on people. More specifically, on how I saw people and reached out to them.

In retrospect, I have always “prided” myself in accepting people as they were. You know, like the old song says, “Just as I am without one plea…” My thinking was if God could accept me as I am/was then surely I could do the same. And I thought I did. But I was stopped in my tracks and forced to reevaluate my ways and actions.

The book was NO Perfect People Allowed by John Burke, a pastor of a church in Austin, TX. And while I now realize some of it was the attractional church message, some of it was on the money. People can’t be expected to change before accepting the Gospel message.

Jesus never did that. He didn’t tell the woman at the well to get her act together, leave her current live in, before He would talk with her and give her hope. He didn’t tell the woman caught in adultery to “Repent sinner!” before He came to her defense and then sent her away a free and forgiven woman. He went to Zacchaeus’ house to eat without demanding a life change. That came after his encounter with Jesus. The same goes for all He came in contact with (except maybe the arrogant, self-righteous Pharisees).

No, when Jesus exhibited “Come as you are” it was genuine and sincere. Can I do any less? Do I expect people to change first or do I accept and let God change them? The latter is preferable.

“Father, You accepted me as I was and am. Can I do any less? Please teach me and help me to do as You have done for me and countless others.”

March 3

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2021

I never tire of hearing stories of how people were saved. I love sitting and listening or reading as someone tells their salvation story.

I was reminded of that today as I read Acts 8 & 9. I was also reminded how different each person’s story is. Oh sure, you will hear those whose testimony isn’t much different from countless others. “I was raised in a Christian home and accepted Jesus as my Savior at a fairly young age.” Now the story may vary somewhat from there but there is a commonality in them.

Nor is it unusual to hear the “prodigal son” story come out of someone’s mouth. Or the druggie/junkie/addict story. The stories are endless but I, for one, never tire of hearing them and rejoicing in the goodness and grace of God.

Case in point: Acts 8 & 9. Philip heads to Samaria and the power of the Gospel was so strong people came to Jesus, even Simon the Sorcerer (or so we are led to believe early on). But Peter seems to expose Simon’s real motives. Then Philip is whisked away to meet with the Ethiopian eunuch, who has his own conversion story. Then Saul/Paul in Acts 9. Talk about marvelous and powerful and (admittedly) somewhat surprising given the task Saul was performing.

But here is my point: each story is different. The one who comes to Christ at a young age and follows Him has just as valid a testimony as the eunuch or Saul/Paul. No testimony of God’s work and saving power is invalid or any less important. What IS important is the salvation which occurs and the testimony which follows.

Got something to say about God’s goodness? About His salvation? Say it!

“Father, all salvation experiences are important to you. None more than any other.  May Your saving grace ring out from all lips and testify of your grace and salvation!”

February 26

Friday, February 26th, 2021

As a young boy growing up, then as a young man, I was taught-not so much by words but by actions-that real men didn’t cry. I only remember seeing my dad cry once.  It was after I was married and we had our first child. My dad had a heart attack-a bad one-and Jo, Tami and I drove over 4 hours from where we lived in Ohio to see him in the hospital. The attack was a bad one. He was to be in the ICU for 2 weeks; a step down for 2 weeks; then a regular bed for 2 weeks. Keep in mind this was 1975. Things are much different today than they were back in the Dark Ages. My dad was 47. He was miraculously healed because we visited him in a normal room and he was discharged within 2 weeks, not the 6 they said.  We visited him one afternoon, spent the night at their house, then visited again the next morning before heading back to Ohio. When we left to go home, I saw my dad cry for the first time. Some might say it was the chemical change brought on by the heart attack.  Maybe so. But I saw my dad cry for the very first time!

A sign of weakness or so I’d been taught. As I was to learn, crying was not a sign of weakness; it is a sign of strength. A sign of confidence. A sign of humility. A sign of sorrow.

Of all people who wept, none were more manly, yet more confident and in control than Jesus. Several instances stand out:

  • In Matthew 23 Jesus weeps over Jerusalem. “How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings.” (NLT) He wept as He entered Jerusalem.
  • At the tomb of Lazarus we find the most familiar verse to those who hate memorizing anything, particularly Scripture: “Jesus wept.”
  • In Ezekiel 6:9 we find God grieving over His children.  “They will recognize how hurt I am by their unfaithful hearts.” The NIV says, “How I am grieved.” That is one strong emotional verse about God’s feelings!!

I have wept more than once. Many times. When I have experienced a loss. When I have said goodbye to a friend because of a move. When I’ve hurt my wife or girls. And most assuredly when I’ve been made aware of my sin and been driven to my knees in repentance and forgiveness.

“Father, tears are a language You understand. May genuine tears of love, repentance, remorse, and forgiveness flow freely from my eyes and heart as I yield to You.”

February 22

Monday, February 22nd, 2021

You have probably heard the saying, “You learn something new every day.” And that’s a good thing. Well…I can say that this morning. It’s probably not that I haven’t heard or read this before, but this morning something struck home. The lesson comes from Journey to the Cross by Paul David Tripp.

But first…you must stop and read Psalm 51 in its entirety. Not just one or two or five verses but all 19 of them. Go ahead. It won’t take you that long.

The story behind the psalm is familiar. David has a tryst with Bathsheba and gets her pregnant. When he found out he has her husband, Uriah, murdered. Adulterer. Murderer. Psalm 51 is his prayer of repentance. All that information I/we know. But what I learned anew this morning is David used 3 words to describe his sin. And this is worth its weight in gold.

  1. Transgression. A transgression is a willful stepping over of God’s boundaries. It is seeing the NO TRESPASSING sign and climbing the fence anyway because there is something you want to get to on the other side.
  2. Iniquity. This word means moral uncleanness. There is something more in me than even the spirit of rebellion (see #1). This is like water which is no longer pure.
  3. Sin. Falling short of God’s wise and righteous standard. It’s like the pole vaulters or high jumpers who-try as they will-cannot clear the bar. And just as the vaulter or jumper seeks answers/help, embedded in sin is a cry for help.

David’s prayer is sincere because he recognized his rebellion against God’s boundary (fence); that deep within him was the uncleanness/impurity; and no matter how hard he tried he would fall short. Psalm 51 is a cry for help and forgiveness.

That’s my story. Is it yours? I talked with someone the other day who relayed a story that he has a relative who doesn’t know of any sin that he struggles with.  He needs a heart check because I can think of one just by his statement: pride. 

But that’s not me.  I’m guilty.

“Father, David’s prayer is mine. Guilty on all three counts. But I pray with David that you will renew a right spirit within me and give me a new heart.”

February 15

Monday, February 15th, 2021

Have you ever been mad? Not crazy mad. But hot-under-the-collar mad. So mad you couldn’t see straight. So mad you wanted God to do something…like oh…call-down-fire-from-heaven-mad.  You probably know where I’m going with this. It was the time in the ministry of Jesus they were heading to Samaria and the Samaritans said, “No way are you coming into our town. You aren’t welcome here!”

That’s a fine how-do-you-do. It wasn’t really Jesus they had an issue with; it was all Jews. So what do James and John suggest? A nice pow wow? Nope, not on your life. “Jesus, is it okay if we call down fire from heaven on them?” I suggest they might have wanted to add: “You know, make ’em toast like Sodom and Gomorrah. That will teach them a lesson.”

Jesus wasn’t going to allow that, thereby setting an example for us of what to do when we are rejected. There is another, perhaps deeper meaning happening here also. Not always will people agree with us. It might even get testy. We then have a choice: stick to our guns and blast away or lay our weapons aside for the sake of peace and love one another. Sometimes being dogmatic is not the way to go. Our greater purpose is not to (always) be right but to love. When we are challenged, love. When we are hurt, love. When we are proven wrong, love.

Let’s keep our eyes off people and their motives, reactions, rightness or wrongness, and keep our eyes on Jesus. “And that is my prayer this morning Father. Today, help me to keep my eyes on You.”

February 12

Friday, February 12th, 2021

It’s never too early. They say that, for example, when teaching a child. In fact, the experts tell mom to sing to their baby in the womb. Like I said, it’s never too early. It’s never too early to potty train!! 🙂 What parent, tired of changing wet or smelly, poopy diapers hasn’t wished their child was already potty-trained?  Can you say 6 months?  I joke, of course, but you get the point.

It’s never too early to talk about the cross. I’ve been reading a book called Journey to the Cross by Paul David Tripp. It is designed as a 40-day Lenten devotional.  I know. I know. Lent doesn’t actually start until February 17th but I started reading early to help me in my preparation for a 4 week sermon series on the cross and resurrection. I’m going to include-in its entirety-a paragraph from the book. It is THAT good!

“The cross is a powerful interruption to our ‘easy way out’ thinking. It catches us up short. It confronts our vain wishes. The horrible suffering and death of the perfect Messiah, Jesus, on a criminal’s cross, outside the city on a hill of death, tells us in no uncertain terms that when it comes to humanity’s deepest and inescapable problem, there is no easy way out. None. The cross calls us to quit hoping in , to stop searching for, and to give up on our belief in our ability to manufacture or stumble upon a cure. Sin brought death into the world. Sin separated us from our Creator. Sin turned us all into rebels and fools. Sin’s pathway is destruction, and its endpoint is death. There are no escape routes. We can’t buy our way out. We can’t earn a better destiny. There is nothing we can do. We are being propelled blindly down a roadway of death. We may smile and celebrate and accumulate, but left to ourselves we have no hope. Apart from some miraculous intervention, we are doomed. There is and never has been any easy way out of this terminal disease, the one that infects us all: sin. The cross screams to us, ‘Stop looking elsewhere. This is the only way!’ ” (Journey to the Cross-Day 10-p.62)

It’s never too early to be reminded of the power of the cross over our utter inability to save ourselves. Agree? Allow these words by Tripp to soak in.

“Father, thank You for the power of the cross over my lost state and my inability to solve that sin problem.”

February 3

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2021

One of my favorite stories from the life of Jesus is given to us by His close friend, John. Maybe that is one of the reasons why this story is extra special- it was written by His close friend. One of the Sons of Thunder. One of the brothers who wanted to call down fire from heaven to destroy a city, all because they dissed his friend. I can read this story and experience relief. I can experience a sense of peace. I can experience a wave of a-a-a-a-h sweep over me.

The story is familiar to many of us. It is found in John 8-a story some say is not in the original canon. No matter. I like it anyway. Jesus heads to the temple for another day of teaching when religious leaders rocket before Him interrupting Him with their words and a woman. “This woman was caught in adultery (Excuse me but where is the man?). Our Law says ‘stone her’ but what do you say?” They have thrown down the gauntlet and think they’ve got Him. But this is not His first rodeo, especially with them. He leans down to write in the sand (I sure would like to know what He wrote wouldn’t you?). Then He tells them that the one who is without sin should cast the first stone. He watches them leave one-by-one until all who are left is He and the lady. I see Jesus reaching out His hand to help her up, wipe the mud and tears and shame off her face, ask her a question about her accusers, then telling her to “go and sin no more.”

He didn’t shame her. He didn’t berate her. He certainly didn’t kick dirt on her or throw a stone. He didn’t tell her she needed to attend an AA (Adulterer’s Anonymous) meeting. Nope. Just forgiveness. Just G-R-A-C-E.

I’m that woman. You are that woman. Condemned by our sin and shame we prostate ourselves at the feet of the loving Father. Wallowing in that sin and condemnation and shame we grovel in the dirt at the foot of the cross. But the loving Savior does not shame us or condemn us. He extends grace and forgives us. What more can we ask for? Grace upon grace.

“Father, thank You for this story. Thank You for Your marvelous grace. As it has been extended to me, may I extend it to someone today. Help me to be an agent of grace for You.”

 

December 23

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2020

When I was a youngster, and if I was a betting man/boy, I would have bet my last dollar (which I had none of back then) that my mother had eyes in the back of her head. She was like “See all/know all” to me. I had 3 brothers-all younger- and we all had the “Not me’s.” I’m sure you have probably seen that Family Circle comic strip where the mom asks “who did it?” and they all say, “Not me.” Well, I think the cartoonist had it right and must have used my family as the model for that particular day. I can remember there being a time that something would happen or something was missing and mom would line us all up and say, “Okay, who did it?” Not even the “It is better to tell the truth than get caught lying” line would stop the “Not me” from flowing out of our mouths. But strangely mom would say, “Okay, Robin or Garry or Curt (never Bill), why did you do it?” and the cover would be thrown off the perpetrator.

You know, I may have escaped my mother’s piercing eyes (and disappointment) but with God it is different. As Paul David Tripp writes:

God’s grace will expose what you want to hide, not to shame you, but to forgive and deliver you.” (40 Days of Grace- Day 4-P.14)

Little did I, or my brothers, know that revealing to mom our (there I admitted it) infraction actually set us free. We didn’t have to skulk around like Golem wondering if we were going to get caught. And we no longer have to hide our sin (we can’t anyway). God’s grace brings that sin out into the light and pierces it, obliterates it. Exposes it. All for the better.

“Father, you have shined your light of grace on my sin. You have exposed it so it cannot control me. Thank you.”

November 4

Wednesday, November 4th, 2020

I originally posted this yesterday, November 3rd, the day of our election on my other blog. I include it here a day later still not knowing the outcome of the election.

At the risk of being taken as political, I’m going to make a statement that I firmly believe: God does not care about a person’s race; a person’s skin color; a person’s nationality; a person’s social status; a person’s religious upbringing; a person’s education; a person’s job; a person’s political persuasion; a person’s state of residence; a person’s 401K, or any other distinction man may make. In our world today it seems like unless you state publicly, “BLM,” you are a racist or some other ugly moniker. I personally believe ALM- All Lives Matter- and refuse to say any one race is more important than another.

I believe God would say the same thing. How do I know that? The Bible says so. Here, check out Romans 10: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be save.” (v.9). Then notice the words in verse 11: “For the Scripture says, ‘Everyone who…'” See that word? E.V.E.R.Y.O.N.E. Oh, but I love verse 12: “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing His riches on ALL who call on Him. For E.V.E.R.Y.O.N.E. who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” There’s that word again!! Twice everyone is used; once all is used. That shows God is not black or white; rich or poor; slave or free; American or Hispanic (take your pick); or interested in class, color, or creed. God is for EVERYONE, especially when it comes to salvation. Jesus died for all.

“Father, thank you that I’m included, along with all others who come to you and claim the Name of Jesus for salvation.”