Forgiveness

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October 14

Wednesday, October 14th, 2020

Can something be a favorite and challenging at the same time? I think so. Let me show you what I mean. One of my favorite but most challenging Scriptures is found in 2 Corinthians 5.

Favorite: It is hard to find a verse or passage more inspiring, more hope-giving, and more enriching than 5:17: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” There is no other way to look at that Scripture than to see the new birth and the new life Jesus gives to all.

But there is more following that.

Challenge: “…who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” I love that word-reconciliation. “Being made friends again.” A relationship gone awry patched up and put back together. Years ago I had a friend. He felt I didn’t believe or trust him in what he shared with me about the ministry of someone else. Guilty as charged. I chose to believe (what I found out to be) the lies of the other individual. Years later I went to that former friend and apologized, admitted I was wrong, and asked his forgiveness. It was granted and our friendship was restored. It has been years since I have seen him and I don’t even know where he lives now. (Pastors tend to move around some). But I know reconciliation took place.

That is what God wants for us all-a fractured relationship with Him to be mended. Jesus came to make that possible. The catch now, according to 2 Cor.5:19, is the message of reconciliation is left in my hands. I am/you are to take the message of Jesus and His death to others so they might be made friends with God.

Favorite and challenging: both in the same passage.

“Father, thank you that because of Jesus I am your friend. I have been reconciled with You. Help me to be an instrument in Your hand to show others that same reconciliation is available for them.”

September 18

Friday, September 18th, 2020

Have you ever met those people who are really hard to love? Their demeanor might be a turn-off. Their appearance might be a turn-off. Their smell might be a turn-off. Their attitude might be a turn-off. Their color might be a turn-off. Their race, religion, or ethnicity might be a turn-off. Their type of employment might be a turn-off. Perhaps you can think of more. Let me go on record as saying these are all wrong. None are legitimate.

I read an interesting thought recently. When the Bible says, “Love bears all things” it goes much deeper than “puts up with.” The word “bears” actually means “to cover”, “to pass over in silence” or “to keep confidential.” But in the noun form it means a roof. What an interesting thought! Follow it through with me please. What does a roof do? It covers us. What good is a house with no roof? What a worthless building a house would be if it was absolutely gorgeous inside and out but had an unobstructed view of the sky?

When Paul used that word in I Cor.13 he was saying that love covers people.  Consider this: we sometimes joke about singing all 100 stanzas of “Just As I Am”, but the fact is: it is the truth. We come as we are-no matter the smell, the race, the cleanliness, the color, the job, the _____________ (you fill in the blank). On the contrary, we come in repentance, gratitude, overwhelmed by the love and grace of a covering Father. You see, despite the way I was and am, God put a covering over me. The covering was blood. The blood of His Son.

“Father, may I remember I am here not on my own merit but because I’ve been covered by Jesus’ blood. Accepted is stamped on my heart.”

August 21

Friday, August 21st, 2020

Have you ever been hurt so deeply you wanted to strike back? You know…give them the old one-two punch. Hit them with the left jab of “love,” then hit them (i.e. put them down) with the right cross of power. The full punch will always be more powerful than the left jab that either keeps a person at a distance or sets them up for the power punch.

More often than not that power punch is the result of the desire to get even, to defend my rights. An illustration: several years ago I was hurt deeply. I’ll not say how or when or where. It hurt my family as well. That happens when a member of a family is hurt by another. Tami was really hurt and said some things to me about this person’s actions. I told her she has to let it go. So she wrote a letter of apology asking for forgiveness. (I was so proud of her). Instead of a letter of grace acknowledging and offering forgiveness, she received a letter of defense-one justifying that person’s actions, taking more shots at me and adding fuel to the fire. She was hurt all over again; I was livid. We moved away and over the course of time God dealt with my own anger. How could I help her process if I myself couldn’t handle it? In time, and through the ministry of the Holy Spirit in my life, I was able to lay down my “rights” and forgive.  I wrote a letter explaining my feelings and asking forgiveness, but I never received a reply. But God’s grace allowed me to move on-stronger, more mature, and able to help others do the same. In fact, it was after that when I was working at a non-church related job that I was able to help someone else.

I was working the other morning on a sermon from Ephesians 4: 25-32. Paul tells us there are certain things we are to put away. One of them is clamor. Clamor is the cry of passion railing against another.  To get rid of that I/we must give up my right to be right.

“Father, You got this. You have in your hand all that happens to me at the hands of others and will deal with them. Help me to give up my rights to always be right.”

August 17

Monday, August 17th, 2020

Several years ago Jo and I went to see a movie with some friends. It was called Seabiscuit and it was based on a book by the same name by Laura Hillenbrand. (She also wrote Unbroken, the story of POW Louis Zamperini). Seabiscuit was a horse case aside by it owner and handlers and used primarily as a training horse for the “cream of the crop”-horses which were supposed to bring home the roses.

But in my mind, it was about so much more than a small horse.  Here’s why:

  • Seabiscuit was a cast away horse. Too small. But Tom Smith saw what he could be.
  • Tom Smith, a cowboy whose way of life changed with the introduction of barbed wire fences and an out-moded way of life.
  • Charles Howard, a bicycle mechanic, turned car enthusiast, turned tycoon, turned divorcee’ after his son took off in a car to fish and died in an accident, to a broken man. His life was turned around by the love of a woman and a horse named Seabiscuit.
  • Red, the privileged, rich kid turned destitute by the stock market crash, turned bitter fighter, turned jockey who rode “Biscuit” to victory.

There is so much more. I’d say, “Watch the movie” but beware it has some rough language issues. But it’s real (and probably nothing you or I have not heard more than we care to).

Several statements in that movie stand out to me:

“Though she be small she is mighty.”  Red quotes Shakespeare when describing Seabiscuit to adoring fans and press.

“You don’t throw a whole life away just because it’s banged up a little.” Tom on Seabiscuit’s future.

That latter applies to all of us. I can guarantee you after 67 years of life, I am banged up. I’m glad God didn’t throw me away because of it. No, His forgiveness was/is real. I must do the same with others.

“Father, thanks for not throwing me away or giving up on me. may I be the same with others you place in my world.”

August 7

Friday, August 7th, 2020

Down through the years I have talked to/counseled tons of people for all kinds of issues. I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count the different topics of discussion.  But I can honestly say with extreme clarity that the most common topic has been “a product of my environment” kind of talk. What I mean by that is that an individual is a product of their raising. 

Basically put: I am who I am, I act the way I act, because of my parents. Now, there is some truth to that. John Eldredge, founder of Wild at Heart, is often heard speaking about the “father wound” many of us have. Our relationship with our father determines a lot of why we are who we are. In many ways, we are the product of our raising. I know I am. I have traits/characteristics about me that are definitely from my mom and some from my dad. My purpose here is not to delineate them.

My purpose here is to say this: while we are a product of our raising, i.e. environment, we don’t have to be a slave to that. Too often I have heard and seen people who continue to bemoan their upbringing. They keep blaming their parents for who they are-40 years (arbitrarily-picked number) later! It’s time to stop that train and get off. It is time to realize that transformation of a heart, mind and life are a by-product of salvation. As a person yields daily to the power and life-transforming influence of the Holy Spirit, they can also throw off the shackles of the past and walk in freedom.

“Father, You have made me new. You have changed everything. And while I can’t change my past, I can change its hold on me. Please continue making me a new creation and changing me.”

August 3

Monday, August 3rd, 2020

I met and talked with someone in the past who has much to be thankful for. This person, even though he/she may not know it, or can put words to it, is one who has seen God’s magnificent grace in action. Rescued from a past that included addiction, abuse, shame and other ugly things, this person is in ministry to help others be free and learn freedom in Christ.

Grace has been shown to this person in a special way and their life’s desire is to help others experience that same grace. That is as it should be. Shown grace; give grace. It is unmistakable: we have been given grace to be grace givers.

That comes with an important element: forgiveness. To see God’s grace in all its fullness and richness we must forgive ourselves. I think-and this is me speaking personally-this is one of the toughest things to do. We often find it easier to forgive others-and even tell them they need to forgive themselves- BUT then struggle to practice that in our own life. I often wonder about the woman caught in adultery in John 8. Jesus told her He did not condemn her and go and sin no more. I’d love to know how she did. (Maybe my question will be answered when I see her in heaven).

Grace. Forgiveness. Two absolutely connected words. For me to someone else. For me to me. “Father, help me to receive Your grace and forgiveness and then show the same to others…as well as myself.”

July 28

Tuesday, July 28th, 2020

Have you ever been watching a movie or a TV show and thought “If I was writing this, I would do this or that?”  I’ve thought that, particularly when I have seen someone mistreated and the other person getting away with it. What kicks in is the “old justice routine.” I’m not about to let someone get away with something…not on my watch! I want to write the scenario that someone pays for their wrong.

I want justice. Now when I say that I’m not referring to the so-called justice our country just experienced with the BLM fiasco, the so-called justice (translated: lawlessness) over the George Floyd flap. Yes, wrong was done. But civility says let the court do its thing. Justice will be meted out the way its supposed to.

When someone does something against us it is a natural thing to seek vengeance. That’s why following Jesus is so unnatural. “Vengeance in mine. I will repay says the Lord.” That is why forgiveness is so important to and for a follower of Christ. To forgive means I give up the right to hurt back. Tell me that doesn’t go against everything in us and I’d have to show you the door. It’s not easy to lay aside the hurt and the desire for vengeance, but as a Christ-follower it is a must.

“Father, help me to lay aside my hurt and my desire for vengeance. Help me to see that I will never become what you want me to become until I do.”

July 27

Monday, July 27th, 2020

I read an interesting story and quote. First the story, then the quote.

Two friends were walking in the desert when an argument ensued. One slapped the other out of anger. The one who was slapped knelt down in the sand and wrote,

“Today my best friend slapped me in the face.”

They continued walking and came to an oasis, where they decided to bathe in the cool water. The one who had been slapped became stuck in some mire and was drowning, but his friend saved him. After recovery, he carved in stone:

“Today my best friend saved my life.”

The friend asked, “After I hurt you, you wrote in the sand, and now you carve on a stone. Why?”

The friend replied, “When someone hurts us, we should write it down in sand, where the winds of forgiveness can erase it away. But then someone does something good for us, we must engrave it in stone, where no wind can every

erase it.”

Those are wise words. We say we forgive but often bring the garbage back up. Sadly, we also tend to remember the bad done to us more than the good which is done for us or to us.

Now the quote:

Once a woman forgives her man, she must not reheat his sins for breakfast.  German actress Marlene Dietrich.

I also posted this on my other blog, Cycleguy’s Spin.  I invite you to check it out here.

July 17

Friday, July 17th, 2020

I’ve been reading a book during my Quiet Time called Outrageous Forgiveness in 30 Days. Subtitled “The Beauty of Christlike Forgiveness” it was written by a pastor friend in another town. I knew him and his son, Jon, when I lived there and was pleasantly surprised when he came to speak at a function that used our building to host the monthly meeting. Larry spoke-as you can probably guess-on forgiveness.

On Day 4 (today) he wrote the words of an attorney which he uttered during a trial: “In 23 years of practicing law, I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s incredible.” (p.14) I heard those same words in a courtroom several years ago here in Spencer.

The church I pastor had been embezzled to the tune of $200,000+. We had no choice but to report it and the Indiana State Police (ISP) sent their detective to investigate. But something happened in our hearts along the way.  Anger and betrayal gave way to something else. I proposed to the leaders of the church to pray about forgiving the debt. They concurred.  We brought our thoughts to the prosecutor and the ISP detective took our thoughts under advisement but had to proceed with their end of the deal. We eventually had our day in court. We had filed our plan of forgiveness with the court. When the day came, I was put on the stand (as the church’s representative), and her attorney asked if it was true. I said, “Yes.” His words: “In all my years of practicing law (and he was close to my age), I have never seen this. This is what I call practicing what you preach.” Now, the judge did not accept our idea. But she modified her orders to say that the person is to pay back three other entities before us, then us. But I don’t expect to see a cent. Unless, I’m wrong, death will come first. But it was the outrageous forgiveness showed that stands out to me. I will never forget that attorney’s words. I will never forget how “proud” I was to be part of a leadership team that chose to forgive an unpayable debt. Hmmm. Sound familiar?  (See Matthew 18).

“Father, thank you for your forgiveness. Help me to practice that outrageous forgiveness toward others.”

May 6

Wednesday, May 6th, 2020

The old saying goes something like this:

We are most like men when we sin;

We are most like God when we forgive.

(Forgive me if that is not an exact quote. It still sounds close. 🙂 )

Yesterday I was waiting to leave the house for an evening appointment at the office and had just finished supper. Jo had the TV on and the show centered around a Jewish man who sold out his people, as many of them found their way to Auschwitz. I simply cannot fathom the horror of that time in history. Then I read today of a letter written by a woman at Ravensbruck concentration camp where over 50,000 woman lost their lives. The letter was a prayer…are you ready for this?… of forgiveness.

The evils of those camps, of Hitler and his henchmen, boggle my mind. What blows me away even more are those who deny it ever happened (and it isn’t just Muslims). It is beyond my scope of understanding. But so is the offer of forgiveness. When something is done that hurts on that grand of a scale it sure takes a lot to forgive. I can honestly say I have never had anything done to me that comes even close, and yet, forgiveness is still hard. But the failure to forgive is even harsher. It makes me someone’s slave.  It may not be Auschwitz, but it still puts me in prison.

Freedom comes from being like Jesus. Remember the last part of that quote? Of all who had the reason NOT TO forgive,  He displayed the greatest. “Father, forgive them” were His words. May He be my example. May I be like Him.

“Father, my prayer is simple.  Help me to forgive. Help me to be like Jesus.”