Forgiveness

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October 21

Thursday, October 21st, 2021

I recently finished a book by Tony Evans called Kingdom Heroes. It was based on Hebrews 11 and the heroes of the faith written about there. One of those heroes was an unlikely person-a woman named Rahab.

Rahab is first mentioned in Joshua 2 where she harbored the Jewish spies in Jericho. She listened to her own people talk about the God who was doing powerful things and she believed what they said. She hid the spies and then helped them escape, but not before she had secured the safety of her and her family when the Israelites came for Jericho. We know from Matthew 1 that it was successful; she married Salmon; they had Boaz (husband to Ruth); who had Jesse, the father of David.

All of that is a wonderful testimony to God’s plan and protection.  But the story of Rahab is also a testimony of grace unlimited. In our human way of thinking, could there be anyone more undeserving of God’s grace than a prostitute? But in God’s way of thinking could there be anyone more in need of it? And while we may say yes to the undeserving part, we must also recognize that if God did it for her, what does that say about us? To me, it only says one thing: grace is for me too. Abundant grace. I may not be a prostitute, but I am a sinner.  A sinner in need of grace. God can and has taken people with bad reputations, with those society (and the church) think are too far gone and restored them. He transforms even the sloppiest, dirtiest, and most sinful people into “trophies” for His hall of faith.

May I be one of them.

“Father, I thank you a thousand times over for your marvelous grace. You showed that grace in Rahab’s life. You show it in mine. May I be a testimony to that.”

October 20

Wednesday, October 20th, 2021

All of us go through those times when our faith is dry. The late Keith Green once wrote and sang a song with these lyrics: “My eyes are dry/My faith is old/My heart is hard/My prayers are cold/And I know how I ought to be/Alive to You and dead to me.”

Been there. Done that. Don’t want the t-shirt.

There are all different reasons as to why our faith can become dry. I’m not going to get into them. Instead, I want to look at the cure.

The verse which started my thoughts this morning was Pr.20:27-“The spirit of the person is the lamp of the LORD, Searching all the innermost parts of his being.” My mind quickly went to the story of David. After Nathan exposed David’s sin, it drove him to his knees and he wrote Psalm 51. Included in that chapter are these words: “Purify me with hyssop, and I will be clean; Cleanse me, and I will be whiter than snow…Create in me a clean heart, God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Verses 7,10). David is not only praying for a clean heart, but also a restored one.  Ps.139:23 says, “Search me, God, and know my heart; Put me to the test and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there is any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.” Acts 3:19 says, “Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.”

There will be times of coldness, of distance, of hardness, of feeling disjointed. When those times hit, don’t despair. If it is the result of sin, confess it and ask for forgiveness and a renewed spirit (ala David). If it is just one of those times that happens to all of us, don’t panic. Seek the Lord and He will show up.

“Father, when I am dry flood me with Your presence. When I sin, forgive me. Help me to always seek Your presence.”

All Scripture from NASB2020.

September 24

Friday, September 24th, 2021

We often hear a statement like “Forget your past.” I understand the import of that statement. If something has happened that we would just as soon forget, it applies. I get that. I really do. I’ve had enough dealings with people who have been abused, molested, had an abortion, had an affair, etc. that they would like to move beyond. And I’m all for that. Some stuff that happened to us in the past does need to be let go. We certainly can’t change it.

But there is also a time we should not let go of our past. Let me rephrase that. There are times we should not forget what happened in the past.

There is a saying that something like this: “Those who fail to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.” We should never forget certain dates for example: July 4, 1776.  April 9, 1865 (surrender at Appomattox) December 7, 1941. August 15, 1945 (VJ Day). September 11, 2001.  October 9 (my birthday)!! 🙂 In all seriousness, some dates and events must never be forgotten.

Psalm 78 is made up of 72 verses. It is a history lesson for the Israelites to remember. It is a reminder to them of their past and God’s faithfulness in that past. It is not a pretty picture by any stretch. It is a litany of waywardness, sin, rebellion, and disobedience. But it is also about a compassionate God.

So it helps to remember some things. Take a few minutes and read Psalm 78. Then ask yourself, what would my past be like if I wrote mine down? Like the Israelites, you would probably see a messy life with a faithful God right there with you.

I know I would.

This is the weekend. Take some time to reflect on the past and how God was faithful to you through it all.

August 2

Monday, August 2nd, 2021

For the longest time I felt I “just had to read my Bible.” For several years I used a guide that took me though the whole Bible in a year. Three  years in a row. I can’t say it was that exciting or revolutionary.  I mean, I was reading the Bible but at what cost? It is hard for it to be exciting when “obligation” sets in.

That’s why I like the approach I use now. I’ll not belabor the details (unless you ask), but this past week and even now, I’ve been in I John. I’m taking my time.

Early on while reading I John, some Scripture “spoke” to me but I put it aside. Until this morning. I John 1:9 is a verse I hang my hat on. A LOT. But it is 2:1-2 that stuck with me and drew me back.  Here are three thoughts I’d like to highlight:

  • “If anyone sins”– we will. Trust me. Perhaps it is wiser to say it like this: “If anyone sins (and we will).” For further proof we will, look no further than I John 1: 8-10.
  • “Advocate”– Jesus is our Attorney.  He is the One who stands in our place, our defense. He is our Intercessor.
  • “Propitiation”– Jesus is our means of reconciliation. He is our sin-offering. Without Jesus we have nothing. No solution for sin.

It all comes down to Jesus. That’s Who we remember. That’s Who we worship.

“Father, may the memory of what Jesus has done for me make a difference in my life. Thank you for forgiving my sin, being my Attorney, and being willing to give Yourself for me.”

July 15

Thursday, July 15th, 2021

I’m sure you have heard or maybe even had one of those love/hate things going on.

You love ice cream (guilty) but hate the calories (I don’t care).  🙂

You love pizza (guilty again) but hate the results (ditto).

You love feeling and looking good (guilty) but hate the exercise required (can’t say this).

Instead of the word “hate” use the words “don’t like it all that much.” 🙂

Seriously though, there are certain love/hate things that go on in my life. One occurred to me as I listened to a podcast Tuesday while driving…then I read something on Wednesday morning during my Encounter Time that cemented it. Please take a moment and read Hebrews 12:5-11. Again, I could link it here but I encourage you to get your Bible out and read it slowly.

Discipline. It took me a long time to separate discipline from punishment. Growing up I had someone who mistook punishment for discipline. As a father, I had to wrestle with my upbringing, to separate them and to realize that discipline was to teach. I didn’t always succeed (I’m ashamed to admit).

Even now I sometimes struggle with God and whether He is disciplining me or punishing me.

The truth is real though. I disciplined my girls because I love them. John Cooper (lead singer of Skillet) was a guest on the podcast (Alisa Childers) and he was telling how he disciplined his daughter and explained to her he did it because he loved her. A week or so later she came to him and said, “Daddy, that man hates his son.”

“Why would you say that?”

“Because he is pushing all the kids around and his dad won’t tell him to stop.”  🙂 🙂 

Needless to say she got John’s point.

And even though I am not fond of God’s discipline (sometimes it really hurts), I know He loves me.

“Father, thank you for Your discipline. It shows me You love me. Help me not to forget that truth when it hurts.”

June 10

Thursday, June 10th, 2021

We are forgiven to forgive.

We are given grace to give grace.

Those are just a couple of sayings that we will hear and that ran through my mind this morning.

Tragedy: it is too easy to forget and too often done.

My thoughts were piqued this morning because of the Scripture in Matt.18:23-33.  (I’d like to suggest you stop now and read that passage). However, just in case you are short on time, here is a summary: Jesus tells the story of a man who owed a massive, unpayable debt; begs forgiveness; the debt is cancelled; and he moves on. He moves on to a fellow slave you owes him a small debt-payable over time- who asks for the same grace and forgiveness just offered to the other. The other man refuses to forgive and throws the man in jail. (I’ve always wondered how that will help pay the debt). Anyway, the result was not good.

It is important to remember that the grace I have been given is to be given to others. The massive “forgiveness project” which took place from God to me should stand as an example for me to follow when dealing with others.

Think about this with me for a moment. The best person to reach an addict is a recovering addict. The best one to show forgiveness is the one who has been shown forgiveness.

“Father, help me to learn from Jesus’ parable.  Help me to be the one who shows extraordinary grace and forgiveness to someone else because I have the recipient of that same grace and forgiveness.”

May 13

Thursday, May 13th, 2021

I read something this morning that sort of hits the nail on the head:

Mistakes are something you do, but shame is something you are. A hoarding heart full of past failures can eventually convince you that you didn’t just fail-but that you are a failure.  (Live in Grace*Walk in Love by Bob Goff- p.164) (Emphasis his)

WOW! Those are what I will call “diamond words.” They are words that are rich with thought and meaning and will take a while to mine them.

I know so many people-and I sometimes want to stay there myself-who want to wallow in the past and wonder why. Why did I do that? Say that? Act a certain way? We allow our past mistakes to affect our present state. And sadly, we also tend to allow those past mistakes to define who we are.

I further agree with what Bob says a few paragraphs later:

Don’t let your past failures talk you out of God’s grace. Grace moves us toward God and other people.  (p.164)

When fear and shame want to isolate us and keep us isolated, locked up in a small cell, grace opens the front door and says, “Let’s talk.” While you are at it, why not jerk the curtains open wide and open those windows? Let the fresh breeze of the Spirit blow through and start clearing out the cob webs as well.

April 29

Thursday, April 29th, 2021

Have you ever noticed there are some sayings that stay with you? Some of them are good; some not so. Some are mere pablum, empty sayings which may sound good but are vacuous. A good one that I have heard off and on through the years but can’t say I have had as a go-to saying is this one:

There’s nothing you can do to make Him love you more; there is nothing you can do to make Him love you less.

That came back to me as I read about Jesus and His dealings with people. I’m preparing a sermon series on Eyes Wide Open by taking a look at how Jesus saw people. He reached out to those the religious people wanted nothing to do with.  But them? They were His biggest critics and His biggest headache. I think some of it was because He didn’t come to impress them or to cower before them. He didn’t praise them for their religiosity.

What we learn from Jesus is the truth of that saying. The simple message He taught was that our best wasn’t and isn’t good enough, and our worst doesn’t disqualify us. Jesus didn’t seek to impress the religious elite; I don’t have to seek to impress Jesus. His love is sure.

“Father, thank You for your acceptance-past, present, and future. Thank you that I’m not weighed on a scale as acceptable/non-acceptable. You see me as I am and love me anyway.”

April 19

Monday, April 19th, 2021

Reading Proverbs is always enlightening. During 2020 I broke a long-standing tradition I had. From January 1-December 31, I would constantly read and reread Psalms. Every other month I would read Proverbs-one chapter a day. I’m not sure why I broke that tradition. But recently I picked it back up. I started reading the NT in the New Living Translation on January 1. I started reading Psalms on February 1. And through the month of April I have been reading Proverbs. It has been a rich experience again.

On the 17th (chapter 17) I read this verse:

Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent; with their mouths shut, they seem intelligent.

That reminded me of a saying attributed to Abraham Lincoln:

It is better to keep your mouth shut and thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.

Wise words. From both.

How many time have I opened my mouth and it would have been better to have kept it shut? More than I care to admit. How it would have been better to speak less and listen more! And how it would have been better to not have spoken at all!! It pains me to think of the lives I have hurt by speaking first and thinking last.

I go to another verse in Proverbs 17 that stood out to me:

Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends. (v.9)

I’ve needed that forgiveness more than I can say. It is starts with keeping my mouth shut and thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt. And I follow it up with this: “A truly wise person uses few words.” (v.27a)

“Father, help me to watch my words and to speak wisely.”

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.