Forgiveness

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May 30

Thursday, May 30th, 2024

I cheated. I wrote this post ahead of time just in case I did not make it back home Wednesday and we decided to stay the night somewhere. Here were the thoughts I postponed from yesterday’s post to give an update on Janna.

WHAT DO YOU THINK CONSTITUTES A GOOD FAMILY?

Of course, the answers are many. Here are a few: Empathy. Sympathy. Teamwork with teammates. Honesty. Taking responsibility. Accepting responsibility.  Forgiveness. Space to allow for mistakes. The freedom to make mistakes and admit them. Love (obviously). Faith. Prayers. Shared shoulders. And the list goes on.

Now…consider the church as a family. The very same characteristics of a blood family are also to be there for a different kind of blood family.

In Isaiah 1 the people of Judah were acting very “unfamily-like.” Their outward actions were blatant displays of disrespect.  Yeah…that happens in real families. To put it very bluntly, their outward actions did not show the state of their heart.  Or maybe they did?

How easy it is to put on a show at home and with our church family. Jesus said the religious leaders’ lips said one thing but their hearts were far from Him.  It is called “going through the motions.” Family members do that.  Church family members to that also. They act like they like you, but what they do and say behind your back hurts like fire.

Frankly, self-concern replaces other-concern. It destroys families. It devastates church families. Arguing and fighting, even over petty things, plays havoc on a family’s unity. It does the same for a church family.

Don’t be a “ruiner;” be a builder.

May 7

Tuesday, May 7th, 2024

Today is “Get out and Vote!” day. Surprise! I have no interest in writing about politics. Instead, I’d like to write about something else: CLOSETS.

Closets you say? Yes. We all have them. If not, our house would be a mess of clothes strewn everywhere. We also have closets in our lives. For many of us, we want to keep them hidden and closed (preferably locked). We would prefer no one see them. Just as some closets are so crammed full of stuff that to open the door spells disaster, so it is with the closets of our lives. We have stuffed them so full of garbage that the spill would be disastrous.

The worst thing in the closet? Skeletons. Not the Halloween kind. Skeletons we want to keep buried (no pun intended) or pushed to the back so they don’t see the light of day.

And those skeletons? WOW! Adultery. An addiction to alcohol, porn, or some drug. Lying. Cheating on an exam. Murder by hatred. Plagiarism. Immorality. A loose sexual past. An abortion. The list in endless.

The sad part is that as long as that closet remains closed and unemptied, and the more we think we have fooled others, the sadder it is for us. That junk in the closet becomes a chain slowly dragging us down and holding us back.

In John 8 the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery (by the way, where was the man?) and threw her at Jesus’ feet. After writing in the sand and watching her accusers leave one by one, He stands and asks her where they are. After she says, “Gone,” he sets her free with a few simple words: “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” {emphasis mine} He was not excusing her sin but He did clean out her closet and set her free.

He will do the same for us. For you. But you must unlock and open that closet door.

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i recently wrote a review of a friend’s book called Sober Cycle.  It is the story of Sherry Hoppen’s battle with alcoholism. Her closet, once locked, was opened wide and exposed. You can find that review at my other blog, Cycleguy’s Spin. You can find that review here. Please visit and comment. But more, I’d encourage you to buy the book.

April 23

Wednesday, April 24th, 2024

A fragile (and temporary) peace.

I read recently that on December 30, 1862 the Civil War raged. Union and Confederate troops camped 700 yards apart on opposing sides of Tennessee’s Stones River. As they warmed themselves around campfires, Union soldiers picked up their fiddles and harmonicas and began playing “Yankee Doodle.” In reply, the Confederate soldiers offered “Dixie.” Remarkably, both sides joined for a finale, playing “Home Sweet Home” in unison. Sworn enemies shared music in the dark night, glimmers of an unimaginable peace (Sort of like me playing my rock music and someone else playing country and both of us tolerating the other’s choice). 🙂 The melodic truce was short lived, however. The next morning, they set down their fiddles and picked up their rifles and when it was all said and done 24,645 soldiers died.

Reminds me of the WWII story of the German and British soldiers celebrating Christmas by laying down their weapons, sharing what they had, playing soccer together, exchanging laughs, and acting (and maybe wishing?) like the war was over. You can hear the story in this video.

Peace is fragile, as well as temporary. Try as we may, man will never be able to bring about true or permanent peace. All our treaties. All our papers. All our promises are, in reality, fragile and temporary. Treaties are made to be cast aside. Papers are torn up or burned in rebellion.  Promises are broken. We see it in school/childhood friends. We see it in marriages. We see it in communities. We see it in countries. And yes, we see it in churches.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news but true, lasting peace is never found in man’s or men’s promises. And while it may last for a short period, it will never last for long. And certainly not forever. The only personal lasting peace is found in Christ, and the only true peace will be found in God’s new kingdom when Jesus returns and establishes it.

Until then…all efforts of peace are fragile and temporary. But we can still try. It begins with us! As the song says, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”

April 9

Tuesday, April 9th, 2024

“I’ve sinned too much.” “I’ve sunk too low.” 

It is not unusual for me to hear those kinds of words. Add to it the thoughts of “God could never forgive me” or “There’s no way I deserve God’s forgiveness” and you almost have word for word what I often hear.

Well, they are correct and also incorrect in their assessment. Correct: “I’ve sinned too much” (once is too many).  “There is no way I deserve God’s forgiveness.”  Incorrect: “God could never forgive me.” The hard truth is that we have sinned (and as I said once is too much). AND we do not deserve God’s forgiveness.

The startling truth is that He reaches down to us no matter how far we have fallen. No matter how deep of a hole we have dug for ourselves.

I have just finished reading over the past two days a trifecta of chapters from the book of Psalms-chapters 104, 105 & 106. They read like a litany of bad history. 104 starts out well talking about the greatness of God and the goodness of God. It’s almost like preparation for what was to come. 105 opens with giving thanks to God for His care of them while in Egypt and how He brought them out of that strange land. Intertwined is how He cared for them in spite of their grumbling.  But 106! WOW! Talk about a past one would just as soon forget!! The psalmist (David?) gives a history lesson of the faithlessness of the Israelites- grumbling about water and food; worshiping a golden calf; sacrificing their children to a foreign god; the list goes on.

Through it all-in spite of His anger and yes, judgment that He must do-is a faithful God. A God who made and makes promises and sticks to them. A God of whom the psalmist writes, “Save us, O Lord our God! Gather us back from among the nations, so we can thank your holy name and rejoice and praise you. Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, who lives from everlasting to everlasting! Let all the people say, ‘Amen!'”

If He can do that for His wayward, faithless, stumbling people, what makes us think we can sink too far down and can’t be reached?

March 25

Monday, March 25th, 2024

This week is called Holy Week because it is the last week Jesus spent on earth. Palm Sunday was celebrated yesterday. It is tied to Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem riding on a donkey while the people waved palm branches and even laid them on the ground, all the while yelling, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”

All of what took place that last week ultimately had its sights set on the crucifixion and resurrection. With that in mind, I want to share with you something I read this past weekend and shared with the church on Sunday morning. It comes from a new devotional book called Overflowing Mercies by Craig Allen Cooper. I leave it with you to ponder:

Christ sacrificed His perfect life to secure our eternal life. Jesus’ love is everlasting, eternal, unceasing, unchanging, steadfast, and unrelenting (Jer.31:3), and it has nothing to do with your own performance, your own good works, or your own achievements. It has everything to do with His one great love, wholly and completely unmerited, unearned, and unalterable, laid down for you.  (p.20-21)

Sounds a whole lot like grace. Just sayin’.  🙂

March 12

Tuesday, March 12th, 2024

Forgiving ourselves is one of the hardest hurdles we have to need to get over.

When it comes to forgiving others, I have often shared that the failure to forgive others; the desire to hold a grudge; the unwillingness to move on; holding onto hard feelings or even feelings of hate, makes me a slave to that person. They own me. They control me.

But what about that which I consider possibly even harder-the ability or willingness to forgive ourselves? I have seen way too many people able to forgive others, but then wreck their own lives because they can’t or won’t forgive themselves. Big or little sin (usually a whopper) just will not let go. It’s like an albatross around the neck, choking the life out of us.

David’s psalm-known as Psalm 51-deals with this straight on. His adulterous affair with Bathsheba and subsequent murder of her husband, Uriah, to cover it up, is exposed by the prophet Nathan (full story in 2 Samuel 11). David is convicted of his sin and his guilt is palpable. One can feel his anguish as he lays it all out. “Have mercy. Wash me clean. Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Forgive me for shedding blood.” One can not read those words and not sense David’s pain and agony over his sin. But one can also see David is moving on. He wasn’t going to allow his sin to define him, to hold him down.

Neither should I. Neither should you. There is nothing you or I have done, there is no sin you or I have committed, that is beyond the reach of God’s grace. Confess it. Repent of it. Now…walk away in freedom being sure of God’s limitless grace.

February 15

Thursday, February 15th, 2024

“Lest we forget…”

I woke up this morning with that phrase running through my mind. “Lest we forget…” It’s not uncommon to hear that spoken at a commemoration service honoring men and women who have served our country. And we never should forget.

In I Corinthians 10 a phrase very similar to that is used not once, but twice. In 10:6 it says, “These things happened as a warning to us…” In verse 11 it says, “These things happened as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age.”

The gist? Lest we forget.

As a follower of Jesus, I must not forget the lessons learned or to be learned. I need to recall the lessons others learned and shared lest I fall into the same pit they fell into or possibly avoided. Nor should I forget the lessons I have learned from past experiences.

I say all this because of an incident people just won’t let go of. All the “rage” this week has been the Travis Kelce dust-up with his coach, Andy Reid. I didn’t watch the Super Bowl. I could care less if Travis was telling his coach about his latest escapade with his overly-hyped girlfriend. I don’t care if he was telling Coach Reid that he had heartburn from his pregame meal. I. SIMPLY. DON’T. CARE.  But since I wasn’t born yesterday nor is my head buried under a rock, I cannot escape hearing or reading about the pundits, especially other overly paid football players. I read an article where several of them said, “If that had been me I would have been…” Then one of them pulled out the race card (Isn’t that getting kind of old?). It is my understanding these players quickly forgot the grace shown to them by the NFL just a few years ago. One was convicted of choking his girlfriend in college and yet…wait for it…he is given a second chance and drafted because he can catch an odd-shaped ball.  Did he forget? Obviously.

My point is this: “Lest we forget.” As a Christ-follower we must never forget what we deserved versus what we received. The Israelites were given the examples in I Corinthians 10 (I encourage you to read the first 12 verses for reference and context) so they would not forget. They must not forget the damage and tragedy of sin and disobedience. But they also must not forget the goodness of God.

Good words for me to remember lest I forget.

February 7

Wednesday, February 7th, 2024

I’m convinced that one of the hardest things to do is for a person to forgive himself of past sins or discretions. I’m guessing we have all been there-either personally or with a friend or someone we know.

It might go something like this:

  • Person: Does God forgive all my sin?
  • You: Yes. I firmly believe He does.
  • P: I’m not too sure about that.
  • Y: Why?
  • P: I’ve done some really bad things. If I told you everything, you would turn away from me or it would at least curl your insides.
  • Y: Try me.
  • P: I just couldn’t. You would no longer like me or want to be my friend.
  • Y: First, that is not true. Second, what does my reaction have to do with God?
  • P: Because He would turn away and say, “That’s too much. I just can’t.”

You can carry that conversation on if you like. I want to stop it and add my thoughts. This conversation or one like it, and the thought of that person, came to mind when I read Psalm 130:3-4 this morning. “Lord, if you kept a record of our sins, who, O Lord, could ever survive? But you offer forgiveness, that we might learn to fear you.” Can it be any clearer? Consider I John 1:9 which says, “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”

I relish the truth that God forgives and when He does He forgives totally and completely. No hanging on. No crossing His fingers. It is not only forgiven but also forgotten.

Now…if we can just forgive and remind ourselves of that.

January 24

Wednesday, January 24th, 2024

I’ve been thinking…about forgiveness.

Forgiveness is an important aspect of everyone’s life, whether one is a Christ-follower or not. It comes into play seemingly in about every relationship we have. For the Christ-follower is it important to know we have God’s forgiveness. On the human side, it is important for us to either forgive or be forgiven.

One vitally necessary component of forgiveness with God or with another person is knowing unconditional forgiveness. None of us want to hear, “I’ll forgive you if…” We certainly feel unloved or, at best incompletely loved, if say a spouse says to a partner, “I’ll forgive you for the affair if…” or a father says to a child, “I’ll forgive you for the breach of conduct or break of trust if…” How disheartening that is! Why? Because that type of forgiveness has strings attached to it.

The story of the prodigal son is unusual because it is not the father who puts the conditions on the relationship, but the son. Check out the story in Luke 15. The son says, “I will go home to my father and say, ‘Father, I have sinned and am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as your hired servant.'” (Verses 18-19). Basically, the son says, “If I do this and this then…If I show adequate repentance, become a servant then maybe my dad will forgive me.” It wasn’t the father but the son who put conditions on his love and acceptance. And what happens? The son doesn’t even get out his whole spiel before the father is bending over backwards to forgive and welcome him home and basically say, “My son! Welcome home!”

Do you see it? The father (God) is not the one with the conditions.  It is the son who hamstrung himself. How many times have we not seen and accepted God’s complete and absolute forgiveness because we don’t think we are good enough or done enough or repented sufficiently enough or been sorry enough? It’s not God; it’s us!

Stop putting conditions on God’s love and acceptance of you. Instead, bask in the glow of unconditional love and forgiveness.  Thinking done. 🙂

January 15

Monday, January 15th, 2024

One of my favorite pastimes/hobbies was doing 1000 piece jigsaw puzzles. Many, many hours have been spent bent over a table building puzzles. Cold, winter weather was only good in my mind for killing insects and staying inside to build puzzles. I’ve slowed down in recent years because I have to admit to being a “puzzle snob” i.e. there are only certain ones I would do (Titanic & trains mostly), plus I didn’t want to spend the money on the ever-increasing price of having leisure. However, I was given a panoramic puzzle of PNC Park (Pirates baseball field) which I did, glued and gave away to a sports memorabilia collector, and one of the Pittsburgh skyline. I finally decided to do the skyline starting last Thursday.

I’ve been watching it come together. Sorting pieces throughout the “edge-finding” stage, has me sort of guessing pieces that go together. I then bunch them in a certain pile to be sorted later. Often, I find out I was wrong and they actually belonged somewhere else. This puzzle is s-l-o-w-l-y coming together, piece by piece (makes sense right?). Often I will have little side projects going on as “like pieces” are found. Eventually, I get to incorporate them into the greater puzzle. Sometimes it is literally a slog through seemingly endless tries. And then sometimes it is like voila! One piece pulls in another and another until multiple pieces later a bigger picture emerges.

One of my favorite groups is a Christian power metal group called Theocracy (I know that is probably not most of my readers cup of tea). Their most recent recording includes a song called Mosaic. The song, as you can probably surmise by the title, is a take on broken pieces made into a beautiful piece of glass. Out of the ugliness of broken glass the artisan can make something beautiful. A snippet of lyrics says, “‘Cause after all, the pieces fall landing where they may/You never left or chose to throw it all away/An unknown future, broken past/Like imperfect panes of glass/Revealing a larger grand design.” (Lyrics by Matt Smith-2023)

Life is a mosaic, very often made up of broken pieces of glass. No one’s life is perfect; we are made of broken pieces of glass. But we have an Artisan, a Creator, a Master Craftsman, who loves us, never leaves us, and puts us all back together. Sin breaks us; He rebuilds us. He will take broken, disjointed fragments and put them back together in the right place, making sense of it all. He makes a beautiful mosaic out of broken, shattered lives.

He’s done if for me. He’s done it for people I know. Let Him do it for you.