Tag Archives: Bible

Forgiveness

weekly theme #45 Forgiveness*      

week containing the Sunday between September 4-10

When I read the theme for this week, I immediately thought of me forgiving others and asking others to forgive me.  However, the readings begin by focusing on God forgiving me.  Even though my sin required Jesus’ death, he forgives me.  Who is this God with such amazing grace and capacity to forgive?  Even more amazing, he eagerly forgives with love and joy rather than reluctantly with duty and a grudge. 

Forgiving is not the same as overlooking.  Forgiveness has obligation on both sides.  When I offend someone, I need to acknowledge my error to the offended and ask forgiveness.  I can’t dismiss it as minor or without consequence.  When someone asks me to forgive them, I cannot glibly dismiss their apology as if there was no substance to their request.  Maybe I did not recognize or feel their offense, but they did.  Coming to me took courage and humility that demands me to acknowledge their offense and respond in respect, love, and forgiveness.  Anything less may cause the person to hesitate to ask forgiveness in the future because they may think their offense was not noticed or that the apology will not be well received.  The process of offending, apologizing, forgiving, and healing is important and requires respect by all parties concerned.

I’ve heard people say that respect is earned, but I don’t agree.  Respect is due every human because of the eternal soul within them.  (Admiration, honor, friendship, and other opinions are usually earned.)  In this aspect, forgiveness is like respect; it need not be earned, only given.  This makes unrequested forgiveness a gift, not something earned by an offender’s apology.  In such cases, the gift is first to me.  I free myself from carrying the burdens of resentment, anger, and revenge.  I may never embrace my offender as a close friend, but I need not grasp them as my enemy.  The gift is secondly to those around me.  They do not suffer because of the moodiness born out of my unforgiving heart.  Finally, the offender may be redeemed through the evidence of my forgiveness.  This is a difficult journey to a worthy destination.

I end this week revisiting the start – God’s forgiveness toward me.  I need not be terrified of his punishment or even that he will ignore me.  He is a fearful God, powerful and righteous, and yet so loving.  “All you who fear the Lord, trust the Lord!  He is your helper; he is your shield.” (Psalm 115:11)

*A Guide To Prayer by Job and Shawchuck provided the scripture references and readings that inspired these reflections.  I found this devotional to be the most heart changing of any I’ve used.  It truly lives up to its title.

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God’s Abundant Provision

weekly theme #40 God’s Abundant Provision*    

week containing the Sunday between July 31 – August 6

A few days ago, Psalm 37:4 prompted a good friend to share the desires of their heart.  I listened and considered the items they described and wondered what I would put on my list.  I meandered through some possibilities, but with each one, I asked “Why?”  What do I really want that creates that desire?  I finally ended up with a single word – peace.  I long for an end to strife, worry, crises of time, the reflex for more stuff, desire for accomplishment, unending projects, and restless nights.

That kind of peace is not man-made.  It’s supernatural.  I long for the time when all creation is surrounded and filled with the peace abundantly provided by him.  God provides such peace on his time schedule and in his way.  I need to accept that fact and watch for the unplanned and unusual.

God’s provision exceeds my needs, yet I continue to seek provisions elsewhere.  I do not seek provisions elsewhere because God fails to provide, but because I perceive my wants as needs or God’s timing as too slow.  Yet even then, he stands there offering me what I truly seek, as well as forgiving my impatient and individualistic behavior.

Provision is not the same as a life of personal ease.  Sometimes I am the provision for others; my sacrifice provides what they need.  Other times they sacrifice to provide what I need.  I must be willing to give and receive.  Psalm 105:16-22 tells of Joseph enduring harsh and unjust treatment until it was time for him to be God’s provision for the children of Abraham.  It was a time of testing for Joseph.  Why should I not also have a time testing?  A time that helps me grasp that God alone is enough.

I have a recurring struggle, an inner struggle, when I see so many needs and feel so ill-equipped to deal with them.  Matthew 14:13-21 describes a situation where the disciples felt the same way.  The need exceeded their resources, and they told Jesus how they felt.  Jesus simply replied, “Bring [what you have] to me.”  I am correct when I say the needs surrounding me exceed my resources, but in the hands of Jesus, they are enough, abundantly enough.

*A Guide To Prayer by Job and Shawchuck provided the scripture references and readings that inspired these reflections.  I found this devotional to be the most heart changing of any I’ve used.  It truly lives up to its title.

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Mercy, Justice, and Love

weekly theme #31*

week containing the Sunday between May 29 and June 4

I have experienced God’s mercy, justice, and love – they just don’t appear here on earth when, how, and for whom I think they should.  Maybe that’s the problem – my thinking.  I don’t have the mind of Christ.  Faith is also an issue. There is a difference between believing God can work miracles and believing he will.  There is a clear and powerful relationship between God’s intervention in this fallen world and my faith that he will do so.  Yet my faith does not force God to work, it invites him, and it is at his choosing when, how, and for whom he will work.  In that dark time of waiting for him to move, I can still enjoy his presence if I desire him more than I desire the miracle for which I pray.

Jesus often altered what he was doing to help an individual.  He stopped even if those around him urged him to continue with the planned agenda.  By focusing on the individual, he affirmed to the crowd, “I care for each of you.”  Those were the times of miracles.  Acts 9:32-43 describes two healings performed by Peter.  In both cases, word spread through the region and multitudes believed in the Lord – all because Peter turned his attention to individuals.  Sermons designed for everyone catch fewer ears than words spoken to a few in the crowd.  People listen to words of personal concern spoken to a few because the pain of the few resonates with the many.  The many desperately want to believe someone personally cares about them, too.  Looking out for the lost sheep reassures the ninety-nine who remain.

As I look around in the world, I see many things that encourage me.  I see God’s mercy, justice, and love, but they seem inconsistent, with some people being blessed while others seemingly are cursed.  Why doesn’t God do something?  That question has been on my mind this entire week.  Today I read Genesis 12:3b, “All the families of the earth will be blessed through you.”  God was talking to Abraham, but actually, he was speaking to all of Abraham’s spiritual offspring.  So, why doesn’t God do something?  He has!  He has instructed me to be his mercy, justice, and love to those in this time and place.  What would happen if all believers lived with that as their primary mission?  The answer is an answer to prayer, “Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

*A Guide To Prayer by Job and Shawchuck provided the scripture references and readings that inspired these reflections.  I found this devotional to be the most heart changing of any I’ve used.  It truly lives up to its title.

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The Church of the Spirit

weekly theme #29*

week containing Pentecost Sunday

“A deep sense of awe came over them all.”  That’s how Acts 2:43 describes the early church.  Seldom do I sense awe, and that is embarrassing to admit.  The Creator of the universe has reached out to me, and he gives his Spirit to dwell within me.  Yet I’m not in awe of this indwelling.  What does that say about me?  I may say that I am so focused on what I am to do that I neglect who I am to be.

I am not to change the world.  God changes the world, and he desires to work through me.  How awesome that is!  And he works through me best when:  1) I allow him to change who I am (my being) from the inside out, and 2) I work in community.  The Holy Spirit is more than feelings.  He is God dwelling within me, and he wants to manifest himself through me if I will surrender my wilfulness to him.  I can live in the illusion that I control my life or surrender my life to the only One who can control it.  I could not follow Christ with the Holy Spirit dwelling within me.  Alone I am too weak to progress against the opposing current of my own bent toward sin, the world’s distractions and opposition, and Satan’s wile and power.  I need to cooperate with the Holy Spirit, making my inner self a welcoming place for the Spirit to reside.  I cannot open the door of my inner self to the very things that oppose spiritual health without damaging the Holy Spirit’s work within me.

The result of my surrender and cooperation is the ability to best function as part of the Body of Jesus.  The Spirit allows clear and continuous communication between all parts of the Body and the Head, who is Christ.  It’s hard to read through the book of Acts and not get focused on the acts of individuals such as Peter, Barnabas, and especially Paul.  Yet the Holy Spirit can move whole churches as well as individuals.  Acts presents the community of believers as an example of how fellowship looks, warts and all, and even in that imperfection the early church is evidence of the Holy Spirit moving people as groups as well as individuals.  The Holy Spirit is key to the unity of believers that I so crave.

I’m afraid that I have minimized, perhaps ignored, the value and role of the Holy Spirit.  Truly, I have been off target, and I have asked for correction.  I’m eager for where the Spirit takes me.

*A Guide To Prayer by Job and Shawchuck provided the scripture references and readings that inspired these reflections.  I found this devotional to be the most heart changing of any I’ve used.  It truly lives up to its title.

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Partakers Of Eternal Life

weekly theme #23*

week containing the second Sunday of Easter

When Barnabas arrived in Antioch (Acts 11:23) he showed not a smidgen of self-focus.  He rejoiced in what others had done and encouraged them.  Then he went to get an expert for these kinds of situations – Saul (Paul).  Verse 24 of Acts 11 is a wonderful testimony of him.  “Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith.”  In a sense, God used Barnabas to resurrect Paul.  Paul was going through a personal, inner crucifixion – the death of his heart’s desire.  Because of Saul’s zeal for Jesus, the apostles had sent him to Tarsus for his own safety, and they seemingly had forgotten him.

Waiting can be a painful, suffering time.  Nevertheless, when my heart’s desire dies, it allows God’s desire to grow within me, and I am resurrected to his service.  I am also given the promise of life everlasting where all things are new – earth, heaven, my body, even my way of living.  I am unable grasp what everlasting life will be like, but I can believe in the concept of it. “That is why we live by believing and not by seeing.” (2 Corinthians 5:7)  Sometimes belief in the next life sustains me during this life.

I cannot expect a “good” life now, at least not if I’m a warrior in the battle between good and evil.  If I am on the sidelines, caring mostly for my own affairs, then I tend to expect a “good” life.   However, the fourth chapter of 2 Corinthians describes a life of spiritual war with terms like: pressed by troubles, perplexed, hunted down, knocked down, and suffering.  Yes, I can experience all these things even if I’m not in the war, but if I’m not in the war I will not share in the rewards of victory available to me now and in the future.  “So we don’t look at the troubles we can see right now; rather we look forward to what we have not yet seen.  For the troubles we see will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever.”  (2 Corinthians 4:18)

Sacrifices and suffering seem less intense, even ignorable, when they are for someone I love.  Moreover, love can move my fear out of mind.  (1 John 4:18)  If a loved one is in a burning building, I can look past the source of fear to the one I love.  It is love that propels me.  It is not fleeing from where I am, but running to my love.  The way through my crucifixion is not by more willpower or courage but by greater love for what is on the other side of what I fear.

*A Guide To Prayer by Job and Shawchuck provided the scripture references and readings that inspired these reflections.  I found this devotional to be the most heart changing of any I’ve used.  It truly lives up to its title.

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