January 2014

If you forgive others for their sins, your Father in heaven will also forgive you.

Matthew 6:14


Jesus made this statement right after the closing line of what is called The Lord’s Prayer which says, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” I think that the idea expressed in the forgiveness passage is connected to the prayer expression about temptation. Firstly, God does not lead people into temptation; we accomplish that task on our own by allowing Satan to get into our lives again. It is our own wandering that puts us into temptation’s path. Since salvation is a one time, done thing; sin has lost it’s soul-level hold on us; and God did all of this to draw us to Him, to be close to us every moment of every day from the moment of grace to the end of all time, it is illogical for God to lead us into a situation that would conspire against these realities. One thing that I have come to understand about God is that He is not illogical. He is the source of the order in the universe that we can contemplate as logic. He is the essence of logic.


Therefore, I come back to the original passage and the seeming conditional nature of our forgiving others as it relates to God’s forgiveness of us. As stated above, I believe that our forgiveness, in the total sense is a one time thing that is done and finished in the acceptance of Jesus. There is still the problem of how we live and how we hurt others through our sinful behaviors. There is a very real need for grace and for forgiveness in our daily lives as Christians; perhaps, especially as Christians, for we can become very judgmental and terribly rigid in our dealings with others. We set up standards that are impossible, we attempt to sit in God’s judgment seat to rule over the righteousness of other people’s lives, we hold onto the past and define others by their past failures. This is the nature of people; yet, it is so very damaging to the process of growth and to seeing others as God does.


Jesus is calling upon each of us to do something unnatural in this statement. He says that regardless of how others are behaving and despite the past, we, I, am under direction, mandate even, to look upon those in my world as Jesus does. Instead of doing what seems to come so naturally and assume a position of judgmental superiority, God says to place myself into a position of total humility by viewing others from the vantage point of Jesus as He was on the cross, looking at a group of people who are brutally killing Him and asking the Father to forgive them. I am never and I never will be in a place that is as dark and bitterly painful as was Jesus then; why do I have any right to be less forgiving of anyone than He was in those circumstances and than He is at this moment.


It is up to me to take this mandate to heart and to forgive, to be the peacemaker, to be the one who gives back love. God has forgiven me; so, He wants me to be an image of Him in my world.


Foe every beast of the forest is Mine, the cattle on a thousand hills.

Psalm 50: 10


Almost everyone that I have talked with has memories of being corrected, and many of those recollections involve some form of stern voice that speaks in a manner that is impossible to mistake. There is something in the tone, the inflection, the choice of words, and the volume that says, “You are being corrected; so, listen very carefully and respond, now!” This is the nature of the Lord’s words that are recorded in this Psalm. He is telling us, His misguided and wandering children, how things truly are, and He is doing this so that we can turn around and live fully in the freedom of His grace.


On view here is the very successful cattle rancher with tens of thousands of cattle grazing on a vast parcel of land; however, the size of the spread and the number of cattle is multiplied by an impossibly large number. God is reminding us that He owns it all. There is nothing that exists that we can claim clear title to, for it all came into existence and continues to be as a result of the Lord’s authority, creative force, and divine will. God calls to us to trust Him for all that we will need so that we do not ever need to hoard or hold on tightly to anything.


As we recognize God’s loving and considerate care and provision, we can take our eyes off of ourselves and our needs and wants. We are free to look outwardly and to enter into using what we have as a means of caring for others and of spreading the Gospel of Christ as we engage in the worshipful act of giving it away. No matter how much we do give or the degree of control that we relinquish, we will never exhaust God’s provident bounty. The Lord delights in giving to us, and He is overjoyed when we demonstrate our trust in Him by our joyful attitude of worship in giving.


The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies Me.

Psalm 50: 23a

Why should the nations say,

“Where is their God?”

Our God is in the heavens;

He does all that He pleases.

Psalm 115: 2. 3


There is a rather well known country song with these lyrics,

“I was looking for love in all the wrong places.

Looking for love in too many faces.”

This is what many of us do, usually without the smoky barroom atmosphere. We give our love, affection, loyalty, and devoted worship to people and to objects that can’t return to us what we are truly seeking. We want relationship, and we desire lasting community. Yet, we receive false promises and engage in a series of spiritual one-night stands.


This happens as we search the shelves of stores and when we shop on-line. It is at play when we look to marriage or divorce or the birth of children or their departure from the home as the event that will make us whole. Whatever it is that we believe will bring us to the place of knowing our worth and of being fulfilled in this life, all of it is futile and every one of these things is nothing more than a mute, deaf, senseless, and voiceless idol without Christ. Yet, in Christ, all of life is transformed.


There is only one God, and He does not reside in stores or even in our deepest of human relationships. This can be hard to comprehend in that God may not seem to be as tangible as a diamond ring or a loving spouse. Yet, He is very much here and completely present now. His Spirit dwells in each of us who know Christ. As we bring our praise and our worship to Him, we come to know Him and His love and righteousness with ever increasing depth and clarity. Our one true God absolutely does as He pleases, and His pleasure is at its greatest when we commit and dedicate our lives as continuous expressions of worship to our Lord.

Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted.”

1 Samuel 17: 45


Fortunately it is a rare day in my neighborhood when a sword and spear wielding giant appears in my yard bearing ill intentions and a very bad disposition while seeking to take possession of my home. Although the specifics of this day’s events are not common to us, there is a striking similarity between them and the way that so many events in life do come our way. Just as using the conventional weapons and tactics of his day must have seemed futile to David, so does applying the skill, training, and experience of my past to these contemporary giants seem like a sure road to defeat.


Also, just as surely as Goliath stood before David and taunted, sin and the forces of evil stand before us and seek to provoke us to take action that is foolish and ill conceived. Satan wants us to get so caught up with the challenge and in the struggle that we act out of our own wisdom and by using our personal strength and skill. Yet, David turned the tables on his enemy, for he saw the situation that he was facing in the light of truth. Since David knew that his worth, strength, and purpose all came from God; when Goliath expressed his defiant, angry, and hurtful words to David; he knew that the giant was actually attacking the Lord, and David could respond accordingly.


Like David, we can face our battles with the confidence that comes from knowing that the Lord is with us. Then we can turn the confrontation into a time of worship, praise, and rejoicing in the promise of victory that God gives to His people. God’s victory is perfected and completed through Jesus, and the giant that is evil in this world is on his death bed. Thus, his weapons may seem sharp and dangerous, but they are, in fact, broken and of no use in the face of the Lord.



I rejoice at your word,

like one who finds great spoil.

Psalm 119:162


God speaks about everything that happens and about every decision that we will need to make in this life. He also provides guidance through it all. In doing this the Lord is very clear about who He is and about how He wants people to live, for He doesn’t want us to be left guessing. He wants us to know His heart and to know who we truly are Him.


As children of God we have joined into a relationship with the Creator, the Father. We have come into that relationship through knowing Jesus intimately. Then, we are given an interactive involvement with the Holy Spirit so that all of the mysteries of eternity, of God, and of this life have a source of explanation. We are granted the great gift of the continual and unending presence of Christ in our lives.


God speaks to us through his written word as found in the Bible; He also speaks to our hearts through the voice of The Holy Spirit, and He provides us with his flesh and blood agents by way of people in our lives who also know and serve Him. God’s Word is dynamic, solid as granite, and always available. The Lord tells us to rejoice in it, to have an attitude of total delight in the connection that we have to our Creator through His all-enveloping word. As we go through life, we are to follow God’s map to this great wealth, the enormous storehouse of treasure, that is His gift which is ours for the taking.


He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His stripes we are healed.

Isaiah 53: 5


At the end of the meal there is always the check, and after the car comes out of the shop there will be an invoice; for, in most of our interactions with people we get something and we are expected to give back in return. So, we act like humans which means that we often act badly. We sin, and God presents us with his invoice; it is our lives that are demanded in payment. We can try to make the choice of how the bill gets paid; in so doing, we pull out our wallet, but there is no cash. We hand over our platinum card, but it has been cancelled, or we offer to work off the debt, and we don’t have the needed skills. We can even pledge our homes, our jewelry, and all of our other possessions, but God already holds the title to them. This is truth facing time, for we have nothing that God wants or needs that we can give to Him.


There is more to this story. When we take a closer look at the bill in our hands; there is a strange and totally unique clause in the Terms and Conditions paragraph. It states that under certain, specific circumstances the bill has been paid in full; the demand is satisfied, and the document is for filing purposes only. At a moment in time, on a little knoll outside of Jerusalem all of the evil that the world could summon was focused on Jesus. Every life invoice that would be charged against every person who would ever live was stacked on top of Him; and although the weight of all of our sin was greater than the forces that are generated at the bottom of the deepest part of the ocean, Jesus took it on willingly. God loves us all so much that he gave His Son to pay the price. Jesus loves us all so much that he endured unimaginable agony in order for every one of us to be close to Him forever.


So, that special “Paid in Full” clause states that this bill is paid upon acceptance of Jesus as Savior and Lord and surrender of one’s life to him. It’s a simple price; these are easy terms when the size of the bill is considered. Isaiah wants us to look at two things here. People who are still carrying around the unpaid invoice, people who do not know Christ, must be shown how important it is to take care of this matter and how easily it can be done. People who do know God but who are still trying to pay back what they believe to be a loan from Him need to understand that Jesus paid the entire bill, and that payment was a gift, not a loan. The disease that sin caused in our souls has been healed. So, Christ wants us to focus our energies on sharing that story with the people who are still living with God’s unpaid demand on their hearts.


He heals the brokenhearted

and binds up their wounds.

Psalm 147: 3


Of all of the pain that we can experience, pain that comes from the heart is the deepest. A hurting heart seems to pump it’s suffering through us with every beat; even the tips of our toes can feel it. There are many causes for this profound type of pain: lost love, losing a loved one, rejection, isolation, abandonment; all of these causes are huge, and we are deeply hurt when we experience them. Yet, I think that the single biggest cause of heart-deep pain is separation from God.


For people who do not know Christ, have not allowed Him into their lives, do not have access to the services of the only physician who is competent to deal with everything that ails them, and the singular one who is licensed to practice in all locales and under every circumstance. The fatal wound to their hearts has already been inflicted. Life is merely a process of slowly bleeding to death. For those who have turned to Jesus and have accepted Him, a very strange thing has happened. They have been healed from the same mortal injury. There is still pain in life, we still experience hurtful situations and damaged and damaging relationships; so, we have an ongoing need to stay close to the Healer.


Only God can reach through our flesh into our hearts, into the depths of our souls, and touch the pain. Only Christ can lead our minds out of the dark hopelessness of deep sorrow into His peace and joy. The Lord knows our hurts and understands the treatment that each situation requires; thus, He tenderly cares for us, and then He places soothing ointment and a protective bandage on the wound so that it can heal properly. However, we do have one very important part to play in our own healing. We do need to go to the doctor; we need to allow Christ access to our hurts and to our hearts; we have to make the appointment and go into the clinic. He still makes house calls too. In fact, Christ makes heart calls. We do need to let Him in, firstly as Savior; then, as healer. The brokenness and the pain of his children are one of God’s primary missions, and He promises to have a cure for our suffering.


Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God,

1 John 4: 7


On the surface of it this sounds like a rather simple idea for in the church we certainly do love each other. We are nice, pleasant, polite, and accepting of others. We are agreeable and let past wrongs be in the past, too. Yet, much of this nicety is located on the very outermost layer of skin that is truly on the surface. It has nothing to do with our hearts and our minds. While smiling and shaking hands in fellowship, frequently we are running a sort of continuous loop recording of our animosity, fear, distrust, and distaste for the very person we are embracing.


In fact, it seems to me that love is not polite. Love does not seek to charm and to ingratiate. Love does not let the sleeping dogs of hurts tendered and received just lie there sleeping. For, as we look at God’s approach to loving people, we can not help but see engagement. God is so involved with us that He came to live among us even after we had rebelled against that close relationship during its formative days. Jesus deliberately stepped into the middle of our world’s chaos and our personal messiness, and He brought truth, grace, mercy, and love to this world. Then, even as we murdered the Son of God, the Father granted us His continuing presence in the person of Christ’s Spirit. In all of this there is nothing but deep, real, and engaged love.


That is what the Apostle John is bringing to our attention. The ability to love from deep within while not compromising righteousness and truth comes from God. This is a love that does not hold onto the past but rather submits those hurts, pain, and fears to God and that seeks His wisdom in resolving them. This from of love is genuine. It honors our emotional responses to life as a gift from God while not allowing emotion to rule us and to disrupt our relationships. Loving as Christ does is risky in that it requires us to fully surrender ourselves to God and to submit to His will in areas of greatest personal vulnerability. Yet, it is genuine, deep-seated love that binds us together in the eternal family that is the Body of Christ.

I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in the blessings.

1 Corinthians 9: 23


Sharing is one of the hardest things for young children to learn. The basic nature that people are born with wants to acquire and does not want to let go. There is something in us that seems to believe that we will never have enough, and this thought is fueled by the sense that if we don’t keep everything to ourselves, we will somehow be diminished. One of the marks of growing, of maturing, and of becoming more outwardly, thus other, focused is the ability to share.


In this verse, Paul is speaking from a very mature perspective. He has grown enormously in the few years that he has known Jesus as the Lord has changed Paul’s orientation and focus entirely. He has turned around from serving a self-determined and human-devised concept of God that set Paul up as the center of his universe to one of serving Christ, thus, he was now serving the true needs of the souls of people.


One of the most beautiful aspects of God is that He is selfless. He sacrificed Himself for our sakes, and He completely gives Himself to us despite the ways that we treat Him back. Our highest calling as people who know Christ is to do the same. There is, in fact, an element of selfishness mixed with fear and lack of trust that causes Christians to hold onto the knowledge of the love of God and to not willingly share this life altering truth with others. Our calling, in Christ, is to live lovingly, love openly, and to do it all so that the people in our circle of contact have an opportunity to come to know the One who truly changes people’s lives. In Christ, maturity is not measured so much in years; it is demonstrated by an openness to trust God to work through us.


As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all of your conduct.

1 Peter 1: 14, 15


Reflecting on this passage requires a confession to be made. So here goes, I can be very childish, and trust me on this, it is not a good thing for me to be this way. There are times, even days when I demand my rights, my way, that my idea or viewpoint be accepted. I put my foot down and throw some sort of epic tantrum in response to what I perceive as slights from others or when things don’t go as I would prefer for them to go. This is not a pretty sight for others to view, and it is humbling and frustrating to experience, too.


Peter is talking about these literal loss-of-control moments, but even more so he is speaking to the way that I and most of us fail to honor Christ by aspects of the manner that we live and by the words that we say. There are many ways that this failure to honor Christ is expressed. It can be found in coarse and demeaning language, it is stated in narrow and bigoted ideas, or we can be exclusionary when Christ would have entered into another’s life. Also, Christ in us is not on view when we seek power and dominance over others, as we bow down to our culture in fear of losing status or position, and when our momentary wants and desires are placed above God’s truth.


Still, in all things, Christ calls upon us to be like children, just not childish. There is a very real difference. The obedient children here are ones who know and accept the fact that they need to humbly submit to the superior wisdom and understanding that comes from God through His Word and by His Spirit. There is no need for us to be ignorant of God’s will or to act out of our immature passions. For, as Christ is in us, we are holy. We are set apart from this world and from its influential control over us. Yet, as Christ empowers us, we can live fully in this world and bring Christ’s righteous love to every corner of it while growing in our own maturity as holy children of God.

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