Can You Say “I Forgive You?”

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My Musings – “Forgiveness is a strange thing. It can sometimes be easier to forgive our enemies than our friends. It can be hardest of all to forgive people we love. Like all of life’s important coping skills, the ability to forgive and the capacity to let go of resentments most likely take root very early in our lives.” ― Fred Rogers.  Yesterday, my family and I went to see “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” starring Tom Hanks.  It is a wonderful movie, more a lesson on forgiveness than it is a biopic of a truly remarkable man.

Forgiveness is the conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed (real or imagined) you, regardless of whether you believe they actually deserve your forgiveness.  Interestingly enough, right there in the middle of the word forgiveness is another very important word – give.  To give means to freely transfer the possession of (something) to (someone).  Freely, means no strings attached.  No conditions.  No “quid pro quo.”  No, I’ll forgive you if.  No, I’ll forgive you but.  I forgive you, period.  Even if I have to do it “seventy-seven times.

Strangely enough, the giving is as much a gift to oneself as it is a gift to the one that we are forgiving.  For holding onto feelings of resentment and vengeance is a terrible burden for one to bear.  Refusing to forgive consumes us.  And the longer that we withhold it, the harder our hearts become, and the tighter we hold onto the very thing that we so desperately need to let go.

My Advice – It was a delightful movie.  A welcome change from so many movies about vengeance and getting even.  For you really never can get even, because you end up losing a big part of yourself when you refuse to forgive.

What am I thankful for this special season of Thanksgiving?  Many, many things.  But most of all for a Savior who paid the ultimate price for forgiveness.  We can never sufficiently show our gratitude for that, but we still need to do what we can by “paying it forward.”  Is there someone you need to forgive?  Before another day goes by, let go of that terrible burden you are carrying.  “As far as it depends on you,” make every effort to restore the relationship.  For each day that otherwise passes, allows the roots of bitterness to grow deeper into the soil of your soul. For “the ability to forgive and the capacity to let go of resentments most likely take root very early in our lives.”  As time goes by, the ability and capacity lessens.

Called Out Of Darkness

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My Musings – “The future ain’t what it used to be.”  (Yogi Berra).  It certainly isn’t.  Hopelessly lost and separated from our Creator, with no hope for reconciliation by our own efforts.  Facing an eternity apart from God in Hell.  No Exit. His righteousness demanded it.  That was our future.

Where there was no hope, God provided hope.  Where there was no way, God provided a way.  The possibility of being reunited with our Creator because He made it possible for us to be a new creation through the death, burial and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ.  His grace satisfied His righteousness.  The opportunity to spend eternity reunited with God in Heaven.  This can be our future.

My Advice – Which future do we want?  This should be an obvious choice.  Yet so many stumble over it.  Yes, Jesus is the only way, because His sacrifice was the only possible way to satisfy God’s righteousness.  But whoever calls on His name will be saved.  He’s calling us out of darkness.  Will we respond?

Only One Flavor

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My Musings – “I wish I had an answer to that, because I’m tired of answering that question.”  This is a quote from Yogi Berra, a baseball player of a bygone era who was famous for his nonsensical comments that, upon reflection, made a lot of sense after all.

After nearly 2,000 years, it seems that everyone should know the answer to the question, “what must I do to be saved?”  Yet many continue to believe that salvation has more than one “flavor.”

Religion – “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” (Isaiah 29:13, NIV 1978).  Religion is an external observance that does not lead to a transformed. But a heart that is transformed by a personal encounter with Christ, is a spiritual act of worship, a religious expression that demonstrates that our heart has been changed  (Romans 12:1 –2). Religion is not the answer to the question, but it should be a result of the answer.

Obey God’s Laws – “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” (James 2:10, NIV 1978).  We could not obey one simple command in the Garden, much less the ten on the tablets.  But even nine out of ten would be insufficient. But an encounter with Jesus will set us free from the bondage of sin (John 8:32-34).  Obedience to the law is not the answer to the question, but it should be a result of the answer.

Doing Good Works – “All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Psalms 14:3, NIV 1978).  Goodness is measured by God’s unchanging standards, not relative to society’s ever-changing standards. But the light of Christ reflected in our transformed lives, can point the way for others (Matthew 5:16). Good works are not the answer to the question, but they should be a result of the answer.

Grace Through Faith In Christ Alone –  “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves [religion, laws, good works], it is the gift of God – – not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9, NIV 1978). When you know the real answer to the question, you never get tired of answering.

My Advice – If salvation was dependent upon religion, obeying the law, or good works, how could we ever be sure that we were religious enough, we had not broken the wrong (one) rule, or we had done enough good deeds (the good you ought to do but do not do, that is sin to you)?  It should be a relief to know that our salvation does not depend upon the depth of our desires (never deep enough) or the degree of our efforts (never high enough), but on God’s mercy (inexhaustible).  “It [salvation] does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.” (Romans 9:16, NIV 1978).  Forget your desires.  Give up on your efforts. Appeal to God’s mercy.  You’ll never get tired of His answer.

Just Come

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My Musings – The first thing that catches my attention is the word “come.”  Jesus has completed His work.  He came to earth and suffered an excruciating death on the cross.  The old saying “I’ll meet you half way” holds no comparison to the lengths that Christ went to on our behalf.  It is now up to us.  We must come to Him.  Just as we are.  While we are still sinners.  What more could we possibly expect from Him that He has not already done.

The second thing that catches my eye is the word “all.”  We all have sinned.  We all have fallen short.  Nevertheless, we all may come.  Again, just as we are, while we are still sinners.  No fine print.  No “some exclusions may apply.”  “Ya’ll come.”

Third is “weary and burdened.”  Burdened by the load of sin we bear.  Weary of trying to earn our salvation on our own.  Both troubled and afraid by the realization that we cannot.

Fourth, “I will give you rest,” and “you will find rest for your souls.”  “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:26-27, NIV 1984).  Peace that surpasses all understanding.

Fifth is the word “learn.”  Once we come to Him there is so much to learn from Him.  He wants to transform us, and to renew our minds now that He has renewed our hearts and we have been made right with Him.

Sixth, “for I am gentle and humble of heart.” What a contrast to the way of the world!  What a contrast to our old self.  “Gentle,” having or showing a mild, kind, or tender temperament or character.  “Humble,” not thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought.  After all, think of what we were and where we were headed before the “touch of the Master’s hand.”  “Of heart,”one’s innermost character, feelings, or inclinations.  Changed forever by Christ’s redeeming grace.

Finally, “my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Jesus bore our sins for us.  That load has been lifted from us.  Forever.  Final.  No forfeiture.  All we need to is “come.”  What could be easier.  This is the only real exception to “if it sounds to good to be true, it isn’t.”  Because, “God never made a promise that was too good to be true.” – Dwight L. Moody.

My Advice – Just come.  It’s that easy.  He carried the cross on His back for you.  He did the heavy lifting.

 

 

Why Not Rather Be Wronged!

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My Musings – “I won’t be wronged, I won’t be insulted, and I won’t be laid a hand on. I don’t do these things to other people, and I require the same from them.” – John Wayne as J.B Books in The Shootist 1976.

As I’ve noted before in my blogs, John Wayne was my favorite actor.  Like many, I admired his swagger.  Also like many, to me this creed that his movie character lived by sounds fair.  Yet it is a worldly creed.  We must aim higher.

Paul states a somewhat other worldly creed in the above condensed verses.  To me the key phrase is “if it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

How Far – “The problem is, “as far as it depends on [us]” isn’t really that far most of the time.  All too often we are very thin-skinned when it comes to being “wronged,” “insulted” or “laid a hand on.”  But rather than take revenge, we are to “overcome evil with good.

With Everyone – “Other people” are not just family and friends.  Not just fellow Christians.  Not just Americans.  Not just the same ethnic group.  Not just Democrats or Republicans.  Not just those who share our worldview and opinions. Everyone means all people, even our enemies.

Be At Peace – Apparently this means more than avoiding conflict.  When (not if) the “other people” wrong us, insult us or lay a hand on us (essentially act like an enemy) we are to feed them if they are hungry.  Give them something to drink if they are thirsty.  Elsewhere, Jesus says to the extent we do this to the “least of these,” we do it to Him.

If Possible – At last – the fine print, the loophole?  I don’t think so.  There will be times that “as far as it depends on you” will not be far enough no matter how far you bear with it.  But even then “do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19, NIV 1984).  Walk away and let God deal with it.

My Advice – These are hard words.  But Kingdom living has a higher calling than worldly living.  Our attitude should be the same as Christ Jesus.  “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7, NIV 1984).

 

 

A Cry For Revival

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My Musings – The above verse is a conditional statement.  Conditional statements contain a hypothetical (if) and a consequence (then) when the conditions of the hypothetical are met.

If – Something(s) that must happen:

  • My people, called by My name – In the context of the above verse, this was Israel.  Today, we could apply it to the Church.
  • Will humble themselves – Freed from pride and arrogance. An expression of deference or submission.
  • Pray – To speak to God especially in order to give thanks or to ask for something.
  • Seek My face – To go in search of, to look for, to try to discover.
  • Turn – To face an opposite or different direction.
  • From Wicked Ways – Morally very bad, evil.

Then – Before something else can happen:

  • I will hear – To pay attention to.
  • I will forgive – Pardon, cancel a debt.
  • I will heal – Correct or put right an undesirable situation.

My Advice – We often attribute the declining state of morality on society in general.  Yet the above verse places the responsibility on the people of God.  We know what we (the Church) need to do (if) in order for God to hear our appeal for the “land” to be healed.  A verse from an old song states “that it only takes a spark to get a fire going, and soon those all around, can warm up in the glowing.”  Be a spark in your local Body, then “pass it on.”  We have to have a spark before we can have a fire.  We have to get it going, before we can expect the glowing.

If…

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My Musings – No fine print here.  It is a small word, but it begins the sentence – “if.”  It is not a trap for the unwary, it merely establishes the sentence as a conditional clause.  When the conditions are met, the promise that follows is assured (God cannot lie, He is “faithful and just“).  He not only forgives us, but He purifies us, removing the stain of sin altogether.

Until the conditions are met, however, there is no obligation to fulfill the promise.  Confession must precede forgiveness.  Why would be expect our sins to be forgiven if we do not even admit that we have any?

My Advice – Do not let pride get in the way of forgiveness.