Monday, April 18, 2016

Forgiveness

This last week I spoke with a friend (we’ll call him Scott) who was sharing some fairly routine news when he casually blurted out, “Oh yeah, and I forgave my mom.”  I was like, “you did what???”  My reaction was so strong because Scott’s mom was a very verbally and emotionally abusive woman.  She hated Scott’s father for his infidelities and transferred her hatred for men to the nearest one available, in this case her son Scott. She told him to quit college so he could use the money he had saved/was earning for school to give to his younger sister. She had even encouraged him to commit suicide (but just not at their apartment so as not to embarrass her). The net result of this abuse was Scott leaving home and becoming homeless for the next 10 years.  God intervened a couple of years ago and brought Scott to a place of healing and restoration.  The one outstanding issue still left undealt with was Scott’s unforgiving attitude towards his mother.  He had held on to this belief in “justice" for so long it had become part of him.  Recently he had been under conviction for this but it really came to a head during an Easer service when a lady was sharing her testimony and observed that God will withhold His blessing when we are in disobedience to His will. While Scott’s feelings for his mom had lost some of there intensity, going from hatred to apathy, he still had not properly forgiven her in light of what God has forgiven him for.  As he told me, “It was like having something old and broken in your attic and never taking the time to just get rid of it.”  This Easter was his Spring cleaning day!  Scott wrote his mom a letter saying he forgave her for all of the hurts she had inflicted on him.  While he has not yet actually sent it to her, he did make the courageous step to have a friend witness his signing of it so as to memorialize he had officially forgiven her. He now feels a great sense of relief but maybe more importantly he has the knowledge that he is not willfully standing in the way of God’s blessing on his life.

Hebrews 12: 14-15
14 Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. 

Things to think about:

  • when Scott told me his story, it was like he told me he just went to the moon!  Knowing the years of abuse this woman heaped on him, the fact that he could now forgive her is nothing short of a miracle.  It is not in our nature to easily let go of wrongs.  Why? Because they’re wrong!  And when someone has wronged us, we want justice.
    • do you have a story of needing to forgive someone?
    • or maybe, have you been the person in need of forgiveness?
    • God wants justice too.  How does He reconcile seeing justice served yet offer us forgiveness?
    • Ephesians 4:32 - We should forgive each other “just as in Christ God forgave us” 
  • Sometimes though, the shoe is on the other foot though when we have fallen short.  We ask ourselves, “Why can’t he just let it go?  It’s been 10 years and he just won’t move on from it!”
  • Our verse starts off with “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone"
    • As Tom Lipsey would say every means every and everyone means everyone!
    • Maybe without the same authority as Tom :-) the apostle Paul says in Romans 12:18  "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone."
  • "Without holiness no one will see the Lord"
    • Scott told me that he really felt God had been hard to see in many of his circumstances and that he felt somewhat distant from Him
    • Why do we feel this disconnect from God when there is unholiness in our lives?
  • "See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God"
    • we have looked at this acronym before GRACE - God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense
    • no one starts with who?
    • how do we encourage one another to not fall short of the grace of God?
  • What does a bitter root cause?
    • When we are bitter we cause trouble and defile many
    • Defile means to violate, mar, spoil.  Are we at times contradicting our witness by holding on to real (or perceived) grievances and thus defiling many?
  • So with all of this before us, do you believe the old saying “I’ll forgive but I won’t forget” is biblical?
  • Can one can be an obedient child of God and hold on to a grudge or other root of bitterness?
    • if you or someone you love is laboring under the burden of unforgiveness, what one step can you (they) take TODAY to move forward?

Monday, April 11, 2016

Not Forgotten, Never Forsaken

Psalm 9:10 - Those who know your name trust in you,
    for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.

 Things to think about: 
  * I was really struck by the second part of the verse - ...You, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek You
  * we have talked previously about God sometimes uses qualifiers on His promises.
    - what is the qualifier here?
  * Jesus said He would never leave us or forsake us.  Hebrews 13:5 reiterates this. Apparently, we need to be reminded that we're not going to be forgotten about!
      - Do you have to remind your wife and kids that you're not going to forsake them? What then is it in our makeup that needs this reassurance?
      - could it be that life is really hard and sometimes we just need to know He hasn't forgotten? (My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?)
 * I got to thinking about Christian brothers and sisters in 3rd world countries who haven't eaten today and was wondering how this verse would resonate with them?  What do you think?
     - since God doesn't seem to be in the manna delivery business anymore, and 5 Loaves and Fishes has been shuttered, where do we fit into being the Lord's hands and feet in making sure others aren't forsaken?
     - what other folks can you think of who might be feeling forsaken (or at least need to be comforted by a gentle reminder like this verse?)
     - how can we make sure they know God hasn't forsaken them?
 * The first part of the verse says that those who "know" Him trust in Him
     - what does it mean to "know" God?

 Well, we'll end on that Theology Lite question :-)

Calling Sin "sin"

This was shared with me by a dear friend.  Doesn't need much editorializing so please slow down for a few minutes and consider its message.


Thought you might enjoy this interesting prayer given in
Kansas at  the opening session of their Senate. It seems prayer still
upsets some people... When Minister Joe Wright was asked to open the new
session of the Kansas Senate, everyone was expecting the usual
generalities, but this is what they heard:

Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask your
forgiveness  and to seek your direction and guidance. We know Your Word says,
'Woe to those who call evil good,' but that is exactly what we have done.
We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and reversed our values.
 
We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery.
We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare.
We have killed our unborn and called it choice.
We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable.
We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem.
We have abused power and called it politics.
We have coveted our neighbor's possessions and called it ambition.
We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression.
We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment.

Search us, Oh, God, and know our hearts today; cleanse us from every sin and set us free.

Amen!


The response was immediate. A number of legislators walked out during the prayer in protest.

In 6 short weeks, Central Christian Church, where Rev. Wright is pastor, logged more than 5,000
phone calls with only 47 of those calls responding negatively.. The church is now receiving
international requests for copies of this prayer from India, Africa and Korea .

With the Lord's help, may this prayer sweep over our nation and wholeheartedly become our
desire so that we again can be called 'one nation under God.'

Monday, April 4, 2016

Sharing the Load

For our discussion tomorrow, let's look at Exodus 18:17-18

Moses’ father-in-law replied, “What you are doing is not good. 18 You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.

Things to think about:

   the background is Israel has left Egypt and they are now in the desert 
   The "government" has formed with Moses as the leader of the nation and the people come to him everyday to get him to settle their disputes
                     Jethro, his father-in-law, sees that he is working from morning until evening, wearing himself out as the sole judge
                     Jethro could have used Moses' position of authority to enhance his own social position - "Have you seen my son-in-law? He's the man!"
   Moses was fortunate because someone cared enough about him to tell him the unvarnished truth - "what you are doing is not good"
                     have you been on the sending or receiving end of a message like this recently?
                     how did it go?
                     later, we also see that Jethro did more than identify a problem. Importantly, he also offered a viable solution.
                     let's be the kind of friends who come with help not just criticism
   Like many of us, Moses perhaps felt that what he was doing was indispensable and no one else could really do the job quite as well as him
                     do you struggle with delegation?
                     do you have trouble asking for help?
                     and, like many of us, we learned through a restructuring or other change that maybe someone else can do my job or at least the company didn't immediately fail when I left
   As we have said on a number of occasions, God designed life to be a team sport
                     are you in place where the "work is too heavy for you, you cannot handle it alone"?
                     How can we help?


Looking forward to seeing everyone in the morning!