Forgiveness by the Book

forgiveness pixabay 9 7 17“I forgave you the moment those words came out of your mouth.”

No, sad to say, that’s not a Brenda Koinis quote. It’s something I read in a novel a few days ago. I’ve never said those words. I’m not sure it’s ever occurred to me to think them. Until now. Why not? Why do we wait to forgive?

Should forgiveness hinge upon an apology? Romans 5:8 says, “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Our Lord didn’t wait to forgive us. Perhaps we want to postpone our grace until the offending party seems deserving of it. We’d better watch out for that excuse. We’re never deserving of divine grace, but have—each and every one of us—received plenty of it.

Maybe we’ve convinced ourselves that we cannot forgive until our emotions allow us to do so. Wrong again. In much of life we are forced to behave counter to our feelings. (Did you feel like going to work today? Or doing the dishes last night?) Why should forgiveness be any different? Forgiveness is a choice, and we may have to commit and re-commit to that choice countless times before our feelings follow suit.

Is there underlying menace in our reluctance to forgive? Do we hope to exact some sort of punishment by our delay. We must stop. We are hurting ourselves, as well as others we have no right to hurt.

I once heard a great tip regarding life’s mishaps: “If we are going to laugh about this someday, we might as well laugh about it now.” Easily edited, this quote is at least as wise when it reads, “If we are going to forgive this transgression someday, we might as well forgive it now.”

Forgiveness never means approval. It doesn’t equate with saying, “I have decided you were right.” Forgiveness may not remove the consequences of a misstep. It is simply a matter of the heart. It opens an avenue to reconnection, and it puts us squarely on the path of walking in our Father’s steps.

 

 

Even as my Texas and Florida friends continue to repair their lives and homes after flooding, new friends in California are suffering from fires. Please take a moment now to ask the Lord to intervene, then join me in prayer throughout the coming days whenever those in peril come to mind. 

 

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Hakuna Matata

hakuna pixabayYesterday I saw a bumper sticker that said “Hakuna matata.” That’s it. No warthogs, no lions, just the phrase. (But, Iris, if you’re reading this, I can hear your voice singing in my head!) Perhaps that Swahili phrase, roughly translated “no worries,” should be singing in my head all the time.

“Hakuna” means “there is not here,” and “matata” is Swahili for “problems.” I don’t think we live lives free of problems. Worry, though, is another matter—the matter of what we do in our minds with our problems. I love this quote from The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren (Zondervan 2002).

“When you think about a problem over and over in your mind, that’s called worry. When you think about God’s Word over and over in your mind, that’s meditation. If you know how to worry, you already know how to meditate! You just need to switch your attention from your problems to Bible verses. The more you meditate on God’s Word, the less you will have to worry about.”

I’d like to add that the more we think of our problems in light of God’s word, the more convinced we can become that we have no worries after all. Consider these four familiar passages:

  • “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you” (Psalm 55:22).
  • Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
  • What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).
  • So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:6).

While not scripture, these wise words, attributed to Corrie ten Boom, call us all to peace and trust as well:

“Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength- carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.”

And so, instead of losing any of your strength to worry today, I hope you will remember the awesome love and power of our God. Then you can shout within your soul, “Hakuna matata!”

 

Old Testament Surprises

snake of moses

Each time I delve into the Old Testament I’m struck by its relevance, even when my reading falls within the historical accounts of kings and tribes. If we met for tea today, and you asked what I’ve been studying, I’d tell you 1 Chronicles. Would you yawn? Perhaps, but let me share what I’ve been learning.

1 Chronicles 22

In this chapter, David charges his son Solomon with the Herculean tasks of assuming kingship over Israel and building a temple for the Lord. His primary advice?

  • Be careful to observe the decrees given through Moses.
  • Be strong and courageous, unafraid and never discouraged.

And to the leaders of Israel, ordered to help Solomon, David says, “Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the Lord your God” (1 Chronicles 22:19a).

There it is, the essence of a believer’s walk once again: trust and obey!

Moving back a few chapters to 1 Chronicles 5:20-22, I find God working for his people in the heat of battle. He “delivered…all their allies into their hands, because they cried out to him during the battle. He answered their prayers, because they trusted in him…The battle was God’s.”

All our battles belong to God. We may be called to fight, but he is the one who does the winning.

While the Old Testament is chock full of encouragement, it warns us as well. Moving back just one book to 2 Kings 18, I was surprised by the passage condensed below:

“Hezekiah did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it. (It was called Nehushtan.)”

Wait, what? God used that bronze snake as a means of rescue for the Israelites. They turned it into an idol? Yes, they did. Anything can become an idol, even something that started out as an instrument of good. I asked myself, “Am I in danger of making something an idol?” The answer for all of us must surely be yes. 1 John 5:21 cautions, “Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts.” We must always be on our guard, asking God to keep our perspective and our loyalty in line with him.

What have you been learning? Whether from the New Testament or the Old, has God used his Word to surprise you lately?

Unsettled

cloud

After nearly 30 years in the same house, I am moving. I’m not sure precisely where or when just yet. I don’t know who will buy our present home, nor which furnishings and possessions will “make the cut” and come along with us. I could spend another paragraph detailing the myriad of other uncertainties in my life. But then, you have a list of your own, don’t you?

You may, like me, sometimes be tempted to say, “I will be at peace when _____.”  Perhaps you would fill that blank with, “when the doctor gives me a clean slate” or “when my baby is born” or “when my next job review is over.” Of course, that will never work. By the time today’s list of uncertainties have cleared, a whole new crop of them will be headed our way. Our only hope for pervasive peace is to maintain our trust in the Lord within uncertainty.

I was thinking about my uncertainties as I washed the dishes this morning. (That’s usually Steve’s job. I don’t remember where he was!) Somehow, my thoughts landed on the Israelites. As they traveled the wilderness, they never knew what the next day would bring, whether they would be traveling or staying put.  If the cloud of God’s presence moved, they moved. If it settled, they settled. (See Numbers 9: 17.) But what of it? Their hope, their peace, was not in knowing what tomorrow would bring. It was in believing, believing that God would lead, provide, and protect.

Should we be any different? Do we really need to know what’s coming next in order to be at peace? Surely not, as that would mean we could never really be at peace. Today, I am looking squarely at my uncertainties and proclaiming, “I do not need to know. God knows. And that is enough!” I pray that you will do the same.

“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 14:27).

 

Tangled

tangle-seuss-pixa-2-17

The cord of my kitchen blind is twisted and tangled. I used to think a family member was doing this to mess with me. Not so. It just happens, little by little. If I don’t keep up, untwisting it day by day, the tangle becomes a snarl, a complicated mess that’s hard to set straight. Sin is that way. Have you noticed?

  • How did that bad habit take hold? Little by little.
  • How did that relationship become so sour? Little by little.
  • How did that close walk with the Lord evaporate? Little by little.

Hebrews 12 has a lot to say about keeping sin from becoming a snarl in our lives. Look at verse 1, “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Perseverance is the straightening process that must be done day by day before our tangles become snarls. We may not all be hindered by the same temptations, but we all have a lot of “throwing off” to do. We can do it, though, because we have the power of the Holy Spirit within us. Hebrews 12 is a rich chapter, full of pointers on how to live well. Here’s an abbreviated version of the rest of the chapter:

  • Keep looking at Jesus, in order to keep from growing weary and losing heart.
  • Endure hardship as discipline. God disciplines us for our good, so that we may share in his holiness.
  • Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy.
  • See to it that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble.
  • See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless.
  • Be thankful, and worship God with reverence and awe.

And that’s plenty to chew on for this week!

May God let his Word sink deep into your soul!

 

No More Foolishness by Beth Smith

pulpit-590750_1280-pixabayReverend Henry Ward Beecher, a clergyman in the late 1800’s, is said to have entered Plymouth Church one Sunday morning, only to find that a letter addressed to him had been left on the pulpit. He opened it and read the single word “Fool.” Quietly, and with great seriousness, he told the congregation about the letter and then said, “I have known many an instance of a man writing a letter and forgetting to sign his name, but this is the only instance I have ever known of a man signing his name but forgetting to write the letter.” I wondered if the Bible had anything to say about fools and foolishness, and was amazed to find 49 references. For example:

  • Fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7).
  • A fool’s heart blurts out folly” (Proverbs 12:23).

The greatest folly that fools blurt out is found in the first verse of Psalm 14 and again in Psalm 53, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’”

It seems to me that the opposite of foolishness is wisdom. Here’s just a bit of what the Bible says about wisdom.

  • Reverence for the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom. The rewards of wisdom come to all who obey him” (Psalm 111:10 NLT).
  • To acquire wisdom is to love yourself; people who cherish understanding will prosper (Proverbs 19:8 NLT).

These verses make me want to be a wise person. The question is, how do we get wisdom instead of becoming fools? James 1:5 tells us that if we are lacking wisdom we should ask God to supply it, because he gives generously to all. He’s already given us his wisdom in his Word, the Bible. How foolish we are when we don’t read it!

How will we recognize Godly wisdom when we get it? James 3:17 (NLT) says, “But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere.” Those are real goals to hold up for our lives. If we want to be wise, we must be:

  • peace loving
  • gentle
  • considerate
  • merciful
  • impartial
  • full of good deeds

Of course, we can’t be all those things on our own. We are told by 1 Corinthians 1:24 that, “to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.” Our only hope for Biblical wisdom lies in our relationship with God through Christ. When we’re seeking wisdom, we’re really seeking to be like Christ. To do that, we have to know him. To know him we must read his Word (his wise instructions) and do what we find there, thus living wisely.

Let’s not be foolish! Let’s get wisdom by following Christ.