Police and Paramedics

lego ambulance 10 17

We are plugged into a church, and a Sunday school class to boot! I know some of you have been praying for Steve and me during this time of settling in, so thank you very much.

Here’s a catchy but convicting quote I heard last Sunday. “We often find too many police and not enough paramedics in the church.”

Huh? Allow me to explain. The lesson was on the importance of peace within the church. We can be so quick to quarrel, to forget that we are all children of our Lord and called to serve him together. Sometimes we even wrap our petty gripes in that thinly veiled phrase, “We need to pray about so-and-so.” This week’s lesson was filled with flipping, with turning from one convicting Bible verse to another, all pleading with us to stop our fussing. It’s that odd quote, though, that stuck with me.

Police: When called to the scene of a crime, it’s their job to find out who is wrong, who is the culprit, who fell out of line. Is there an arrest to be made? Potential punishment to be planned?

Paramedics: When called into service, it’s their job to look for who is hurt, who might need their life-saving attention. Where can they administer help and healing?

Now let’s take another look at that quote: “We often find too many police—the accusers, the ones looking for offense—and not enough paramedics—those waiting for a chance to bind wounds and bring comfort—in the church.”

The church, of course, doesn’t mean the church building. It means all those who call themselves a part of the community of believers. It’s time for us all to ask ourselves: Are we police or paramedics? Yes, perhaps we need both, but most of us would do well to focus on bringing peace and healing, overlooking the offenses so often of little true consequence.

Challenged? Yep, me too. But before I close, allow me to point out two favorite hymns shared by readers who missed my original deadline:

“Fairest Lord Jesus” also known as “Beautiful Savior” ends with this verse:

Beautiful Savior! Lord of all the nations!

Son of God and Son of Man!

Glory and honor, praise, adoration,

Now and forever more be Thine.

And

“Because He Lives,” by Bill and Gloria Gaither.

You can listen to that one here:

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Forgiveness Follow-Up

sorry

The very week I posted a blog on forgiveness, my pastor preached on the same topic. Many of his words were more eloquent than mine, so I’d like to share a few of them today.

What forgiveness doesn’t promise:

A free pass. Forgiveness doesn’t always bring release from consequences, no matter what our status in life may be. King Saul still lost the throne. King David still lost a child. And we still suffer the penalties of sin.

Restored relationships. Forgiveness doesn’t always lead to restored trust. We can forgive abusive behavior without allowing it to continue. However, if restoration is going to occur, it can’t happen without forgiveness.

Why we don’t forgive:

Conviction. Sometimes we don’t forgive because we are convinced that we are right. God needs to be the only judge of rightness. No one will ever be saved because of our judgement, but perhaps our forgiveness will draw someone closer to Christ.

Vengeance. When we seek vengeance, we are stepping in to do the will of God, and we are sinning.

Why we must forgive:

Obedience. We forgive because the Bible tells us to, and when we forgive, we are used by God.  (This could be a one-sentence blog, because that last line is all we really need to know!)

Our own sin. We forgive because we have been forgiven, and because we continue to need forgiveness.

How we ought to forgive:

Quickly. The sooner we forgive, the less likely we are to give our enemy a chance to create division in our hearts or our relationships. A brick or two can be removed easily. A brick wall? Not so simple.

Prayerfully. It’s hard to stay mad at our offenders while praying for them at the same time. Pray for those who have hurt you in big ways and in small.

Without forgetting. “Forgive and forget” is rarely possible. Furthermore, the miracle of real forgiveness comes in remembering the sin or brokenness of another and choosing to love and forgive nonetheless. If we forget sin, then what does it really cost us to love someone?

Thank you, Matt, for allowing me to share your words. What about the rest of you? What have you learned about forgiveness? I’d love for you to share your thoughts in the comments box below.

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. 

 

Never Forgotten

mom cartoonWe all have times when we forget things. At my age, we call them “senior moments.” I like to say that I have a photographic memory. The thing is, most of the time I forget to take the lens cap off. And my husband Bert? Poor thing, sometimes he forgets my birthday, our anniversary, and who’s boss.

I wonder if we sometimes think God has forgotten us. Anytime we feel far away from God, we’re the ones who have moved, not God. Maybe we haven’t gone years without thinking of God, but have we gone months or weeks without acknowledging him or praying? Robert Robinson wrote these words to a hymn in 1758, “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.”[1] Why would we do that? I don’t know, yet some of us have. We’re especially prone to setting God aside in our lives when things are going well. Then we come back to him when hard times hit.

God has lovingly provided words we can use when we want to cry out to him for help. These verses are from Psalm 25:6-7(NLT). “Remember, O Lord, your compassion and unfailing love, which you have shown from long ages past. Do not remember the rebellious sins of my youth (I add “and my old age” here). Remember me in the light of your unfailing love, for you are merciful, O Lord.” After our cry for help comes confession of sin, asking for forgiveness, and hopefully a new commitment to stay close to God even in the good times.

We may forget God, but rest assured, he doesn’t forget us. Not ever. When the Israelites declared that the Lord had forgotten them, he answered, “Never! Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for a child she has borne? But, even if that were possible, I would not forget you.” (Isaiah 49:15-16 NLT). One version of the Bible goes on to say, “Your name is “tattooed” on my hand.” That means that nothing is going to wash it away.

The Bible is full of affirmations of God’s love for us. The greatest, of course, is that Jesus died for our sins. He gave his life for us so that we may follow him while we’re on earth and have life in heaven with him hereafter. When my children were young, I’d ask them, “How much do you love me?” They would open their arms wide and say, “I love you this much.” Christ opened his arms wide on the cross saying, “I love you this much.” Can we imagine that picture? Do we see our names on his hands? If we’ve come to trust Christ and accepted him as Lord and Savior, our names are there, tattooed forever. He doesn’t forget us, even when we ignore him.

If I open my arms wide and say, “Come on!” to my grandson, he runs to me for love, security, and comfort. I intend to do some running into God’s arms today, for I am prone to wander from him and to forget so easily all he has done. Won’t you run there with me?

Let’s remember him. He never forgets us. He loves us this much! And he says, “Come on.”

[1] “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” by Robert Robinson, 1758.

Two More Hymns

singing stained glass unsplashed

As the final installment of this hymn sing, I’ll share two hymns, only one of which was familiar to me until recently. When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, written by Isaac Watts in 1707, is the first known hymn to be written in the first person, describing an individual’s spiritual experience. According to cyberhymnal.org, “Charles Wesley reportedly said he would give up all his other hymns to have written this one.”

You can listen to Christ Tomlin’s version here.

When I survey the wondrous cross On which the Prince of glory died, My richest gain I count but loss, And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast, Save in the death of Christ my God! All the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to His blood.

Were the whole realm of nature mine, That were a present far too small; Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all. 

For All the Saints was written by Anglican Bishop William Walsham. It speaks of faith, of trusting God even in troubled times, and of our hope of heaven. ‘Come to think of it, that’s pretty much what every post in this blog is about, and so this is a fitting way to close this tiny taste of hymn singing.”

Listen here.

For all the saints, who from their labors rest,

Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,

Thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blessed.

Alleluia, Alleluia!

Thou wast their Rock, their Fortress and their Might;

Thou, Lord, their Captain in the well fought fight;

Thou, in the darkness drear, their one true Light.

Alleluia, Alleluia!

O may Thy soldiers, faithful, true and bold,

Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old,

And win with them the victor’s crown of gold.

Alleluia, Alleluia!

And there you have it. Won’t you respond by posting a list of your favorite hymns?

Silence Is Not Golden

silence monkey

An earlier blog of mine extols the wisdom of Thumper. In essence, that cartoon cottontail said, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, keep quiet.” Taken to the extreme, though, that word of advice can do terrible damage. So here’s another thought: never stop talking.

I know of siblings who refuse to speak to one another, spouses who have gone days without a word, and friendships that have nearly slipped away as resentment dissolved into silence. I’ve fallen into that trap myself and nearly lost a now precious relationship. At first, we may be tempted to count our quiet resolve as a noble response to injustice. Yet a refusal to speak says far more than any words. What it says can be, whether intentional or not, very cruel. “I hate you. I hope that my silence is causing you pain. I no longer value you. I want to pretend you do not exist.”

Silence gone longer becomes so much stronger. The initial wound that causes a rift may fade over the years, but by then the tear in the fabric of friendship or family tie may gape so wide that neither party knows how to mend it. Never stop talking.

Forgiveness is easier earlier. No, it’s not easy, just easier. And it’s demanded by our Lord. We do not have the right to resent. We have been forgiven, and we are commanded to forgive. When our children are small, we teach them the process of apology and forgiveness. “Susie, say ‘I’m sorry.’ Now, Sally, say, ‘I forgive you.’” But the two are not inextricably linked. We can apologize even if we fear that our apology will be met with a refusal to forgive. And we can—we must—forgive, even when an apology never comes. It doesn’t matter who “started it.”

I took a break from writing just now to do a bit of my Bible reading for the day. My passage was 1 Peter 2, which, perhaps not so surprisingly, speaks volumes on this issue. I’ve pasted a portion of it below, setting in bold type the phrases I found most convicting. Never stop talking is simply one of a thousand corollaries to this far more important directive: never stop forgiving.

Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good…But now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy…

Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us…

 Show proper respect to everyoneFor it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God…Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.