Category Archives: Forgiveness

Why This Friday is Good

“Move that bus!”  The impoverished family gapes to see a newly remodeled home, filled with improvements to make their lives better.  If you’ve seen “Extreme Makeover, Home Edition,” you remember the tears of amazement and joy.  But as the family tours the home, as excited as they may have been, for the breadwinner, in the back of their minds is the gathering fear, “What if I can’t keep this job and we miss a few payments?  I could easily lose this place…”  But occasionally, just before the show signed off, Ty Pennington would say, “Oh, there’s just one more thing…” and some charitable organization would present the family with a check, paying off their mortgage in full.

In a scenario like that, a family that had experienced life as a daily struggle, would then be able to move into their new home and find rest, secure in the realization their greatest obligation of debt had been paid off by someone else.  That is, if they trusted the check was real, accepted it and cashed it.

Today we remember that, on the Cross, Jesus Christ paid our full obligation of debt, with His own blood, forever.  As Isaiah foretold,

5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.  (Isaiah 53:5-6)

If we trust Him, and accept His payment on our behalf, we will be received into God’s family (John 1:12-13), enter into His rest (Hebrews 4:3), secure in the realization that our obligation has been fully paid.  Forever.

 God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. 6 So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son.* 7 He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins.  (Ephesians 1:5–7). New Living Translation

Why God Won’t Listen

Don’t bother praying for those people; it won’t do any good.  That’s what God said!  He said, it’s a waste of time to pray for them because I’m not going to listen and I won’t help them.  Really?  Who was He talking about?  ISIS?  Babylon?  Nope.  He was talking about His own, Chosen People.  He’d had enough.  Here it is, straight out of the Bible:

16 “As for you, do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer for them, and do not intercede with me, for I will not hear you.  (Jeremiah 7:16)

Obviously His own people had done something very offensive to lead to that attitude from the same God Who rescued them from slavery, provided them a land “flowing with milk and honey,” and protected them from their hostile neighbors.  What had they done that was so bad?

17 Do you not see what they are doing in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? 18 The children gather wood, the fathers kindle fire, and the women knead dough, to make cakes for the queen of heaven. And they pour out drink offerings to other gods, to provoke me to anger.  (Jeremiah 7:17-18)

Today, this same evil masquerades as religious tolerance.  “All gods are the same; all religions are equally valid.”  “I won’t teach my children about God because I want them to choose which god to worship – if any.”  Go far enough down that road and you can forget about praying.  The real God won’t be listening.

But, in case this sounds to you as though God has an ego problem, consider, when He brought His people out of slavery, the first thing He taught them was this:

2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
3You shall have no other gods before me (Exodus 20:2-3)

His motivation was not for His own fame or esteem but for their well being.  Here’s the rest of what He said to Jeremiah:

22 For when I brought your ancestors out of Egypt and spoke to them, I did not just give them commands about burnt offerings and sacrifices, 23 but I gave them this command: Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in obedience to all I command you, that it may go well with you.  (Jeremiah 7:22-23)

Laced through all the tough, “don’t bother praying” passages in this prophecy, is the invitation and plea for His people to turn back and be restored.  God isn’t being cruel.  He alone is God.  He knows what works and what does not.

The Dumb Thing

One of the oldest bits of wisdom in the Bible says, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”  Except God didn’t say it like that.   Speaking through His prophet, Jeremiah, He said:

13 “My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me,
the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
broken cisterns that cannot hold water.  (Jeremiah 2:13)

Cisterns hold water but they can’t fill themselves.  You have to do that.  If the cistern is leaky, then you have to keep filling it, even if you haven’t used any of the water. Moreover, have you ever tasted water stored for a long time in a cistern?  Funky stuff.  So then, why would anyone exchange a continuous spring of fresh, clear water for a cistern they had to dig and fill which would give them brackish tasting water?  Be dumb, right?

And why, God asks, would anyone turn away from the continuous interaction with God, Who gives strength, peace, joy, insight, love and life itself, in order to make up his or her own god out of dead stuff?  Dead stuff like wood, stone, metal, plastic… or money.  One of most common reasons people turn away from God is to pursue more money.  But money is very much like a broken cistern.  You have to fill it yourself.  It leaks away when you aren’t looking (If you don’t believe me, check your wallet:  Not as much money in there as you thought, right?)  And money doesn’t satisfy like it promises to do.  Most of the time the aftertaste of money is brackish.

Don’t be dumb.

Done

Can you really forgive if you don’t forget?  God doesn’t think so.  When He forgives He forgets.  Speaking about all those who accept His forgiveness and salvation through faith in Jesus, He says:

12 For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.  (Hebrews 8:12)

So, this woman goes to her priest and says, “I have a word from God for you.”  “Oh no,” he replies, “we don’t do that in this church.”  She persists and he finally tells her to prove she really is in contact with God.  He tells her to ask God to tell her the last sin he owned up to in confession.  If she gets it right, he’ll listen to what she has to tell him.  When she comes back, the priest asks her what God told her was his last confessed sin.  She says, “God said He can’t remember…”

Of course, you could ask all sorts of logical questions about what could be impossible for an all-sovereign deity.  But the point is this:  once God has forgiven you, that is the end of it.  He will never bring it back up and hold it as leverage against you.  When you accept Jesus’ payment on the cross as a full payment for all  your sin, your account is paid in full.  It’s done.

The Trick with Puzzles

The most obvious solution for a puzzle is wrong and leads you astray.  The one that works is counter-intuitive.  You think you should slide the ring over the post, but in reality, doing so actually makes the puzzle harder to solve.  Life here on earth is like that.  The most obvious solutions to our problems often make the problems worse.  Just ask the Hatfields and the McCoys.  Their feud could have been avoided if they had responded to each other in ways that, at first, would have seemed crazy to them.

That’s the principle behind this well known teaching of Jesus: “… the truth will set you free.”  That phrase is often quoted, but what came before it is less well known or understood.  Here is the whole thing:

31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)

Jesus’ “word” is not simply a collection of Scrabble letters, it is the Greek word, “logos,” from which we get our word, logic.  It means the whole way in which one understands reality and interacts with it.  For example,  You see a gathering of people and don’t think much about them.  But if you understand their logos, realize they all served in the same outfit in WWII, then your understanding and interaction with them is changed by that logos.  Jesus invites us to do more than simply know His logos, He invites us to “abide” in it, to make our permanent residence within His way of understanding and interacting with reality.  It is only when we abide in His logos, that we then know the truth that will set us free.

The Sermon on the Mount is full of counter-intuitive teaching that lines up with Jesus’ logos. Such as, forgiveness solves interpersonal problems when the most obvious solution seems to be revenge.  It is only when we makes our home within Jesus’ way of seeing reality that His teaching,  “… if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well”  (Matthew 5:40), makes sense.  But, as happens with frustrating puzzles, once you try the counter-intuitive solution, it seems easy.  It sets you free.

Constant Blessing

Have you ever had a love grow cold?  Was it your fault?  You probably didn’t mean to mess it up.  Maybe you didn’t even know and got blindsided with, “It’s over; I don’t love you anymore…”  Remember how empty that felt?  Helpless, maybe?

Here’s some good news.  That’s not going to happen between you and God.  No matter what.

1 Praise the Lord.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever. (Psalms 106:1)

Whatever else you celebrate at Thanksgiving, remember that promise, consider the implications it has for someone like you and be thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!  I’m grateful for your interest.

Reliable

Mom stands by the curb, tearfully watching her little one board the schoolbus for the first time.  Dad swallows hard and wraps his son in a fierce embrace.  The young man will board a plane and head off to his first deployment overseas.  This is the heartbeat of God as He allowed His chosen people to be carried off to exile.  Here’s what He told them:

“Listen to me, you descendants of Jacob, all the remnant of the people of Israel, you whom I have upheld since your birth, and have carried since you were born  Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you.  I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”  (Isaiah 46:3-4)
Almost sounds like God is saying, “This will hurt Me more than it does you.”  But notice carefully God’s promise to sustain them and carry them, even in their time of banishment.  And rescue them.  That’s the heartbeat of God.  “For God so loved the world…”

That’s His heart toward you, too, even if you have wandered off into an exile of your own making.  You may have run from Him, but He loves you and will never run from you.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.

(Psalm 139:7 -10)