Category Archives: Forgiveness

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)

Fingerprints of Jesus

One of Isaiah’s prophetic descriptions of Jesus, written 700 years in advance, seems to be overlooked by many who claim to be advancing His work.  Isaiah’s batting average with details from the future was astonishing; there is no reason to think he got this one wrong.  He describes the style with which Jesus would accomplish His work:

He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law.  (Isaiah 42:2-4)

The work of Jesus will be:

  • Quiet
  • Gentle
  • Relentless
  • Completely successful

Jesus clearly stated that not everyone claiming to be doing His work really was.  If you want to identify His work, look for those fingerprints. You won’t find them amidst the violent, flashy, noisy or manipulative.  His work advances steadily and quietly, one soul at a time, like candlelight passed from one to another.  And it has not stopped or even faltered in all these years.

What Moses Also Saw

When you promise yourself you won’t repeat (whatever wrong thing you struggle with) and then blow it – yet again – how many times will God forgive you and give you another chance?  If you are sincere, it will seem unlimited.  But is there any hope for you?  Will you ever break free of that cycle of despair?  

There is.  God showed Moses how He would ultimately fix us.  He showed Moses that He would bless the His Chosen People abundantly in the Promised Land, so long as they remained faithful to Him.  He showed Moses how they would mess that up and be banished.  This would happen again and again.  But the cool thing is how God also showed Moses what He would do to fix that cycle of hope followed by failure.  For them.  And for you.

“The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.” ( Deuteronomy 30:6)

Circumcision is a perfect metaphor, if you think about the tough exterior that forms around our sinful hearts.  The first time we deliberately sin it bothers us.  The next time?  Not so much.  And God’s plan is to remove that callous and make us responsive to His ways. He will do it so we can live!  How will He do it?  God gave another glimpse to Ezekiel:

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.  (Ezkiel 36:26-27)

When God causes His Spirit to be born into a calloused heart, He lives there softening and removing that tough, unresponsive exterior. This “reborn” heart becomes responsive to God. 

Jesus promised to give new life to anyone who trusts Him, through the birth of God’s Spirit in their hearts.  Their sins are forgiven, their souls are cleansed and they receive God’s Spirit.  Ultimately, the cycle of failure is broken.  They are set free.  

Mo and Zeke saw it coming.

What Moses Saw

Moses could see it coming; he knew they couldn’t keep it.  He had just rescued his people from slavery in Egypt.  He’d been sent to deliver them to a land where God promised to bless them. But, before they even set foot in the land, Moses knew they would eventually mess it up, turn away from God and lose evrything they had. He warned them.  You can read it for yourself in the 29th chapter of Deuteronomy.   

Moses saw it coming and it happened, just as he said, 800  years later.  The Promised Land was overrun and destroyed.  The survivors were carted off to Babylon to live in exile.

But Moses also knew:

“…and when you and your children return to the Lord your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you.  (Deuteronomy 30:2-3)
As unlikely as that would seem, it also happened, exactly as he said it would.  I am convinced God allowed that to demonstrate the tangible benefits of turning back to love and obey God “with all their hearts.”  Jesus also proclaimed this to be the most important commandment.

These days I sense a general attitude of despair and pessimism in the USA, a sense we have stumbled off in the wrong direction from which there seems to be no possible course correction.  Maybe Moses was on to something.

Who’s to Blame?

If you get caught speeding and get a ticket, do you blame your dad?  Do you say, “He shouldn’t have let me drive that fast.”  Probably not, unless you are the neurotic sort.  And yet, you hear people commonly say, “If God is good, why does He allow such wickedness in the world?”  

They blame God for our wickedness, believing in a kind of god that does not exist.  Their idea of a good god is one who automatically makes it impossible for people to disobey his instructions.  Then when people do bad things, they blame God.  A dad who operated like that would never be considered to be good.  God, the real God, does not force obedience.  He lovingly instructs and allows us to choose.  Forced obedience is for robots, not humans.  In order to correctly assess who is to blame for the problems in this world, we have to believe in the God Who really exists.  

And how are we to know what He is like?  He is like Jesus.

And Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.   (John 12:44-46)
Jesus did not force His followers to obey; He invited them to do so.  He promised them, if they did, they would discover that “the truth will make you free.”  Same thing with the real God.  

Instead of blaming God for our problems, why not try living by His instructions?

A Gift for You

​A tree was planted in Israel in memory of my wife.  The words get blurry as I type that…  I received a notice in the mail about that wonderful gift and stood, transfixed, as I tried to imagine what sort of tree and where it was planted.  Then, who would one day find shade beneath it.  These days my mailbox is almost entirely stuffed with junk mail.  But that gift notice was a precious exception.

Here’s a gift notice for you, if you would like to have it.  It’s for everyone who follows Jesus in faith.  It’s not very long, but warrants spending a bit of time trying to imagine all the what, when and where implications.

Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son, in truth and love.  (2 John 1:3)

Toss the envelope if you want, but hang on to the gift tag.  You’ll want to go back and reread it from time to time…

Thirsty 

Beer makes you thirsty.  Maybe that’s why they sell so much of it.  Same thing with pop.  If you are really thirsty, drink pure water.  When it comes to spiritual thirst, a lot of things people try act a lot like beer.  They taste good, feel good, but don’t really fix the thirst.  I’m speaking from personal experience.  Because spiritual thirst is common to all humans, there is no shortage of various “spiritual beverages” being peddled.  But if you really want to fix the thirst, fill your cup from the the Son of God.  He will give you the Spirit of God. 

As Jesus told the woman at the well, Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”  (John 4:13b-14)