On Guard Forgiveness

“Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation…  They (the families) forgave the shooter in South Carolina. They did their part. Before the nation and the world the families stood strong in their faith according to the Gospel. How shall we be on our guard against so many systems that continually make the claim that it was built on “Godly” values? We know that it’s not just guns that we must protect ourselves against. If we take away every gun in this world and the hatred remains what have we accomplished; the killing of the body. How do we stop the killing of the mind? We must be on guard from every aspect, every angle of thought that seeks to destroy the Spirit to which God intended us to be in relationship. Gracious Lord, you promise that your word will not return void. Help us to be on guard against those whose actions try to call us out of our faithfulness to the true God and let not our forgiveness be lost, let it not be disregarded, but rather accomplish the work you have given us to do.

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Heart Of A Child

He deserves a second chance.  Mo’ne Davis forgives the college baseball player who insults her with heinous language and responds with speaking truth to an action that outrages many of us who are authentic adults. How can we not be proud by her showing such maturity and grace even in the face of systemic bigotry and racism that rears its ugly head upon the innocence of a child who clearly understands the fundamental Christian right of forgiving and being forgiven. While it is difficult to put our feelings aside concerning yet another act of cyber-bullying, this one thing we know; God both forgives and hears the prayers of the righteous. So yes Mo’ne, everyone deserves a second chance and you have paved a way for him to receive it, but perhaps not today. Perhaps not before he has learned and fully understands that same maturity and grace that helped you to move beyond such ignorance and respond according to the values many out there claim to live but rarely display. Gracious God thank you for through the heart of a child we shall all be saved.

The Last Drop

She entered the house alone. With tears in her eyes she cries so intensely, his feet are soiled. So she dries them with her hair and anoints his feet with the precious ointment she carried in her alabaster jar, perhaps bought with the money she’d earned from her activities forced upon her because she was alone. How could he not know who and what kind of woman (Luke 7:36-50) was touching him? Yet, he allows her to touch him.

Today, in some jurisdictions, those who have committed felony crimes continue to pay for their crime by court imposed fees for costs such as a court appointed lawyer, paperwork, DNA collection, and electronic monitoring, to name a few. Essentially they are charged for their use of the criminal justice system, and in many cases forced to carry a legal debt for the remainder of their life. I often wonder how long the woman with the alabaster jar carried her burdens before she poured them out at the feet of Jesus? How heavy must have been the weight of her tears mixed with every ounce of that valuable ointment? How much lighter she must have been once the last drops fell. With God there is no life-long sentence of debt. There is no charge for the use of forgiveness. Our debt is paid in full long before the first teardrop falls.

 

 

Lent Day 12

First Signs

Why do you keep looking at one another? There is grain in Egypt; go down and buy grain for us there, that we may live…  Genesis 42:1-17  You wait as long as you can but inevitably you have to make that trip to the food cupboard because there is little food in the house. If it was just you, perhaps you could bear it and make something from the few staples you have left, but there are other mouths to feed who fall under your responsibility. I’ve managed a food cupboard or two and it’s not easy. Most of the people who show up at the doors aren’t there because the food is free, but rather because they need it or someone they know needs it but are unable (or unwilling) to make the trip. It’s a humbling experience to say the least. For me the Joseph story is one of the most powerful – using humility to glorify God’s forgiveness in each of our lives. Joseph remembers his dreams and no doubt he remembers how his brothers treated him. His faith however, was not in his brothers, whose power years ago was simply in numbers. He also remembers his faith is in God, now recognizing the full manifestation of his dreams during his youth. As Joseph’s brothers humbly stand before him, the only thing that stands between him and God’s authority in his life is his own arrogance. Arrogance caused him to be enslaved. Obedience to God’s will brought him out. He would not make the same mistake twice. We have been given that same authority to forgive. How will we use it today?

Prisoners

So, if you consider me as your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me.  Philemon 1-25  Paul referring to himself as a prisoner of Christ, out of love, appeals to Philemon upon the return of Onesimus, a slave who has run away. Wouldn’t it be great if we could just run away from the things which enslave us? Inevitably we find that running away only prolongs the healing. It would also be nice if every time we all had a “Paul” to appeal on our behalf, that we might turn and face the “pain of any issue” and be received in love. We don’t always get that physical support when we feel we need it the most. Although Paul was not able to go back with Onesimus, he reminds Philemon that what he is asking of him is in the Spirit of Christ. We are all imprisoned by something. From food to relationships we are captured by our own desires, needs and wants in life. It’s not all bad! However, the question we must continually ask our selves concerns the driving force of our actions as we live to achieve our goals. For Paul, it was his passion for the Gospel. From this one letter we don’t know the outcome of this relationship between Philemon and Onesimus. Yet from both sides, Paul’s challenge to Philemon and Onesimus remains our challenge. In what ways will we be a prisoner of Christ today?

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Walking Backwards

…Shem and Japheth took a garment… walked backward and covered… their father. Genesis 9:18-29  I often wondered about this passage from Genesis concerning Noah and his sons. I used to think that Ham got a raw deal, that it was unfortunate that he came across his fathers nakedness first. The reality is that someone was bound to be first in seeing Noah exposed. Without knowing why Ham entered his father’s tent in the first place, Ham’s consequence which followed seemed unfair. If you live long enough you realize that there is always more to anyone’s story including our own. There are times when it’s not necessary to place one another in awkward situations. John the Baptist said it best when he was asked about why some were going to Jesus to be baptized; “He must increase but I must decrease.” Ham forgot Noah’s authority, then compounded the situation by telling his brothers! His penalty was harsh; the status of his descendants eventually becoming lowest among the people of Israel. Yet as we know through Christ, and his interaction with a Canaanite woman (Matthew 15:21-28), by faith we are not beyond forgiveness, redemption and reconciliation.

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The First Step

For your arrows have already pierced me, and your hand presses hard upon me. Psalm 38:2  Particularly, in transgressions, we open our mouths and become our own worst critic. We wonder how we could have done something so foolish, selfish, and mean. We belabor the act for days and try to justify our actions knowing full well there is no justification. We despise the fact that even if for a brief moment, we became something that in the past we judged we now stand in judgment. We  project that everyone now looks upon us with disdain. We pull our selves back and everyone including God seems so far away. Absolutely nothing could be further from the truth. Don’t listen to the haters among us or the ones in our own mind, those who mock or scorn, who themselves are just as guilty for we all stand in judgment. Our first step is to open our mouths to confess, knowing that God will hear the sorrow that is true repentance and forgive us. We must open our mouths only to praise and bless God who continually shows us grace and mercy and accept His forgiveness and continue to follow the path you know to be right.

Wrong Place – Wrong Time – Wrong Season

… as they passed by they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. Mark 11:12-26  Just the day before Jesus cursed that fig tree for not having any fruit! But in defense of the fig tree it wasn’t the season  to find fruit on that tree! Jesus was hungry and frustrated and the fig tree was in the wrong place at the wrong time. When his disciples pointed out the withered tree to Jesus, I believe he realized that he had to reign in his own authority because the tree hadn’t done anything wrong and yet suffered (along with those who depended on that fruit when it was in season) as a result of Christ’s authority over it. However, Jesus discourse following his awareness of the withered fig tree encourages us to watch what we say. Our words in Christ have power and authority yet sometimes out of frustration our passion gets in the way. So today if you find yourself to be the fig tree remember to forgive because tomorrow you may need to be forgiven.

First Step: Prayer

“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. Luke 18:9-14 We know the rest of the story, the Pharisee raises himself up before God, and the Tax collector humbles himself. While I was in South Africa I met a man who worked as a prison guard at Robben Island. He shared with us his unhappiness to be a part of an apartheid system but that job was how he fed his family. He tried to do what he could to be fair in his own treatment of the  inmates but he knew it wasn’t enough. Now whenever I read this parable I wonder if that tax collector felt powerless and if he too had a family to feed. We’ve all felt powerless at some point and time yet even in our powerlessness God is evermore willing to receive us in the same way he received that tax collector. He will not withhold his mercy. He will not withhold his love.

Do not, O Lord, withhold
your mercy from me;
let your steadfast love and your faithfulness
keep me safe for ever.
For evils have encompassed me
without number;
my iniquities have overtaken me,
until I cannot see;
they are more than the hairs of my head,
and my heart fails me. 


But may all who seek you
rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who love your salvation
say continually, ‘Great is the Lord!’
As for me, I am poor and needy,
but the Lord takes thought for me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
do not delay, O my God.        
 Psalm 40

Faith Not Judgment

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand… Romans 5:1-11

Who are we to judge someone else’s decision to save their own life or take it? Who are we to decide what other people should sacrifice? Unless you’ve walked in someone else’s shoes one should never judge. Even then forgive yourself – love yourself and move on. It’s what Christ did for us. WWYD

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. Romans 5:1-11