Sunday, January 19, 2014


For You, Lord, are good and ready to forgive,
And abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon You.

Psalm 86:5

Forgiveness is a big topic in counseling.  Dave has often said, there are no enduring relationships without forgiveness and I've seen that first hand.  And within the counseling setting, one common question is this: Do I have to forgive if they never ask forgiveness?

That's a tricky question to answer but I think our verse this weeks helps answer it.   But before we tackle the specifics, let's lay down our guidelines for forgiveness.  

Forgiveness is a three part contract that begins with the statement, "Will you forgive me?"  These might just be the four hardest words in the English language to say when strung together in this order.  We'd rather say, "I'm sorry," or "I apologize," but when we say those things, we are not necessarily taking ownership.  "I'm sorry" tells me how you feel.  That doesn't mean much to me when you're the one who's hurt me.  "I apologize" is a legal term - an apology is a defense.  So when you say, "I apologize, I had a bad day," then I will say, "Then thank you for telling me why you were so rude with me."  

Okay, maybe I won't say that but those two attempts to restore a broken relationship just don't fit the bill.  The only acceptable way to seek forgiveness is to specifically ask for it, without excuses and without saying how bad you feel.  When you say, "Will you forgive me?" you are laying yourself at the mercy of the offender, knowing you cannot undo what you have done and placing the burden of restoration on the will of the offended.

Okay, now for forgiveness.  When I respond "Yes," to "Will you forgive me?". then I am entering into a three part contract with that person:
  1. I will no longer hold the offense against the offender (the slate is wiped clean)
  2. I will not talk with others about the offense
  3. I will not talk to myself about the offense
This is the only way to truly extend forgiveness.  Now, I have expounded on this before, so I am going to move on to the next question - Do I have to forgive when the offender hasn't asked forgiveness?  Well, what does our verse today say?  Does it say, ? You, oh Lord, have already forgiven those who call upon You"?  Or does it say, "You, oh Lord, are ready to forgive those who call upon You"?

It says the latter, so here's my take on forgiveness.  Jesus is ready to forgive at all times, but until there is confession, there is a break in my relationship with Him.  But when I do finally come around, He doesn't need to see the fruits of repentance, He doesn't need to make me pay a bit longer and He doesn't need time to process the request.  He is abundant in lovingkindness and ready to forgive immediately.  So while the restoration of a relationship will be completed upon repentance, it is my responsibility to live with the spirit of forgiveness, rather than bitterness, so that when that moment comes, I am prepared to imitate my Savior and forgive immediately.

Some sin is minor enough to let love cover.  Other sins need confrontation. In all things, we are called to be ready to forgive which means that we have to practically be exercising that contract so that a root of bitterness doesn't spring up in our hearts...

Remember, he who has been forgiven much, loves, what do YOU think?  How would you answer that question?

Monday, January 13, 2014

More Comfort

In this verse, we're given the what, as well as the why.

The What:  Be strong and courageous

The Why:  Because you're not alone

In the same manner that our last verse had the promise of God's continual presence, this verse is another security blanket for life.  But let's not minimize the power of this command - let's set up the context.

God, through Moses, has called His chosen people out of Egypt and led them into the wilderness where He has given them His law.  They are no longer a family or a people group. They are a nation.  Millions of them.  So God gives them His laws to organize them as a nation, to govern their worship and direct them into a new life - leading them to the land He had promised them.  

But their lack of trust and rebellious hearts delayed this plan and after forty years of wandering in the wilderness, their leader has died (as well as the complainers) and a new leader is tasked with taking the people out of the wilderness and into the promised land.  But the land is filled with squatters who will need to be dismissed, either willingly or by force, and the new leader, Joshua, has a daunting task ahead of him.

The people are energized and ready to get home. Joshua stands before God as a man who courageously stood against the rebellious tide some forty years earlier and now was going to lead them into dangerous yet promised territory.  He is leading a military campaign and the invader is always at the disadvantage.  But He has God with him and God's presence is what will bring the victory.

God tells him to be strong and courageous - do not tremble or be dismayed, because I am with you.  

That was all Joshua needed.  He would go nowhere that God was not leading.  In obedience, he was prepared to follow, and the strength and courage he needed was provided by the presence of the One who was truly in command.

So what has God called you to do today that you need strength and courage?  Are any of you conquering angry, pagan nations?  I highly doubt that, but sometimes the task before us seems just as daunting.  Some of you are under the same roof with angry, pagan spouses or children.  Sounds harsh, but it's true.  Some of you face hardships in employment or in relationships.  Some of you feel the heat of persecution because of your relationship with God - do the other students mock you when you say God created?  Or when you declare you're a virgin?  Or when you refuse to watch the links they send you?  Sometimes just choosing to forgive can be daunting - choosing to extend grace where the hurt has been great and continues to cause pain. 

Here's the truth - God's instructions to godly living are less about pain-reduction and more about holiness-production.  He is sanctifying us through His instruction because He wants to conform us into the image of His Son. God has so much more for us than a pain-free life.  But obedience often times takes strength and courage and in the midst of the battle, in the midst of the storm, in the changing currents of everyday life He has promised to be with us.  

What more do we need?

So today, be strong and courageous in your obedience to the Lord - He is with you wherever you go.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Instruction, Theology and a Promise

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I commanded you;
and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

Matthew 28:19-20

This is a great passage to start the year out with - it's got instruction, theology and a promise all neatly wrapped up in two verses. Matthew closes his account of Jesus' life with these final words and they are not an afterthought or a post script, but a gift of direction and power for the believer.  So let's dissect these verses for a few minutes:

INSTRUCTION - Go, Make, Baptize, Teach

Go - get out there, leave your comfort zone, be active not passive. You have a message and it needs to be heard, so get going!  There is urgency in this word - is "urgency" a word that describes your life?  We are ambassadors of Christ (II Cor. 5:20) as well as imitators of Christ (Eph. 5:1) and there's a big, dying world who needs the remedy we hold.  That word "therefore" basically means this - Jesus is saying because of everything I have done - my life, death and resurrection - because of this, you need to respond by "going." The gospel always produces a response - either rejection or action.  So what are you going to do?

Make - discipleship is the consequence of salvation, your discipleship by Christ and the discipleship of others by you.  Who are you following, Satan or Jesus?  If you are a follower of Jesus, then your life is a pursuit of Him - run after Him, chase after Him and those around you will get a picture of what a Christ-follower looks like.  The call to make disciples is the call to spread the gospel of Jesus - show the world that Jesus is alive and well!  But this call to "make" is another active word - it takes work, effort, strategy, pursuit - urgency.

Baptize - identify with and immerse.  Yes, the church is in the business of baptizing and baptism is an act of obedience by believers. But there is another calling here - baptism is not just getting in the tank but it is the act of identifying with something and the complete immersion with that something - so identifying with God and immersing yourself in Him.  We are called to not only give the gospel to the lost but to be a part of that immersion process - in the tank and in life in general.  Marinate on that for while...(this is a blog and I don't have enough space to explain that one)

Teach - instruct, example, study and pass along - live it out.  Teaching those around us to observe the commandments of Christ implies we know them, are living them out and then teaching others.  You can't teach what you don't know. You can't lead where you haven't gone. You can't give what you don't possess.  Again, this is an active command from Christ - it will take effort and it will cost something.

THEOLOGY - the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit

There it is.

If you've ever looked for the Trinity in scripture, it's right here.  God is One - He is One in Three.  Three persons, One God. Notice it doesn't say the "names" of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit but "name" - singular, one.   In these two verses, Jesus instructs that we are to point the world to the truth that there is only one option for life and that option is found in the Holy Trinity.  God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit - One God in Three Persons.  There's a bit of theology to chew on...

In baptizing the nations in the Trinity, we are called to identify with and immerse ourselves in the truth of the Godhead.  We do not serve three gods, but One - this is a really hard theological truth but it is truth nonetheless.  No One Person of the Godhead is less than Another, and therefore None should be ignored, underemphasized or minimized.  So how are you at understanding the Person and Work of each One in the Trinity?  Confused yet?  Or do you have some study to do?

PROMISE - I am with you ALWAYS

This is the best news EVER!  Here's my thought process:

  • God is not a liar
  • He is a God of covenants
  • When He makes a promise He will keep it
  • If He says He will be with us ALWAYS - He's allowed to use 100% words because He means it
  • So guess what?  I am NEVER alone because He is ALWAYS with me
In ladies study next week, we are going to see that the promise of God's presence is the best promise to get from God.  If He is with us and will never leave us, then what do we have to fear?  Do you battle loneliness?  Cling to the promise!  Are you in a storm? Cling to the promise!  Do you feel abandoned, lost, confused or depressed? Cling to the promise!  Do you feel that God is far away? Cling to the promise - stop living by your feelings and KNOW THE TRUTH!  

The promise of Jesus' presence in our lives is not priceless, by the way.  His presence was pricey - the highest price ever was paid so that He could be with us ALWAYS.  

Doesn't this fact change your life?

Lots of truth in two verses - things to do, things to believe, promises to cling to - May the Word of God dwell richly in you this year and may you grow in your faith as you cling to His promises!

Happy New Year!