This is My Crowd

This is My Crowd
Picture by: Photography by Vicky Campos

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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Flip Side of Forgiveness

Forgiveness.  It's a pretty big topic in the Bible; one of the top 3.  I don't actually know that it's in the top 3, it just sounded right to me.  Other than Love and maybe Holiness, I'm not sure what other topics can top it.  One might argue that Love, Forgiveness and Holiness are intertwined.  I might be inclined to agree.  But, today's topic is Forgiveness.

Here's what Jesus had to say about it in Matthew 6:

"If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you.  But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive you." (NLT)

All I can say is OUCH!!  My forgiveness from God is dependent upon my forgiveness of others.  But, that's confusing because in 1 John 1:9 it says: "But if we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness." (NLT)  That seems more like it right?  I mean, this doesn't say anything about forgiving others.  

Until today, I hadn't given much consideration to these 2 verses and what their coexistence might mean.  I just figured that God simply refused to forgive people that were unforgiving.  Seemed fair to me.  Eye for an eye and all.  But, 1 John 1:9 does give me pause.

Let's go to Luke 7.  In this chapter, much like all the other chapters in the Gospels, Jesus says some mind-blowing stuff, the religious leaders are ticked, people are healed (brought back from the dead in this case), people love Him, people hate Him, more mind-blowing stuff and then chapter 8 starts.

Verse 30 reads: "But the Pharisees and experts in religious law rejected God's plan for them, for they had refused John's baptism."  You could read this and think that's a bit over the top, I mean, the hows and whys and whos of baptism are argued to this very day.  But I would submit to you that when Jesus said John's Baptism, He was referring to the process of repentance and, ultimately, God's forgiveness.  John, who was known for his diet and fashion even before it was cool, spent a lot of time challenging people to "Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near." (Matthew 3:2).  If people chose to repent, he would baptize them in the Jordan River and sins would be forgiven.

So, let's assume that the issue with the Pharisees was that they outright rejected the idea that they were sinful and needed forgiving.  They rejected the idea of repentance, John's Baptism.  

Later in Luke 7:36-50, Jesus has His feet anointed with tears and expensive perfume by a "certain immoral woman".  The religious leaders were, once again, ticked. "Don't they know who is touching Him?" They asked.

Jesus' response?  In addition to some other scathing reviews of their hospitality, Jesus says "I tell you, her sins - and they are many- have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love.  But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love."  Theologically, this is a weird statement to make.  Didn't Jesus know that sin is sin?  That all sin is equal and our righteousness like filthy rags?  You'd think He would know that.  

But, then I thought about how the religious leaders had rejected repentance.  How, in that moment, they had only been forgiven of what they set to sacrifice at the temple.  They stood in the presence of One that had the power to forgive all, yet they chose self-righteousness.  

What does this have to do with God's refusal to forgive unforgiving people, you may ask.  This is what hit me today.  Now, please note that I am no scholar.  I have no formal training, so a better learned individual may be able to pick apart my submission fairly quickly, and yet.  

And yet, I really believe that God cannot forgive us in our unforgiveness because, perhaps, in our unforgiveness we are not truly repentant.  Unforgiveness may be the best indicator of an unrepentant heart.  

Look at King David, he was declared to be a man after God's own heart.  Yet he was a man whose life was rife with sin.  I mean he covered 40% of the Big Ten in one fell swoop.

But he was repentant.

"Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love.  Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins.  Wash me clean from my guilt.  Purify me from my sin.  For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night.  Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight.  You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgment against me is just." (Psalm 521-4 NLT)

In an utterly honest moment like that, it would be impossible not to be overwhelmed with love for your God and mercy for those around you.  David had both a repentant and forgiving heart and it showed in his dealings with Saul and Absalom.  

God's position on the matter of forgiveness is pretty strong, but perhaps not because He would choose not to forgive, but rather that we would choose not to repent.  True repentance produces overwhelming love, mercy and forgiveness.  

"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life." (Psalm 139:23-24 NLT)

God's Heart is found on a cross.  The picture of absolute forgiveness fully dependent on absolute repentance.  Let's be people after His heart.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Sweep the Leg

I've been going through some stuff lately.  Though lately seems to be a relative term, since lately may actually be my entire adult life and much of my adolescence.  I can only assume that many people, I'm betting all, have been going through some stuff, so don't think for a moment I believe I'm special.  Life is stuff. (Oh, my gosh, I so want to make a Princess Bride reference here...)

That being said, I feel like I've been going through some particular issues lately, so much that I've had to call in the big guns, a Pastor.  We've met a hand full of times and between discussing life with her and living life, I've become aware of a pretty prevalent issue, like in the last week or so.  I don't want to take this to a hyper-spiritual place, so I won't go into detail, but in discovering this issue, she reassured me by reminding me that the "enemy only attacks when your headed in the right direction."  I've heard this before.  I've spoken it to others.  It's part of the standard rules of engagement.  I KNOW this.  But, somehow, I'd forgotten it as of late; feeling downtrodden and exhausted and, to be honest, a bit detoured.  Only just realizing that it was an attack at all.  I am thankful for ready wisdom.  

So, today was pretty tough, emotionally and spiritually for me.  God's been uncovering undressed wounds, that were all but forgotten.  Today was pretty intense, which is weird since it was pretty much a normal day.  

After I was able to get some perspective on my day, AKA "hanging out with my husband and kids", I began to stir that knowledge up in me, "I'm headed in the right direction!"  Then I felt like there was something else God added to my handbook.  Yes, the attacks confirm our route, but the tactic also shows us our weaknesses and wounds.  

As a child of the 80's my best illustration is from The Karate Kid.

You see, the enemy is many things, but he is not very sportsmanlike.  He does not play fair.  He finds a wound or a weakness and heads straight to it.  In fact, it may be a wound you are not even aware is buried deep inside of you.  Like me, you may find yourself under attack in a wounded area and be utterly baffled; wondering what the heck is happening.  But here's the good news, we serve a God that came to heal us, to be our strength in weakness.  He already has a plan to use the enemy's attacks to better position us for what He's doing.  We just have to recognize what's happening.  

So, here are my 3 official points:

1. The enemy only attacks when there are spoils.  He will do his very best to keep you from God's great plan and purpose in your life.  Under attack?  Great!  That's like the enemy declaring that your getting closer. 

2. The enemy is not creative (on so many levels), so he'll go after an injury or weakness.  Instead of cowering to avoid further pain, get up and ask God to show you the true issue and then allow Him to treat you.  Once you've strengthened that area, it won't be so much fun to attack.

3. Know that even in this, God is flipping the script and using this for your good and His glory.  He's allowing the enemy to clue you in on an issue that you've desperately needed addressed.  God has declared that you win!  So, whatever you do, don't throw in the towel.  

"9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions,in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 NIV