Monthly Archives: July 2015

Grace and Forgiveness part 2…

forgiveness

We’ve all asked this question at one time or another. “How many times do I have to forgive this guy? I’m getting tired of it. Why does he keep hurting me like he does?” Peter may have been thinking of a time when somebody wronged him and he had extended forgiveness. But, this same person did something to hurt him the next day. Again, Peter forgave him. A couple days later, his friend lied to him. This time, Peter reluctantly forgave him but now he’s ticked off. Peter wanted Jesus to help him set some forgiveness limits. Peter wanted to know when it’s OK to say, “That’s it. You’ve messed up one too many times!”

I wonder if Peter here is thinking of something his literal brother Andrew did. Maybe Andy didn’t put the fishing nets away, or maybe he was always borrowing Peter’s Old Navy jacket, or maybe he borrowed some shekels for some Chalupa’s at Taco Bell and never paid Peter back.

Whatever the case, before Jesus could answer, Peter responded to his own question by suggesting that seven times would be a good limit. That’s not a bad answer. The rabbis back then taught that you had to forgive someone three times and then you could retaliate. The fourth time you could do whatever you liked. In fact, they mistakenly taught that God only forgives three times. Peter doubled that and added one for good measure. I think he thought his answer would impress Jesus.

To be honest, forgiving someone seven times is commendable. Most of us get frustrated if we have to forgive someone twice. By human standards, what Peter said was admirable and perhaps even extravagant. But Peter wanted a number, a limit, a place where he could finally say, “That’s it — you’re not getting away with this any longer. Our friendship is now over.” As Jesus often does, his answer to Peter was unexpected and disarming. Take a look at verse 22: “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven times.”

The crash you hear is Peter hitting the ground in a dead faint. He couldn’t believe his ears! Seventy times seven? He got out his pocket calculator [BRING CALCULATOR] and punched in the numbers. That’s 490 times!

Grace and Forgiveness go together…

Forgiveness_wordle

Relational viruses attack every friendship.  Tensions arise. Wrongs are done.  Lies are told.  Trust is broken.  Since we’re imperfect people, we’re bound to have trouble with forgiveness.  I’m convinced that relationships are built not on a standard of perfection, but on our ability to ask for forgiveness, and upon our willingness to extend forgiveness.  In other words, grace must impact both our friendships and our forgiveness. If you and I want to have relationships that last for the long haul, then we must be willing to extend forgiveness to others.  Here’s another way to say it: In every relationship you have, you will constantly be called on to forgive and to ask for forgiveness.  Forgiveness is costly — it’s not easy to ask for forgiveness and it’s certainly not easy to extend forgiveness to those who’ve wronged us.

 “An offended friend is harder to win back than a fortified city. Arguments separate friends like a gate locked with bars.”  Proverbs 18:19

Here are two problems as to why we struggle with forgiveness: Forgiveness is not natural.  That’s why it’s so hard to do.  Forgiveness is not fair.  Our sense of justice wants to be vindicated.

Of all the people in the Bible, Peter stands out as the most mathematical of the disciples.  He was a stickler for detail, always trying to pin down the precise meaning of everything Jesus said.  Do you remember when Jesus engineered a miraculous catch of fish?  It was Peter who sat down and counted each squirming one to find out that they caught 153.  If you were to take your Bible and count the number of times that Peter messed up, you’d discover that he needed forgiveness on at least 7 different occasions.  Being a numbers-guy, one day Peter came up to Jesus and asked him a question:

 “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?Matthew 18:21

I find his question a bit amusing.  Here’s Peter, the one who needed personal forgiveness on at least 7 different occasions himself, being concerned with how many times he had to forgive someone else.  He was trying to discover a mathematical formula for grace. When you think about it, we all have some barriers that keep us from giving the gift of forgiveness to others. We have a threshold that we don’t want to cross, a limit we won’t go beyond.

When to Lead and When to Follow….

There are times, that Rachelle and I have found ourselves in some tough spots.  Sometimes being in ministry places us in situations, that while we are capable of leading, we would prefer to follow.  Over the last 13 years in full-time ministry, we have seen and experienced some of the happiest times of our lives together, sitting at the helm of leadership.  We have experienced joy unspeakable, watching our children grow up, with parents actively involved in the church, and we have had to make some tough choices in child rearing, as to our children’s involvement in the things in our church when all their friends attend elsewhere.

While there has been joy, there has also been pain.  Sometimes unimaginable pain.  While we have laughed some, we have also cried some too!  We have mourned with friends and strangers, stood beside countless hospital beds and caskets, been with some when life comes into the world, and been with others as they leave it.   It doesn’t seem to get any easier either!  It is often times, the hardest to help others see the bigger picture, when you find yourselves stuck, between doing the right thing, and doing the easy thing!

Being a ministry family, is often very lonely.  Most people don’t realize, the hours spent away from family, the endless weekends that keep us at home, unable to do the simple things such as taking the kids camping or to a zoo.  Even worse for those of us, blessed to be serving in a small church, where another full-time job is required just to make ends meet.  By the time, I get past the work week, with Sunday, Tuesday, Thursdays already gone, and work nights again on Friday nights, we only have Saturday to attempt anything remotely resembling family time!  And that is almost always, prearranged because of all the work here on the farm that went undone during the week.

I Know!  I am having a bit of a pity party, and I have to remind myself of Philippians 4:13,

“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength”!

But we are tired!  We are burned out!  We are disappointed!  We spent the better part of the evening in tears, with what should have been a great new beginning, but as it seems, may be an ending instead, and because this new circumstance involves those closest to us, we feel our only recourse is to let God do what He wants to do with it, after all He is in control!

 

 

The second best gift God gave you is choice….

The greatest gift that God has given you is salvation by Jesus Christ.  He came and died on the cross so your sins could be forgiven.  You need to accept that gift.  The second greatest gift you were given in life is the freedom to choose.  That’s why keeps you separate from an animal.  You’re not an animal.  Animals do not have the freedom to make moral choices.  They don’t.  Why?  Because they’re not made in God’s image.  Animals live by instincts.  Instincts are things you have to do because it’s your instinct to do it whether you choose to do it or not.  Human beings are made in God’s image so we have the ability to make choices, moral choices and value choices and time choices in all these things.

That’s an incredible gift.

Job 34 says“We can choose the sounds we want to listen to [on our Ipods] and we can choose the taste we want in food [thank God for that one!]  and we should choose to follow what is right.  But first of all we must define what is good.”

I can do all things….

Philippians 4:13 says this “There is nothing I cannot master with the help of Christ who gives me strength.”

 That’s a pretty amazing statement in the Bible.  There is nothing I cannot master.  You’re either going to be mastered by the clock or you’re going to master it.  There’s nothing I cannot master with the help of Christ who gives me strength.

Do you really believe that?  We’re not talking here, folks, about positive thinking.  We’re not talking about buck it up and pull yourself up by your own bootstraps and self-help psychology – I think I can, I think I can, I think I can!  No, that’s not it.  You need more than positive thinking.  You need supernatural help to manage your schedule, to manage your clock, to manage your calendar.  God says I can do it.  I can master it.  I can manage it with the help of Christ who gives me strength.

What’s He talking about here?  He’s saying I have to believe that God will help me.  Faith is a factor in how you manage your life.  It’s a matter of faith.  Jesus said, “According to your faith [that means how much you believe] it will be done unto you.”