Sunday, March 30, 2014

What Is Forgiveness?

“Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” (Colossians 3:13)

In praying the fifth petition of “The Lord’s Prayer” about forgiveness, it is helpful to remember both what forgiveness IS and IS NOT.  In her book Companions in Christ: The Way of Forgiveness, Marjorie J. Thompson first describes several things it is NOT:

1) It is not condoning or excusing sin or wrongdoing.  We can forgive a person even when their sin/wrongdoing remains condemned (Examples in John 8:1-11; John 4:1-30; Luke 23:40-43).

2) It does not negate consequences.  Consequences still remain, even while the person is forgiven (Example in 2 Samuel 12)

3) It does not necessarily mean “forgetting” the wrongdoing. Even while forgiving the offending parties, sometimes we need to remember the wrongdoing in order to avoid repeating it (Example: the Holocaust).

4) It is not the same thing as Reconciliation. Forgiveness can be granted by us, but reconciliation requires repentance and often restitution by the other for true reconciliation to begin to happen (Example in Luke 15).

5) It does not mean denying our hurt.  On the contrary, forgiveness can only happen when we acknowledge our pain and hurt.

6) It is not simply a feeling we manipulate ourselves (or others) into feeling, nor is it achieved through melodramatic behaviors that give the appearance of forgiveness but are not anchored in reality.

7) It does not mean ”putting someone on probation" – that is not true forgiveness.

[--Marjorie J. Thompson, Companions in Christ: The Way of Forgiveness (Nashville: Upper Room Books, 2012), pp. 59-61]
Instead, forgiveness is simply our conscious choice to choose to release one who we feel has hurt us from the sentence of our judgment. 

Thompson says ”Forgiveness is taking responsibility from MY side to release the offender from the alienating effect of the offense on our relationship"  (p. 61), or as I’ve heard it said, “ME giving up MY right to hurt YOU when YOU have hurt ME.” (Read Colossians 3:13). 

So, who do you need to forgive today?  Remember that God loves (and forgives) you and I do too!

Sunday, March 16, 2014


“To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God…” (Mark 4:11)

As we continue our series The Prayer of Jesus, we’re reminded this week of importance and priority that God’s kingdom needs to take in our lives. I’m reminded of a song by Christian musician Michael Card that speaks of the paradoxical nature of that kingdom…

“So near and yet still so far, far away
So close, and yet still to come
Concealed, the seed is mysteriously growing
In hearts that will listen and hear
A treasure that's hidden, a pearl of great price
A fortune for fools who believe


A kingdom of beauty, a kingdom of love
A kingdom of justice of justice and peace
A kingdom that holds all the wilds of creation
A kingdom where children will lead

For now this kingdom's a land of the lowly
A place for the tired, plundered poor
Now our gentle King comes in peace on a donkey
But then on a charger for war
A battle in heaven, a war on the earth
To shatter the long darkened siege


Not by our own strength
And not by power of might
But by His Spirit it comes
Blinded eyes will see
And deafened ears will hear
The praise from the lips of the dumb”


[--Michael Card, “The Kingdom”, from his album The Word: Recapturing The Imagination (1992)]

May the mystery and beauty of the kingdom of God grow more and more within each of us as we seek to follow him!  Remember, God loves you and I do, too!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

All About Me???

"Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the
interests of others." (Philippians 2:3-4)

Part of our new series on “The Lord’s Prayer” challenges each of us to consider how much our lives as Christians are often wrapped up (even unintentionally) in the self-centeredness of our society and culture.  As part of this, I want to share several additional observations: the first from The Lord’s Prayer itself; the next two from readings that challenged me in my own thinking.

You cannot say The Lord’s Prayer and even once say “I”
You cannot pray The Lord’s Prayer and even once say “my”
Nor can you  pray The Lord’s Prayer and not pray for another
For when you ask for daily  bread, you must include each other
For others are included in each and every plea
From beginning to the end of it, it does not once say “me”!
            [-From a 1984 Fayetteville First UMC (GA) newsletter]

The fastest growing religion in the world is not Islam or Christianity… but radical consumerism.  It promises transcendence, power, pleasure, and fulfillment even as it demands complete devotion.… American Christians have incorporated their devotion to consumerism with their Christian faith.  Yet every step we make towards [it] is one step farther off the path of Jesus the Liberating King.”
[-From Advent Conspiracy by Rick McKinley and others, pp. 21-22]

“The greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison but apple pie. It is not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetite for heaven, but endless nibbling at the table of the world. It is not the X-rated video, but the prime-time dribble of triviality we drink in every night… For when these replace an appetite for God Himself, the idolatry is scarcely recognizable, and almost incurable.”
            [-From A Hunger for God: Desiring God through Fasting and Prayer by John Piper, p. 11]

Wow!  Strong words that cut right to our heart -- or more precisely, right to our behaviors and practices!  Still, it’s the call we’re asked to follow.  So, may God give us the courage, power, and boldness to seek this kind of true freedom in his Holy Spirit in each of our lives!  Remember that God loves you and I do, too!

Sunday, March 2, 2014


“Blow the trumpet in Zion; sanctify a fast; call an assembly” (Joel 2:15)

Several years ago, Dr. Kevin LaGree, former Dean of the Candler School of Theology at Emory University, once shared a message about the spiritual disciplines of the Christian season of Lent (the 40 days before Easter), which we begin this coming week.  

Most of us are familiar with the custom of “fasting” (e.g., giving up) certain things during this period, especially certain types of food.  But Dr. LaGree also pointed out that the taking on of certain spiritual things is just as vital as the things that we “give up.”

During that message, he said, “Lent is a time to FAST from certain things and FEAST on others.  For example, during Lent, we should….

FAST from judging others; FEAST on Christ dwelling in them.

FAST from discontent; FEAST on gratitude.

FAST from complaining; FEAST on appreciation.        

FAST from bitterness; FEAST on forgiveness.

FAST from discouragement; FEAST on hope.

FAST from apathy; FEAST on enthusiasm.

FAST from suspicion; FEAST on truth.

FAST from thoughts that weaken; FEAST on promises that inspire.

FAST from idle gossip; FEAST on purposeful silence.

FAST from problems that overwhelm; FEAST on prayer that sustains.”

LENT is indeed a time for both fasting and feasting.  My prayer is that in the weeks and days of this season before Easter, each of us will take time to look deep within our lives to discover those things from which we need to FAST (give up), and then to FEAST (take on) every good thing that can draw us closer to God’s presence, plan, and purpose.  Remember, He loves you and I do, too!