Friday, April 20, 2012

70 Times 7 Times

Recently, to justify my unforgiving spirit, I reasoned the following:

"What was done to me was hurtful."

"It has happened repeatedly. It's becoming a cycle."

"I won't forgive you any more just because you say a simple, 'I'm sorry.'"

"I need more than that."

I even thought of the "preacher story" of the lying post. Everytime the child told a lie, the dad drove a nail into a fencepost out back of the house. When he asked forgiveness Dad pulled a nail. But the wound, the hole remained. Forgiveness doesn't fix everything.

Then my hardness of heart is exposed by the Holy Spirit whispering the words of the Lord to Peter, "70 times 7 times..." He leads me to the truth of my part in this frustrating cycle. Matthew records Peter asking Jesus how many times he must forgive someone who wrongs him. Jesus replies 70 times 7 times. Luke records Jesus saying if a person sins against us 7 times in one day and turns to us asking forgiveness, we are to forgive them each time.

I don't get to keep a tally sheet. I don't get to assess sincerity. I don't get to set a timer or deadline. I don't get to ask for more than that.

The sameness of the offence, the mutliple times, frequency of repeated hurt does not alter my requirement to forgive. To with hold forgiveness is not an option. The simple, "sorry..." is enough.

I do need more, however. More grace, more mercy, more of God's life in me. The One who calls me to be this forgiving, to live without lists, to function free of grudges is the One who has forgiven so much more in me, zeroes out my account and allows me to live free. So I ask Him to forgive my unforgiveness and as He does, grace and forgiveness flow through me and it washes away that small thing I was trying to hold over someone else. He extracted no price, He paid it for me.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Raised With Christ

He is risen! He is risen, indeed!

So begins the season of resurrection. Jesus died. Jesus is alive again.

Paul says Jesus died for our sins and was raised for our justification. Sin, the deadly infection permiating and poisoning every aspect of our being and behavior was destroyed on the cross. Sin itself, not sinners -- individually or collectively -- was condemned in Jesus body. The power of sin was broken. We are free to live.

The resurrection justifies us. It is "just-as-if-I'd" never sinned. The record is cleared.I can now walk in newness of life. I can be fresh.

Paul further says that at our baptism we are united with Jesus in His death and resurrection. This Resurrection Sunday, I was privileged to preach then practice this truth. Four young people from Faith Community Church entered a watery grave with Jesus and rose to new life in Him.

Hallelujah! He lives and we live in Him!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Lord, Throughout These Forty Days...39

Last day of Lent. The journey ends. Jesus exits the wilderness.

Luke 4 records that Jesus then returned to His hometown of Nazareth and delares, " prophet is accepted in his hometown." He then looks at some examples from the life of Elijah, the oft connected one. Many Israeli widows lived in destitution during Elijah's ministry, but Elijah was sent [by God] to the Sidonite widow at Zarephath. There were many unhealed lepers in Israel during this same time, but only Naaman a Syrian was cleansed.

His hometown people become so furious they try to throw Him off a cliff.

As I leave the wilderness and Lent behind, I must realize this spiritually intense time, like all time, must come to an end. What God has affirmed during these days will be directly attacked by the enemy most likely through those close to me. Father-God declared Him accepted, but the hometown crowd rejected Him. Father-God declared Him well-pleasing, those in  hometown crowd are unpleased to the point of anger. Father-God declares Him beloved, the hometown crowd questions His paternity.

God leads us into these places in order to buttress us for the coming challenge. God leads us out of these places in order to do His work in His world. Without the preparation, we implode. Unless we act, the preparation implodes.We must be people of withdrawal and advance, people of contemplation and activity.

Why only one widow ministered to? God's leading. Why only one leper cleansed? God's plan. Outsiders become insiders by the sheer mercy of God. We cannot claim it, only receive it. And the wilderness teaches us to wait.

Finally, this moment in the synagogue of Nazareth teaches that Jesus in the power of the Spirit carries out the Word of the Father and the outsiders can come in.