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Saturday, April 20, 2013

Tragedy and Forgiveness

"How do Jesus' words and actions on the cross encourage and challenge my own forgiveness of others?" 
"Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do." Luke 23:34
This has been a very difficult week of tragedy in the United States.  People have hidden in their homes as law enforcement officers search for dangerous criminals.  There have been explosions, gun fire, murders in neighborhoods and in public places. The shocking events we have seen played out on television have been in our own back yards. My heart breaks as I am reminded of the people killed in the OKC bombing and the terrorist attacks in New York on 9/11.  I cry when I remember the children killed in the safety of their classrooms. People have gone crazy and are doing some evil things to others.  These tragedies make me sick.  We cry out for justice and rightly so.  God has appointed law enforcement officers to capture and punish criminals who break our laws.  "Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities.  For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God (Romans 13:1-2)."  I am thankful for these men and women who sacrifice their lives as an authority from God to execute wrath on him who practices evil (Romans 13:4).  Yes, I am thankful justice will be done.
These tragic situations leave us with many heartbroken and hurting families, families who have lost children, spouse, and friends.  Families who must continue to live in a whole new capacity.  Families who are experiencing grief, pain, anger, and hatred toward the individuals who have committed the crimes against children and their families. I wonder how do these people continue forward?  I believe the only hope is to look at the words of Christ upon the cross.
"Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do."
None of us are immune to tragedy.  We lose our jobs.  Our children get sick and die.  We are mocked and make fun of.  We are judged for doing right and we are judged for doing wrong.  We are betrayed by close friends and rejected by others.  We allow our hearts to be vulnerable to love and we hurt deeply when things go a different direction then we hoped.  We are a people living in a fallen world.  How do we survive.  Do we have One who can lift our heads?

When tragedy hits in any form it leaves us in a prison.  It is a prison of emotional and/or physical hurts.  This prison is a cold concrete cell.  We lay naked upon the concrete floor with a broken and hemorrhaging heart.  The enemy stands outside the bars to throw insults and accusations toward us.  We lay and look outside the walls to see others who seem to be doing evil and yet received all the blessings this world has to offer.  We are jealous, angry, self-centered, and hurt. We shake our fists at God and wonder why?  We strike out in our thoughts, words, and actions toward others. Where/who do we turn to when we are in prison? "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do"  This was prayed for you and me as well.

Jesus is to be our example.  Let us look to Him. Jesus was stripped naked.  He was beaten. He was emotional abused.  He was ridiculed.  He was mocked. He was shunned. His possessions were gambled away. He was blasphemed.  People would stop stare at the cross wagging their heads saying, "You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself!  If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross."  Jesus was misunderstood.  Yet, His words to the crowds, to the soldiers, to His abusers, and to us was, "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do." 
Father, forgive them.  Jesus is more than an example to the believer.  He gives us His very life.  We have the Holy Spirit, the comforter, living within us.  We have the same power running through our veins that raised Christ from the dead (Eph. 1:19-20).  We are not left as orphans with a list of rules to obey.  Forgiveness and obedience  is impossible outside of the Holy Spirit. 
I believe our one job as a believer is to believe/trust Christ.  We have two choices as we lay in our prison cell.  We can wallow in our self-pity or we cry out to God through the compassion of Christ.  We are yet hopeless unless God moves in His mercy to allow us to forgive those who have sinned against us.  Forgiveness is the key to opening the prison gate.  Really, forgiveness is the key to demolishing the prison walls.  Forgiveness is the key to hope, peace, and healing in your heart.  We need forgiveness from God and we need to extend that forgiveness to others.
Jesus' actions encourage and challenge me to realize I am really no different than the man planting bombs in Boston.  My sin may look different.  I may have it decorated, perfumed, and tied up in a neat bow but it is still sin. Scripture says:
There is none who does good, no not one.
Romans 3:12
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
Romans 3:23
Friends, think about this.  If the officer who was killed by the evil man did not know Christ in an intimate personal way, if his sins were not forgiven, he is facing the same judgment as the man who killed the children in the marathon race.  As each of us stand before God at the great judgement we will each be condemned not by our actions but by our heart condition.  We will be condemned due to the fact of rejecting Christ or embracing His work upon the cross.  The officer's life, the criminals life, and our life all depends upon our trust and faith upon Christ's work on the cross.  When we realize how evil our own hearts are, when we realize how Christ took our own punishment upon Himself, when we realize we deserve hell the same as the murder of children, we can cry out "Father, forgive me and Father forgive them for they do know know what they do." (Just a side note, Jesus did not need forgivenss.  We do!)
One thing I remind myself daily is to extend the same amount of grace to others that God has extended to me.  This is only possible because the love of Christ flows through my veins.  My heart hurts for the victims of these senseless crimes and my heart aches for the damnation people will face who reject God's Son and provision for sins.  I'll leave you with one passage of Scripture to ponder:
  Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”22 “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!
23 “Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. 24 In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. 25 He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold—along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned—to pay the debt.
26 “But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’ 27 Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt.
28 “But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment.
29 “His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded. 30 But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full.
31 “When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened. 32 Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ 34 Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.
35 “That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.”   Matthew 18:21-25



Wednesday, April 10, 2013

All Knowing God

Because I know Jesus is in charge of every detail of my life I can rest assured that nothing that ever happens to me is by accident.  I can praise the ONE sovereign God as Job praised:

Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
And naked shall I return there.
The LORD gives and the LORD takes away;
Blessed be the name of the LORD
Job 1:20

The preparations of the heart belong to man,
But the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.
Prov. 16:1

My heart may plan my way but the Lord directs my steps (Prov. 16:9). Every detail that happens to me is subject to God’s absolute sovereignty. He is in control of all things.  He rules over all kingdoms of the nations and in His hand is power and might so that no one is able to withstand Him (2 Chron 20:4-6). God gives me eternal life and I shall never perish, neither shall anyone snatch me out of God’s hand (John 10:28).

When I come to believe these truths, I can rest assured that I am safe regardless of the circumstances around me.  I can have peace in the midst of the storm because I know God is walking through the storm with me (Is. 43:1-2)

I can praise knowing that all things will work out for good because I love God and I am called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28).  I know I've been called and created by God for good works before the foundation of the world (Eph. 2:10).  I know I have a living hope through the resurrection of Christ (1Peter 1:3).  I know no matter what happens to me here that this earth is passing away and this is not my home.  I know I have an inheritance waiting for me in heaven (1 Peter 3:1). I know because of this inheritance, incorruptible and undefiled, an inheritance that does not fade away I can greatly rejoice though I have trials and hardships. I am convinced that the genuineness of my faith must be tested and found to praise, honor, and glorify God.  This is not always easy. I don’t believe faith is ever easy. We are a people who do not believe unless we see. We depend on our senses.Faith goes against our senses.  But faith is not something we stir up ourselves. Faith is a gift from God.

You might believe this life is way too hard, and I agree at times it is. But Jesus does not leave you alone. He was tempted and tested just as you are. He comes beside you to comfort you (2 Cor 1:4). Think of the passage regarding the man with an ill child. Jesus said all things are possible if you believe. The man replied, “I believe. Help my unbelief.” I believe the most God-honoring faith is when we come to God in honesty and humility sharing with Him exactly how we feel. It's okay that our faith wavers just as long as we come back to Him to strengthen and encourage us. He pours out His grace upon us.

My soul melts from heaviness;
Strengthen me according to Your word.
Ps. 119:28

Unless Your law had been my delight,
I would then have perished in my afflictions.

God is a God of love. I can be sure of His love as I look to the cross. At one time I was an enemy of God. I was fulfilling my own desires.  I was walking in my own truth and using God as a magical genie in the sky. I was the one in charge and He was to perform for me whenever I called upon Him. And yet in the middle of my rebellion He laid down His life for me. He endured the agony of the cross. He took upon Himself God’s wrath that was meant for me. I deserve death and I get life.  Jesus walked this earth and was tempted and tested in every way that I am tempted and tested. He understands my struggles and fears. If He loved me so to endure the wrath of God and the agony of the cross, why would He leave me now?

People, we must understand the great love of God. We must trust His love.

You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You,
Because He trusts in You.
Isaiah 26:3

*This post is the answer to a challenge. Yesterday, Aaron Matthews (A Disciple's Guide To Common Sense) and I decided to write a blog based on a single question (How does the knowledge that Jesus is in charge of the details of your life encourage you today?). This question comes from Mike McKinley's incredible book "Passion: How Christ's Final Day Changes Your Every Day". We had one day to complete it. I would encourage you to read Aaron's blog as well.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

A Good Question!

Will you follow me?
             Even if it hurts?                                                                     
                   Even if it is uncomfortable?
                         Even if you have to start all over?
                               Even if you go alone?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


In the deep heart of the man was a shrine where none but God was worthy to come.  Within him was God; without, a thousand gifts which God had showered upon him. We have taken His blessings and made them idols of my heart.  For God's gifts have taken the place of God.  "The Pursuit of God" A.W. Tozer
One thing we lack is to set still before the Lord in His presence attempting to ask for nothing of His hand.  It is a great pleasure to learn to enjoy Him and not always be seeking Him for a need to be met.  Enroll in the school of intimacy with the Lord. 

The way to deeper knowledge of God is through the lonely valleys of soul poverty and abnegation of all things. Take your biggest concern, confess it before the Lord, allowing Him to search your heart of any concern that has taken the rightful place of His Lordship. Beg God to remove it from your heart and allow Him to reign in power there.
The most amazing thing is we don't have to make it go away.  All we do is confess and sit at His feet.  I don't understand but GRACE is amazing, don't you think!

Monday, April 1, 2013


I waited three long years for God to answer a specific prayer.  He is faithful. He not only answered my prayer, but He taught me many things during my wait. 

In my wait, He brought me to a place of absolute desperation.  I falsely believed my greatest need was for Him to answer my request - to give me what I thought I wanted/needed and I was desperate for Him to do that. I wanted a rescue.  I wanted a quick fix to my pain. This is the place many of you find yourself today.  You have a need and you are asking God to provide for this need.  I'm thankful you are going to Him for an answer. He is faithful and He desires to hear from His children.  But I wonder what blessing we miss when we are asking for a rescue or a quick fix to our problem.  God uses the situations we find ourselves in to perfect us.  He is working to make us in the image of Christ.  This happens many times through the struggles and trials we find ourselves in. 

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.  But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. James 1:2-4

God did bring me to a place of absolute desperation.  In my struggle of wrestling with God in prayer, I learned my greatest need was not my prayer being answered but for the very presence of God to invade my life.  I had become so accustomed to asking to be rescued from my problem that I failed to recognize my greatest need was the manifest presence of Jesus Christ Himself.  My greatest need was to let the King of the Universe quiet my trembling heart.  My need was to rest in His sovereignty and goodness.  My need was to come to understand He is in control of my situation and loves me dearly. 

  Healing will come when the presence of God invades our life. God will bring us to a place where we are emotionally okay even if He continues to tarry in His answer of our original prayer. He will bring you to a place where the waiting is sweet and His presence is enough.  Listed are some verses of promises to cling to as we wait.

Wait on the LORD;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the LORD.
Psalm 27:14

I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
and in His word I do hope.
My soul waits for the Lord
more than those who watch for the morning-
Yes, more than those who watch for the morning.
Psalm 130:5-6

Through the LORD'S mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassion's fail not. 
They are new every morning,
Great is Your faithfulness.
The LORD is my portion, says my soul,
Therefore I hope in Him!
The Lord is good to those who
wait for Him,
To the soul who seeks Him. 
It is good that on should hope and wait quietly
For the salvation of the LORD.
Lamentations 3:22-27

Guess what when He does answer our is so much more than we could even imagine.

Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.
1 Corinthians 2:9