Repentance and Forgiveness

God offers to both forgive and forget our sins so we may be restored to a right relationship with Him. This offer comes as a free gift because He loves us, not because we have earned it.

Before we can take advantage of this gift we must have an attitude of repentance toward our sins. We play no role in the offer of forgiveness, but we must do our part in the application of it to our individual lives.

We cannot repent of our sins unless we are aware of them. Therefore, when the Holy Spirit creates such an awareness within us and shows us our need of repentance He is not trying to crush us under a load of guilt. He is trying to help us reach a position where we can receive the Father’s forgiveness.

The prodigal son (Luke 15) and the adulterous woman (John 8) were each aware of their sins and thus each received forgiveness through God’s grace. The prodigal’s older brother and the woman’s accusers remained unforgiven until they recognized and repented of their sins.

So when a passage of Scripture or a sermon causes us to feel guilty, we must refuse to be angry and resentful. We must not start the internal rationalizations that blame others for our shortcomings. Instead, we must praise God for his efforts to further sanctify us by allowing us to travel down a hallway called Grace through a door name Repentance into a room labeled Forgiveness.

With gratitude and humility we need to make this journey every day.

God’s Firm Grip

Recently received this from David Martin. He gave me permission to use it.

Well, it finally happened.  Violette, our granddaughter, took her first steps.  They were halting and unsure, but still independent.  She was so proud of her little self.  Even though she has a few dozen independent steps under her diaper, she still needs our assistance almost 100% of the time to get around on her own two feet.

As I was making the umpteenth lap around the house yesterday holding her chubby little hands, I realized that the death-grip she had on my fingers was not at all necessary.  I had a firm grasp on her hands that would not allow her to fall.  But that did not lessen the need she felt to hang on tightly to my forefingers.

All too often that is how I treat God.  I think I must hang on to Him with all my might, grasping his hands as tightly as possible.  My ability to hang on to God with my strength is so insignificant as to be worthless.  It is His grasp on my hands that keeps me from falling.  

Isaiah 41:13  For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand;  it is I who say to you, "Fear not, I am the one who helps you." 

His children can rest in the fact that it is El Shaddi, God Almighty, who holds our hands to keep us safe and upright.  How thankful I am that I am in His hands.     



Thankful For What?

John 6 tells of a problem facing Jesus and the disciples. More than five thousand people needed to be fed. The only food the disciples could find was fives loaves of bread and two fish.

Jesus took that meager lunch and thanked God for it.

But what was there to be thankful for? Five loaves and two fish? To feed five thousand people? The problem was immense and the resources inadequate. Yet He took a few minutes to show appreciation to his Father. He had the attitude of “We don’t have much, but we are truly grateful for what you have provided and we’ll do the best we can with it!”

Then He had the disciples start giving the food to the people. Give them what? Five loaves and two fish divided 5,000 ways? No! They were to share all God had provided. 

God’s power was released by Jesus’ faith. The multitude got a meal and the disciples received a faith lesson. (In fact, that lesson may had been the primary motive for the entire episode.)

His followers could not visualize one small lunch becoming a seafood buffet for the crowd. To them a large problem and small resources equaled unmet needs. But their equation omitted God’s willingness and ability to help those in need. 

What about us? Do we find this lesson easy to understand in our minds, but difficult to incorporate into our lifestyle? Do we ignore God’s power when we consider how we can solve our big problems without limited resources?

We read Jesus’ words about moving mountains and we say “I’m going into the earth moving business!” Then we run head-on into problems like stubborn children, monthly bills, a distant spouse or an uncaring boss. And what do we do? We compare the size of the problem with the size of our resources and become discouraged.

God wants to help us every day with every problem. But his power will be limited in our lives if we do not demonstrate faith in his ability and desire to care for us.

WHO AM I?

As a born again, covered-by-the-blood Christian, just exactly who am I?

Am I a child of the King, a prince of kingdom? Am I a servant of the most high? Could I perhaps be a soldier in God’s army or maybe an ambassador to foreign kingdoms?

YES! YES! YES! YES! I am all of those, but it is easier to announce that answer than to fully understand and explain it.

My position in God’s kingdom is that of a son, a privileged prince who can claim all the blessings and perks available to one of such high status. Yet I am His servant, standing ready to eagerly fulfill His every wish. As a fully-armed soldier in His army I am ready to do battle, clothed in the armor He has provided for me. And my position as an ambassador sends me into the streets and alleys inviting the needy of this world to his banquet.

It seems impossible to successfully fill any one of these roles, let alone all four at the same time. And it is impossible – totally and completely impossible – if I try it within my own power and wisdom. Only the Holy Spirit, working through me can successfully perform this balancing act.

Listening to God’s Advice

Suppose I was the world champion rodeo bull rider.  I had mastered all the techniques and tricks of the trade. I was the best that ever existed.

Then two years ago I retired.

Now my son wants to be a top tier rider. He is in his second season. I try to teach him all I know. He listens, but when he climbs on a bull he ignores my advice. In event after event he gets bucked off. His pain and injuries are mounting up week after week.

Each time he hits the ground it hurts me, too, because I love him. I know it would be so much better for him if he would just listen and follow my instructions.

So it is with God when I try to live my life outside his advice and commandments. Life would be so much easier and successful if I just followed what He has told me in his Word. When my stubborn nature leads me away from Him I get hurt and He suffers because He loves me.

Eating from Trash Cans

A woman had three sons, each of them married with children of their own. All three were scheduled to arrive at her house at 11:00 for lunch on Thanksgiving Day.

For days she carefully planned the menu. Most of Wednesday was spent cooking desserts. She put the turkey in the oven at 5:00 Thanksgiving morning.  The table was adorned with her best dishes and gleaming, polished silverware. By 10:45 everything was ready. She had done her best and she was pleased with her efforts.

Then she heard voices and strange noises from the area behind the house where the trash cans were stored. When she looked outside she could hardly believe her eyes. There were all three of her boys, along with their families, sitting in a circle around the trash containers. They were eating from the trash cans.

Using the can lids as serving trays they were eating potato and apple peels, carrot tops, and orange rinds. As she watched they scraped out what was left from the discarded vegetable cans and frozen food boxes.

She rushed outside, horrified at their behavior. “All of you come into the house this instant,” she cried.” This is crazy. I have a wonderful meal for you in there. Why would you want to eat garbage out here when I have turkey and mashed potatoes and hot rolls and apple pie on the table in the kitchen?”

The oldest boy replied “I’m sure you have a good meal inside, but we don’t deserve any better than this. We have neglected you lately and this is all we have a right to expect. It’s good enough for people like us.”

The middle son also refused. “This is really not so bad, Mom. If you’ve never tried it you don’t know what you’re missing. Would you like to join us?”

The third boy confirmed the decision to stay outside. “I’ve talked it over with my family and we don’t believe you really have anything any better inside. You can’t prepare a meal like you described. We think you are lying to us.”

The foolish, ungrateful  behavior of these children causes us to feel outraged. But we act in similar ways toward God when we refuse the banquet of blessings he has for us and accept, instead, the trash offered by the world.

God prepares a menu of blessings for us every day.  (Psalm 23). He knows we don’t deserve it but He continually offers us the best He has. Of course we don’t deserve his goodness, but He chooses to bless us anyway. To say He cannot bless us is to deny his power. To say He has not or will not bless us is to contradict his word. When we live in guilt, ignorance and denial we are as foolish as the three sons.

A Visit To The Grand Canyon

When we visit the Grand Canyon we approach it with some degree of reverence and look cautiously into it’s depths. We are impressed with the beauty, majesty, size and age.  We realize we are engaging only a small part of the canyon with only a small part of ourselves. After a short visit we walk away, get in our car and move on.

But that is not experiencing the Grand Canyon. We don’t go to the bottom and allow ourselves to be surrounded by it.  We don’t permit all our senses to become attuned to its sounds, colors, scent and sights. We don’t explore the side canyons and hidden pockets of splendor. We don’t sit still in the deepest recesses and view the animals and wild flowers. We don’t return throughout the year to view the seasonal changes.

If we really wanted to know the Canyon intimately we would read books about it and hire a guide for each visit. We would physically discipline ourselves to become strong enough to hike from one end to the other. We would stay there for days at a time.

But we don’t. And as a result of our look-over-the-edge-and-move-on visits we know it about like we know God.

We hurry into and out of God’s presence, perhaps impressed with a limited sense of his wisdom, majesty, beauty, size and power. We commit a small part of ourselves to peer cautiously into his Word, all the time knowing there is more. We stop short of a full sensory encounter then walk away content or even feel a little proud of our efforts.

We do not take the time and make the effort to experience God. We do not immerse ourselves and surround ourselves with Him. We refuse to explore the lesser-known facets of his personality.  We do not develop the stamina and self-discipline necessary to know his heart. Expecting immediate answers and solutions, we visit Him and then move on before some of his most beautiful, valuable truths can be received. We do not allow the Holy Spirit to be our guide. We may feel his presence for a few minutes but we don’t become intimate with him.  We approach God with a tourist mentality.

How can we correct this? We must make forming an intimate relationship with him the number-one priority of our lives. This will require a commitment of our time. Such relationships can not be rushed. We must establish regular times of prayer and Bible study, disciplining ourselves to concentrate of spiritual matters. The joys of experiencing God are available only to those who long for more than a quick, easy, occasional visit.

Don’t Look Back

The disciples literally and figuratively ran for cover Thursday night after Jesus’ arrest in Gethsemane. But by Sunday they were back together, perhaps in the same room where they had eaten the Passover meal with Jesus less than seventy-two hours earlier.

When Jesus came to them He did not speak even one word of condemnation or blame. He returned to them, not in a spirit of disappointment or criticism, but in a spirit of love. He did not remind them of the past with words of “Why didn’t you…?” Instead, He directed them toward the future with thoughts of “From now on you must…”

Jesus knew only a little time would pass between the resurrection and the ascension. There was too much teaching that needed to be done for him to spend time rehashing their mistakes. He wanted to concentrate his time on preparations for spreading the gospel.

Gethsemane was a defeat in the past. They had to move beyond it.

The resurrection was a victory in the present. They could celebrate it, but not linger there.

Pentecost was a gift in the future. They needed to be prepared for it.

We are Christ’s disciples, and the Holy Spirit comes to us with much the same message. Our mistakes and sins of the past have been forgiven and forgotten by a merciful God. Yes, Satan defeated us in some of the old spiritual battles, but we must forget them.

God has accepted us into his family and established a permanent, personal love relationship with each of us. That is a glorious victory. We can celebrate it every morning and remember it every evening with amazement and gratitude. But we must not remain immobile and inactive in the warm comfort zone of his love.

We are called to leave the victory celebration and tell people  in the alleys and streets that God loves them. Each of us is to have our own personal Pentecost where the Holy Spirit fills us and activates us to tell the Good News.

When Jesus returned to heaven the angel said to the disciples “Why are you men from Galilee standing here and looking up into the sky?” (Acts 1:11 CEV) They were being told to move on in their walk of loyalty and devotion to Jesus.

We are called to do the same. We cannot look back in guilt and doubt to the mistakes of the past. Nor must we spend too much time looking in joy and gratitude to the mountain-top experiences of days gone by.

We are to look forward to the Holy Spirit’s leadership as we “go, and teach all nations.” (Matthew 18:19)

The guilt of our sins is in the past. It is forgiven.

Our salvation is in the present. We can celebrate it.

Our service is in the future. What will we do for Jesus?

Jesus’ Hidden Pleasure

I think that just before Jesus performed a miracle he often had a slight smile on his face…a hidden smile of anticipation. After all, He was about to do something good for someone He loved. He was about to give the joy of life or sight or health to an undeserving individual whose life would never again be the same.

He was a little like the small boy in the classroom  whose teacher was about to unwrap the Christmas present he had given her. He believes it is the best present she would receive. He knows she will love it. As she starts to unwrap it he squirms in anticipation at his seat. He can hardly wait to do something nice for someone he loves.

Jesus was eager to provide healing for all those who came to Him. I think he really enjoyed it each time He restored health to them. We will never know how much energy each act of healing cost Jesus (Mark 5:30) but I will always believe He liked doing them.

Valued by God

To me the term “…poor in spirit…” (Matthew 5:3) means total humility, admitting that on my own I can do nothing (John 15:5.) God loves me regardless of my lack of talent, beauty, skills or possessions. In God’s system I have great value. I am a child in his family adopted through the death of Jesus on the cross.

In the world’s system a thing like this is unheard of. We are taught that we must do something or be something or have something before we are granted the status of “valuable or important.” But God says “You are valuable to me exactly as you are right now.”

Should we ever wonder how valuable we are to Him all we need do is look to the cross. Jesus died there to buy my eternal freedom from the consequences of my sins.  God’s grace means love without accomplishment. It seems to be a crazy system, but it is the way God does things and I sure am glad.