Tag Archives: forgiveness

(Ruth) It’s Not Just About Love

I usually look at the book of Ruth as a lesson in love, and it truly is that. But today, I see it mostly as a picture of redemption. I think this book could easily have been named, “Boaz.” Because without Boaz’s act of redemption on behalf of Naomi and Ruth, they would have had no hope. The would have continued in their poverty for the rest of their lives.

It wouldn’t have mattered how much they’d loved each other. Their love could not have saved them. Only the work of the redeemer would take them from curse to blessing, from bitterness to joy, from death to life.

Get the picture?

We can talk about love all day, but without the redemptive work of Jesus, we are without hope. Love cannot save until it is nailed to the cross.

Do you love God? Great! Do you know He loves you? He does! But His love without His redemption will not save you.

The book of Ruth isn’t just about love. It’s about redemption.

The Gospel isn’t just about love, either. It’s about redemption.

Ruth laid everything at the feet of her redeemer, Boaz. In that act she became totally dependent on him to save her. That’s the Gospel: Putting everything we have, are, and hope to be at the feet of Jesus, becoming totally dependent on Him, confessing our sin and turning from it is our only hope of salvation. Otherwise there is no saving.

Only the work of Jesus, our Redeemer, can take us from curse to blessing, bitterness to joy, death to life. Only Jesus.

Only our Redeemer.

How Long Has It Been? (Matthew 26, Mark 14)

I believe Peter loved Jesus, that he was convinced Jesus was the Messiah. I believe Peter meant it from the depths of his soul when he said he’d rather die than ever deny Jesus. But as much as Peter loved Jesus and was determined to follow Him to the bitter end, Peter failed. He denied he even knew Jesus not once, but three times.

Then, when faced with his sin, Peter broke down and wept. Something tells me he didn’t just shed a few tears here. I think the word “wept” means the damn broke.

How long has it been since you were that broken over sin in your own life? You’re a believer. You committed your life to God, promised to love and obey Him – and you meant it.

But a temptation presents itself and you end up sinning anyway, in thought or deed. Oh, you probably whisper an apology, “Please forgive me, Jesus,” and you know He will. That’s the beauty of our Savior. He is gracious and merciful, and faithful to forgive.

But are we truly aware that our sin is a denial of Jesus every bit as much as what Peter did? Can we look Jesus in the eye and still believe our sin is no big deal just because we convince ourselves our sin is not as bad as some? We can read this portion of Scripture and point a finger at Peter. Can God be pointing a finger at us?

Your sin – and mine – is personal to Jesus who endured the agony of the cross to forgive it. Yes, that sin you are thinking about right now ought to drive you to your knees in uncontrolled grief. That sin that drove a nail into the precious hands of Jesus. That sin that denies your relationship with Jesus.

Just because we are assured that God forgives our sins shouldn’t blind us from the seriousness of them, or what it cost Jesus to even offer forgiveness. And every sin should grieve us for what we do to our Savior. It’s a slap in His face, a denial, a choice to place that sin above Him.

How long has it been since you wept over sin in your life? I’m asking myself the same thing, and I’m not thrilled with my answer.

Choosing God (Luke 15)

Our God-given ability to choose is a funny thing. For most of us, it’s hard to marry human choice with the Sovereignty of God. And today, I’m not even going to try.

But there is something about our ability to make decisions for ourselves that has me looking at our Sovereign God with adoration as I read the three parables in chapter 15. Hear me out.

We make choices every day that effect our relationship with God; a thought we choose to entertain rather than putting aside, a little white lie we tell to cover ourselves, listening to gossip or being the gossip even when we disguise it as concern or by asking for prayer, an unforgiving heart, whether to speak up for the truth or stay silent. Many seemingly meaningless decisions we make every day impact our relationship with a Holy God.

It’s not just the “big” choice of choosing God or rejecting Him outright, although that is certainly a huge part of it. We make choices all the time and none of them are insignificant.

The three parables we read today has me thinking. One lamb among hundreds, or one coin among 10 doesn’t seem that big of a deal. But look at how the keepers of those things reacted when something so small was lost. They dropped everything and actively pursued that which was lost.

Look at the father in the parable of the prodigal son. That dad had been searching the horizon for his son. Scripture doesn’t say but, considering what we see in the other two parables, I have to believe that lost boy’s father searched the horizon every day the boy was gone, ready and eager to welcome him home.

Have you ever watched a baby take his first wobbly steps? Very often one parent will stand behind the child, bent over, both hands on either side of that precious one, ready and eager to catch him when he falls. The baby moves to the left, the parent moves with him. He moves to the right and teeters, the parent adjusts her hands to provide that extra safety.

I’ve seen a parent scoop up his child in his arms, with pride and excitement, when his wobbly baby falls to the ground after taking a few steps. I’ve watched the joy and love given and received between parent and child when that happens. That’s the picture that came to me today as I considered our Heavenly Father and the independence He has given us.

God wants us to grow to maturity, to step out, to make decisions for our good and His glory. And, because He has allowed us to do so (or not) He stands at the ready to catch us, to find us when we get lost. He is there to scoop us up into His arms, to rejoice with the angels when we come back to Him.

I think I love Him more today than I did yesterday as I get another glimpse of how much He loves me. My Heavenly Daddy has my back, has His arms stretched out to catch me when I fall. And I do fall.

I don’t always make choices that honor Him. The prodigal son certainly didn’t make choices that honored His dad, either. But the boy made a choice. The dad let him go. But that dad never gave up and was there to welcome the lost boy once again into His embrace, when the boy chose to come home.

I praise God for His unending love that is expressed to me in many ways I don’t even consider half the time. I am that lost lamb, that silver coin, that parodical son. The choices I make to step away from Him are never met with indifference. God remains right here, working behind the scene, steadying me, looking out for me, and rejoicing when I choose to fall into His arms in surrender and faith.

I have the ability to choose God with all that entails: forgiveness, eternity, blessings, and obedience, surrender, humility. I have the ability to choose to reject or ignore Him with all that entails: pride, unforgiveness, missing out on the blessings, judgment.

But in either case, while we have breath, God is going to pursue us, to look for us to come to Him, to do everything possible including die for us, to give us every opportunity to be found by Him, and rejoice when we choose Him.

I choose God. I pray you choose Him, too.

Forgive? But… (Matthew 18)

When Jesus was teaching his disciples how to pray (Matthew 6), He told them to ask for the ability to forgive as they had been forgiven. What does that even mean?

In Matthew 18 Jesus tells the parable of the unmerciful servant. The master called the servant “wicked” and threw him into debtors prison even though he’d already forgiven the servant’s debt. Why?

Because, after having been forgiven an enormous debt, the servant turned around and refused to forgive a fellow servant who owed him a few bucks. The wicked servant had had a debt of millions of dollars forgiven! Then he refused to forgive someone who owed him a few dollars.

We who are believers in Jesus have had our enormous debt forgiven. Our sins demanded a price we could not pay without dying for them. We had no resources from which to draw, no hope of ever being able to pay our sin debt in this lifetime. Yet because we accepted God’s grace through Jesus, our outstanding balance reads ZERO!

Now we are told to offer the same mercy to others. Not as easy as it sounds sometimes.

Forgiving like we are forgiven doesn’t happen if we still hold a grudge. The old. “I can forgive, but I’ll never forget,” is just another way of saying, “I will never forgive you,” if we are really honest. If we are to forgive like we’ve been forgiven we must throw those memories, those things we claim to forgive into the ocean, as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12), and remember them no more.

That’s what God did for us. That’s what we are to do for each other. Jesus, in verse 35, says we are to forgive each other “from your heart.”

Has someone wronged you? Is what they did so awful, so unthinkable you believe you will never get over it? Do they deserve to be forgiven? You hear people tell you you need to forgive them, but you automatically think, “But…”

I am very glad God didn’t forgive only some of my sins, like lying to my fifth grade teacher, or not returning extra change at the grocery, or being jealous of someone, but couldn’t bring Himself to forgive the awful, unthinkable sins I’ve committed against Him. When I asked Him to forgive me, HE DID. 100%. And He isn’t holding a grudge, either.

And that’s what He is telling me I need to be doing toward anyone who has wronged me, no matter how small or how big the transgression. Forgive from my heart. And there’s more:

In verse 35 Jesus warns that if we don’t forgive like we’ve been forgiven, there will be severe consequences. The master in the parable threw the unforgiving servant into prison until he could pay the once-forgiven, multi-million dollar debt himself.

This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.

So the next time you know you need to forgive someone and think, “But…” think again. Giving forgiveness from your heart doesn’t just benefit you, it is obedience.

No ifs, ands, or buts about it.

Choose Me (Ezekiel 42-43)

He was so willing. God would have forgiven Israel for every evil thing they ever did or even thought. “Here I am,” He said. “Here is my throne and a place for the soles of my feet. I’m not going anywhere.” They just needed to turn from their sin, put away their idols, and He would live among them forever.

Let them consider the plan, and if they are ashamed of all they have done, make known to them the design of the temple… its whole design and all its regulations and laws. Write these down before them so that they may be faithful to its design and follow all its regulations. (43:10b-11)

He was so willing. But they couldn’t do it. And neither can we.

Sometimes connecting with God’s heart breaks mine. This morning as I read these chapters I could hear His longing, and could almost feel His pain. “Choose me!” He pleads.

He’s done all the work. That altar and its regulations were fulfilled perfectly when God sacrificed Himself on the cross. “Just choose me,” He cries.

I pray that you have, at some point in your life, chosen God, that you have repented from sin, turned from your idols, and turned to the Savior. But I hope that isn’t the only time you’ve dealt with sin in your life.

Even the Apostle Paul struggled with sin. He tells us He made a conscious decision to “die” every day, to put aside self and sin, and choose God. Every. Day. “To live is Christ,” he said.

Choosing God isn’t easy, and it’s not always fun. Choosing God comes with sacrifice, hardship, selflessness. Choosing God means getting out of our comfort zones, going to battle, loving people who don’t agree with us, and praying for them. Choosing God goes against everything we’ve come to believe is true; that we should be wealthy and healthy, that we deserve to be happy, that as “children of the king” we should live the high life.

Scripture tells us that Jesus knew the world would hate us for choosing Him, because they hated Him first.

But choosing God is the most amazingly wonderful choice you will ever make. Choosing God is choosing something better than anything this world offers. Better than money, or fame, or a home on Easy Street. Choosing God is choosing love and forgiveness, help and encouragement, purpose and fellowship, and eternity more wonderful than any of us can imagine.

“Choose me,” God is saying to you. “Choose me today, and tomorrow, and the next day. Choose me this hour, this minute. Choose me and I promise I will never leave you, I’ll plant the soles of my feet in your heart and bless you with Myself.”

I choose God today. I’m praying you’ll do the same.

God Is Revealed (Ezekiel 38-39)

God’s punishment for sin will always be evident in this world, because there will always be sin in the world until He comes again. Natural disasters will happen. Evil men will do evil things. There will be disease, and war, and heartache and suffering. There will continue to be times when God removes His protection, and even His children will suffer because of their sin.

But!

There will always, ALWAYS, be times of grace, of mercy, of victory when people humble themselves and repent of sin. God will always, ALWAYS bless those who obey Him.

Why? So that the world and everyone in it will recognize that God is Holy. God is Sovereign, God is who He says He IS and there is no other. This world is about God.

As I read His Word I understand that Truth. And here is the best part of that. God wants a relationship with me! God wants to protect and bless me as though I was His only child. Like a loving Father, He will discipline my rebellion, correct my self-centeredness, punish my disobedience. And like a loving Father, He will always, ALWAYS forgive me when I come to Him, humble myself, and repent.

May God be seen in me through every circumstance of life. May people recognize the Holy, Just, Fierce, and Forgiving God He is by watching Him work in my life. May I be a living example of His grace because:

God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

Everything that happens, the good and the bad, happen to point people to Jesus, to reveal God in all His holiness and goodness so that they will come to Him for forgiveness, and enjoy a relationship with the Sovereign, Holy God He is. I love to think that I may have a part in His plan, to reveal this wonderful God to a world that needs Him!

God’s Judgment (Ezekiel 20-21)

When you consider God’s final judgment, what comes to mind? Some people picture a big old drunken party around a campfire. Some see people wandering aimlessly through space, dragging the chains they formed in this lifetime. Many people don’t want to believe there will even be a final judgment, just nothingness, that we will cease to exist when we die.

God told Ezekiel to spell out exactly what His judgment on the disobedient Jews would entail, and Ezekiel complained, “Ah, Sovereign Lord! They are saying of me, ‘Isn’t he just telling parables?'” (20:49) Those Old Testament Jews didn’t want to believe in judgment any more than people in 2020.

So let me ask again: what do you believe about God’s judgment?

I notice as I read Ezekiel this morning how often God tells us His judgment protects His Name, that His judgment reveals who He is to the nations of the world. His Name which is Holy, Holy, Holy. If there was no judgment, He could not be Holy.

Scripture also tells us God’s judgment is without mercy. Can you wrap your mind around that truth? Some will argue that because God is love He wouldn’t condemn anyone to a terrible eternity in hell. That because God is merciful, He wouldn’t judge without mercy.

What do you say to that?

Was God speaking in parables, in fairytales, or using scare tactics to get us to obey Him? Or is there an actual place, void of God, void of light, void of fellowship, where the groans and wailings of the condemned are the only sounds, where there is no hope, no reprieve, no comfort? Is there a place where pain and suffering beyond anything anyone has ever experienced in this lifetime, no matter how awful, is the only reality forever?

What do you say to that?

Ezekiel kept telling Israel about the judgment that was coming even if they didn’t believe him. We need to do the same. Because God will seriously judge without mercy, and hell is real.

But, we also need to tell people the one and only way they can avoid God’s final judgment. They need to know that Jesus paid that awful penalty for them. He met His own requirements so no one has to spend eternity without Him.

Just as God judges the guilty without mercy, He shows mercy to those who come to Him through His Son, Jesus Christ. To all of us who repent of sin, who find forgiveness in the cross, we need have no fear of God’s final judgment.

What do you say to that?

What About Today? (2 Chronicles 26)

I don’t care who you are, or how kind and giving you’ve been, or even if you have done great things in the name of the Lord. Sin is sin. And all sin comes with consequences. My sin. Your sin.

We see King Uzziah, a good king who obeyed God. During his reign Judah was blessed because of their obedience as they followed the king. People had jobs, the building industry was booming, the army was strong and well equipped, and Uzziah’s fame spread far and wide.

But as so often happens with us humans, Uzziah’s pride led to his downfall. Instead of being humbled by God’s blessings, the king became proud. And his sin led him to be unfaithful to God. I hope you’ll read God’s Word today and see what happened to him.

God didn’t give Uzziah a free pass just because he had obeyed God in the past. Uzziah sinned. And God punished the sin.

I was at a friend’s house yesterday and she had a plate of fresh fruit for us to nibble on. Colorful melons, plump, juicy grapes, tangy apples, berries that popped with flavor in my mouth. It was so refreshing on a 92 degree day in Pennsylvania.

Today I thought about that fresh fruit. It came at the hard work of farmers who planted and nourished and weeded and then harvested each melon, each bunch of grapes, each berry. Someone washed, then pealed, and cut the fruit she’d bought and displayed them on a serving platter. The end result of all that work was not only beautiful, it was so good!

But if you hid one rotten grape in the midst, one imperfect apple, one molded berry, it wouldn’t take long for that fresh fruit to rot, too. All the good work of those farmers wouldn’t prevent the fresh fruit from being ruined by just one rotten grape.

It’s interesting that if you put a healthy apple in a barrel of rotten ones, the barrel doesn’t become healthy. But if you put a rotten apple in a barrel of healthy ones, you’ll have a barrel of rotten apples in no time.

That’s like sin. The good things we did in our past, the times we were obedient to the Lord, brought us blessings at that time. Those blessings might still be felt years later. That’s how God works. But if you sin today, if you don’t obey God today, July 8, 2020, you will have put a rotten apple in your barrel of blessings.

The good king, Uzziah, died a leper. He was excluded from worshiping in God’s House toward the rest of his life, and couldn’t even be buried with the other kings because he’d been unclean. God did not give him a free pass just because he had been obedient in the past. Uzziah sinned that day, and didn’t deal with his sin.

So God did.

The same is true for each of us. My prayer is that all of us will deal with our sin problem today. Every time God brings a sin to our awareness, I pray we will fall on our knees and ask Him to forgive us. I pray that we will never be satisfied living with a sin, even just one.  Because one sin not confessed is a rotten apple that cannot help but spread.

You’ve been obedient in the past? Good! What about today?

Meaning and Purpose (Ecclesiastes 1-6)

Solomon is a bit of a “Debbie Downer.” Is he right to say life is meaningless, a chasing after the wind? Should our focus be on living life to the fullest, to eat, drink, and be merry because tomorrow we die?

The thing about old Sol is that he was trying to give life meaning by his own effort. I’m sure if there had been self-help books back in the day, his library would have been full of them. Solomon tried using his intellect, his riches, his connections to try to find the meaning of life. And he came up short.

What Solomon found is that you can’t buy happiness. You can’t think your way in to a meaningful existence. Sadly, the king was very right to say his life was merely a meaningless puff of smoke.

But the truth is, we humans are created in the image of God, which gives our lives meaning. We were created to fellowship with our Creator, which gives our lives purpose. We are blessed by our Father with love, joy, peace, and we know that this puff of smoke we call life is only the beginning.

We were born for eternity. No bank account can come close to what awaits us. No power, or applause, or spouse, or comfort, or a feeling of self-worth compare to what is ours through the blood of Jesus.

No life is meaningless. Every one of us is living our choice for eternity. You might think like Solomon and choose to eat, drink, be merry and die tomorrow. But you will find yourself face to face with the One who died for you. And you will give Him an account about what you did with His grace. At that moment you will realize just how meaningful your choices in this life really were. You’ll have eternity to realize the purpose of your life on earth was to prepare you for forever.

Stop trying to “find” meaning or purpose for your life. When you submit to God, He¬†gives you meaning. When you accept Jesus as your Savior, He shows you His purpose for your life. Life is a blessing! Life is precious and purposeful when you know the Way, the Truth, and the Life. (John 14:6)

I pray that each of us will take a moment and thank God for this amazing gift of life. And I pray that we will live today in sweet fellowship with our Creator, a glimpse of what heaven will be for eternity.

If you don’t know Jesus as your Savior, I pray that you will confess your sins today and allow Him to forgive you, to give your life meaning and purpose that will bless you beyond what you can imagine.

Just know that your life has meaning and purpose. It is the vehicle that will usher you into eternity. Choose well, my friend.

 

That’s Harsh (Psalm 109)

David speaks pretty harshly about his enemy. He asks God to find his enemy guilty, to make his wife a widow and his children forced to beg in the streets. Then he prays that his enemy would lose everything, causing his family to be homeless. He even went as far as to say, “let no one extend kindness” to his enemy, and let no one take pity on his children. “Wipe him off the face of the earth,” David seems to ask, “and never forget what he did to me.”

David continued to pray that his enemy would get what’s coming to him. Karma, baby. He said his enemy loved to curse people, curse him back, God. His enemy found no pleasure in blessing, don’t bless him, God. Treat him like he treated me.

Yes, if you read Psalm 109 you’ll hear David ask God to show no mercy toward his enemy, and his enemy’s entire family – women and children. That’s harsh.

But I wonder if we’re not harsh enough on our enemy, Satan. I wonder if we’ve grown soft toward sin, if we’ve tolerated sin in ourselves and others, if we haven’t welcomed sin into our homes and churches by hiding it in our own hearts.

Maybe it’s time we look at our enemy the way David looked at his, and ask God to remove it, destroy it, so that it’s blotted out completely. Maybe we need to stop looking at sin like a little child or a widowed mother, and instead ask God to show no mercy in removing the sin from our lives.

Nail it to the cross, Lord!

Because the truth is, we can’t be too harsh on our enemy, Satan.