Tag Archives: forgiveness

Stones

many stones

Throughout the Gospels, there are many references to stones. Jesus tells the scribes and Pharisees, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her” when they are ready to kill an adulterous woman (John 8:7). On Palm Sunday Jesus says that if the people stop praising him, “the very stones would cry out” (Luke 19:40). In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus goes “about a stone’s throw” away from his disciples to pray to his Father (Luke 22:41). Then when Jesus arises on Easter morning, the very large stone in front of his tomb is “rolled back” (Mark 16:4).

These stones in Scripture help us to learn what it means to be a follower of Christ in this world.

• We are never to throw stones at others in judgment of them. We are, instead, to be loving and forgiving. keenly aware of our own failings.

• Our rejoicing in the Lord should never be self-serving; rocks and trees and all the earth give glory to God just as much as we do. We blend with them.

• Prayer should be personal and something separate from those around us, set apart a stone’s throw to focus our attention on talking to God alone.

• Rolling back all the large stones that hinder us from our Lord is no small task. Only the risen Jesus has the power to cast aside every heavy barrier that blocks us from a new relationship with him.

May the symbolism of these stones keep you rock-solid in your faith.

White As Snow

snow

Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow. Isaiah 1:18

Many of you have experienced monster snowstorms this winter, and often multiple snowstorms in a row. While the aftermath of such storms can be difficult and frustrated, several people reported to me recently that when the snow is coming down and their yards are being slowly covered over, the sight is beautiful and something they enjoyed watching. I was among those who enjoyed this experience when snow softly fell in St. Louis in mid-February.

“Why this response?” I wondered. I think it has something to do with the feeling of everything becoming fresh and new. There is a sense that all the world is clean and bright.

Isaiah must have known the comfort of freshly fallen snow when he compared it to the forgiveness of sins. When we take our sins to God, they are completely covered over like snowflake upon snowflake.

They say that no two snowflakes are alike, and in the kingdom of God, each word of forgiveness is unique to every sin, so that no sin is left uncovered by his grace and mercy through the suffering and death of Jesus Christ.

So the next time you find yourself looking out at a snowfall, think of the blessings of forgiveness that fall down on us one by one every day and renew our lives with the beauty of this gift.

Math

math

I have to admit that I was never very good at math. That’s why I stuck with writing even though I did make it through algebra in high school by the skin of my teeth. But Jesus asks us all to do a little math when Peter asks Jesus, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus answers, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.” If I am doing my math right, Jesus is asking us to forgive a person 490 times when they sin against us.

But here is where I don’t think Jesus wants us to get our math exactly right, forgiving someone 490 times on the nose and then refusing to forgive once that magic number is reached. No, the meaning here, scholars believe, is that Jesus is intending to express an infinite number. Seven was seen as a perfect number (that is why Peter suggests it), so multiplying a perfect number by a multiple of a perfect number meant that the number of times we should forgive should be perfection upon perfection, a never-ending amount.

We can be a very unforgiving people at times. “I will never forgive him!” we hear people say. The forgiveness factor offered by much of humanity is often a zero. And that is the kind of math our human nature tends toward. But we are formed in the nature of God, and therefore it is in our spiritual DNA to forgive and forgive and forgive. There is no number that calculates the end of our forgiveness. The number of times we say “I forgive you” in the kingdom of God is always countless.

Trivia Night

trivia night

“And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jeremiah 31:34).

In the St. Louis area and in other parts of the country, a popular pastime is trivia nights. In person and now online, people gather in teams, an announcer reads the questions in various categories, teams answer the questions and at the end of all the rounds, a winning team with the most answers right is declared.

I am always amazed by what people know. One woman in my group during one trivia night I was in online knew that MMA stood for Mixed Martial Arts, though she had never been involved in the sport. Another person in my group knew that the group Baha Men sang, “Who Let the Dogs Out.” How did she know that? She just knew.

That got me thinking: “How do we know that Lord is God?” We just know, not because of anything we have done, but because the Holy Spirit has put that knowledge into our hearts, souls and minds. Knowledge of our Lord is being put into the hearts, souls and minds of people every day. And this is not trivial knowledge, this is essential knowledge for our very lives. Knowing the Lord means knowing we are forgiven, we are loved and we are remembered by him forever. Not just good to know, but everlastingly life-affirming to know.

Speaking Christian

speaking Christian

A story in the August 2020 Living Lutheran magazine talked about the value of teaching children to “speak Christian.” The article referred to the incorporation of wonder and mystery into conversation, with questions like, “I wonder how Jesus is in the bread” of Holy Communion. “I wonder since Jesus is part human too if he just couldn’t stay around forever,” one child pondered in the article, regarding the ascension (Janelle Rozek Hooper, “Encourage Wonder,” Living Lutheran, August 2020).

Deep thoughts and ones that need to be considered. But beyond considerations of mystery and wonder, my mind went to other aspects of what “speaking Christian” entails. “Speaking Christian” for me involves using language that is loving and forgiving. “Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,” the Bible says (Ephesians 4:14). And later in that same chapter of Ephesians, we read, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). Being kind, loving and forgiving in our speech brings us closer to Christ and marks us as “Christian.”

I think too of the disciples, who were the eyewitnesses of Christ’s days on this earth, spent their days telling and retelling the story of salvation through Christ alone—through his suffering, death and resurrection. Words about Christ’s salvation for us should always be on our lips as Christians. It is not something we should keep quiet about.

“Speaking Christian” is about repeating the words of Christ to others. Think about your favorite quotes from Christ and be quick to utter them when they are appropriate for the situation. I think about when he said, “Thy will be done.” St. Paul echoes that sentiment when he tells us, “You ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that’” (James 4:15). Words that recognize that it is all up to God should pepper our speech always.

Words that reiterate how blessed we are makes “speaking Christian” unique. St. Paul does a good job of this when he says, “I know that when I come to you I will come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ” (Romans 15:29). We have the fullness of the blessing of Christ at our disposal every day, and it is our joy to express that, rather than complaining or nitpicking.

Let every word from your mouth bring honor to Christ and your faith in him. That is what “speaking Christian” means.

The Healing Power

paralyzed man

The story of the healing of the paralyzed man has many applications to our lives today. First, we look at the four friends who carried him. What friends they were! They took the time to carry their friend to healing. They took their friend to Jesus because they knew Jesus had healing in his hands. Who are the friends in your life who have carried you? Who have been there beside you through your suffering? And who have brought you close to Jesus? Thank God for them today.

The way to Jesus was unusual. The friends carrying the paralyzed man to Jesus could not go the normal way through the door to the house where Jesus was. The crowds were crushing in to be near him, to listen to him preach and to receive healing of their own. But this blocking of the door did not stop the friends of the paralyzed man. It led them to seek Jesus by another way—through the roof. They lowered their friend down from above to place him right in front of Jesus. This process took strength, ingenuity and creativity. This activity took risk and coordination among them. What ways to Jesus have been unique and required extra insight and strategy on your part? Thank God for helping you to see new ways to Jesus and allowing you the power to follow through on the often unusual paths he puts before us to receive help from our Savior.

Jesus’ interaction with the paralyzed man is rather unexpected as well. When the paralyzed man is finally placed before Jesus, the first thing Jesus does is forgive the man’s sins. Forgiveness is the man’s greatest need, even more than the healing of his paralysis. Our sins paralyze us in our faith, stopping us from growth and movement in our spiritual lives. The removal of our sins through forgiveness in Christ is the only way we can move forward in following our Savior. Jesus made the benefits of the forgiveness of sins clear when he was questioned by the Pharisees. When we go through trials in our lives, we need to remember that it is the blessing of forgiveness in Christ that is needed most before any physical need.

Yet after providing the forgiveness of sins to the paralyzed man, Jesus still gifts the man with healing in his body. “Rise, take your mat and go,” Jesus says. Jesus allows us to arise from our troubles of body and mind. We are lifted up from being down. We mirror Christ in his resurrection by rising to new life through him.

When Jesus tells the paralyzed man to take his mat, it is like he is saying, “Carry away all reminders of the past trials and recognize the power you now have over those tribulations that once ruled your life.” The mat represents the bad place the paralyzed man once was in and the carrying of the mat symbolizes that he is not in that bad place any longer.

Then Jesus tells the paralyzed man, “Go!” This was something he could not do previously—go forth on his own two feet and walk. “Go!” means that the man can travel on his own by the power of the Spirit and follow the path marked out for him by God. “Go!” means that the man is fully healed and fully ready to move on in Christ.

When healing comes to you, be ready to go as the paralyzed man was. Be ready to go and spread the news of what God has done for you in Christ. Be ready to help those who are in trouble by supporting them with your presence and prayers. Be ready to lead them to Jesus for help and healing. Be ready to step in the footsteps of Christ and go where he goes and do what he does. Go in the name of the Lord and be his follower forever.

Forgivenesss for Kids

hug

In an article called “Sin and Forgiveness,” in the March 2019 issue of Living Lutheran, author Erin Strybis talked about a time when her young son’s tantrum led her to have a tantrum of her own. To her surprise, her son came up to her afterward and said, “It’s OK, Mommy,” and hugged her (42). Our kids “get” forgiveness more than we perhaps realize.

Strybis suggests three principles to practice in the home to reinforce the power of forgiveness:

Lean on story: The Bible is filled with stories of people who sinned and were forgiven. Think of the prodigal son, Simon Peter, the thief on the cross. Bible stories of forgiveness can be the bedtime stories we tell our children.

Lean into hugs: Remember the father of the prodigal son who ran to embrace repentant son. We need to be quick to reach out and wrap our arms around our children when they come to us confessing their sin. We need to show them that we love and forgive them wholeheartedly.

Lean on prayer: Prayer is an important piece in the practice of forgiveness. We need to pray to God when we are angry at our child and need to reorient ourselves to God’s merciful ways and we need to pray with our kid when we express forgiveness to remind us all the forgiveness comes first from God through Christ and the cross.

Let forgiveness flow freely in our families by the grace of God.

Our Sustaining Force

gospelIn the Editor’s Note of the December 2016 Christianity Today, Richard Clark says,

“I’ve always thought it odd that we gospel people so easily fall prey to the false gospels of moralism. Sometimes moralism is directed at myself; sometimes it’s directed at others. In the wake of the right kind of mishap, I can spiral into self-doubt and self-accusation about my own pitiable nature. Yet just as quickly, I can start casting aspersions on those who’ve made similar mistakes. Only the grace of the gospel can pull me out of the pendulum swing” (9).

Though this was written several years ago, it seems more true than ever to me. We can so easily be swayed by outside forces. We are so quick to judge others, to judge ourselves, to shake our heads in disgust or shame and leave it at that. But that is when we need to pull everything back into the context of the gospel, the context of grace, the reality of forgiveness for every sin, won for us and the whole world through the cross of Christ and through his resurrection.

It is the gospel of Jesus Christ that is our sustaining force. It has the power to put right side up every apple cart sin has overturned in our lives and in our world. No sin, no evil, no misdeed is beyond the gospel’s scope of reversing when we come to Christ confessing our waywardness. How so? Only through the undeserved favor of God through the sacrifice of his Son. That is grace. And that is why we call it amazing.

Making a House a Christian Home

home sweet homeSome friends of mine recently moved to a new house and posted this on on their Facebook page when they closed on the deal: A house is made of walls and beams. A home is made of love and dreams.

What a beautiful sentiment to ponder as they embark on a new adventure in a new dwelling place.

This got me to thinking: What makes a house a Christian home?

A Christian home is a place where there is genuine love for one another and for Christ.

A Christian home is a place where the Word of God is shared and perhaps even displayed through plaques with favorite verses.

A Christian home is a place where forgiveness flows from one to another.

A Christian home is a place where prayers are said over meals and at bedtime and at anytime.

A Christian home is a place where all our hopes and dreams are grounded in the good news from Jesus who comforts us with these words, “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” (John 14:2).

We know as Christians that our homes here on earth are only temporary, but our eternal dwelling place is in heaven, where we will join with all the saints in praising the name of our Savior, Jesus. May our homes here on earth give us glimpses of our home yet to come.

 

 

Gentleness

gentleness Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Philippians 4:5

One part of the fruit of the Spirit is gentleness. And in Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he wants to make sure that this congregation’s gentleness is evident to all. Why? Because the Lord is near. Our gentle ways should be what people are seeing at work in us when the Lord returns.

In a world that is often hostile, angry and at odds with one another, our gentleness as Christian people can stand out. What do we mean by being gentle? We only need to look to our Lord Jesus when he was on this earth for guidance. He said, “I am gentle and humble in heart” (Matthew 11:29). He took little children into his arms and blessed them (Mark 10:16). He spoke gently even of those who were crucifying him, saying, “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

In the same way, we can be people of gentleness by being humble in our approach to people, by embracing children and caring for those around us in a loving way, by blessing those around us with the peace of God and encouraging them in their endeavors. We can be gentle in our forgiving of those who have hurt us, recognizing that we are all sinful and in need of the grace and mercy found only in the cross.

Even when we witness to others of the hope we have in Christ, we are to do so “with gentleness and respect,” St. Peter says (1 Peter 3:15). We need to be comforting in how we share our faith, not overbearing. Our goal should always be to be kind and helpful and reassuring. That is what gentleness is all about. Be gentle in your ways today, with the help of God.