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    ThuThursdayOctOctober5th2017 The Peril of Forgiveness
    byDan Dillon Tagged Forgiveness Pride 0 comments Add comment

    It would seem obvious that forgiveness, both the giving and the receiving of it, is hard. It is hard to give it because, after all, you are being asked to give up something you deserve. You deserve to be angry when someone insults you. Receiving forgiveness is hard, too, because you have to admit you are in the wrong and you are at fault.

    But the title of this blog is not The Difficulty of Forgiveness, but The Peril of Forgiveness. How can forgiveness be perilous?

    I was reading a humorous cartoon that made a passing reference to the “nine steps of forgiveness.” I was curious. What were the steps? Have I been missing something? I went looking on the web. (Where else?)

    The site I found didn’t appear to be Christian, but it offered what seems to be some good advice: “Forgiveness does not necessarily mean reconciliation with the person that hurt you, or condoning of their action…. Get the right perspective on what is happening. Recognize that your primary distress is coming from the hurt feelings, thoughts and physical upset you are suffering now, not what offended you or hurt you two minutes – or ten years – ago…. Give up expecting things from other people.”

    But then it concluded with this: “Remember that a life well lived is your best revenge…. Forgiveness is about personal power. Amend your grievance story to remind you of the heroic choice to forgive.”

    This advice is perilous. If forgiveness is about revenge or personal power or being a hero, it is all about asserting one’s superiority over another person. The source of forgiveness is our own strength. The world calls this “empowerment.” The Bible gives it a better name: Pride. Pride elevates self above everyone else, including God.

    The Christian’s basis for forgiving others is that we have been forgiven by God through Jesus Christ. I am not wonderful. He is wonderful. I am not self-empowered. He is empowering. He is the only true and lasting source of forgiveness. All others are counterfeits.

    Even though we may understand the Christian basis for forgiveness, the world’s way can sneak in. Satan would be delighted to have us seem to be more forgiving, if he can increase our pride. “Look how I have grown. I have learned to forgive. I am a good, wonderful, self-empowered person. I am superior because I have forgiven them.”

    So here’s the practical question: When you forgive someone, what is your opinion of yourself? Are you thinking, “I am a better than others because I forgive?” Or are you thinking, “Father, forgive me my trespasses as I forgive others”? 

    WedWednesdayJunJune7th2017 Hypothetical Grace
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Forgiveness Grace 1 comments Add comment

    Have you ever participated in one of those group ice-breaker activities where you’re asked questions about far-fetched scenarios? Something like, “If you could have any superpower, what would it be?” Or, “If you were stranded on a deserted island and could only have one item with you, what would you choose?” Those questions can be fun, in large part because they’re unrealistic. Let’s face it, you’re not getting a superpower anytime soon. And you probably won’t be stranded on a deserted island this week, either. So you can answer these questions with a sense of detached lightheartedness, knowing that what you say really doesn’t matter.

    I’m afraid that I often treat grace in the same way.

    On certain occasions I think about my children and the various directions that their lives could go, and it often leads me to wonder about how I would respond to different scenarios that as a parent I could conceivably face. For example, “How would I handle it if I got a call from the police station telling me that my teenage child had been arrested for underage drinking and drug use?”

    After thinking about that for about ten seconds, I think I can come up with a pretty good answer. I figure that I would calmly go down to the station, pick up my child, deliver a great big fatherly hug, offer extravagant reassurances of my undying love, and promise to support and walk with my child through all the challenges ahead. After all, that’s what a grace-filled parent would do, right?

    But here’s the thing: I don’t have any kids being held down at the police station right now. I have kids who are at home spilling their milk and standing on the couch when they’re not supposed to and yelling at each other when they don’t feel like sharing. And let’s just say that my responses in those situations are often far less grace-filled than my imaginary response when the police call.

    All this leads me to admit that I’m much better at hypothetical grace than I am real grace. Put me in a (non-existent) situation where I have to (imaginarily) show love and forgiveness, and I’ll (theoretically) knock your socks off with my (make-believe) godliness. But how am I doing in the real-life, mundane, messy situations right in front of me? That’s a totally different story.

    Perhaps you’re like me. Perhaps you’re way better at the idea of grace than you are the practice of it. If so, let me remind you of one simple point: The grace you’ve received from God is anything but hypothetical. So the grace you’ve been called to extend should be anything but hypothetical, as well.

    For those of us who rest in Jesus, we don’t place our hope in the fact that God would be slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love—in some theoretical or potential scenario down the road. We rest in the fact that he is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love—in the here and sin-filled now.

    The reality is that you and I have buried ourselves beneath mountainous piles of rebellious words, thoughts, and actions. As such, we’ve not given God the luxury of keeping things hypothetical. Either he must destroy us with his wrath, or else he can choose to forgive us in his grace. But the one thing he can’t do is wonder “if.”

    In the same way, we’ve been thrown into a world of people who mess up daily. People who gossip and slander and break promises. And it’s to these people that grace must be shown. Right now. In the midst of offenses that still hurt and sins that still linger. As Paul says in Colossians 3, “as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” There’s nothing hypothetical about it.

    ThuThursdayFebFebruary12th2015 All You Need Is Love ... Or Is It?
    byPaul Briggs Tagged Forgiveness Holidays Love 1 comments Add comment

    I walked into Walmart the other day and had no trouble discerning what season of the year we are in. The aisles were decorated in pink and red, reminding the potentially clueless shopper (would that be me?!) that Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching. As I pondered how I should respond to the visual overload that day, the familiar lines of a tune from 1967 came to mind: “All you need is love, all you need is love, all you need is love, love. Love is all you need.”  

    But is that really the case? Is there another ingredient which leads to successful relationships?

    I have often told young people who are moving toward marriage in their relationship, “You will never know how selfish you are until you are married.” My intent isn’t to discourage but rather to prepare the starry-eyed, often less-than-realistic love birds for the difficulties ahead. In other words, I want them to understand that there’s something they’re going to need in addition to their love for one another.

    So what is it? What is that other necessary ingredient to a successful relationship? Forgiveness. As I have observed relationships, what I’ve learned is that the relationships that stand the test of time are the ones which have learned to practice forgiveness.

    Do you remember the account of the woman who anointed Jesus in Luke 7:36-47? Jesus was reclining at the table with Simon, a Pharisee who had invited him to dinner when a sinful woman came along and anointed the feet of Jesus with expensive ointment, wiping his feet with her hair. When Simon saw it, he said to himself, “If Jesus knew what kind of woman this was, he would not allow her to even touch him!” Jesus responded to Simon’s thoughts by telling the story of a moneylender who had two people who owed him money; the one owed ten times more than the other. Because they were both unable to pay their debt, the moneylender cancelled the debt of both. Jesus asked the question, “Now which of them will love him more?” Simon responded correctly: the one who was forgiven the larger debt. Before Jesus tells the woman that her sins are forgiven, he makes a profound statement which should cause us to stop and think today: “he who is forgiven little, loves little” (Luke 7:47).

    Perhaps the multitude of syllables didn’t allow for the 60’s ballad to go differently. (Imagine it being sung this way:  “All you need is forgiveness, All you need is forgiveness. All you need is forgiveness, forgiveness, Forgiveness is all you need.”) However, I don’t think it was the number of syllables that kept the song from going differently as much the soul-penetrating truth which must be acknowledged in order for true forgiveness to take place among sinful people.

    The soul-penetrating truth is this: unless I receive forgiveness from the One with whom I have a debt I can never possibly pay, I am without hope of ever loving much and consequently forgiving much. The motivation for my actions will either be driven from a sense of having been forgiven by God, or a sense of self-righteousness.

    True forgiveness is driven by the grace of God which confronts the sinner with the holiness of God to the point that he recognizes his sin as an offense against God and the one against whom the sin was committed. No minimization of the sin. No negotiation of the size of the sinful act or its consequences. Just an acknowledgment of the facts and the confession of the sin for what it is and the request and reception of the forgiveness that God in Christ Jesus offers to anyone who will come to Him and ask for it.

    So as we celebrate this day when love seems to be measured by an elaborate card, the size of the gift, or the expense of the jewelry, consider the quantity of the forgiveness you have received, which in turn motivates the love displayed in your life. To the degree you are forgiven, you will love.

    FriFridayFebFebruary10th2012 Sorry, Jay

    In the December 2011 Family Gathering, while leading a congregational Q&A about a recommendation the Elders had just announced, I spoke inappropriately to Jay Casey. I love Jay and Sally and thank God for them. I had no intention in that meeting of hurting anyone, shutting down interaction or appearing impatient with sincere questions. But that is what I did. 

    This past week it has occurred to me that while I have apologized a few times to Jay (and he readily forgave), the larger crowd who was there may not know of my regret and apology, and may have felt offended. We read an apology from the Elders the next week in services but as I reviewed it there was no statement of my personal offense. To those offended, please accept my apology and forgive me for speaking harshly and in an unloving manner in that meeting.

    This is a big deal not only because a pastor sinned with his tongue before the body, but because it reminds us of who we are in Christ and how we are connected in him to each other.

    In true preacher style, consider three ‘take aways’ that are rattling around in my heart from this experience.

    1. I need forgiveness. The display of the glories of God and the gospel among us as a church family is virtually impossible without passing on the grace of release and removal that God has given to us  through Christ Jesus. I need God’s forgiveness frequently. I need your forgiveness at times also. This display of kindness and tenderheartedness is huge (Eph.4:32).
    2. I need to guard my mouth. In my job, James 3:1 serves as a consistent and sobering encouragement. A teacher has considerable influence, along with that greater influence comes stricter judgment. James 3 goes on to teach us that only the wisdom from above can begin to tame the tongue. You know how challenging this is, I needed this reminder to diligence.
    3. I need your prayer.  In the last 7 days I spoke (preaching or teaching) 3 times (a typical week is 3-5 times), participated in 4 administrative meetings, led 1 small group, and had 6 appointments with individuals or couples. Add to that dozens of emails, conversations and phone calls and it becomes clear that I talk a lot (Prov. 10:19). In the spirit of 2 Corinthians 6:11, I open my heart and mouth often and following the admonition of Hebrews 13:18, I need you to pray for me.

    All of these thoughts can be applied to all five of our Elders, all seven of our Deacons, our staff and our entire church family. How we treat each other when we sin against each other is a critical measurement of our connection to grace.

    So, again I’m sorry Jay. Thanks so much for your grace towards me. I’m sorry church family. Thanks so much for years of grace toward me. 

    Psalm 19:14: "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer."
    A few words from Jay... My name is Jay Casey, and I approve of this blog posting! 
    WedWednesdayJanJanuary25th2012 A lesson in love
    byDon Whipple Tagged Community Forgiveness Love 0 comments Add comment

    Last Sunday evening Christian and Samuel came over to our house. They taught me something about love, especially my understanding of God’s love. I would guess that these little guys are around the ages of three and one. They didn’t ask me how old I am, so I didn’t think it was polite to ask them how old they are. Besides, little kids are always getting asked how old they are, so I thought I would give them a break.

    Whenever little people come over I like to get out the tub of toys, find the blocks, and start building walls and towers with them. Whether it is my grandchildren or just normal kids, every time you get a decent tower built, almost as tall as the little people themselves, they love to knock it over. As tempting as it is to draw some life changing principle from watching kids enjoy knocking stuff down, that’s not what captured my heart.

    What caused me to notice, wonder, and then intentionally test was the repeated number of times one of the boys (I don’t want to mention which one in case they read this—it might embarrass them and they wouldn’t come to my house to play anymore) built a tower as high as his chubby arm could reach, only to have the other boy knock it over. The tower-building boy was completely unfazed, yea even unprovoked, every time the block-buster acted out. There were repeated times—I made sure there were because I had to see how long he could hold out before becoming provoked in some way. The boy was amazing! Time after time he simply picked up the scattered blocks and went back to building. I’ve never seen a kid do that. I can’t do that! My own radically above-average grandchildren knock down my towers and I either tell on them or think bad things about them immediately!

    After spending the week preparing and then preaching about God’s love for me as the source and basis for my love for others, I had an experience with God while surrounded by blocks and little people in the family room. The light sort of came on as I watched the unusual forbearance and patience of this little guy. I found myself wishing I was more like him.

    We are taught that love is not easily provoked. There is something about being hurt, unappreciated, misunderstood, not respected, and even taken advantage of that causes us to react in clearly unloving ways toward those whom we view as against us. Praise God that we don’t have to be that way or live in that exhausting world of defensiveness and tension. There is an unbelievable endurance about God’s love.

    God’s love for us is both forbearing and patient. He does not react to every rebellious miscue as he justly could and he is unbelievably slow to anger (Psalm 145:8-9). His slow-to-provocation policy is for one reason: it gives you and me time to acknowledge our destructive ways and run to him for mercy (Rom. 2:4). Loving Lord, help us reflect your patience with us in our love for each other.

    Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

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