What is it?

Looking through my journals and email, I found out that I was wishing for a lot of good things to happen. I claimed to be “hoping,” but I did not/could not be confident the desired outcome would happen. That is not what hope is about. Hope is more than wishing. [Want to know more? Click here.]

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Forgiveness Part 2

I found the Greek word for “forgive.” I went to my Strong's Concordance hoping to find out that the word for forgive when it is me forgiving others was different from the word for forgive when God is forgiving us. That did not help. The word is essentially the same in every passage I looked at that uses the word "forgive." Aphiemi [φίημι]: send away, release, remit, forgive, permit, leave alone. It was not different no matter how it is used.

One thing I learned, from several sources reinforcing each other, is that God’s grace, love and forgiveness are never conditional. It’s not so much that our forgiving others wins kudos from God, as it is what God expects from those who have received His unlimited forgiveness. As we grow in our understanding of the depths of His love for us, and the resulting forgiveness, we should forgive others, even many times over, and even for the same offense. God does that for us. And when Peter asked how many times did he have to forgive someone who had hurt him. Peter thought seven seemed like a good number, but God said,

“I do not say to you up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” Matthew 18:21, 22.

And, I don’t think we are supposed to keep count. Can you see each of us walking around holding little notebooks, writing names and placing tally marks next to those as we keep a record of all who have hurt us? Ahhh! 490! I don’t have to forgive that person ever again!

That sounds ridiculous. God does not do that to us and we should mimic God. Jesus told us to follow His example:

“For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.” John 13:15.

I was told once that because of my childhood beliefs about sin, I knew without a doubt that I was/am a sinful person worthy of death. The same person also told me that knowing I have been forgiven for those numerous sins could help me understand the depths of God’s love. He paraphrased Luke 7:47 as “He who is forgiven much, loves much . . .” That makes sense to me and leads me back to gaining a little more understanding of the depth of God’s love and His unconditional forgiveness for me.

I need to think (and pray) about this more this next week. More is yet to be revealed.

Forgiveness Part 1

Forgiveness is the central truth that brought me into my relationship with Christ thirty-three years ago. I wanted to be clean inside and out. I worked for a woman on my street when I was growing up and loved it because I could see instant results; I could see what the wall, table, or laundry looked like when it was cleaned. I saw what clean meant. Yet I felt so dirty in the eyes of others and in the eyes of God.

So when I was told there is a way to be clean in God's eyes, to be forgiven for all my sins, which were numerous, I made a decision to give this kind of God a try. (My religious background had clearly identified all my sins, but I never heard about a way to deal with the sin, especially a way that would "stick" and not have to be confessed over and over again.)

Forgiveness is the theme for this month’s sermons at my church. It was also the lesson at Celebrate Recovery Tuesday night. Some of the concepts, ideas, and Bible passages shared challenged (in my mind) the concept of unconditional forgiveness. Example passages:

· Matthew 6:12: “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”

· Matthew 6:14 – 15: “For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavely Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.”

· Mark 11:25: “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your transgressions. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions.

Does God forgive me just the way I am? Do I have to do something to be forgiven (like forgive others)? I know the quality of my relationships – with God and with others – depends on my willingness to forgive. However the thought that if I am struggling with forgiving others or myself (such as doubting God's forgiveness, living in guilt and shame, holding onto grudges, and having regrets) God withdraws His forgiveness from me is bothersome.

I did some research looking at the Greek word for the forgiveness and I wrote my Pastor and asked for help in understanding the point of passages like the ones above. I think I have a better understanding . . .

More Friday . . .

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Textbook

School starts in a couple of weeks. It’s time for the annual trip to Staples to purchase the pencils, paper, notebooks, pens, rulers, calculators, lunch boxes, erasers, flash drives, calendars or planners or both, and the other things “needed” for a successful year of learning. This list is consistent for all levels of education, from Kindergarten to Graduate School.

One (or more) item(s) I still look forward to checking out are the textbooks – the ones I had to read and the ones my kids have to read. I’ve seen quite a few news stories and advertisements that would do away with actual textbooks in favor of digital versions for Kindles, iPads, Nooks, and Sony E-readers. However handy those devices might be, there is nothing quite the same as holding a book and turning the paper pages of a printed textbook.

I was reminded of the importance of an up-to-date and accurate textbook one day this last week as I did my normal morning routine. Part of that routine is reading a passage from my Bible. Currently I am reading through the Psalms using the Message paraphrase. What I found in Psalm 119:71 reminded me about the importance of The Textbook.

“My troubles turned out all for the best – they forced me to learn from Your Textbook.”

I got to thinking of the many topics covered or touched on in God’s Textbook. I made a list of courses for which the Bible could be a resource. While the list is not exhaustive some of the topics included:

Poetry, Geography, History, Biography, Literature, Technical Writing, Ethics/Morality, Sociology, Fine Arts/Craftsmanship, Psychology, Basic Algebra, Philosophy, Foreign Languages, Law

The list gives me a lot to think about. Most importantly, I need to pore over The Textbook at least as diligently as I pored over my college textbooks. Can you think of other courses of study that could benefit from using the Bible as a resource? Post a comment or make a comment on Facebook. I’d be interested in hearing what others come up with.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

7/11 Worship Revisited

Last week I wrote about 7/11 worship choruses. I still believe they water down the Biblical truths found in the hymns of days gone by. However, as long ago as King David and his writings, the occasional short song was written and probably, in one form or another, sung and repeated at least a couple of times.

So I acknowledge that the choruses have a purpose. I find them most useful when I’m trying to put life into perspective. By this I mean seeing myself as God sees me, and seeing God as He is. I’ve heard that true humility comes from such reflection, and no one knows better than I that I need to seek humility in my life. I am not humble in subtle ways.

Examples: Believing I can fix “things” on my own. Believing I know myself better than God does, and therefore not worthy of His forgiveness. Believing I am unforgiveable. Believing there is no hope in my life or in this world. Believing my feelings are real but God’s promises are not. Believing God cannot/will not possibly love me. In its most basic form these beliefs say the very proud idea that I am bigger, stronger, smarter than God. There’s no humility in that!

All those beliefs are in direct opposition to how God sees me, and how I should be seeing God. In praying, even singing, some basic truths into my heart and mind, I have them firmly planted in my conscious – and subconscious – being. The truth is God forgives me, even though I am not worthy; and as unworthy as I am, God’s great love pours out to me anyway. I don’t understand how this could be. Understanding God is not possible for mankind. That very fact is what makes clear my position as God sees me, and also His position as too awe-inspiring for me to comprehend.

This last week (actually before writing last week’s blog on the failings of 7/11 songs), I read Psalm 117. It is one of the short Psalms; actually it is the shortest Psalm. Yet it addresses both issues of humility, our awe of Him and His faithful love of us. Psalm 117 is worthy of repeated reflection:

Psalm 117: “Praise God, everybody! Applaud God, all people! His love has taken over our lives; God’s faithful ways are eternal. Halleluhah!

Today, this very minute, for as long as I repeat Psalm 117 in my mind and with my voice, I am able to believe in a God immensely bigger than I can imagine, and a God who loves me beyond my understanding. For this moment, I have inward peace, humble before God.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

7/11 Worship

Church music bores me; at least some church music bores me. A pattern has developed in “modern” Christian music where a chorus is all there is in a “worship” song. It used to be the chorus would be sung between verses, usually verses packed full of God-truths. As an example, one of my favorites is It Is Well With My Soul by Horatio G. Spafford.

There are six verses divided by a chorus (or refrain). I particularly like verses 1 and 2:

1. When peace, like a river, attendeth my


When sorrow like sea billows roll;

Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me

to say,

It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Chorus/Refrain: It is well, with my soul,

It is well, it is well, with my soul.

2. Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,

Let this blest assurance control,

That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,

And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

Chorus/Refrain: It is well, with my soul, It is well, it is well, with my soul.

The verses are statements of truth explaining why “it is well” for the composer in the midst of his earthly struggles. It is not enough to know it is well with my soul. Knowing the circumstances that brought forward the need to worship is necessary for complete understanding of a chorus. (The story around It Is Well With My Soul is the composer’s loss of family to a shipwreck and yet he can say he is well in spite of the situation and his grieving).

So my beef with modern worship music stems from my desire to know why and when and how we need to trust and worship God as the choruses tell us to do. Without the verses, that kind of understanding is not possible. I’ve heard these choruses called 7/ll songs (7 words, sung 11 times). Just like a 7-11 convenience store, the choruses are convenient, quick, and can only provide the bare minimum needed – and at a much lower cost than a bigger store could provide. 7/11 choruses do not meet all our needs; they are superficial and water down the way we worship God.

While I can go to my favorite hymns to get the depth I seek, there is a generation, like my own children, who have been raised on the superficial choruses. They know those pretty well, but will those “seven” words sustain them in the struggles that will come their way? I wish they will, but I’m ready to share deeper levels of worship should the need arise.