Gifted to Serve

www.bible.com/72/1pe.4.10.hcsb

Getting an unexpected gift always puts a smile on my face. It’s amazing to me that someone else would take the time out of their schedule and devote it to me, which is why I want to thank all of you for reading these posts, even if you only read occasionally.

Peter talks about gifts as a responsibility. What we have received in grace, we also ought to give to others just as freely. It’s like the old hymn, “freely, freely you have received; freely, freely give.” Grace is something you can never run out of, so you can freely give it to others.

One of the hardest lessons I have to learn is that God watches how well we forgive. “For if you do not forgive others their trespasses, your God will not forgive you.” Ouch! This follows the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6. God takes this subject seriously. And I think He knows better than we do the power resentment has over our lives, when we hold grudges long after their expiration date. An unforgiving heart is an evil heart, especially when it belongs to a Christian.

Grace is like a river. It flows to you, but it must also flow away from you to others. You cannot hoard it for yourself, because you have no dam strong enough to contain it. If you cannot extend grace to others, it will destroy whatever hoard you have created for yourself. No one likes bitterness. No one likes a bitter Christian.

As I’ve been going through Acts, I find Paul as someone with every right to be disenchanted by his own upbringing, people he thought he could trust, his fellow Jews, men he probably grew up with and trained with, turning on him and calling for his death. Paul has every right to be angry with them. But you never see Paul angry. He fears for his life, but he is never angry with them, continuing to call them brothers, wishing even his own life forfeit for their salvation. He extended the profound grace he’d been given to others. Wow.

My encouragement to you this morning is to first consider how much you have been forgiven by God. And then consider the sins of others against you. Remember how much you have been forgiven, that wonderful free gift of grace, and extend that gift to others.

God bless!

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Dependent Forgiveness

www.bible.com/72/mat.6.14.hcsb

This is a difficult passage to process. It’s easy enough to understand. It’s just difficult to execute.

Jesus offers here forgiveness of sin. That is an amazing offer. For the price of asking, involving no animal sacrifice whatsoever, Jesus says we can ask God to forgive our sins, and He will. That is a revolutionary idea. But here’s the kicker. You must also be willing to pass along that same extraordinary forgiveness to others. “Freely you have received, freely give.” This is a theme that Jesus repeats in the parable of the unjust servant, who is forgiven a great debt, but cannot forgive a much smaller one from a fellow servant. The unjust servant is punished by the master for failure to forgive.

It turns out this forgiveness comes at a price. It’s no Faustian bargain, but it feels like it. Faust traded his soul for worldly riches and honors. We trade our “right” to be bitter at others sleights against us for eternity in Heaven. We can no longer hold grudges. We can’t keep a record of wrongs. Though we may be angry, we do not sin in our anger. Can we give these things up?

That’s the price of eternal forgiveness. It’s easy to understand, but difficult to carry out. I hope that today, if you are working through anger and resentment, God give you the grace to do so. I’d hate that you missed heaven because you treasured your grudges more.

God bless!

Pages of Hope

www.bible.com/72/rom.15.4.hcsb

The Old Testament Scriptures anticipated Jesus Christ and were fulfilled in Him. Romans 15:3 quotes from Psalm 69:9. There David speaks of his alienation from his own people. Why? Because “the zeal of Thy House consumes me”, the first part of the verse, and then, “the insults of those who insult you has fallen on me”. You might remember that the first part of this verse is quoted on John when the disciples remember after the fact Jesus’ zeal for the Temple after he drove out the money-changers. Now Paul quotes the second half of the verse to illustrate a truth that Christians ought to experience as well. We ought to be insulted because we receive the insults of a fallen world upon their Creator. David was so insulted, Jesus was, and so ought we to be. But as Paul reminds us here, our encouragement doesn’t come from the world, it comes from the Lord through the pages of Scripture. If Jesus was so insulted, wasn’t He also glorified? If He was condemned, wasn’t He also raised?

The predictable reaction of the world to Christians notwithstanding, we ought never to fear the insults hurled at our faith. Whether they be crass and crude, or reasoned and philosophized, we stand among giants of faith when those insults fall upon us. For these pages tell us that a greater reward awaits us. If we are failed upon, Will we not be exalted? What is our hope? Do we not hope to see the One who received insults at the cross and was raised again? Do we not look forward to see One humiliated beyond measure for our peace?

Don’t look to the pages of Facebook to find your encouragement. Find your hope within the verses of Scripture.

I know, ironically you are probably reading this one Facebook. “Forget the bird, follow the river”. Only nerds will get that reference. God bless you today and may you find your peace in Him.

Why go to Church when I am not loved there?

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It ought to be to the Church’s shame that this statement is every uttered. This hearkens back to the last question, but it is the more naked resentment and hurt feelings. It is hard to win back those who have had a prior relationship with your church. “A brother offended is more unyielding than a strong city, and quarreling is like the bars of a castle.” (Pro 18:19 ESV)

Again, the problem seems complicated. There are a couple of possibilities.  The person in question is complaining because he or she doesn’t “feel” loved. At some point in the past, someone offended them and now they believe that everyone in the church feels the same way as that individual, since no one else offered an apology, or came and visited their home (I have heard this expressed). More likely no one else knows about the offense. It is just as likely, everyone knows the person who did the offending, and don’t want to “rock the boat”. This kind of church believes that one person leaving the church is easier to stomach with than confronting with the Offender. Personally, I believe that such an Offender needs to be dealt with as Ananias and Sapphira, but that is God’s judgment to decide, not mine.

However, for the offended, they are depriving the whole fellowship of the Body of Christ by not attending any Church because of their own hurt feelings. The Whole body suffers when one suffers (1 Corinthians 12:26). This behavior is selfish, that is, it cannot see past itself and its own pain. And such a one believes that it is he who deserves the apology from all, or even a few, rather to take the example of Christ, and accept the suffering for His sake. They may well be owed an apology, but is it for them decide whether this grievance should keep them from all fellowship? Did Christ demand an apology from the Jews who insulted him at the foot of the cross? Does Christ demand an apology from you every time you insult Him by ignoring Him, or pushing him aside for your own priorities? What this question shows isn’t a greater holiness, but a lack of grace, though such was extended to them through Christ. (Matthew 18:21-35)