Malankara World Journal Theme: Forgiveness
Volume 2 No. 105 October 25, 2012
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Table of Contents
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This Sunday in Church
Seventh Sunday after Sleebo/ the Feast of Holy Cross
Before Holy Qurbana
This Week's Features
|Inspiration for Today|
Shew me thy ways, O Lord; teach me thy paths. - Psalm 25:4
Moses said unto the LORD, I pray thee, if I have found grace in thy sight, shew me now thy way, that I may know thee. And he said, My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest. - He made known his ways unto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel.
The meek will he guide in judgment; and the meek will he teach his way. What man is he that feareth the LORD? him shall teach in the way that he shall choose. - Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore. - I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye. - The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.
PSA. 25:4. Exo. 33:12 14. Psa. 103:7. Psa. 25:9,12. Prov. 3:5,6. Psa. 16:11. Psa. 32:8. Prov. 4:18.
Source: Daily Light on the Daily Path
by Archbishop Cyril Salim Bustros
Scripture: Matthew 18:23-35
1. Blessed are the merciful
Forgiveness is the expression of mercy, and Jesus has blessed the merciful: "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy" (Mt. 5:7). Mercy is one of the eight Beatitudes in which Jesus summarized the true righteousness and clarified the way to the Kingdom of God: "I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of God" (Mt. 5:20). To enter the Kingdom of God one needs to be like God. That is why Jesus, after having spoken of the love of the enemies, concluded: "You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Mt. 5:48). This same sentence is expressed in the Gospel according to St. Luke in the following way: "Be merciful even as your Father is merciful" (Luke 6:36). If you can forgive like God, and be merciful like God, you can reach the perfection of God.
Mercy is one of the eight Beatitudes, and it is also one of the seven sentences of the Lord’s Prayer: "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us". The conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer is also suggestive: "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive them their trespasses, neither will your father forgive your trespasses" (Mt. 6:14-15).
2. To forgive from our heart
It is the same conclusion we read at the end of this parable: "That is how my heavenly Father will deal with you unless you each forgive your brother from your heart" (Mt. 18:35).
Notice how Jesus not only asks us to be merciful and to forgive, but also to forgive from our heart. What if God forgave us the way we at times forgive? We say, for example: "Well, I’ll forgive, but I won’t forget". What if God said that to us? We say; "I’ll forgive, but I’ll have nothing more to do with you". What if God said that to us? We say: "Very well, I’ll overlook it this time, but if this happens once more – just once more – it’s the end". What if God said that to us? Fortunately for us He does not. He forgives us because he loves us from His heart.
3. How often must we to forgive?
The parable of the unmerciful servant is a response to a question Peter asked Jesus: "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and forgive him? Seven times? Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven" (Mt. 18:21-22). That’s four hundred and ninety times! In other words, forgiveness is not an act. It is an attitude – an attitude that is born of the fact that we Christians, who have been forgiven a debt we could never pay, are to go out into the world, armed with the spirit of forgiveness: to heal the hurts, right the wrongs, and change society by the spirit of forgiveness. Jesus came to change the world. We are called to continue his work: we start by changing our own minds, by having the mind of Jesus. And if we change our minds, we can achieve what Jesus asked us to do.
This is a work of every day. In St. Luke we read the same recommendation: "If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him; and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, and says, ‘I repent’, you must forgive him" (Luke 1: 3-4).
4. What is religion?
What is religion? Why do we need to have a religion? What Jesus came to teach us, and what new did he teach us? Religion is to be related to God; and the aim of this relation is not to ask God to fulfill our desires, but to reach the fullness of our humanity. And the only way to reach the fullness of our humanity is to be like God, because we were created on the image and likeness of God. Jesus came to restore this image and likeness that were perverted by sin. That is the core of his teaching: God is a loving Father, God is Love, and we are called to be like our Father, by loving without limit and forgiving without limit. The love of God is like the ocean, you can see its beginnings but not its end. As there is no limit to the love of God to us, and no limit to the forgiveness of God to us, so it must be in our relations to each other. In this way religion does not change God’s mind or God’s purpose, but changes our minds and the purpose of our life. Jesus is the new Adam, the new man, who lived this perfect image of God. Before washing the disciples’ feet, we read in the Gospel of St. John that Jesus "had always loved those who were his own in the world, but now he showed how perfect his love was" (John 13:1). During the last supper, he said to his disciples: "A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13).
And on the cross, he forgave those who crucified him and asked his heavenly Father to forgive them: "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34).
5. Forgiveness is a gift from God
Forgiveness is a gift from God. And a gift is not a gift unless it is accepted. Forgiveness begins with our being forgiven first, and our accepting God’s forgiveness.
If we are full of hared, God cannot fill us, because even God cannot fill which is already full. That is why we need to repent: to allow God to empty us of hatred. Then he can fill us with Himself, with His Love and forgiveness to enable us to forgive others.
By forgiving us our sins God gave us his peace. Let us not loose this peace by filling our hearts with bitterness to others.
We have received from the Holy Spirit the gift of forgiveness. Let us share this gift with others. St. Paul said to he Ephesians: "Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, with all malice. Instead be kind and tenderhearted to one another, forgiving one another, as God has forgiven you in Christ" (4:30-31).
6. The benefit of forgiveness
St. John Chrysostom, commenting this parable, said: "Let us not think when we forgive others that we are doing a good turn or bestowing a great favor to them. It is we ourselves, after all, who reap the benefit of our good deed, and accord great gain to ourselves from the action… Consequently, I beseech you, let us keep this in mind, and no longer bear to hold a grudge against those who have done us injury or otherwise wronged us in some way, nor be badly disposed against them; instead, let us consider of how much kindness and confidence for us with the Lord they prove to be instruments, and before all else the fact that reconciliation with those who injure us turns out to be a discharge of our sins. Thus let us show all enthusiasm and effort, and out of consideration of the gain accruing from this, let us display as much care of those who injure us as if they were really our benefactors" (Homily 27 on Genesis).
© 1995-2012 Melkite Eparchy of Newton · All Rights Reserved
by Pastor Linton Smith
On a TV program a while ago, I remember one person saying to another, If you are looking to me to forgive you.. forget it. I will never forgive you.
How different from the way Jesus behaved and what He taught. He modeled forgiveness.. and taught us to pray like this.. Our Father in heaven.. forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors [Matthew 6:12].
Let's think about these words today. What are we saying when we say these words?
When we pray these words we remind ourselves:
WE ARE FORGIVEN PEOPLE.
When I say these words.. Our Father.. forgive us our debts.. I am reminded that God is a forgiving God.. and has forgiven me. I hope you also can say that!
As forgiven people we stand in a long line of forgiven people.
Here are two examples.
The first is David. King David.
He prays like this in..Psalm 32:1-5..
Blessed is.. Blessed is.. When I kept silent.. I acknowledged by sin.. said, I will confess.. and You forgave the guilt of my sin!!
The second is the Apostle Paul.. at one time Saul.. persecutor of believers..
He writes in.. 1 Timothy 1:12-17..
That is how a forgiven person feels.. bursts out in praise to God.. giving all the glory to Him!
And hear what Paul says about Jesus!
Here is a trustworthy saying.. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners!
The night before Jesus died on the cross He shared a special meal with His disciples.. the Passover meal.. We read in..
Matthew 26:26-28.. While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take and eat; this is my body." Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
My blood.. poured out for the forgiveness of sins – your sins and mine!
Jesus came, died, and rose again - to open the way for God to forgive us!
It cost God to forgive us. Forgiveness always costs.
When we choose to forgive.. we choose not to take revenge.. but to bear the hurt ourselves.. and that is what God did.. He bore the hurt.. in Christ.
Some may find it difficult to see that they need to be forgiven..
There is a school of thought that says people are basically good, even though they do bad things. The Hitlers of this world call that into question, and the TV shows which are geared to satisfy our appetites.. and the behavior of little children. At one time I watched as a 4 yr old played with one of those toy ride on cars.. he left it to do something else.. a 2 yr old came along and took over the car.. the 4 yr old came back.. and there was fireworks.
Jesus leaves us in no doubt:
Matthew 7:9-11.. Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
Clearly His verdict is that we are evil and sometimes do good things! Not the other way around. From cover to cover the Bible shows us this is true.
Do you find that hard to accept? Do you say, ‘But I am not that bad. I cannot see that I need God's forgiveness?'
The Lord's prayer is found in two places in the New Testament. In Matthew it reads.. forgive us our debts.. In Luke it reads.. forgive us our sins.. Is there a contradiction here? No. The people of Jesus' time saw sin as a debt owed to God.
Think of it like this. What is the greatest commandment? Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, strength.. No shadow of rebellion.. or lack of love.. but pure and total love.
Which of us has loved God like that? We owed Him love.. and failed to pay.. we are in debt to Him.
We all need God's forgiveness and can be forgiven.. because of Jesus!
When we pray these words we remind ourselves:
FORGIVEN PEOPLE ARE FORGIVING PEOPLE.
When I pray.. Our Father in heaven.. forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.. I am reminded that forgiven people are forgiving people.
On one occasion Peter asked Jesus a question we might all want to ask..
In Matthew 18:21,22 we read..
Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. [or seventy times seven]
Jesus answered him with a story of a man who owed a huge debt to the king.. a debt of 10,000 talents.. in today's values something like $6 billion! [A labourer's pay for 60,000,000 days!] And the king cancelled the debt! And what did the servant do? He found one his fellows servants, a man who owed him 100 denarii.. about $10,000.. and demanded he pay him back.. and had him put in prison until he paid it!
How do you react to that? Impossible! How could that man behave like that? We expect forgiven people to be forgiving people! So does God!
Jesus goes on..
Matthew 18:32,33..The master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,' he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?'
Then he handed him over to the jailors to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.. the whole $6 billion!
In Matthew 6:14,15.. Jesus says.. For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Read that in the light of the story Jesus told.. and it reads like this..
If you do not forgive others who sin against you.. it shows you have not really appreciated what God has done for you.. you are not forgiven.. and won't be forgiven.
God has been amazingly merciful to us.. far more than this master to his servant.. We were in a hopeless situation.. dead in sins.. headed for hell.. and Jesus.. Son of God.. came to earth.. lived.. and died.. in our place.. paid the price for us.. set us free..
When we believe that.. and receive that.. we will be different people. We will be forgiving people. Paul writes..
Colossians 3:12,13.. As God's chosen people.. forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
Ephesians 4:32.. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
When we pray.. forgive us our debts and come to the words, as we have forgiven our debtors.. we will not dare to pray these words if we are holding a grudge.. refusing to forgive someone! We will stop.. and pray for help to forgive..
Michael Cassidy's comments in the current African Enterprise Magazine are very helpful..
"Life being what it is and people being what they are, we will often be confronted with the need to forgive and with our incapacity to do so. We seethe with resentment and sometimes we even horrify ourselves with thoughts of retaliation and reprisal. I am sure that the first step in recovering our spiritual equilibrium is to recognize our own sinfulness and need of Christ's forgiveness. And then to realize the need to forgive others.. When we have got that far, the next step is surely to pray for the offending party because hatred and prayer cannot co-exist for long. Praying for people opens our eyes to their needs and problems and perhaps to what caused them give us pain. Compassion replaces resentment and we are ready to talk with them and start again.
Do that.. and then we can pray, Our Father in heaven.. forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.
When we pray these words we remind ourselves:
GOD IS WILLING TO FORGIVE US AGAIN AND AGAIN.
When I pray this prayer as part of the Lord's Prayer I am reminded that when Jesus taught His disciples this prayer, He said, When you pray.. go into your room.. in private.. do not keep on babbling.. but pray like this..
When you pray. In other words, It was intended to be repeated over and over again.
That tells me that God is willing to forgive.. again and again!
Not convinced.. then remember what Jesus said to Peter.. forgive your brother.. not seven times.. but seventy times seven! If God expects that of us.. do we think He will do less? NO!
Down the centuries believers have erred in two ways. Some have said.. God forgives.. so let's live how we like. That is wrong. Others have said.. once we believe.. we are perfect.. have no sin. That also is wrong.
The Apostle John gives us a very balanced view of this..
1 John 15-10.. This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.
If we walk in the light.. the blood of Jesus goes on purifying.. How do we do that? By living honestly and openly before Him.. If we claim to be without sin.. or claim not to have sinned.. we deceive ourselves.. and call God a liar… but if we confess our sin.. then He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to purify us from all unrighteousness.
Then John goes on..
1 John 2:1,2.. My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense - Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
John is a realist.. down to earth. God does not want us to sin.. and we will not want to sin either.. but the plain fact is.. we will sin.. we do sin. And when we do.. what do we do? We go to Jesus.. and ask Him to forgive us! And He will! He is on our side!
John says, Jesus speaks to the Father in our defense.. and Paul says..
Romans 8:34.. Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.
Jesus died for us.. rose.. ascended to right hand of the Father.. lives for ever.. to intercede for us.
Day by day.. ponder the grace of God to us.. and come to Him.. in honesty.. confessing our sins.. confessing our grudges.. forgiving others.. praying for them.. asking God to forgive us. And He will!
by John Piper
Scripture: Ephesians 4:32–5:2
Last week I talked about what forgiveness is—what it looks like and what it's not. I quoted Thomas Watson's definition which included:
How Do We Truly Forgive? Gospel-Flying
This week I'm asking, how can we do that? What gives us the freedom and the ability and the incentive and the power to forgive those who sin against us? Some of you have been wronged so deeply and hurt so badly that forgiving would be as great a miracle as flying.
But recall the little poem of John Bunyan:
Two wings, six feathers.
And that includes the "flying" of forgiveness. So I want God to show us our gospel wings this morning. Forgiving is a flying you can do in the power of the gospel. In fact six feathers are enough for this flight—three on one side and three on the other make two strong wings for gospel-flying—or gospel forgiving.
Two Wings, Six Feathers
I find all six feathers in these three verses (Ephesians 4:32–5:2),
There are two wings in this text for gospel-flying—just like a bird has two wings. Each wing has three feathers. All six feathers are things God the Father and God the Son have done for us without our help. They are all works of his sovereign grace. I am talking to Christian believers now. If you are not one yet, I hope you will listen and be drawn in. What I am describing here about gospel-flying (forgiving) is yours freely if you will lay down the weights of unbelief and trust Christ.
There are two wings. One wing with its three feathers is what Christ did for us before we even existed. And the other wing with its three feathers is what God did for us in our own lifetime. So if you are drawing the sermon today, you need to draw a bird with two big wings each having three feathers, and then write on each feather one of the things God has done so that we can fly with forgiveness to each other.
Wing #1: What God Did for Us Before We Existed
The first feather in this wing is this:
1. God Loved Us with a Special Saving Love
Ephesians 5:1, "Be imitators of God, as beloved children." And verse 2: "Walk in love, just as Christ also loved you."
The first feather in the wing of gospel-flying—gospel forgiving—is the unspeakable reality of being loved by God. But to feel the force of this, you need to know that this is not merely the general love that God has for all the world—the love that gives life and breath and food and rain and protection and family and job and many evidences of his truth and power and greatness. It is an amazing thing to be loved like that, and should cause us to turn to him in gratitude.
But if that is all you know of the love of God, your gospel wings will be weak. This text speaks of love like a Father has for a child and love that moves Christ to take our place in death. Now that is something more than the general love of God for the world. That is a saving love—a love that goes beyond the offer of the gospel and actually undertakes to save us effectively, infallibly. It does what needs to be done to get us forgiven and saved.
Here is the evidence for this: in Ephesians 1:4–5 Paul says that this love of God chose us for adoption as children of God.
[God] chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 he predestined us to adoption as sons.
So God has loved you with a love that is precious beyond words because it is a love that he gave you before you were born and that moved him to predestine you to be a child of God in holiness.
So the first feather in the wing of gospel forgiving is the feather of God's special saving love—call it covenant love. It is not mere general love. It is love that fixed personally, particularly on you as an individual and chose you and pursued you and brought you to himself, because he means to have you. If you get gripped by being loved like that, you might only need one feather to fly.
The second feather is
2. Christ Gave Himself for Us as a Sacrifice
Ephesians 5:2b, "[Christ] gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God."
According to Ephesians 2:3 we were all by nature children of wrath. We all deserve to perish and be punished in hell for the sins of our thoughts and imaginations and attitudes and tongues and hands and whole bodies. But the covenant love of God for us moved him not only to choose us but to give his Son as a sacrifice in our place: "Christ gave himself up for us"—that is, in our place, so that we don't have to perish. "He became a curse for us" (Galatians 3:13).
To feel the full force of this and to make the feather really strong for flying, we need to realize again that this is not merely a general thing Christ did the same for everybody. Ephesians 5:25 says, "Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her." In other words Christ's giving himself up to die as a substitute for the church is part of a covenant love that he has for his bride.
In love he chose you to be his bride and in love he lays down his life for you. You, individually, particularly, were in view as the goal of his loving and his dying.
Chuck Colson told the story (at the 1994 Ligonier Conference in Dallas, Texas) of a prison camp where 20 men came in from digging and lined their shovels up on the wall as they always did for the counting. When they were counted, the officer found only 19. He demanded that the one who didn't bring his shovel step forward. None did. Then he threatened that if no one stepped forward, he would choose ten men at random and shoot them. A young man of about 19 stepped forward and was immediately taken a few paces away and shot as an example to the others.
But then as they were dismissing, the shovels were counted again and there were 20 after all. The officer had miscounted.
The difference between what that boy did for his friends and what Jesus did for you is that Jesus knew which ten men he was dying for and he knew that we were all unworthy. But he did it anyway, because he had a very special covenant love for you that is far above human love.
The first feather is that you have been loved with a special saving love. And the second feather is that Christ gave himself as a sacrifice to take your place so that you will never perish.
The third feather for gospel-flying (forgiving) is
3. God Was Satisfied with Christ's Sacrifice
Ephesians 5:2b, "[Christ] gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma."
When Paul calls the death of Jesus for us a "fragrant aroma" to God he means that God was satisfied with what Christ did. He did not look down and say, "You can't do that. You can't die for others. Every person has to bear their own guilt. Don't be so foolish to think you can take the curse and condemnation of another." On the contrary, the Father looked down and (with tears in his eyes, I think) took tremendous pleasure in the honor that the Son gave to the Father in obeying his commission—the Father had sent him (John 3:16).
So Christ did not die in vain. God received his offering. It satisfied the Father's justice. It removed God's wrath and judgment.
Be ye glad, O be ye glad!
Words and Music by Michael Kelly Blanchard
God was satisfied with the blood of Christ. That's the third feather in the first wing of gospel-flying and forgiveness.
That's the wing of God's work before you were born:
1. God loved you with special saving love;
2. Christ gave himself for you as a sacrifice; and
3. God was satisfied with Christ's sacrifice. Your debt is paid.
Wing #2: What God Did for Us During Our Lifetime
The other wing for gospel-flying has three feathers in it also.
1. God Put Us in a Saving Relationship with Christ
God put you into a saving relationship with Christ, so that you are united to Christ like a vine is united to the branch.
Ephesians 4:32b, "Forgive each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you."
We are "in Christ." That means we are in a relationship with Christ—we are united to Christ—in a way that makes http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Newsletter/us acceptable to God because he is acceptable to God. How did we get into this relationship? 1 Corinthians 1:30 says, "By [God's] doing you are in Christ Jesus." God awakened faith in our hearts and put us into a saving relationship with Jesus (cf. Ephesians 2:10, 13; Romans 16:17).
If he hadn't done that, all his other work (loving us, giving his Son to die for us, being satisfied with the Son's sacrifice) would have been in vain. But he did it. He is doing it all. His love will not be frustrated in pursuing you for himself. His personal, individual, particular love is moving him all the way. Nothing will stop him from saving you.
So the first feather in wing #2 for gospel-flying is God's putting you into a relationship with Christ like a vine in a branch.
2. God Adopted Us and Made Us Rightful Children
The second feather for gospel-forgiving is that God adopted you into his family and made you a rightful child of God.
Ephesians 5:1, "Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children."
In other words realize that when God united you to Christ, you became with Christ a child of God. And heir. This is what God had been aiming at all along. Ephesians 1:5 says that "God predestined us unto adoption."
Some parents have children accidentally. And if they are cruel and heartless parents, they might even tell their children they didn't want them. But God has no unwanted children. They are all planned—from eternity, with great expectation and joy. They are all pursued. Christ's death is like an unspeakably high payment through heaven's Micah Fund.1
The second wing of gospel-flying in wing #2 is the truth that you are loved not just in some random, general, impersonal way, but as a child of God that he sought out and adopted at great cost.
3. God Forgave Us for Our Sins
Finally the third feather in wing #2 for gospel-flying (forgiving) is that God forgave you for your sins.
Ephesians 4:32, "And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you."
Before you were born (wing #1):
1. God has loved you with a special, personal, saving love from all eternity.
Then after you were born (wing #2):
1. God brought you to faith and put you in a saving relationship with Christ.
These are the wings John Bunyan had in mind:
It bids us forgive—and give us gospel wings. If you believe in your heart that God has done all of this for you and in you, you will fly. You will forgive.
Closing Remarks from Charles Spurgeon
Charles Spurgeon tells how his heart was set on wing by the pardon of God:
My life was full of sorrow and wretchedness, believing that I was lost. But, oh, the blessed gospel of the God of grace came to me, and with it a sovereign word, "Deliver him!" And I who was but a minute before as wretched as a soul could be, could have danced for the very merriment of heart. And as the snow fell on my road home from the little house of prayer, I thought every snowflake talked with me and told of the pardon I had found, for I was white as the driven snow through the grace of God. 2
But years later he added this:
To be forgiven is such sweetness that honey is tasteless in comparison with it. But yet there is one thing sweeter still, and that is to forgive. As it is more blessed to give than to receive, so to forgive rises a stage higher in experience than to be forgiven. 3
It rises higher because it is gospel-flying. Spread your wings with me in these days at Bethlehem and let's fly together.
1 The Micah Fund is an adoption ministry at Bethlehem that helps covers the cost of adopting minority infants who might otherwise have been sacrificed in abortion.
2 Volume 15, p. 156, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit.
3 Volume 31, pp. 287f., Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit.
©2012 Desiring God Foundation. Used by Permission.
By Robert SchullerI first heard the following story thirty-five years ago. Years later, a variation appeared and was made famous by my friend, Tony Orlando, in his song, "Tie a Yellow Ribbon 'Round the Old Oak Tree." I have been told it's a true story, and I believe it, because I believe in the power of mercy.
Three teenagers boarded a bus in New Jersey. Seated on the bus was a quiet, poorly dressed man who sat alone and silent. When the bus made its first stop, everybody got off except this one man, who remained aloof and alone. When the kids came back on the bus, one of them said something nice to him and he smiled shyly.
At the next bus stop, as everybody got off, the last teenager turned and said to the man, "Come on. Get off with us. At least stretch your legs."
So he got off. The teenagers invited him to have lunch with them. One of the young people said, "We are going to Florida for a weekend in the sun. It is nice in Florida, they say."
He said, "Yes, it is."
"Have you been there?"
"Oh, yes," he said, "I used to live there."
One said, "Well, do you still have a home and family?" He hesitated. "I - I
don't know," he said, finally. "What do you mean, you don't know?" the teenager
Caught up by their warmth and their sincerity, he shared this story with them:
"Many years ago, I was sentenced to Federal prison. I had a beautiful wife and wonderful children. I said to her, "Honey, don't write to me. I won't write to you. The kids should not know that their dad is in prison. If you want to, go ahead and find another man - somebody who will be a good father to those boys."
"I don't know if she kept her part of the bargain. I kept mine. Last week when I knew for sure I was getting out, I wrote a letter to our old address; it's just outside of Jacksonville. I said to her, 'If you are still living there and get this letter, if you haven't found anyone else, and if there is a chance of you taking me back - here is how you can let me know. I will be on the bus-as it comes through town. I want you to take a piece of white cloth and hang it in the old oak tree right outside of town."
When they got back on the bus and they were about ten miles from Jacksonville, all the teenagers moved to this man's side of the bus and pressed their faces against the windows. Just as they came to the outskirts of Jacksonville there was the big oak tree. The teenagers let out a yell and they jumped out of their seats. They hugged each other and danced in the center of the aisle. All they said was, "Look at it! Look at it!"
Not a single white cloth was tied to the tree. Instead, there was a white bedsheet, a white dress, a little boy's white trousers, and white pillow cases! The whole tree was covered with dozens of pieces of white cloth!
That is the way God treats you and me. It is a promise from God that He will forget the past and erase the record we have rolled up. It is a promise that He will throw away the black pages of our book and give us the kind of big welcome that the Prodigal Son received from his father, who said, "My son that was lost is found and is home again" (Luke 15:24).
Source: Robert Schuller: 'The Be (Happy) Attitudes: Eight Positive Attitudes That Can Transform Your Life!', Word Press, Waco, TX, Copyright, 1985
by Charles R. Swindoll
Forgive us, our Father, for being attracted to the pleasures of sin . . . to what appears to be full of ecstasy and satisfaction but is, in fact, empty and stupid. Thank You for bringing conviction, for pointing out our rebellion. We need that reminder every day, so that we might invest ourselves in that which endures. We want to pursue the things of God, the things You consider important and valuable - a righteous walk, a pure heart, a committed lifestyle. We long to place family above fortune and purpose above fame and righteousness above riches.
Our Father, You instruct us and teach us in the way we should go. Thank You for that. You shine a bright light on our path from Your Word. Thank You for the relief that comes with being forgiven and the peace of mind that accompanies a clean heart. Finally, thank You for Your mercies, new every morning, and Your grace, needed every day.
We thank You in the dear name of Jesus. Amen.
See also: Matthew 6:12; Acts 10:43; Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 9:22.
Source: Today's Insight from Chuck Swindoll; Used with permission. All rights reserved.
by Wes Hopper
This is a hard task for many people, because it's so easy for us to carry these resentments around. We always have very good reasons for them!
I've had people tell me, "Wes, if you only knew what he did, you'd understand why I'm so angry!" But they don't understand that what happened, or what someone did, is not the issue.
The issue is what carrying that anger around is doing to you now. Supporting you in living a calm, balanced life of joy, abundance, peace and productivity is not what anger or fear does.
As Dr Murphy points out, our enemies are not the other people, the enemies are our thoughts about them. The other person or situation is not hurting us now, but our thoughts about them are unbalancing us physically, emotionally and spiritually.
So we must love our enemies. I know there's probably some folks who are thinking, "OK, I'll do that, just as soon as I get even!" But that's the wounded child in us stamping his or her feet and holding their breath until they turn blue.
For our own sakes, we forgive and we let go. We release the person and the memories, simply wishing them well on their journey. We take the lessons and are wiser in our choices.
As we entertain these new thoughts, we feel the peace that comes with them. We can sense our neurons rewiring themselves into new and more peaceful networks.
Now we can get our focus back on what we want to create, and start that process. It feels good.
Forgiveness, peace, and success is always the best "revenge."
by Joe McKeever
There was a time I had the answer to everyone's depression.
"You're down in the dumps? Your spirit is so low you wish you were dead? The answer is simple. Just memorize scripture and quote it to yourself."
The simplest response to that is that it was well-meaning but truly stupid. A dead giveaway that I'd never been depressed.
The day came when I was depressed--by then I had logged more than four decades on Planet Earth and thought I was home free; bad mistake--and found just how ineffective and even insulting my little home remedy could be to those in its death-grip.
In my defense, I did not think that up by myself. Somewhere along the way, someone smarter than me--there are so many of those!--had said it, and it sounded logical. (My one wish is that all to whom I spouted that well-meaning nonsense have forgiven me and forgotten it.)
The Bible has great powers, and Scripture can do many things. In some cases, no doubt, memorizing or quoting or meditating upon God's Word does indeed banish the "blues." But to make it a panacea, a cure-all, for all kinds of depressions is not wise.
So, where is wisdom concerning depression? Herewith my little contribution to the subject.
1. Recognize that depression is a condition with a hundred expressions and perhaps a thousand causes.
Your depression and mine may be completely unalike.
Alice is depressed because she was dumped last night by the guy she'd planned to marry. Bob is depressed because he is running from God and nothing in his life is working. Clay is depressed because he was turned down for the promotion and now learns his kid is failing his senior year of high school. Deanna is depressed because the news from the doctor is the worst imaginable. Elvira is depressed because she's finally begun dieting and is missing her sugar high. Franklin is depressed because of hereditary conditions that haven't been determined yet. Grace is depressed because of a chemical imbalance in her body. And Hank? He loves to be depressed and is suspicious of anyone happier than he.
If the causes are varied, and the way we act when depressed is unique to us, it makes sense that the cures are varied also.
2. Some of the best people on the planet have battled depression.
Martin Luther fought depression. Charles Haddon Spurgeon did. Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill did. Elizabeth Elliot dealt with it.
Most learned to live with it, or at least figured out something to do when that "black dog" settled upon their spirits.
Mrs. Elliot, the prolific Christian writer and widow of martyred missionary Jim Elliot, talked in one of her books of what she did when depressed. One symptom, she said, was a lack of energy and an unwillingness to tackle any kind of major project. So, when depressed, she would simply do the next thing. Instead of making multiple plans for the rest of her day, she looked around her house and chose one chore to tackle and nothing else. When that was completed, she would choose another. By the end of the day, she had been productive even while feeling terrible.
3. Make one important decision about your depression: "When depressed, I will make no important decision."
A seminary professor told his preacher-students, "Never resign on a Monday." The implication--for you non-preacher types who may not get the insider allusion--is that pastors are frequently depressed on Mondays as a result of a) fatigue, b) something that happened at church on Sunday, c) all the things that should have but did not happen at church on Sunday, or d) all of the above.
The biggest decision of all which some depressed people have been known to make is to end their lives. Suicide, it has been said, is "a permanent solution to a temporary problem." Counselors dealing with possible candidates for ending their lives aim first of all to get them to live through the night, to get up tomorrow and see if they don't feel differently.
4. The best illustration of depression--and what to do about it--is found in the life of Elijah.
The story is found in I Kings 19 and surrounding chapters.
The timing of his depression. Elijah had just won a great victory over the prophets of Baal at Mt. Carmel (I K.18). He had literally had a mountaintop experience that had to have left him emotionally exhausted.
The trigger of his depression. He's riding high now. Then he gets word that Queen Jezebel is furious with him for defeating then slaughtering her pet prophets. She sends word, "Let the gods do to me and more also if I do not make you as one of them by this time tomorrow" (I K. 19:2). And that did it.
Elijah ran for his life. Literally. "When he heard that, he arose and ran for his life and went to Beersheba...." (19:3) Beersheba is about as far to the south as one could go and still be in the country.
The trouble with his depression. He's out of commission, out of work, out of hope, and out of ideas. He wants to die.
"And he prayed that he might die, and said, 'It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!''" (19:4)
His depression was accomplishing what the devil had not been able to do: put him out of business. It was important that Elijah get his act together and get back to the front line. How the Lord accomplished that is instructive for us.
The triumph over his depression. The Lord sent an angel. That word simply means "a messenger." So, in your depression, perhaps your angel is a husband or wife, a co-worker or your best friend. Or this preacher.
God is not impressed by pity parties, whether they are put on by prophets and preachers or by the rest of us.
The truth of depression. This malady has always been around and presumably will be with us so long as we live in these houses of clay. What each of us has to do is learn how to deal with them so we can function.
Someone pointed out to me once that only truly bright people experience depression. I have no idea whether there is anything to that or not. But it might be worthwhile to remind yourself of it the next time that "black dog" settles upon your shoulders: "If I were less intelligent and not so highly motivated, I'd not have this problem."
Would that help? I have no idea. Try it and see.
Is it true? If so, saying it sounds like the height of snobbery, so I think I'd keep it to myself. (There's every possibility that less educated people may have the same problem and just not have the luxury of identifying it or dealing with it.)
5. My experience with migraine headaches has helped me deal with symptoms of depression.
I was in my late 30s and pastoring a busy church the first time those lights started flashing and then the hammers began throbbing inside my brain. I had no idea what was happening. I shut myself in my church office, pulled the drapes and turned off the lights. That seemed to help. A couple of hours later, the pain subsided and I was fine.
What happened there, I wondered. By asking around, I found numerous friends who lived with migraines on a regular basis and were often incapacitated by them.
In my case, after several headaches, I decided--without an ounce of medical evidence to back it up--that what was happening was that the blood vessels carrying oxygen to my brain were constricting, and when the brain was deprived, it was reacting. Therefore, I made plans.
Ever since that moment, when the tiny lights begin flashing and I find focusing on anything difficult--a sure sign that a migraine is just ahead--I begin making a conscious effort to breathe deeply. I inhale slowly and fully, hold it, and then exhale gently. Back and forth.
Result: no more migraines. Not in decades.
How is this instructive for dealing with depression? Just this: when you emerge from a time of depression, analyze it. Try to find the trigger, that event or person or thought that set it off. See if there are ways to anticipate depression. If you can tell when such a bout is coming on, you can find ways to head it off.
by LeAnn Rice
■ 8 slices of bread
Spread four slices of bread with peanut butter and four slices with jam. Put together to make four peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
In a flat dish, combine the eggs, milk, vanilla and cinnamon.
Heat griddle or skillet over medium heat. Melt enough butter to coat the bottom.
Gently place one sandwich in the egg mixture, turning over to coat each side. Transfer to the griddle or skillet. Repeat with each sandwich. Cook for approximately four minutes per side or until golden brown.
To serve, cut each sandwich in half diagonally, or into triangles. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve with a little drizzle of pure maple syrup.
NOTE: Leave out the jam and make peanut butter (only) sandwiches. Serve with fresh berries and berry syrup.
by Suzie Eller
Claire sat on the floor with a wad of tissues in her hand. Her husband had left her three days earlier for someone else.
Sitting there crying, in her brokenness she sensed God whisper, "Pray for him."
Fists clinched, she shook them at the ceiling. "It's too soon, God. If You love me, You won't ask this of me. You are focusing on the wrong person. He's the one who should be kneeling and asking for forgiveness."
In 1 Kings 8, we find the story of God's temple being built, a temple where God's presence would dwell. It took seven years, a labor force of over 130,000 and King Solomon's leadership to complete the temple. It was built with cypress, olive wood and cedar, and inside the doors were overlaid in gold. When the temple was completed, Solomon stood in awe as God's presence filled it (verse 10), and he began to pray.
He could have asked God for many things. That the temple be a place of power where his kingdom would shine. That his enemies, and those of his father, King David, would be slain. That the sinful man would walk through the doors and be condemned for his sins.
Instead he asked that God's Name be honored in the temple, and the magnificent structure would be a place of forgiveness.
Scripture declares that we are His temple. Three days after discovering her husband's secrets Claire hadn't eaten. She hadn't slept. Her temple was crumbling.
By asking her to forgive so soon, God wasn't showing a lack of compassion over her pain or her husband's abandonment, but a sign that He knew her well. By asking her to forgive, God was asking for a place to move into the demolished areas of her life.
Forgiving would allow Him to fill her with His presence, putting His Name there forever, no matter what her situation.
Daily, Claire walked intentionally in her relationship with God, reading the Bible, talking honestly with Him, listening to worship music. This became her sanctuary as she went through the most challenging parts of an unwanted divorce. The more she nurtured her heart and His presence inside of her, the less room there was for sadness, grief, anger, and loss.
And then the day came. She knelt on the carpet and she told God, "I forgive him," and she meant it.
A deeper meaning to the word forgive is "to abide" or "to set free." Claire experienced both of these as she made room within her heart, mind and soul for God's presence and forgiveness to dwell.
It's been nearly a year. She is still beginning each day with God and inviting Him to fill her up with Himself. Moments of joy now surprise her just as grief once did.
Dear Lord, I knew instinctively that one day You would ask me to forgive, but today I understand why. You want to move in to the demolished areas of my life and let Your presence shine. Help me to begin to forgive with Your help. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Reflect and Respond:
How are you currently filling the empty places left by unfaithfulness or hurt?
What do you feel God nudging you to do differently? List one way you can begin to intentionally walk into a deeper relationship with Christ, regardless of your situation.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20, "Don't you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price." (NLT)
© 2012 by Suzie Eller. All rights reserved.
Comedian Emo Philips tells of walking across a bridge and seeing a man standing on the edge, ready to jump off. He ran over and said, "Stop! Don't do it!"
"Why shouldn't I?" he said.
"Well, there's so much to live for."
"Well, are you religious?"
He said, "Yes."
I said, "Me too! Are you Christian or Buddhist?"
"Me too! Are you Catholic or Protestant?"
"Me too! Are you Episcopalian or Baptist?"
"Wow, me too! Are you Baptist Church of God or Baptist Church of the Lord?"
"Baptist Church of God!"
"Me too! Are you original Baptist Church of God or Reformed Baptist Church of God?"
"Reformed Baptist Church of God!"
"Me too! Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1879, or Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915?"
His new friend replied, "Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915."
To which Philips replied, "Die, heretic!," and he pushed him off.
But only because it's so often sadly, tragically, true of our spirit.
Source: James Emery White As cited by GQ Magazine, June 1999
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