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Archive for August, 2014

The Good Work of Forgiving Others

August 29th, 2014

But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

Luke 6:27-28

To forgive our enemies is a work that is good in many senses.

It is good for the one who is forgiven. We have all done or said things to hurt others and when those persons let us know that all is okay, that they do not hold onto the grudge, it is good news for us. We would all hate to go around with all of our deeds unforgotten and constantly remembered and dragged out for public view. So it is good and a cause for him or her to celebrate when the offender is forgiven.

It is good for the one who forgives – usually better even. Unforgiveness is like an acid that does more damage to what it is stored in than what it is poured on. Unforgiveness is like taking poison while hoping that the other person will die. So for the one who forgives it is a very good thing, otherwise he or she will be stuck constantly in the pain of the offense, never being freed, emotionally stunted, and spiritually cold toward God. We cannot forget that forgiveness is a Christian duty, and though it does not always mean re-instatement, it does mean that the anger toward the offender is released into the hands of God.

It is good for society at large. Bitterness and unforgiveness result in revenge and revenge usually hurts innocent people. Two unforgiving and quarreling drivers on the road, if they are aggressive toward one another, are distracted and more likely to hurt other drivers and travelers. Anger and rage makes us blind to the damage we do to others around us.

It is good in the sense of its origin, also, for there are some levels of forgiveness that only God’s Spirit can achieve in our lives. When we are pushed to a place where it is hard to forgive, when the offense is deep and the pain is seemingly unbearable, this is a time when we need the grace of God to forgive in His power, and not just our own. Are there things that still bother you? People you have still not forgiven? Seek the deeper walk with Christ until you are free from the anger and bitterness.

It is good also for the witness of the church and for the gospel. Today there are Christians in northern Iraq that are facing terrible persecutions for their faith. The anger and hatred toward Followers of Christ by some Muslims is incredible. What type of religion can only be spread through the threats of beheadings? We must pray for our brothers and sisters – for protection and safety. But anger and human wrath does not work God’s righteousness (James 1:20). While we have every right to defend ourselves and every obligation to protect the innocent we must avoid the unforgiveness that hardens our hearts and provokes revenge. Vengeance is mine, says the Lord (Rom. 12:19), and we are called to overcome evil with good (Rom. 12:21).

So, forgive your enemies and bless the world.

Daily Devotions

The Worshiper’s Heart

August 28th, 2014

How shall we sing the Lord‘s song in a foreign land?

Psalm 137:4

This question resonates in many different keys. The question is not merely one of geography but of ideology, of values, and of sheer volume of ungodly influences we come in contact with.

Sometimes the fallenness of this world is very clear. Other times, however, we are not always immediately aware that our residence is in a “foreign land” of unbelief. It often takes a bit of time for most of us. We cannot emotionally live constantly in a state of spiritual emergency. So we are often lulled into a sense of spiritual safety, of moral rightness, and of ideological sanctity – not lulled to sleep, but lulled to a sense of peace and tranquility that is really only a fleeting respite. We gather together with other believers and worship God and in the spiritual mood present our hearts are lifted, our concerns diminished, and things look better.

There is still much good in the world. There would be something wrong with us if we always longed for the fight. That our hearts long for peace with God, for security and a sense of love in our families, associations, and communities, says something good about us. “Unto the pure, all things are pure” (Titus 1:15), and pure skepticism is always a sign of pride. God desires that we live in peace with all people, as much as it depends on us (Romans 12:18; 1 Cor. 7:15b; 1 Tim. 2:8).

But then suddenly sin raises its ugly head – persecutions by ISIS in Iraq, the trafficking of sex slaves in Asia, the constant cursing on television – and we realize afresh that this world is a foreign land to a Christian. This world is not our home – not in long term residence, but neither in its nature. We should be glad that we are passing through, and not permanently dwelling in this place. The roots of Eden’s bounty still haunt this ground, but they are largely overrun and mostly choked out with thistles and weeds. Oh, they still grow and even sometimes blossom – in the smile of a child, in the fun times with family, children, and grandchildren, in laughter with friends, and especially in worship – but at other times the dark fallenness of this world is all too plain – in the impoverished masses, in the moral decay of human trafficking, in the drug addict’s pain, in the bloody conflicts between nations.

So, how shall we sing God’s song in this foreign land called Earth? Here are my answers.

God’s song is a song of redemption. Worship for us is not about celebrating the sinless Christ only, but also rejoicing in His work of salvation. Revelation 5 proclaims that He is worthy of praise “For you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9b). The darkness is not all powerful and Christ calls, saves, and redeems people across the globe. He is at work now bringing light into the darkness.

God’s song is a song of love. Love alone is worth singing about, and love is most apparent when the objects of love seem so unworthy. We worship Him who loves us despite ourselves. “While we were till sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Even now, by His Spirit and through His Word, Christ brings our hearts to know His love, the love that He and the Father share for all eternity (John 17:26).

God’s song is a song of victory. The thought of heaven is not escapism, it is not avoiding our earthly reality, rather it is the biblical truth that death is not the final word on human life. Job cried, “I know that my Redeemer lives and that at the last He shall stand upon this earth. After my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh shall I see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold” (Job 19:25-26). This world shall be defeated one day. Christ shall establish His Kingdom here. The New Jerusalem shall become our reality one day.

God’s song is a song of the redeemed community. The question in the text is not, “How shall I sing?” It is “How shall we sing?” And if we struggle to worship Him in this fallen world, we do not struggle alone. Others believe like us. Others have trusted in Christ and also long to worship Him. And the Spirit inspires our worship when we meet together. When one of us is discouraged, Christ sends the others of us to lift him up, to strengthen him or her. And we should do this in humble compassion, for there will also come a time when we need the encouragement of the family of faith. Our unity is not found merely in the cadence and rhythm, not merely in the harmony – these are the least important – but in the shared hope of Christ, who as He dwells within us is “the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27).

the night shall not last forever. The morning of God’s redemption shall rise in its fullness one day. Until that day comes He is worthy of our worship.

Daily Devotions ,