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Week 05

What is the Gospel?

Each of us have shared a personal story in the last week of how the gospel has impacted us personally. We have also shared about circumstances in our lives when doubts about God’s goodness or His timing have impacted our own personal stories and spiritual lives and growth.

So, what is the gospel? Paul tells us, “That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.  After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.  Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me [Paul] also, as to one abnormally born.”   I Corinthians 15:3-8 NIV. Any presentation of the gospel to anyone must include these four elements: Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection, and the testimony from witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection that Paul shared succinctly with the Corinthian church. But there are other scriptures in the Bible that make these concepts clearer. 

Paul wrote the book of Romans as well, and it has many verses that articulate what the good news that Jesus brought means to us — Jesus’ death on the cross provided a way for us to come into a right relationship with God.

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” Romans 1:16-17

 

This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished; Romans 3:22-25 NIV

 

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:1-2 NIV

 

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. We have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. Romans 5:8-11 NIV 

 

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23 NIV

 

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:1-4 NIV.


Just as the two disciples on the road to Emmaus had a personal interaction with the risen Christ, each of us who are believers have as well. With each of our stories we have shared, it is this personal interaction with the risen Christ; our personal relationship is what makes all the difference in our lives and in the life of every believer in Jesus. 

 

by Grace Hunter

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What is the Gospel?2024-05-11T11:11:32-06:00

Learning to See Jesus 

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. I Corinthians 13:12 


I’ve always sensed that Jesus was alive and that He was guiding me. At the same time,  life has been a process of learning more about who He really is. For me, this process reminds me of going to the optometrist. The doctor starts with my
previous correction and then refines it until I’m able to enjoy beauty, read, and function normally.  I’ll never experience 20/20 vision but I’m able to see so much better than I naturally could. Walking with Jesus over a lifetime has been like that for me.

Jesus Meets Me Where I am

My uncorrected vision is 20/800. I can see vaguely but can’t function. (Even the doctor tells me my eyesight “isn’t great.”) As bad as my natural eyesight is, the doctor is able to correct my vision to what it needs to be. In the same way, Jesus has met me where I have been and has led me to where I needed to be.

Which is clearer, a or b ?

Jesus Shows Himself in Others

When I was a child, I saw Jesus as He related to me.  As I’ve grown, I’ve seen Jesus in relation to all believers. Seeing Jesus transforming other believers has been a very  precious gift.

Learning to See Takes Trial and Error

Learning to see Jesus more clearly hasn’t progressed in a perfectly straight line. When the doctor asks, “Is one or two better?”  I sometimes doubt that my answer is correct, and can get off track. Sometimes bumps in life have been really hard, and I’ve reverted to former ways of seeing — which reminds me of times I’ve lost my glasses and had to  make do with an older pair.  Like the doctor, Jesus is patient, allowing me to make choices.  I’ve made plenty of mistakes, but, as a result,  I’ve learned to see more clearly.

The Best is Yet to Come

Thanks to Jesus’s guidance and the gift of sight he’s given me, I can marvel at just how wonderful He is.  Scripture promises that we have much more to look forward to: 

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. We know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.  I John 3:2 NIV


“Thank you, God, for sending Jesus, who gives us healing and hope in this world. Thank you that we can be confident that, one day, we will see you exactly as you are and that we will be like you.“   

by Sherry Sommer

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Learning to See Jesus 2024-05-11T10:54:13-06:00

The Goodest News!!

English teachers in our midst, please forgive my ungrammatical title. My prompt for today was to share my personal experience with the Gospel, or more precisely, the Good News. As I considered it, I felt the word Good in Good News fell immeasurably short of what the Good News, the Gospel, means to me. And the most superlative of superlative words falls short. So I’ll stick with Goodest!!

As a boy I attended a Lutheran church with my mom. It was cold. The services had two parts. We did responsive readings followed by a plethora of hymns. We sang every verse of every hymn. The more the merrier. Jesus may have been there, but I sure couldn’t see Him. 

In high school, I attended a Baptist church. It was a lot friendlier, but the truth is, I still didn’t find Jesus there. I thought He was on vacation. I seldom heard scripture from the pulpit. And then, in the Spring of my senior year, a Christian singing group from Illinois, (ironically) The Good News Circle, spent a week at my church, giving concerts and altar calls every night. Hundreds came forward. And I saw something brand new for me. The Good News Circle was on fire. I’m not sure they even realized their impact. But they weren’t alone. Jesus stood there on stage with them. I saw Him in each one of them. It reminds me of one of my favorite Bible stories: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up.” He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” Daniel 3:24-25

 

I went from “almost” Christian to Youth Pastor in a matter of months. I took 42 kids from our youth group to a Summer Evangelism Camp led by the Good News Circle. All 42 of our young people went forward, and as I drove the bus back from Wisconsin, our bus was filled with 42 budding Apostle Pauls and Paulines. What followed was 50 plus years with me and Jesus together. I was never alone. Every moment of every day.

So what happened? The answer can be summed up in some of my favorite passages.

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. Acts 4:13

 

They took note that these men had been with Jesus!!  Wowsers!! I could definitely say that about the Good News Circle, and I pray that you might say that about me. Paul says it the goodest!!

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17

 

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. Philippians 1:21

 

I’d love to tell you that my life since then has been all milk and honey. Not exactly; I spent 21 beyond difficult years caring for my son with schizophrenia until he passed away swiftly and unexpectedly in 2012. Before I could even take a breath, I became my mother’s caregiver, only to see her pass away as swiftly two years later as unexpectedly as my son. Now I live with my daughter, who has a life-threatening version of Crohn’s Disease and mental health issues that are an outgrowth of the loss of her brother and grandmother. I have severe macular generation in one eye, poor hearing, only ten bad teeth, hips that make walking beyond painful, and skin that itches all day everyday. And guess what? None of that matters. Because the Good News of Jesus trumps everything. Jesus offered me this,

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:37-39

and it sustains me through everything

I call that the Goodest News!!

 

by Bruce Hanson

 

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The Goodest News!!2024-05-11T10:30:09-06:00

Carolyn’s Story and the Gospel

Recently I found a story I wrote as an assignment for a correspondence course in “Writing for Children and Teenagers” that I was taking in 1992.  This particular story was supposed to be a “fictionalized” version of a factual account from my own life.  The only thing I did was change the names of each person involved: Two aunts, my grandmother, my younger sister, my mother and me. The rest was what actually happened. The story took place in the spring of 1953 when I was taken from where I lived in New Mexico to live with my father’s sister and her husband in Denver.  It tells about the last night I saw my mother alive and was entitled, “Goodbye, Mama, Goodbye”. 

My Mother died nine months after I was moved and I didn’t get to go to her memorial, although they sent me pictures of her in her casket. I was eleven years old.  

The following is not fiction, but is a brief account of my early years living in Denver. 

When I lived in New Mexico, with my mother’s side of the family, we always went to church, so I was “brought up” around the stories and songs of Jesus, who loved me. When I was moved to Denver, my aunt.who was my father’s sister, had a real dislike for church and my uncle was Jewish.  

Thanks to some neighbors, I was taken to South Presbyterian Church which was not far from our house.  I was allowed to go, but it was hard to come home to snide comments about the church and what I was like.  It got worse when I was thirteen and was allowed to go to a summer camp where I walked forward after an altar call and, as I have since described it, “Jesus welcomed this not-so-docile lamb into his fold”.

Something my aunt had shown me was a letter my mother had sent before I was taken away, asking my aunt and uncle to adopt me if they wanted to, and telling her that “I would work well for her if she went about it the right way”.

My aunt would use that letter to remind me that I was not worth being kept, (they didn’t adopt me), that I was a throw away and my only value was how well I worked around the house and yard.  What’s more, she told me that, because I was so horrible, it was my fault that my mother got sick and died. Anytime I didn’t live up to her definition of “Christian” behavior, she would say, “And you call yourself a “Christian!”.

My aunt had been raised in a Christian household, but because she didn’t have a good relationship with her father, she had rebelled against anything to do with church.  Because she wanted not to antagonize some of her Christian neighbors and a few friends, she continued to let me go to church if I wanted to. My “rebellion“ took the form of continuing to go regardless. I moved out on my own when I was 21.

Fast forward, to my current age of 81.  Over the years I slowly began to see God’s loving hand working through the events of my early years. He has worked through my husband, children, wise counselors, pastors and friends to bring healing to my memories and life. Most especially, God kept me in the church, which became my safe place where I could serve in various volunteer ways and be regularly exposed to good teaching. Through it, particularly as I had no family in the church during my childhood years, the people there became my family. The people at South Fellowship are my family still. 

Some of the scriptures that have encouraged me in the Lord are below.  I have emphasized some of the things that particularly touch my heart about God the Father, Jesus and the Holy spirit.

Sing to God, sing in praise of his name, extol him who rides on the clouds; rejoice before him—his name is the Lord.
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. Psalm 68:4-5. 

(I qualify as both.)

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. Psalm 139:1-10

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2:19. 

(Treasuring and pondering the scriptures is very important to me.)

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be  brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.”

“Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” John 17: 20-26

To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. Jude 24-25

by Carolyn Schmitt


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Carolyn’s Story and the Gospel2024-05-11T10:11:46-06:00

The Gospel is More

In my Nebraska hometown farming community, couples often married young. When I was 15 my mother gave me a marriage hope chest just like this one,
even though I had no boyfriend.

  Our hope Chest

I started my college years anticipating the famed “MRS” degree. Although one man I dated during college appeared to be my future husband, a series of events derailed our relationship. The hope chest remained dormant in my childhood home as I moved to Washington, DC. There, at age 23, I started my professional life as well as responding positively to Jesus’ invitation to experience the Gospel — the good news of my reconciliation to him. My conversion was so dramatic that I anticipated a smooth path forward. 

In ensuing years, I interacted with many stimulating Christian individuals and groups. My calendar was full, my responsibilities heavy, and my spiritual flourishing noticeable. In hopes of marriage and children, I devoured a plethora of Christian books on the subjects — but God’s picture, so beautiful in Genesis 2, still didn’t materialize for me.

As I approached my 30th birthday, I asked God: where is my husband? I had resolved to serve Jesus with all my heart, but had made a secret (even to me) deadline of age 30 for him to deliver the goods. During the next 3 years I was angry with God for failing to meet that expectation. In desperation, I tried on a Cinderella slipper or two – no success.

At 33, I moved to Colorado to discover many my age already married. At age 38, my brother Joe and I joked about me finding the right man. I believed this man should be a serious Christian, and I tossed in a couple other reasonable attributes. After doing rough calculations, Joe and I concluded that only one man in the Denver area could be a fit. 

I trudged along in my single life, resigned to loneliness. A hard tumor of doubt interfered with my spiritual health. Proverbs 13:12 rang true.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick….

This declaration of the Apostle Paul, a Christian committed to singleness, provoked me.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:7 CSB

Delayed, legitimate desires can develop such roadblocks to spiritual growth. Jesus’ followers trust him for the big stuff. When time passes without fulfillment, doubts about his concern and compassion arise. The stories of Naomi in Ruth 1:1-21 and of Samuel’s mother, Hannah, in I Samuel 1 portray the distraught emotional states of these two women. It helps to know their desires were ultimately satisfied by God’s overdue (?) provision.

For his own reasons, God waited to activate my hope chest until I was 42. The statistic my brother and I developed was accurate…there was just one man God had in mind to be my husband. For almost 35 years, God has continued to prove what an ideal fit Lloyd is for me. 

If you or a loved one are experiencing doubt that the Gospel of Jesus covers more than basic conversion, meditate on the below description of his wisdom, character, and timeliness. His Gospel of reconciliation, though complete in eternal terms, is not rushed in this life.

But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not willing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:8-9 NASB

by Kathleen Petersen

Note. To access scripture links that don’t appear in the email version, read the web version in your browser.

The Gospel is More2024-05-11T09:22:17-06:00

Thirst for Vengeance or Wholeness?

by Kathleen Petersen

Throughout the 1970s I lived in Washington, DC, which has more than twice as many lawyers per capita than any other U.S. city. After that decade, I was drawn to enter the legal profession.

My course of study revealed that the legal system was designed originally as a substitute for brutal, physical conflict when a wrong had been perpetrated as a “civilized” alternative to raw vengeance. What a relief! Vengeance has no record of settling anything but creates massive need for further retaliation.
As I continued my career, the term “making one whole” was used frequently:

“Make one whole” is a theory of remedying a breach of contract or other legal obligation. The idea is that someone should be awarded damages to put that person in the same position they would have been if the obligation was not broken.

In theory, lawsuits are a relatively painless method to settle differences or stop a renegade from harming others. In reality, lawsuits are time-consuming, messy, agonizing, and frightfully expensive, leaving all parties unsatisfied in many respects.

Is there a better way?
The following portion of the Lord’s Prayer upon which we’ve been meditating this week, indicates God’s path when someone has wronged us:

 and forgive us our debts, as we ourselves have forgiven our debtors… For if you forgive others their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive you your sins. Matthew 6:12,14-15 NET

Perhaps forgiveness of your debtor has proven elusive, or maybe your debtor hasn’t ceased harmful behavior. Here’s further encouragement to continue
your pursuit of the Way of Jesus.

Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for God’s wrath, because it is written, Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay, says the Lord. But

If your enemy is hungry, feed him.
If he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
For in so doing
you will be heaping fiery coals on his head.

Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good. Romans 12:19-21 CSB

Because we belong to God, we must turn away thoughts and acts of vengeance. Our Father in Heaven is the only one capable of providing wholeness or closure in cases of harmful, selfish or deeply evil actions against us without creating even more chaos. 

But how should we handle our frustration when God’s response seems too slow or destined to be fulfilled only at the Great White Throne of Judgment?
The Romans passage above doesn’t impede followers of Jesus from establishing healthy and necessary boundaries with an offending person. Furthermore,
godly counseling, arbitration or mediation are not excluded. Lawsuits can even be appropriate in certain circumstances. 

The most amazing revelation in Romans 12:21 above is that God has placed his amazing power in us. He enables us to see the place where we can step into his acts of forgiveness and kindness designed to soften hearts gripped by the power of sin and the devil. We can be instruments of his mercy designed to turn them toward Jesus – humanity’s only source of wholeness. 

Has forgiving your enemies or showing them mercy changed them? If so, how has that experience changed you? Has someone forgiven or shown kindness to you and changed your life? Share your experience of God’s mercy with someone who has not yet trusted Jesus.

Note. To access scripture links that don’t appear in the email version, read the web version in your browser.

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Sermon on the Mount.

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Thirst for Vengeance or Wholeness?2024-02-25T18:17:18-07:00

The Heart of the Matter

by Bruce Hanson

“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” Matthew 6:12, 14

As the devotional team met to talk about the verses above, we discussed the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. We only truly have control over the first. The second may or may not ever occur. But forgiveness is something we fervently seek because of its impact on our own hearts. Forgiveness led me to consider another significant verse.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

For too many, wrongs done to them render the heaviest of burdens. How can I possibly forgive? I was hurt so badly!! Bitterness seems the natural outcome, but it eats at our hearts and dims the Holy Spirit’s light as He tries to shine through our lives. The following is not the answer.

Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him,
“I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” Matthew 18:21-22

Before going further, I want to give Peter a little pass. Peter ALWAYS speaks his mind. Trouble is, that speaking his mind sometimes leads Peter to place both feet in his mouth. But he is honest and seems to always repent when he missteps. Reading between the lines, Peter has likely just forgiven someone he has already forgiven more than once, and he is seeking kudos from Jesus. He needs to justify his actions, but there are no formulas here.

As humans, we tend to like formulas. If we do this (x), we get this (y). The trouble is that forgiveness is a condition of our hearts, not of our heads. It is seldom as simple as 2 + 2 = 4. More often than not, the need for forgiveness reflects a serious internal wound. We can’t come up with an answer and end up carrying that burden around with us everywhere we go. It is literally back-breaking. It interferes with everything we do. 

I am reminded of these words from Hebrews:

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily
entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus,
Hebrews 12:1-2a

More often than not, forgiveness is not so much about the other person. It is about our own letting go. We have the perfect example in Hosea.

He was a godly man with an ungodly wife, Gomer. Gomer was repeatedly involved in extramarital promiscuity. In our culture that would be bad. In Hosea’s,
it was beyond despicable. But Hosea loved his wife, so his willingness to forgive her changed everything.

I am well aware that forgiveness is not always easily acquired. It may take days and days, even years of talking with God. But in the end it is a fruit worth seeking, and a fruit you may share with everyone else who crosses your path. Lay your burdens down.

Seek those smiles!! The world needs yours!!

Note. To access scripture links that don’t appear in the email version, read the web version in your browser.

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The Heart of the Matter2024-02-27T20:48:03-07:00

Forgiveness as a Way of life

by Sherry Sommer

Last week our devotional team talked about what Jesus says about forgiveness. 

Aaron compared people to unbalanced scales — a depiction that is simple and yet very accurate. The Bible teaches that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. That falling short means that we will all be hurt by others and hurt others. We long for justice, but there’s so much we don’t see or understand in ourselves and in the world around us. Without God’s help forgiveness isn’t possible. 

Jesus has high standards for forgiveness; he says we can’t hold anything against  anyone. Without God’s help, forgiveness may seem foolish to us. We might instinctively want to extract vengeance or sacrificially to carry the weight of our hurt.  We may even feel that being unforgiving will make the scales of our hearts or the hearts of others more balanced. Jesus is telling us to do the opposite of what our instincts tell us. We need to forgive everyone we might hold a grudge against: 

“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
Mark 11:25

To achieve forgiveness is far beyond human comprehension.  For a long time, it was really difficult for me even to understand what forgiveness was. I knew what it wasn’t — it wasn’t minimizing or enabling sin, or brushing it under the rug. My son once defined it as “Not letting how you’ve been sinned against dominate your thoughts or making it everyone else’s business.”  That seems reasonable.  Kathleen Petersen had a helpful insight in our meeting — she pointed out that Matthew 6:12 describes sin as a debt: 

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

That helped me visualize more what needs to happen when I forgive — I need to recognize that sin creates a real debt, which for us, walking in “The Way of Jesus”, implies that it’s not up to us to collect. Only Jesus is able to cover that debt. He reconciles us to himself and he works to transform hearts. He works for good even in bad circumstances. Only he has the perfect judgment and power to do this work..   

Jesus says that, to the extent that we forgive, he is able to forgive us. He is asking us to forgive as a way of life, not just as one time actions. The forgiveness Jesus asks for is not simple. It is not something we can do by willpower or by following a technique. I do know that what Jesus commands us to do, he will make it possible.

 Jesus tells us to pray,  “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” This is not a scattershot or individualist prayer. He tells us to forgive as an entire community of believers. Let’s pray for the insight and dependence on Jesus we need, so that we can be a people who forgive continually and well. 

Note. To access scripture links that don’t appear in the email version, read the web version in your browser.

Forgiveness as a Way of life2024-02-25T18:10:43-07:00

It’s Not Just a Me Thing!

by Aaron Bjorklund

 

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

One of the significant risks we run into as humans is losing touch with the gravity of our sin. We know that some sins affect other persons, but other sins may be private. No one knows about them; they only affect us and our relationship with God. If we distinguish between public and private sins, we lose touch with the nature of sin. Sin is a contagious disease that ALWAYS affects others. Even those sins that we don’t think anyone knows about. 

Yes, God has decisively dealt with our sin through the cross, so for us there is NO condemnation anymore for sin, but it’s still systemically dangerous. God doesn’t hate sin for some arbitrary reason; he hates it because he knows it damages us and others. This part of the Lord’s prayer acknowledges how connected our debts are to others. We cannot escape the damage brought about by our own and other people’s sins. 

When you pray for forgiveness, this text encourages you to acknowledge and forgive how other people’s sins have damaged you. This prayer recognizes the forgiveness of sin, but it also takes sin seriously enough to address it and seek mercy. Perhaps this week, as you pray, ask God to forgive you but also to open your eyes to how your sin affects others —  even if it is simply by how sin can change your attitude toward those around you.

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It’s Not Just a Me Thing!2024-02-24T18:21:56-07:00

The Protocol for Forgiveness Matters

by Grace Hunter

Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. Matthew 6:12 NIV

This week we focus on our individual and corporate need for forgiveness, as well as our individual and corporate need to forgive other people. The course of action in this verse is vital. This is a petition: it is an asking of God to forgive us of our sins, of our misdeeds, of our offenses done against God and against others. There are many Psalms that express petition in beautiful and expressive language. Look at David’s language in Psalm 51:

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.

Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me. Psalm 51:1-3

Did you notice that He asks God for his personal forgiveness? David wrote this Psalm and prayed this prayer after committing adultery with Bathsheba and after committing the murder of her husband. David had definitely sinned against other people in this situation, but first he asks for forgiveness of God. He acknowledges that God alone can forgive our sins.  

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart,
O God, you will not despise. Psalm 51:16-17

In this section of Psalm 51, David’s humility is clearly expressed. We are not able to seek forgiveness from God or from anyone else if we do not first see that sin clearly in ourselves. But sin rarely only affects us. Usually at least one other person has been affected, hurt, or offended by our sinful actions. So, back to the order of Jesus’ prayer. Once we have asked for our own forgiveness, then we need to acknowledge and ask for forgiveness for “our” sins, those that have been committed by us as a family, as a city, as a nation, as a people.

You have set our iniquities before you,
our secret sins in the light of your presence.

Relent, O LORD ! How long will it be?
Have compassion on your servants.

Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.

May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us;
establish the work of our hands for us-
yes, establish the work of our hands. Psalm 90:8, 13-14, 17 NIV

Moses prayed for the Nation of Israel in Psalm 90. He acknowledged God as the one who can forgive, who can show compassion, and the one who can restore the relationship between God and His people, Israel.

Only after we have asked for forgiveness, are we able to see clearly, and are able to offer forgiveness to those who have hurt, offended or sinned against us.

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32 NIV

 

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The Protocol for Forgiveness Matters2024-02-24T18:48:55-07:00
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