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South Fellowship Church

Not Forgiven

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’ But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt.

When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened. Then 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?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” (Matthew 18:21-35)

Forgiveness is no joke in God’s Kingdom. Jesus states several times throughout his ministry that if we hold unforgiveness in our hearts toward others, “our Father will not forgive us” (Matthew 6:15). Ouch. Jesus takes unforgiveness seriously and as followers of Jesus, we cannot ignore this teaching.

What does God’s unforgiveness mean exactly? Does this mean God is an unmerciful God and unwilling to act kindly toward us if we don’t cooperate with him? Or does this mean when we don’t cooperate in the area of forgiveness we, as children of a merciful King, refuse his Kingdom values and therefore, cannot taste it for ourselves? I propose the latter.

Our resentful behavior will be held against us by our Heavenly Father much like a good parent withholds reward from his/her child acting out of character and out of alignment with family values. We are the children hurting when we refuse to forgive. We are the ones jeopardizing our experience of the trust and intimacy with our Heavenly Father when we don’t extend his Kingdom values to the world around us. We are the immature who are missing out on tasting the goodness of God’s Kingdom.

Jesus emphasizes forgiveness because our human relationships affect our relationship with God. When we forgive, we draw close to the only God who forgives and when we walk in resentment, we separate ourselves from the source of forgiveness – and with it his life and blessing.

So, let’s take forgiveness seriously today. I’m sure everyone of us has someone to forgive – whether it’s a major trauma or minor infraction. It’s inevitable. We’re human. But let’s first stop to check in with our souls. Do you feel distant from God today? Get honest and tell God where unforgiveness is creating a barrier with him and receive his forgiveness so you can continue extending his forgiveness to those around you.

Not Forgiven2022-02-18T13:01:25-07:00

As We Forgive Our Debtors

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. (Matthew 6:9a-10,12)

In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You won’t get forgiveness from God, for instance, If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God’s part. (Matthew 6:14-15 MSG)

When I go to Our Father in heaven to ask him to forgive my debts, some of them are specific to my relationship with him. These may include not obeying a direct command to do something or not do something.

Sometimes it is my debt to my family, friends, or neighbor for something I did or said that caused them pain. I need to go and ask their forgiveness before coming to Our Father to ask him to forgive me (Matthew 5:23-24).

Forgiving is hard when someone has done something to wound me, my family, or someone else I love. Especially when there is no desire on their part to acknowledge what they did. All too often the pain becomes resentment and bitterness which ultimately affects more than just that relationship.

My aunt (my father’s sister) who raised me after my parents died, had a lifetime of bitter resentment against her father which caused issues within the family and had consequences with her physical health. In my adulthood, the last conversation I had with her, she mentioned that the next day would be the 21st anniversary of her father’s death and how she still couldn’t think of him without bitterness. I said, “Aunt, you are too grand of a woman to continue letting this poison you! It’s time to let it go!” We ended our conversation at about 7:30 p.m. At 4:00 a.m. the phone rang and my husband answered. He told him she was having a heart spell and the ambulance was at the door to take her to the hospital. He said we’d come as soon as we could. At 6:00 a.m. the hospital called to say she had died.

My husband said that when he hung up the phone with her that he had never heard her sound so good. The hope that hugs my heart is, maybe between the time we talked and when she died, she released it all and herself into our Father’s hands.

When I am tempted to hang on to a grievance, there are several ways I provide a visual for releasing the person or situation into Our Father’s hands: Sometimes I draw a cross and a prayer to remind me of what Jesus has done for us all (Isaiah 53) and I have also pulled up a weed from my garden and pinned it on my kitchen bulletin board to watch it shrivel and die as a reminder to not let bitterness take root in my mind and heart.

What might you use as a creative visual to encourage forgiveness for someone in your life?

As We Forgive Our Debtors2022-02-05T11:11:42-07:00

Forgiveness is a Calling

This week we are focusing on the beauty and power of forgiveness. We have challenged you to consider the relational impact of withholding forgiveness. On Sunday, Alex helped us think of forgiveness as a tool for maintaining healthy relationships. All these things are accurate and powerful, but what do we do when we forgive, and the other party does not? Another question might be, what do we do if we forgive, but the relationship is dangerous to us? Should we always reconcile with others?

Forgiveness is what Jesus invites us to pray for and extend to others in this prayer. Forgiveness does not always turn into reconciliation. Reconciliation requires both parties to come together in forgiveness. In Romans 12:18, Paul writes, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” The phrase “if it is possible” is essential in this challenge. It implies that it isn’t always possible. There are times when abuse or a lack of forgiveness from the other party prevents reconciliation.

Jesus teaches us to pray, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” That is an invitation to do everything in our power to reconcile with God and others. The beauty of our request to God is that he extends forgiveness to all who repent. That isn’t always true when there is brokenness between two humans, but forgiveness sets the forgiver free.

Take a moment to do a relationship inventory. How are you doing? Is there anyone you can think of that you have relational tension with? Maybe now is the time to set both you and them free from the thing that separates you. Remember, this may need to happen repeatedly in your heart. Forgiveness is a calling that makes reconciliation possible.

Forgiveness is a Calling2022-02-14T15:37:13-07:00

Forgiveness is not a Feeling

Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea. (Micah 7:18-19 NIV)

Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon. (Isaiah 55:6-7 NIV)

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

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matthew 6:14-15 NIV)

Forgiving someone who has hurt you can be a difficult thing to do. But God commands us to forgive one another, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you,” (Colossians 3:13). Focusing on all God has done for us, all he has forgiven us, and the price Jesus has already paid for all of our sins is an important first step in being able to forgive another person. Remember John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Jesus died on the cross so that my sins and everyone’s sins could be forgiven.

Psalm 103:8-12 says, The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

We may have difficulty forgiving someone who has hurt us, or has hurt our loved ones, because we may not “feel” like forgiving that person. Or perhaps we have forgiven someone, yet later we discover we need to forgive that person again, or God reveals to us that we did not fully forgive that person. Forgiving someone is an act of our will, an act of obedience to God’s word and to God’s desire for our lives. It involves us asking for forgiveness from God, and from other people, but it does not depend on our feelings. Sometimes it is ourselves we need to forgive. Forgiving yourself and others may involve a process over time, but it does not depend on a “feeling of forgiveness”.

A helpful exercise might be to write out the offense that you need to forgive, pray about it, ask God to forgive you, and then burn the paper, or shred the paper, and leave the matter in God’s hands.

This article, Guideposts Classics: Corrie ten Boom on Forgiveness, is about Corrie Ten Boom, a holocaust concentration camp survivor, who illustrates forgiving her captor, as an act of obedience to God.

Forgiveness is not a Feeling2022-02-14T15:37:45-07:00

Live Debt-Free

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

During my college years a former roommate asked me to lend her the equivalent of $750. She had just married and seemed desperate, so I made the loan. I haven’t seen her since. A few years later I told this story to a Christian friend who laughed and said, “Loaning money like that often ends a friendship.”

After that experience, and a couple others where the personal loan I made was actually repaid, I decided to eliminate complications and instead, as God directs, simply give to meet the need without creating an obligation. I have avoided so much agony by making that decision. (An aside: I won’t address dealings with financial institutions here.)

Intentional creation of interpersonal financial or emotional debt is unwise. Those entanglements arise frequently enough without making them happen on purpose. Here’s what Jesus said about being proactive in living our lives as debt-free as possible:

“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.

“If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” (Luke 6:27-38 ESV)

Maybe you’ve always thought of debt-free as never assuming debt upon yourself. These verses address thoughts and actions that keep us free from making others indebted to us. The bonus is that we are promised an abundant reward as we pursue this lifestyle.

Are you in a situation where someone “owes you”? Ask God what steps you can take to forgive that debt. If necessary, seek wise counsel.

Live Debt-Free2022-02-04T11:32:10-07:00

Formation Guide | Week 6

Jesus emphasizes forgiveness in this short prayer, both on behalf of receiving forgiveness from God and on extending forgiveness to others. Read the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13 and ponder how often Jesus had to pray this to his heavenly Father. Imagine the scenes from Jesus’ life where he needed to lean into this part of the prayer. What might Jesus want you to know from his personal experience with forgiveness?

  1. Get Honest … How would you rate yourself by asking for forgiveness? How about receiving forgiveness? How about extending forgiveness? Share with Jesus reasons each one feels particularly challenging for you.
  2. Change Mind … Listen for what Jesus wants to speak into your heart after becoming so honest with him.
  3. Walk Anew … What step might Jesus want you to take in response to what he’s shown you?

FORMATION CHALLENGE … Take a rock to a body of water, while holding the rock agree with God about your sin and cast it into the water to let it go.

Formation Guide | Week 62022-02-04T11:27:45-07:00

What To Say When You Pray | Week 5 | Friday

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread.” (Matthew 6:9-11 NIV)

Then Jesus took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to Heaven, thanked God, broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to distribute to the people. And he divided the two fish among them all. (Mark 6:41 Phillips)

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying,”Take and eat; this is my body.” (Matthew 26:26 NIV)

As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going further. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.
When he was at the table with them he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. (Luke 24:28-31 NIV)

In my Google search on Jesus praying as recorded in scripture, the estimate is between 25 and 36 times. And about half of those prayers were when he was touching and giving thanks for food, specifically bread. Bread was necessary for the nourishment of people, but it was also symbolic of God’s loving provision for daily physical needs as well as for mental and spiritual ones, which includes being thankful.

What might we be thankful for as we consider God’s provision of food for our bodies? It might be gratitude for the intricate internal system that makes it possible for what we eat to be broken down into nutrients that get moved by the bloodstream to our brain, heart, lungs and extremities. Thank the Lord God, that we are …fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14b).

We can be thankful for God’s provision for our mental and spiritual needs, too, through the scriptures that correct and encourage us.

Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—-his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2)

Do not be anxious about anything, but by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

The picture hangs on the wall above my kitchen sink. It is a gentle reminder of
“Give us this day our daily bread.” As you look at it, think of the ways God provides for your various needs. Thank God for each one.

What To Say When You Pray | Week 5 | Friday2022-02-04T11:25:54-07:00

What To Say When You Pray | Week 5 | Thursday

“Give us today our daily bread.” (Matthew 6:11)

This line of the Lord’s Prayer feels the most earthy, doesn’t it? There is something so human about our need for food. I believe that this request for bread is intended to be read with that physical need in mind, but as with every other line in the prayer, there is a deeper meaning.

Jesus uses this idea of bread multiple times in his teaching. Once while teaching, he says, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35). He also tells his disciples, “‘I have food to eat that you know nothing about.’ My food,’ said Jesus, ‘is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work'” (John 4:32,34).

So what does Jesus have in mind when he teaches us to pray for our daily bread? In addition to our physical need for food, this prayer has a spiritual or heavenly meaning. As physical as we are, we are far more than physical beings. We have bodies, minds, souls, and spirits, and this prayer is a request for bread that feeds all of us. Now, the context of the prayer helps to aim this idea further.

God designed humans for the very purpose of bringing his kingdom to the cosmos. We pray for bread with voices and minds designed to hallow his name and bring his kingdom. If I were to put this into my own words, I might say, “give me the sustenance that I need (spiritual, relational, physical, emotional) to participate in bringing your kingdom.” When we become unhealthy as people, we begin to believe that our desires are the aim of our existence. That is not intended to be a shame-creating statement. Instead, it is an invitation to a life-giving reality that we were made for a purpose, and when we live in that purpose, we find genuine thriving.

As you pray this prayer today, maybe ask God what bread he thinks you need today? What resources, food, energy, healing, or wisdom do I need to live in your kingdom today? Then ask him for that bread.

What To Say When You Pray | Week 5 | Thursday2022-02-01T12:44:01-07:00

What To Say When You Pray | Week 5 | Wednesday

“Give us this day our daily bread.” (Matthew 6:11 NASB)

What I realize about this part of Jesus’ prayer is how easy it is for me to disconnect with the need expressed here. During my almost 75 years I haven’t had serious concerns about enough to eat or adequate shelter. Instead, I struggle with wanting and accumulating stuff. The cartoon says it all.

The perpetual problem with an oversupply of possessions is the temptation to become what I term a “junkherd” – a person who spends an inordinate amount of time rearranging inventory.

But wait a minute…I remember Jesus talking about this very subject in Luke 12:13-34. He leads with a parable about a man whose focus is on an abundance of earthly things. Please meditate on this rich passage as you explore “Give us this day our daily bread.” This verse may be the central idea:

And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. For all these things are what the nations of the world eagerly seek; and your Father knows that you need these things. But seek His kingdom, and these things will be provided to you. Do not be afraid, little flock, because your Father has chosen to give you the kingdom. (Luke 12:29-32)

Jesus liberates us from engaging with the world system’s lures, fears, and anxieties by encouraging us to depend on and treasure our heavenly Father. Think about “Give us this day our daily bread” as freedom to limit your management of earthly possessions in order to join His kingdom plans with all your heart.

A strong focus on Our Father’s kingdom is a daily adjustment. Tell someone close to you what this means to you today.

What To Say When You Pray | Week 5 | Wednesday2022-02-01T12:41:27-07:00

What To Say When You Pray | Week 5 | Tuesday

The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing. The LORD is righteous in all his ways and faithful in all he does. The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. (Psalm 145:15-18 NIV)

“Give us today our daily bread.” (Matthew 6:11 NIV)

It can be difficult for us to focus on now, today. Either we regret our past or we long to be in the future. But today, right now – is what we have. This week’s verse, “Give us today our daily bread” has the proper perspective. Actually, we live in today, right now. This prayer, asking for our bread, our needs, our necessary resources for right now – today, is how we are to live.

Matthew 6:31-34 tells us, So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Jesus also said, “For your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:8). God already knows our needs, but we need to realize our need for God and for all of his provision is not a weekly, monthly or yearly need – but rather is an everyday need. If we remember this, if we pray daily for the food we need – then we can function at our best, do our work well and serve others cheerfully. If we rely on God for his daily provision of – housing, clothing, transportation, relationships, work, food, water – then we can daily experience his love for us as he provides us with our necessities.

When Jesus was hungry after fasting 40 days and was tempted by Satan, Jesus said, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4). We have physical needs for food and water, for shelter, for health and for clothing. But we also have the need to hear, know, and understand God’s word, and to have a daily relationship with God. We live in the here and now, each and every day we need to bring our needs – physical, emotional, spiritual to God and ask Him to provide us with what we need. 

God cares about our needs. Write down a need, pray about it, make a note of how God answers your prayer, and thank him for His provision.

 

What To Say When You Pray | Week 5 | Tuesday2022-02-01T08:06:00-07:00
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