Monthly Archives: October 2014

Forgiving Others

No. I am not going to tell about times when I needed —perhaps still need— to forgive someone. Would you post similar events from your life? Those battle scars have not fully healed. Which is why studying forgiveness is critical.

I know forgiveness is still needed when I strongly associated the hurt with a particular person. That person still has a hold on me, and shapes my personality; not by what I want to do and be, but by what I fear I must do to avoid a new battle or to take revenge, causing a new and offsetting hurt that will prolong the war of wills. That person, my adversary, continues to warp, perhaps carve, me even long after we have parted company.

Forgiveness ends the battles, breaks the cycle of revenge and counter revenge.

Forgiveness does not let my adversary off, it merely removes my responsibility to fix that person, to show that person how much I have been hurt. Someone else must take on those tasks.

Forgiveness allows me to let go of my adversary’s sin and no longer allow it to hurt me. For as long as I hold a grudge against my adversary, my adversary continues to keep my wound open, delays my healing, and toughens my soul against others, even those who would be my friends. Holding a grudge is like picking at a scab, preventing new skin from growing, yielding tough skin that is no longer smooth and supple, a scar that pulls and distorts adjacent skin. But by forgiving an adversary, letting go of their sin, I can heal minimizing my scaring, maximizing my restoration.

Corrie Ten Boom, a Christian woman who survived a Nazi concentration camp during the Holocaust, said, “Forgiveness is to set a prisoner free, and to realize the prisoner was you.”

Then he took a deep breath and breathed into them.
“Receive the Holy Spirit,” he said.
“If you forgive someone’s sins, they’re gone for good.
If you don’t forgive sins, what are you going to do with them?”

—John 20:22-23 (The Message)

How has forgiving someone freed you?

Where Am I in All This?

A Westclox Big Ben Clock
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I love being busy. Finishing tasks makes me feel that I am a useful contributor to society.

As an engineer writing proposals, I would justify working half-time (8 AM to 8 PM Monday through Friday, plus a few hours on an occasional Saturday) as giving back to the community. A winning proposal would not only further my future employment, it would make additional jobs in the community: not only at my employer but also at services my colleagues would use.

Now, as a pastor, my work week can easily extend to seven days. Even on my “day off” I can easily spend a few minutes answering a phone call, responding to an email, reading a church growth blog, studying a chapter or two of a theology book, jotting some notes about an idea for a future blog, and so forth.

But even the protestant work ethic had a limit; strict observation of the sabbath: a day of rest to enjoy God.

A tranquil mind gives life to the flesh,
  but passion makes the bones rot.
— Proverbs 14:30 (NRSV)

Instead of asking what else can I do, I should ask: “What is God calling me to do now?”

Instead of assessing recently completed tasks, seeking to do my best on the task at hand, and plan for upcoming tasks, I am allocating more time each day to simply sitting and listening. At first I could only sit still for a few minutes. Currently I can sit for 15 minutes. My mind still wanders, but I can more easily set those thoughts aside until later.

I hope that taking time to sit and listen for God will teach me to listen more patiently with the people I meet, to calm my heart to fully enjoy this day, and to focus on what God is calling me to do so I can leave the rest for other people to enjoy completing.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life,
what you will eat or what you will drink,
or about your body, what you will wear.
Is not life more than food,
and the body more than clothing?
… 
But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness,
and all these things will be given to you as well.

— From Mathew 6:25-33 (NRSV)

Inoculations

Hypo_needleAt least since college I have received a flu shot every fall. When I was in college and while in the Navy, I had lined up with my peers waiting for a technician to grab my arm and shoot in a small dose of serum. In those years I rationalized those few seconds of pain would help me avoid a week of illness or worse.

Reading a few verses of the Bible every morning provides a similar inoculation, that helps me get through each day.

Through your precepts I get understanding;
therefore I hate every false way.
— Psalm 119:104 (NRSV)

But sometime, perhaps after our children were born, I began getting my annual flu shot for other people. By avoiding bringing the flu home my children would be more likely to escape the flu. According to the Center for Disease Control about a hundred children die each flu season; some years less and others more. Now as a pastor, getting my flu shot each year helps me protect people I visit in hospitals and nursing homes from influenza.

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this:
to care for orphans and widows in their distress,
and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
— James 1:27 (NRSV)

With all the concerns about viruses in the media, getting a flu shot is a small step most people can take to protect themselves, their families, and the people they meet each day.

God with us

“Live like God is standing next to you, because God is.”

When I first saw this quip on a church marquee, I wondered if its author had intended to warn readers to behave because God is watching.

But that has not been my experience with God. Instead I recalled the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and his namesake from the sixteenth century, Friar Martin Luther, who each dared to speak of God’s freedom when their enemies had uttered death threats, for these two men, as well as many others, have accomplished great deeds because they recognized God with them.

Knowing the master engineer stands beside me at all times, I have paused to consult God and found solutions to difficult problems.

Imagine living each day with your mentor and protector beside you. What might you accomplish with God standing beside you?

The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer,
my God, my rock in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
so I shall be saved from my enemies.
— Psalm 18:2-3 (NRSV)