Repentance and Forgiveness

America is hurting.

We all have family and friends in many of the cities that are in crisis.

I was talking to my brother-in-law who lives in the Minneapolis area. He wisely said that our country needs two things.

Repentance and Forgiveness

We all have a part to play in both.

We have sinned against each other, but more importantly, against a Holy God. We exclude Him from our lives and then are angry with Him when there is trouble.

Some of our politicians tell us God has no place. Seems to me we are reaping the result of that choice.

When men choose to turn their backs on God, He tends to leave them to their own devices. We are seeing that played out in our cities across the nation. It breaks my heart.

We would rather point fingers than deal with our own guilt.

We want to pin our neighbor to the wall, but are unwilling to admit to our own sick heart.

We want others to forgive us, but we are unwilling to forgive them. We don’t bother asking God for forgiveness, because we think He is irrelevant.

He is expected to act on our behalf, but we refuse to turn our face to Him in humility and repentance. Like a two year old demanding his way. (I have two grandsons that are two…I know of what I speak.)

Jeremiah 5:3b sums it up well.  “…But they refused to take correction. They have made their faces harder than rock; they have refused to repent.”

Acts 3:19 pleads with us.  “Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.” 

The other half of the problem is forgiveness. If we have truly repented and turned our face to God then we need to forgive. This is not an easy task.

In Matthew 18:21-22 Peter asks Jesus… “Lord how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”

I think Peter was proud of how often he had forgiven the unnamed offender. Jesus response puts him in his place.

“Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.'”

That would be 420 times! Unheard of!!

That doesn’t mean we are free to take revenge when the number reaches 421. (Yes, I am guilty of counting up in my head the number of offenses.) The spirit here is to forgive like God forgives. There are warnings about not offering the same forgiveness we have been given.

“But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions.” Matthew 11:25

To forgive is impossible. We don’t have the ability to forgive without God, but as we repent and turn our hearts to Him, the impossible becomes possible.

And so I pray that our country would repent and forgive. For it is the only way we will find healing.

For further study: Matthew 18:23-35; Psalm 32:5; Romans 10:9-11

 

 

 

 

 

And then the Sun Came Out

It had been raining for days. The rivers were rising. The farm fields had turned to ponds. Gardens were bedraggled and swamped.

Our rain gauge overflowed the 8″ mark at the top.

And then the sun came out…

 

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The tulips had survived the constant battering.

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The flowering trees suddenly had blooms.

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…and the trees that looked sad and lonely yesterday were dancing with joy today.

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It is all a reminder of God’s faithfulness. Even in the darkest times He is at work. Days of pelting rain had not destroyed His handiwork.

We are living through some dark times, but there will be a new day.

God is not absent. He is certainly not silent. We often can’t hear because we have grown deaf. He has promised to be with us. He has also promised that He is getting a place ready for us.

“Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.”            John 14:1-3

And such a place it will be.

“Then He showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him;”  Revelation 22:1-3

So take heart. God is still watching. God will right the wrongs. It may seem dark, but a new day is coming.

“and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4

 

If you are uncertain about your eternal future there is a free Bible study link below. Please e-mail me or leave a message if you have any quetions.

For further study: redeemed-2014-august

 

 

 

 

Free at Last – (Wilderness Journey #6)

 

They were finally free. They were no longer slaves, but freedom is never free. It had come at a cost.

God had wrenched them out of Pharaoh’s grasp. The years of abuse and bondage by an evil power were finally over. Pharaoh had been warned, but he chose not to listen. He paid with the life of his son.

God had warned that the first born of every household would die. The death angel would not take into account their social status or birthright. Ruler or slave, death would come.
There was one thing that would save them. They were to take the blood of a lamb and apply it to the door of their homes. (Exodus 12:22-23) This was a sign for the death angel to pass over them. Those that believed what Moses told them applied the blood. At midnight all the firstborn from houses where the blood had not been applied were killed.

Blood is what saved the Israelites. The blood of a lamb applied to each of their doors .

It wasn’t the last time blood would be used to save a people. God was pointing forward to another lamb that would save , not just Israel, but would purchase the freedom of the whole world.

It wasn’t enough for Him to die. The blood needs to be applied. Not for the world as a whole, but one by one, each individual.

God’s son died on Passover. The day yearly set aside since the time of Moses to remember their deliverance from Egypt. That deliverance was a shadow of a greater deliverance. A deliverance from sin and bondage.

When the blood is applied a journey begins. The road will be difficult. It will involve learning to trust this God who gave His only Son to purchase our redemption…but He promises that someday we will reach the promised land and the journey will be worth it.

Listen – Believe – Apply – Live

It is that simple.

Truly, truly I say to you. he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgement, but has passed out of death into life.” John 5:24 (NASB)

“Knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.” I Peter 1:18-19

For further study: Exodus 11&12; II Corinthians 4:25

Learning to Lament

Lamenting isn’t something Americans do well. We know how to complain, whine, throw pity parties, but lamenting is completely different.

Lamenting is taking our deep sadness and trouble and bringing it to the only one who can help, God Himself. Realizing the God who made us is the only one who can sort out our difficulty. Admitting that we are helpless without Him.

So here is a very private letter to God. I don’t think he would mind me sharing it with you.

” Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind and makes flesh his strength, and whose heart turns away from the LORD. For he will be like a bush in the desert and will not see when prosperity comes, But will live in stony wastes in the wilderness, a land of salt without inhabitant. Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD and whose trust is the LORD. For he will be like a tree planted by the water that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes; But its leaves will be green, And it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit.” Jeremiah 17:5-8

Dear Abba Father,

My heart is so heavy. I feel like a bush in the desert, not like the tree by the river.

We are isolated and alone. Forbidden to gather or meet. Grieving the loss of contact.

A handshake, a hug,

NOT ALLOWED!

And a little bit of us dies every day.

We are becoming more inward focused. We weren’t made to be alone. We were made to interact and come along side. To work hard for the common good.

Instead we are turning on each other. Friend against friend, neighbor against neighbor, disagreements over how we should move forward, what to do, what not to do. Anger is close to the surface, ready to boil over if you don’t think like me, if you don’t act like me. We each have our own “expert”. Woe to the man who listens to the wrong one.

Father, please open our communities back up. I pray that those who have an evil agenda would be thwarted. That those who are ignorant would gain wisdom, that those who are deceived would see the truth, that those who are sick would be healed, that doctors who have answers would be heard, that leaders grasping for power would be put down and removed.

Most of all that those who need the gospel would be receptive, that they would seek and find, that we would speak boldly about the hope within us.

Punish evil men and forces that would do harm to our families, churches, cities. I pray that truth would prevail, that the veil of deception would be swept away.

I ask these things not because we deserve it for we are a wicked, sinful people. We fail to turn our faces fully to you. We rely on ourselves, our leaders and our governments to “save” us.

We turn in repentance. You alone give us life and breath. It is through you that all things hold together. I pray that you would show yourself strong in defeating this enemy. They are nothing to you. With a word you can dismiss the virus. With a word you can expose the proud and corrupt.

I pray that you would do it in a way that is unmistakably you. Do a new spectacular thing.

Today the birds are still gathering, the sun is still shining, the trees are springing to life. The wind is calm, the waters are still.

I believe you will act. I know you hear. I know you see and take notice. Bring salvation to many through this. Soften hearts to finally see you. Bring repentance and a renewed commitment to you and your ways.

Thank you for being a God who is not sleeping or silent. Thank you that you are already at work in this world gone mad.

Today I will honor you with my mind, with my actions, with my voice.

“I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well.” Psalm 139:14

 

 

 

 

Sometimes it Helps to Cry

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Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

There is an ache in my soul. I’m trying to be positive… trying to be encouraging to those I am around… trying to calm my spirit lest I start crying and can’t stop.

My God has been faithful again and again. What is different about this time? This time it involves the whole world. We aren’t at war like WW I and WW II, but we are certainly in crisis. The widespread trouble has gotten our attention, finally.

So what do we do now? Maybe it is time to lament. If there was ever a time to do what David did on several occasions it is now. Here is one of his laments below. I have listed a few more in the “For further study” section.

Psalm 13
How long will thou forget me, O LORD? for ever? How long wilt thou hide thy face from me?
How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? How long shall mine enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and hear me, O LORD my God; lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death;
Lest mine enemy say, I have prevailed against him; and those that trouble me rejoice when I am moved.
But I have trusted in thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation.
I will sing unto the LORD, because he hath dealt bountifully with me.

Notice that laments follow a pattern. They usually start with utter discouragement and invariably they end with a change of heart and mind, looking to the God of their salvation.

I would encourage you to write your own lament.

Here are a few questions to get you started.

  1. Have you been through a crisis or life changing event? What have you lost as a result of what happened? Be as thorough as possible. Don’t minimize the loss. Don’t pretend there wasn’t a loss. Be honest in your assessment. What do you still struggle with?
  2.  Bring this list to God. Tell Him what you are thinking. Face this with Him. Cry out to Him. Ask Him any questions you have been afraid to ask.
  3. Be quiet before God. Let His Word speak to you.
  4. Take the things you have written here and write your own lament psalm. Use the outline in the link below as a guide.

Lament Outline

I’ll check back with you in a few days. I need to go work on my lament.

 For further study: Psalm 22, 28, 44 & 69

Let My People Go (Wilderness Journey #5)

We are all tired of staying home. Days have turned to weeks and it looks like it could be months. Let me remind you of a group of people who had been enslaved for 400 years.

The children of Israel were in Egypt because of a famine. God had put Joseph in place there through a chain of extraordinary circumstances. They came to find food, found their brother and prospered until a change of leadership brought a change of mind.

God had a plan. It started with the obedience of a mother who couldn’t put her son, Moses, to death. It continued with him being protected and raised by the daughter of Pharaoh himself. Moses, who had the benefit of a topnotch education, was intimately involved with the culture of the Egyptians and the Israelites. Who better to bring about a change to the sorely oppressed. But it wasn’t the right time and his initial efforts were an utter failure.

Spending 40 years herding sheep had quite an effect on his character. He had been proud and hot headed, now he appears humble and reluctant to act.

God sends him back to Egypt with careful instructions, a staff in his hand and a brother, Aaron, who will do the speaking that he is now afraid to do.

You see God had heard, God remembered, God saw and God took notice. (Exodus 2:24-25)

When they meet with Pharaoh they get right to the point.

Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Let My people go…’.” (Exodus 5:1)

Pharaoh’s response – “Who is the LORD that I should obey His voice…? I do not know the LORD, and besides, I will not let Israel go.” vs. 2

Because of Moses interaction with Pharaoh he decided to withhold the straw they needed to make their quota of bricks. Now they were forced to gather it themselves without a reduction in the number of bricks required.

Look at Moses conversation with God in Exodus 5:22-23. To say he was unsure of his usefulness is an understatement.

Look at how God responds to Moses in Exodus 6:1-8. God’s plan was still in place.

Moses tries to comfort the people after his assurances from God. How did they respond and why? (Exodus 6:9)

God gave Moses 10 signs to give Pharaoh. Here is a quick list. (Exodus 7:10 – 10:29)

  •  Moses staff becomes a serpent
  •  Changes all the water to blood
  •  Swarms of frogs
  •  Dust becomes gnats (Magicians warn Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.”)
  •  Swarms of insects (Goshen excluded, where sons of Israel lived.)
  •  Livestock killed (Goshen excluded)
  •  Soot becomes boils on man and beast. (Magicians unable to stand on their feet.)
  •  Heavy hail, warned to bring in man and beasts. Those left out were killed and early crops were ruined.
  •  Locusts to cover the surface of the land. Will eat the rest of the crops, fruit, everything green.
  •  Three days of darkness that could be felt.

These were difficult days. They had lived through difficult years, but those difficult years and days would have their purpose. They have one more plague to live through and a long journey through the wilderness. These difficulties were a preparation.

How does what they lived through give me courage to face another day of whatever I am going through? How can I learn to trust God more in the midst? How have I seen God work in the past? What could God be preparing me for?

 

 

 

 

Hymn #2 – Like a River Glorious

 

Like a River Glorious – Frances R. Havergal / James Mountain

1. Like a river glorious is God’s perfect peace,

Over all victorious in its bright increase

Perfect, yet it floweth fuller every day,

Perfect, yet it growth deeper all the way.

Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blest;

Finding as He promised, perfect peace and rest. 

2. Hidden in the hollow of His blessed hand,

Never foe can follow, never traitor stand;

Not a surge of worry, not a shade of care,

Not a blast of hurry touch the spirit there.

Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blest;

Finding as He promised, perfect peace and rest.

3.  Ev’ry joy or trial falleth from above,

traced upon our dial by the Sun of Love.

We may trust Him fully all for us to do;

They who trust Him wholly find Him wholly true.

Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blest;

Finding as He promised, perfect peace and rest.