Friday, January 31- Lord, Help Me be the Person My Dog Thinks I Am!

     “Lord, help me be the person my dog thinks I am!” Have you heard that expression before? It makes me laugh every time I hear it! And, as a “dog person”, I get it…completely!
     I have been a “dog person” my whole life. Growing up in farm country, we had lots of animals. There was General, the Tennessee Walking horse. There was a BUNCH of chickens and a handful of roosters. There was the group of guinea fowl. There was the rather large Tom turkey and his mate. There was the pair of sheep who took up temporary residence in our yard. There were LOTS of cats- mostly of the barn variety but also some house cats. Charlie, who looked rather a lot like Morris from the cat food commercials, stands out in the house cat category!
     But above all the other animals, there were the dogs. Just the ones I remember include: Ginger, Hans, Snoopy, Josh, Pete, Tina, Play-Doh, Chi Sai, Bud and now…Zoey and Nessie. I remember each one of them, specifically and fondly. They came from a wide variety of places. They were an eclectic mix of breeds and sizes. Some were frighteningly smart while others, well, let’s just say they didn’t stay in the gene pool quite long enough!
     But what I remember most about each of them is their love and dedication. Dogs are like that, aren’t they? It doesn’t matter if you are gone 10 minutes or 10 days- they are SO excited to see you when you get back! It’s as if nothing else matters when you walk through the door. All they care about is…you! 
     There are very few humans who consistently act that way when you come home, right? Even the people closest to you have good days and bad days. Oh sure, they love you and are glad to see you, but they also have other inputs into their lives that impact how they greet you,
     But maybe it’s no accident that “dog” backwards is…”God”! My dog is maybe the best tangible example of how God feels about us. Regardless of what we’ve done, regardless of where we’ve been, regardless of how long we may have strayed from His presence, He is always glad to see us, always welcomes us home.
     Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am going to go love on my dog! Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus! 
     Tomorrow- We Are in Good Hands!

Thursday, January 30- What Do YOU Pray For?

     This week’s topic in the Bible Study my wife and I are currently teaching (9AM and 1:30PM on Tuesdays and 6PM on Wednesdays!) was prayer. Each week, we look at one of the parables of Jesus and see how it applies to our lives. This week’s parable was the Widow and the Judge. The widow has a beef with someone and wants the judge to provide her with a modicum of justice. He doesn’t want to, but she is VERY persistent and he finally relents…because he is tired of her hounding him and a bit worried about she might do TO him!

     The point of the lesson was about dedication and persistence. The author of the study then extrapolated those traits out to our prayer life. It was suggested that we should be as dedicated and persistent as the widow in the story when it comes to prayer.

     In the course of the class, I asked the question, “So, are we supposed to pray for what WE want…or for GOD’S will to be done?” We all chuckled and said, “Yes!” But the truth of that matter is that those two choices seem VERY different. How in the world can you do BOTH?

     The Bible seems pretty clear that we are to feel confident to ask God for anything. It also seems clear that we are to always seek God’s will for our lives. So how do those two things live together in peace and harmony?

     For me, the bottom line is this- we SHOULD pray to God for what we want- what my mother-in-law calls “the desires of our hearts”. And if those things are in keeping with God’s will for our lives…they will happen. They might not happen WHEN we want them to or exactly the WAY we want them to…but they will happen.

     “OK, Mr. Smartpastor, then why didn’t that one thing in MY life happen? I prayed for it?!” Look back at the 2nd sentence of the previous paragraph. That sentence says, “…if those things are in keeping with God’s will for our lives…” IF. The reason not everything we pray for comes to pass is that not everything we pray for is in keeping with God’s will for our lives.

     When you pray, one of two things will happen- either 1. God will answer your prayer or 2. He will help you understand that you are lifting up the wrong prayer. If #2 is the choice, then He will also reveal to you what you SHOULD be praying for. He will change your prayer.

     Does this always happen? Yep- I am convinced of it. What DOESN’T always happen is that we recognize God’s guidance and respond to it. We want SO badly to “get” the thing we are praying for that we don’t have a gear to see that God JUST MIGHT have a better idea! (Imagine that!) But I have found, through trial and error…the School of Hard Knocks, if you will…that when I am willing and able to set aside my pride, my hubris, and submit my whole self to God…AND His plans…things turn out better than when I insist on sticking to MY plans! So…what do YOU pray for?

      Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- Let Me Be the Person My Dog Thinks I Am!

Wednesday, January 29- The Widow of Nain

     Alright, time to get back on track with Wednesdays being Bible Study Day here at Stick With Jesus! I recently used today’s passage in a Sunday evening worship setting. It is one of my favorites!

The Widow of Nain- Luke 7:11-17

11a Sometime later, Jesus went to a town called Nain.

     The name Nain in Hebrew means “Pleasant Place”. This is the only time Nain is mentioned in the Bible, and this is one of the few times Luke notes the locale of an event. The town probably sat about six miles southeast of Nazareth, at the foot of Little Hebron over the valley of Jezreel. And it is here, in this obscure, almost forgotten town, that Life would meet Death.

11b His disciples and a large crowd went along with him.

     Jesus was nearly a rock star. He not only had an entourage of disciples and followers, but the more time that passed and the more amazing things that happened- the group following Him grew as well.

12a He approached the town gate. Just then, a dead person was being carried out.

     The process of the funeral did not begin until it was certain that death had occurred. So this was a dead body. The body was anointed to prevent deterioration. It was buried quickly and was not kept overnight at home. The corpse would be wrapped in a burial cloth and put on a burial plank for all to see as they carried it out of the town.

     There are two crowds approaching the gates of the city of Nain. They are literally coming from opposite directions and they are characterized by two entirely different moods. The crowd with Jesus is joyful and jubilant. They have seen the power of God at work in a very mighty way. Not only has the Lord been glorified among the Jews, but even Gentile Centurions have also come to pay Him homage and to recognize His authority.

     The other crowd is made up of the people of Nain…the mourners. They have come for a different purpose. They are accompanying a widow and the body of her son. They are headed for a tomb. Leading the procession would be the women. Tradition had it that they would lead because Eve had led the human race into sin. Behind would come the other mourners and finally the funeral bier on which lay the deceased.

12b He was the only son of his mother. She was a widow.

     Probably this only son of a widow died earlier this same day, since Jewish tradition encouraged a quick burial in order to avoid ceremonial uncleanliness.

The widow weeps for the loss of her only child. She is now all alone in a hostile world; no family to care for her. Life was already difficult for her, being a widow. Now that her son is also gone…life is either unbearable or impossible

12c A large crowd from the town was with her.

     According to custom, the bereaved family members would rend their clothes and mourn the death. They would often even hire mourners to wail and cry during the processional.

13 When the Lord saw her, he felt sorry for her. So he said, “Don ‘t cry.”

     One trait that Jesus shows, over and over again, in the Gospels is compassion. His heart breaks for this woman whose world has been shattered. And so He offers a very heartfelt imperative.

14a Then he went up and touched the coffin. Those carrying it stood still.

     Recognizing her intense pain, Jesus approaches the corpse on the plank. He touches the plank–an act that would instantly render him ceremonially unclean. But for Jesus, that fact is more than trumped by His compassion.

14b Jesus said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!”

     He tells the corpse…a CORPSE…to rise up. If there was no authority behind his words, the action would be blackly humorous or tragically misguided. But Jesus reveals the extent of His authority by confronting death.

15 The dead man sat up and began to talk. Then Jesus gave him back to his mother.

     His words are successful: the dead man sat up. This was no longer a deceased body- this was now, once again, a living, breathing human being. I wonder what he said when he began to talk!

16 The people were all filled with wonder and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.”

     This miracle is reminiscent of the Old Testament resuscitations performed by Elijah (1 Kings 17:17-24) and Elisha (2 Kings 4:32-37). As Luke tells the story, he points to prophetic models. Such historical background explains why the crowds came to see Jesus as a great prophet. The Old Testament precedents help explain the event. Note that when the crowd fears and recognizes Jesus as a great prophet, they are not wrong; their view of Jesus is merely incomplete. 

17 This news about Jesus spread all through Judea and the whole country.

     Jesus had performed a number of miracles up to this time, but this was the first time he had ever raised the dead.

     This is a powerful, yet often overlooked, story of the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Notice that, before His power is demonstrated for all who were present, it is His compassion and love that are on display. He offers that same compassion and love to us…if we will recognize and receive it!

      Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- What Do YOU Pray For?

Tuesday, January 28- What Year IS This, Anyway?

     So my family and I were watching the Grammys on Sunday evening after church. There was so GOOD music to be had. Carole King (only one of my ALL-TIME favorites!) did a duet with Sara Bareilles (one of the best pure voices out there today!) that knocked my socks off. Pink did…something…that was a blend of singing and Circ du Soleil. She sang (lip-sinced?) while performing a pretty impressive bit of acrobatics that had her suspended high above the auditorium floor from a set of…silks…with absolutely NO harness or safety net. It was pretty amazing…and the song wasn’t bad, either!!

     I watched Ringo Starr perform “Photograph” with the incomparable Peter Frampton on guitar. (Even without the “Leif Garrett” hair, he is amazing!) I also watched a group called Daft Punk perform. As best I could tell, they are two guys (?) in costumes that make them look like robots. Oh, and they’re…French! (I have NO idea what that means!) Their music wasn’t bad, but I DID have a sudden, powerful Milli Vanilli moment. I mean, who knows what these…people…even look like? How do we know they are even the same two people every time?

     Every year, when I watch the Grammys, I am reminded that I fall a BIT farther behind. I know fewer people who were nominees this year than I did last year. And I knew fewer last year than the year before. Of course, all I have to do is look at ,my iTunes account to understand that phenomenon- the largest percentage of music you would find there would be of the “1970’s and 80’s Classic Rock” variety!

     But then, an amazing…and somewhat surreal and more than a little frightening…thing happened- the nominees for Best Rock Performance and Best Rock Song were announced. Noticing the word “rock” in each title, I thought I might have a shot at actually KNOWING some of the people! And…I was right!

The nominees for Best Rock Performance included David Bowie and Led Zeppelin. (Neither of them won.) And the nominees for Best Rock Song included Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Ozzie Osborne. (McCartney won.)

     I felt like I had climbed in the DeLorean, got it up to 88 MPH, avoided the Fox Photo building in the parking lot of the Twin Pines Mall and went back to…let’s say…1978! Mick Jagger. Keith Richards. Paul McCartney. Ringo Starr. Led Zeppelin. Peter Frampton. Ozzie Osborne. (Not to mention Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Merle Haggard and some Johnny-Come-Lately named Blake Shelton!)

     Now, I am not so naïve that I failed to understand that the Nostalgia Card was being played…over and over. I mean, when they wheeled McCartney out with a walker…well…! But it was pretty awesome to see Sir Paul (Sorry about the walker crack, Mr. McCartney- I was JUST kidding!) on keyboard and vocal and Ringo behind the drums. Thanks for the memories!

      Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- The Widow of Nain

Monday, January 27- I Want to be a Meteorologist!

     I think perhaps one of the hardest, most maligned…yet easiest jobs in the world must be…meteorologist. The median income for a meteorologist in this country is $92, 135. In this setting, “median” means the mid-point. So there is an equal possibility that any given meteorologist salary would fall above or below that number. So, $92,135 is the middle of the road for meteorologists.

     Now, you may have noticed that I described the job as both “hardest” and…”easiest”! “How can that be, Pastor?” Well, it seems to me that predicting the weather is MUCH less science and MUCH more art. The storm that hit the area in which I live last night would be a good example of that. They literally changed the forecast every couple of hours. “It’s a winter storm warning. No, it’s a winter storm watch! No, it’s a warning! Wait, it’s a wind chill advisory. No, it’s a wind chill warning. Wait! It’s now a wind chill alert!” And so on!

     These poor meteorologists- they are always trying to get the forecast right. And yet, the weather is a fluid, ever-changing, almost living thing. And so their ability to adequately predict it is…tough at best!

     But that very fact is what supports my “hardest/easiest” job scenario. It’s SO hard to get it right that our expectations are simply…low. And so, when they get it wrong, we shake our heads and say, “They missed THAT one!” And then we wait for the next forecast to get behind! And because our expectations are rather low, it makes the pressure for success much less, making the job…easier!

     I remember once, in the community in which we used to live, the “prognosticators” were calling for the storm of the century! (It seems, all too OFTEN, be “the storm of the century”!) In anticipation of that storm, the decision-makers cancelled school for the next day. And they pulled the string before dinner the night before, they were SO sure of the forecast. And then (Can you smell it coming?), the storm missed us…completely! So the kids got a beautiful day off, the school administrators were left to try and save face with angry parents and the meteorologists…made another prediction!

     So…what’s the point? The point is that life is unpredictable. The point is that, while we can plan all we want, stuff happened! The point is that we simply never know what tomorrow is going to bring. Shoot, we don’t REALLY know what an hour from now will bring! We just have to…live, trusting that God will make the journey with us. We have to put our faith in Him, knowing that His presence in our lives WON’T make everything simple and trouble-free. But His presence WILL give us someone to make the journey with- someone Who loves us and wants the best for us!

     So, I’m going to give this whole “ministry” thing another 20 years, and if it doesn’t work out, I’m going to become…a meteorologist!

      Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- What Year IS This, Anyway?!

Sunday, January 26- The Blazing Shrub

     Former President George W. Bush was walking through an airport when he saw an old man with white hair and a long white beard, wearing a long white robe and holding a staff. He walked up to the man and said, “Excuse me, sir, but aren’t you Moses?” The man stood perfectly still and said nothing. Again, George W. asked, a little louder this time, “Excuse me, sir, but aren’t you Moses?” Again, the old man stood motionless without saying a word. One of George W’s aides asked him if there was a problem, and George W. said, “Either this man is deaf or extremely rude. I’ve asked him twice if he was Moses, and he just ignores me.” The man suddenly perked up and said to the aide, “I can hear him! And yes, I AM Moses. But the last time I talked to a bush, I spent 40 years wandering in the wilderness!”
     Today, we continue our current, 8-week sermon series, focusing on destiny. We are walking through the life of Old Testament giant Moses as we consider The Making of a Leader. Through HIS life, we are seeing how God is calling each of US to be a leader in our right. Two weeks ago, we looked at the difficult beginning of Moses’ life- a baby, adrift in a basket in the Nile River. Last week, we looked at the time Moses, in a fit of anger, murdered an Egyptian for mistreating one of the Hebrews and had to flee into the desert to save his own life. Today, we look at where he went when he fled and what happened out there.
     God has a history of making promises to His people that they struggle to accept and follow. Here is one such POWERFUL promise that impacts today’s story.
     Isaiah 43:5-7 Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west. I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth– everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made. ‘
     So Moses flees Egypt and ends up in the land of Midian, where he rescues 7 sisters from a band of shepherds. They take him to meet their father Jethro, a priest of Midian. Jethro, (also known as Reuel) takes Moses in and offers him both his daughter Zipporah’s hand in marriage and a place to live as he helps tend Jethro’s flocks. After 40 years of training in the courts of Pharaoh himself, Moses is now a lowly shepherd, tending the flock and living in a tent. My, how the mighty have fallen.
     So he is taking care of the flock and searching for new grassland as he approaches Mount Horeb, also known as Mount Sinai. No one is sure, but the name Horeb may refer to the range of mountains, while the name Sinai refers to the particular peak. Ultimately, it’s impossible to know with certainty which mountain peak Moses is on, but tradition says the mount in question is Jebel Musa, which means “the Mount of Moses”. In fact, on that mountain today is the Monastery of St. Catherine, which claims to be built on the exact spot where today’s story took place! Tradition also says that this is the very same mountain where, later in the story, God will give Moses the Law…the 10 Commandments. Either way, this is the mountain of God. And God doesn’t disappoint. Instead…He shows UP!
     Exodus 3:1-12 One day Moses was taking care of Jethro’s flock. (Jethro was the priest of Midian and also Moses’ father-in-law.) When Moses led the flock to the west side of the desert, he came to Sinai, the mountain of God. There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire coming out of a bush. Moses saw that the bush was on fire, but it was not burning up. So he said, “I will go closer to this strange thing. How can a bush continue burning without burning up?” When the LORD saw Moses was coming to look at the bush, God called to him from the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.” Then God said, “Do not come any closer. Take off your sandals, because you are standing on holy ground. I am the God of your ancestors—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Moses covered his face because he was afraid to look at God.
     Moses sees this impossible sight. Is curiosity is piqued by a bush that is ablaze yet isn’t burning up- the fire is not consuming it. Just like the Hebrew people are not consumed by the furnace of affliction in which they find themselves in Egypt, so this bush on God’s mountain is not consumed. It seems obvious- God is there. This is surely a manifestation of Jehovah himself, because fire is a symbol of God’s presence.
     In the end, the burning bush has a 3-fold significance:
1) It is the very picture of God, revealing His glory and His power
2) It symbolizes the Hebrew people going through the fire of affliction and suppression
3) It points directly to Moses, a humble shepherd who, with God’s help, becomes a fire that cannot be easily extinguished!
     And then this “prince of Egypt turned lowly shepherd” hears his name uttered- “Moses! Moses!” He is stunned and nearly rendered speechless, but he manages a response- “Here I am.” This is the VERY same response uttered by Abraham, Jacob and Samuel when God showed up. God tells Moses to take off his sandals because the ground upon which he stands is holy. So Moses removes his sandals as a gesture of worship, recognizing and honoring the holy ground of God. But the ground was not holy by its nature- it was holy because of the presence of God- the God of Moses’ ancestors Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Moses not only removes his sandals- he also hides his face in awe and reverence. Then, once the stage is set, God casts His vision for Moses.
     The LORD said, “I have seen the troubles my people have suffered in Egypt, and I have heard their cries when the Egyptian slave masters hurt them. I am concerned about their pain, and I have come down to save them from the Egyptians. I will bring them out of that land and lead them to a good land with lots of room—a land flowing with milk and honey. I have heard the cries of the people of Israel, and I have seen the way the Egyptians have made life hard for them. So now I am sending you to the king of Egypt. Go! Bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt!” But Moses said to God, “I am not a great man! How can I go to the king and lead the Israelites out of Egypt?” God said, “I will be with you. This will be the proof that I am sending you: After you lead the people out of Egypt, all of you will worship me on this mountain.”
     God makes it clear to His servant Moses that He is well aware of the plight of His people and He plans to rescue them from Egypt. God’s concern for the welfare of His people is evident- “I have COME DOWN to save them.” This is another powerful example of divine intervention. God promises to not only deliver them but to take them to a good, fertile land with lots of room- a land flowing with milk and honey. He is going to provide them with prosperity, fertility and abundance. God says, “I have seen…I have heard…I know…AND I have come down!” What a message of grace! God’s been watching over His people the whole time. And what God starts…God finishes. God will redeem them, be faithful to them and make a new, everlasting covenant with them.
     Moses hears these things and rejoices- God is about to deliver the people! But then he hears what that late, great theologian Paul Harvey would call “the res
t of the story”- MOSES is going to be the one to deliver them! God says, “I’m sending…YOU…to Pharaoh.” “I choose YOU, Pikachu!” Moses is commissioned by God to deliver the Hebrews from bondage.
     Moses, as you might imagine, is shocked! This is hard to believe! And he does what any self-respecting servant of God would do- he objects! He feels that he has a frightening lack of ability and authority, “You have GOT to be kidding, God! Who am I? I’ll tell You who I am! I’m a failure! I ran from my troubles! Besides, I have a family, God! And I’m too old!” Moses has GREAT doubts about his ability to confront Pharaoh and lead the people out.
     And how does God reply? He doesn’t say, “Watch your tongue, boy!” as my mom would have had I talked to her in that tone. Instead, He says, “I’ll be with you!” Or to quote that great theologian ET, “I’ll be right here!”
      What can we learn from Moses’ encounter with a bush that is fully engulfed in flames…yet is not consumed? Well, hopefully many things! But perhaps the greatest thing we can learn from this story is that regardless of who we are or how unimportant we may feel, God is always with us is. Without Him, we can do nothing. But WITH Him…all things are possible! Moses’ objections are answered by God’s nature and character. God responds to those objections with 2 promises: the assurance of His presence and the promise that Moses and the people will return to God’s mountain to worship Him in spirit and truth.
     Ultimately, that IS the purpose of this deliverance- so that the Hebrew people can once again worship God in freedom. Interestingly, the Hebrew word for “worship” is the very SAME word that is used to describe what it means “to be a slave”. They had served as slaves to the Egyptians for centuries. Now, they would serve God.
     First, Moses tried to redeem his people on his own…and failed miserably. Why? Because at that time he knew God as a distant Ruler, not an imminent God who cares for and loves His people. Moses was brought to the point where he bowed, worshipped and adored God- the true beginning of ANY Christian service. Impulsive, headstrong Moses learned humility. And as he learned that, he also found….faith. He learned that “Who am I?” is not NEARLY important as, “Whose am I?”
     In this story, God promises the Hebrews 2 things: deliverance from the Egyptians and entrance into a new, promised land. But notice that He only commissioned Moses to accomplish the 1st of these promises. Moses was NOT destined to enter the Promised Land- the closest he would get was to gaze upon that far shore from the wilderness side  of the river. Why? Because Moses wasn’t the Redeemer- God was…and is. It was God’s time, and so Moses was called to deliver the people in God’s way and through God’s power. He was to bring them out of Egypt NOT by his own strength but by divine empowerment, divine intervention.
     2Timothy 1:8-9 So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life–not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.
     Moses was standing on holy ground. God urged him to remove his sandals to acknowledge that fact. Holy ground- what IS “holy ground”? Obviously, the mountain of God was holy ground. Many would say that churches…especially sanctuaries and chapels…are holy ground. Some think that cemeteries are holy ground. And if you’ve ever been to a military cemetery…there is very much a somber, sacred feel to them. “Yeah, but which one would YOU say, Pastor?” I would have to pick…ALL of them…and a WHOLE lot more!! Holy ground is ANYWHERE God is present AND you recognize that fact. Let’s be honest- God is ALWAYS present…everywhere. But if we fail to recognize that fact…or CHOOSE not to recognize it…then there isn’t a very strong sense of the sacred present. But if we realize, acknowledge and embrace the fact that God is ALWAYS with us…guiding us, directing us, loving us…then wherever we are is holy ground! “OK Pastor- does that mean I should just never wear SHOES?!” No…the shoes are a metaphor. It means that we should treat life itself as holy ground. We should recognize God’s presence in our midst at ALL times and in ALL places. And we should live EACH moment from that perspective.
     So, to what is God calling YOU? I get lots of people who say, “I don’t have any idea what God wants me to do, Pastor!” And to that, I ever so politely say, “Horse hockey!” Seriously, I believe that most of us DO know what God is asking of us…we’re just scared to admit it…embrace it.
     Think that through- what is God asking of you? Whatever it is…WHATEVER it is…embrace it. Embrace it and pursue it, confident that you will not have to make the journey by yourself. God- the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the Great I Am,
Comforter, Counselor, Author, Finisher, Divine Truth Revealer, Deliverer, Healer- is with you. He will not let us grow tired and weary. He will not let us stumble and fall. But if we hope in the Lord, He will renew our strength. We will soar on wings like eagles. We will run and not grow weary. We will walk and not be faint.
      Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!
Tomorrow- I Want to be a Meteorologist!

Saturday, January 25- Forgiveness

     What would you say is the hardest thing in the world to do? Some would say play a musical instrument. Some would say speaking in front of people. Some would say raising kids. Some would say finding a consistently good cup of coffee! And while all of those…and many others…would be good choices, I would argue that the hardest thing for most of us to do…is offer forgiveness!

     “Ouch, Pastor! Did you HAVE to go and step on my toes right out of the box?” Unfortunately…yes! Forgiveness is just flat-out hard. Sometimes, it feels darn near impossible. Why is that? Why do we struggle SO much with forgiveness?

     First off, it depends on whom we need to forgive. I would argue that there are 3 primary types of people we sometimes are called to offer forgiveness to: 1. People who don’t really matter all that much to us, 2. People who matter a LOT to us and 3. Ourselves. And WHICH one of those we are forgiving has a LOT to do with how hard it is. Let’s look at the three:

     1. People who don’t really matter all that much to us. It may not seem very Christian to label someone that way…but it’s true. Some guy cuts you off in traffic and, while you may get mad…REALLY mad…for a few minutes, it passes quickly. You don’t know the guy. You will never see him again. And…he doesn’t really matter all that much to you. So you forgive him- maybe openly, maybe tacitly, but you get over it and move on.

     2. People who matter a LOT to us. These folks can be MUCH harder to forgive. They mean so much more to us, and therefore they have a much greater capacity to hurt us. And when they DO hurt us, it can be really hard to get beyond it and offer the forgiveness we know we should offer.

     3. Ourselves. This one might be THE hardest to forgive. We can easily forgive people who really don’t matter much. We have to work harder to forgive those close to us…but it’s “doable”. But when we have to forgive ourselves…Katie, bar the door!

     Why is that? Do we set higher standards for ourselves than we do for those around us? Do we think we don’t deserve it? Do we think we are too far gone to even deserve forgiveness?

     We have all heard people say, “I know God has forgiven me…I just can’t forgive myself.” Shoot, we’ve probably all said it OURSELVES! But if you think that through, what does that even mean? If God is willing to forgive us…and God is ALWAYS willing to forgive us, if we will seek it…then how in the WORLD can we say that we can’t forgive ourselves? The implication is that we are somehow better or more important than…GOD!

     Who do YOU need to forgive? It doesn’t matter which of the three possibilities we have looked at is the answer to that question- you NEED to do it. Why? Because you don’t forgive for the sake of the one receiving the forgiveness. You forgive for your OWN sake. It’s ONLY when you can forgive that you can move forward and find the peace that you so desperately seek!

      Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- The Flaming Shrub