Posts Tagged With: forgiveness

Divided Loves: One Another and the World

 

In Christ, when strangers are a one another,

feet get washed, refreshed, and bodies fed

with festive, hearty food. The poor are clothed.

Those once alone become all sisters, brothers,

saints–together we taste living bread.

Though once ashamed, now praise becomes our robe

of righteousness. A word of hope is shared

among the brotherhood. A word of love

is given as a sacred trust. The bond

of unity now proves that we are cared

for by the King. Around, the world may shove.

But those immersed within the sacred pond

will find a gentle, just and perfect peace,

for from our sins we’ve been set free: released.

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Father, forgive them …

I continue to ponder the paradox of forgiveness and the offensiveness of the Good News of Jesus.

Today, let’s turn to the Lord’s prayer. In one petition, we say, according to one version, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive those indebted to us.”

I particularly like this more than saying transgressions or sins because it quantifies our guilt: We have a debt towards God greater than all the taxes of the world. Our neighbor may owe us a hundred days’ wages.

Like all large numbers, infinity is hard to grasp. The offense, the debt, that our sin creates towards God is hard for the human mind to grasp.

However, when we see that our father or mother, our sister or brother, perhaps your husband or wife, your sons or daughters, your neighbors, coworkers, or fellow citizen has offended you will often have in mind particular numbers of offenses and the exact punishment which you believe is due them. Perhaps you think they owe you a dollar for the soda you purchased for them. Perhaps you think you should kill them for not comprehending that you are a person of honor and dignity and should be respected as such.

The moment we think of the offense of a transgression or sin, we humans are apt to think that we deserve X in compensation for our trouble. We seek to justify our anger.

Maybe we think they started it, and we are just exacting a just revenge, at least in our minds. Perhaps in the back of your mind, the repeated offense has become chalked up against your relationship with that person. The weight of the offense becomes tremendous. You feel you MUST execute vengeance. Your self-righteous anger rises and your virtue falls.

Lord, have mercy!!

As long as we hold onto the burden of bitterness, we are unable to release the pain of the past. As long as we hold onto past offenses, we are unable to embrace fully the future Open Door. As long as we focus on what other people have or have not done for us, we will forget what God has done for us.

Here is the offense of the Gospel, the Good News. The Good News beckons us to reorient around God’s promise of freedom which was secured on the cross and in the resurrection. 100% guaranteed … if we will accept the challenge of living by trusting God rather than seeking to defend ourselves against other people all the time. The natural human heart revolts against this acts of mercy. It cannot comprehend how the death of Jesus could pay, once for all, the sins, the transgressions, the debts of mankind.

Perhaps you will say now, Oh, but I am a nice person. I don’t get angry. I just keep track of what they have done to me and don’t let it happen again.

Are you any better? Has not hatred overtaken your heart? You love those who love you and ignore the rest. Is this nothing more than a polite ISIS? Do not even the pagans do this much?

What makes Jesus so offensive is that he commands us to look for ways to risk our comfort. He could have just said, Meet once a week and remember the good times we had. Encourage each other and get better.

Instead, he said, Go, make disciples of all nations! Preach the Good News to all creation! Repentance and forgiveness of sins must be preached to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem, wait in the city … WAIT!!

The disciples were instructed to hang out in the very city where their Lord was murdered in cold blood in the cruelest manner possible. Wait? Wouldn’t it have been wiser to run? Why not go where there were receptive crowds? Why not preach about Moses preparing the way for the Messiah and hinting at the coming kingdom? No, they were commanded by the Holy Spirit to rebuke their own people for rejecting their own King and then to invite them to follow that King in being immersed as a pledge of a good conscience towards God. They did not manipulate or maneuver, they just said it like it was in a way that the people could understand.

That is boldness. Some admire and replicate that boldness. Some shy away and become ashamed of the Good News. Some attack such witnesses. Boldness comes at a price: love. Boldness that does not love is mere cruel boasting.

We have a choice before us: follow the humble way of peace or strive in violence. One is marked with 666 the mark of the beast; the other is marked with the stigma of Jesus.

Choose whom you will serve.

I worship Jesus.

Lord, have mercy on me and all who hate me.

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Lamentation in the Land

A couple days ago, I was encouraged by something a brother in Israel-Palestine said:
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How do your people lament?

The Great Lakes Initiative Leadership Institute in partnership with Duke Divinity School’s Center for Reconciliation invited me to Kampala, Uganda, to share what we at Musalaha have learned about reconciliation in the Israeli-Palestinian context. More than 150 African leaders from countries surrounding Lake Victoria attended this conference and for some of them it was the first time meeting a Palestinian Christian. An interesting aspect of this was their perception of all Arabs as being Muslim. It was also intriguing for me to understand how these African leaders are grappling with the issues of land and how they found several articles in the book The Land Cries Out relevant to their contexts. Other than being encouraged by how relevant our Curriculum of Reconciliation was to their local situations, I was also challenged by what they shared.

After a session on the prophet Jeremiah, we sat down to eat. One of the leaders and his wife asked me how our people lament. This question struck me, it is not something that I think about often, but I knew exactly what she meant. This is something that we have not done adequately or addressed enough in our society. We grieve when there is tragedy or great loss, but we don’t ask ourselves how we lament over the fact that there is no peace in our land, a hardness of heart among our peoples, and an unwillingness to reconcile.

Reflecting on the life of the prophet Jeremiah, several thoughts come to mind, especially as someone laboring for reconciliation. We become discouraged when a portion of the body of the Messiah doesn’t see the essential importance of reconciliation. It is like during the times of Jeremiah with people not heeding the warnings and looking to stand the tests of time. How many times do we see the hardening of hearts, embracing a victim mentality, and blaming the other without self-examination and repentance? We are living the consequences of a lack of reconciliation. It is a high price our society is paying for the enmity and hostility that we have towards each other.

Our African brothers and sisters have much to teach us about lamentation in light of the major genocides some of them have experienced. Lamenting for our people and having the willingness to change the course is something that we have not invested much in.

Prophets who suffered personal difficulty for the discredit of their work, also had to suffer for the grief and consequences their society brought on itself for not taking their warnings seriously. Taking a stand and lamenting comes at a high price. We want to remain in our comfort zones, be fearful of change, and have doubts of what will happen in the future.

Despite these hardships, we can learn from Jeremiah’s lesson of a future and a hope as demonstrated in his teaching about the New Covenant in chapter 31 and his act of buying a field in Jeremiah 32. We have a God who is constantly working through our history and his grace is new every day. We are excited that this hope was demonstrated in the recent successful events of Musalaha.

By Salim J. Munayer, Ph.D
Musalaha Director
http://www.musalaha.org/
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Some thoughts came to mind after reading this:

In Jeremiah’s writing Lamentations: He insists in the middle of the book that God’s mercies are new every morning. Towards the end of the book, Jeremiah says, “The Lord’s anointed, our very life breath, was caught in their traps. We thought that under his shadow we would live among the nations.” (Lamentations 4:20 NIV) In other words, the Lord’s Messiah, the Spirit of our face, was caught in their dungeons. … This is a messianic prophecy of Jesus & His crucifixion. Indeed, the Jews thought that He would be their protector among the nations, their strong king who would defeat the nations. Instead, there was an apparent defeat when Jesus marched to the Golgotha, to Calvary, to the place of the skull. Jesus came not to kill his enemies, but to be handed over by and killed by his enemies. Indeed, we were all those enemies.

We have met the enemy, and it is us. It is not some other nation. The enemy is not some pagan land or lord. We ourselves are the enemies of God.

Later, in Zechariah, again there is the mention of this enmity. It is an enmity which was first mentioned in Genesis 3:15 when the Lord prophesied that the seed of woman would crush underfoot the seed of the serpent after much hostility. This Seed of woman, this Seed of Abraham, this Seed of David would choke out the weeds of the world because greater is HE who is among us than the one who is in the world. The particular lament in Zechariah 12:10ff is this, “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son. On that day the weeping in Jerusalem will be as great as the weeping of Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. The land will mourn, each clan by itself, with their wives by themselves: the clan of the house of David and their wives, the clan of the house of Nathan and their wives, the clan of the house of Levi and their wives, the clan of Shimei and their wives, and all the rest of the clans and their wives.”

What do we see here? We see Jesus high and lifted up, all men (and women) of every family are being drawn to him, just as Jesus Himself prophesied in the Good News according to John. The seed fell and died and was buried. Then there sprung up a fount of mourning at Pentecost as those who had been in the crowds at Passover mourned at what they had done to their Lord: they had rejected Him, they had sought to trample Him underfoot and let the birds snatch him. But God is greater! Fifty days later, a jubilee of days later there was released in Zion great mourning as the Spirit was poured out and languages of many nations were spoken and Jews, Cretans, and Arabs from one end of the inhabited world to the other, gathered, heard the Word, and believed on the Lord Jesus, were baptized and repented. We know at least a remnant of 3,000 believed that day. More later. …

We cannot detail all the spread of the Good News in the New Testament accounts of the early church. However, this theme of Lamentation gets picked up again in Revelation 1:4-8 John writes, “to the seven churches in Asia: grace to you and peace from the one who is and the one who was and the one who is coming, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

To the one who loves us and released us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father—to him be the glory and the power forever and ever

Behold, he is coming with the clouds,
and every eye will see him,
even every one who pierced him,
and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over him.

Yes, amen.

I am the Alpha and the Omega, says the Lord God, the one who is and the one who was and the one who is coming, the All-Powerful.” (LEB)

Here it is not only Israel that will mourn, but all families of the earth. The very ones who would be blessed through Abraham’s seed. When people see, hear, and perceive Jesus, they will mourn, abandoning sin, and clinging unto the Savior. We all killed Jesus. It was because of our sins, the sins of all nations, that Jesus bled and died upon the cross. Your sins & my sins put Him there, as the Lord suffered on our behalf. Twice the Lord is called the one who was, is, and is coming. God is the same Yesterday, Today, and Forever, even Jesus our King, the All-Mighty. Revelation is essentially the story of how this prophecy is fulfilled: how God brings about morning and some degree (however slight) of repentance among the nations.

This repentance is accompanied by mourning and lamentation at what our sins have done to the Lord.

So what does this have to do with Salim’s words from Musalaha. Musalaha is all about reconciliation. Indeed, this is what Christian Ministry is all about: Reconciliation to God and reconciliation to one another. In another word: Love.

We are reminded of the man who came to Jesus and said, “Judge between me & my brother: decide who will get the inheritance.” Musalaha works betweens the brothers who are sons of Abraham: Jews and Arabs-who occupy the strip of land between the “great sea” and the “dead sea” between the river in the North and the River of Egypt. Today these two brothers fight among themselves about who should “inherit” the Land. I am sure that Abraham would want them to get along. Even more, Jesus steps above and beyond the conflict over land and says that this is not why he came. He came to reconcile the brothers in the land not to divide it between them. The sword that Jesus brings is His word which pierces our hearts when we hear how we have pierced His Heart with our fighting and wrangling and malice. Jesus cuts through out façade of pride and prejudice. He cuts across all cultural and social boundaries. You are either for Him or against Him. Then, when you have decided to follow Him, He gathers you in to His fold.

Oh, how we should mourn those who are outside of the flock of God!! How we should cry for those who are homeless, not only with regard to a roof, but have no eternal dwelling yet! How we must lament those who are not clothed with Christ! How we should weep and wail over those who are blind to the mercy and glory of God. Many have been baptized with water, some claim to be baptized with fire and the Spirit, a few are severely baptized with blood, but what is needed in this hour is a baptism of tears. Oh that we would be plunged into weeping, never to emerge, until souls are saved and lives are changed. Until there is peace in Jerusalem, no more a modern sodom, but a Heavenly City.

Because Musalaha has the same mission as we have, I encourage you to help them out if you want to see peace in the middle east.

PRAY that peoples will mourn over their alienation from God even though they live in the land of promise.
PRAY that nations will mourn over their assault on the throne of God by claiming rights of life and death of the unborn and the poor.
CONFESS the times you have been bitter or resentful in your heart. CONFESS the times you have clung to anything, any property, and object, any cherished relationship more than you cherished Jesus. PRAY that Jesus would be exalted in your land and in your relationships in the earth, just as you want Jesus honored in your relationship with God.

Now I will speak to another group of readers: those who are set on being hostile towards God, the haters of God. Do you really think you can cling even to your tomb forever? Tombs are transitory places, more transitory than your own body, for as soon as you die, you may well be forgotten and never praised or admired again. You say, “This is why I want to be cremated!” Do you think that this will burn away the impurity of your sins? Do you think by hiding your flesh in earthly flames you can hide from the coming wrath of God? Do not hate God, turn, and run to His arms. Now He is not eager to crush you but is wanting to embrace you if you will but turn back like a wandering child who comes home to his or her father. God will not hold you off in the pig sty … he wants you to come to Him. Do you think you are too defiled and that you love your sin too much? You will love the Lord even more as you get acquainted with Him. He will extend His Hand and lift you up though you are weary and fallen in the mud.

The Father is searching for his separated sons and daughters. He wants a reunion. Not merely in the land of Canaan, in the coming New Heavens and New Earth, where there will be no more crying or mourning or sickness or death or pain. Then, the piercing will have passed. The comfort will be complete. Those who have faith will be forgiven.

Come.
Come quickly, Lord Jesus.
Amen.

Categories: Humility, Suffering | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cutting Words – Healing Hearts

Crushed, disappointed, insulted, rejected? ... Press on. There is more in store. Cry out to God for the promise to come.

Crushed, disappointed, insulted, rejected? … Press on. There is more in store. Cry out to God for the promise to come.

This post is dedicated to a young woman I spoke with recently, and to all who self-injure &/or have suicidal thoughts.

Sometimes in this world, people both old and young say things that are mean-spirited. Sometimes they say them simply to make themselves look good. It can hurt even worse when they say things just to hurt someone else. Either way, those words which expose how far short of perfection a girl or boy falls often lead to feelings of shame, loneliness, and hopelessness.

“Will anyone love me just for me? Does anyone really care about me? I want to be beautiful / handsome. I want to be strong / elegant. I want to be liked and appreciated. Instead my face is rubbed in the dirt.”

Sometimes fellow students tear down the weaker ones. It is after all easier to pick on those who won’t fight back.

Sometimes parents expect a cool perfection from their children. It is after all parents’ job to help their kids grow up to face the realities of the harsh world.

Sometimes bosses or co-workers can pressure a struggling worker to perform beyond capacity or even perform more than everyone else.

Sometimes other authorities can put pressure on those under their charge. NOTHING WE DO IS EVER GOOD ENOUGH, cries the hurting heart.

There are two most common ways to respond: In anger: lashing out at those who insult. In self-loathing, listening to all those voices that expose imperfection.

Imperfections that make us feel ashamed, can also add unique dignity to each of us. They are like the freckles that
Natasha Bedingfield sings about:

This reminds me of Jesus: sometimes people of His day talked about Him because He didn’t wash His hands. Sometimes people insulted Him because He was so confident that He had a special relationship with God. They hated Him because He worked long hours and healed the hurting and forgave the seemingly unforgiveable. Jesus forgave anyway.

In 1 John, it says that the spirit of the antichrist denies two things: 1. That Jesus came from God and 2. That Jesus came in the flesh. Taken to logical conclusion, the antichrist spirit denies the deity and humanity of Jesus.

So what? What difference does that make in how the poor kid who gets picked on in school feels?

When somebody treats you like you are not made in the image of God, that is the antichrist at work. If someone is despising you and all that you do, they are not doing the work of God but are serving the devil. Satan tries to get us to regret that we live. God gets us to regret that we have sinned. Lord, have mercy!

When someone treats you like you are not human with human feelings and an ordinary human body with human wants and needs, that is the antichrist at work. The antichrist expects a sterile sanctification. The Spirit of Jesus washes us with water from the Word, the Word of God. Lord, thank you!

And God’s word says, He loved us enough to send His own Son to cover over ALL our imperfections, sins, shame, and flaws. That is why Jesus was scarred on the cross and on the way to the cross was beaten and tortured, so that you and I could hold our heads up in dignity when the world, our old flesh, and the devil conspire to make us feel like we are useless and unwanted. He set aside heaven’s arms so that we could lift up holy hands and praise Him.

If people tell you that you are good for nothing and dirty: First, clean up if you are dirty. Second, be glad that you are clean in God’s sight. Third, forgive the people who have such dirty hearts that all they can see is filth.

If your own mind tells you that you are unloveable: First, separate the truth from the lie. While love is never “deserved,” anyone can be loved. God loves the least, the lost, the last. God loves you. Second, read promises in the Bible about how the Lord’s purpose is to bless and not curse. Third, receive God’s forgiveness for all your faults. He delights in you and rejoices over you with singing.

Zephaniah 3:17 (NIV)
“The Lord your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
in His love He will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing.”

We need to realize who is the source of all these accusations though: it is the devil, satan, that old serpent, the dragon. Satan hates you. God, however, loves you and delights in you. If you have persevered in reading this, I believe God is calling you to a deeper knowledge of His mercy. Consider reading a chapter from the Proverbs and a chapter from the Gospels every day. Or, develop your own plan for reading through the whole Bible in a year … and stick to it. God will speak to you in new and amazing ways. The lies of the devil will fade.

Maybe you are married and your spouse hates you and you feel miserable and you feel like giving up: Let me encourage you to keep loving and keep forgiving. God has a prize for those who persevere in marriage.

Maybe you feel lonely because all your fellow students or co-workers seem to despise you and ignore you or trip you up: Let me encourage you that you are special in God’s eyes. What you are learning is something teachers can’t teach you. You are learning what Jesus taught us, to love your enemeies. Don’t lose heart. Don’t give up: your work will be rewarded by the one who supervises all bosses and you are storing up for yourself a retirement that is out of the world.

God loves you. Jesus proves it. Live.


Now, about those who tear you down, how do you deal with them?

I must be 100% honest here: I am far from perfect. When I was a teenager, I picked on other students. Then, one day, a classmate I was picking on, told me off. They responded and told me to shut up, I was getting on their nerves. Maybe I was more sensitive than some bullies, but I don’t think so. When they talked back and said, “Shut up, it’s not nice, I’m not all that bad, you don’t have your facts straight.” I shut my mouth. I stopped insulting. Later, the Lord would fill my heart with Love, with the Holy Spirit as I started to regularly read the Bible and pray for the Lord to teach me how to love. God changed me.

Life is not easier for me, it is harder. But that is OK. It was not easy for Jesus, and He is with me when I face insults and injury, hospitalizations and hatred.

If you care to contact me, write to: MertAKA -at- everybody .ORG

Peace,
Mert Hershberger

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The Path to Persecution

Persecution is least easily received when from those you love. Yet continuing to love the persecutor is crucial to learning obedience, hence enjoying God’s love. Jesus learned obedience through the things he suffered at the hands of his own people for:

1. Healing on the Sabbath as well as other days.
2. Loving, not condemning, the nations.
3. Forgiving sin.
4. Not going through the ritual of cleansing off the “defilement of the world” for common meals.
5. Associating with sinners.
6. Clearing out the temple and condemning the temple hierarchy.
7. Acknowledging that he was the Son of God.
8. Receiving unfaithful followers.

If we follow Jesus in these, at some point, we will likely be persecuted. It will not be easy, but we can proceed in the confidence that Jesus has gone before us.

This year, join in praying for the persecuted church:

http://www.idop.org/

November 11, 2012. Vote for the Kingdom of God!

Categories: Cross, Good News | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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