Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Forgiving: A Christian Duty

Chuckle:  "I just had skylights put in my place. The people who live above me are furious!" 

Good Quote: "It is by forgiving that one is forgiven."  --Mother Teresa of Calcutta


    "You must make allowance for each other's faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. And the most important piece of clothing you must wear is love. Love is what binds us all together in perfect harmony" (Colossians 3:13-14 NLT).

Many of us often find it is most difficult to forgive those who have treated us in an unkind or hostile way.  Forgiveness is the act of pardoning an offender in spite of the offender's shortcomings and errors.  It's the last thing Jesus did on the cross! "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34 NIV).

When we exercise genuine forgiveness, it frees us from the most powerful bondage we can experience.  Jesus didn't say we are to forgive if we feel like it.  He said it is a duty and no limit can be set on the extent of forgiveness.  It must be granted without reservations or conditions -- by faith and not feelings.

    "I'm warning you! If another believer sins, rebuke him; then if he repents, forgive him. Even if he wrongs you seven times a day and each time turns again and asks forgiveness, forgive him" (Luke 17:3-4 NLT).

One of the most effective tools the evil one uses to steal our joy is unforgiveness.  With just a little foothold of unforgiveness in our lives, we can easily become bound with chains of bitterness, resentment, anger and rage.  If we let that foothold linger without dealing with it, eventually it will lead to our own self-destruction.  But forgiving sets you free.

The apostle Paul reminds us in Galatians 5:15, NLT, that words and emotions can get out of hand -- even among Christians. "But if instead of showing love among yourselves you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another."  When this happens, feelings get hurt, friendships are destroyed, the church becomes divided, and the body of Christ suffers.  It is crucial that each of us asks the Lord daily to help us to "be kind to each another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you." (Ephesians 4:32 NLT).

    A man named John Oglethorpe, in talking with John Wesley, once made the comment, "I never forgive."  Mr. Wesley wisely replied, "Then, Sir, I hope that you never sin."  --Illustrations for Biblical Preaching; Edited by Michael P. Green. 

Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, July 1, 2013

Jesus' Model Prayer

Chuckle:  Have you heard about the bowlegged cowboy who was fired because he couldn't keep his calves together?      
Quote:  "Every Christian needs an half hour of prayer each day, except when he is busy, then he needs an hour."  --St Francis de Sales
    "Our Father in heaven, may your name be honored. May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done here on earth, just as it is in heaven. Give us our food for today, and forgive us our sins , just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us. And don't let us yield to temptation, but deliver us from the evil one"  (Matthew 6:9-12 NLT).
Jesus' words here are commonly called "The Lord's Prayer."  But since Jesus was teaching His disciples how to pray, it could be called the "Model Prayer."  Let's focus on both the sequence and content of the prayer.
First:  We are to begin our prayer by honoring God as we enter His holy presence with praise, reverence, and commitment.  "Our Father in heaven, may your name be honored (hallowed)."  We focus our attention on the holiness and majesty of God and spend some time just sharing our love for Him.  But It's tempting to skip over this most important part of the prayer and go directly to our selfish shopping list of things we want God to do for us. 
Second:  Our prayer moves to expressing our concerns for God's spiritual kingdom and His will"May Your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done here on earth, just as it is in heaven."  Our concern should be to glorify God and advance His kingdom above all else.  Jesus said, "And he (God) will give you all you need from day to day if you live for him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern"  (Matthew 6:33 NLT).  This means seeking His will first before making our personal requests.  Our prayers should focus on the furtherance of God's kingdom as enunciated in the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20 and elsewhere in Scripture.  
Third:  Our prayer now turns to our daily needs from God, our sustainer and provider"Give us our food for today.  By the time we get to this point in our prayer, we are totally focused on God, not ourselves.  We will have rearranged our priorities and affirmed our complete trust in God and His will.  We now understand that if we put God and His kingdom first, He will take care of everything else we may need.  Selfishness will have been removed from our prayer
Fourth:  We acknowledge God's provision by asking His help in dealing with our daily struggles.  Forgive us our sins, just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us. And don't let us yield to temptation, but deliver us from the evil one."   Notice that God's forgiveness is requested based on our forgiveness of others.  Also, we should ask God to give us strength to overcome temptation and lead us in His way instead.
We sometimes reverse the order of the Model Prayer.  We begin by voicing our real and perceived needs and spend very little, if any, time seeking God and His kingdom.  Let's take a new look at the Model Prayer and bring our prayer priorities in line with those articulated (modeled) by Jesus.

Love, Jerry & Dotse