Christian Devotions

Archive for the ‘Forgiveness’ Category

Forgiveness and Reconciliation

And when Joseph’s brethren saw that their father was dead, they said, Joseph will peradventure hate us, and will certainly requite us all the evil which we did unto him.

And they sent a messenger unto Joseph, saying, Thy father did command before he died, saying,

So shall ye say unto Joseph, Forgive, I pray thee now, the trespass of thy brethren, and their sin; for they did unto thee evil: and now, we pray thee, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of thy father. And Joseph wept when they spake unto him.

And his brethren also went and fell down before his face; and they said, Behold, we be thy servants.

And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God?

But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.

Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them.  ~~  Genesis 50:15-21  (KJV)

Forgiveness and reconciliation give us great difficulty. In the first place, they are not the same thing. You can have forgiveness without reconciliation. But you cannot have reconciliation without forgiveness.

Joseph’s brothers were afraid that Joseph was being kind to them only for their father’s sake. So when Jacob/Israel died, they needed to find out what Joseph’s attitude would be toward them. So they – the offenders – went to Joseph – the offended – with their apology. And Joseph forgave them and was reconciled to them.

Forgiveness is something you do for yourself. Holding a grudge takes time and energy and effort. It makes you unhappy because you dwell on the offense, not on the present joys you may have. Worst of all, however, holding a grudge puts you at odds with God. Not a pleasant place to be.

You can forgive unilaterally. The offender need not ask for forgiveness.

Reconciliation is another matter. It involves a recognition of the offense from both the offender and the offended. It requires forgiveness. And it requires a rebuilt sense of trust between the offender and the offended.

Joseph had seen the remorse of his brothers, first when they came to Egypt to purchase grain and in the intervening years between their dad’s settling in Egypt and his death seven years later. We have a tender reconciliation scene in which Joseph indicates his forgiveness of this brothers as well as his desire that they be provided for.

Can you recall an offender that you haven’t forgiven? Is there someone with whom you need to be reconciled? What steps can you take to remedy these issues?

Father, God,

You have commanded us to forgive. Give us the strength and stamina to forgive, even when there has been no apology. Grant us the faith to put our reconciliations into Your hands.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

Spiritual Renewal

Therefore thus saith the Lord, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob, Jacob shall not now be ashamed, neither shall his face now wax pale.

But when he seeth his children, the work of mine hands, in the midst of him, they shall sanctify my name, and sanctify the Holy One of Jacob, and shall fear the God of Israel.

They also that erred in spirit shall come to understanding, and they that murmured shall learn doctrine.

~~  Isaiah 29:22-24 (KJV)

This reading is full of promise. Promise of forgiven sins, returned blessings, restoration and spiritual renewal.

There is to be a time when the people will acknowledge the holiness of the Holy One of Jacob and will stand in awe of the God of Israel. People who have been rebellious will learn of Him.

In conversation with a friend yesterday, he mentioned a class reunion. He said that when they graduated half the class was Christian and the other were simply secular. But at this reunion, it seems that all had come to a saving knowledge of the Lord. One who had had a miserable childhood with no instruction of the Lord had become a strong proponent of God. Another has a blog where the prayers and writings are evangelical and strong teaching.

His question was, given his experience, why do we not hear about the growth of faith in this country. We came to the conclusion that the media hypes the exception, not the rule. The strident voices do not necessarily represent the majority, just the most vociferous.

Our conversation reminded me of the passage in II Chronicles 7:14:

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

Although we all know those who have no understanding of the Lord, there are many who do. And if we who know Him continue to teach, explain, and provide example for those who don’t, He will draw all of them unto Himself.

Every Christian is the seed of spiritual renewal in his circle of influence. Let us be fruitful.

Father, God,

We ask for a fresh wind of Your Holy Spirit to sweep across our land. Breathe on us the renewal we so urgently desire. Help us to be fruitful in this time of harvest.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

First published 7 July 2009.

Thank you for your indulgence.

In light of the inauguration of a new president and the gathering of both celebrants and protesters,

I thought it prudent to remind ourselves that God is still in charge.

They also that erred in spirit shall come to understanding, and they that murmured shall learn doctrine.

Whosoever

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. ~~ John 3:16-17 (KJV)

Whosoever is the critical word in this passage. It is all encompassing. It excludes no one. It means any one at all.

That includes the child that you cannot seem to control, the co-worker who is undermining your reputation with the boss, the cranky neighbor who threatened to kill your dog if it barks one more time past 9:00 pm.

It also includes those who incite to riot, those who would destroy our society, those who plot against our nation.

For God so loved the world…

All the world, every whosoever in it, good, bad, or indifferent.

God loves them, every one individually. So if we are to be sons and daughters of God, we need to love them as well.

What?! You mean I must love this person I can’t stand to be in the same room with?  How do I do that?

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. ~~ Matthew 5:44-45 (KJV)

See also Luke 6:27-29

Things happen when a believing person prays. They may not be the things we thought would happen, but changes do come about.

The first thing that happens when we pray for someone is that we are changed.We begin to see this person with the eyes of the Father. Any anger and resentment we have against that person diminishes until it disappears.

Whether the person we pray for changes is not our business. Once we pray for that person, the results are in the hands of God.

God is a “whosoever” God. He excludes no one.  Each one excludes himself by disbelief.’

Father, God,

Help us to see all the whosoevers in this world as You see them, through Your eyes of love. Grant that we may pray for them to be wooed back into your family. Give us the grace to rejoice over the prodigal returned.

In Jesus’ most precious name.

Amen.

 

Committed Prayer

I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.  ~~ 1 Timothy 2:1-2   (KJV)

Our nation, as a whole, has strayed far from its origins. The first official meeting of the Continental Congress in Philadelphia was opened with the reading of Psalm 35 and a moving prayer by the rector of Christ Church in Philadelphia.  The disagreements that arose about opening with prayer were not about whether to open with prayer, but which clergyman should be prevailed upon to pray.

After a hotly contested, noisy, and vitriolic campaign, we have just elected a man to be our new president come January. The popular vote was virtually evenly divided; the electoral college made the difference.

After all the wrangling and accusations and name-calling, I had hoped that the results would quiet the noise. Instead the din has proceeded unabated, and with little improvement in tenor.

It is no secret that our country has strayed widely from the intent of the founding fathers, that our society is in turmoil, that we have enemies within and without.

This is not a new thing. God has dealt with His errant children in the past and will continue to do so in the future, however long or short that may be.

Perhaps we need to read Daniel 9 and emulate Daniel in praying for our country.

And I prayed unto the Lord my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments;

5 We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments:

6 Neither have we hearkened unto thy servants the prophets, which spake in thy name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.

7 O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto thee, but unto us confusion of faces, as at this day; to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and unto all Israel, that are near, and that are far off, through all the countries whither thou hast driven them, because of their trespass that they have trespassed against thee.

8 O Lord, to us belongeth confusion of face, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against thee.

9 To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against him;

10 Neither have we obeyed the voice of the Lord our God, to walk in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets.

11 Yea, all Israel have transgressed thy law, even by departing, that they might not obey thy voice; therefore the curse is poured upon us, and the oath that is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, because we have sinned against him.

12 And he hath confirmed his words, which he spake against us, and against our judges that judged us, by bringing upon us a great evil: for under the whole heaven hath not been done as hath been done upon Jerusalem.

13 As it is written in the law of Moses, all this evil is come upon us: yet made we not our prayer before the Lord our God, that we might turn from our iniquities, and understand thy truth.

14 Therefore hath the Lord watched upon the evil, and brought it upon us: for the Lord our God is righteous in all his works which he doeth: for we obeyed not his voice.

15 And now, O Lord our God, that hast brought thy people forth out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and hast gotten thee renown, as at this day; we have sinned, we have done wickedly.

16 O Lord, according to all thy righteousness, I beseech thee, let thine anger and thy fury be turned away from thy city Jerusalem, thy holy mountain: because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and thy people are become a reproach to all that are about us.

17 Now therefore, O our God, hear the prayer of thy servant, and his supplications, and cause thy face to shine upon thy sanctuary that is desolate, for the Lord’s sake.

18 O my God, incline thine ear, and hear; open thine eyes, and behold our desolations, and the city which is called by thy name: for we do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousnesses, but for thy great mercies.

19 O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for thine own sake, O my God: for thy city and thy people are called by thy name.  ~~ Daniel 9:4-19

To which I can only add:

In the most precious name of Jesus.

Amen.

New Beginnings

And the Lord smelled a sweet savour; and the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.

While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.

And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.

And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered.

Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.

But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.

And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life of man.

Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.

And you, be ye fruitful, and multiply; bring forth abundantly in the earth, and multiply therein.

Genesis 8:21-9:7 ~~ King James Version (KJV)

When we are reading the Bible chronologically, we come to the story of Noah and the flood early in the year. If you were raised in church, you’ve known about Noah since the kindergarten teacher put yellow giraffes on a blue flannel-board.

But if we look closer, we see that the flood was God’s decision in response to man’s vile wickedness. Let’s face it. The natural tendency of mankind is to get worse and worse — not better and better. Left to our own devices, we drift further and further from God’s plans for us.

But God started over. He found a pure remnant, Noah and his sons. He protected them from the cataclysmic flood. And then He commissioned mankind again. He wiped the slate clean and let us start over as in the beginning.

Look at the similarities.

God tells Noah and his sons to be fruitful and fill the earth.

And He reiterates man’s authority upon the earth.

Then he make man an omnivore by giving man everything that lives and moves as food, just as He gave man the green plants earlier.

Our problems begin when we get so puffed up with our rights and what is our due that we forget that all – ALL – we have is a gift from God.

Father, God,

Keep us ever mindful that all we have is a result of Your love for us, not our own efforts or entitlements.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen

Spiritual Renewal

Therefore thus saith the Lord, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob, Jacob shall not now be ashamed, neither shall his face now wax pale.

But when he seeth his children, the work of mine hands, in the midst of him, they shall sanctify my name, and sanctify the Holy One of Jacob, and shall fear the God of Israel.

They also that erred in spirit shall come to understanding, and they that murmured shall learn doctrine.

Isaiah 29:22-24 ~~ (KJV)

Today’s reading is full of promise. Promise of forgiven sins, returned blessings, restoration and spiritual renewal.

There is to be a time when the people will acknowledge the holiness of the Holy One of Jacob and will stand in awe of the God of Israel. People who have been rebellious will learn of Him.

In conversation with a friend , he mentioned a class reunion. He said that when they graduated half the class was Christian and the other were simply secular. But at this reunion, it seems that all had come to a saving knowledge of the Lord. One who had had a miserable childhood with no instruction of the Lord had become a strong proponent of God. Another has a blog where the prayers and writings are evangelical and strong teaching.

His question was, given his experience, why do we not hear about the growth of faith in this country. We came to the conclusion that the media hypes the exception, not the rule. The strident voices do not necessarily represent the majority, just the most vociferous.

Our conversation reminded me of the passage in II Chronicles 7:14 “If my people who are called by my name….”

Although we all know those who have no understanding of the Lord, there are many who do. And if we who know Him continue to teach, explain, and provide example for those who don’t, He will draw all of them unto Himself.

Every Christian is the seed of spiritual renewal in his circle of influence. Let us be fruitful.

Father, God,

We ask for a fresh wind of Your Holy Spirit to sweep across our land. Breathe on us the renewal we so urgently desire. Help us to be fruitful in this time of harvest.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

First published  7 July 2009

Almost Is Not Good Enough

23 And on the morrow, when Agrippa was come, and Bernice, with great pomp, and was entered into the place of hearing, with the chief captains, and principal men of the city, at Festus’ commandment Paul was brought forth.

24 And Festus said, King Agrippa, and all men which are here present with us, ye see this man, about whom all the multitude of the Jews have dealt with me, both at Jerusalem, and also here, crying that he ought not to live any longer.

25 But when I found that he had committed nothing worthy of death, and that he himself hath appealed to Augustus, I have determined to send him.

26 Of whom I have no certain thing to write unto my lord. Wherefore I have brought him forth before you, and specially before thee, O king Agrippa, that, after examination had, I might have somewhat to write.

27 For it seemeth to me unreasonable to send a prisoner, and not withal to signify the crimes laid against him.

26 Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Thou art permitted to speak for thyself. Then Paul stretched forth the hand, and answered for himself:

2 I think myself happy, king Agrippa, because I shall answer for myself this day before thee touching all the things whereof I am accused of the Jews:

3 Especially because I know thee to be expert in all customs and questions which are among the Jews: wherefore I beseech thee to hear me patiently.

4 My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among mine own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews;

5 Which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.

6 And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God, unto our fathers:

7 Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope’s sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews.

8 Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?

9 I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.

10 Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them.

11 And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities.

12 Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests,

13 At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me.

14 And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

15 And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.

16 But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee;

17 Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee,

18 To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.

19 Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision:

20 But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.

21 For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me.

22 Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come:

23 That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles.

24 And as he thus spake for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad.

25 But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness.

26 For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner.

27 King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest.

28 Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.

29 And Paul said, I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds.

~~  Acts 25:23-26:29  (KJV)

Paul tells his story time and again. In fact, from the testimony in his trials, we should be able to assume that this is the message he preaches when he talks to the people. Conversion after conversion follows Paul in all his travels.

But in Jerusalem, he is prosecuted as a trouble maker. He stands trial three time, before Felix, before Agrippa, and before Festus. Each time he tells the same story of his life as a Pharisee, his encounter on the road to Damascus, and his life after his encounter with Jesus.

In fact, Agrippa is so moved by his testimony that he says he is almost persuaded (KJV) to become as Paul is.

Paul’s reason for appealing to Rome for his trial is not told here, but it would seem reasonable that he was playing for time, more opportunities to speak his piece in front of gentiles. At least that is the effect it had.

But what has this to do with us? Today there are people with a nebulous sense of God. Many people pray in times of crisis. But whether we have had a dramatic encounter like Paul’s on the road to Damascus, or a simply a growing in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, some of us are not truly Christian.

We are almost persuaded by our intellect, but we have not made the commitment that Paul has made. We have not put telling the story of Jesus at the head of our to-do list each day. We are his witnesses in this world. Our need to defend our faith in Him should be the motivation for all we do and say.

We cannot be a sometimes Christian. We must not be a pseudo-Christian. We must be fully committed to Christ alone. Our fidelity to Him must be foremost in our lives.

Father, God,

Help us to put You first in our lives. Keep us from being distracted by this world. Grant that we may serve You completely, wholly committed to spreading the good news of Jesus and Your love for us.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

First published 12 December 2009