Wednesday, February 26, 2014


Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.
1 John 4:18, NLT

I wrote a little bit about this once before.

It comes up again, because I've been going to a Bible study, and we've been forced to confront our weaknesses and where we need to grow.

I am a fearful person.  Here is a partial list of things I am afraid of:

  • pain
  • something bad happening to my children, any one of them
  • something bad happening to anybody I love (family members and/or friends)
  • heavy traffic
  • driving on slippery roads with no visibility
  • getting lost
  • strange, unexplained noises at night
  • big bills
  • making mistakes
  • being disliked
  • being treated unkindly
  • leaving something hot plugged in and turned on after I've left the house
  • losing things
  • being burgled
  • cats
  • cliffs
  • deep, murky water
  • getting stranded in the desert on a 108 degree day without water
  • my furnace failing
  • change
  • did I say pain?

Unfortunately, I also have a vivid imagination, so at any given time, I could be imagining any number of disastrous scenarios in multicolored extravagant detail, giving myself a stomach ache, heart palpitations and damp spots under my arms.

I need God to help me overcome my fears.

Things I know are true, that should help me trust God and not be afraid:

  • God loves me.
  • God is sovereign.
  • Nothing is impossible for God.
  • Nothing happens without the permission of God.
  • God loves me.
  • God is for me (He's on my side).
  • God is always with me; He will never leave me.
  • Nothing escapes God's attention.
  • God loves me.
  • God is compassionate.
  • God forgives us in Christ; He does not treat us as our sins deserve.
  • God has a purpose for me, for my life.
  • God will fulfill His purposes.
  • God loves me.

But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you.
Psalm 56:3, NLT

Since he did not spare even his own Son 
but gave him up for us all, 
won’t he also give us everything else?
Romans 8:32, NLT

Give all your worries and cares to God, 
for he cares about you.
1 Peter 5:7, NLT 

I should not live in fear.  God knows everything that is going to happen to me, even before it happens, and He has it all under control.  Whatever He brings into my life, He will stand by and carry me through.  He is not looking to punish me.  I am His beloved child, bought with the precious blood of Christ.  Jesus already took my punishment.  I may need to be taught, disciplined, pruned so I can be more fruitful... but He is not out to get me, only to purify and perfect me for His purpose and His Kingdom, neither of which can fail.

His victory is certain, already accomplished at the cross.

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
Philippians 1:21, ESV

Please God, help me not to be afraid.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

My verse for the year

I figured out which verse I'm going to cling to this year.

John 16:33
“I have told you these things, 
so that in me you may have peace. 
In this world you will have trouble. 
But take heart! 
I have overcome the world.”

This is both utterly realistic and perfectly, reassuringly hopeful:

In this world I will have trouble.
In Jesus I can have peace.
Jesus has already overcome the world.
I can be encouraged and full of confidence
(that's what it means to take heart)...
even though there will be trouble in this world.
This world is not my home.
Jesus has gone to prepare a place for me, 
and where He is, I will someday be also (John 14:1-3).

You can have all this world, give me Jesus.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Exploring forgiveness some more

Yesterday at Bible study we looked at the parable of the unforgiving debtor (Matthew 18:21-35).

Here's a synopsis of the story:

A man owes the king millions of dollars.  The Greek says 10,000 talents of silver, which is equal to 375 tons of silver.  If the price of silver is $20/ounce (it recently dropped from $30 to $19), that would come to $240 million dollars, significantly more money than most people could earn in 100 lifetimes.  As a woman in my group pointed out, "You aren't going to Dave Ramsey your way out of this one."

The king calls in the debt and, of course, the man can't pay it.  Therefore, the king is going to do the fair and just thing: sell the man and his family into slavery to recompense the debt.

The man fell down before the king and begged for mercy, pleading for time to pay the debt.  The king felt pity for him and let him go, forgiving the debt.  The king told the man that he didn't need to pay back what he owed.  There was no possible way he could have, anyway.

Immediately after this, the man went out and found a fellow who owed him 100 denarii.  Apparently, a denarius was a laborer’s full day’s wage.  Supposing $40,000 is the yearly salary of a "laborer" and you break it down to daily wages: we're talking about $154 a day, figuring a five day week.  So this debt was something on the order of $15,400.  It's a significant debt, about the price of a modest car.  In a few years, you could "Dave Ramsey your way out of it," if you knuckled down, tightened your belt and worked hard.

So the man who has been forgiven a debt of $240,000,000, who had his slate wiped clean, who had received mercy for himself and his family, this very man goes out and collars a fellow who owes him $15,400 and calls in the debt.  He shows no mercy.  He will not wait.  He has the fellow thrown into prison because he cannot pay.

Other servants of the king saw what had happened and they were very upset about the injustice of what this man, this forgiven man, had done.  They went to the king and told him about it.

The king called in the man he had forgiven and said to him, "You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me.  Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?"  (Matthew 18:32-33 NLT)

The Bible goes on to say: 
"Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt. That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart." (Matthew 18:34-35)


observation #1
I once heard a sermon about how the sin we commit is measured most accurately by considering what we have transgressed against.  It's like how you would rather rear-end somebody's winter-rat car than somebody's brand new BMW.  It is not as disastrous to spill paint on the floor of the shed in your backyard as it is to spill paint on your great-aunt's antique Persian rug.  If you're going to break a window, break the windshield of your car, not the stained glass in Notre Dame cathedral.  The depth of a transgression is measured by what is required to make restitution.  If you spill a bottle of make-up on somebody's blouse, you can buy her a new one (or maybe you could even just launder it for her).  However, if you spill a bottle of make-up on someone's wedding gown an hour before she was supposed to walk the aisle, you are in a heap of trouble.

Notice that in all my examples, the offensive act is the same:  hitting a car, spilling paint, breaking a window, spilling make-up.  The offensive act is not the issue.  The object of the act is what determines whether it is a major or a minor offense.  Now consider that we have all sinned against an infinitely perfect and holy God.  This is like being $240,000,000 in debt to someone.  We are utterly helpless to make amends.  There is no way that we can make this right, nothing we can do to make up for our offense against perfect holiness even if we worked with all our strength for all our living days.

Yet, in Jesus, God forgives us.  Jesus paid the debt that we are helpless to pay, that we could never pay.  Jesus paid it for us, and we are free from condemnation.  "So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus." (Romans 8:1 NLT)

If we receive this forgiveness from Jesus, how dare we hold a grudge against a fellow human?  When someone wrongs me, he wrongs an imperfect person.  I am flawed by sin, and I myself have wronged people many times, both knowlingly and unknowlingly.  How dare I withhold forgiveness, when I have received so much?

Besides, for those who withhold forgiveness, God has torture and punishment in store.  It's a frightening thought, but it's what the Bible says (Matthew 18:34-35).  I don't think this means that you can lose your salvation by refusing to forgive someone.  I do think it means that if you staunchly refuse to forgive someone, you may not have experienced the forgiveness of God yourself, in which case you probably are not saved.  So be careful!

We need to meditate on what it means to be forgiven by God, the depth of what He has done for us, and the way in which He has done it: the death--in our place--of His only begotten Son.

observation #2
The characters in this parable threw themselves before their debtor and plead for mercy.  Mercy was granted in one instance and denied in the other, but in both cases, the person who owed the debt knew and did not quibble over whether he owed a debt; he just asked for mercy.   I think this indicates that we are absolutely without excuse if we withhold forgiveness from someone who asks for it.  

It is harder to forgive those who don't ask, who aren't sorry.  We need to forgive them anyway, but the results are not the same.  We can always forgive, because it only takes one to forgive.  We cannot always see a relationship reconciled, because it takes both sides to mend and heal.  Jesus extends His offer of forgiveness to the whole world from the cross where He died for all our sins.  However, only those who believe and receive His forgiveness will be given eternal life.  Similarly, we can offer forgiveness to those who do us wrong, but only when they come to us to receive our forgiveness can our relationships be healed and reconciled.  We do well to understand the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation, and to do what we can while leaving the rest in the hands of God.