Devotionals

God-Like Forgiveness

Posted on

Matthew 18

21 Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”

22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.

Following this passage is the parable of the two debtors which Jesus used to explain this teaching.

Forgiveness is probably the greatest human act that we can bestow upon each other.  Nothing is more freeing than forgiveness and nothing is more binding and enslaving than a lack of forgiveness.

Peter was being magnanimous to offer forgiveness to someone seven times.  After all, seven was the number of perfection so to forgive someone seven times was quite a feat.  But Jesus upped the ante by multiplying Peter’s magnanimous number times 70!  To say that Peter would have been flabbergasted is an understatement. “Who can possibly forgive 490 times?”  Jesus’ teaching on this was way over the top, in fact, it was so hard to grasp that Jesus told one of the most referenced parables of His teaching.

Imagine being a first-time listener as Jesus told this parable of a man who owed his master ten thousand talents. (For reference sake, a talent was approximately equivalent to 100 days wages.  10,000 talents then was beyond repayment.)  So, when the debtor was required to pay and promised to pay it back, anyone listening would have shaken their heads knowing that repayment by a slave was impossible.  The forgiveness of a debt of this magnitude would have shown both the immense wealth of the master and the amazing heart of forgiveness that he possessed.

Then the slave who was forgiven and should have then spent the rest of his life treating people better, went to a fellow slave demanding the repayment of one talent, 100 days of wages.  The fellow slave asked for mercy promising to pay him back, which, in time, he could have done.  The forgiven slave’s reaction of demanding payment, putting the fellow slave in the poorhouse with his family until all was paid, would have upset the first listeners.  Justice was not served; mercy was not returned.  The man who was forgiven was not an ounce changed by the love of the master.

What do you feel when a fellow Christian withholds forgiveness from you?  I have had men and women professing Christ who withheld forgiveness and restoration from me.  It was painful each time.  As they went their way refusing reconciliation, I wondered if they had been forgiven by God.  In the parable, the unforgiving slave was both rebuked by the master and then severely punished for his lack of compassion.

My friends, when we have been forgiven of every sin of our lives by the Master who alone is able to forgive us, how can we hold anything against any other human being?  What sin against me comes close to the entire mountain of sins of my life?  What can possibly be done to me that comes close to what I have done to God?  Since God has fully and mercifully forgiven me of every debt of every sin, what can I possibly hold against anyone?

As the freed slave had the opportunity to live in freedom and mercy, so do we.  Living in the freedom of forgiveness is the greatest way in this life to live.  Let us join all the men and women of all the ages who having been forgiven by God live in the joy of forgiveness rejoicing in our forgiven state and always forgiving all who act against us.

 Today I am watching Owen and Carson and Jared.  We are having a good time with puzzles, legos, toys, learning to share, be nice to each other, and more.  How much fun can a Papa have in a day?  Later I will take the two older boys, Joel and Hudson, to a lake in their community and try our hand at fishing. 

 We are still praying for the Kirk family as they deal with the loss of Steven.  The pain is often unbearable. When I know the details of a service I will let you know. 

 Have a great day in the Lord,

 PS

Compassion that acts like Jesus

Posted on Updated on

Galatians 6:2

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Romans 12:15–16

15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.

My dear friends, while here in California I have been finishing an online course and have been consumed with papers, reading, tests and responses.  The course is now finished, and I will be back to writing to you in these devotional pages.

I have chosen these passages this morning because of a need in our church.  Burden bearing, as we read, fulfills the law of Christ.  Christ came to show compassion and the very core of who He was showed forth compassion.  Everywhere Jesus went people had needs and no one was ever outside of the realm of Jesus’ care. When we bear the burdens of others we are acting like Jesus.

While it is easy to rejoice with those who have things to rejoice over, the birth of a child, a new job, a clean bill of health, and so on, it can be difficult to know how to weep with those who are weeping.  There are weeping people all around us who just want to know that we care enough to step out of our own world step into theirs and just cry together.

Last night, between 11:00 and 12:00, Steven, the grandson of Barb, died of an overdose.  Many of us have cared for Steven over the years and his death is a great loss to us all.  Barb, Violet, Joey, Bobby, Tony, and Stacey are all grieving deeply.  Tom was at the hospital with them throughout the evening and took Barb home.  This is our opportunity to act like a loving family should act, to bear this burden with this family, to grieve with them over this painful, painful loss.

I heard this morning that they are looking to a Friday funeral.  We, the Grace for Life family, are the family that needs to step up to help prepare with flowers, food, some music, and love beyond love.

It is very strange not being at home. It is a great joy to be with our sons and their families.  Ben’s ordination was true highlight of life.  Bobbi posted some pictures on her Facebook page if you are interested. Having Steven, Justin, and Ben all together for a short time was true joy of life. 

Caleb and Lindsey finally got their Visas to go to China and plan to leave the country November 29th.  The university they have contracted with is looking forward to their arrival.  Do keep Caleb and Lindsey in your prayers for while this is a goal achieved for them it comes with a bitter/sweet element of leaving their families for a year. 

Thank you for your love and prayers for us; you are often in ours.

Have a great day in the Lord,

PS

Compassionate Correction

Posted on

Matthew 18

15 “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ 17 And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.

Is there anything more painful than a damaged relationship with someone whom you love or someone who you believe loves you?  Proverbs speaks of the grief a mother has when her child is against her.  In this teaching, Jesus gave instructions for compassionate correction and full restoration.   For some reason we prefer to talk about a problem situation than to go to the person who hurt us and carefully lovingly tell them what they have done to hurt us.  There is no benefit of talking to someone else outside of the situation unless that person is going to point you back to reconciliation.

Yes, we can hurt each other; sometimes our hurts are unintended, that is, we don’t know we have hurt each other.  How wonderful it is to know that the injured relationship wasn’t intentionally damaged.  The only way to know that the hurt wasn’t intended is to talk to the person who hurt you.  The person apologizes and you talk about how what they did hurt you.

When the offence is intended the plan from Christ for reconciliation is the same: go and speak to the person and see if they can humbly work with you through the offense.  The first thing we are instructed to do is to talk to the one who hurt us.  Ok, we should pray first, but then set up a time to humbly meet and lovingly resolve the situation.

What would families and churches be like if all of us in the family were committed to Christ’s teaching on this subject?  How much more peace we would have, how much closer our relationships would be, and how much less gossip there would be. Let us commit to compassionate correction every time we are hurt or hurt someone else.

 

Jared seems to be past the frustration of last month.  When he got home from school yesterday the report was that it was probably the “best day he has ever had.”  The afternoon and evening with him were just as delightful.  Thank you for your prayers for our Jared.  He will have issues with seizures, medications, and frustrations for the rest of his life.  One of the songs he woke up with this morning had the phrase “Jesus Christ is Lord” in it.  We got out of the car and the first thing he said to one of the teachers at Waubonsie was “Jesus Christ is Lord.”  She smiled and repeated it back to him.  We all could learn something from Jared.

 Be sure to gather tonight for prayer and Bible study.  There will be kids club but no youth group at our building.  Our teens met with the teens from One Way Church two weeks ago and are going down to the same house tonight to meet with them. If you need the address and the family’s name, text me and I will send them to you.

Have a great day in the Lord,

 PS

No One Wanders Away Without Being Sought After

Posted on

Matthew 18

12 “What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying? 13 And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray. 14 Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

We could probably best understand this teaching in the light of our own children.  If one of our children gets hurt, is in an accident, gets arrested, or otherwise finds themselves in a “lost” situation, we as parents will “move heaven and earth” to help them. We have been there. When Jared was so sick we changed all kinds of plans to get him the care he needed.  When Caleb was struggling in college we spent a great deal of time and energy reaching out to him.  Whenever Stefani had a need in high school, depending on the severity of the need, everything else took the back burner while we helped her. Jesus’ teaching here is not obscure.

Jesus is not saying that the shepherd does not care for the other ninety-nine; he cares for them all of the time.  But when one sheep strays, wanders off, runs away, or otherwise finds itself in trouble, that one gets the shepherds attention.  In reality, we should find comfort in this teaching.  Each of us has gone astray at one time or another and we have known the care of the Good Shepherd. When the Lord has sought after me His lovingkindness has been in the forefront.  His goodness brings me to repentance.  I am that “little one” that the Father does not will to perish.

Maybe you are wandering away today.  If you are, your Good Shepherd is pursuing you.  You can keep wandering or you can let Him pick you up in His arms and return you to His fold, His place of comfort and care. It is God’s will that you return to Him.  Find great comfort in the will of your Good Shepherd that you not perish but that you be brought back in love to Himself and to His people.

steve bobbi and cake

Sunday’s service at Grace for Life was a wonderful time of praising God and giving thanks.  The church family was very gracious in their thanks to Bobbi and me for our years of service.  It seems a bit surreal that we have been here twenty years and that our time here is almost over.  This has been a wonderful place to minister, to live, and to grow with the people of God.  Our children have been raised here and we thank God for Grace for Life and the dear and wonderful friends we have here.  (Just a reminder, we are going to California to see Ben’s ordination this weekend are going to stay there a couple of weeks.  We are back in town the month of November.)   There is another showing of our house tomorrow, pray with us for the timely sale of our house. 

I will be at Sunrise Assisted Living again this morning.  Thank you for your many prayers for that service each week.  In the weeks ahead Rich Powell and Ed Green plan to keep this service going. If you would ever like to serve with them I am sure they would appreciate the company. 

Have a great day in the Lord,

PS

 

Jesus Came to Save the Lost

Posted on

Matthew 18

11 For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.

Is there a greater text in all of the Bible that gives hope to sinners?  “Thank You, Lord Jesus, for coming to this wretched and sinful earth to save us who were lost, to save me who was lost.”  We are a lost bunch. There is none good amongst us, at least none that does right and does it for the right reason. We might care and show love but it isn’t always to the glory of God whose love we share.  We care because we want to care and we love because we feel good when we do.  All human motivations are ultimately self-focused and only when we are saved from our sin do we show love and care for the right reason.

We are a lost bunch. We cannot choose good for long.  We are quick to judgment and hate.  Bitterness rises up when we are wronged.  There aren’t any really good reasons to keep us from sinful pleasures for very long.  We do not naturally seek after God but after our own desires and satisfaction.  We are a lost bunch.

So why did Jesus come to this wretched and sin-cursed earth?  Thankfully, Jesus came to save those who are lost.  Yes, Jesus fed the hungry and healed the sick but those miracles proved His deity.  Jesus came to save the lost.  Even Lazarus, whom Jesus spectacularly raised from the dead, had the misfortune of having to die twice.  But, those whom Jesus saves from their sins gain eternal life with Him.  Jesus did not come to do humanitarian work; He came to save the lost.

Whom do you know that needs the Savior?  Would you pray for God to give you or someone the opportunity to lead them to the One who came to save them from their lost condition?   When you talk to people, are you aware that they are lost and need Jesus to save them?  If Jesus came to save the lost and He lives in us then we ought to be aware of those around us who also need the Savior to save them from their lost condition.

 

OK men, tomorrow morning, 7:30, Denny’s at New York and Rt 59. Prayer breakfast.

 This Sunday is a praise and thanksgiving day at Grace for Life. Join us as this is my last official Sunday as pastor of Grace for Life.  We leave Wednesday for California as Ben gets ordained the next week.  I will be back in town the month of November and will probably preach a couple of times at Grace for Life during the month.  This is a bitter-sweet time for us as we anticipate God’s leading in our lives in Jakarta but hurt deeply in leaving so many whom we love and care for. 

Have a great day in the Lord,
PS

 

 

An interesting discourse on children and those who turn their hearts away

Posted on

Matthew 18

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!

“If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life lame or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the everlasting fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire.

10 “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven. 11 For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.

 

Yes, Jesus did speak on the unpopular subject of hell.  Notice however, that Jesus spoke on hell in conjunction with punishment related to the turning of the hearts of children from God.  The word “offence” is the word we get “scandal” or “scandalize” from.  Jesus knew that children’s hearts could be scandalized, caused to be turned away, from Him and His love.  A child is born to love and to be loved but, as we all know, children can become kind people, or they can become very hard people.  What changes those little hearts?  Jesus said that offences, scandals of life, can cause the heart of a little one to turn away.

Oh, how painful it is to watch a young heart turn from soft and caring to hard and rebellious.  Yes, the sin of our own hearts plays a great part in our shaping, but Jesus said that there are people who also have a part in hardening the hearts of the young.  It is those who cause a young heart to turn away that Jesus places the judgment of hell fire upon in this discourse.  Hell is so bad that Jesus tells us that it is better to live life without a hand or without an eye than to enter into hell having been led astray.

Then in verse 10 Jesus makes another comment on His heart toward the children telling us that their angels always see the face of the Father in heaven.  Children are known in the presence of God!  God sees their little lives, loves them, and wants them brought to Himself.  It was Jesus who told the disciples to let the little children come to Him for of such is the kingdom of heaven.  Jesus next statement here is that He came to save those who were lost.

God loves the children of this world.  We have children’s outreach and children’s Bible clubs and teen groups because God loves children.  When we have God’s Holy Spirit in us, we too love the children looking past their annoyances to their need of the Savior.

 stef jared bobbi 10-18

We had a hurried trip to BJU to see Stefani.  College is a whole new way of life for young people.  Pray for all of our college students who are dealing with academics, music lessons, rehearsals, practices, events, work, and more.  Those who endure and finish the rigors of college are better prepared for life’s pressures and schedules.  Pray that our students will keep it up for their good and for God’s preparation of their hearts for life. 

 

Have a great day in the Lord,

 

PS

On a scale of 1-10, where would you put your humility?

Posted on

Matthew 18

1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.

During the life-time of Jesus Christ, the disciples never really understood His teaching on true greatness. We have the ability to look back and to lift all of these teachings out and study them.  We have Paul’s writings on the humility of Christ his call to put others above ourselves.  But the disciples really wanted to be great. We know that Judas Iscariot sold the Savior when he realized that there was no greatness in his future.  This is the context of the question we read today in Matthew 18:1.

How great was the child that Christ had brought to Him for this illustration?  We don’t know the child’s name, we don’t know if the child was a boy or a girl, we don’t know how old the child was nor who the child belonged to. Furthermore, we don’t know what this child became, if anything.  What was the point that the Lord was trying to make?

So often we see ourselves better than we really are.  We think we are better at most things we do; if we don’t think ourselves better we surely don’t see ourselves much below average. The entrance into heaven is a humble gate.  It is a gate that is going to be missed by all who are looking for status.  How would you rate yourself today on the humble-pride scale?  If 1 is really humble and 10 is really proud, I am going to assume that most of us see ourselves between 4-6 on the scale.  Think about the child that Jesus used to illustrate his point. If the unknown and unnamed and uneducated child was at 1 on the scale and Jesus told us to aspire to be like that child, then we all have some work to do.

Ask the Lord of heaven and earth to show you who you are today. Perhaps in comparison to the Creator we will realize that even the unnamed child was above us.  We have the chance, since we are still breathing, to humble ourselves today.

 

It is Friday. I am looking forward to Sunday.  We will be looking at the “lifting up of Jesus” in the morning message.  Jesus said that if we lift Him up, that all will be gathered unto Him.  My greatest desire has been to lift up Christ so that you would be drawn to Him. Christ himself was lifted up for this very purpose.  Come as we exalt the Savior in all that He did to draw all people to Himself.

 The next Supreme Court justice is a key position for the unborn.  I am against abortion. Abortion is the murder of the most innocent among us while they are in their most helpless state.  Yesterday’s hearing was a debacle on our country’s selecting process.  Pray with me for those who have the opportunity and the responsibility to care for the weakest among us, the unborn. Generations have now past where men and women in authority have scorned this issue, skirted this issue, and renamed their murderous actions. They will be held accountable by the Holy God of heaven who alone conceives the life in each womb.  By playing God for the millions of unborn they are sinning against the true God, the true Giver and Taker of life.  Make no mistake; all of this attack on Judge Kavanagh has to do with the liberals who want to have sex without the “complications” of pregnancy.  The unborn need our prayers today.

 

Have a great day in the Lord,

PS