Thursday, January 29, 2009

I Forgive You. Now What?

I have a friend who is one of those critical thinkers you wish you could emulate. Especially when it comes to matters of faith, he routinely challenges my thinking.

He had a recent post about Forgiveness which caused a stir in my thinking. Perhaps it was because my approach to the holidays was so different from his. Who knows what kind of craziness goes through my head. In any case, the thing that struck me so heavily was the last line:

I do understand that you don’t put an alcoholic in a bar during the first week of AA but is that what God does with us?
-- Thoughts on Forgiveness

Now I don't think I have any more to forgive than anyone else, if anything it’s the other way around, but this is something I struggle with like anyone. And usually I think I tend to be okay in how I handle these things in my life. And then the holidays hit. That whole "I'm okay"-thing goes right out the window.

I was struggling with bitterness, self-doubt, and resentment. These things were eating me away and worming their disgusting way into my thoughts almost daily. For someone who works hard at being deliberate and in control of my thoughts, that's a hard thing to realize.

So as I do in times like that when it dawns on me how far in over my head I am, I went back to The Word. (If you can't tell that happens a lot.) In this case I was really only looking for how I was supposed to be handling things?. If I'm failing at handling these issues myself, surely there could be found some better instruction in His Word. And without fail I stumbled into more than I thought I needed. The first was in Hebrews:

For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness. I will remember their sins and lawless deeds no more.
-- Hebrews 8:12

Here it was, the first step towards letting go my bitterness. It wasn't just another example of how I don't measure up to the grace of my Savior. This illustrated the direct tie between mercy and forgiveness. The forgiveness was one thing, but then to show them mercy by remembering the sins no more. This I could latch on to. It seemed so unnatural, so impossible to just forgive and move on. But when I realized that the moving on is an act of mercy it began to be palatable. After all, I'm no stranger to mercy (everything I need a lot of I tend to learn a lot about!).

Therefore be merciful, even as your Father is also merciful.
-- Luke 6:36

So that clearly spoke to the issue Heitz raised. Our transgressions are in fact gone and that is forgiveness. But we don't just get forgiveness, we get mercy too. It's a package deal. The gift that keeps on giving.

The next couple verses in Romans are all about other aspects of forgiveness and how to forgive, but that was all I needed and more. I needed to recognize, acknowledge and be deliberate in my actions after offering forgiveness. Recognizing its relationship to mercy gave me keys to keep my Walk straight.

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
-- Romans 12:18

Even with what I was struggling through, I still was seeking ways to make this true in my life. Inside I think I knew that most of my hang up was this feeling that I wasn't living at peace. It's like I knew I had forgiven but I didn't know what was next. And I just knew it wasn't right. It wasn't enough. It was never enough. Until I realized I also had to offer mercy. When you add mercy, it's enough. He is merciful, and He is always enough.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Please Make The Bad Man Stop!

Okay, this is getting ridiculous.

I understand about niche music and sub-genre's and so forth, but do we really need a specific set of CD's of Christian music designed for RUNNING? and WALKING?

Frankly this is why I distance myself from the mainstream community. It's enough to make me want to run through the temple overturning tables and scattering livestock...

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Pray to Live, Live to Pray

Prayer is a large and important part of my life. Much of what I know about prayer is from my father who has always modeled for me how pervasive and impactful prayer should and can be in life.

These past few weeks I've been thinking about how I communicate about prayer. Specifically with those in my life who aren't particularly prayerful. Someone close to me was asking about this and I realized mid spew how incomprehensible and disorganized my thinking on the subject had become. So I went back to The Word to see if how it was written would help my thoughts untangle. As usual, I was refreshed and found a clear set of messages that stood out. This is hardly comprehensive, but sufficient for the salient point I was seeking.

One passage I came across was clearly about the benefits of prayer in your life. Not just as an element of our salvation, an obligation we incur for our salvation, or even what is necessary to keep us in the way we should go.
For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.
-- Colossians 1:9-12
It doesn't really need to be stated more plainly than that. If you want to bear fruit in every good work, you need to pray. If you want to grow, you need to pray. If you want strength, endurance, and patience: pray.

It's all well and good to see this from a personal aspect, but it doesn't stop there. Relationships also require prayer as we see in 1 Peter chapter 3.

Firstly, Peter calls out a particular point for husbands and wives.

You husbands likewise, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with a weaker vessel, since she is a woman; and grant her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.
-- 1 Peter 3:7
Pretty self-explanatory, but of drastic import. If you don't want your prayer life to be negatively impacted, then show honor and love to your spouse. Not as someone lesser but as a peer in salvation. This is definitely showing a correlation between how you are living, effecting how you pray.

Moving forward, he opens his directives beyond just the married folks to all believers. He calls us to live a life of love and compassion. To justify his statements, he quotes Psalms 34.
For, "Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil."
-- 1 Peter 3:10-12
Once again, a clear connection between how you live and the efficacy of our prayers. This can be hard for some, because it can be slippery slope on the way to a doctrine of works but the point and applicability to prayer is clear.

Later in the next chapter, Peter continues his admonitions for how to live in the context of the our salvation. He lays out the path and imperative of our salvation and then draws out the relevance to our specific lives.
The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. -- 1 Peter 4:7
The thread here from the first to last is the tight correlation between your life in this world, and your life in your prayers. Living better will help you to pray; praying well will help you to live better. It works both ways and they are inseparable.

If you are having trouble walking, try getting on your knees.