Tag Archives: Forgiveness

Peace in Uncertain Times

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They were afraid. The last hours and days have been anything but restful. Some in the group narrowly escaped fighting and arrest a few nights ago as an angry mob arrested their leader Jesus. They watched as the mob had him tortured and executed. They know his tomb is empty, but they are unsure of how or why. Thoughts of peace are replaced with a constant wondering about the next happening and how to get away from those who are against them. They do not know who is the next to be arrested or even worse, so they are gathered behind locked doors in a secret location plotting a path forward.

The disciples are consumed by fear and anxiety, but Jesus does not leave them alone. John 20:19 says, “On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”

As the disciples are sitting in an anxious and fear-filled room, Jesus shows up to bring peace. The peace Jesus brings to the disciples is for the past, present, and future. They are surrounded by uncertainty, yet Jesus says they can have peace. And, the peace Jesus brings on this night is the same peace he offers to us.

We live in uncertain times. Some folks struggle with letting go of past mistakes, while others are fearful of the future. To all though, Jesus says, “Peace be with you.”

Jesus offers peace with God. Through his work on the cross, Jesus bridged the gulf between man and God.  Scripture helps us understand.

  • “Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us,” points out Paul in Ephesians 2:18.
  • He writes in Romans 5:1, “Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.”
  • And Romans 8:1 proclaims, “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.”

Because of Christ, we can have peace with God. Yesterday’s mistakes are forgiven and forgotten, so we don’t need to feel guilty any longer. Just look at what he did for Peter.

Peter boldly stated he would never deny Jesus; he would follow him to the very end, but when pressure mounted, Peter crumbled. He denied Jesus not once but three times, and after the third time, Mark says, “Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny three times that you even know me.” And he broke down and wept.” Peter knew he made a mistake. The Lord also knew Peter made a mistake, yet Jesus brought Peter peace. He was present when Jesus appeared to the disciples, and the Gospel writers tell us Jesus appeared to Peter earlier in the day, restoring their relationship. Peter did not have the power to make peace with God, so Jesus did it for him.

To spite his failures and all that Peter had done wrong, Jesus brings him peace with God. Can you imagine the relief Peter must have felt?

What about you? You know you’ve made mistakes; perhaps you remind yourself of it daily. The Lord also knows you’ve made mistakes, yet Jesus comes bearing the greeting, “Peace be with you.” You and I did not have the power to make peace with God, so Jesus did it for us. To spite the failures and mistakes of the past, Jesus gives us peace with God, and he freely gives it to us. In John 14:27, Jesus says, “I am leaving you a gift,” and that gift is peace with God.

It is in knowing the Lord is walking with us that we find peace for the future. Again, Scripture helps us understand.

  • “Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus,” writes Paul in Philippians 4:7.
  • Notice again Jesus’ words in John 14:27, “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”

Because of an empty tomb, you and I can have peace even if it is a turbulent time. The world may be swirling around us, but no matter what happens, the victory is ours through Christ. Remember the promise of Romans 8:37, “No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.” Jesus isn’t leaving us alone to struggle. He is coming along side us and saying, “Peace be with you!”

Fixing the Mess

“I’m pregnant!”

This was the message that came to David. Ordinarily, these are exciting words, but for David, they are frightening words. It is going to be clear he committed adultery. It is going to be clear he slept with another man’s wife. It is going to be clear he sinned.

So, David tries to fix it himself.

2 Samuel 11 records David sending for Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, and having Uriah come home from the battlefield. If Uriah sleeps with Bathsheba, then everyone will assume Uriah is the father of the child. This doesn’t work though; Uriah is so loyal to his comrades that he refused to go home.

David tried getting Uriah drunk. If a sober Uriah wouldn’t go home, maybe a drunken Uriah would desire his wife’s company over loyalty, but Uriah still did not go home.

Another failure didn’t stop David. 2 Samuel 11 records his next move:

14 So the next morning David wrote a letter to Joab and gave it to Uriah to deliver. 15 The letter instructed Joab, “Station Uriah on the front lines where the battle is fiercest. Then pull back so that he will be killed.” 16 So Joab assigned Uriah to a spot close to the city wall where he knew the enemy’s strongest men were fighting. 17 And when the enemy soldiers came out of the city to fight, Uriah the Hittite was killed along with several other Israelite soldiers.

The Lord was displeased.

2 Samuel 11 tells us the Lord was displeased with David’s actions, and he summoned Nathan, a prophet, to pay David a visit. This was an unwelcomed visit filled with bad news. It thrust David’s sin with Bathsheba right in front of his face; he could not ignore it. It also served as a reminder of the Lord’s grace.

Not our actions, but God’s grace.

After chatting with Nathan, David wrote the words of Psalm 51. This is a great reminder of the Lord’s gracious response to us. Notice verse 1:

Have mercy on me, O God,
    because of your unfailing love.
Because of your great compassion,
    blot out the stain of my sins.

David wasn’t appealing for mercy and forgiveness based on his own actions. His request had nothing to do with what he had done; it had everything to do with the Lord’s character. David’s hope was in God’s unfailing love and great compassion. Left alone David made a bigger mess, but with the Lord, David found true forgiveness.

The same unfailing love and great compassion David saw in the Lord is there for us. Perhaps we’ve tried fixing our mistakes only to make a bigger mess, but the Lord can wash away our guilt just like he did David’s.

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Freedom

No one is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. For some, those mistakes can cause them to hold onto a lot of guilt. However, the Bible teaches we can be set free from our guilt.

One day the religious leaders tried to trap Jesus by presenting a woman who was caught in the act of adultery. Assuming they were telling the truth, there is no doubt she is guilty. She was caught in the act. Jesus uses this as an opportunity to remind us that no one is perfect. Then, he shows us an illustration of grace. He sends the unnamed woman on her way giving her a fresh start.

A little later as Jesus is talking to the religious leaders, He tells them the truth of the Gospel can set us free. Jesus says in John 8:31-32:

31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

It was through the work of the cross that Christ set us free.

  • Romans 5:10 says, 10 “For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son.”
  • Romans 6:23 says, 23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” 

It is in this freedom we take on a new identity in Christ.

  • 17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! (2 Corinthians 5:17)

And, we are able to fulfill the purpose for our lives.

  • Ephesians 2:10 tells us that we are God’s handy work, created in Christ Jesus, to do good works which he has prepared in advance for us to do.

Knowing and accepting the truth of Jesus’ message brings freedom.

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Set Free

A crowd was gathered and Jesus was teaching. We are unaware of the topic; it could have been compassion or anxiety. We just don’t know. As he was talking, the door suddenly burst open and a group of men came running in pulling a slightly clothed woman behind them.

“We caught this woman in the act of adultery,” one of the men shouts. “The law says we should stone her. Jesus, what do you say?”

Jesus didn’t answer. John 8 tells us he began writing in the dust. He may have done this to illustrate the point he was getting ready to make or as an act of compassion toward the woman. For her, this could have been an embarrassing situation; she probably wasn’t wearing many clothes and there were several eyes staring directly at her. Perhaps Jesus put his finger in the dust to divert attention from her. Either way, the crowd demanded an answer, and Jesus gave them one.

In John 8:7, Jesus says, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” 

Verses 9-10 continue, When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. 10 Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”

One by one, everyone left until only Jesus and the woman were standing there. Jesus doesn’t condemn her. He doesn’t rebuke her for what has happened in the past or even for what happened that morning. Notice Jesus words in verse 11.

11 “No, Lord,” she said.

And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”

Jesus set her free. In his grace he gave her a fresh start. Guilt she may have experienced was gone. Jesus set her free from her sin and the guilt it caused.

Likewise, we can be set free from guilt we may be experiencing. In his grace, Jesus can free us from the guilt of our past which may plague us.

  • Romans 8:1 says there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
  • Galatians 5:1 says it is for freedom that Christ has set us free.

The next time you feel guilty for something in the past, allow the Lord’s grace to replace your guilt with peace only he offers.

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No Bitter Root

One of the tricks of gardening is to keep the weeds pulled out of the garden. One weed can deposit many seeds which will later become weeds, so it is vital for the garden’s health to keep the weeds out. It seems life works the same way.

There are many circumstances that can creep in and plant “weed seed” in our lives. Hard times, medical difficulties, disappointments, and setbacks can throw out seeds of doubt, envy, and even bitterness. When things do not go well, bitterness is a feeling which may easily come. It may have started to come for Job.

In chapter 23, Job remarks his complaint is a bitter one. He cannot comprehend why his life is going through this season of pain and suffering. He has done nothing wrong, yet everyone accuses him of wrongdoing. Perhaps Job is growing weary of his suffering, so he begins to feel bitter. This may be a normal emotion as it is not the momentary feeling of bitterness that causes much damage. The damage comes when bitterness takes root and upsets our lives.

Hebrews 12:15 encourages us to not allow bitterness to take root. The writer says bitterness can ruin lives. The Message puts it this way, “Look after each other so that not one of you will fail to find God’s best blessings. Watch out that no bitterness takes root among you, for as it springs up it causes deep trouble, hurting many in their spiritual lives.”

The Bible recommends we get rid of anything that may cause bitterness in our lives. For some, this may be unforgiveness. Holding on to a grudge can be fertile soil for bitterness to grow.

Do you feel bitterness taking hold in your life? What is causing it? Try turning the cause over to the Lord, and allow his grace to destroy the root bitterness is growing in your life.

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the way, the truth, and the life

Taking in all this news was hard. There was a great deal to process as they had an intimate conversation with their leader. He was preparing the group for what was getting ready to happen. He was going to be handed over to enemies, and he was going to prepare a place for them. When the place was ready, he would come back and get them. Much was said, and Thomas was taking it all in, which leads to his question.

John 14:5-6 says, Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Perhaps Thomas was asking a question the other disciples wanted to know, but did not have the courage to ask. They would not be able to find the destination unless they had the address.

Jesus tells the disciples the address is him. The way to get to the place he is describing is him. Jesus is the way. It is in his truth and the life he offers we find our way into Heaven.

Jesus says no one gets to the Father except through him. No one finds the Lord’s gift of grace except through him. No one finds the Lord’s peace except through him. Jesus says he is the way, the truth, and the life. Forgiveness, peace, and life are found in Jesus.

Perhaps Thomas’ question is one you are asking. The address to the destination is Jesus. He is the way.

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rivers of living water

It was October, and time to remember Moses striking the rock in the wilderness. The people celebrated for a week. They slept in tents and each morning they would draw water from the pool and take it to the altar. This was done to commemorate the Lord providing Israel water while they were in the desert.

Exodus 17 records the Israelites in a waterless place and grumbling against the Lord. The Lord instructed Moses to strike a rock, and verse 6 records water gushing out of the rock as the Elders looked on. The Lord provided for Israel’s need in a big way, so a festival was started to remember the Lord’s provision.

This week-long festival ended in a dramatic way. The daily water drawing was performed seven times on the seventh day. It was here Jesus revealed where one’s desire for God could be met. John 7:37-38 says, “on the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds. ‘Anyone who is thirsty may come to me. Anyone who believes in me may come and drink. For the Scriptures declare rivers of living water will flow from his heart.”

Jesus stands and shouts to grab the people’s attention. He stands and shouts because his news is that pertinent. “Is your soul thirsting for God? Come to me! Are you longing to feel God’s presence? Come to me!” Jesus invites everyone to come to him and satisfy the desire to be with God. He invites everyone to come to him to find the peace and forgiveness for which they are longing. Jesus invites the thirsty, weary traveler to find rest in him. He can grant rivers of living water for our soul.

Do you allow your soul to drink from those waters? Is Jesus a dot on your calendar or the center of your day?

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a long-awaited promise

A promise was made for many years. The promise was made through such people as Nathan, Isaiah, and David. God himself made the promise in the Garden of Eden, and when its fulfillment was close, the angel Gabriel was given the task of announcing its arrival. The promise is a Savior. Someone to help us in our time of need. We can celebrate because the long-awaited promise was delivered on Christmas.

The writer of Hebrews says, “Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways through our ancestors the prophets, and now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son, he created the universe. The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in Heaven” (Hebrews 1:1-3).

Jesus is the one for whom many generations waited. He is the one they knew would be coming, and for us, we can say he has come. Jesus is God with us to save us. In his coming, Jesus brings life, help, peace, forgiveness, and hope to us.

Life

  • “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full,” Jesus says in John 10:10.
  • Hebrews 2:14-15 says, “Because God’s children are human beings, made of flesh and blood, the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.”

Help

  • Hebrews 2:16 says, “We also know that the Son did not come to help angels. He came to help the descendants of Abraham.”
  • Hebrews 2:18 says, “Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing he is able to help us when we are being tested.”

Peace

  • Philippians 4 encourages us to allow the peace of God, which goes beyond our understanding, to guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Forgiveness

  • Hebrews 2:17-18 says, “Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people.
  • 2 Corinthians 5 reminds us that God made him with no sin to be our sin so that we could be made new in him.

Hope

  • Jesus reminds us in John 14 he is going to prepare a place for us. When it is ready, he will come back to take us with him.
  • 2 Corinthians 4 says our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that will far outweigh them all.

The long-awaited promise has been fulfilled. God gave us Jesus for Christmas. Take a moment to thank God for his gift today. Take a moment to thank him for his goodness.

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baby brings forgiveness

Anna speaks of forgiveness.

It was an exciting day. Eight-day-old Jesus has been brought to the temple for his circumcision to fulfill the law, and much has occurred. Simeon and Anna have been waiting for this day, and Simeon has spoken about the comfort and peace Jesus brings. Now, it is Anna’s turn.

As Mary and Joseph are still pondering Simeon’s words, Anna comes along. Luke 2:38 says, “Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.” While Simeon sees comfort and peace in Jesus, Anna sees forgiveness.

The idea of redemption for Anna pointed to the captivity of the Old Testament. Especially to the Egyptian bondage and Israel’s redemption through the Passover. Ultimately, Passover points ahead to Christ redeeming Christians from the slavery of sin. When Anna saw Jesus she gave thanks to God, and spoke to anyone who would listen about his redemption. Here, at last, was the one who would save his people from their sins. Here, through Jesus, was forgiveness.

Perhaps 2020 has been the year of mistakes. You beat yourself up daily because past mistakes constantly fly up in your face. Jesus offers forgiveness and freedom from those mistakes. Forgiveness came on the first Christmas. “Today in the town of David,” the angel reported to the shepherds, “a Savior has been born to you. He is the Messiah, the Lord.”

Take time today to allow and reflect on the forgiveness offered through Christ.

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Offering Grace

She’s on a journey to forgive her rapist.

She forgave the teenagers who mutilated her face.

They forgave the man who slaughtered their children.

These are certainly attention-grabbing headlines, and they start telling the stories of horrific pain and tremendous loss, but they do more. We are not only captivated by the heart wrenching tragedy but the victim’s response.

Each of these stories is an incredible illustration of grace. Each victim offers forgiveness to an individual who did the unthinkable. In turn, serving as an illustration to us.

As Christians, we are encouraged to offer forgiveness, and C. S. Lewis says, “Everyone believes forgiveness is a grand idea until he has something to forgive.” Forgiving can be one of the hardest things you and I are asked to do, but it can also be one of the most liberating.

I’m far from perfect, and I do not have this part of the Christian journey completely figured out. I was encouraged to explore it some more by these stories, and I hope you are as well.

She’s on a journey of forgiveness after rape.

Beverly had a supposed friend who worked for the state. He requested some of her time, and they scheduled an appointment. Entering Beverly’s home under the façade of needing her time, the man took much more than her time; he raped her.

He successfully denied and covered up the act, and he continued to move up the political ladder. Beverly would see him on the news, encounter him at parties, and would be upset.

Two years after the rape, Beverly met a friend who told her of Christ’s forgiveness and protection. Beverly decided to accept Christ’s invitation of grace and begin the journey of maximizing Christ in her life and healing from the hurt caused by the rapist. The Journey may not be completed, but it is started. Beverly’s story is told in Facing Your Giants.

She forgave the teenagers who mutilated her face.

Victoria Ruvolo was on her way home in November 2004. She was returning home after attending a family member’s recital, and it was late, and driving was a little difficult because of the freezing rain. The car she was about to pass may have caught her attention, but she doesn’t remember. The teenage boy hanging out the window may have caught her attention, but again, she does not remember. Nor does she remember seeing the 20-pound frozen turkey the boy was holding in his hand.

The boy launched the turkey at Victoria’s car, smashing her windshield, bending the steering wheel inward, and breaking every bone in her face. Victoria’s face suffered extensive damage and had to be completely restructured.

It took an 8-hour surgery and 3-week hospital stay to even begin the road to recovery. While Victoria was recovering, the wheels of justice were spinning, and the public was voicing outrage at the crime.

Fast forward to August 2005 and enter the court room. The young man who launched the turkey pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and received a sentence of 6 months behind bars, 5 years’ probation, community service, and counseling. The lenient sentence is given at the request of Victoria.

She too was in the court room, and after the hearing, Victoria and the young man came face to face. Both sobbing, Victoria said, I forgive you. I want your life to be all it can be.” The pain and agony caused to Victoria was met with grace and mercy. Victoria’s story is told in Captured by Grace.

They forgave the man who slaughtered their children.

In October 2006, a gunman entered a one-room Amish schoolhouse and ordered the teacher, teacher’s assistant, and boys to leave. The 10 girls in the class were left alone with the gunman. He covered the windows and was planning for a long siege, but as state police officers surrounded the schoolhouse, he shot the girls and killed himself. 5 girls died, and the other 5 were severely wounded. This was not the only part of the story which made headlines though.

The Amish community publicly forgave the gunman. They befriended the gunman’s wife and children. Marie Monville, the gunman’s wife, recalls to CNN the community showered her family with gifts. They waived at her on the way to the bus stop, and they even attended her husband’s funeral. The families, who were victims of a heinous and unthinkable act, offered grace. Monville tells her story in One Light Still Shines.

Acting

As I mentioned, I do not have forgiveness completely figured out. The individuals in these stories are true illustrations of offering grace to one another, and they encourage me to explore offering forgiveness. I hope they do you as well.

Join me in learning the act of forgiveness and experiencing the liberation it brings.

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