Thursday, July 30, 2009

Forgive and Forget?

Earlier this week, I saw this tweet from Sean:
Sometimes I forgive and forget. But sometimes when I forgive, I must keep remembering to forget.
OK. I may be way off on this, and I've done a little research, so feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.

I think sometimes, the forgetting is harder because we are trying to forget the wrong thing. I think we try to completely forget the event that occurred, rather than forgetting the offense of the event. Many times, when the offense occurs, it leaves scars. Those scars stay with us for the rest of our lives. Let me explain.

Years ago, someone was moving (I'm not sure who... me probably) and a friend was there helping. He was moving something and it hit the ceiling light and it shattered, landed on me and cut my finger, which bled quite a bit. He felt terrible about it (for both my finger and the light fixture). I forgave him. I forgot the offense and never held it against him. But I still remember the event. It's part of my story. I have a tiny scar to commemorate the event. It's actually a fond memory of a friend I haven't seen or talked to in many years.

Jesus was pretty clear that we are to forgive. He himself forgave, even those who were killing him. But he will never forget the event - he died for me. But, he does forgive those of us who put him there, and, if we are repentant, he no longer remembers our offenses.

Peter asked Jesus how many times we should forgive someone. Basically, Jesus said a gazillion trillion plus. He never said forget. He never said we had to be bestest buddies with the other person. Just forgive and don't hold a grudge.

In several places, Jesus tells us that we are to forgive others in the same manner our Father has forgiven us. (Mark 11:25, Matthew 18:21-35, Luke 6:37, Luke 11:4, Colossians 3:13 - I'm sure more can be found). What I don't see in those verses is anything that says when you forgive, you forget it ever happened.

Think about this... if God completely forgot every transgression, would we have the Bible? It wouldn't be nearly as effective if it said, Jesus came to earth to live a sinless life, and to die on a cross... but I don't remember why...

So am I way off here?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Random Active Kindness

Recently, I started helping lead a group of 5th and 6th grade girls on Sunday nights. It's really been challenging and rewarding, and I'm loving it!

A couple of weeks ago I talked about loving your neighbor. We read a lot of verses about loving each other, ending with the parable of the Good Samaritan. As we closed, I challenged them to do a random act of kindness each day during the week, and to come back with stories of what they did and what the reactions were of the people they served. (Side note: We didn't have many of the same girls the next week, so the only story I have is this one, from one of the mothers: Random act gone wrong. Maybe we should let the parents in on our weekly challenges.)

As we were cleaning up after the girls left, we found one of the girl's papers. She had written down the assignment as "Do a random active kindness every day." We kind of giggled at that.

At home later that evening, I thought of how she heard that and I think she was right. Loving others requires action. It's not about feeling some emotion, but it's about getting up and doing something. We can't say we love God and love people if we are sitting around talking about it.

It's time to get moving! It's time to make a difference. It's time.

We ended our time together talking about why it's important to love others and show kindness to them. I'll leave you with Matthew 25:31-46 from The Message.
The Sheep and the Goats
"When he finally arrives, blazing in beauty and all his angels with him, the Son of Man will take his place on his glorious throne. Then all the nations will be arranged before him and he will sort the people out, much as a shepherd sorts out sheep and goats, putting sheep to his right and goats to his left.

"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what's coming to you in this kingdom. It's been ready for you since the world's foundation. And here's why:

I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.'

"Then those 'sheep' are going to say, 'Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?' Then the King will say, 'I'm telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.'

"Then he will turn to the 'goats,' the ones on his left, and say, 'Get out, worthless goats! You're good for nothing but the fires of hell. And why? Because—

I was hungry and you gave me no meal,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
I was homeless and you gave me no bed,
I was shivering and you gave me no clothes,
Sick and in prison, and you never visited.'

"Then those 'goats' are going to say, 'Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or homeless or shivering or sick or in prison and didn't help?'

"He will answer them, 'I'm telling the solemn truth: Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me—you failed to do it to me.'

"Then those 'goats' will be herded to their eternal doom, but the 'sheep' to their eternal reward."

It's time. Go.

If you don't know where to start, some of the ideas on this site may jump start your creativity: A Risk A Day

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Bittersweet Freedom

Yesterday was the 4th of July. Independence Day. A celebration of Freedom in the United States. Freedom means a lot of different things to a lot of different people.

I thank God that I live in a free country. Some might say that our freedom is being stripped away from us, but as far as freedom goes, we've got it a lot better than some. The fact that I woke up this morning and had a choice to worship God or not, and if my choice was to worship God, I could choose where to do that - at the church down the street, in the park, in my home, in my car. Some Christ followers woke up this morning in fear of persecution - of being arrested, beaten, maybe even killed if they were caught worshiping Jesus Christ as Lord. Yes, I'm thankful that I had that choice this morning. (In case you are wondering, I did choose to worship, and I did go to the church down the street. And, I continued to worship as I went to the park, went to lunch, mowed the lawn weeds, and even as I write this. I will continue to worship as it is built into who I am. We all worship. I choose to worship Jesus... but I digress...)

Another theme overwhelmed me yesterday. It was 1 year ago yesterday that I experienced a different kind of freedom. I decided to leave the only church I ever really knew, the only church were I had ever served, the church where I was baptized, the church I learned what it meant to really have a relationship with Jesus. It may seem strange that walking away from something so familiar would bring freedom, but there's a problem when the familiar keeps you from experiencing the extraordinary.

I spent a lot of time yesterday looking over the last year - a bit of an inventory I suppose. At first glance, nothing has really changed in the last year, except my surroundings and the people around me. I expected this year to be a time of healing, a time of seeking God, a time of rediscovering God's plan and how he wants to use me in it.

I still have some healing to do. OK... a lot of healing to do. It's been hard to find the balance between letting go of the past and looking toward the future, and going through the process of forgiveness. There is freedom in forgiveness. His forgiveness of my sins, and my forgiveness of others.

I have spent more time seeking God in the last year than ever before. It's been exciting and challenging and frustrating, all at the same time. I love it. I've been beat up, broken, encouraged, loved, and confused, just about every day. I don't always understand what he's doing. I often don't understand what he did in the past. But I trust him. I trust him more than ever. In that... there is freedom.

The more I seek God through his Word, the more I uncover his ultimate plan. Not his plan for me (we get stuck on that way too much), but his his plan over all. One of the first things I learned as a new believer was that God is always working out his plan. It's up to us to be listening to him to see where we fit in. He's going to accomplish his plan with or without me, and I'd rather be in the midst of the excitement rather than on the sidelines.

Where do I fit in to that plan? That part, I'm still struggling with. There are many things that I am passionate about... situations that evoke compassion. I don't think God's "calling" is based solely on emotion, but a prompting into action. I'm ready to move into action. I'm ready to be moved into action. I'm scared, but I'm listening and I'm ready. There's a freedom that comes when you actively participate in the action.

I ran into an old friend yesterday... someone from the old church. We talked for a long time, like nothing had changed. A part of me wanted to go back, to how things used to be, but I've been learning lately that once things change, they can't really go back to how they were. You can return to the place you came from, but it won't be the same. That's been my experience anyway.

So yesterday was bittersweet. As I remember the things I left behind and how life would be so much easier if I had never made the change, I know that leaving was the best choice, because it honored God. It's good to look back on the last year and reflect. But it's better to forget what is behind and straining toward what is ahead (Philippians 3:13), because there's freedom in that.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Maybe if I write about it...

When I was a kid I had a recurring dream. Nightmare really. I don't remember all of the details, but it had to do with a creepy guy who lived in a shack behind the elementary school. He would take kids from the playground if they got too close to his shack. I don't know what he did to them, and I always woke up either right before or right as he caught me. I think I had this dream several times over a few years. I'm pretty sure it made recess a bit stressful.

One day, something changed and the dream went away. I talked about it. I don't remember who I told about it (probably a friend), but getting it out in the open seemed to change whatever it was in my subconscious that was causing the dream in the first place.

Well, over the last week, something else has been recurring, so I thought if I wrote about it, it would go away. I'm sure there's something I'm supposed to be learning, so maybe the thought process will bring some clarity. I've talked about it, but I'm sure I need to go deeper on this one.

It's not a dream, it's a parable. From the Bible. One I've heard about or read a hundred times or more over the years. And in the last week and a half, it's been mentioned 8 or 9 times (or more.. I've lost count), 5 times in different sermons, 2 or 3 times by friends, and once again today, in a book I'm reading. It's the story of the Prodigal Son. You can read it for yourself in Luke 15.

In case you don't want to read it, here's the AKV (Abbreviated Karen Version).
Dad has 2 sons. Younger son asks for his inheritance. He gets it and blows it all livin' large in the city. Takes a job slopping pigs. No money. No home. No food - not even the stuff the pigs are eating. Has a change of heart, decides to run home to dad, apologize, and live as a servant in the home he grew up in. Figures that would be better than having a pig for a best bud. Funny thing happens on his way home. Dad meets him, forgives him, brings him back into the home, throws a party and everyone is happy. Well, almost everyone. Big brother's kinda bitter and won't even say hello to his estranged brother. He won't celebrate the homecoming, even though dad tries to convince him to. Can you say dysfunctional?
What am I supposed to be learning by hearing this over and over again (coming from different angles each time)? Am I the son who basically wishes his father were dead so he could have his inheritance early? Am I the son squandering the gifts that I have been given so freely from my Father based on my own selfish desires? Am I the older brother, more interested in what's mine is mine, than in restoring my relationship with my brother, and ruining my relationship with my Father in the process? Or am I the father, waiting for some prodigal situation to come to an end in my life, ready, willing to forgive and accept with open arms?

I think the answer is, all of the above. I see glimpses of myself in each one of them. That doesn't give me any great revelation that will help me fall asleep easier tonight or not be hesitant to turn on the next podcast or start reading the next chapter. But maybe, just maybe, I'm realizing (or remembering) that there is really never just one thing to learn from a few verses in the Bible, but that the Word of God is alive and still makes an impact on people today. It's not a history book, but a telling of His Story. And that story continues today, and I get to be a part of it. How cool is that?

What about you? Who do you most relate to in this parable?

In case you want to join the fun, here's a list of the sermons that were either about or briefly mentioned the prodigal son, listed in the order I heard them. They're all worth a listen, and most are also available on iTunes:

God is Father, Craig Groeschel,
God is Father, Clayton King, NewSpring Church
Coming Home, 06/07/2009, Brian Colmery, Cornerstone Simi Valley
The Origin, June 24, 2009, Charles Stanley, InTouch
Why Isn't My Life Working? (#4 in series), Pete Wilson, Cross Point