Forgiven

I have done some really stupid things in my short existence here on earth… some of them I have chocked to immaturity but no matter how much I excuse others,  they have got a hook in my conscience and can bring me to a place of shame with just a fleeting thought. And yet most days, I strut about guilt-free, not carrying the weight of my careless past around. More often than not, I feel FORGIVEN. I say more often than not because there are a few days where a random event triggers memories from my past and with the memories come a twinge of condemnation. But even then, I still feel FORGIVEN.

Over the past few weeks, I have come to the realization that forgiveness is not free and should not be taken for granted. It always comes at a cost both to the forgiver and the forgiven; a cost which is manifest in expectations.

As we continue with our series on the Lord’s Prayer (sorry for the hiatus), I have had time to ponder over the next section:

Forgive us the wrongs we have done, as we forgive the wrongs that others have done to us. Matthew 6:12 GNT

Two expectations of the one who is forgiven are that:

  1. He or she does not become a repeat offender.  John 8:11: “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Now go and sin no more.” BSB. Jesus expectation of the woman caught in adultery was that having been forgiven, she’d not put herself in that position again.
  2.  He or she would replicate such forgiveness.

“Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold—along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned—to pay the debt. “But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’ Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt. “But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment. “His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded. But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full.“When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened. Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘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?’ 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: 23- 35 NLT

The expectation of the forgiven is that they will, in turn, become the forgivers.

Forgiveness needs to be given freely and often. It is to be given without any demands of the offender; knowing full well that the offender may require to be forgiven for similar or other offences over and over again.

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not just seven times, but seventy-seven times! Matthew 18:22 BSB

It seems like a difficult task and frankly a futile one. Why forgive with the understanding that you can be hurt again? Another lesson from weeks of pondering is that forgiveness is not easy. It is easy to say to someone who owes you money, “Don’t worry. It’s all good!” only if you can afford to do so. Cancelling another’s debt  (sin, offence, trespass is likened to debt in scripture) like the King in the story above did can only come from one place: abundance.

It is not the abundance of things that I speak of; cos life does not consist in an abundance of possession (Luke 12:15). Rather I speak of the abundant life that Jesus promises: I came that they may have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10 ESV). This abundant life is the impetus for forgiveness. When God forgives you of all your wrongdoing, and you walk about guilt and condemnation-free, that’s winning the lottery of abundant life! You’ve got it good. You’ve been made and so you can afford to freely cancel other’s debt.

That’s not even the best part. The best part is that as we forgive others, God forgives us too. For those who love science, that’s a positive feedback loop! The more you forgive, the more you are forgiven and the more you are forgiven, the more you forgive. It sounds glamorous, I know, but forgiveness is far from glamorous. It is painstakingly difficult.

The reality of it all is this: To whom much is given, much is expected. The expectation of the forgiven is to become a forgiver. And if there’s anyone who has been forgiven much it is me! And so for me, forgiveness is not a choice. It is God’s expectation of me. And I know I can count on God’s spirit to fill me abundantly with His love and grace in my time of dryness so I can graciously forgive as God has forgiven me.

Give me this day my daily bread, O God,  so out of my abundance of love, and grace, and truth, and mercy, I can confidently say to those who offend me, “Don’t worry. It’s all good!

Yours Truly.

 

Picture from Clear Sky Group. (2018, November 23). The importance of forgiveness in recovery. Retrieved from https://clearskyibogaine.com/the-importance-of-forgiveness-in-recovery/

…My cup runs over

Referencing The Lord is my Shepherd…

This part of the verse has always evoked thoughts of abundance. I always imagined this abundance to be what is bestowed on me by God and rightly so but from the last lesson on ‘…you anoint my head with oil‘ I discovered a unique link between the anointing which represents the Holy Spirit and His power and one’s cup running over. Let me draw the parallel.

When  God anoints us it is with the Holy Spirit and with Power and wherever the Holy Spirit is, the manifestation is as of a river.

“…Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them”. By this He meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. John 7: 38-39 NIV

Rivers are not stagnant. They flow. Every river has a source and the river of the Holy Spirit has its source from the presence of God.

Then the angel showed me a river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. Revelations 22:1 Berean Study Bible

In the book of Ezekiel 47, the prophet Ezekiel has a vision of this same river that flows from the presence of God. This river had its source right from the temple of God which represents the presence of God. The more Ezekiel ventured into the river, the deeper it got; from ankle-deep to the point where it was too deep to stand in, too deep to cross.

This is the type of abundance God promises when we are anointed with the Holy Spirit. There will be an overflow in our lives. The caveat is that the more of the Holy Spirit you have, the deeper you will get into this river of God (God’s presence, the knowledge of God, the experience of God) and the greater your overflow. As you may have realized, I am not speaking of overflow and abundance in terms of what you get from God but what pours out of you. Think about the scripture again….my cup runs over. What is inside of you that fills your cup and then pours out to the people around you?

Let’s get back to the analogy of the river in Ezekiel 47.

Then he led me back to the bank of the river. When I arrived there, I saw a great number of trees on each side of the river. He said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, where it enters the Dead Sea. When it empties into the sea, the salty water there becomes fresh. Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows. There will be large numbers of fish, because this water flows there and makes the salt water fresh; so where the river flows everything will live… Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear fruit, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing.” Ezekiel 47: 6-12 NIV

When this river that flowed into the Dead Sea, it changed the very nature and composition of the water from salty to fresh. Wherever the river flowed there was life; fish, trees, fruits. There was life. So I ask again; what is your cup overflowing with? Do you bring freshness to the saltiness of life around you? Does your presence bring life to those who are dead emotionally, spiritually and even physically? Or do you suck the life out of people when they hang around you?

Now let’s talk fruit. In Ezekiel’s vision, wherever the river flowed it brought with it, fruit. The presence of the Holy Spirit in one’s life will be evidenced by the fruit He brings.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, [and] self-control. Gal 5:22-23 ESV

The one thing I just noticed about this scripture is that even though it lists 9 qualities they are all described as one fruit, not fruits! The same spirit that brings love, brings joy and the other 7 fruit with it. So I ask yet again? What is overflowing from your cup? Is it Love? Joy? Peace? Patience? Kindness? Goodness? Faithfulness? Gentleness? Self-control?

In Ezekiel’s vision where ever the river went, fruit never failed. Every month they will bear fruit, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Are you lacking in these fruit that the river of the Holy Spirit brings? Pray to be anointed with more of God’s Spirit; Draw close in relationship with God; Be intentional in spending time in His presence.

It’s the river of God’s spirit that flows from the presence of God which will keep you bearing fruits day after day…month after month… in season and out of season. Then you’ll love everyone in spite of, you’ll have joy in spite of, you’ll have peace in spite of… and demonstrate all the other gifts even in your off seasons.  So for the last time I ask…

WHAT IS FLOWING OUT OF YOUR CUP?

…I shall not want

referencing The Lord is my Shepherd…

We live in an era of prosperity preachers. The abundant life Jesus promises in John 10:10 has been translated to financial wealth. Even the blessings of Abraham connotes money to some. And while financial wealth is included in this scripture below, I want to take a broader lens to it.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. Psalm 23: 1 NIV

What I hear God say to me when I read this is, “I am your sufficiency, in Me you have everything and so you lack for nothing!” This means if God is my shepherd then at any point in time, regardless of what the circumstances appear to be, I have ALL I need. Wow…that’s deep!

As my Shepherd, God makes sure that in every circumstance I have all I need to be complete (And you have been made complete in Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority. Colossians 2:10 Berean Study Bible).  So when I wake up in the morning my Shepherd makes sure I have the strength and health I need to face the day ahead; so I lack nothing.  As I put my thoughts together in this blog, my Shepherd ensures that in this moment I have the wisdom I need; so I lack nothing. When my bank account is nothing to write home about, my Shepherd says of that circumstance, “even though your bank account says otherwise, you have all you need in this moment”.

The shepherd is many step ahead of the sheep. I think of God as a nomadic shepherd. He journeys through life’s seasons with His sheep promising never to leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).  During the dry seasons, even though the sheep appear to be going through the drought, in reality, the shepherd is always leading them out of the drought to greener pasture (Psalm 23:2).

His assurance is that He has given us everything we need for life and godliness through the knowledge of His Son Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:3). With God as our shepherd, we lack nothing at every given moment in time. Armed with this truth, contentment should come more easily and readily to us. Contentment does not mean we do not pray for more stuff or a better status quo. Contentment means:

Instead of always praying that God changes our circumstances, we pray that God helps us find opportunities in those circumstances.

Abraham was once on a mission at God’s command to sacrifice his son (Genesis 22). He could have prayed to God to relieve him of the mission. He could have negotiated with God to spare his son’s life (he had done it before for his nephew Lot). Instead Abraham found opportunity in his circumstance to prove God as a provider. With knowledge of God as his shepherd, Abraham said to his son, “God will provide for Himself a lamb for the sacrifice”.  This confession meant that even though Abraham did not have a lamb for the sacrifice in that moment, he knew without a shadow of doubt that in God he had everything he needed. We know how the story ends (and if you don’t, dare to read Genesis 22). That day, Abraham discovered God in a new light. For the very first time in the history of man, a new name for God was birthed on that mountain: Jehovah Jireh, ‘The Lord will Provide’ (Genesis 22:14).

As we study through Psalm 23, I do not take for granted and will continue to emphasize the preamble: the Lord is my shepherd. What prosperity preachers don’t tell you is that you need a relationship with the shepherd before you can claim the benefits. Is the Lord your shepherd? Then and only then can you say with confidence, “I shall not want!”