“Forgive… Again”

#6.  FORGIVE . . . AGAIN      Just as God forgives us, heal relationships by extending forgiveness with grace and generosity. Forgive everyone everything. Start by praying for those you resent or hate. Ask for every blessing you would want for the one you’re struggling to forgive.  Scriptures: Matthew 6: 13-14; Ephesians 4: 31; Colossians 3: 13
“The Bible connects our duties as saved people with the acts of God and Jesus Christ. The small word ‘as’ often serves as the link. ‘Love one another as I have loved you’ (John 15: 12). ‘Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive’ (Colossians 3: 13).
Robert Roberts says that forgiveness means letting go of anger we have a right to. To do this takes a lot of spiritual muscle, and the job is impossible for people who themselves feel unforgiven. But forgiveness is the soul of our life together. We are forgiven to forgive.”  – Cornelius Plantinga Jr., Beyond Doubt: Faith-Building Devotions on Questions Christians Ask
 
The next time you pray the Lord’s Prayer slow down when you say, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” Are you hearing what you are praying? I hope so — for your sake and for ours as a Church Family. Each week, at least; and more like several times a day, I need God’s forgiveness. This is I know. But for me to only ask for forgiveness while not giving it is to pray only the first half of that sentence. I have to forgive those who have hurt me in real or imagined ways if I want to be free and stay free.
This is not easy to do. You need a community who is deeply committed to forgiveness as a natural and necessary way of life. Here at First Pres you have that community. This means that we regularly confess our sins as we regularly forgive one another. We pray for our enemies including those we resent or hate. We learn about forgiveness and seek help if we don’t know how to do it. We talk about and model forgiveness for our children and the children and youth of our congregation. We encourage each other to forgive everyone everything.
I hope this particular Way catches on like the dry wood in your fireplace so that First Presbyterian Church radiates the warmth of love and the freedom of forgiveness.

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“Assume Positive Intent”

#5  ASSUME POSITIVE INTENT.  Decide to trust that other members are being fair, honest, and concerned for the well-being of our church.a Set aside your own judgments and preconceived notions.b  Surrender the urge to criticize and judge—it doesn’t help.c

a Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8)

b But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another. (Galatians 5: 15) 

c”Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others.” (Matthew 7:1)

“Judge not, that you be not judged.”  Matthew 7: 1

Jesus’ instructions with regard to judging others is very simply put; He says, “Don’t.” The average Christian is the most piercingly critical individual known. Criticism is one of the ordinary activities of people, but in the spiritual realm nothing is accomplished by it. The effect of criticism is the dividing up of the strengths of the one being criticized. The Holy Spirit is the only one in the proper position to criticize, and He alone is able to show what is wrong without hurting and wounding. It is impossible to enter into fellowship with God when you are in a critical mood. Criticism serves to make you harsh, vindictive, and cruel, and leaves you with the soothing and flattering idea that you are somehow superior to others. Jesus says that as His disciple you should cultivate a temperament that is never critical. This will not happen quickly but must be developed over a span of time. You must constantly beware of anything that causes you to think of yourself as a superior person.

There is no escaping the penetrating search of my life by Jesus. If I see the little speck in your eye, it means that I have a plank of timber in my own (see Matthew 7:3-5). Every wrong thing that I see in you, God finds in me. Every time I judge, I condemn myself (see Romans 2:17-24). Stop having a measuring stick for other people. There is always at least one more fact, which we know nothing about, in every person’s situation. The first thing God does is to give us a thorough spiritual cleaning. After that, there is no possibility of pride remaining in us. I have never met a person I could despair of, or lose all hope for, after discerning what lies in me apart from the grace of God.

From Oswald Chamber, My Upmost for His Highest

 

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“Always Encourage and Celebrate”

ALWAYS ENCOURAGE AND CELEBRATE. Show gratitude and appreciation by regularly acknowledging the good works you see everywhere.a  Look for signs of spiritual growth and maturity among our members and staff. When you see it, point it out and rejoice.b Pass on good reports that you hear about others. 

aWe always thank God for all of you and pray for you constantly.  As we pray to our God and Father about you, we think of your faithful work, your loving deeds, and the enduring hope you have because of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 1: 3, 4)

b When the church at Jerusalem heard what had happened, they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw this evidence of God’s blessing, he was filled with joy, and he encouraged the believers to stay true to the Lord. (Acts 11: 22, 23)

A Lutheran pastor named Walter Wangerin once had two very ordinary encounters with two different gas station attendants. These encounters happened years ago, years before one could swipe a credit card at the pump. Back then, you handed money or a credit card to an attendant.

One rainy day Pastor Wangerin pulled his car into a station. A young employee walked towards him and greeting him with “Hello”. The exchange was simple. The attendant pumped the gas, the pastor paid with exact change. When the pastor slid back into the driver’s seat, his son asked his Dad why he was smiling. It was probably the attendant’s handshake and his “thank you” given while looking directly into the eyes of Walter.

The second encounter occurred inside a gas station. This time, the attendant, a woman sat behind Plexiglas counter reading a book. Where she was wasn’t a problem for Pastor Wangerin. The problem was the woman’s attitude. With curt sentences spoken with clear annoyance, this woman made the pastor feel like a burden and a waste of her time.

Two forgettable meetings but the first left Walter built up and the second deflated him. He wrote later, “Every time you meet another human being you have the opportunity. It’s a chance at holiness. For you will do one of two things, then. Either you will build him up, or you will tear him down. Either you will acknowledge that he is, or you will make him sorry that he is—sorry, at least, that he is there, in front of you. You will create, or you will destroy. And the things you dignify or deny are God’s own property . . .

And I say to you, ‘There are no useless, minor meetings. There are no dead-end jobs. There are no pointless lives. Swallow your sorrows, forget your grievances and all the hurt your poor life has sustained. Turn your face truly to the human before you and let them, for one pure moment, shine. Think her important, and then she will suspect that she is fashioned of God.”

Go and be builders of one another. Speak your love, articulate your appreciation, let those you cherish—at home, school, work and here—know that they are fashioned of God.

 


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