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“Then Peter came and said to Him, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:21).
Revenge or recovery? Justice or mercy? Condemn or pardon? When others have hurt us, wronged us, offended us, lied about us, or mistreated us the natural tendency is to become bitter, resentful, and vengeful. Forgiveness is never easy. It’s hard, unnatural; it is supernatural. The attitude of unforgiveness, however, becomes the cancer of our soul. Of all the destructive emotions, none is equal to hate. For every minute you hate, you lose sixty seconds of happiness. Whoever it is; whatever it is, forgive, move on, and start living again.
“Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16).
The immature awaken with a certain set of assumptions regarding the world and the day before them. Plans are built upon these assumptions. Experience, however, teaches the mature that any number of things can occur that would seek to knock you off-rhythm. Faith is what enables us to be comfortable with being uncomfortable; that adversity need not be adversarial. Worship of the Most High keeps you in rhythm when at your lowest.
“How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me” (Psalm 13:2).
“Real” wrestling is vastly different from “fake” wrestling. To be victorious in “real” wrestling demands an indomitable will and a level of strength and conditioning beyond imagination. It requires athletic maneuvering; grappling to find the advantage of angle and leverage necessary to get a pin or score a point. “Fake” wrestling is staged and the victor predetermined. To be sure, life often takes us to the mat; the struggle is real. We grapple daily with grief, disappointment, brokenness, guilt, depression, or any number of faceless, but very real opponents seeking to pin us down. Even so, faith has given us a predetermined advantage. Faith will lead you to ultimate victory because faith never quits. When you refuse to quit, you cannot be defeated.
“Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His face continually” (1 Chronicles 16:11).
If you desire a prayer life that makes a difference, perhaps it should begin with praying differently. Most pray only because there has been a crises of circumstances, disrupting the comfortable routine of life. The hope is that a quick prayer of desperation might result in a magical return to the life of leisure. A cursory study of the biblical text, however, reveals that prayer has little to do with circumstances and everything to do with God. Prayer isn’t about getting from God, but getting with God. It’s not so much an intervention as it is an inspiration. When the focal point is your fellowship with the Father, everything else is put in its proper perspective.
“But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner” (Luke 18:13)!
Unlike the Pharisees — and other religious types who find their security and assurance in expressions of piety that so quickly profess the sins of others (v.11) while failing to confess their own, and the accompanying incessant need to list their virtues (v.12) — the tax collector postures himself to experience God’s grace by bringing nothing to the table. Not only is he a sinner, he is the sinner that embodies everything the religiously self-satisfied despise. He doesn’t diminish others for the sake of elevating himself, but he rightly pays no attention to anyone else while focusing on his sinful condition before God. We should do so well.
“I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:14).
The problem with religion is it creates a salvation that finds its origin in man and not God. It is characterized by a smug complacency and self-satisfaction that comes from being caught up in the performance trap. In their arrogance, the keepers of religion can never imagine that it is the humble sinner, alone, that can know and experience the mercies of God. We must never lose our hunger, thirst, longing for, and celebration of grace. In a world of religion, it is what gives us our distinctive identity as the followers of Christ.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).
Personalities within both the faith and scientific communities continue in futile conversations regarding the origins of the universe. Arguments of how and when can be proven by neither, requiring both to embrace their positions by faith. The most important teaching of Genesis 1:1 is that God is the agent acting in creation. For the author, this was the most significant factor, not how and when. To assume more than the biblical text offers is intellectually dishonest and without theological merit.