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Thursday, March 23, 2017

A Lenten Healing: 40 Graces for Forgiveness (Day 20: Kingship)


The scene during Christ’s 40 days in the desert, when Satan offers him the kingdoms of the world in exchange for worship, used to baffle me. The world already belonged to God, so what did Satan think he really had to bargain with? God, and therefore Jesus, is already the King of Everything.
Except that he’s not.
Be assured, by the end of time “every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,” but in the right here and right now, not a single one has to.
That’s the price God paid—Christ paid—for my freedom. I can use my freedom to bow my knees to whomever or whatever I choose. The kingdoms of the world have not chosen Christ as their king. And if I’m not subject to Christ, I’m a patriot in the camp of the Enemy, no matter what name I call him. So when Satan offered Jesus the world, he offered Kingship without sacrifice. For the small shipping and handling fee of bowing his knee to Satan, Jesus could have had the world without going to the cross.
Jesus could also have the world by refusing any of us the right to refuse him. Obedience could be mandatory. But it isn’t.
Only total authority can fully relinquish its rights to all authority. Were anything actually more powerful than God, God could only give up as much as he has rights to. But he has rights to it all. And he gambled everything when he gave us the right to love him or leave him.
No one has sacrificed as much as God, through Jesus. He forgave us for our disobedience before we even knew we needed forgiveness.
If I accept his forgiveness, I also must accept his authority over me.
And he tells me I have to forgive.
By what kind of ignorant arrogance could I possibly refuse?

* * *

[The] devil took [Jesus] to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”
– Matthew 4:8-9

* * *

Father, I ask you to forgive my utter foolishness and self-inflatedness. Who have I thought I am? That you’ve had to tell me more than once to let go of an offense is evidence of the smallness of my understanding of you, and the pitifulness of my walk in your grace. You are the King of Everything. There is nothing in my life that doesn’t belong to you, and nothing in this world that was not made by you. I should do nothing more than stand in silent awe and jump to fulfill your will the instant you make it known to me. I am your servant.


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A Lenten Healing: 40 Graces for Forgiveness (Day 19: Sonship)


Jesus is the son of God. And he calls us his brothers and sisters. Therefore, we who accept Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf are also children of God.
The creator and sustainer and authority of the universe is my father. I can realistically say to anyone who puts me down for my relationship to God, “My dad can beat up your dad.”
In my position as Jesus’s sibling under God’s fatherhood, there are only four possibilities (I think) when I am in conflict with someone:
1. The other person is right with God, and I am not.
2. I am right with God, and the other person isn’t.
3. We are both right with God, but for different and mutually unrecognized reasons.
4. Neither of us is right with God.
In the first and last cases, I need to seek God, admit my fault, and be grateful for the course correction. God will never refuse to answer a question asked with sincerity and humility. The supplication, “What is your will in this?” will always get answered, if I really want the answer.
In the third case, I need humility to admit that I don’t always know what God is doing, nor do I need to know how someone else’s story is playing out. If I’m confident that I’m where God wants me to be, I don’t need to worry about where someone else is, unless they ask me to.
It’s the second case that gives me the most trouble, when I know that I’m on the right path, and it’s fairly obvious from scripture or wisdom or common sense that the other person isn’t. That’s where my (righteous) indignation flares up.
But why do I so desperately need the other person to recognize my rightness? I’m the daughter of God. I’m a princess, people. If my father—the King of the Freaking Universe—says I’m doing okay, why should my blood pressure surge even one point because some other Podunk person down here disagrees?
The situation shouldn’t come down to forgiveness at all, if I really think about it. Any offense is actually against God, and not against me. I’m just a kid, doing what Dad tells me to. He’ll step in with anyone who decides to throw down with me. I can just get along with my own business.
Sweet.

* * *
And demons also came out of many, crying, “You are the Son of God!”
– Luke 4:41

* * *

Wow, God. How freeing is that? I don’t have to justify myself, or convince anybody else that I’m right and they’re wrong. I may never know how or when you’ve dealt with someone who treated me in a wrong way—and it might not get dealt with till the next life—but it doesn’t matter. You’re the king, and I’m your kid. “And they lived happily ever after.” Teach me how to walk with that kind of nobility, knowing who I am in you, coupled with the humility that accompanies knowing exactly who I am compared to you.


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A Lenten Healing: 40 Graces for Forgiveness (Day 18: Perfection)


I never need to forgive God. He’s never done anything wrong.
He’s never led me into sin, or deceived me, or promised something he didn’t deliver.
He’s not a tease, not a tyrant, not a taskmaster.
He never laughs at my pain or my failure or my ignorance.
He is so perfect, my mind can’t even get around one part of him.
No one else on earth is perfect. Including me. In fact, the better I get to know myself the more I realize how deep my membership in the no-one-is-perfect club goes. I might be the chairman.
I’m pretty messed up, actually.
Yet I do expect perfection from everyone else. I look to people to be Jesus to me. And when they’re not, I get angry about it.
“Jesus with skin on.” I dislike that holy little cutesy-ism so much. Jesus has skin of his own. Neither yours nor mine fits him, and we can’t fill out his. So let’s not insult him so casually.
Jesus said, “Be perfect as I am perfect.” Until I am, I have neither reason nor right to expect anyone else to be.
Therefore, forgiveness.

* * *

The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice.
A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.
– Deuteronomy 32:4

* * *

Thank you for being perfect, God, Jesus, Holy Spirit. There is no wrong thought, deed, or trait anywhere in you. Thank you that you call me to be perfect, but forgive me every time I admit that I’m not. Remind me, please, of my own failures when I focus on the failures of others. Remind me of your forgiveness when I’m tempted to withhold mine. Let me see more and more of you so that I can shape more and more of myself to resemble you. If you could start with my grudge-bearing—my reluctance to forgive—that would be awesome. Genuinely awesome, in the “full of wonder and amazement” sense of the word. Thank you.


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Monday, March 20, 2017

A Lenten Healing: 40 Graces for Forgiveness (Day 17: Community)


Jesus lived in community.
Occasionally I’ll hear a sermon about community, and it always raises my hackles. I lean like the Tower of Pisa toward Me-and-God-and-Who-Needs-the-Rest-of-the-World? in my outlook on community.
That’s so very bogus, as I’ve learned much of what I know about God, and the Bible, and myself, and the kingdom of heaven, and my place in it through sermons and Bible studies and the iron-sharpening-iron experience of living in community.
But it’s an enormous temptation for me to choose to close my door on society and live inside my own bubble of safety. Right now I’m in a new situation, and I’m so reluctant to get to know anyone or to let anyone get to know me, that I’m refusing opportunities every chance I get.
The truth is I’m afraid of other people. And I’d like to not have to interact with any but the few I already know and trust.
That’s not really an option, if I want to live biblically, though.
For the scripture today I pulled out a not-exhaustive list of one-anothers. There are quite a lot of them. And I can’t do any of them if I choose to live as a fearful, resentment-saturated island.

* * *
be at peace with one another (Mark 9:50)
wash one another's feet (John 13:14)
love one another (John 13:34)
outdo one another in showing honor (Romans 12:10)
live in harmony with one another (Romans 12:16)
welcome one another (Romans 15:7)
wait for one another (1 Corinthians 11:33)
care for one another (1 Corinthians 12:25)
comfort one another, agree with one another (2 Corinthians 13:11)
serve one another (Galatians 5:13)
bear one another's burdens (Galatians 6:2)
be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another (Ephesians 4:32)
[submit] to one another (Ephesians 5:21)
encourage one another and build one another up (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
exhort one another (Hebrews 3:13)
stir up one another to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24)
do not speak evil against one another (James 4:11)
do not grumble against one another (James 5:9)
confess your sins to one another and pray for one another (James 5:16)
keep loving one another earnestly (1 Peter 4:8)
show hospitality to one another (1 Peter 4:9)
clothe yourselves… with humility toward one another (1 Peter 5:5)
have fellowship with one another (1 John 1:7)

* * *
Okay, God. I know where I’m wrong on this one, and I’ve been choosing to remain wrong, because it feels safer. I’ll be honest, I’m not quite ready to choose doing right in this area. I’m pretty terrified about opening myself up to new people and situations. I’d rather keep to the fringe, tread water at the surface, maintain a polite distance and indifference. But you’re not on board with that. So I’ll just ask that you’ll be my shield as I go forward. I can advance, as long as I know that you’re there with me, and you want me to be there, and you’ll keep me safe. I know there’s blessing to be found in community. I’m going to try to walk toward it.