Practical Forgiveness

This post is part of a devotional series based on our 2019 Bible Reading Calendar.

But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result–the survival of many people. Therefore, Don’t be afraid. I will take care of you and your children.” – Genesis 50:19-21 (Christian Standard Bible)

People use the phrase, “Forgive and forget.” It’s a phrase, though, that we can’t uphold. We might find ourselves being willing to forgive someone who has wronged us or hurt us, but we have a hard time “forgetting.” We can’t even control when a memory decides to pop into our thoughts.

In the life of Joseph, we see a more practical example of forgiveness. Growing up with ten older brothers, he irritated them and made them angry. Some of the brothers had the extreme reaction of wanting to kill Joseph. In the end, though, they sold him to traveling traders who took him to Egypt and sold him as a servant there.

As if this were not enough, Joseph faced false accusation and ended up in prison for several years. When finally released, however, he proved useful to Pharaoh by interpreting a dream and showing wisdom. The result?–though Joseph came to Egypt as a lowly servant, he rose into high ranks of political success.

Then, the day came, where he encountered his brothers again. From the time he first recognized them, he treated them with kindness, and he eventually moved his father, his brothers, and their families to Egypt with him. After their father died, his brothers grew afraid, thinking that Joseph might rise up to harm or kill them and their families in retribution for what they had done to him.

Joseph’s response to his brothers’ concerns shows a heart that had been walking in forgiveness. He still may have hurt because of what they had done to him all those years ago, but bitterness did not rule the day. The way that Joseph came to forgive is a good example for us.

First, he placed ultimate judgment into the hands of God. He assured his brothers that he was not in God’s place. This was his way of saying, “I’ll let God sort out anything that remains between you and me in the end.” Paul said something similar in Romans 12 when he told us to treat even our enemies with kindness and leave vengeance to God. God is the great Judge. Every wrong that we have done and every wrong that others have done, including against us, will either be covered by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross where he bore God’s wrath for us, or it will be penalized by God’s wrath in eternity to come. When we keep this truth in mind, we can offer others forgiveness and not seek our own retribution.

Second, he chose to focus on the good, not the bad. Joseph recognized they had done evil to him, yet he saw God having a greater purpose in the situation to bring about good. Again, in Romans, Paul wrote that God works all things for the good of those who love him (8:28). If another person chooses to harm us and do evil against us, God, by his sovereign grace, can bring good from the situation instead. In Acts 2, Peter spoke about this reality on ultimate display in Jesus’ cross. Jesus suffered and died because of the false accusations and the evil of sinful men. Yet, it was also part of God’s plan to bring salvation to the world. It might take days, weeks, and sometimes even years to see the good; but look for it, resting assured that God is bringing good.

Third, he chose to repay their evil with kindness. Having risen to a position of power, Joseph easily could have imprisoned or executed his brothers. He chose something better; he chose to love them and show them kindness. If we are truly walking in forgiveness, this is the choice we will make. Again, we see this attitude in Christ who extends his grace and love to us, even though our sin is responsible for his cross.

Following these examples, we can practice true forgiveness. It’s not always easy, but it is the best route. It is part of how we overcome evil in the world by doing good.

The Psalm of Life

This post is part of a devotional series based on our 2019 Bible Reading Calendar.

Only goodness and faithful love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord as long as I live. – Psalm 23:6 (Christian Standard Bible)

Psalm 23 often is read at funerals. Some versions even talk about the “valley of the shadow of death” in verse 4. This psalm, however, is not about death. It is a psalm of life. We see this in verse 6 where David spoke of God’s goodness following him all the days of his life.

The psalm is about God lovingly guiding his people through the ups and downs, twist and turns of life in a sin-corrupted world. Life has it moments where we enjoy green pastures and still waters (23:2) and it has it moments where we feel the gloom of the darkest valleys (23:4). In both cases, and everything in between, God is there.

He leads us beside the quiet waters and down paths of righteousness. And in the valleys of darkness, he shows his presence and provides comfort. And he does this all because he is the shepherd.

In John 10, Jesus spoke of himself being the good shepherd. As the Good Shepherd, Jesus feeds, protects, and guides. Jesus walks with us, and indeed through the Holy Spirit walks in us, all the days of our lives. He guides us through the calm and the storm, and he never leaves our side.

Then, in the end, he will lead us home into his joy-filled forever-Kingdom.

Sunday 01.27.19 (practicing repentance)

This Sunday we’ll continue our journey through the gospel of Luke and take a look at John’s ministry and message in 3:1-20. From it we’ll learn what it means to live a life where we practice true repentance. We hope to see you there!

Schedule
@945 Small Groups / Sunday School for all ages
@1045 Worship Gathering
@6pm Judges video study in youth room

Sermon Notes
Practicing Repentance ~ Luke 3:1-20

The sermon in one sentence: The gospel calls us to repent, to commit to a change of life as followers of Jesus.

  • The background of John, the son of Zechariah (3:1-6)
  • The gospel’s call to repent and practice repentance (3:7-20)
    • John preached the gospel or “good news” to the crowds as he pointed to Jesus (3:15-18)
    • The gospel warns us that certain things will not save us from our sin and God’s wrath (3:7-9)
    • The gospel calls us to the one thing that will save us from our sin and God’s wrath: Faith in Jesus and repentance of sin (3:10-20)
    • We repent when we first turn to Jesus in faith, and we continue to repent as we follow Jesus each day (3:10-14)

Songs for Worship
Change My Heart, O God
In Christ Alone
Have Faith in God
I Surrender All
Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

Follow Me

This post is part of a devotional series based on our 2019 Bible Reading Calendar.

“Follow me.” They are two simple words but mean a lot.

These two words were among the favorite of Jesus when he called people to be his disciples, such as in Matthew 9:9,

As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the toll booth, and he said to him, “Follow me,” and he got up and followed him. (Christian Standard Bible)

These words are simple, but they’re also life-changing for those who heed them. To follow Jesus isn’t simply to like some things about his teachings. It’s not to think that Jesus was a nice guy or a prophetic voice of his time. It’s not to simply believe true things about Jesus.

To follow Jesus is a commitment to a brand new life.

When we encounter Jesus for the first time and he says “follow” he does so as one walking in the opposite direction of us. Jesus isn’t interested in adding something new to our days. Rather, he calls us to radical new commitments and new ways of thinking. When Jesus elsewhere speaks about the last being first and first being last, he’s saying that he came to turn the world on its head, and our lives as well.

Jesus calls us to self-sacrifice. “Take up your cross and follow me.” Jesus calls us to an unselfish love. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and strength; and love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus calls us to new priorities. “What you do to the least of these, you do to me.”

Will we answer that call? Will we turn and follow, or will we choose to keep sitting at our toll booth when Jesus walks on by?

mountains nature arrow guide
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The Revelations of God

This post is part of a devotional series based on our 2019 Bible Reading Calendar.

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the expanse proclaims the work of his hands… The instruction of the Lord is perfect, renewing one’s life; the testimony of the Lord is trustworthy, making the inexperienced wise. – Psalm 19:1, 7

In theological terms, God reveals himself in two ways: Through general revelation and special revelation. General revelation is the way that God makes certain attributes about himself known through nature. Special revelation is the way that God broke into human history, giving his words to the authors of Scripture. David wrote beautifully about both revelations in Psalm 19.

The first six verses of the psalm are dedicated to general revelation, or the witness of nature/creation. He speaks of the features of the sky, day and night, and especially of the sun as it shines brightly overhead. The sun in its brightness, unable to be viewed by the naked human eye but in a brief flash, speaks to God’s majesty and power. The stars at night, countless millions stretch across our galaxy and millions more in countless galaxies throughout space, speak to God’s vastness, beauty, and infinite creativity.

The next five verses are dedicated to special revelation, the witness of scripture. David used a variety of words such as instruction, testimony, precepts, command, etc., to refer in various ways to God’s spoken word written by the hands of his prophets, apostles, and others. Whereas creation’s witness is visible, scripture’s witness is audible. Whereas creation’s witness can tell us attributes about God, scripture’s witness is what leads to the knowledge of salvation through Jesus and transforms a person’s life.

Creation might speak of God’s existence to the whole world, but it is scripture that renews life, gives wisdom, brings joy, and are more valuable than the purest gold as it tells us about Jesus.

God intends for his people to enjoy him and find happiness through the goodness of his creation. But he has designed it that we truly come to know him as God our Savior through the words of the Bible. As followers of Jesus, we need both revelations in our lives. See God’s beauty and majesty in creation, and pursue a relationship with God through Jesus in scripture.

Sunday 01.20.19 (God is…)

With the possibility of more winter weather and extreme cold, we’ll be taking a break from our series through Luke this week. Instead, we’ll consider Psalm 16 and the things David praises God for being. We hope to see you there!

Schedule
@945 Small Groups / Sunday School for all ages
@1045 Worship Gathering
@2pm Adrian Manor Worship
@5pm Bible Study at Pastor Mike’s followed by Chiefs watch party

Sermon Notes
God Is… ~ Psalm 16

The sermon in one sentence: God is everything you need for salvation, joy, and security.

  • God is your refuge (16:1)
  • God is your greatest good (16:2-4)
  • God is your hope for a happy eternity (16:5-6)
  • God is your comfort and security (16:7-8)
  • God is your salvation and joy (16:9-11)

Songs for Worship
Here I Am to Worship
Be Thou My Vision
Blessed Assurance
Days of Elijah
One Day
Wherever He Leads, I’ll Go

A Somber Warning

This post is part of a devotional series based on our 2019 Bible Reading Calendar.

Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, drive out demons in your name, and do many miracles in your name?” Then I will announce to them, “I never knew you. Depart from me, you lawbreakers!” – Jesus, Matthew 7:21-23

Toward the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus issued a somber warning: Some who think they have salvation in him will not. On the one hand, Jesus did not mean this to terrify the true believer. Jesus intends our lives to be filled with joy in him (John 17:13) not worry and doubt over our salvation. On the other hand, this warning is very real for those who believe they are safe in their religion.

You see, Jesus’ point is simple: Your religion will not save you.

The people Jesus spoke about claimed to belong to him and claimed to do many marvelous things in his name. But, if you dig a little deeper into their lives, they lack something–their faith does not produce true obedience to the will of God.

They claim they want Jesus, they even want the spectacular things he does in the world, but they don’t actually want the life he calls us to live as his followers. They want their religion and their idea of Jesus, but not the things that Jesus himself wants.

This is why this warning has the bookends it does. Before it, Jesus stated that you’ll recognize a tree by its fruit. The tree might look healthy on the outside, but if it’s rotten on the inside then the fruit will be bad as well. A good tree produces good fruit. A true follower of Jesus will be growing in godly character and good works that serve others. After it, Jesus said the wise man hears his words and does them but the foolish man hears his words and neglects them.

The true follower of Jesus can have joy in abundance because they love Jesus and they love the life he provides. They’re seeking to follow him and to do his will; they’re growing in spiritual fruit; and when they fall short, they confess it to God and rest in his grace that forgives all their sins through Jesus. But the one who wants a Jesus-religion without actually following Jesus and his word should take heed to this warning: Without coming to embrace Jesus for who he truly is, the words await, “Depart from me, I never knew you.”