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Archive for the ‘forgiveness’ Category

One of my greatest blessings in my work and ministry is the opportunity I have to meet people from so many different countries and cultures. On this Christmas Day I am mindful of the words of Jesus about God’s gift to us that we remember on Christmas Day. Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, so that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” When I consider those words- For God so loved the WORLD, it causes me to think about my friends living in Lincoln who are from many different countries and my friends I have met in my journeys in several countries

It is my wonderful privilege to have the opportunity to share God’s love with my international friends. Yesterday I went to Christmas Eve service with friends from Brasil and then I shared Christmas Eve dinner with friends from Honduras. In the past I have shared Christmas in Romania, and with friends from Brasil, Mexico, Korea, China, Japan, Germany, Belgium, Vietnam. Honduras, Syria, Iraq, Sudan, Congo, Hungary, France, Taiwan, Burma, and El Salvador living here in Lincoln. Every time I have shared Christmas with my international friends I think about how each culture is unique and yet they all share one thing in common. God loves the people in all cultures and countries.

God is our artistic creator who created all of us. We, His creation, were alienated from Him because of our sin. God had a  plan to bring us back to Him. He sent His very best, His one and only Son. Jesus is God’s gift to us. A gift sent to show us God’s love.

Merry Christmas

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On Thanksgiving Day we tend to give thanks for the good things in our lives that God has given such as family, friends, homes, jobs, education etc. However, can we give thanks in the difficulties of life? Something that Jesus did is often overlooked when we read about the Last Supper.

Think about the drama of the moment. Jesus knew He was going to be crucified, killed, so he could die for our sins. Jesus knew His time of great suffering would begin shortly after the Last Supper. He took the wine and bread which would be the symbols of his blood and body and symbols of the New Convenant between God and man and shared them with his disciples. Before sharing the wine and the bread He gave thanks. That part of the Last Supper is often overlooked in discussions about the Last Supper. We discuss what the wine and bread are, what the meaning of communion is, and other aspects of the Last Supper. Rightly so we focus on the suffering of Jesus that would follow the Last Supper. However, we tend to overlook those simple and yet profound words- He Gave Thanks.

Jesus gave thanks before the wine saying it was His blood poured out for us. He took the bread and gave thanks for the bread before saying it is was His body broken for us. Jesus gave thanks before his suffering for the two things that would represent his blood and body. He gave thanks before he suffered knowing what was going to happen.

Suffering is painful, difficult, and stressful. When we suffer, we usually give thanks after the suffering is over. We rightly give thanks for God’s help to get us through the suffering, but how many of us would thank God before we suffer for the suffering that is about to come? Why did Jesus give thanks? He wasn’t crazy. The bible says in Hebrews 12:2- “for the joy set before Him endured the cross”. The joy was being back in heaven on His throne. The joy was the way for us to be forgiven and in relationship with God would be complete. The joy was knowing that those He created could not be back with Him. His joy was knowing that we could be in heaven with Him forever if we receive Him.

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Philippians 1:6, “He who began a good work in you, will complete it until the until the Day of Christ Jesus.”

I love this verse in the bible because I find so much encouragement in it. We tend to stumble and bumble along at times in this life trying to serve Jesus. The church is a family filled with imperfect people who can and will makes mistakes and misstep. We are full of human failings. However, God is faithful and He does not give up on us. He stays with us to help us grow and improve in our lives and walks with Him. Peter is an excellent example of how God does not give up on us even when we fail.

Peter denied knowing Jesus three times the night Jesus was arrested before the rooster crowed at sunrise just as Jesus had told Peter it would happen. All of the other disciples knew about Peter’s failure. It was perhaps the most humiliating time of Peter’s life. He had gone from the pinnacle of being one of the 3 closest to Jesus and favored to be part of the inner 3 to losing face in front of the others due to denying Jesus. How could Peter hope to regain his dignity and standing with the other disciples after denying Jesus?

One day after the resurrection of Jesus, Jesus waited for the disciples on the shore. Jesus had  breakfast with them. It was right after breakfast that Jesus asked Peter the same question three times. He asked Peter- “Do you love me?” and each time Peter answered yes. By asking Peter the same question three times, Peter was restored in the eyes of the others. Jesus did not give up on Peter. He continued His work in the heart of Peter and restored Peter. Each of the three times Jesus asked Peter the question, “Do you love me?”, Jesus then gave Peter the instructions, “Then feed my sheep.” Peter’s role of disciple/apostle was restored in front of the others.

When we mess up, God is always there, ready to help us start over again. We trust in the truth of Proverbs 24:16 that a righteous person falls seven times and gets back up. We can rest assured that even when we mess up, even with our worst mistakes, that God will help us get back up, dust ourselves off and start all over again. We can find comfort and encouragement from the example of Peter’s failure and fresh start.

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When I reflect on the resurrection of Jesus, Mary Magdalene always comes to mind. Though we do not know much about Mary Magdalene, the fact that the honor of being the first to see Jesus after His resurrection shows a lot about Jesus and us, about God and us.

There are various stories about Mary Magdalene. Some will say that she was a prostitute. The only thing that we know with certainty is that Jesus healed her of demonic possession. In Luke chapter 8 we see that Jesus delivered Mary of seven demons. We know that Mary Magdalene became a follower of Jesus after He healed her and that she was part of the group that was close to Jesus. She even spent time with Mary the Mother of Jesus.

We also know from John 19 that Mary Magdalene was one of the people who stood at the cross of Jesus and watched Him die. It was an intensely emotional time for her to see the man who rescued her and gave her a new life die on the cross. Then came the first Easter Sunday morning. She was emotionally distraught thinking that someone had moved the body of Jesus because when she came to the tomb, His body was gone, but His burial cloths were still there. She saw two angels who asked who she was looking for and after she tells them she is looking for her Lord’s body, she turns around. Jesus is standing in front of her and asks who she is looking for. Her eyes were filled with tears, she is distraught and can’t think straight. She doesn’t recognize Him at first and tells Him she is looking for her Lord’s body and to please tell her where it is. Then Jesus says her name. When Jesus says, “Mary”, the sound of His voice snaps her into the reality that the man she mistook for the gardener is Jesus. She cries out, “Rabonni” and hugs Him. He tells her He must ascend to the Father, but to go tell the group that He is risen.

It was no coincidence that Jesus first appeared to Mary Magdalene. There was never any coincidence in anything Jesus did while He was on earth. His every action and teaching had a purpose behind it. By appearing to Mary first, a woman who He had delivered of seven demons, a woman who was in the lowest part of society before she met Jesus, Jesus shows that God’s love is for all people no matter where they come from in life. God’s life changing power and forgiveness are for all people.

By telling Mary to got tell His followers, Jesus tells her to be a witness. He gives her an assignment that in that culture should have been for a man. Even today in some cultures the testimony of a woman in court does not count as much as a man’s. Jesus gives her an assignment to go tell, to go be His witness. This shows me that in Jesus all people are equally loved, valued, and that in Jesus all people are to be respected.

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Mary Magdalene’s story shows us a lot about Jesus and His mercy and character in contrast to the harshness of the culture at that time and the brutality women face in many parts of the world today. Just last night I was watching a show about a father who killed his own daughter in what is called an “honor” killing as if there could be any honor in a father mercilessly killing his own daughter. Even in lesser ways women get the short end of things. Consider what happens when a man has several lovers. He is considered a man others might be jealous of, but if a woman has several lovers she is considered a bad woman and one other women turn their backs on.

Mary Magdalene was a woman who had a destitute life before she met Jesus. We read in Luke 8 that Jesus delivered her of being possessed by 7 demons. She would have been at the lowest level of society and an outcast. Jesus healed her and welcomed her into His group. We read in other places in the bible after that Mary the Mother of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Jesus brought Mary Magdalene into His group of followers and she then hung out with His mom.

Imagine being Mary Magdalene standing at the foot of the cross of Jesus watching Him die a brutal death. There was the man who had spared her life and given her a new life and He was dying on a cross. She would have seen Him placed into the tomb and perhaps helped prepare His body for burial. That was on a Friday afternoon.

On Sunday morning She goes to the tomb and discovers the huge stone had been rolled away and the body of Jesus is gone. She went to tell His followers thinking someone had done something with it. After His followers Peter and John checked it out and left, Mary stayed there standing outside the tomb weeping which is completely understandable. The man who saved her life had died and she had watched it happen. Then she encountered Jesus. She did not recognize Him at first because her eyes were full of tears, but when He said her name, “Mary”, she threw her arms around Him out of joy. Jesus told her not to hang into Him because He needed to go to the Father. He also told her something that gets my attention.

Jesus told Mary to go tell His followers that He had risen from the dead. In that culture a woman’s testimony did not count for much in a court. Jesus gave her the privilege of being the first person to see Him after His resurrection and He gave her a task- Go Tell. Jesus elevated the status of women and Mary’s story is a great example of that.

As I reflect on Jesus and Mary Magdalene, I think about how what Jesus did for her He wants to do for all of us. He wants to come into our lives no matter what they look like. He wants to forgive us, heal us and raise us to new levels of life. His mercy and grace are beyond measure.

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At times it may seem as if Jesus is portrayed as being a helpless victim during His betrayal, arrest, mock trial, and crucifixion. A brief conversation recorded in John 18 shows a sometimes overlooked aspect of the Passion of Jesus.

Jesus therefore, knowing all things that would come upon Him, went forward and said to them, “Whom are you seeking?”

They answered Him, “Jesus of Nazareth.”

Jesus said to them, “I am He.” And Judas, who betrayed Him, also stood with them. Now when He said to them, “I am He,” they drew back and fell to the ground.

A detachment of soldiers came to arrest Jesus. A detachment would have been between 400 to 600 men armed with swords and spears. Jesus knew what was going to happen, so He went out to meet them. If I knew 400 to 600 men were coming to take me somewhere to be killed, I would go the other way, not go out to meet them. Jesus asked them a question. He asked who they were looking for and they told him “Jesus of Nazareth”. Then Jesus said three little words- He said “I am He”.

The sometimes overlooked part is what happened to the detachment. It is recorded as “they drew back and fell to the ground”. In other words with three little words Jesus knocked them down on their rear ends. He displayed His power as God who came to earth. After they got up, He let them take Him.

Consider this thought- Jesus had the power all along to stop the whole ordeal. He has all power, but He let them take Him and crucify Him because He loves us. He said it Himself “Greater love has no one than this that they lay down their life for a friend”.

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I was reflecting today on the advice Mary gave to the servants at the Wedding in Cana. Jesus was there with His disciples and a problem arose. They ran out of wine. Mary informed Jesus of the problem and He said “woman why do you involve me, my time has not yet come”. Mary spoke to the servants and instructed them to “Do whatever He tells you”. Jesus told them to fill the water jars with water. They could hold gallons of water. He told them to take some out and take it to the Master of the Ceremony who was surprised when He drank it because it was better than what was served first. In that culture they served the best first and brought out the cheap stuff afterward when no one would notice. The wine Jesus made was better than their best.

Jesus was once asked what works God requires. He said “The work of God is to believe in the One He sent”. In other words the work of God s to believe in and trust Jesus. When the disciples saw what happened with the water turned into wine, they put their faith in Him.They believed in the One God sent.

Wonderful things can happen when we “do whatever He tells us”. He can do far better than our best. No matter what our situation is, we can trust Him to do better for us than what our best effort can bring about for us. We may need to take a step of faith or we may need to take a step of obedience such as the servants did by filling the jars with water. The step of faith might be to give our problem to Him in prayer. It might be to forgive a person. It might be to apply for that job even though we think we can’t get it. Taking that step of faith is what puts our faith into action. With all of the problems we face today. Mary’s advice seems more relevant than ever- “Do whatever He tells you”

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