From your heart

Read: Exodus 11-12, Matthew 18:21-35

Have you ever had to ask forgiveness? Wait. That’s a silly question. We all have. And if you haven’t, I guarantee that you probably should. We’ve all done things to offend someone. We will all do things that will offend someone. When that happens, we all want to be forgiven. No one wants the weight of wrongdoing hanging over their heads—at least I hope not.

Not only do we all need forgiveness, but we’ve already received forgiveness. In the moment that we receive Jesus into our lives as Lord and Saviour, God forgives us. But what does that really mean?

FORGIVE: To pardon; to remit, as an offense or debt; to overlook an offense, and treat the offender as not guilty. The original and proper phrase is to forgive the offense, to send it away, to reject it, that is not to impute it, [put it to] the offender.

It is our sin that separates us from God, but when we ask Him to forgive us, He separates our sin from us. It is no longer ours. It has been sent away. Rejected. And because of that, we are expected to do the same for others. In Matthew 18, Jesus tells a story to help us understand how this works.

A king wanted to settle accounts with his servants. There was a man who owed him a great deal of money and was not able to pay. When the man begged to be permitted to leave, the king forgave the man his debt and sent him on his way.

When that same man who had begged forgiveness was approached by another man who owed him, rather than extend a small amount of the mercy he had been granted, he had the man thrown into prison until the debt could be paid.

When the king heard this, the man was brought before him, called wicked, and was turned over to the jailers to be tortured until his original debt was paid in full.

Matthew 18:35

Words are cheap and easy. Anyone can say that they forgive someone. The hard part is acting like it, but that’s where the forgiveness really is. The best place to start to learn to forgive is to learn to act like you’ve been forgiven.

The wicked servant in Jesus’ story never took to heart the gravity of what he’d been given. If he had, it would have been easy to offer just a small portion of that to another person. When we learn to truly accept just how much we been forgiven of, we can learn to take that grace and extend it to others.

It is not until both your words and your actions line up that you can truly learn to forgive from your heart.

Shelter

If someone were to list all the things that God is, that would be a really long list. Then, if they started asking others what God is, that list would keep getting longer. While God’s character and nature never change, what facet each of us sees of Him can vary dramatically.

To someone who’s father has passed away, God may fill that void as a parent. To a single mom, He is a provider. To a child, He can be a giant. Some may need comfort while others correction. Some need a friend while others may need the void of a lost spouse filled. We all need God to be different things at different times in our lives.

What we can miss, though, in our focus on just one single facet of His character is everything else that He is, can, and wants to be to us all the time. Though our view of God may change throughout our lives, one thing does not—He will never abandon anyone who truly searches for Him. It is not in His nature to turn his back on anyone.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels can’t, and the demons can’t. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, and even the powers of hell can’t keep God’s love away.

Romans 8:38 (NLT)

Maybe you feel like you’re outside of God’s love, beyond His circle of protection. Keep this in mind—shelter must be taken, refuge must be taken. If you’re outside and get caught in a downpour, you won’t be sheltered just because you wish it to be so. First you must look for and find refuge. Then you must take it.

The Lord is a shelter for the oppressed,
a refuge in times of trouble.
Those who know your name trust in you,
for you, O Lord, have never abandoned anyone who searches for you.

Psalm 9:9-10 (NLT)

Often the only thing separating you from God’s shelter and refuge is distance. And He hasn’t moved.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 7-9, Acts 17:1-15

Never too far

Have you ever heard someone tell you that they were too far gone for God to accept them? I’ve heard it more times than I’d like to count. My initial reaction is usually anger. Who told that person that they were beyond grace? Who allowed that person to believe that of himself? How did society come so far as to produce a generation who either doesn’t know God or believes they are out of His reach? Then I remember that this is nothing new.

The Old Testament is one story after another of people finding themselves far from God. They get into trouble—deep trouble—and then suddenly remember that there was once a God who saved them from an even worse situation. In 1 Samuel, we once again, find Israel in one of these situations. The Philistines have been picking on them for quite some time and they’ve lost a significant number of troops in battle. They cannot seem to get ahead of their enemy. Finally, as a last resort, they decided to talk to the prophet. Good ole Sam puts them in their place.

Then Samuel said to all the people of Israel, “If you want to return to the Lord with all your hearts, get rid of your foreign gods and your images of Ashtoreth. Turn your hearts to the Lord and obey him alone; then he will rescue you from the Philistines.”

1 Samuel 7:3 (NLT)

The easy thing to do when you feel as though God has a abandoned you is to blame it on God. After all, you’re practically perfect, aren’t you? What could you have possibly done to pull away from God? No, it was Him who turned His back on you. Israel thought like this for generations, but them Samuel takes a stand and tells them like it is. Get rid of the garbage! You’ve been worshipping idols instead of the God who delivered you over and over again. How can you expect Him to save you when you’ve turned to kneeling before objects you yourself made?

Humility can be a difficult lesson to learn. Obviously even Israel, God’s chosen people, had a hard time figuring it out. But the crazy thing is, every single time they repented, God heard them and responded favourably. Never once did God say, “No, you’re on your own this time, kids.”

You are never, ever too far from God. You will never be beyond His reach. Grace will never be the impossible dream.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels can’t, and the demons can’t. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, and even the powers of hell can’t keep God’s love away. Whether we are high above the sky or in the deepest ocean, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:38-39 (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: 1 Samuel 7-9, Luke 13:1-21