I Can’t Be Your Friend Anymore!

I Can't Be Your Friend Anymore

It was Thanksgiving, about 7 pm.  We were at my mom’s house.  All together there were fourteen of us; seven adults and seven kids.

My son calls them, “The Cousins,” like they are a band of superheroes or a rock group.

We had eaten our meal and the football game was on the television.  The kids were running around playing and it was a nice end to a good day.

My son Joel had brought along one of those blow up balloon balls with the rubber band attached to one end.  You can hold the rubber band in your hand and bounce the ball back and forth.  I think this was created simply to annoy parents, but I’m not sure.

My niece, Emma, who was celebrating her fourth birthday along with Thanksgiving, had gotten ahold of the yellow bouncy balloon.  She was running through the living room and into the kitchen, lost in the moment of bouncing this wonderful toy.

Suddenly, a loud POP! rang out.   Immediately, Emma burst into tears, almost simultaneously with the bursting of the balloon.

She ran to her Dad crying and saying to Joel:

I can’t be your friend anymore!

 

It was the saddest thing.  To watch her go from pure joy and playing to absolutely being crushed by the weight of her transgressions was heart wrenching.

Of course, all of the adults went to comfort her and my son went to hug his little cousin and let her know that it was no big deal that she broke the toy.

But after thinking about this it struck me how different we act as adults when we do something wrong.

Emma knew that after breaking the balloon it could never be made whole again.  She knew that even though it was an accident, it was her actions that caused it.

How different from the way we behave as adults.

When we do something wrong, we may feel remorse over it, but not at that gut-wrenching level of immediate remorse.

Usually we try to rationalize it away or hide what we have done.  We make excuses for why the person we wronged wronged us first.  We say that they deserve it and we aren’t perfect.  We are content with leaving the discarded pieces of our mess on the ground and going forward and finding a new toy to play with.

I wonder why we don’t rush into the arms of our Father with a broken heart like little Emma did?

It is funny how kids can teach us such grown-up lessons.

Perhaps it is time to remember what it felt like when you were a kid and your world was a lot smaller.  It really felt like the end of the world when you hurt someone else.  You immediately felt crushed and you tried to fix what was wrong.  You went running to Mom or Dad and begged them to fix the pain you felt.

Why don’t we do that now?

It was a wonderful image to see my brother scoop his little girl up into his arms and wipe away her tears.  To tell her that it was ok and that Joel still was her friend and that she didn’t do it on purpose.

That is what God wants to do for us.

I know that the consequences of damaging a relationship carry a lot more weight than the consequences of breaking a toy, and the healing process is a much longer road.

But the grace offered in forgiveness feels just the same.

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Good Friday (reposted from 2010)

Have you ever really thought about how much God loves you?

Sometimes it is easy to get discouraged and down.  In this world it is easy to feel insignificant and unimportant.  As we struggle with the day-to-day matters, we see that there are people around us who seem to have everything we wish we had.  It is easy to feel lost in the midst of it all.

Yesterday was one of those perfect days.  The sun was shining, the sky was bright blue, the birds were chirping.   It morphed into a beautiful starry night.  I was outside with my four year old son when he said, “Let’s look at the stars together Dad.”  So I got a blanket and laid it down and he and I lay on our backs and looked up.  As I watched the tiny pinpricks of light emerge on the midnight blue canvas of the sky, I suddenly realized how small I was.

Yet in spite of that, I am worth so much to God.

Today is Good Friday.  It is an interesting name for a day when so much pain and suffering took place.  Today is the day that Jesus gave his life for YOU.  That’s right, you.  As I looked up at the stars that God hung in the sky, I realized that the very hands that placed them there are the hands that stretched out on the cross and took the nails that were meant for me.  It is a staggering thought, really.  I know the kind of man that I would be without Christ.

Yet in spite of that, I am worth so much to God.

When Jesus was marched up the hill of Calvary on that Good Friday almost 2000 years ago, it was not a random chance that put him there.  Nor was it just the end to his three-year ministry.  He was fulfilling a plan that God the Father had since the fall of Adam.  Allow me some artistic license here.  After Adam sinned, perhaps the conversation went like this: 

            God:  “Son, Adam took the fruit, and I am going to have to cast 

them out of Eden.” 

            Jesus:  “Yes, Father.” 

            God:    “We are going to have to get them back.” 

            Jesus:   “I know Dad.” 

            God:    “It is going to be costly and painful.” 

            Jesus:   “…Not my will but yours be done, Father.”

So began a journey that would take Jesus from his place of glory, holding the stars in the sky, to his place of agony on a Roman cross with nails piercing those hands. 

Why did he do it?  Because he loves you that much.

Every child in Sunday school learns John 3:16.  For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whosoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

That verse could just as well state “God loves me so much, that he gave up Jesus so that if I believe in Jesus, I won’t die, but will live with him forever.”

Never let anything around you make you feel worthless.  You are a treasure to God.  He loves you so much that he gave his Son, the one he valued most, to purchase you and redeem you back.  This day above any other should convince you that your life is worth everything to God.

Father, on this most precious of days for believers, help us to remember the great cost it took for you to win us back. Help us to take a moment this afternoon to remember what you went through for us.  Help us to remember that you chose us even though it was so difficult and painful for you.  Let us never forget that we are your children and you love us so.  In Jesus name, Amen.

The Eyes of Christ

Have you ever thought about it?   What color were Jesus’s eyes?  It may seem like a funny question, but trust me, I have a point.

I woke up this morning with a thought about forgiveness.  It struck me that we often realize that we have made a mistake and need to ask God’s forgiveness.  It is easy to ask God to forgive us without really being overcome with the enormity of what we have done or how it affects our relationship with our Heavenly Father.  Since we don’t see God, it can be easy to be a little flippant with asking for forgiveness.

So that made me think: what color eyes does Jesus have?  You see, we know Jesus was fully man.  So we can picture what he looked like in our mind.  We have seen countless movies with actors cast to portray the Son of God.  Now imagine having to look Jesus in the eyes as we confessed our sin.   Having to tell him how you slipped up one more time.  How you did that thing that you promised never to do again.

It would be much tougher to do that looking into his eyes, don’t you think?

Maybe that is the point.  If I have to ask my wife or kids or parents to forgive me, I have to do it face to face.  I have to see the hurt and disappointment that I have caused.  I have to wonder if they will forgive me.   In short, I come face to face with the consequences of my sin.

Maybe if I thought about looking Jesus in the eyes when I had to confess my sin, it would make me a little more cautious in the way I live me life.

Fortunately, when we look Jesus in the eyes all we will see is love.  We will see no shame, no condemnation, no unforgiveness.  When we look at our Savior, all we need see is the love that took the place for us and forgets that we ever  sinned.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.  Romans 8:1-2

…as far as the east is from the west,
    so far has he removed our transgressions from us.  Psalm 103:12

Does Your Sin Cause You Shame?

Have you ever been ashamed of something you have said or done?  Not just a little ashamed, but head hanging down, can’t-look-someone-in-the eye-kind-of-ashamed? Have you ever felt this kind of shame when you came face to face with the Living God?

Paul gave Timothy some advice on how to avoid this kind of shame.  “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15

The words found in this verse are written in the front of a study Bible that I got from my grandmother when I was fifteen years old.  They are penned in her familiar style and her love and admonition for me still leaps off the page. 

As a young man I would study this verse and attempt to apply it to my life. There are three applications found in this verse that can be applied daily to our lives.  All deal with handling the sin in our lives that we all too often rationalize away.  Here is my take on it.

The first thing Paul says is to “be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman.”  In my life I have found that when I am “working” for God—that is putting my faith into action—it is difficult to sin and put myself first.  When I am being obedient to the leading of the Spirit it kind of drives everything else that is inconsequential out of me.  I am therefore able to present myself to God approved (clear of sin) as a workman.

The second part of this verse is the phrase “who does not need to be ashamed…” Where does shame come from?  It comes from doing something wrong, horrible even, and feeling bad about it.  When we rationalize our sin away it is like a callous that builds over our sin until we no longer feel shame.  The more we rationalize the easier it becomes to continue in that sin and a continuing cycle is established.  Unfortunately, many Christians have ceased to feel shame in their sin or if they do it is so deep down that they cannot even feel the Holy Spirit move within them.  This pattern negates any positive effect we can have on the Kingdom of God and damages our relationship with Him. 

The third part of this verse is, “…accurately handling the word of truth.”  As we looked at yesterday in Hebrews 4:12, the Word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword.  Imagine the razor sharp edge of a scalpel.  Used correctly it can cut away that which is damaging to our bodies.  The key is that it must be used correctly and by someone who knows what they are cutting away. 

When the Holy Spirit pricks your heart with the Word of God it can feel a little like a sharp blade, but that is sometimes what is needed to free us from the things that cause us to be ashamed.  This Word is necessary and vital to a healthy walk with God and an end to the rationalization of sin that keeps us enslaved.

 

 

The Intentions of The Heart

“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12        

This is one of my favorite verses in the Bible.  This verse describes to us in great detail the power that is contained between the front and back covers of the book we bring to church each Sunday.  Not only is the Word powerful; it is living and active.  It stirs us, moves us and touches our souls.  It can pierce us and change us and cause us to do things that seem strange to the world around us. 

However, it is those last ten words in that verse that make us squirm a little bit–…able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”  This is where we tend to shrink back from this powerful Word.  After all, most of us don’t want our thoughts and the intentions of our hearts examined by anyone.  This is where we hide things from others, from ourselves, and where we think we hide things from God. 

The problem is, we cannot hide anything from God, especially what goes on inside our hearts and minds.

The message on Sunday dealt with the topic of rationalizing our sin.  Rationalizing is just another way of saying that we are making an excuse for something we know is wrong.  When one of my kids disobeys and gets called on it usually the first words out of their mouths are, “But, Dad…” Often they feel they have a good reason for disobeying.  I imagine it is the same when we try to rationalize our sin to God.  “But, God…”

The fact is we all try to keep our sins hidden deep down in our hearts.  When we pass each other in church on Sunday morning, no one can see what is in our hearts.  We can say all the right things and fool our friends, but we cannot fool God.

If we continue to keep rationalizing our sin it will eventually begin to control us.  Paul says in Romans 6:16, Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?

We have a choice to make:  we can continue rationalizing our sin—explaining it away—or we can confess it to the One that can free us from its chains.  In one choice is found freedom, in the other slavery. 

I know the things I struggle with.  I know just the right words to say to make myself feel better about my sin.  I also know that I am only fooling myself if I continue to rationalize my sin.  When I confess my sin and let my heart be freed from its sinful intentions, I can feel the sharp and living Word of God separating me from the sin that can destroy me. 

Father, please make me aware of my attempts at rationalizing my sin.  I don’t want to do anything that will cause me to be separated from you.  I know that you cannot bear to look upon my sin, so help me to realize what I am doing and with your power, stop.  Help me to stay in your Word so that you speak to me and keep me walking in your ways.