Forgiveness—like rain on parched land

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Rain on Eastern Washington

When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”
Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”
“Tell me, teacher,” he said.
“Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.”
“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.
Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.”
Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”
Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”  Luke 7:39-50

You can’t see others as God sees them unless you forgive.
You can’t see yourself as God sees you unless you forgive.
You won’t be able to forgive yourself unless you forgive others.
You can’t love others as God loves unless you forgive.
You can’t love yourself as God loves you unless you forgive.
You won’t know how much God loves you unless you forgive.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  John 13:34-35

We are to forgive as we’ve been forgiven.
We are to love as we have been loved.
Love and forgiveness are intertwined.

Just Peeking

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The moon playing “hide and seek,” Alaska inland passage.

If you have ever played “hide and seek” then you probably said this and complained mightily if someone didn’t follow the rules. In fact, throughout life, we all want to be treated fairly… it is built into our humanity. Jesus speaks to this point in the Sermon on the Mount:

God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied. Matthew 5:6 NLT

Justice is something we have to hunger and thirst for… to work at diligently, and we are told we will be blessed by God if we do. Unfortunately, we have hungered for other things letting justice be put on the shelf. We hunger for power, wealth, pleasure and security. Justice gets twisted into “what I want.” We substitute what is good for me and my family, rather than what is right and good for our neighbor. Black Lives Matter is a cry for justice (don’t be sidetracked by certain people’s breaking and looting that’s wrong and evil and co-opts the call for justice). When Jesus returns He will bring truth, justice and judgement. On that day will Jesus find we have turned away from our neighbors cries for justice, or did we hunger and thirst for justice?

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. Matthew 23:23 NIV

If we have knowledge of justice as children playing “hide and seek,” how can we neglect working to act justly as Christ’s followers?

How Lovely

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California Poppy opening to the morning sun

Where there is love, life is too short.
And too long where there is none.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

Eternity is pure joy where there is love,
And pure hell where there is none.

A Day of Rejoicing

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Standing before the throne.

When I awaken in the morning, it takes a while for my mind to awaken and get going. It is the same on a spiritual level. What I mean is God’s promises and love are still there, but it takes awhile to wake up to them and orient my spirit around my Lord.

My spiritual wake-up goes something like this:
My Lord God, You love me and will never leave me nor forsake me. (Hebrews 13:5, Romans 8:38-39)
Your love for me stretches out beyond my understanding and overcomes my every shortcoming. (Ephesians 3:18)
In that love You have redeemed me to be Your child (John 1:12)
I will not worry about my past nor carry it about like a ball and chain. When You redeemed me, You redeem my past too. You have given me a wonderful heritage in Jesus. (Psalm 61:5, Psalm 103:4)
I will not worry about today or tomorrow for You hold them in Your hand and will give me strength for all that lies ahead. (Psalm 139)
I rest in Your love for my family. I know You dearly love them. (Matthew 19:13-14)

One glorious day I will stand before God’s throne in the light of His love, praising Jesus for all He has done for me. What a day of rejoicing that will be!

Whoever is wise, let him heed these things
and consider the great love of the Lord. Psalm 107:43

How little we see—How little we love

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How great is God’s love for us.

Praise the Lord!
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
His faithful love endures forever.
Who can list the glorious miracles of the Lord?
Who can ever praise him enough? Psalm 106:1-2 NLT

“Who can list the miracles of the LORD,” implies we are only seeing a small portion of what the LORD is doing. These miraculous happenings arise from God’s goodness and enduring love. His mighty love holds me even when I cannot see it. A simile for comparing our knowledge to what God is actually doing would be like looking out upon the trees and flowering fields, and all you think is that the lawn needs mowing. But the truth is if we saw life with clear eyes the wonder would blow us away and cause us to kneel in praise to God. That is why the Psalmist says—who can ever praise Him enough?

Fortunately, God’s goodness and love are poured out regardless of our level of understanding. But the ability to enjoy His gift depends on our hearts readiness to receive.

This is easiest to see with God’s love.

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. John 15:12 NIV

It is here we fall way short of loving in the measure we have been loved. Jesus calls it—little love.

Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet. You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume.
I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” Luke 7:44-47 NLT

This “little love” not only chokes our love of God, but makes us apathetic to the pain of those around us. An example is racism. Most people feel they aren’t racist. But our feelings are not the measure here… it is have we loved our neighbor as God has loved us. Our “little love” has resulted in a trail of tears down through the generations, from the cruel days of slavery to the killing of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbury.

If we truly saw the enormity of God’s love in Jesus, and the pain our indifference to others has caused, it would drive us to fall at the feet of Jesus pleading for forgiveness and stir afresh the desire to show His love to our neighbor. Lord, cure us of our “little love”… O who can ever love Him enough?

All Creation Jumps for Joy

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Jumping Salmon

Have you ever felt little desire to pray and ask God for help. It happens to me when I am being tempted. I know if I pray then God will expect me to fight the good fight, even though I know I’ll eventually succumb. I think of it as “no desire to desire God.” At these times I occupy my mind with useless thoughts trying to cause a diversion (TV, a video game). Instead of this helping, I am left defenseless against temptation. Addictions are like this—the desire is for the habit and there is no desire for much else. At that moment, the thought of praying seems to tighten the screws of shame.

I know part of prayer is to get rid our desires for the things of this world and be wholly devoted to to Jesus. Easy to say, but frankly beyond my reach.

Jesus ran into a man with this problem:

Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions. Mark 10:21-22 NLT

Whoa, could I do what Jesus asked that man to do? Being honest, I must admit I cannot…I need help. More than just a little lift, I need a complete transformation. “Yeah, right. How is that going to happen?” I say this as I begin to turn away. Stop! The story isn’t finished, for the Lord knows my weakness and mercifully follows this man’s story with these words.

Those who heard this said, “Then who in the world can be saved?”
He replied, “What is impossible for people is possible with God.” Mark 10:26-27 NLT

For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. Philippians 2:13 NLT

God wants to bring forth in us an overwhelming all encompassing desire for Him, and He offers the power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish this. All we can do is ask for the desire to desire Him above all.

So rejoice along with the psalmist:

Whom have I in heaven but you?
I desire you more than anything on earth.
My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak,
but God remains the strength of my heart;
he is mine forever. Psalm 73:25-26

O Lord, Abide with Me

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Wilting beauty

Change and decay in all around I see—
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.
Lyrics from “Abide with Me” by Henry Francis Lyte

As the years accumulate, and my body struggles to do what once I took for granted, I take comfort and courage in these lyrics from the hymn “Abide with Me.”

Life without Jesus would be difficult to face, for it would be about what I’ve lost, but praise God—Jesus has risen and conquered decay. Life is not about getting old, but about being redeemed and abiding in my Lord!

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. John 15:4

Let all that I am praise the Lord;
with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name.
Let all that I am praise the Lord;
may I never forget the good things he does for me.
He forgives all my sins
and heals all my diseases.
He redeems me from death
and crowns me with love and tender mercies.
He fills my life with good things.
My youth is renewed like the eagle’s! Psalm 103:1-5

The Crown of Life

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Wildflower – Tall Silvercrown

This psalm speaks how it is when I feel close to God.

Let all that I am praise the Lord;
with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name.
Let all that I am praise the Lord;
may I never forget the good things he does for me.
He forgives all my sins
and heals all my diseases.
He redeems me from death
and crowns me with love and tender mercies.
He fills my life with good things.
My youth is renewed like the eagle’s! Psalm 103:1-5

It’s an over the top feeling, and I would like to feel the Lord’s presence all the time, but things happen and I slide back into the mundane and the crown slips off. One day I will bow in His presence and praise will be effortless and constant, but for now I need to remind myself and meditate on how good life is with my Lord.

I hope the scripture and photo help lift you into His presence this day to receive the crown of God’s love and mercy.

The Law of Unless

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Water flows to the law of gravity, and it is beautiful

Unless the Lord builds the house,
its builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the watchmen stand guard in vain. Psalm 127:1

Unless the Lord controls our every thought, we degrade into what we hate.
Unless the Lord builds our life, we step back from being God’s temple.
Unless the Lord is our undivided desire, we become inflamed with lust.
Unless we humbly walk with God, our pride leads us to walk away.
Unless we forgive as we are forgiven, we become what we cannot forgive.
Unless we offer up thanksgiving for all God has done, we miss out on all He wants to do.
Unless we honor God, we lose our understanding of what is honorable.
Unless God gives us wisdom, we cannot discern what is foolish.
Unless we glorify God, we will become inglorious.
Unless we gaze upon the beauty of the Lord, our vision will fill with the sordid.
Unless we run to God our refuge, our fears will overtake us.
God wants to mold us into the image of the Son. All else is vain.

A Prayer For the Pandemic

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Standing on a rock in the Enchantments

From the ends of the earth I call to you,
I call as my heart grows faint;
lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
For you have been my refuge,
a strong tower against the foe. Psalm 61:2-3

Take heart my friends, for Jesus, the Rock of Ages, is a sure foundation for these troubled times. We can take refuge in Him.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33