I am forgiven, Who I am in Christ

Reblog: The Price of Forgiveness

If his gift is a burnt offering from the herd, he is to bring an unblemished male. … He is to lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering so it can be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him. Leviticus 1:3,4

Every Friday for about a year, I met under the stars with about six African women to tell Bible stories.  We sat in the shadows of their mud huts often until midnight.  It was the only time they had free after a day full of working in their fields, hauling well water, chopping fire wood, and cooking dinner over open fires.  Those dark hours were quiet – except for the occasional donkey throwing a braying fit – so we were able to weave our way through the Old Testament.

My African partner and I explained the Jewish sacrificial system to them, and we told them about this verse – how, by laying a hand on the sacrificial animal’s head, the sinner’s sin was symbolically transferred to the animal.

Friday after Friday, we worked our way through the Bible until we reached the stories of Jesus.  The women were non-literate, and they had never heard the stories before. I was amazed at the spiritual truth they could mine out of the Biblical passages.  Unschooled does not mean un-smart.  Some of them were enthralled with this Jesus. Some just came to listen out of curiosity.  One, I’ll call her “Jill,” was a skeptic.  She asked wickedly astute questions, but it was obvious she didn’t believe anything we were saying

The full moon bathed the whole group in silvery light the night we told the crucifixion story.  I asked a question: “Why do you think Jesus said, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me,’ as he hung on the cross?”

I watched Jill’s face, and I saw the Holy Spirit reveal it to her.  She spoke slowly.  “Because that was the moment that God laid his hand on Jesus’ head and put the sins of the whole world on him.”

Indeed.

This forgiveness I enjoy?  It came at a terrible price.  Jesus became a sacrifice – a bloody heap of physical suffering. But when uttered those anguished words, he was separated from God himself. Spiritual suffering.  He’d never been separated before.  And why?  Because my sin had just been laid on his head.  It had just rolled off of me and on to him.

He died in my place.

The wages of sin is death.  Death is separation.  Physical death is the separation of the soul from the body. Spiritual death is the separation of the soul from God.  Jesus endured them both. For me.

So I could be forgiven.

May I never cease to be awed.

I am forgiven, Who I am in Christ

Reblog: Forgiven, Sin No More

But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear.

…When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”

She said, “no one, Lord.”

Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”~ John 8:6, 10-11, NKJV

I can only imagine what Jesus wrote in the dirt that day. Perhaps a list of references, Ecclesiastes 7:20, Jeremiah 17:9, Psalm 14:3. Maybe a collective list of secret sins harbored by the individuals gathered around. We don’t know. But we do know that His actions changed a woman’s life.

He would not condemn her.

Her entire life, men have slammed her with either their contempt or their lust. On more than one occasion, both. But this one, the one they call Jesus of Nazareth? He silences the fury of the crowd with his own. He convicts those who had been so thirsty for her conviction. And then He speaks with words that are neither ostentatious nor impotent.

They dispersed, leaving her with her life.

“Does no one condemn you?”

Trembling, she barely meets His eyes. There, kindness gathers in pools—deeper than any she’d ever seen.

“No sir.” She cannot hold His gaze. He can see her sin, she knows it. Not just the fornication from which she’d just been ripped away, but the whole of it. Every evil thought. Every rebellious act. She is certain He knows it all. Shame ripples through her veins as burning liquid stings her eyes. If only the dirt would swirl around her—swallow her. Stoning may have been better.

“Nor do I.” Compassion lilts His voice. “Go, and sin no more.”

The tears fall, but they are no longer bitter. What manner of man is this? He would neither condemn her, nor take advantage of her? She’d never met such a one. Wonder crashes over her, and she chances a look back to him. He is waiting for her gaze with a small, tender smile.

Her breath catches short. Love. That is love! But not like any she’d ever seen among her people. Pure, unselfish, forgiving love. And he’d just washed her with it. In that instant she knew He was the Christ. Only the Chosen One could love like that—only the Messiah could forgive.

Forgiven. Released from the old sinful life. Redeemed from the demand of death, from a life of sin. She would not be the same. Ever.

The gift given to that woman on that day by that man has been given to me as well. Is my life the same?

I am forgiven, Who I am in Christ

Reblog: A Forgiveness Horror Story

“Charlie Evans, slave number 437, to see the king.” The squire looked down his slender nose at Charlie. “Approach the throne.”

Charlie counted each trembling step. Twelve. Twelve steps to seal his fate. He didn’t dare look up. He kept his eyes on his own bear feet. A pair of yellow, pointed-toed shoes clicked up beside him. The squire rattled his scroll. “His Royal Majesty graciously bestowed upon Charlie Evans, slave number 437, a loan of $500,000 exactly five years ago today. The accounts say the full amount is now due.”

Silence filled the hall. Charlie swallowed. “I don’t have it.”

“Speak up.” The squire’s voice cracked.

“I don’t have it, Sire. I lost it all.” He had been so confident five years ago. He’d had a no-fail business plan, a profit-making promise, a sure deal. He’d won the king’s trust and funding. He’d tried. Truly. And failed. I’m a failure.

The king gave one quiet little snort. “Throw him in debtors’ prison until the money is paid, and sell his wife and children.” The squire’s yellow shoes clicked backward to make way for the guards. That’s when Charlie threw himself and his dignity face down on the palace tiles.

“No!” The wail bounced off the stone walls. “I have been a foolish man, Your Majesty. I owe you a debt I can never repay. Please, please have mercy on me. My precious wife – she trusted me, and I’ve failed her. We’ve only got two daughters, my lord – they are just 2 and 4. Please don’t separate them from their mother. Please allow them the love of their father. Please, Your Majesty, have mercy.”

Charlie lay, nose to the floor, his sobs the only sound in the vast room. And then …

“I forgive you.”

Charlie looked up. The king was leaning forward on his throne, looking him straight in the eyes. “I forgive you. You never have to repay the money. Get up and go home. Be a husband and father.”

Charlie hadn’t run in years, but he scrambled up off that floor and ran now. He was free. Forgiven. Debt cancelled. He threw open the palace doors and ran into the sunshine. The cacophony of that village street seemed a symphony of joy.

That’s when he saw Jacob, slave number 348, buying an apple. Jacob owed Charlie $10. He’d borrowed it to buy a shovel five months ago, promising he’d pay it back when he dug enough holes to earn a profit. Five months. Enough time to dig a lot of holes. Charlie pushed his way through the crowd.

“Jacob.”

“Hello, Charlie.”

“Nice coat. Is it new? You owe me $10.”

“I can’t pay it. I’m sorry. No one has hired me to dig anything.”

“The law says I can throw you in prison for that.”

“Please don’t. I’m sorry. It’s just $10. I’ll get it to you soon.”

“Just $10?” Charlie looked around for a sentry. Ah, there was one. “You there,” he called. The big man turned. “This slave owes me $10 and refuses to repay me. Throw him in prison.”

“Charlie, please. I’ve got a wife and kids. You know I can’t make any money in prison. They’ll starve.”

“You should have thought of that before you took my ten bucks.”

The sentry grabbed Jacob by his collar and hauled him away.

Charlie didn’t see the little slave girl buying bread nearby. He didn’t know she worked at the palace. And he wasn’t there when she told the king. But the next morning, the king’s soldiers yanked Charlie out of bed, ignored the screams of his wife and drug him to the torture chambers. As he hung there on the rack, the king himself swept into the filthy room.

“You wicked man. I forgave you $500,000 because you begged me, and yet you refused to forgive your fellow slave a lousy $10.”

Charlie couldn’t answer. The pain paralyzed his brain, and when he opened his mouth, only a groan escaped. The king went on.

“Shouldn’t you have had mercy? You of all people, shouldn’t you have forgiven as you had been forgiven?”

Again, Charlie moaned.

The king wrapped his wine-colored robes about him and turned to the jailer. “Keep him here until he pays me every last cent.”

“So shall My heavenly Father also do to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.” Matt 18:35 NASB

I didn’t make this story up. You can read Jesus’ version in Matthew 18:21-35.  So, let’s just spell it out here shall we?

Charlie is me. The king is God. The debt is my sin. Jacob is the person who has sinned against me.

This parable is frighteningly to the point: God has forgiven me all my sin, all of it, every single bit of it – a huge, life-time, gargantuan amount of sin.

Any sin that anyone else commits against me is small compared to the amount of sin God has already forgiven me. Even if my offender’s sin against me feels enormous, all I have to do is compare it to my lifetime of sin against God to put it in perspective.

And, if I don’t forgive my offender … God… will … not … forgive … me.

Have you ever said it?  “I could never forgive him.” Or maybe, “Well, I can’t forgive her because she hasn’t apologized.”  You are playing with fire. Anyone want to guess what the torture chamber stands for in this account?   It’s a horror story, and it’s a true one.  We can’t gloss this one over, painting God as a kindly grandfather who will let this slide.

It’s frighteningly important: forgive.  No matter what he or she has done.  No matter how wrong. No matter how hurtful. Forgive. Or you’ll face your God without forgiveness.

Forgive, out of joy and gratitude for your own forgiveness.  Forgive, and forego the prison of bitterness.  Forgive, and find freedom.

Forgive, as extravagantly as you have been forgiven.

I am forgiven, Who I am in Christ

Reblog: Forgiven by My Father

He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor punished us according to our iniquities.

For as the heavens are high above the earth,
So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;

As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.

As a father pities his children,
So the LORD pities those who fear Him. ~ Psalms 103:10-13, NKJV

This is my favorite passage. Let me show you why . . .

Several years ago we caught one of our sweet children doing something wrong—and it was a pretty big deal. It was long and convoluted, and the whole of it played out in dramatic fashion (little girls are knitted with drama, right?). After the worst of the confession and discipline played out, she sobbed heavily. It was the kind of crying that comes from the soul, from a heart that is broken, not from a sneak that is simply mad at having been caught (I have three daughters, so I’ve become pretty good at recognizing the difference). I looked to my husband and we exchanged one of those puzzled ‘now what?’ glances. Disappointed by and now concerned for this rebuked, distraught little darlin’,  we gathered her little trembling frame close.

She pushed us away.

“Why?” We asked.

“Because you don’t love me.” She cracked between labored breaths.

I began to cry with her. “You really think I don’t love you?”

She took the tiniest peek at me, and then turned away. “No.” She broke again. “No, but you shouldn’t love me.”

Oh, that killer moment. It still makes me tear up.

I love my little girl. I wish we had different words for love, because saying I love her the same way I say I love my coffee doesn’t do any kind of justice to how I really feel for her. I. LOVE. Her.

Years past that moment, though I can remember the poignant emotion of that day, I honestly don’t know exactly what she had done. Because it was forgiven. It’s gone.

I’ve felt her ache, though. In moments when I realize how utterly wretched I am, how desperately broken, ugly, and wrong my heart is, I weep before God. “Why do you love me? You shouldn’t.”

And then He takes me close, and I’m pretty sure there are tears in His inaudible voice as He whispers, “I love you. As far as the east is from the west, I have removed your sin.”

And it’s gone.

I am forgiven, Who I am in Christ

Looking Back: Remembering I Am Forgiven

Another week, another opportunity to remember who I am in Christ.

This week let’s remember that forgiveness is free, but it didn’t come cheap. This thanksgiving week, I hope we can stop and really ponder the words to this song:

I’m forgiven, because you were forsaken

I’m accepted, you were condemned.

I’m alive and well, your Spirit lives within me, because you died and rose again.

Amazing love, how can it be? That you my King should die for me?

Amazing love, I know it’s true. It’s my joy to honor you. In all I do, I honor you.

Even if I didn’t have a bazillion things to be thankful for, which I do, that alone is more than enough for overflowing gratitude.

Jesus, thank you for forgiveness. You are my King.

I am Guided by the Good Shepherd, I have been offered rest, Who I am in Christ

Invitation to Rest

Hear the Good Shepherd’s gentle call. He invites you, his sheep, into His rest. In any season of life–storms, paradises, sorrows and joys–he is extending his generous offer. “Come, and know my rest.”

The Good Shepherd
A Davidic psalm.
The LORD is my shepherd;
there is nothing I lack.
He lets me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
He renews my life;
He leads me along the right paths
for His name’s sake.
Even when I go through the darkest valley,
I fear no danger,
for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff — they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
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, HCSB

I Am Hidden In Christ, Who I am in Christ

The Rock

The Lord is my rock and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength in who I trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation and my high tower.” – Ps. 18:2, NASB

I live on the flatlands of the Midwest. The idea of a “rock” is a little hard to picture from my window because the land stretches uninterrupted all the way to either horizon. We don’t even have rocks in our dirt–which makes for easier farming–so my imagination must flit to something beyond my immediate reality.

For some reason I kept thinking of “the Rock,” as in Alcatraz. Probably weird, I know, but I looked it up anyway. Used as a military stronghold, a military prison and then later as a maximum-security prison, the 22 acre island has an inglorious history. But it was used for those things for a reason. Located 1-1/2 miles off San Francisco Bay and surrounded by strong, cold currents of the bay, “the Rock” was uncommonly secure.

What if I remove all of the negative shadows thrown over Alcatraz? What if it was a place of security for the person on that island? The Rock becomes a shelter then, doesn’t it? A fortress, perhaps. A place of deliverance, of salvation and a high tower. A place where I am safe.

That is my God. The Rock in whom I trust. I am safe with Him.