It’s interesting. God offers us forgiveness by paying for our guilt with His Son’s blood. Then it’s up to us. We can choose forgiveness – or not. But, once we choose forgiveness from Him, it’s like we have chosen to be forgivers. In some way, it seems that when we choose to forgive, we are pleasing God immensely, we are choosing health for ourselves, and we are choosing the path of growth. When we choose forgiveness, we make God’s day, and we join hands with the noblest, best people who have ever walked this planet.
(Matthew 6:14-16; Luke 15)
Forgiveness. Most of us want it when we’ve screwed up. Most of us struggle to give it when someone has really hurt us. We find ourselves in this strange quandary. We crave relationships with people – and yet people sometimes hurt us deeply. What do we do with that? Well, that brings us back to forgiveness. If we want a heart that is healed of it’s pain, if we want a life cut free from our hurt, if we want fair… we have to use God’s gift to people who can’t forget. The ability to forgive!
It would appear that as the COVID numbers wane over the summer and early Fall, things will open up again. And finally we’ll get back to NORMAL, right? Actually, when the world has been shut down, told to stay away from people and living in fear for over a year and a half, life will not be normal – there will be a new normal – just like there was after WW1, the Depression, WW2, 911 and all the other major events that have happened in our world. Here’s the deal; some things will change drastically – especially when it comes to gatherings, but the fact that we need to gather, we need community – will never change. That’s what Jesus said – and Jesus is …the same yesterday, today… and forever!
We parents have this little game we play; it’s called how successful are your kids… (in comparison to mine, of course). It’s based on our ego needs – that if our kids are successful – obviously so – then we can brag about them (their grades, their careers, their skill as musicians, athletes, or the fact that they’re in some program for really smart kids) and subtly brag about ourselves. It’s a tricky game – but it is one of the reasons why parents in our culture push their kids toward success. Not only is this not a cool game to play, it can backfire, and drive our children away from us. And it skews their perception of what God thinks. Success, talent, skills, intelligence are good things – but never, EVER enough. When it comes to what God wants and expects from us – and wants us to teach our children – it’s all about love. If they don’t experience our love and learn how to love God and others – they will miss life.
Pandemics, like the one we’re in, seem to accentuate other difficulties and disappointments we’re already facing. We feel stuck. Some of you – before this even showed up – had to come to a point in your life where something happened – and it was a game-changer. You lost a job – and it’s not fair, but there’s no going back. Or you realized that as hard as you tried, your marriage is over, and there’s nothing you can do about it. You realized that not only is law school – or medical school on hold – it’s never going to happen. Or your business was already weak – and Covid put it down for good. You have a child that’s way off course – and you’ve talked, nagged, pleaded with God – and it doesn’t look like they’re coming home any time soon. And you’re telling Jesus, Now would be a really good time for you to come! But, from what you can see, you’re not getting an answer – and now this… Covid drags on! More infections. More shut-downs. More fear! Does God even care? What do you do in the meantime?
When Jesus gave the last instructions to His Disciples – to those who would carry the Good News rescue message of the Kingdom to the world – He gave three parables of caution to those who would believe their message and carry the Good News until His return. The warning was about a final judgment. And the warning was, “You can’t just live by your own rules and serve your own purposes and treat people how you feel like treating them – and have the end result in eternity – what you want most! Watch! Don’t fake it! Use what you’ve been given wisely! Live with compassion! If you do, you’ll be glad you did!
I want you to think of someone you love – more than you’ve loved anyone in your entire life. They’re not just beautiful and attractive – they’re good, kind, loving – and they’re powerful – so strong that everywhere they go things get better. Would you want them to be honoured? Would you look forward to being with them?
Think of living under the Nazi regime in Europe, 1943. You’ve had people you admired and loved – disappear. You’ve watched the Nazi SS loot everyone, wreck cities – haul millions of people off to be tortured, devalued, starved, abused, then gassed – while SS officers lived in luxury and shot whoever they wanted to shoot. And the Nazi plans were clear – they were going to take over everything! Everyone would do the goose-step, speak German, and salute a madman! Would you be glad to see the whole, stinking, corrupt regime come down – and it’s architects punished and destroyed? Would you welcome someone who would give their life to SAVE YOU from that?
To love Jesus, to worship Jesus, to believe in Jesus – is to hope, believe, look forward to Him being honoured,
Jesus’ clearest teaching about the end is for us to be alert? To watch! To not get lazy, complacent, and tied to political movements that promise peace – when only God can bring that. You have to ask, Why do people want so badly to figure out WHEN it will all go down? Is it maybe because we don’t think it will result in what is good and best – and could ruin all our fun? Of course, that all begs the question of how we see Jesus – and His character. Why would John say at the end of Revelation, Even so Lord Jesus come! Was it just because he wanted an end to the pain of living at a time when Jesus and His ways were very unpopular?
The END isn’t what you think it is – or what you’ve been frightened into thinking. Maybe the most surprising thing about the End – that is, the end of time, the end of history, the end of things as we know them – is that Jesus said, “I don’t know when that will happen and neither do the angels; only the Father!” Now, what’s surprising about this is that Jesus walked on water, raised the dead, could read people’s minds and hearts – and is the One coming back, but didn’t know when it would happen. Why?
Maybe we could ask, “Does the Devil read Bible and Prophecy books?” Even though the prophecies of the Jewish Scriptures point out clearly when the Messiah would come, the Devil didn’t fully know what was going on – and all the Bible scholars missed it! And they continued to miss it and deny it – even after it happened. The records simply give us an xray of what’s going on – they’re not a crystal ball; the records serve as a compass – not a road map; the records are intended to bring hope – not fear. Jesus’ clearest words about the end are that things will be then – as they were in the days of Noah!
Technically, the Last Days began when Jesus, God the Son, was born. Since that time, Jesus has been on the march, bringing life and hope and light – saving us and saving everything else. According to Jesus and all of His prophets, there will be a final confrontation – a showdown between Satan’s corrupt kingdom of deception and darkness – and Jesus’ Kingdom of truth and light. Here’s an image; D-Day didn’t end WW2 – but it did make it clear that the huge, evil Nazi empire was going down. It was just a matter of time.
Now, there are a lot of images in Jesus’ words as recorded in Matthew – and recorded by John in Revelation – but they are all intended to create hope, not fear or dread! When something creates fear, dread or confusion – it isn’t from God; it’s from the enemy, and usually the interpretation of a false prophet. Our hope? Jesus has come to save us and everything else!