And There Proclaim, My God How Great Thou Art

Elvis would have been 78 today. He is one of those people who never really had a chance to be a normal person. It is not really all that odd that we did not get to see him become elderly. Watch this video then please read on.

With hindsight, we know something Elvis does not know. We know that he is going to be seeing the Lord soon. Here we see a man that we now know was in the throes of his addiction, a disease that has taken way too many talented people way too soon. Many people have noted that Elvis believed in Jesus. Like all of us, he had his imperfections, and please note, I am not saying that he was not responsible for how he was doing. I am simply stating that we see a dying man who is crying out to the Lord, knowing His greatness, and still unable to get his flesh to submit to his soul soul or spirit. We also know that he has a lot of company.

Paul wrote in Romans 7:14 “For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin.15 For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.16 But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good.17 So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. 19 For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. 20 But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. 21 I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. 22 For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, 23 but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.”

How are we supposed to react to our struggles? Are you struggling? If you are, you are not alone. There is an answer.

Flesh v. Spirit

The Apostle Paul struggled. Peter’s struggles were very well documented. In the both the Old and New Testaments, we see people of faith, even Abraham, Moses, Samson, Gideon, struggle. Our nature at birth is upside down, where our flesh leads at all times, then we become Christians, and our Spirit begins to rule, submitting to God. That does not end the fight, though. Our flesh continues to burden us and fight us and try to “make a comeback”. We put it to death, but we have to do that daily, and remember that we are but dust, and that we are going to make mistakes. We need to continue, even when things are as hard as they can be, or when you can’t see where hope is an option, or if death may even be around the corner.

So on the birthday of the king of rock and roll, who died so young, I will join him later and sing along with the song he sang to the King of Kings.

If You Believe Meek Is Weak, Try Being Meek for a Week!

As a Christian man, I have made a great mistake. I have toned down who I really am. Christ changed me, but in doing so, He did not take away my particular abilities. One of the greatest mistakes that I have made as a Christian man is that I have, at times, forgotten that I am bold for a reason. Due to God given abilities and specialized training, life experience, and freakish size, I can command rather than demand respect. Please do not see this a bragging. I can command a room. This is because God has given me that ability.
Christian Warrior

Last night, I took my wife out to dinner. There were some good games on, so we ate in the area where there were TVs (the dreaded BAR area) were. This is where I prefer to sit anyway, as many times, I end up praying with some poor soul who has fallen and needs a hand up. My daughter Dory marvels at the fact that I can go to a Karaoke night and end up praying with some poor, broken person who needs Jesus. That has become my ministry, for better or for worse. Ending up where the broken, the sinners, the people who have suffered tragedies, where they are.. that is where I have ended up. I am still a pastor. I struggle with the fact that, like being a Marine, once a pastor, always a pastor, unless you disqualify yourself. Some time we will tackle that whole issue. Who am I? I am a pastor at large.

So, last night, I am out with my wife and I am at dinner. There are two men sitting within ten feet of us who are using the “f” word as if it is the only adjective that is available. They are obviously impaired, obviously don’t realize how loud they are being, and obviously oblivious to how obnoxious it is to hear this over and over when you want to just relax and have dinner. My wife says “I feel like saying something”. When she said that, I realized that it is not her job to say something. It is mine. I am the man. I am her covering. She is offended and I need to figure out how to let these two know that they are being offensive.

Being over 300 lbs is a burden at times. However, being 300 lbs, bald, long Van Dyke beard, and having an authoritative voice are all gifts that God has given to me. So, with that in mind and the lack of the gene that says that two against one are never good odds, I looked at the two men from my seat, and said “Boys…. your language… do I have to wash your mouths out with soap?” Making eye contact with both, no emotion, not loudness, just a firm confidence that I was in the right and able to back myself up if I had to, sent a message to these two men. They looked at each other, I looked at them, they looked at each other again, then they apologized. The came over, they hugged me. They said that they knew they were wrong and that they were getting carried away. My wife had a smile on her face that said “My Hero!”. One of the men’s girlfriends came over and thanked me. I found out that we grew up near each other, as they were from Cumberland RI, and I grew up in Wrentham (a border town). We had a nice chat and not one single “f bomb” proceeded again from their mouths.

So, what is the application here? God has given me gifts that I have neglected for a long time. There was a time where I should have fought but instead, I did not fight and let somebody do me great harm. and harm others. If I had fought, many of the things that make my life difficult today would be different. My children would be in a different place right now. My financial situation would be different. Had I walked in the gifts that God gave me instead of doing what I thought I was supposed to do, a lot would be different. Knowing this now is going to make a difference moving forward. As my brother Alice Cooper sang “No More Mr. Nice Guy”. (Yes, Alice Cooper is a brother in Christ!)

God says that the “Meek shall inherit the Earth”. Meekness is “power under control”. Even knowing this, I found meekness to be something like weakness, but it is not. Instead of standing up and putting my finger in their face and saying “If I hear one more “F” word out of you I am going to beat the Hell out of you”, I simply asked them a question: “Do I have to wash your mouth out with soap?” They got the point. They saw their error, and they repented. They went from boldly swearing the paint off the walls to seeing their error and making their language more acceptable. I would love the opportunity to share Jesus with them some day. For today, I got them to stop ruining my wife’s dinner. I was her hero, and that was good enough for me.

Soon after, an older man who was sitting at the bar stopped me and thanked me, as did the people next to him. They all were bothered by these two men being so loud and using filthy language. They thanked me for being bold. I whispered to the old man that it was because of Jesus that I was able to be bold. He smiled, shook my hand firmly, in the way that only a man who has worked very hard for many years could, and thanked me again.

For the New Year, I am asking Jesus to remind me that He made me a warrior. He made me the way that I am, and I have no choice but to walk in it. People may not like what I have to say, but I am going to speak the truth in love and share Jesus whenever I get the opportunity. Meekness does not equal being a doormat. It equals walking in what Christ has given you and being true to that. Thank you Jesus for making me who I am, and showing me that I just have to walk it out.

I Have Watched Dancing With the Stars: Don’t Judge Me!

Mirror Ball TrophyOccasionally, and totally unintentionally, I end up watching bits and pieces of “Dancing With the Stars”. My wife and daughters love the show. They watch it whenever it is on, or DVR it to watch later, and usually in groups of two or more. I usually walk by and make snide comments, mainly because I can’t dance and have no interest in watching these folks do it. This doesn’t stop me from watching golf, but I digress.

When the dances are over, the dancers huddle up to former WBZ radio guy Tom Bergeron and wait for the judges to tell them how they did. The judges are a professional, usually kind but technically critical lady judge (Carrie Ann), a stodgy grouchy old Brit who is very strict (Len), and flamboyant lunatic (Bruno). By now you must be wondering, what does this have to do with being a Christian on Cape Cod?

My Christian experience here has been one that may or may not be unique. I am one of the people who have danced before the crowd. We all are at one time or another. When each portion of our dance is through, we get judged. Unlike dancers on the show, we didn’t always volunteer for this judgment. As a matter of fact, we often don’t welcome, nor deserve it. There are different types of churches here on Cape Cod, and different types of Christians. Seeing bits and pieces of the show over the last few years, I have come to see some metaphorical connections.

Len is the staid, conservative, by the book judge we see in many mainline, conservative churches. He has the rules. If you break them, you get a low score. What he says is true, whether the rest of the world likes it or not. He is going to go by the book, and that is that. There is no gray area, no room for error. If you get a 10 from Len, you have been perfect.

Carrie Ann judges with grace but also follows the rules. She is balanced, in that she understands that mistakes are made, but judges accordingly. If you make a mistake, you will not get a 10, but she won’t slam you down to an 8 either. The danger here is sometimes she is too lax and people learn the wrong thing because they don’t learn what the true standard is.

Then there is Bruno, emotional, loud, jumping around, doing whatever feels right. Although fun to watch, I don’t have the energy to be that kind of Christian, nor wish to be judged by such. He can be either very judgmental or not judgmental at all, depending on how he feels. The rules are there, but you don’t really have to follow them! This can be confusing, especially for young “dancers”

The saving grace in this show is that there is a fourth judge who is unseen. That judge sees everything and votes according to everything it sees. That judge has kept people in the competition that have been judged too harshly, or jettisoned those who have not been held to the standard. That fourth judge is, when all is said and done, the final judge, in that if they do not watch, or they do not vote, there is no show, so their voice is heard. This judge has the most power and the right to judge.

This year, that judge actually picked the winner. The judges favored other dancers, but it was the fourth judge, the one who saw all and who could judge rightly, who ultimately chose the winners. I don’t want to dance for you, and I don’t want to be judged by you, but I will dance on demand for the Judge Who has the right to judge me if He asks. In His grace and mercy, I expect that if He asks me to He will give me the ability to do it and judge me with judgment appropriate to what He has given me.

What Is The Cape Cod Christian Experience?

footprints.jpgIt has been frustrating trying to figure out what to write and what not to.  It has been hard knowing who to trust and who not to, except for some very obvious choices.  Feelings have to be swallowed and words have had to go unspoken. For the most part, I have been realizing that I have a soapbox but have had to be careful how I use it.

There is a diversity of experiences among Christians on Cape Cod. There are also some things that we share in common because we are all on this sandbar together. There are some things we have thought peculiar to our experience here that are actually quite common, for better or for worse.  This blog is undergoing a rehab followed by a relaunch. As far as I can tell, this Cape Cod is a particularly interesting place to walk with the Lord, with footprints in the sand being literal as well as figurative.  There are personality types that are in churches everywhere that I once thought were peculiar to here. Understanding that they are not just here has made the observations and experiences all the more interesting.  My walk here was once punctuated with a  distinct swagger.  Now, as has been my experience in my physical life, I have developed a limp.  Soon, I will be sharing what I am learning in this walk, sometimes with more questions than answers.  More to come….

Going to the Chapel….

Just a little bit over 20 years ago, Jo Ann Wescott and I went to visit two dear people, Dick and Elinor Grace.  They wanted to talk to us.  They had heard that we were getting married, and even though it was not their policy, they wanted to offer to us their beautiful facility, the Doreen Grace Center, for our wedding ceremony.  This was a beautiful little conference center out in the woods of New Seabury.  They asked us to think about it, and we did, and as we got into our little Chevy Nova, we heard this song on the radio.

We didn’t know much about signs from God then, but thought for sure that this was one!  We did get married there, and it was wonderful, but we have always thought that we should get married in an actual church.  For our 20th Anniversary, I offered that idea to my wife.  Ever since that night, she has been like a blushing bride all over again!  She has been planning this little “informal” wedding for a few months now, and is quite excited about it!  The thought of her being excited to marry me again fills me with great joy.  We have been through richer and poorer, good times and bad times, sickness (even near death) and health, children, financial woes, disappointments, and all other manner of things that destroy marriages.  Ours has only grown stronger.  We have something every couple can have and that can make their marriage successful, as it does not rely on us, but on Jesus Christ.  As we both have chosen to follow Him, we have walked together.  We give each other, as much as we can, 100%, not 50/50.  She is my best friend, and I am hers.  No other woman can even catch my eye, because my eyes adore my wife.  That is not because of me, but it is a gift from God. The fact that she is wonderful, beautiful, talented, gracious, and a lot of fun to be around are all bonus gifts!

This Saturday, in front of some of our family and some of our friends, we are going to renew our vows.  This time, we do it not with the expectations of what marriage will be like, but with gratefulness, knowing how wonderful it is to be married to one another. For this, we thank God!

It Has Been A While!

Jo Jo and JoeThe more things change, the more they stay the same.  With regard to my last post from a
couple of years ago, not much has changed on that front. Those who could have helped are instead enabling the ongoing sinful behavior, but that is just how these things go.  Having just read a book written by  a friend, I am considering working out some thoughts here in the “blog-o-sphere” to see if there may be a book in me!  There have been many times where I have started to write about the experience of losing 150 friends all at once, but it comes off much different from how I truly feel about the situation, so I have to figure out how to work all that out. Somehow, I want to encourage others who are going to go through the same thing.

My Dad should be published already. His writings are wonderful and profound.

Jo Jo and I are still ECSTATICALLY married. We are renewing our vows for our 20th anniversary this weekend. Things that we have watched destroy other couples have not hurt us because we are bound to one another as we cling to our Lord Jesus Christ.  He deserves all the credit, with Jo Jo’s gracious ways in a close second.

God bless,

Joe

Father’s Day When You Have a Prodigal

family.pngA prodigal son does not always look like a prodigal to everybody who is on the outside of the relationship looking in.  In Luke 15:11-24, we read about a son who is prodigal because he abandons the relationship with his father.  He goes on to live riotously instead of righteously, compounding the problem.  The real problem was the suspension of the relationship.  Sometimes that is all that a prodigal has to do to be a prodigal (abandon the relationship).

When I was a mere 26 years old, I took on a big responsibility. The woman I had fallen in love with (and with whom I am still madly in love) had two sons.  When I met them, they were 7 and 5.  Being that I had previously had a long relationship with a woman with children, I was very careful not to leave myself open to being hurt again by losing three relationships instead of one if things did not go well.  Things went well, and we became a family. My main goal in raising these two boys was to never make them feel as though they were “less than” anybody else in my family.  My parents and brothers all accepted the boys as if they were my children.  In our wedding ceremony, my wife and I included vows that I made to the boys that they would be full fledged members of our family.  As we welcomed three more children to our family, we never treated the boys as “less” my children than the three my wife and I had together.  When our oldest son was 8, he wanted to know what to call me.  We all talked about it, and I decided to let them decide.  They wanted to call me Dad.  Being that I never wanted them to feel “less than”, I could not deny their request.  At another point, the older son wanted to change his last name to my last name.  His father was still very close to them, and my wife and I knew that it would not be something that would be fair to him, but we also did not want to make our son feel as though he was “less than” a member of my family.  We came up with an idea:  Make him ask his Dad if it was ok with him.  Either he would not ask, and the idea would die, or he would ask and his Dad would say no because he loved him and wanted him to keep his name, which would lead to our son’s being accepted by his Dad, not rejected by me.  It worked out, and he still has his original last name and close relationship with his father.  There were career opportunities offered from the beginning that would have made our life so much easier (as maintaining work here on the Cape in my earlier time here was very difficult) that I had to turn down because we did not want to move the boys away from their father. We wanted to help them to maintain that relationship.  Sacrifice is part of being a Dad, especially when you sacrifice for somebody who you do not want to ever feel as though they are “less than” anybody else.

The father/son relationship that I had with the boys was very similar to the relationship we have with God. It is a relationship of choice.  With God, He chooses us, and then we choose Him.  We choose to maintain our relationship with Him because He never leaves us or forsakes us.  His love for us is unconditional, even when we choose to move away from Him.  He never makes us feel “less than” people who have followed Him their whole life. 

Often, a prodigal does not look like  prodigal because they are still doing all the right things, they just walk away from the relationship. My oldest son has made this choice with me.  Now I have been reduced to “less than” a father, even though I had raised him as my own.  The unfortunate thing with this type of prodigal is that there is not a sense of urgency for people who can help to help because it is not like he has fallen into drugs, or drunkenness, or any visibly dangerous thing.  He has fallen into the dangerous poison of resentment, un-forgiveness, and ungratefulness.  He has abandoned not only his relationship with the father who chose him, but also with my family who never made him feel as though he is “less than”, my children (who are his sisters), and worst of all, his mother, who is my wife.  It has caused incredible pain and strife in our home.  It has caused every holiday, every wedding, every graduation, every school play or soccer game, every single family event, to become one where there is a twinge of sadness because one of us has chosen to be missing. When my phone rings today, there will be a sad realization every time that it is not him calling to say “Happy Father’s Day”.

There is another complication:  a church is involved.  We moved away from a church where I was in ministry. The leadership in that church has been a complicating factor in this issue.  Through some action and a lot of inaction, they have failed to help bring about reconciliation.  It has caused people with whom we are still close a great deal of discomfort.  When I discussed the situation with the pastor, who was once a friend, he somehow confused my request for intervention and intercession for me trying to get this son removed from ministry in the church. He somehow thought it was a plea for revenge rather than a plea for reconciliation.  Once again, the desire to include bites me in the ankle.  That is all for another article that I need to write as well 

If you are a parent of a prodigal, the Bible has some pointers for you.  First of all, pray that your prodigal repents.  Only with God is this possible.  Prodigals tend to hang on to their prodigal ways because they become stuck in their resentment or feelings of entitlement. The gracious father in Luke 15 always left that gate open for repentance and return (as God does with us!).

Being a prodigal is an incredible waste.  In Luke 15, the prodigal wastes his wealth.  In cases like ours, the prodigal is wasting relationships, people, and moments that one does not get back.  Those of us who have lost loved ones know that you should not waste one moment of a family’s love.

We see that although there was a lot of loss of wealth and relationship, the father still welcomes the son home.  If you have a prodigal, always leave that gate open.

I love my children; all 5 of them.  The four who have maintained the relationship with me have always challenged me because they don’t behave the way that I want them to, think the way that I want them to, act the way that I want them to, or do everything that I want them to do.  The one who gave me the hardest time as a child (the second son) is actually very close to me now.  He has a wife who is a bright spot in our lives.  They have recently welcomed a son whom we love. Seeing our son with his son warms our hearts.  As much as we love seeing him with his son, we are sad that we are excluded from seeing our older son with his son.  My daughters are beautiful, smart, and talented.  They are also killing me slowly. I hear that will get better someday.  For now, I will simply love them in spite of how they are.  That’s what father’s do.   That is what my Heavenly Father has graciously done with me. 

 It is my hope that someday soon, I will be able to write an article here about the joy of reconciliation.  For now, even on Father’s Day, when I have four children who do recognize me and love me, and a wonderful father to spend today with, and a Heavenly Father who loves me, I join my family and we stare at the gate longingly, waiting for the prodigal to return.

The Deity (Godhood) of Jesus Christ

think.jpgDid you know that there are several places in the Bible where Jesus actually says that He is God?  Islam claims Jesus is a great prophet. Many people believe Him to simply be a great philosopher/teacher.  Jesus, as C. S. Lewis stated, did not give us those options. By claiming to be God, He gives us a limited amount of choices.  He is either mad (thinking that He is God), a fraud (saying He is God when He is not), or Who He claims to be: The Messiah, Son of God, and in fact, God in the flesh! 

 

Some people do not understand that Jesus is God.  This is called the Arian Heresy.  Arianism, the doctrine proposed by the priest Arius, repudiated by the early Christian church as heresy, that the Son is finite and created by the Father. To worship Jesus, we have to know who He is. 

Jesus Himself Claimed to be God, Yahweh, Jehovah.   YHWH is the word that is the name given to God Himself in the Old Testament. No other person or thing is to be worshiped. In Exodus 20:5 we read that “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me,.  Also, in Isaiah 44:6 we read  “Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel, And his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: ‘I am the First and I am the Last; Besides Me there is no God. Then there is Isaiah 42:8  “I am the LORD, that is My name; And My glory I will not give to another, Nor My praise to carved images.”  Knowing this,  Jesus boldly claimed to be Yahweh.  In John 17:5  He says “And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.  If we look at Isaiah 42:8 and John 17:5, we see that if Jesus is not God then He is praying in vain..

Revelation 1:17 says of Jesus “And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last”

Jesus stated in John 10:11  “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. Psalm 23:1  The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

Jesus claimed to be the One who would judge. In Matthew 25:31  “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32  “All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. In the Old Testament, it is written in  Joel 3:12  “Let the nations be wakened, and come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; For there I will sit to judge all the surrounding nations.

Jesus spoke of Himself as the Bridegroom in Matthew 25:1, while we see in the Old Testament that Jehovah is called the same thing. In Hosea 2:16  “And it shall be, in that day,” Says the LORD, “That you will call Me ‘My Husband,’ And no longer call Me ‘My Master,’

John 8:58  Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” 59  Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.. His claim here was so bold that they took up stones to stone Him for Blasphemy. This claim is repeated in Mark 14:62 and John 18:5-6 The term “I AM” is the same term used for God in the Old Testament, and the Pharisees were mortified.

We know that the Bible in the Old Testament states that God is light. In John 8:12  we read “Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”  Also, in Psalm 27:1, the Bible  says that the Lord (Yahweh) is my light.

Jesus’ followers declare that He is God.  There are many more claims by Jesus, and the writers of the New Testament that point to the Old Testament that show that He is God incarnate. One which is powerfully obvious is John 1:1  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.2  He was in the beginning with God.3  All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.4  In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. Going back to Genesis 1:1  In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. There is no question that the Bible says that Jesus is God.  He is not only God though. He is unique in that He is fully God and fully man.  Tri-unity of God means that the Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God: One God, three distinct personalities. More on that later.

 

These are not all the places where He claimed to be Deity, and many other things point to proof the He is God, but this is some food for thought for now.

Forgiveness v. Unforgiveness

Jesus gave us a choice, weighing these two poles against one another. 

We read in Matthew’s Gospel “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”

Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

“The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.

“His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’

“But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened.

“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.” (Matthew 18:21-35)

We know these things, yet we continue to try to find a loophole, a way around this forgiveness “law” which is not a law in the legal sense, but is a basic, simple law of nature: We reap what we sow. If we sow the seed of a tomato, what do we get?  With one seed, we get a plant. We get this plant later on. Then that plant bears fruit, which is many tomatoes. That fruit is much more abundant than the one seed. What is that fruit full of? Seeds. Tomato seeds. What happens when we sow these seeds? Many more plants, many more seeds, much more fruit, bearing many more seeds.  We don’t get oranges from tomato seeds. We get tomatoes, we get them later on, and we get a lot more of them than the single seed that is sown.

Having unintentionally opted into the position of patriarch of a blended family with varied personalities, genetic diversity, and very opinionated people with very strong opinions, I have to remind myself of this daily.  I need to forgive every single offense so that they may forgive me and each other. I need to hold myself to account for unforgiveness as well as pointing out to them when they are being unforgiving, making myself a target. I have to prayerfully work out the peace accords, even when I am among the very wounded, or worse, when the ones whom I love are wounded.  Forgiveness of the betrayal of a friend or family member cuts deeper than any sword. The only way that an atmosphere of safety and forgiveness can be achieved is if I am willing to forgive without reserve and allow a “do over”, the way that Jesus loves. No matter how betrayed I feel, the betrayal that Jesus suffered is much greater. Being that He took my sin to the Cross and died for it, even though He had none of His own sin, and yet forgives me all my sin, how can I not forgive anybody else?  This has been easier said than done, but it is the goal.

Jesus gave us a model prayer. He said ”  And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen [do]. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. “Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as [it is] in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors.  And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Emphasis mine).  (Matt 6:7-15)

The only way to achieve peace is by walking the way of the Prince of Peace, the way of unselfishness and forgiveness.  If we are not walking in forgiveness, we are not forgiven.

It has been said that “unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die.” Unforgiveness is even worse than that. It is like a sick suicide bomb that slowly kills the person who is unforgiving and everybody close to them.

I am not sure who Goldie Bristol is, but she wrote  “Pride is at the root of much of our unforgiveness. Because pride can prevent us from forgiving, excessive pride is often a characteristic of the unforgiving person. That person believes, ‘I’m far more superior than the person who hurt me. I don’t need him (or her), so I don’t need to forgive.'” — Goldie Bristol: When It’s Hard to Forgive. 

Isaac Watts wrote in his Hymn “As I Survey the Wonderous Cross”:

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

When we weigh pride, selfishness, and unforgiveness v. love, selflessness, and forgiveness, the former is found quite wanting, especially in the eyes of our Lord. If we are unforgiving, even to the point of making things up in our own heads to be angry about, are we being more like Christ or less like Him? When we harbor unforgiveness, are we more like Him or less so?