Thursday, October 30, 2014

10/31- Forgiving the Unthinkable

10/31- Friday Genesis 45:5-15 5“Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. 6“For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. 7“God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. 8“Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt. 9“Hurry and go up to my father, and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, “God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay. 10“You shall live in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children and your flocks and your herds and all that you have. 11“There I will also provide for you, for there are still five years of famine to come, and you and your household and all that you have would be impoverished.”’ 12“Behold, your eyes see, and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see, that it is my mouth which is speaking to you. 13“Now you must tell my father of all my splendor in Egypt, and all that you have seen; and you must hurry and bring my father down here.” 14Then he fell on his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, and Benjamin wept on his neck. 15He kissed all his brothers and wept on them, and afterward his brothers talked with him.

Bonhoeffer: “Our brother breaks the circle of self-deception.  A man who confesses his sins in the presence of a brother knows that he is no longer alone with himself; he experiences the presence of God in the reality of the other person…In the presence of a brother the sin has to be brought into the light.

Thoughts: Joseph brought back the sin of his brothers.  He did not ignore it.  The mere mention that “You sold me here” (vs. 5) is a reminder that they had sold their brother as a slave.  But God is able to turn evil into good.  But turning evil into good is not complete unless there is also forgiveness.  It is not that the wrong done against their brother didn’t matter.   It is that God can turn evil into blessing and salvation.  When we admit our sin in the presence of our brother/sister we are allowing blessing to be given in the face of wrong.  When we forgive our brother or sister who would sell us away or get rid of us- then we are the ones who are a blessing- as Joseph was to his brothers.

Prayer: Lord, turn the evil once more into good- as you did the cross into the resurrection.  Give me grace to forgive the evil and to be made whole.   

Extra Thoughts: On this Halloween Day- The brothers thought they had seen a ghost when Joseph revealed himself to them.  They thought he was dead and gone.  Joseph was not one to haunt them, but one who saw this as an opportunity to help them and forgive them.  This was grace spurred by faith in a gracious God who Joseph knew rescued him time and again.  

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

10/30- Turning the Cheek

10/30- Thursday 1 Peter 3:9 Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.

 Bonhoeffer: “In confession occurs the break-through to the Cross.  The root of all sin is pride: ‘I want to be my own law, I have a right to my self, my hatred and my desires, my life and my death…Jesus Christ was not ashamed to be crucified for us as an evildoer.  It is nothing else but our fellowship with Jesus Christ that leads us to the ignominious dying that comes in confession, in order that we may in truth share in his Cross.  The Cross of Jesus Christ destroys all pride.”

Thoughts: The Bible at one point speaks of fairness- “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”  This command was given so that we do not take revenge too far- “two eyes for one eye or a life for a tooth.”  As someone said, “The problem with this idea of fairness is that we will all end up blind and toothless.”  Fairness is good, but forgiveness is best.  The turning of the other cheek is found in these verses in 1 Peter.   When we are degraded or cut down by another, let us seek to encourage.  This is harder than it looks on the surface.  There are always bullies.  Bullies in a place of authority or who use their office to put down others is hard to swallow.  For Christians, this is not just a good idea.  It is a hope.  God sees us when others persecute us or torture us and He rewards those who are a blessing in the face of such torment.  This does not just involve some kind of selfish idea of reward- but it involves the idea that in the end good will win.  It takes this confidence and faith to really consistently turn the other cheek.  The confidence that good will win is not just wishful or positive thinking – it is a tenure of faith in a good God who created all goodness and will bless those who are a blessing.   

Prayer:  Give me confidence in you, Lord, that I may have the grace to repay evil with good today.  

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

10/29- Ephesians 4:32

10/29- Wednesday Ephesians 4:32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Bonhoeffer: “Since the confession of sin is made in the presence of a Christian brother, the last stronghold of self-justification is abandoned. The sinner surrenders; he gives up all his evil.  He gives his heart to God, and he finds the forgiveness of all his sin in the fellowship of Jesus Christ and his brother.

Thoughts: Assurance of forgiveness is found when we receive kindness and compassion that we do not deserve.  Assurance that we have been restored into fellowship is found in the relationship we have with others and with Jesus Christ.  Making excuses and justifying our selves breaks the fellowship with others and turns us inward in pride.  It is Christike to be kind and compassionate.  It is Christlike to forgive.  Without forgiveness three is no hope of restoration in any relationship- a friendship, a marriage, a community, a group or a church.  Forgiveness also keeps us from being stuck in bitterness, anger, grudges or the past sins of others or of ourselves.  Christ desires freedom from sin, and this comes  only from forgiveness.

Prayer: Give me grace to follow in your footsteps.  Thank you for your forgiveness offered through the cross and on the cross.  

Monday, October 27, 2014

10/28- Answering God's Call

10/28- Tuesday 1 Corinthians 4:12 We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it;

Bonhoeffer:”Prayer should not be hindered by work, but neither should work be hindered by prayer…Work plunges the Christian in the world of impersonal things- ‘the it.’ …The breakthrough is made [when] the unity of prayer and work, the unity of the day is discovered.  For to find, back of the “it” of the day’s work, the “Thou,” which is God, is what Paul calls ‘praying without ceasing.’

Thoughts: We do not leave our faith behind at the door to the sanctuary.  The way we answer our calling is important.  If you are a student- do your work to the best of your ability.  If you are a full time parent, work hard to balance love and teaching what is right.  If you are retired, do not use your opportunity of extra hours to waste your life.  In our society, we are dependent on our retirees to volunteer where many young people cannot.  If your call is to work at a job, then put God in your work, and pray about your decisions as they come.  In whatever you do, you will interact with people.  In some ways this interaction is a test and part of your eternal work for our Lord.  Be a blessing to those around you- even if they are a bit ornery today. 

Prayer: Lord, may what I do today please you.  Give me grace and strength to show your love to those around me.    

Sunday, October 26, 2014

10/27- Cost of Forgiveness

10/27- Monday Luke 17:3-4 3So watch yourselves.  “If your brother or sistera sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. 4Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.”

Bonhoeffer: “In confession the break through to community takes place.  Sin demands to have a man by himself. It withdraws him from the community.  The more isolated a person is, the more destructive will be the power of sin over him, and the more deeply he becomes involved in it, the more disastrous the isolation.”

Thoughts: Forgiveness is the means to restoration from isolation.  Jesus knew this and was willing to encourage us to forgive again and again and again and again and again and again and again in order for us to restore our love for the other person.  The point is not the number seven  as opposed to eight, but the spirit of forgiveness and the cost of abuse paid by the one taking advantage of forgiveness.  Forgiveness always costs something.  It may cost our pride; it may cost giving up something to the other person who took what was not theirs; it may mean giving up our reputation to the Lord to someone who sullied it; it may mean turning the other cheek.  The ultimate price paid for forgiveness is the cross of Christ. 

Prayer: Help me, O Lord, to be willing to pay the cost of forgiveness.  Help me to bear my cross as I forgive another today.

Mission: Who has a grudge against you today?  Who must you forgive in your heart today?   

Saturday, October 25, 2014

10/26- Need to forgive

10/26- Sunday (New Theme: FELLOWSHIP OF FORGIVENESS; Read LT Chapter 5) Mark 11:25 And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins."

Bonhoeffer: “The pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner.  So everybody must conceal his sin from himself and from the fellowship.  We dare not be sinners.  Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous.  So we remain alone with our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy.  The fact is that we are sinners!”

Thoughts: A whole section of the forty days is devoted to forgiveness.  This is a priority for the Christian far more than the atheist, the Muslim, the Jew, the Buddhist or Hindu.  Forgiveness as a priority- even over worship and prayer- alone in the Christian tradition.   For many forgiveness doesn’t make sense.  But holding grudges or allowing yourself to be eaten up with anger or revenge is self-destructive behavior too.  Bitterness and grudge keeping hurts ourselves far more than the one who may have injured us.  Our passage reminds us that we have been forgiven by God- not because we have earned that forgiveness with right living.  In this passage even repentance is not required for forgiveness.  When someone injures you then moves away- you must forgive them not for their protection but for your own good.  The Father’s grace elicits repentance- but sometimes we may not have time to repent.  The person who is going to apologize but dies on the way is surely offered forgiveness by God.  God’s grace is amazing, and we are called to be gracious to those who do not deserve our forgiveness either.  In the end- God is glorified by His great mercy, and we are helped in our relationship with the merciful God when we join in showing forgiveness and mercy.

Prayer: Lord, help me to see how much I need your forgiveness.  Give me grace to forgive as you have forgiven me. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

October 25- Luke 22:27

10/25- Saturday Luke 22:27 For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.

Bonhoeffer: “We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God.  God will be constantly crossing our paths and caneling our plans by sending us people with claims and petitions.”

Thoughts: Jesus taught us to serve.  It is in His kindness and service that helps us to love and admire Jesus.  Jesus was different from so many other leaders in that He did not seek privilege but sought the Father and love.  Jesus, as a servant, was interrupted, torn from his own agenda and comfort, and giving toward those He sought to help.  We too should seek to not have our agenda or will done but God’s will and agenda achieved.  So we should ask not what the church can do for us, but what we can do for the church.  However, there is a ghost and hidden motivation here.  For when we serve the visible church, we are serving the invisible Lord.  The church is His body- the visible representation of the invisible Lord.  

Prayer: May my ministry today reflect your love and service.  Give me grace to treat others as you would have me treat them today.