Category: Forgiveness (page 1 of 9)

What the Lord Requires

If you or someone you know is fond of swiping the table tents from Whataburger, or if you, like me, really want one of those table tents but are averse to breaking our Lord’s commands, you need to read this article from Texas Monthly. Apparently, Whataburger is fine with the thievery.

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“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” ~Micah 6:8

Seeing a puddle of oil under your car in the driveway shouldn’t cause you to change out the air freshener hanging from the rear view mirror. If your son is failing all his classes at college, you don’t argue with him about not knowing the words to the school fight song. There’s an old saying about the futility of rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic — the silliness of it. Jesus calls it straining at a gnat while swallowing a camel. And our God shuts it down.

The Lord, through Micah, says “No! You don’t get it! It’s simple! Look, we’ve been over this for centuries!”

Act Justly – If you’re a covenant partner with God, you have to take care of everybody in the community. Justice. Helping the poor, protecting the foreigner, taking in orphans, feeding the widows — taking care of the people in society who can’t take care of themselves. Just like God takes care of me when I am wholly unable to take care of myself.

Love Mercy – I remember a family lunch at Furr’s Cafeteria when I was a teenager. We’re going through the line and we’ve got our trays and we’re looking at all the food and the lady asks my dad, “What can I get for you?” He replies, “I want everything I’ve got coming!” And the lady in the hairnet with the big spoon looks right at him and says, “No, you don’t.”

We don’t want what we’ve got coming; we want mercy. Mercy is not getting what you really deserve, it’s not giving someone what they truly deserve. And we love mercy when it’s shown to us. But God says love mercy for everybody.

Don’t just act merciful from time to time, love mercy consistently. Love mercy as a strategy, as a way of living, as a way of being and doing. Love mercy not just when it’s shown to you, but as you show it to others. Love mercy as your second-nature response, as your Holy Spirit instinct. Love mercy as a quality of God’s character forming in you.

Walk Humbly with Your God – Don’t carelessly or presumptuously do things your own way. Pay attention to God’s will. Put your will in a secondary position to his. Know your place next to God and walk with him — not against him, not in front of him. Walk with God’s vision, with God’s character, with God’s priorities. God has brought you life-changing justice and he’s shown you amazing mercy because that’s how he treats everybody. Now, you walk with him and join him in doing those same things with everybody where you live.

This isn’t new information. This has always been at the heart of God’s covenant with his people. Treat everybody the way I’ve treated you.

When it comes to your sin and your failures and your transgressions against God and neighbor — when it comes to your sin — our Lord Jesus looked at the Father and said, “Put that on my account.” While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. When we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son. God has brought you life-changing justice and shown you amazing mercy, not because you’re so good but because that’s the way he treats everybody. And his number one priority is that you and I would act the same way, that bringing justice and showing mercy would be your top priority and my top priority, because people would see him in us. People would experience God in us if our priorities and God’s priorities were the same.

Peace,

Allan

Courtroom Compassion

CNN’s Ed Lavandera has conducted an interview with Judge Tammy Kemp, the Dallas County judge who presided over the recent murder trial of former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger. Kemp has come under fire and is facing formal ethics complaints for allowing Brandt Jean, the younger brother of the victim in this case, Botham Jean, to hug his brother’s killer during the sentencing phase. Judge Kemp also hugged the defendant in the courtroom and gave Guyger her personal Bible to take with her to prison. The judge’s controversial actions clearly are against courtroom protocol and have generated lots of discussion nationally.

This interview is fascinating. It depicts so vividly the struggle Judge Kemp faced in deciding to allow Brandt to hug Guyger. The judge herself says she had to decide that, in addition to being a judge, she is a human being first. She knew that both Brandt and Guyger needed the hug in order to heal and to be liberated from anger and bitterness and to retain a sense of purpose for their lives. She speaks candidly about the power of forgiveness and compassion. She quotes from Micah 6:8 as a weighty passage of Scripture that guides her thoughts and actions. And she comes across as a very impressive follower of Christ as Lord.

Click here for the video.

Here’s to more forgiveness and more compassion.

Peace,

Allan

She Ran to Him

I’ve watched the video a dozen times and I’m moved to the verge of tears and inspired to the point of my heart bursting each time. You’ve probably seen the video: Botham Jean’s little brother, Brandt, speaking directly to Amber Guyger in the Dallas courtroom where she was convicted of murdering Botham and sentenced to ten years in prison. Brandt forgave her, told her he loved her, and then, in an unprecedented display of that forgiveness and grace, hugged his brother’s killer.

It’s remarkable. It’s beyond description. It’s Jesus. It’s the Kingdom of God. And it’s the only thing that can fix what’s wrong with us and with our world.

We can’t fix what’s really wrong. We try, but we can’t — not with education or technology or ingenuity or force. It takes forgiveness. It takes grace. It takes love.

It takes the words 18-year-old Brandt Jean spoke to Amber Guyger yesterday:

“I forgive you. If you go to God and ask him, he will forgive you. I love you just like anyone else. I’m not going to say I hope you rot and die just like my brother did. I personally want the best for you… I don’t even want you to go to jail. I want the best for you. Because I know that’s exactly what Botham would want. And the best would be to give your life to Christ. I think giving your life to Christ would be the best thing that Botham would want you to do. Again, I love you as a person. And I don’t wish anything bad on you.”

Brandt then looked back at Judge Tammy Kemp and asked, “I don’t know if this is possible, but, can I give her a hug, please?”

When Judge Kemp hesitated, Brandt pleaded, “Please?”

When the judge said, “Yes,” Brandt stepped down from the witness stand and he and Guyger hugged.

But here’s what strikes me. Everything I’ve written to this point is only leading to this. This is what I really want you to read and seriously consider today. Pay attention to this.

When Brandt gets down from the stand and approaches Guyger she RUNS to him. She runs. She almost leaps into his arms to hug Brandt. And at the point when a normal hug would be over and the two huggers would typically separate, she re-hugged him. She wouldn’t let him go. His arms were open, he initiated the hug, but Amber Guyger ran to him and wouldn’t let go.

That moves me to the core of my soul.

I don’t know Amber Guyger. I don’t know anything about her other than what’s been written in the news and testified to in court. I don’t know much about her past, I don’t know the darkness in her heart, I don’t know why she shot and killed Botham, and I can’t imagine what she’s going through right now. But I know that when Brandt offered forgiveness and grace, she ran to him.

I don’t know but if Amber Guyger has been waiting her whole life for somebody to show her some unconditional Christian love. I don’t know but that her soul has been crying out for this for years: “Somebody forgive. Somebody express some love. Somebody say something kind. Somebody show grace. Somebody open your arms to me in acceptance and mercy.” And when somebody did — the teenage brother of her victim — she ran to him.

I also know that Brandt’s act of courageous forgiveness and unconditional love diffused the violence that was percolating in the streets of Dallas last night. Yes, there was a small protest in front of the courthouse. While Botham’s family sang and prayed at the Dallas West Church of Christ, dozens of demonstrators marched through downtown in protest of the relatively light sentence handed to Guyger. But there was only one arrest. Nobody got hurt.

I’m reminded that when the families of the victims of the church shooting in Charleston four years forgave Dylann Roof in that court hearing right after the massacre, the head of the Black Lives Matter movement called off their march. “It shut us down,” he said. “When they forgave him, it shut us down.”

The way she ran to him. I can’t get that out of my heart today.

That’s the power of the Kingdom of God, friends. The power of our Lord Jesus is not in threat or force or punishment, it’s not in numbers or petitions or boycotts, it’s not in protests or marches or demonstrations. The power of God’s Kingdom — what moves people and changes hearts and heals souls and destroys evil and will eventually transform us and the world — is forgiveness and mercy.

Brandt’s father said last night that his son’s actions in that courtroom didn’t surprise him because that’s how he was raised. That Church of Christ in St. Lucia taught and nurtured that, they practiced that. I hope our Church of Christ in Amarillo and your church wherever you are is teaching and nurturing the same thing.

Peace,

Allan

Divorce & Remarriage: Last Part

This part is just to people who have been divorced. If you’ve ever been through a divorce — if it happened forty years ago or if the ink is still wet on the paperwork — this part is for you.

I know when you hear people say God hates divorce, you think, “Can he possibly hate it more than I do?” I know. You read somewhere that divorced people have failed Christ. Somebody in your Bible class says if divorced Christians remarry, they’re going to be living in adultery the rest of their lives. You overhear someone say divorced Christians have to stay single forever. And you wonder if you’ve really been forgiven by God.

Can you be forgiven?

Maybe you wonder if you’re OK with God. Maybe you went into your marriage and divorce was not even an option. Just like all of us.

Sometimes hearts harden. Sometimes people turn their backs on God’s plan. Sometimes one party makes a decision that forever changes a covenant relationship. Maybe there’s adultery. Maybe there’s abandonment. Maybe there’s abuse. Always there’s sin.

Maybe you tried everything. You begged God night and day to save your marriage. You tried marriage counseling. You gave your all for years and years and all you got from your spouse in return was more adultery. You sought wise counsel from your elders and others in the church who know you best. But, eventually, you had to walk away.

Maybe you weren’t even a Christian when you went through your divorce. But now that you’ve given your life to the Lord, some people are telling you your current marriage isn’t pleasing to God or his Church. Or you have to stay single. And it’s not making sense with the good news of the Gospel.

Or maybe you were the guilty party. Maybe you cheated once. Or twice. Maybe a lot. Maybe your selfishness drove your spouse away. Maybe you were so caught up in your work that you neglected your spouse and children. Maybe it was your addiction. Maybe you live with the shame and guilt that you’re the one who destroyed your family.

Here’s what you need to know: There is mercy and forgiveness from God for divorce. There is a place at the table and a place to serve, a place to belong and a place to be valued and loved in God’s Kingdom for all who’ve been divorced. This is precisely why Jesus walked to the cross and willingly died for us. Love. Grace. Forgiveness. For all our sins, not just some of them. Your life right now and your eternal destiny are wrapped up in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ Jesus. And in Christ there is always light and life and hope.

Peace,

Allan

Divorce & Remarriage: Part Four

Before I post the next section of our “Divorce: It’s Going to be OK” sermon from last Sunday at Central, let me direct you to this story in USA Today detailing the successful efforts of Blue Bell Ice Cream to identify the woman who licked the top of a container of Tin Roof last week and placed it back inside a store freezer. It happened in Lufkin, Texas. Behind the Pine Curtain. What’s wrong with those people? It’s sickening to me that somebody would do this in the first place but, more than that, it’s ludicrous that she and her friend would record it and post the video to the internet. More proof, as if we needed any, that the internet in general and our iPhones in particular are making us worse people, not better.

Also, please be aware that you can buy Little Debbie Christmas Tree cakes now in the middle of the summer. It’s a special promotion they’re calling “Christmas in July.” And please do not be surprised that I am participating.

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God forgives all sin through the cross of Christ –

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly… God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” ~Romans 5:6-10

Divorces cause many burdens: physical, emotional, sexual, and social burdens. And, of course, spiritual burdens. Well, yeah. Divorce is sin. There are consequences for disobeying God. With divorce, there’s a guilt because we’ve failed at this most important relationship. But God forgives us and restores us by offering his perfect Son to cover our imperfections. At the cross, we’re made perfect in God’s eyes despite our many failures, including our failures in marriage. We look to the love of God and the cross of Christ.

We’ve tried legislating divorce and remarriage by laws and rules. So if a person destroys a God-ordained marriage and can’t fix it, we impose some type of punishment or restitution. If you’re going to be forgiven by God and live in a righteous relationship with God — if you’re going to be OK — then you have to do this and you cannot do that. We try to deal with divorce through laws. Praise God, he deals with divorce at the cross!

The cross of Christ is an eternal symbol of God’s limitless love and amazing grace. When we are forgiven at the cross, we become perfect by God’s love and grace and we are completely released from the burdens of guilt and shame and fear and we’re also released from any requirement to make some kind of restitution. The Church has forced divorced people to stay celibate, we’ve forbidden them to remarry, we’ve demanded they dissolve their second marriages, and we’ve disfellowshipped people who wouldn’t or couldn’t pay those prices.

Know this: Jesus Christ is the only one who pays the price. Jesus Christ makes restitution for all the sins of humanity at the cross and that includes restitution for divorce. Jesus paid it all!

“I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more!” ~Hebrews 8:12

We do not offer judgment or condemnation to the world or to each other. We gladly offer the cross of Christ. We don’t fix past sins by adding new ones. Sometimes you truly cannot go back and change what’s done. But you can commit to, in our Lord’s words, go and sin no more. All of us can claim complete forgiveness and perfect pardon through the atoning death and resurrection of Christ and work hard to remain from now on faithful to whatever vows we’ve made.

A church that is anchored in the love of God and the cross of Christ is a church that can say to a couple in crisis, “Don’t divorce; stay married.” We can say to the divorcing couple, “Repent of this sin against your family and against God.” And we can say to the divorced, “God loves you; he’s not angry with you; you are forgiven by God in Christ.”

There will be some who accuse us of preaching cheap grace. My response to that is God’s grace is better than cheap; it’s free!

“The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” ~Romans 6:23

“It is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God!” ~Ephesians 2:8

There are some who say you can’t be forgiven for divorce and remarriage if you’re already a baptized Christian when it happens. There’s forgiveness if your divorce was before you became a Christian, but if you were already a Christian you knew better. You can’t be forgiven of that. You’re living in sin.

Really? Go back and read Romans 5:6-10.If baptism into Christ forgives a pre-Christian divorce and remarriage, how much more! If God’s grace is freely given to his enemies, how much more for his children! The idea that Christians receive less grace and forgiveness than non-Christians cannot be our guide. The idea that Christians receive less grace because we understand God’s will better distorts grace. All God’s children have grace. Grace has no value if it doesn’t forgive sin. Romans 8 tells us there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!

Peace,

Allan

I Trust You Now

Lord Jesus, I believe that you are able and willing to deliver me from all the care and unrest and bondage of my Christian life. I believe you did die to set me free, not only in the future, but now and here. I believe you are stronger than sin, and that you can keep me, even me, in my extreme of weakness, from falling in its snares or yielding obedience to its commands. And Lord, I am going to trust you to keep me. I have tried keeping myself, and have failed, and failed, most grievously. I am absolutely helpless. So now I will trust you. I give myself to you. I keep back no reserves. Body, soul, and spirit, I present myself to you as a piece of clay, to be fashioned into anything your love and your wisdom shall choose. And now I am yours. I believe you do accept that which I present to you; I believe that this poor, weak, foolish heart has been taken possession of by you, and that you have even at this very moment begun to work in me to will and to do of your good pleasure. I trust you utterly, and I trust you now.

~Hannah Whitall Smith

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