Incredible Forgiveness…for me and others

Incredible Forgiveness
Is forgiveness truly incredible? Am I living a life that shows I know that God’s forgiveness for me through Jesus is the most incredible thing in the world? Today while preparing for a message, I came across this passage of scripture – Luke 5:17-26.
This is one of those interesting stories in scripture about Jesus. It is a story I have come to love over the years. First you see a man who is paralyzed; he can’t walk. His friends bring him to the home where Jesus is teaching because they want their friend healed. They climb to the top of the house, break open the roof, and lower him down. This is shocking for so many reasons I don’t want to get into, but just know that these guys were nuts about their friend meeting Jesus.

Here is the part of the story I want to focus on. Jesus looks at the man and you expect Him to have pity on him and heal him. I mean, this is what Jesus does. He feels for the sick and lame, and He heals them. It happens over and over again in the Bible. Instead, Jesus does something different. He offers the man forgiveness. It was shocking and maybe even underwhelming to the man’s friends, and possibly to the poor paralytic. Here is the thing I struggled with today as I read this. Do we as Christians, when we hear “forgiveness”, miss how amazing it truly is? You see, I think many times we rush by this part and want to get to the healing. Maybe we want to get to the part where we see God do something amazing in someone’s life.

Here is the thing about this paralytic. You see, as a man paralyzed, he would not be allowed to go to temple. He would never have been able to celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem and hear of God’s forgiveness of His people. You see, this man was missing the love of God. When Jesus looks this man in the eye and says “you are forgiven”, it may have been the first time he ever heard those words. It may have been the first time he knew God loved him. This truly is incredible forgiveness.

Today in your own life, you may have just skipped over the forgiveness part of this story. You may, like me, want to see God do good in your life and never stop to experience the greatest good we have ever experienced – the goodness of God in sending Jesus to die on a cross and forgive our sins. When we enter worship on Sundays and hear of that forgiveness, do we sit and want something more? Do we want to be healed, or do we want our lives put back together? Maybe instead we need to come and hear those simple words… “You are forgiven!” These are truly incredible words.

Because you are forgiven I would ask one thing. Share that forgiveness with those around you. Maybe it will be the first time they ever experience that forgiveness and it can change their lives forever. You have been forgiven and as you experience that forgiveness, go and forgive others.

 

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Middle School was the best time of my Life! Living a life of kindness and forgiveness.

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Middle school was the best time of my life. It was so easy. I was so confident in who I was. I never had an awkward look from others. Everyone was extremely nice and got along and things were just amazing. I really wish I could go back to middle school…
Actually, in case you didn’t guess, that last paragraph was sarcasm. Middle school is actually one of the hardest times of many teenagers’ lives. You are awkward, you feel funny all the time, and people can be just plain mean. You know that middle school is hard because almost no one ever says “Wow, I really wish I could go back to middle school.” (I don’t know that I know anyone who would say this, but never say never.)
I am a youth leader and also teach Bible classes in our Lutheran Day School. A lot of my work is with middle school students, and I can tell you that our church and our school are not here because your kids will never experience people being mean or cruel to each other. In fact, I know that they will be this year. Every kid, parent and teacher in middle school will experience people being downright awful. I know this because kids are sinners. Parents are sinners and so are teachers. Every year I know that we will experience people who are rude to us. They attack us and may say things that sting deeply. Maybe you as a parent or student will be the one who speaks those words of pain this year. Maybe it will be the teacher or youth leader. We all fall short and use words that hurt.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:12-14 NIV

If you haven’t done it, read that text above again.

This year I pray that all of us focus on these words of kindness and compassion. It is easy to cut down. It is easy to attack and strike out at people and hurt them. We have all done it and we will all do it again, but Jesus has called us to be people of kindness and forgiveness. That is what makes the Church community different from the world. We are called to forgive. We are called to look at others and forgive them because of Jesus’ incredible love for us. We are called to be kind.
I was talking with a parent once about his son who was a senior in high school. He said a girl from his middle school days was coming to his house to pick something up. The son was hiding and didn’t want to see her because she was very mean to him in middle school.
Today if you are reading this and thinking “I have been the issue”, let me remind you, Jesus’ incredible love is enough to cover over all your sin. You are forgiven. You are new today. Start over and live in that forgiveness.
Lastly, let’s follow Jesus’ lead and be kind and forgiving. For parents, for kids, for everyone – let’s forgive those things of the past. Maybe you as a parent or you as a teacher or you as a student need to forgive. Let others know us by our kindness, let them know us as people of forgiveness. Let go of the things that are in the past and start over. It is what the Church should be known for, and it is what we as God’s people are called to do. So this year be kind and forgive.

Generosity…Speaking with your kids about being a part of sharing Jesus.

IMG_20171020_103132This weekend our congregation is going to be sharing the next steps of an initiative with the goal of campus renovation and expansion, in order to expand mission and ministry. It is called ONE Legacy. I started thinking about this weekend and what I want my kids to know about being generous with our finances for God’s ministry, and that prayer is important in our families life.

I was thinking, “What do I want my kids to learn from this moment?”. Often as a parent it is easy to go through the moment of growth and forget about what it is teaching your kids. I want to think, “How am I teaching my kids through this moment?”. My kids see me put something in the offering plate each week – they see me giving to God. Yet don’t want them to think of generosity as only being a ‘parent thing’, but rather that as a part of the community here at St. John, we are all called to share the gifts God has given us.

 

So here is what we are doing. We are going to have a conversation this weekend at the dinner table. We are going to pray. We are going to think about what are the things in our life we can let go of so that we can help our Church reach many with the Gospel. We may talk about giving up going out to dinner once a month. We may talk about using birthday and Christmas money for ONE Legacy instead, we may pray about giving up cable or Netflix or Slurpee’s!! Honestly I don’t know what it might look like. But seriously I want them to be a part of this moment.

Read John 6:1-13

I love this story because of one very important fact. In this version of the story we find out where the disciples got the five loaves and two fish. It came from a boy. It came from a kid. He had so little to offer and I am sure Jesus looked that boy in the eyes and said with your small gift I am going to change the world. I don’t need your small item to change the world but I am going to use your small sacrifice so that people can know of my love.

Talk with your kids this weekend. Talk with your kids about being generous in this moment. The Lord has given our family so much. It is a great conversation to have and so important as a part of the body of Christ.

 

I am not giving up something for Lent…I am adding something to my journey to the cross

img_20170301_162211Most of the time during lent people spend the day thinking about what they are going to be giving up for Lent. For me I have never really found that helpful for my spiritual formation. Giving up sweets makes me angry.  Giving up chocolate would make me down right angry.  Mostly I would be thinking all day about how I missed that food or thing I gave up.  For me it doesn’t point me to Jesus. I want you all to know I don’t find anything wrong with giving something up for lent as it is certainly a spiritual discipline of fasting.  Fasting is a time honored way of strengthening ones faith. For me however it has never been appealing or truly beneficial.

So today I decided to do something different.  I decided instead of taking something away I am going to add something to my family’s life.  We are going to spend the next 40 days reading through the Gospels.  We are going to spend this time on the journey to the cross following Jesus’ journey to the cross.  I know for me reading the scripture brings it alive.  I am excited for this journey and would challenge you to think about it as well.

In the reading schedule I gave myself a day off because lets be honest having a day off is needed sometimes.  Life can be crazy busy. I don’t need something else to give me more guilt for messing up.  So below is the plan.

My goal this Lenten season is to journey to the cross with my Lord and Savior. My prayer is that many of you will join in this journey. Let us be in the Word together as we make this journey to the cross and see these great things he has done for us.

in Christ,

Steve

Lent Reading Plan: 2017

2-Mar Matthew 1-3
3-Mar Matthew 4-6
4-Mar Matthew 7-9
5-Mar Break
6-Mar Matthew 10-Matthew 12
7-Mar Matthew 13-Matthew 14
8-Mar Matthew 15-Matthew 16
9-Mar Matthew 17-Matthew 18
10-Mar Matthew 19-Matthew 20
11-Mar Matthew 21-Matthew 22
12-Mar Take a Break
13-Mar Matthew 23-Matthew 24
14-Mar Matthew 25-Matthew 26
15-Mar Matthew 27-Matthew 28
16-Mar Mark 1-Mark 3
17-Mar Mark 4-Mark 6
18-Mar Mark 7-Mark 9
19-Mar Take a Break
20-Mar Mark 10-Mark 12
21-Mar Mark 13-Mark 14
22-Mar Mark 15-Mark 16
23-Mar Luke 1-Luke 3
24-Mar Luke 4-Luke 6
25-Mar Luke 7-Luke 9
26-Mar Take a Break
27-Mar Luke 10-Luke 12
28-Mar Luke 13-Luke 14
29-Mar Luke 15-Luke 16
30-Mar Luke 17-Luke 18
31-Mar Luke 19-Luke 20
1-Apr Luke 21-Luke 22
2-Apr Take a Break
3-Apr Luke 23-Luke 24
4-Apr John 1-John 2
5-Apr John 3-John 4
6-Apr John 5-John 6
7-Apr John 7-John 8
8-Apr John 9-John 10
9-Apr Take a Break
10-Apr John 11-John 12
11-Apr John 13-John 14
12-Apr John 15-John 16
13-Apr John 17-John 18
14-Apr John 19-John 20
15-Apr John 21