Monday, November 28, 2011

Prepare the Way of the Lord

 

1 Comfort, comfort my people,
    says your God.
2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
    and proclaim to her
    that her hard service has been completed,
    that her sin has been paid for,
    that she has received from the LORD’s hand
    double for all her sins.

3 A voice of one calling:
    “In the desert prepare
    the way for the LORD;
    make straight in the wilderness
    a highway for our God.
4 Every valley shall be raised up,
    every mountain and hill made low;
    the rough ground shall become level,
    the rugged places a plain.
5 And the glory of the LORD will be revealed,
    and all mankind together will see it.
    For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

—The words of the Prophet Isaiah from Isaiah 40:1-5

 

The Season of Advent marks the beginning of another church year. Yesterday was the First Sunday of Advant. For 21st century Christians, Advent leads to both a look back to the birth of the Christ Child and a look toward the future return of the Great King Jesus.

Advent always brings to my mind George Frederic Handel’s Messiah. This magnificent choral work details the birth, life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Handel created the libretto for this work entirely from Scripture compiled by Charles Jennens from the King James Version of The Holy Bible and from The Book of Common Prayer. I believe this explains why so many people over the years have found both comfort and exhulation in this oratorio.

During my years at Houghton College—a lifetime ago—I had the privilege of singing Messiah with the Oratorio Society. Sitting next to my best friend, Tom Brooks, who was a music performance major with a truly fine tenor voice, I felt as if I experienced a voice lesson at each rehearsal. Professor Donald Doig sang the tenor solos.

I can still remember his soaring voice filling the John and Charles Wesley Chapel Auditorium with the words of verses 1 through 4 of the Scripture passage at the beginning of this blog post. The tenor solo begins with the Accompagnato (an accompanied Recitative) “Comfort Ye” and flows into the Air (Aria) “Every valley.” Once the tenor soloist has established the mood, the chorus rises to sing verse 5: “And the Glory of the Lord.”

This reminiscence brings me to the point of asking you, “What are you doing to prepare the way of the Lord this Advent?” That’s right. “What are you doing to prepare the way of the Lord this Advent?”

Please allow me to suggest that you point your web browser to this link where you can listen to the various sections of Handel’s Messiah. Because the entire text of this oratorio comes directly from Scripture, I can’t imagine any better way to prepare for your personal celebration of this blessed season.

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God, for loving us. Thank You for sending Jesus to be our Savior. Thank You for sending us Your Holy Spirit to dwell within us. With great joy we celebrate the birth of Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Even moreso, we wait expectantly for His second coming. Be pleased to receive our praise and adoration for this great gift You have given to us.

Precious Father, we continue to daily honor You for Your life-transforming love for us. And, we thank You for hearing our prayer in and through the precious Name of Jesus, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Shelter in the Time of Storm

 

12 Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’ 13 If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”

14 The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

15 Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. 16 How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”

17 And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”

18 Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”

19 And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”

21 Then the Lord said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. 22 When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.”

—The narrative concerning God’s chosen people from Exodus 33:12-23

 

In the United States of America, today marks a Day of Thanksgiving. No matter what the current status of your life, if you pause and think carefully, you will find a significant number of things for which you can offer thanks to God.

In many ways, this has been an extremely trying year in my own life. It actually represents the culmination of three very long and difficult years of heartbreaking turmoil, as I have watched a church that I deeply love destroy itself. At the same time, my greatest thanks, as I pause to reflect, comes out of this despicable conflict. Namely, I have come to an increasing awareness that God truly does control every aspect of the lives of those He loves and cares about.

In the Scripture passage at the beginning of this blog post, God and His servant, Moses, have a conversation. Moses asks God to teach him His ways. After they talk a while longer, Moses asks God to go with him and the people God has chosen. Moses declares, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.” Later in the conversation, Moses boldly asks God to, “Now show me your glory.”

God knows that no human could withstand His glory. But, He honors Moses by making provision and replies, “When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by.” And, there it is. God always makes provision for those He loves. Will you permit me to state that again for emphasis? God always makes provision for those He loves.

Growing up in an old-fashioned fundamentalist congregation, on Wednesday nights we met for Prayer Meeting. The gathering always began with the singing of some classic gospel songs. One older member of the gathered believers would often request a gospel hymn entitled “A Shelter in the Time of Storm.”

With words by Vernon J. Charlesworthy and music by Ira D. Sankey, this song takes the event of Exodus 33 and updates it by recognizing that New Testament believers have been grafted in to the vine of God’s chosen people, Israel. Once I learned the history of this song, I used to imagine myself sitting in one of D. L. Moody’s revival meetings with Ira Sankey leading the singing.

As you read through these words, I hope you will sense some of the same awe that Moses might have felt as God shielded him in the cleft of the rock. For, you see, Jesus is our Rock in a weary land. And, He truly is a shelter in the time of storm.

The Lord’s our Rock, in Him we hide,
A Shelter in the time of storm;
Secure whatever ill betide,
A Shelter in the time of storm.

Oh, Jesus is a Rock in a weary land,
A weary land, a weary land;
Oh, Jesus is a Rock in a weary land,
A Shelter in the time of storm.

A shade by day, defense by night,
A Shelter in the time of storm;
No fears alarm, no foes afright,
A Shelter in the time of storm.

Oh, Jesus is a Rock in a weary land,
A weary land, a weary land;
Oh, Jesus is a Rock in a weary land,
A Shelter in the time of storm.

The raging storms may round us beat,
A Shelter in the time of storm
We’ll never leave our safe retreat,
A Shelter in the time of storm.

Oh, Jesus is a Rock in a weary land,
A weary land, a weary land;
Oh, Jesus is a Rock in a weary land,
A Shelter in the time of storm.

O Rock divine, O Refuge dear,
A Shelter in the time of storm;
Be Thou our Helper ever near,
A Shelter in the time of storm.

Oh, Jesus is a Rock in a weary land,
A weary land, a weary land;
Oh, Jesus is a Rock in a weary land,
A Shelter in the time of storm.

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God, for loving us. Thank You for sending Jesus to be our Savior. Thank You for sending us Your Holy Spirit to dwell within us. On this day of National Thanksgiving, our hearts turn toward You to acknowledge that without Your loving kindness and tender mercies we would dissolve in ruin and despair. Be pleased to receive our thanksgiving and praise for Your goodness and Your love.

Precious Father, we honor, magnify, and glorify Your Holy Name. Be pleased to continue to guide us along the pathway You have laid out before us. With humble hearts, we thank You for hearing our prayer in and through the precious Name of Jesus, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Unrequited Love

 

9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 17 This is my command: Love each other.”

—The words of Jesus from John 15:9-17

 

Have you ever loved someone who did not love you back? I’m not talking about love-gone-sour. Nor am I talking about lust, or extreme “like,” or some other permutation of what someone might call “love.” I’m talking about a heart-swelling, breath-taking, stomach-lurching, deep, abiding love for someone who has no inclination whatsoever to love you in return. I’m talking about “unrequited love.”

The Merriam Webster Online Dictionary defines “unrequited” as “...not reciprocated or returned in kind.” Whenever I think about unrequited love, I am grateful to God that He brought into my life one very special person who did dane to love me back. Not only did she return my love, she has also stood by me through five years of dating—including a two-year-long engagement—and 43 years of marriage. Even with this magnificent counter-example of unrequited love in my own life, I still have childhood memories of unrequited love.

I have a distinct memory from the summer I turned seven years old. I met a girl while on vacation at the shore of Lake Erie in Silver Creek, NY. I simply could not get this girl out of my mind. But, the girl gave no indication that she even knew I existed, let alone possessed any feelings at all for me. But, after returning to my home, I felt an enormous sense of loss knowing I would likely never see this girl again. My mother asked me why I was moping around the house. I told her what I was feeling: a great emptiness and loss. She chuckled. smiled one of her tender, knowing smiles, and told me I must be “in love.”

Over the next few years growing up, I felt those same feelings a few more times. In every case, either due to my lack of manliness or social status, or quirkiness, or some other undefined reason, no hope existed that the girl for whom I had those feelings would, or could, ever return them.

Each time I felt those feelings of deep longing and profound connection with another human being, I also felt a strange sense of wonder. I wondered—at least for a while—if the person could ever love me back. Eventually the answer always emerged. And, that answer was apparently, “No!” Alas! Unrequited love!

Perhaps you have had an experience like mine in your childhood, teenage years, or even in your adulthood. Can you remember how you felt? Can you imagine how surprised the object of your unrequited love might be if he or she could learn how much love you felt?

Now, imagine for a moment that you are God. You wanted to have a relationship with a being that you created who could choose to love you and obey you. And then, the first real choice that being makes is to disobey the one and only rule that you give it.

Even then, your love does not abate. In fact, you love your created beings so much that you send your only son to earth. After your son lives for a time as a human, you instruct him to give his life—to shed his very blood—on a Roman cross of torture.

In so doing, your son bears the penalty for every sin your created beings have ever committed and for every sin your created beings will ever commit. If that was not enough, you raised your son from the dead to give evidence to your created beings that they have a life after this one. And, if they respond to the wooing of your Holy Spirit, they will spend that after-life with you, forever.

Recognizing that your created beings do not have the capacity to love you back, you graciously send your Holy Spirit to convince them of their need for your love. By the power of that same Holy Spirit, you enable them to love you in return. All they have to do is yield their selfish will to your perfect will.

Yes, imagine for a moment that you are God. Then, think about how you actually do respond to Him in the course of your daily life. I suspect that, if you’re at all like me, you feel humbled and shocked. Humbled that the very God of the universe would love you so much. Shocked at how little effort you make to obey His will for your life.

As usually happens with childhood experiences, my childish unrequited love pales in the face of the kind of unrequited love that God experiences from us every single moment of every day. Help us, Lord! Help us to put aside everything that stands in the way of our obedience to Your will for us. Help us to allow Your Holy Spirit to enable us to love you in return.

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God, for loving us. Thank You for sending Jesus to be our Savior. Thank You for sending us Your Holy Spirit to dwell within us. Be pleased to help us recognize—deep within our beings—how much You truly love us. Then, may that awareness motivate us to faithfully obey You and, through our obedience, love you with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength.

Precious Father, we honor You for Your life-transforming love for us. May we respond in such a way as to eradicate any sense that Your love remains unrequited. And, in Your great love, please continue to guide us along the pathway You have laid out before us. With overwhelming humility, we thank You for hearing our prayer in and through the precious Name of Jesus, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

What He’s Done For Others,
He’ll Do For You...

 

11 You turned my wailing into dancing;
    you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
12 that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.
    O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever.

—The words of King David from Psalm 30:11-12

 

Are you feeling a bit “down in the dumps” today? Then, King David’s words in the Scripture verses at the beginning of this blog post are just for you.

As a small boy growing up in a Christian home during the time period immediately following Billy Graham’s famous Los Angeles Crusade in 1949, my mother often played the piano and sang to me. One of her favorite pieces was a popular gospel song of the day written by Stuart Hamblen, “It Is No Secret (What God Can Do).”

Heavy-drinking Hamblen, a popular radio host and songwriter of numerous secular songs in the mid to late 1940s, came to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ through personal contact he had with Dr. Graham during that famous Los Angeles Crusade. As a result of his life-transforming faith, Hamblen fell out of favor with the Hollywood crowd. After writing a successful gospel song for his friend, Rosemary Clooney, titled “This Ole House,” Hamblen struggled to find another song to put some food on his table.

A close friend, actor John Wayne, asked Hamblen one day if the rumors about his life change was true. Hamblen reportedly replied that it was no secret what God had done for him and that God could do it for Wayne, too. Wayne suggested Hamblen write a song that would embrace this testimony. So, he did.

I think the part of the song that my mom appreciated the most was the refrain:

It is no secret what God can do
What He's done for others, He'll do for you
With arms wide open, He'll pardon you
It is no secret what God can do.

Have you ever thought about the reality of those words? It’s true that what God has done for others, He will do for you. That promise includes God turning the sadness in your life into joy. And, His divine joy will permeate every molecule of your being.

As you read through all the words of Stuart Hamblen’s song, please open your heart today to receive God’s blessing of joy.

The chimes of time ring out the news
Another day is through
Someone slipped and fell
Was that someone you?

You may have longed for added strength
Your courage to renew
Do not be disheartened
For I have news for you.

It is no secret what God can do
What He's done for others, He'll do for you
With arms wide open, He'll pardon you
It is no secret what God can do.

There is no night for in His light
You never walk alone
Always feel at home
Wherever you may go.

There is no power can conquer you
While God is on your side
Take Him at His promise
Don't run away and hide.

It is no secret what God can do
What He's done for others, He'll do for you
With arms wide open, He'll pardon you
It is no secret what God can do.
—Stuart Hamblen
Copyright © 1950 by Duchess Music
Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God, for loving us. Thank You for sending Jesus to be our Savior. Thank You for sending us Your Holy Spirit to dwell within us. In these days when we feel discouraged and disheartened, we turn to You as our source of true joy. Thank You for the promise we have through Your servant, King David. Please now, bring joy into our lives. And, help us share the joy You give us with others.

Precious Father, we honor You for the life-transforming power with which You embue us. Please continue to guide us along the pathway You have laid out before us. And, thank You for hearing our prayer in and through the redeeming Name of Jesus, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Monday, November 14, 2011

We’re Praying for You!

 

1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, 2 To the holy and faithful brothers in Christ at Colosse: Grace and peace to you from God our Father.

3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints— 5 the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel 6 that has come to you. All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth. 7 You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, 8 and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.

9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10 And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

—The words of the Apostle Paul from Colossians 1:1-14

 

“We’re praying for you!”

When you face some crisis in your life, those words can offer genuine comfort. It’s always good to know that someone has determined to pray for you. In my mind, it means even more when two or more people agree to pray together in your behalf.

Such was the case in the Scripture passage at the beginning of this blog post. Notice that the writer, the Apostle Paul, tells the believers gathered at the church in Colosse that “...we have not stopped praying for you...” In case you’re wondering who else the “we” refers to, you only have to look back at the first verse where Paul identifies his partner, in this case, as his “son in the faith,” Timothy. So, Paul and Timothy have agreed together to spend time in prayer for the Christians at Colosse.

My question for you today: “Have you found a prayer partner with whom you can pray for others?” That partner could be your husband or wife. It could be your very good friend. It could be someone at your church with whom you have formed a prayer pact. It doesn’t matter who it is. But, it seems very important to find someone with whom you can agree in prayer.

In Matthew 18:19-20, Jesus told his disciples,

19 “Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”

Yes! Let me emphasize—It seems quite important to find someone with whom you can agree in prayer. Oh! Of course you should continue to pray on your own, as well. But, something very powerful happens when you can join with someone and pray together about those things that God lays on your heart.

Please carefully consider my suggestion. Stop right now and think about someone you can partner with in prayer. Then, as soon as you can, ask that person to become your prayer partner and find a time you can regularly meet to pray. It’s really an easy suggestion to follow. I can assure you that once you begin praying with your prayer partner, you’ll want to share this suggestion with others, too.

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God, for loving us. Thank You for sending Jesus to be our Savior. Thank You for sending us Your Holy Spirit to dwell within us. We know that You want us to pray and bring our requests to You. We also know that You have taught us through Your Word that great power arises when two or three agree in prayer. So, help us to find someone with whom we can pray and begin to harness this amazing power in our own lives.

Even in this moment, bring someone to our minds that we might ask to join with us in prayer on a regular basis. And, we ask You to affirm our choice, through the power of the Holy Spirit, by encouraging the one we ask to accept our invitation.

More than anything, Precious Father, we want to honor You by obediently following the pathway You lay out before us. So, we thank You for hearing our prayer in and through the redeeming Name of Jesus, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Make It Count!

 

13 For you have delivered me from death
        and my feet from stumbling,
        that I may walk before God
        in the light of life.

—The words of King David from Psalm 51:13

 

Mike Bolinger is what I call “my friend-once-removed.” By that I mean I have become friends with Mike’s dearly beloved wife of 37 years, Lynne. I met Lynne on-line through my participation on The Dennis Miller Radio Show Message Board. Lynne is one of those people who has crossed the pathway of my life and of whom God has whispered in my ear, “She belongs to Me!”

Lynne and Mike met while attending Wheaton College. Because Wheaton College and Houghton College, my alma mater, have long been academic rivals, I felt an instant connection with the Bolingers.

I had met Lynne on-line soon after she and Mike learned that he had been diagnosed with terminal abdominal cancer and was expected to die within a few short months. I joined hundreds praying earnestly and ferevently for Mike and Lynne. The doctors were very certain with their diagnosis. But, God continues to have other plans.

Yes, Mike is still “terminally ill” with cancer. But, God has spared him from death for well over two and a half years. I believe that God did that, as He does most things, to bring honor, glory, majesty, and power to His Blessed and Holy Name.

The video below is of a testimony that Mike gave on October 16, 2011, during the morning worship service at the church he and Lynne attend, Oakbook Church in Kokomo, Indiana.

This video of Mike’s testimony is a bit shy of 40 minutes long. If you will take the time to watch it, I guarantee you will find that it will be 40 minutes well spent. Please take a look:

If you’re anything like me, Mike’s testimony moved you deeply. May I ask you to join me in praying for Mike and for Lynne. I am not afraid to ask God for a miracle of total healing for Mike. I am also comfortable letting God be God and decide what He wants to do. Yet, whenever it comes to prayer for healing, I am compelled by very clear instructions from the Apostle James.

If you would like to keep tabs on Mike and Lynne, and also read some of the wonderful posts about their faith journey, please click here to read their blog.

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God, for loving us. Thank You for sending Jesus to be our Savior. Thank You for sending us Your Holy Spirit to dwell within us. Thank you for Mike’s testimony of Your grace in His life. Please continue to hold him—and Lynne, too—in the Hollow of Your Mighty Hand.

We ask You, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to totally heal Mike. We ask You to erradicate every cancer cell from Mike’s body. We ask You to cover Mike—from the crown of his head to the soles of his feet—with the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, as protection from every evil that might try to come against Your perfect will for Mike.

We want to learn from Mike’s example. We cling to the hope that You have given us through the power of Christ’s resurrection. Help us to let the Light of Christ’s Presence shine through us each day. May that shining Light from within us become a testimony of Your love to everyone who may cross our pathway. We pray in the blessed Name of Jesus, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Monday, November 7, 2011

“The Circle of Forgiveness,” Part 4—
Restoration

 

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
      and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
      or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
      and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

—The words of King David from Psalm 51:10-12

 

In my three previous blog posts, I laid out a new series of posts using these words:

Recently, on this blog site, I’ve written quite a bit about confession, repentance, restitution, and reconciliation. These four individual elements form an interdependent and interlocking, life-sustaining process that some have called “The Circle of Forgiveness.” This process becomes a very important part of the pathway for a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ—that is to say a “Christian” or “Christ-one”—to develop into a fully obedient citizen of the Kingdom of God.

At the same time, each of these elements offers its own set of challenges to our normal understanding. While the basis for the fundamental morality of the United States has deep roots into the Judeo-Christian values, time has tended to soften or distort some of the directness of certain of those values. As a result, people end up with a skewed or distorted view of what these values really mean.

“Restoration” is the final such value. It marks the end of the journey through the “Circle of Forgiveness.” In a very real sense, it also marks the beginning of another journey through the Circle. Our sin nature will always bring us to the need for yet another confession, repentance, restitution, and restoration. Praise God that—in His mercy and grace through the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ—He has made provision for us to continually keep short accounts with Him.

When one party in a relationship sins against another, the Holy Spirit begins a process of conviction. Unless the one who sinned has hardened his or her heart to the point that he or she rejects the urging of the Spirit, that process of conviction will lead the one who sinned to embark on a journey along the “Circle of Forgiveness.”

The one who has been sinned against plays a key role in the last element of this Circle—“...forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors...” By cheefully extending forgiveness to the one who has sinned, the harmed party may now lovingly assist the sinner to receive mercy. Once mercy begins to act on the matter, the bond of Christian love will again bloom between the parties.

“If what you describe is so, why do so many in the body of believers remain estranged from each other?”

That’s an excellent question. For each individual situation, the answer comes from conducting a very careful examination to make certain every one of the four steps has been successfully completed. In any case where you find lingering difficulty, you will find that the estranged parties have missed one of the steps.

As I have suggested in several related blog posts over the last six months or so, you can “paint over” the bad spot of sin in a relationship and try to pretend nothing has really happened. However, if the underlying sin does not become exposed and dealt with using the “Circle of Forgiveness,” that sin stain will always reveal itself, to the determent of the relationship.

Let me offer a concrete example:

Due to a bankruptcy on the part of a builder, one adult sibling in a family has an opportunity to purchase a new house at a drastic discount. This is the dream house that the sibling has longed for over many years. However, he does not have the money to purchase the house. He turns to his brother and asks the brother—who is a good deal better off financially— to purchase the house and hold it until the first brother can raise the money.

The second brother gladly complies with the request. However, six months later, when the first brother has raised the capital to purchase the house from his brother, the second brother informs the first that he will have to pay interest on the loaned money. In fact, rather than charging a modest interest, the second brother decides to seek more interest than the current market would require.

The first brother grudgingly complies. He remains grateful for his brother’s help in the matter. It seems as if the incident is settled.

The truth is, the second brother sinned against the first. He did so by not disclosing the terms of the arrangement at the beginning, and by charging his brother an exhorbitant rate of interest. But, the second brother does not follow the “Circle of Forgiveness.”

Even though the matter seems settled, over the next twenty years, every once in a while, the matter pokes its head above the surface of the normally calm waters of the relationship. And, it will continue to fester, just beneath the surface, until the second brother confesses his sin, repents of his sin, makes restitution for his sin, and receives full restoration.

I urge you, if you have sinned against a brother or sister in Christ, to prayerfully and carefully make your way through the four steps of the “Circle of Forgiveness.” If you do, God will restore your relationship and restore your joy.

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God, for loving us. Thank You for sending Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to be our Savior. Thank you for giving us Your Holy Spirit to dwell within us.

We invite Your Holy Spirit to guide us in applying the truth of your Word to the sin we may find in our lives. Maybe that sin has lain dormant for a long time. Or, maybe that sin is as fresh as just a few moments ago. In either case, help us to confess our sins to You and to the one we have sinned against. And, as we repent of our sins—turning our backs on those sins—we ask You to guide us so we may provide restitution for our sins and then, receive full restoration.

Keep us from holding grudges and from allowing our arrogance or pride to keep us from full fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ. With humility and gratitude, we thank you for hearing our prayer, in and through the powerful and redeeming Name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

“The Circle of Forgiveness,” Part 3—
Restitution

 

5 The Lord said to Moses, 6 “Say to the Israelites: ‘When a man or woman wrongs another in any way and so is unfaithful to the LORD, that person is guilty 7 and must confess the sin he has committed. He must make full restitution for his wrong, add one fifth to it and give it all to the person he has wronged...’”

—The words of the Old Testament from Numbers 5:5-7

 

1 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.

5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.”  6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.

7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.’”

8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”

—The words of the Apostle Luke from Luke 19:1-10

 

In my two previous blog posts, I continued a new series of posts using these words:

Recently, on this blog site, I’ve written quite a bit about confession, repentance, restitution, and reconciliation. These four individual elements form an interdependent and interlocking, life-sustaining process that some have called “The Circle of Forgiveness.” This process becomes a very important part of the pathway for a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ—that is to say a “Christian” or “Christ-one”—to develop into a fully obedient citizen of the Kingdom of God.

At the same time, each of these elements offers its own set of challenges to our normal understanding. While the basis for the fundamental morality of the United States has deep roots into the Judeo-Christian values, time has tended to soften or distort some of the directness of certain of those values. As a result, people end up with a skewed or distorted view of what these values really mean.

“Restitution” is another such value. It is also the least talked about and least recognized and least accepted element in the “Circle of Forgiveness.” While people will often consider the possibility that they may need to confess their sins, and will even contemplate the idea that they need to turn their backs on theirs sins in repentance, they simply cannot—or will not—consider the idea that when they have harmed someone they must make it right.

“Wait a minute!” you interrupt. “I read the Scripture passages at the beginning of your blog post. The first one comes from the Book of Numbers. It appears to me to be part of the Mosaic Law that God gave to His chosen people, Israel. I’m a New Testament Christian. I am not under the Law. I’m under grace. That Old Testament requirement regarding restitution certainly doesn’t apply to me.”

Let me see if I understand your position. Because the Lord Jesus Christ perfectly fulfilled the Law in our behalf and paid the penalty for our sins, we no longer need to direct any of our attention to the principles of righteousness that the Law contains. Is that what you’re saying? If so, I simply don’t agree.

Of course we are under grace and not under the penalty of the Law. But, when the Law gives us conceptual guidance regarding practices that help us perfect the righteousness imputed to us in Christ Jesus, we do well to heed what the Law has to say. Such is the case with “restitution.”

Think carefully about what I am saying. You commit a sin against someone. In so doing you harm that one in some way. Then the Holy Spirit convicts you of your sin. In response, you confess your wrongdoing to God and to the one you have harmed. Then, you take the next step and turn your back on that sin, determining to avoid repeating it. The third step in the “Circle of Forgiveness” requires you to make right the harm you have done. Let me give you an example.

Let’s say that you have taken some action that has deprived someone of her employment. You didn’t necessarily intend to infllict harm. Rather, you followed someone else’s lead and took action based on erroneous information that other person gave you. You now understand that the information you acted on was a lie. And, you recognize that you failed in your fiduciary responsibility to more carefully review the information you were given.

You should have insisted to see proof of what you were being told. In this failure to be more careful, you sinned. You have confessed your sin and repented of it. Now, to take the next step, you must champion the cause of restoring the one your actions harmed to her job. You have participated in damaging her reputation. You must now do everything in your power to repair and restore her reputation.

Here’s another example. More than 40 years ago, when I served on the fire department in the southern tier of New York State, one of our fire police officers was also a New York State Conservation Officer. One evening, he told me a story of how he had received a telephone call from one of the professors at a nearby college. The professor was calling to report that the Holy Spirit had convicted him of a sin he had committed and prompted him to confess. The professor explained that he had shot a deer out of season. He was calling the Conservation Officer in order to confess.

As the conversation drew to a close, the Conservation Officer told the professor that he would meet him at the Justice of the Peace’s office in the morning to process the paperwork, so the professor could pay the several hundred dollar fine. Suddenly the professor seemed aghast. It seemed as if the professor thought that confession was all that he would need to do to clear his conscience. The Conservation Officer told him that he still had to make restitution to the State of New York for his crime.

You see restitution is part of the forgiveness process. If you ignore restitution, you can’t move on to the final step in the “Circle of Forgiveness.” Said another way, without following the pathway of confession, repentance, and restitution, you can’t receive restoration.

I urge you with every ounce of sincerity that I possess. If you desire to respond to the leading of the Holy Spirit with regard to your sins, do not leave out the vital and necessary step of “restitution.”

Oh, I realize that sometimes you will not be able to provide restitution. Too much time may have passed. The person you sinned against may have moved away or even died.

Nevertheless, in every situation you need to very thoroughly and carefully consider the steps you might be able to take to bring restitution for the sins you have committed. Where you have harmed someone’s reputation, correct that error. If you have told ten people a lie about someone, you must go back to those ten people and correct the lie.

You won’t really have to think all that hard before God will reveal to you exactly what you need to do. After all, God wants you to receive “restoration.” So, He wants you to complete all the steps along the way around the “Circle of Forgiveness.”

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God, for loving us. Thank You for sending Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to be our Savior. Thank you for giving us Your Holy Spirit to dwell within us.

We ask Your Holy Spirit to help us understand the depth of harm our sins may have caused others. As we confess our sins to You, and as we repent of our sins—turning our backs on those sins—we ask You to guide us so we may provide restitution for our sins. We understand we will not always be able to make full and complete restitution because it is now far too late to correct the damage we have done. In those cases, help us have the courage to do everything we can do. And then, give us the grace to leave the matter completely under your care.

Keep us from complacency regarding our sins. Keep us from excusing our sins and failing to heed the need for confession, repentance, and restitution. We pray that You will continue to help us become faithful, obedient citizens of the Kingdom of God. Thank You for your mercy, grace, and love. And, thank you for hearing our prayer, in and through the precious Name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.