StuffedPorkChopOctober 2017
  

My dear friends,

Have you ever wondered why our churches are failing? Not only our local churches, but churches across America are in dire straits. It seems that not a day goes by that I don’t read of another church closing. There are several reasons that this is happening, but I would like to address one of them. My concern is about our lack of forgiveness.

Almost all of us can recite The Lord’s Prayer by heart, 

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but do we really take it to heart? We know the words, but do we live them? “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” What does that mean?

In Matthew 18:21-22, Peter asks Jesus about forgiveness. “Lord, how many times should I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Should I forgive as many as seven times?” Peter doesn’t literally mean saying, “I forgive you,” seven times over. You see, at that time, seven was considered the number of perfection. So what Peter is asking is, “If I forgive perfectly, that should about take care of it, right?” But Jesus responds. “Not just seven times, but seventy-seven times.” In other words, your forgiveness must be better than perfect, it must be perfect perfection. We are granted the measure of forgiveness from God as we offer to others.

We mess up a lot in our lives. We sin against God and our neighbor. But we go to God again and again seeking God’s forgiveness, and Christ tells us, the Father will generously bestow that forgiveness. But, if we cannot in turn offer the same generous forgiveness to those who have sinned against us…well, it’s only then that God’s forgiveness may not be so readily available. Do you see what I’m getting at? God does not punish us for the bad things we do; rather, God punishes us for the good things we do not do, our failure to be generous with others as God in Christ Jesus has been generous with us.

Forgiveness is serious business. And I do not in any way want to diminish either the seriousness of our failures, nor the extreme difficulty in forgiving those who have wronged us. If we are to receive God’s forgiveness, it requires that we repent of our wrongdoing. This means we have to acknowledge that we were wrong, we have to approach God in humility, and we have to seek God’s grace.

Forgiveness requires a change of our hearts, and it results in a change of our lives.

If the person who has wronged us seeks us out, acknowledges their wrongdoing, and genuinely asks for our forgiveness, then we should not withhold it. And if, even then, we find it difficult to forgive the person who has hurt us, then at the very least, we should pray to God to help us do what needs to be done. Maybe even the prayer goes something like this, “God, will you forgive this person for the hurt they have caused me? And God, please help me to forgive them as well.”

Friends, be forgiving and live in peace with one another.

Pastor Bill

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