Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Modern Miracles: The Power of Forgiveness

The word “miracle” often conjures up images of fantastic unexplainable phenomenon being exercised in the world or someone’s personal life.  Many believe that a miracle must be a jaw dropping event that dwells in the unreasonable.  However, miracles in their most pure sense are simply events in which God intervenes.  These God interfering events can take place on any scale to the global impacting, to the almost insignificant.  A miracle can also have a logical explanation, people can point to other factors such as doctors, medicine, or even heroic action to why certain events took place, and yet, God’s hand can still be involved.  Anything logical or illogical; rational or irrational; supernatural or seemingly natural can be a miracle as long as God intervened to produce the outcome.

When Moses and the Israelites walked on dry ground through the Sea of Reeds (or traditionally the Red Sea) many people explained the event by utilizing tide changes, current, and wind.  Whatever happened on that fateful day God’s hand was intervening, and it was certainly miraculous.

So what do you suppose is the greatest modern miracle?  Where do you see the hand of God intervening in this world, your community, church, or your own personal life?  What miracle, or miracles do you see that have the power to truly transform the world?  What do we need to be healed from, or freed from the most?

I fully believe that the miracle to forgive is the greatest miracle that God has given to us today.  Forgiveness has so much potential power it can knock down divisive barriers, abolish devastating violence, and restructure our unstructured world.  The power of forgiveness through Jesus Christ is the only way we can experience true freedom and become who God created us to be.  This miraculous power of forgiveness, even though it begins with Jesus, does not end with him.  When Jesus was teaching in an overcrowd home (Matt. 9:1-8) a few men laboriously lifted their paralyzed friend to the roof of the house and began digging into the mudded ceiling.  After digging a substantial whole they lowered their friend down before Jesus.  When Jesus saw their faith he pronounced forgiveness on the paralyzed man much to the horror of the Pharisees who immediately judged Jesus guilty of blasphemy in their consciousness.’ Jesus knowing their thoughts, and wanting to demonstrate the power of God, then told the paralyzed man to stand up and walk.  The paralyzed man quickly stood up, took his mat and walked.  The scripture says the crowds were then amazed at the power God had given men.  But what exactly where the crowds amazed at?  Where they amazed that the man walked or were they amazed at something more?  Remember, Jesus performed the act to prove not that he could make a paralyzed man walk, but to prove that he could forgive sins.  The crowds were not so much amazed that the man walked, but that because the man walked the power of forgiveness was possible.

While the power of forgiveness begins with Jesus, it does not end with him.  Jesus shows that he is the Righteous One that forgive sins, and he passes that power to his disciple (John 20:23).  Jesus’ ministry, death, and resurrection show the power of the forgiveness of God and also the power we have to forgive others.  If we accept the power of the forgiveness of God, but we do not accept the power of forgiveness that God has given us to give to others, than we have severely missed the point (Matt. 6:9-18).

The miraculous power of forgiveness not only promises us the reward of eternal life, it also brings about much needed healing and peace.  Too often we have neglected the power of forgiveness.  After working a short six month internship as a chaplain at Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, IL I quickly learned from my own experience and the experiences of the nurses, that many of our physical illness are caused by heavy guilt, depression, unresolved conflict, and buried hatred.  There are many General Practitioners who willingly admit that their patients are suffering physically due to something emotionally/spiritually (depending on their vocabulary).  What these patients are missing is the miraculous power of the declarative words “you are forgiven.”  These patients need either to hear these words and experience the real power of forgiveness that comes first through Jesus Christ and release their burden (Matt. 11:28-30), or they need to be able to say the words to someone else who needs to be released (Luke 17:3).

The world asks for signs and miracles, yet we have been given the greatest and most transforming of all miracles and we refuse to practice and acknowledge it.  Imagine the world where you truly experienced forgiveness for all wrongs, and your enemies experienced forgiveness from you.  Where would be guilt if we forgave, where would be hatred, violence, or even sickness?  Hear and experience the miraculous life changing words given to us by God the Father     “In the name of Jesus Christ you are forgiven.”

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

vote for Jesus

Watching the GOP Presidential Debate in Massachusetts last night really got me thinking. During the debate there was a question to the candidates about whether the federal or state government has the power to decide the definition and the governance of marriage. The question stirred up the debate of homosexual marriage. Every one of the candidates seemed to express great discomfort in allowing the definition of marriage “between a man and a woman” to change including men marrying men and women marrying women.

The argument that one of the candidates expressed, and the conservative crowd agreed through applause, was that our families and children deserve the best that we can give them, and the best chance is through children having Fathers and Mothers to raise them.

I first must say I agree and have written and expressed many times our inability to take our sexual relationships seriously has created a greatly fractured family system with children being raised in unready, uncommitted, and missing parent homes. I also believe in God the creator of heaven and earth who designed marriage for commitment, family, and intimate relationship between man and woman. However, I have a great problem of government legislating Christian Ethics. I believe in lifelong committed marriage, and children that follow such a commitment. I believe God’s intent for marriage between man and woman, but I do not believe in making people who do not believe in the Christian God to be forced to follow my Christian Ethics.

According to the candidate, and the crowd, gay marriage should be illegal because straight marriage produces the best homes for children. By that logic everything that would prohibit the best possible home for children to be raised ought to be made illegal. Therefore, divorce ought to be made illegal, and having sex outside of marriage illegal, and adultery should be a serious crime with serious punishment. However, our government would not dream of making adultery, premarital sex, and divorce illegal because it is unethical to govern Christian Ethics to non-Christian people. The government should not be dealing with these issues, but the Church.

The life God calls us to live only works if we first have faith in God and the peace that comes through his Son Jesus Christ. If we do not know God, or Christ, the law is no good to us. Therefore, how can we who know God and the power of his salvation think of forcing our new life in the Spirit on someone who does not have the Spirit? Why would anyone keep the Sabbath, if they don’t believe in God the creator who rested on the seventh day? Why would anyone not blaspheme God, who does not believe in the power of the name of God? Christ did not call us to make people obey so that they may believe, but to show people God so that they may learn to believe and then obey. We are called to show that God created, so that they may learn to rest, we need to show that God is great and powerful, so that they will not blaspheme, and we need to show that the love of God designed a covenant of marriage so love may be a lifelong commitment that produces a caring and nurturing home for the potential of future children.

We are foolish however, to think we can legalize our scriptures into public law, and in return have pleased God. We are already told we have all broken the law, that we all have sinned (Romans 3:23), we need not more laws that enforce our Christian virtues, but we need more virtuous saints that teach and show the love, grace, and power of Jesus Christ. No politician, no law, and no political party can save the world from violence, poverty, indifference, and degradation, only Jesus the Christ can.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Greed is more than money

It is so easy for us to see the destructive greed of few who prey on the poor. We too often see those collecting millions and even billions of dollars through their companies while thousands of their employees are laid off, and those that have their jobs spared have their salaries reduced and their hours increase. As a people concerned with justice we have no problem identifying the selfishness of those who make their wealth off the laboring backs of the poor and oppressed.

It has been our rightful custom to spotlight the evil and wicked behavior of the disgustingly rich and the indifference to the poverty that has stricken their day and night laborers. Many will go uninsured, bills will be unpaid, and needs of children neglected, only to insure the company will have a positive quarter for their market shares. The broken backs of the working class have been crippled to carry the heavy load of affluence.

We have seen this, and our voices have cried out with injustice. We decry the behavior of the oppressors, and dream of the difference we would make if in their position.

However, I think far too many of us have been guilty of this greedy and selfish behavior no matter our own financial state. Many of us are guilty at pursuing our own richness at the expense of others.

Too many are pursuing their own sexual exploits at the expense future children. Too many men sleep around looking for the next score only to runaway and never show up again when a girl gets pregnant. They have pursued their own richness and joy at the expense of the woman and of the child. Women too sleep with men who are not good guys, good boyfriends, nor would they be good dads. When they get pregnant they do so unready, unwilling, and at the expense of a child.

I have seen in the last two years far too many children in broken families because their parents were too busy pursuing their own fun at the expense of their offspring. Too many children go with little food, little education, little love, and little support because we have been occupied with our own wants and desires. We live in a nation where even the poor have become greedy.

Now I am not saying all wealthy people are bad. There are many hard working generous people who have been blessed with resources. I am also no saying that mothers or fathers cannot rise up to an unplanned child and offer them a good home. What I am saying is that too often we put others at great disadvantage for the pursuit of our own pleasures, and this is greed. When we do that with our money, with future children, with our families we are no better than the CEO’s of Enron or Bernie Madoff.

I think it is not surprising than that Paul told the church in Philippi that in order for community to work we must Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves (Philippians 4:3). This is the antithesis of greed. It is easy in our country to worry about our rights, our privileges, our pursuit of happiness, but scripture tells us to throw our rights away to ensure the well being of others. That is the only way this world will change, that is how we can still turn this city around.