Forgiveness

Forgive, New Song from Reflect Worship

Forgive, new Reflect Worship Song

Forgiveness. Nothing can heal and even protect our heart from all wounds like forgiveness. In fact, nothing else ever will. And though forgiveness is vital to healthy spirituality (and our salvation) let’s not pretend that it is easy.

Forgiveness is probably one of the hardest things you’ll ever do. Where is the justice in just letting someone off the hook? To let them walk free after what they did to me? To forgive their debt? Where is the justice in that?

Well, one needs to look no further than the cross to find the answer. The justice for all wrongs and wounds was meted out and inflicted upon the LORD Jesus Christ as he was brutally tortured and nailed to a suspended wooden beam to suffocate in agony. His heart literally exploded from all the pressure and stress and strain of not only the physical torture he endured, but also of bearing the hellish torment of every sin ever committed. Because he loves us that much Jesus experienced the hell (the justice) that you deserved. He experienced the hell (the justice) that those who have wounded you deserve. He forgave us once for all at the cross and so, he asks us – No, he even requires – that we forgive those who have sinned against us.

Here is our latest song Forgive:


(adapted from a poem by Rosamond Herklots)

This song “Forgive” is about how forgiveness is such a vital element of the Lord’s Prayer:

“…forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.” Luke 11:4 NLT

Do we think about the fact that we are asking God to be as forgiving to us as we are to others? Hmmm… that should make us stop and ask ourselves, ‘God, is there anyone I am not forgiving? Will you help me to learn to forgive everyone fully from my heart?’

Jesus was once asked by his disciples:

“Then who can be saved?” And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26 NASB

I think about that as it relates to forgiveness as well. I would suggest that apart from a move of God and a profound act of grace from God on our behalf, it would be impossible to forgive. But with God…

I think about my friend Jon Stoffel. As they were out for a family outing, Jon, his wife, and his daughter Olivia were shot in a random act of violence by a distraught man. Jon and his daughter were killed and his wife survived. His last words to his wife in his parting moments were, “Forgive the shooter.”

I think about the families of the nine victims who were shot and killed by Dylann Roof in the South Carolina hate crime shooting who, by the grace of God, extended forgiveness to him. “This is how we deal with hate crimes”, they said. What the devil intended for evil God turned into good as the healing message of forgiveness went out across the world.

I think about Jesus last words to those who crucified him:

“Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34 NLT

I think about Stephen, the first martyr, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit was able to say in his last moments:

“Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!” Acts 7:60 NLT

I don’t pretend to suggest that forgiveness is ever easy. Our wounds may run very deep. But God’s love and grace can run deeper still and by His grace we can experience a “peace that passes all understanding” and extend that peace to others.

Who wouldn’t want that?

forgiveness kitten

I have written many other blogs on Forgiveness. Here are a few of them:

One of my favorite quotes about forgiveness:

‘Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.’ – Anne Lammot

Categories: Forgive, Forgiveness, Redemption, Reflect Worship Music | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Hallelujah, New Verses, New Version

Yesterday I shared the song Hallelujah on the piano at a nursing home. I had written some new verses for this song and talked about one of them with the group. As I spoke about the inspiration behind it, I was deeply moved. Here is the verse:

“Those who’ve been forgiven more,
Respond with love to the Lord,
So remember all the grace He’s given to ya,
He pursues you when you go astray,
When you choose wrong and lose your way,
Forgiveness gives you back your Hallelujah!”

The Inspiration:

hallelujah-squirrel.png editedOnce while Jesus was dining at the home of Simon, a religious leader, a woman who had a reputation for living a sinful life walked into Simon’s house. She stood at Jesus feet and sobbed in Christ’s loving presence. She was so moved and grateful for the grace, redemption, and lack of judgement she had found with Jesus that she washed his feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.

She even kissed Jesus feet and anointed them with expensive perfume. I was so overwhelmed as I spoke of how Jesus heart must have gone out to her… but then, sadly, this was compromised and soiled by Simon’s judgmental attitude toward the woman.

So Jesus told Simon a story about a king who forgave a man a smaller debt and another man a larger debt. Who do you think loved the king more?

Answer: The one who was forgiven more.

Jesus responds:

“I tell you, her sins–and they are many–have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” Luke 7:47 NLT

Read more about that story and hear my two year old sing the song Hallelujah!

I suppose the reason I get emotional over that story is because I can so relate to being the prodigal who has been warmly welcomed home by a loving heavenly Papa. This woman’s story is the prodigal son story fleshed out in a real life event in Jesus life. The woman is the prodigal and the religious leader was the older brother. We all ought to celebrate the grace and redemption of Jesus and then, like the Father does, gently and lovingly urge the “older brothers” among us to join the party!

Here is a Ukelele version of this brand new take on the song. It has a new melody and everything!

More Nursing Home Ministry Update:

My ministry concerts just keep getting better and better. My wife asks me how my concert went day after day and my reply has been for a while now, “It was the best one yet”!

A year ago I had a desire to be able to start incorporating piano into my concerts. Now I have enough really nice arrangements of piano songs in my repertoire to fill up an hour or more and have written a few songs on the piano as well. I love it!

I wanted to learn to play Be Thou My Vision on the piano because it is such a beautiful and powerful song. Read the song story here! The first time I decided to try Be Thou My Vision on the piano at a concert I figured that I would just play block chords which I was confident I could do. Instead I was amazed when I played all this arpeggiation and how the song had such flow and feeling. It was a great feeling to have communicated the song so well!

I shared Be Thou My Vision recently in Sheboygan and one lady talked with me afterwords. “That was one of my most favorite hymns. Thank you for sharing that. I am so glad I came down and I almost missed it. I enjoyed it so thoroughly even though I am in such incredible pain!” she said as she gripped my hand.

It blessed my heart so much recently at my concert in Milwaukee when one lady afterwords said, “I just feel so full of God! I just feel so full of God!” And this after I shared with her the “Leonard Nimoy blessing” and talked about what God’s Name, El Shaddai, means. From my studies it indicates that God is the One who fully satisfies our hearts. All our longings, desires, needs, and dreams. God satisfies them all!

It is interesting to think that this is why there is absolutely no reason to sin. To sin is not to trust and to look elsewhere to meet your “needs” or to find your identity in something less than God our Good Shepherd. If Jesus is your Good Shepherd, he takes such good care of his sheep that they lie down in green pastures. You, an ignorant helpless sheep, have all that you need, you are so full of blessing to the point that your lying down at rest with all this lush provision all around you. Your thirst is so satisfied in God and the peace he gives calms your heart and mind, your cup runs over with blessing!

I’d suggest for us all to read and meditate on Psalm 23 NLT:

The Lord is my shepherd;
I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
he leads me beside peaceful streams.
He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
bringing honor to his name.
Even when I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
protect and comfort me.
You prepare a feast for me
in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings.
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord
forever.

Categories: Forgiveness, Gospel, Grace, Redemption | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

What I learned from Ant and Pig

scary close donald millerI started reading Scary Close, the latest book by Donald Miller. It’s a book about the need for intimacy and the need for vulnerability to achieve said intimacy in relationships. He talks about dating his now wife and meeting a friend of hers that was “difficult”. He said to her something like, “Well I’d just as soon never hang out with that person again.”

The look she gave him made him think that he just destroyed their relationship.

Fortunately for him, the look meant that what he had suggested was unfathomable. She would never give up on a relationship no matter how difficult the person was.

Wow. This reminded me of an ordeal in my own life awhile ago.

I have a Christian friend who I thought was going to be a spiritual buddy with whom I could talk with about Christ and pursue a relationship with Jesus together. Sadly, this was not the case. He bristled at reading of the Bible and was chasing sin instead of Christ. (How often that has described me!)

I finally just got fed up and said to myself, “I’m done with this! If I never see him again it’s fine by me.” And I meant it. I walked away and planned to never see him again.

word_world_pig_feast_episode_youtube.pngThat night I came home and my kids were watching a few shows. One of which was Word World which we picked up for them at the library (great educational show for kids by the way!) In this particular episode there was a rift between Ant and Pig.

They stopped speaking to each other over a grievance and then, by the end of the show realized that they couldn’t let this stand in the way of their friendship anymore. They forgave and reconciled and were best friends once more.

Then my kids watched another show that night – Veggie Tales. Bob and Larry were part of a succesful band that broke up because of Larry’s big ego. Bob had been so hurt and held a grudge for 20 or more years. Larry tried to get the band together again for a reunion concert and Bob would have none of it. Finally though, he came around. There was this line in the show, “So after all these years of pain and suffering at his betrayal, you are willing to just let it go and forgive? Just like that?” “Yep.” Best friends once again.

Amazing what forgiveness can do right?

And then, by “sheer coincidence” of course, I put my Ellie to bed and what book should she want me to read to her but a story we got from the library about a famous playwright and his musician friend who worked together for years but then got into a feud and parted ways with each other who, by the end, learned to forgive and work together again.

“God, are you speaking to me?”

This totally reminds me of when Bruce from the movie Bruce Almighty asks God for a sign and a slow big truck pulls out in front of him packed full of street signs. “What’s this joker doing? Get out out of my way!” Bruce yells.

That’s just like us, isn’t it?

Well needless to say, I didn’t give up on my friend after all of that. And I’m glad I didn’t.

Is there someone you are tempted to give up on? I assure you it is a test. Will you choose to stick with and love and forgive the difficult people? What you choose to do defines you.

p.s. It just dawned on me that I am that difficult friend you have been tempted to give up on.

Categories: Forgiveness | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Tullian Tchividjian, a man after God’s own heart

 Tullian TchividjianTullian Tchividjian stepped down from his leadership role as senior pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida after he confesses to an immoral relationship. His wife committed adultery, he then followed the same destructive path. His last few tweets as of today were:

“I’m so so sorry. I love you all…fade to black.”

“So grateful that God is a bottom feeder.”

“No vertical condemnation does not mean no horizontal consequences. Surrender early.”

“Welcome to the valley of the shadow of death…thank God grace reigns here.”

“You and I are persistent promise breakers. God alone is a perpetual promise keeper.”
From his twitter page.

His bottom feeder comment reminds me of the song Swing Low, Sweet Chariot. As I like to say whenever I play that song, that chariot will swing as low as it has to in order to rescue the worst of us.

The Bible tells us that when Jesus suffered on the cross, He “swallowed death“. He became sin to make us the righteousness of God. Because of his love for us and for his Papa He voluntarily drunk the dregs of all it means to be separated from Love – His Papa – to rescue us from all that we had become apart from him. The way I like to think about Christ’s atonement is that Jesus has plumbed the very lowest depths of hell to rescue whoever might be there. He came for every last one of us sinners (see Ephesians 4:9-10).

Jesus took Tullian’s sin upon himself at the cross. At the cross Jesus became guilty of Tullian and his wife’s adultery and has already suffered the wrath of God on his behalf because of his great love for them. Jesus has done the same for you. He became guilty of all your sin.

Tullian is obviously receiving the forgiveness and restoration that Jesus extends to him. He has confessed his sin and can expect, along with anyone else who confesses their sin, to be completely forgiven and cleansed from all unrighteousness:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9 NIV)

One of the comments on one of the posts on Tullians Facebook page was this:

“Tullian Tchividjian, hearing the news was heart breaking. I pray God uses this to further his gospel and pray you and your wife find common ground. You said it yourself “I am the biggest sinner I know.” You are upholding that phrase well but you are also upholding a better practice, confession and repentance. What you did makes you no less of a leader to a lot of us. Depending how you handle the situation it could even make you a bigger one. Come out of this a better pastor, father, and husband. Don’t rest and give the devil hell.”

God will and is using this to further the Gospel (The Good News) that Jesus loves and forgives sinners. None of our sin will remain secret for long. All of heaven knows all our stuff already, and the Lord has said, “you may be sure that your sin will find you out” (Num 32:23) and “God cannot be mocked, we reap what we sow”. And again, “But there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known.” (Luke 12:2 NASB)

We will all stand before God one day and give an account for our lives. Jesus has assured us we have the opportunity through trust in him and by receiving his gift of righteousness that we can stand before him pure and clean and as white as snow warmly received by cheering crowds of heavenly saints and angels because we trusted and appropriated his gift.

Or, we can hide and cling to our sin and suffer the profound shame and regret in the presence of a Holy God and all the saints and angels.

“People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy.” Proverbs 28:13 NLT (NASB says “will find compassion”)

Another quote from Tullian:

“If the depths of everyone’s sin was made public, we would all be much more gracious to each other.” ~ Tullian Tchividjian

He’s very quotable. I also wholeheartedly believe he truly is a man after God’s own heart. This phrase was used by the LORD of King David. His sins were made public too. He suffered some severe horizontal consequences. Many who are reading this have as well. There is grace for you!

The thing about grace that is often overlooked, and even perhaps not stressed enough (even by Tullian) is that grace empowers us to live holy lives. To live a holy life is a New Testament imperative:

“…but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.” If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth…” 1 Peter 1:15-17 NASB

He means it. He gives us the Holy Spirit to see to it. He expects it, commands it, and demands it. So, what does being “holy” mean? I have come to learn that, just like the commitment we make in marriage, it means essentially that you become 100% God’s… i.e. wholly God’s, surrendered. This is what the Bible also refers to as, “pure in heart”. We get to surrender our all to love! This is why I love the song I Surrender All which appears on our last album:

The result of this complete and absolute and total surrender is living empowered by the Holy Spirit to do and be and live as God would have you to. His Grace (His unmerited favor) works this into our lives:

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.” (Titus 2:11-14 NKJV)

God will change us because he loves us Tullian

I still love Tullian and still think he has a great deal to contribute to the kingdom of love in Jesus Christ… in fact, even more so now. I am reminded of a quote about Johnny Cash after he passed on: “Sinners make the best saints.”

I will still recommend Tullians books and teachings (Here is one not to be missed: Jesus Plus Nothing Equals Everything!). I also suggest you visit his Facebook page and subscribe for grace filled quotes and encouragement. I pray for the healing of his marriage and that God would bless his ministry to all the rest of us sinners made saints by the grace (unmerited, undeserved, unearned favor – and smile – of God upon us) of Jesus (whose Name means “I AM Salvation”). I encourage you to run to Jesus yourself and find his open arms welcoming you back into the sweet loving fellowship of your Papa who loves you intensely and immensely.

Jesus plus nothing equals everything

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Categories: Forgiveness, Gospel, Grace, Redemption | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Redeemed, Song and Story

Redemption is such a beautiful thing! I absolutely love the idea that any prodigal can come home to find Papa running to meet them. He embraces everyone who comes to him and showers them with affection and fatherly love. All of heaven rejoices! This is the very heart of God. Redemption is the heartbeat of heaven.

Jesus has said, “”It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31-32 ESV)

Again, Jesus told a story to illustrate this in Luke 15 after he is “maligned” by the religious leaders who said, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them”.

Well, actually he tells three stories. Each story increasingly emphasizes the value of what has been lost and then found. The story of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and finally the lost son. I don’t know how many times I have cried at the story of the prodigal son.

I remember on one occasion I was reading Luke 15 at a nursing home and when I came to the verse where the Father says, “Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” Jesus stood right in front of me and looked me in the eyes. He was speaking those words to my heart… and yes, I cried.

Psalm 107 is full of stories of people being redeemed and rescued as they simply call on the Lord for help. I hope this song, which is based on Psalm 107 blesses you and spiritually enriches your life!

Thanks for listening! Leave me a comment to let me know how this has touched your life!

ps. Take a moment to read Luke 15 again… and again!

Categories: Forgiveness, Redemption | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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