28 May 2010
“Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.”
~ Mark Twain
: : :
Why should someone constantly forgive someone they love OVER and OVER for the same thing? At what point would the smart choice be to leave? ~ Anonymous
Oy vey what a question! Where to start?
Let’s begin by talking about “smart.”
Smart follows this logic:
God is wiser than I am.
God loves me and wants to bless me.
Therefore, doing what God says is good for me.
God’s greatest act was a response to humanity’s greatest need. Our greatest need is not for joy, or peace, or even love. Our greatest need is for the forgiveness which makes joy, peace and love possible. God provides what we need to obtain His forgiveness and receive freedom from our sins (through the death of Jesus Christ); He also directs us to forgive others so that we obtain freedom from the sins committed against us.
Forgiveness acts in cooperation with God toward His blessing.
Among the biggest objections to forgiveness are:
1) What about justice?
2) What about putting a stop to sin?
3) What about protecting the person being hurt by sin?
1) Forgiveness means allowing justice to be handled by the proper government, church, or perhaps family authority. Where no authority seems able or willing to enact justice, it must be left in the hands of God. As a former police officer, a former church board member, and a daughter, wife and mother, I can attest that human authorities all fail at perfect justice anyway. We should nonetheless seek their intervention as appropriate, remembering that final justice and vengeance lies solely in the hands of God, whose decision is perfect. To seek our own vengeance on any level is to accuse God of being inadequate.
2) Putting an end to sin requires repentance. An authority might compel outward repentance. We can ask for sincere and inward repentance. But the thorough heart repentance which puts an end to sin is possible only through God, with the cooperation of the offender.
3) Sin will always hurt someone. Sin and suffering are part of life on Planet Earth. When sin is overtly abusive, it is certainly appropriate to make attempts to protect those it injures. But instead of asking “when is it smart to leave?” the question is “what is the next step?” There is no way to anticipate all the next steps and their timing except by asking God. The person who is willing to act according to God’s plan will get answers from Him:
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.”
~ Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NKJV)
Here are a few more reasons to forgive:
• sin is against God, and owned by him; to forgive is merely acknowledging His ownership and allowing Him to deal with sin
• forgiveness sets both parties free
• failing to forgive causes bitterness, which harms its holder
• we repeatedly sin against God, needing His forgiveness "over and over"
• forgiveness does not remove accountability
• forgiveness does not remove the need to rebuild trust and relationship
• forgiveness does not remove consequences
This is an extremely brief piece on the hardest thing we are asked to do. I did another, guest post earlier this week on forgiveness, titled “Divine Gift.” A number of questions about forgiveness were posed, and I provided additional answers in the comments there. I invite you to look at them if you’re interested in further thoughts. You’re also welcome to ask as many more questions as you’d like in the comments below.
© 2010 Anne Lang Bundy
Image source: ayalasmellyblog.blogspot.com
21 May 2010
“How do I know that God exists?
It would be much harder for me to prove that He doesn’t.”
~ Mary McFarland
How do Christians KNOW that God exists?
Anonymous young girl, Napa Valley, California
There are so many proofs of God’s existence that the Bible says God doesn't believe in atheists:
What can be known about God is clear to [people] because he has made it clear to them. From the creation of the world, God's invisible qualities, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly observed in what he made. As a result, people have no excuse.
~ Romans 1:19-20 (GW)
Although the Bible supports them, the ten proofs presented here also exist independently of the Bible.
CONSCIENCE Romans 2:14-15
God gave Ten Commandments to define right behavior. But humans also know inside their own hearts when they have done wrong. The experience of guilt comes from the Creator. (See remarks on C.S. Lewis, below.)
CREATION Romans 1:18-21
Only the existence of God explains creation, whether the vast universe or the incredible amount of information stored in tiny DNA—whether life’s impossibly delicate balance or the beauty of nature explained only by a divine Artist. Scientists can neither prove nor agree on the origins of the universe and of life, but science supports everything in the Bible.
CIRCUMCISION Genesis 17:10-11
Over 4,000 years ago, Abraham began to practice circumcision—cutting off a piece of skin on male genitals—as a sign of covenant with God. This testifies of God because it is impossible that men would think of it on their own or do it to themselves for something less than faith in God.
COVENANT Deuteronomy 4:27,31; Rom 11:25-26
God promised that He would preserve His people Israel forever. They have endured slavery, captivity, diaspora, exile, occupation, pogroms, holocaust, and terrorism. They regained sovereignty in 1947 for the first time in over 2500 years. No other people has survived so much. It has been said by many people that Israel's existence is sufficient proof of God’s existence.
CHRONICLES John 20:30-31
The Bible is foremost the Word of God. It is also a legitimate historical record among numerous others. We know about the existence and words of other people based on their writings and those of firsthand witnesses. The existence of God and of Jesus and of what they said and did are more widely attested by historical chronicles and archeological finds than any other person.
CRUCIFIXION John 15:22-24
The Romans used crucifixion as the most horrific death possible. Historical records confirm the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. He had opportunities to avoid being crucified, and the Bible shows that His own will was for God to spare Him from it in some manner. His submission to crucifixion testifies that He did it in obedience to God and love for mankind, not as a victim of the Jews or Romans.
CONFESSION 1 Corinthians 15:17,19
Hundreds of people confessed to seeing the divine and living Jesus after He rose from the dead. Their testimony is reinforced by their willingness to undergo persecution, torture and death. It is not reasonable to believe they would die for something they did not know to be true with certainty.
CHARACTER Matthew 5:16
While no Christian is as good as Christ Himself—and some claim to be Christians who are not—the character of Christians is often so loving that it defies explanation apart from God.
COUNSELOR John 14:26-27
Those who entrust themselves to Jesus receive His Holy Spirit (“Counselor”). They know the change He produces in their lives, and the power He gives them to be whom God asks them to be and to do what is otherwise impossible.
CONVICTION Mark 3:29; John 16:8-11
Jesus said even those who are not Christians receive conviction (internal knowledge) from the Holy Spirit. Because the Holy Spirit’s truths and proofs are so powerful, Jesus also said that those who defame the Holy Spirit will be eternally condemned.
Many people have attempted to prove that God does not exist. A prominent example is C.S. Lewis, the atheist who was converted to Christianity by the simplicity of morality being present in the human conscience but having no explanation in the absence of holy God. The classic Mere Christianity is his resulting book, with more detail and eloquence than this post. I highly recommend it to Christians and non-Christians alike.
© 2010 Anne Lang Bundy
Image Source: acus.org
18 May 2010
One morning during second grade summer school, when my family lived in Northern California, I stood in front of a school assembly and sang Johnny Horton's Sink The Bismarck. Everyone clapped. It was great. Since that moment, I’ve wanted to be a rock star.
Thank God for unanswered prayers.
My one brush with rock stardom came when I got on stage with a New Jersey punk-rock band, touring through Europe, named Mucky Pup. We met in a overlit bar before one of their concerts. We shared a few beers … then a few more … and then we did shots of Jaegermeister … and then we drank a few more beers ....
Before you could shout Sex Pistols! three times fast, I was on stage with Mucky Pup, in front of 800 screaming Germans, singing covers from The Who. The base player for Mucky Pup stopped playing long enough to take my picture. It was cool.
Near the end of the set, I climbed on top of stage speakers. About eight feet above the audience, I executed a stage dive - a very stylish one, I might add - directly on top of the mosh pit. A dense cluster of unsteady arms held me up for a few seconds before we collapsed on the floor. About half the people were cursing, the rest were laughing, and all of us were scrambling to stand up before our heads got stomped on. The music continued.
One is never too hedonistic for prayer. – Kari Cobham
Outside the concert hall, I shared a cigarette with a German girl, while Mucky Pup continued to play. After, I had to run to catch the last regional train back to Bamberg and the Army base. Morning formation was just three hours away.
The train was empty. I slid a window down, shut my eyes, and let the cool German country air hit my face.
At moments like this I felt lonely and a little lost, and would wonder about God. -- How far away He seemed, how wrong I was to think so.
It took a long time for me to realize that attention seeking behavior, like trying to impress people who do not know me, hard partying, stage diving, performing for the crowd, are empty promises.
All human stories, your story, my story, are stories about grace, either accepted or rejected.
You can reject God’s love, but you cannot outrun God’s love. He loves you dearly, no matter what you have done.
Even when I was wide open and running from God as fast as I could … He was there, pursuing me, loving me, waiting for me. He loves you that much, too. Do yourself a favor and stop running.
... Father, You are our God and we thank You for your mercy and grace. Walk with us and turn our hearts to follow You. Help us to see Your truth. In Jesus name we cry out to You ...
14 May 2010
death will gather our souls to them."
~ Thomas Boston
If a child is sanctified by their believing parent, what about the children of the unbelieving?
This question was posed in response to the following statement from last week's Q&A about baptizing infants:
If infants are not baptized, are their souls in jeopardy? The Bible indicates that children are "sanctified" (made holy) by the believing parent (1 Corinthians 7:14). There is no indication of up to what age such sanctification continues. It might be: until an unspecified age of accountability; until a specific age of recognized maturity such as twelve or twenty; or for as long as the child remains in the believing parent’s house, under their "covering" of authority.
There is an ancient principle observed to this day in some cultures which offers protection to someone brought under the covering offered by another person. When Paul's ship faced destruction, God told him that all who sailed with him would be protected, and Paul warned the centurion: "Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved." (Acts 27:31 NKJV) Ruth asked Boaz to bring her under his covering: "Spread the corner of your garment over me." (Ruth 3:9 NIV) The principle was explicit when Lot brought two men into his home in evil Sodom: "Do nothing to these men, since this is the reason they have come under the shadow of my roof." (Genesis 19:8 NKJV)
In numerous biblical examples, a person entering the walls of a city not only received the covering of protection from that city, but the entire city might be either spared or destroyed due to that person's presence—unless that person left the city. This is why the Lord did not destroy Sodom and Gomorrah until righteous Lot (whose name means "covering") had departed from those cities. When Lot's wife looked back, she was displaying continuing alliance to Sodom and its wickedness rather than to her husband and his righteousness, so she was also destroyed.
I believe this principle is employed in the Scripture which speaks of children being sanctified by the faith of just one parent. The word "sanctified" means "made holy," which indicates a change from another condition.
We all start out evil.
Although humanity wants to see itself as basically good, we are inherently evil. We want to see infants as innocent, but they are born with the parents' DNA for evil. If at least one parent has been sanctified by the blood of Jesus and made holy, children are brought under the covering of the parent's faith and protected. If neither parent has been sanctified, then children have no spiritual protection from condemnation until they obtain sanctification on their own. (It cannot be obtained by baptizing them, because baptism is a personal testimony—see last week's post.)
My guess would be that this spiritual covering extends until children separate themselves from the parent spiritually in some way. Each individual must make a decision to turn from evil toward God, and obtain sanctification for oneself. If this occurs while still under the parent's covering, then there is no "lapse in coverage."
If it seems harsh for an infant to suffer condemnation, it might help to shift our perspective from an entitlement mentality which thinks Heaven is our right. Heaven is not the destiny for everyone who doesn't opt out, but the destiny of those who choose to be reconciled with their Creator and opt in. Heaven would be no better than Earth if filled with unsanctified, unholy, evil people.
God does not force people to dwell with Him for eternity who are united to those who oppose Him. Earth is the place to determine our alliance.
© 2010 Anne Lang Bundy
Image source: guardian.co.uk
10 May 2010
The most important thing in life is to learn how to love, and to let it in. - Morrie Schwartz
An individual does not have enough fingers and toes to count all of the theoretical approaches to psychotherapy. Psychoanalysis, Family Systems Therapy, Person Centered Counseling, Reality Therapy, and Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, are the names of just a few.
Many of the approaches to therapy and counseling contradict each other in theory and practice, yet all enjoy some degree of efficacy and support.
What analysis is all about is for one hour a week, you sit and hope that for a flash of a moment you will experience connectedness. -Marion Woodman
Irvin D. Yalom, M.D., one of the fathers of existential therapy, and the author of Love's Executioner, asked how can competing approaches to counseling all work? What factor do they have in common?
Yalom answers his own question. He believes that healing takes place, in all of the theoretical approaches, when a person admits their deepest fears and secrets to another human being … and still feels accepted and valued.
But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners. – Matthew 9:13
There are so many places in scripture where Jesus talks about reaching out to each other. We all need to be listened to. We all need compassion. We all need to be able to tell our stories, not be judged, and to feel loved.
We are the conduits of what Jesus came to Earth to offer humanity: love, mercy, and forgiveness.
... Father, we thank you for being a God of second chances. Father, forgive us for not listening to each other. Father, turn our hearts and teach us to love the way that you love. In Jesus name we pray ...
07 May 2010
Where in Scripture does it talk about infant baptism? Or is it just a human tradition?
~ Archie Palmer, Burlington KS
"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you."
To whom and how baptism is done—as part of making disciples—is a point of difference among denominations.
Scripture only speaks of baptism being performed as a response of faith, by those old enough to do so. Consider Acts 16:32-34 (NKJV):
Then they [Paul and Silas] spoke the word of the Lord to him [the jailer] and to all who were in his house... And immediately he and all his family were baptized... and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.
This passage has been used to explain baptizing infants, since “all his family” were baptized. But the context indicates that these were people who listened to the Gospel and “believed.”
Some churches baptize infants, then practice “confirmation” when a child is older and can testify to faith. But this is generally done collectively, for an entire class, rather than at an individual’s initiative. It tends toward confirmation by default—unless one chooses to opt out—rather than in accordance with the biblical example of opting in.
The biblical ritual for infants comes from the command of God given to Moses in Leviticus 12. Males were circumcised on the eighth day. Then after a male was forty days old or a female was eighty days old, the mother brought an offering to the Lord. Jesus is presented at the temple (Luke 2:22) in accordance with this command. Thus the practice in many churches today is of dedicating an infant (or young child) to the Lord.
If infants are not baptized, are their souls in jeopardy? The Bible indicates that children are “sanctified” (made holy) by the believing parent (1 Corinthians 7:14). There is no indication of up to what age such sanctification continues. It might be: until an unspecified age of accountability; until a specific age of recognized maturity such as twelve or twenty; or for as long as the child remains in the believing parent’s house, under their “covering” of authority.
Do you have a question about the Bible or Christianity? Leave it in today’s comments to be considered for a future post.
© 2010 Anne Lang Bundy
Image source: holycrossoh.org
03 May 2010
He alone stretches out the heavens and treads on the waves of the sea.
Here in Daytona Beach, modesty is not one of our spiritual gifts. Spring Break 2010 is over, but the world’s most famous beach still plays host to a sea of partially dressed humanity. The sand is hard packed here; cars weave freely in and out of sunbathers smearing sunscreen on each other’s shoulders. Waves colliding with sand is a part of our rhythm of life in Florida.
Friday I joined forces with my friend and colleague, Michael McCrory, for a little beach walk. A thirty-mile toddle, from Ponce Inlet, north, to Flagler Beach … thirty miles? What the HECK were we think’n …
Post trip observations:
Retirees own the beach around sunrise. I guess all the young pups are getting ready for work, nursing hangovers, or both.
If you want to collect seashells, get to the beach early. Small armies of seashell hunters storm the beach like viking invaders and grab the best formed shells within the first few hours of sunlight. McCrory found a nice sand dollar, but it fractured, like the bones in our feet, by the end of our death march.
Arm tattoos, the kind that look like shirtsleeves, are getting popular with twenty-something women. I noticed the trend in San Francisco last month, but I thought it might be a West Coast thing … guess not. I wonder what those tattoos are going to look like when those young ladies get that flabby-arm-thing some grandmothers get.
Families are a huge contingent on the beach. What stood out most Friday is how much joy parents get from watching their children play. Kids never stop smiling as they jump over waves with their arms straight up in the air or roll themselves up in blankets of sand.
The beach has a spellbinding effect on children. Laughing children have a spellbinding effect on parents.
The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. -- Romans 8:16
Near the end of our walk, somewhere near mile twenty-five, the beach cleared, and I had a moment to stop and face the windy Atlantic alone. Long shadows from sea oats and saw palmetto mingled with my own shadow.
God, who am I that you should love me? I have done so much wrong. I have hurt others. I have shamed myself and my family. How can you possibly love me?
His answer was clear as waves crashed nearby: Rusty, I love you. I have always loved you. Like those children dancing in the sea today, you belong to me, you are precious to me.
And, it is true. God loves you that much, too.
... Father, thank you for the sea. Thank you for the beach. And, thank you for our children. Father, be with us and those we love. In Jesus name we pray ...