Capital I and Understood You Make Jesus Sad

We do something subtle in the English language that I think speaks volumes to how we think of ourselves and treat others in respect.

The pronoun ‘I’ is the only pronoun capitalized. But this wasn’t the original intention. After very brief research, it seems the only reason it was changed was because i (lowercase) didn’t stand out enough when written. We have the word ‘a’ that remains lowercase, but i became I so it could be more easily noticed.

I might not have thought much more of that if we didn’t also do something peculiar with the word ‘you’. We completely take it away. Its called the understood you. So, I can say, ‘go to the market’ and the ‘you’ remains absent from print because everyone simply understands what I meant, so I shouldn’t have to say it.

Did you catch that? ‘I’ needs to stand out and be noticed, while ‘you’ needs to remain hidden. ‘I’ is the exception to the rule. And we know how to do that so very well.

I’m reminded of the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18, who after being forgiven his massive debt rounded up those who owed him smaller debts and refused to forgive them. He was a capital I. He sought mercy when he couldn’t pay. It was all about him. And once the mercy was received he sent the lowercase ‘you’s’ to jail because it was still all about the important capital ‘I’. They owed him money.

He simply couldn’t understand how they could be in the same boat he was in. They had families and needs and sicknesses and circumstances and they cried for mercy just as he had. This is exactly what happens when I am capital and you are lowercase… or even worse, you aren’t even on the page with me.

It’s in how we write and talk, It’s in how we drive, how we treat each other online, it’s even seen in the churches… we just can’t stop admiring that tall, slender, capital ‘I’. There are so many scriptures to quote about how God intended for us to treat each other that I feel like just handing over the Bible should cover it. It’s everywhere. It’s in every book, in every timeline, in every parable. Both Old and New Testament, both before and after Jesus..

Even as Jesus hung from the cross he found a moment of compassion and made sure someone would take care of his mother after he finished dying.

We have spent so much time learning how unique and special we are, we forget that everyone else is too. And while there are some good lessons to be learned about how God created us as individuals and why… it kind of lets the air out of the balloon when we consider that if every single one of us is special, then the very thing we all have in common is our special-ness.

In other words…. none of us are special because we all have something special. Special is common among God’s creation. Instead of finding our servant and demanding what is ours, we are meant to forgive as we have been forgiven (Ephesians 4:32, Luke 6:31, John 15:12, Matthew 7:12, Romans 12:10… and so, so many more)

What an amazing verse, that Romans 12:10… ” Outdo one another in showing honor ” Its a contest to come in last place. By our standards, we need to concede. We should yield. Words that don’t sound positive at all… lose, forfeit, surrender, sacrifice.

Ah, sacrifice. So many verses in the Bible talk about forgiving as we have been forgiven. Just like the unforgiving servant. A sacrifice has been made for us as well. Should we accept the sacrificial lamb and then refuse to sacrifice for others? I don’t believe that was the spirit of the gift.

I believe we are meant to deflate the I. It’s time to put you back on the page. The most significant man to walk the earth made himself insignificant with us in mind. He did it completely so we could have some significance. Our response is not to demean or belittle others.

There is an age old lie being whispered to your inner conscience. It was told to Jesus when he fasted for 40 days. I will make you a king. I will give it all to you. Others will serve you. You will never want again. Look at how big and shiny that ‘I’ is. Nothing can compare. You deserve this. Those insignificants can’t take that from you…

We are supposed to be fighting. It is a war. But the battle is to lift each other up. To outdo one another in showing honor. To lover greater, sacrifice more, and forgive first.


Photo by Anto Fredric on Unsplash

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Do You Really Only Have One Shot?

I have always been amazed at how photographers can capture such amazing, seemingly magical moments by pressing a button at the precise moment that a breathtaking event occurs.

My recent exploration of cameras has pulled back the curtain as to how this actually happens.  First, there is a portion of time that is less than a second.  What I mean by this is you don’t just have one second to take a picture.  You can take pictures in fractions of a second.  One of the cameras I want to buy can take over 20 pictures in a single second.

Humans typically blink in a tenth of a second.  So you can quickly see how over 20 pictures during that second can get around one of many problems that can occur if you were to only snap a shot one time.  Cameras also come with a buffer.  This can hold those 20+ photos that are coming in every second for multiple seconds.  The camera is taking in pictures faster than it can permanently write them to storage so it needs a place to hold them while you are still capturing.

Once the buffer is full, or once you are done taking the pictures, it will then write the pictures captured to the camera storage for you to sort through later.  This can amount to hundreds of photos all captured in a matter of seconds.  And this explains how its done.  They just hold down the button and let the moment unfold before them.  A bird in flight, a baseball swing, a shooting star, that perfect smile…

I used to think that photographers had to stop, pull out their camera, turn it on, point, focus, and then press the button one time and hope that they were lucky enough to catch something good.  And if they missed.  If they were too early or too late… it was gone forever.

I tried photography years ago and found it frustrating because my images were always blurry and I felt like I missed every opportunity.  I feel like many of us live our lives like this.  We think we only get one shot.  And if we muster up enough of whatever we need to take it and it doesn’t go so well, we are through.

We only give our marriages one shot.  We give our friends one chance.  This situation gets only one round from me.  And if it gets painful, or hard, or frustrating… I’m out!  Maybe we give it two chances or three, but the end result is the same.  We know how to quit.  We are experts at giving up.  Wasting time on fruitless things is not something we like to do.

Whats worse is we give up on ourselves just as easily.  We get tired of making the same mistake over and over and over and we can’t comprehend how anyone could accept such failure.  Peter said that he does the things he should not do and he does not do the things he should.  I appreciate him sharing that.  It gives me hope.  I get the sense he is constantly at odds with himself.

God is the God of second chances.  But also third chances, forth chances, hundredth chances, and beyond.  Much, much beyond.  We cannot out-sin God’s grace.  It doesn’t mean we should try to, it just means we have hope if we desire a fresh start with our Father in heaven.

I want to encourage us to not only give others a chance, but to give ourselves a chance… lots of them.  God’s buffer never fills up.  If we can understand how He extends grace to others, remember that works for us too.  Bluntly put, we aren’t the exceptions we often think we are.  He loves us and forgives us when we seek that.  All of us.

 


Erasing Makes A Mess

I worked for an unscrupulous manager when I was growing up.  He would fill out the schedule in pencil and, when it suited him the most, he would erase time slots and fill it out again.  Thankfully, the GM was smart, and when I showed him the faint outline left by the erasing it was obvious that the data was altered.

I used to use erasable ink pens until I learned that no amount of swiping would make the surface completely clean.  Maybe technology has changed, but when I was a child, writing something in an erasable format was like putting something on the internet… there was no way to get rid of it.  Like a dirty chalkboard, you can make out bits and pieces of what was previously documented there.

This is why I’m thankful that Jesus didn’t erase our sins.  He took them.  If He had just forgiven us, there would still be a remnant or stain.  And in our minds we would know what we have done.  It’s hard to live through guilt.  Jesus took our sins.  More specifically, He bought them.  They had a price and we couldn’t afford it.  Jesus stepped in and heaped them all on Himself in our place.

I know a lot of people who won’t begin or further a relationship with Jesus because of their past.  They feel that God is all powerful, but He can’t forgive them.  They think that they have messed up too many times.  They use phrases like too much, too late, or too hard.  The gift we have been given pretty much means that we don’t have a past anymore.  We only have a future.

Jesus found a way so that when someone comes along and scratches the surface of our lives, they don’t find the person we used to be.  That person is gone. We are new with Christ.  That doesn’t just mean we act different, it means we ARE different.  We have a full new history of grace, forgiveness, and salvation.

Satan would have you believe that if someone comes along, they can perform that trick the detectives use on TV shows with a pencil on a post it note to uncover your secrets.  God’s truth is that you have no secrets… His Son paid for them all.  The temptation is to retreat in your sin.  The gift is that you have no sin.  Not if you accept the gift of Christ crucified and live in a relationship with Him.  So please allow me to encourage you to stop letting your sin keep you from Christ, when it is Christ who keeps your sin from you.  Stop trying to erase the sin, when He will fully take it all.

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Judge or Sinner? Pick a Side

There really isn’t a third group.  Jesus ate with sinners.  He spoke to those that followed Him (fishermen, children, diseased, depressed, hopeless).  They took one glance at this man and followed Him.  Then there were the religious elite, the pharisees.  He often rebuked them as their judgement was in error and had no place in a gospel built on love and forgiveness.

So where is the third group?  Where is the group we all think we belong in?  Where would we be sitting if Jesus walked into the mall today and there we are?  Most of us admit we have sinned at one time way back when, but we really dislike the connotation of ‘sinner’.  The pharisees were far worse.  Hypocrites, self righteous, pious.  We don’t want to be lumped in with them… but we certainly don’t find ourselves at the tax collector’s table either.

So who are we?  Maybe we could argue we fit in the middle?  That almost sounds like being lukewarm, which promises we will be spat out of grace should that be the case.  I can tell you who you are, but you may not like it.  It’s both good news and bad.  Lets start with the bad.

You are the sinner.  We all are.  We are human.  We have fallen.  We have a diabolical enemy with an army of demons that literally want to drag us to Hell fighting over our souls.  We make mistakes, we goof, and sometimes we just plain choose to do dumb things.  We are actively sinners.  All of us.  The pharisees are simply the group of us that lives in denial.

So, the good news?  We are the ones Jesus came to save.  We would find Him at our table.  He would come into our home.  He will heal us.  He will free us.  He will forgive us.  He will lift us up and allow us to join with Him in the place He has prepared for His children.

Two groups of people.  One followed Him, touched Him in faith, carried their sick to Him, washed His feet.  Sinners, all of them.  The other group nailed Him to the cross because they felt superior to Him and those He came to save.  They also feared Him.  Jesus came to us in our mess.  He meets us where we are.  He did it before and it cost His life.  He does it still.

Why did the pharisees hate Him?  He came to save us.  Our group.  The little guy.  They thought he belonged at the cool table.  But He choose the outcast, the lonely, the forgotten.  The pharisees pass judgement and then claim they are holier than any other.  Do you recall the simple scripture that addresses judgement?  Here it is in all its tricky, complicated, pieces for us to sort out and argue over… “Do not judge.”.

Sounds like a wonderful test to me.  Which group do you belong?  Whose sins are you worried about?  Yours?  Or those of another?   Does Jesus live in your home?  Or do you grind your teeth at the thought of others worshiping Him?  Those people who do it all wrong.  They meet on the wrong day, they sing the wrong songs, they interpret God’s word differently than you.  How dare they enjoy His presence… His blessing… His gift!

The good news about being in the ‘sinners’ group is that we have each other.  All of us, in it together, needing grace, knowing what stumbling is like, knowing what shame feels like, knowing what judgement feels like.  And as we yearn to be more like Jesus, we can sense what forgiveness feels like as we embrace each other, sinners all the same, and love each other the way He taught us to.  There is simply no room for judgement.  We do not wish to be judged and we do not judge.

What replaces judgement?  Prayer.  We pray for each other.  We pray for the pharisees.  We pray for our enemies, for those who wrong us.  We pray for those who need grace, love, healing, and hope.  We do life together.  Helping each other.  We embrace the words spoken as Jesus prepared to return to heaven.  “let them be one”.  We unite in our sin (not as a badge of honor, but as a common ground of understanding).  And much more so, we unite in our need for grace and humility.

I’m not proud of my sin, but I love those traveling with me who withhold judgement.  We have a common enemy that would use that against us if we let him.  Something great happens when we accept what group we are in.  It’s not giving up… we always strive to improve and make God proud every chance we can.  But knowing our place disarms the enemy.  He can’t hold our past hostage over us any longer.  When we know our place, we know we are forgiven.

When we know our place, we know we are loved and the lies of the enemy sounds as hypocritical as the judgement cast down from those told to not judge.  We all need forgiveness.  Some of us need to forgive.  Some of us need to invite God into our mess.  He will come.  Just as you are.  Just where you are.  One of Satan’s biggest lies is that we have to meet some criteria to be worthy of forgiveness.  What a tremendous lie that is!

Don’t be that monkey in the middle who thinks that only the other two sides get to play.  Jump out and claim your place at the sinners table filled with grace, love, forgiveness, hope, eternal promises, and have a seat next to our heavenly brother, Jesus.  He has been waiting for you.

Opting out of Grace does not Mean God Can’t Forgive

There are frequently two incorrect assumptions many assign to God.

1.  I’m not good enough.

2.  My sin is too great.

First, you may notice I said we assign those assumptions to God.  That was not a typo.  We may be sulking in our own history of mistakes, but we are effectively saying, “I have dug a hole so big even God can’t reach me!”

Do you really believe that is possible?  Are we so great that our mishaps can limit our creator?

Secondly, lets revisit what God did to forgive our sins.  He let His Son live a homeless, nomadic life on earth, allowed him to be mocked, tortured, and killed, and put all of our sins on Him in our place.  Do we really believe that after all of that, His plan to save US had a flaw?  Are we so clever we found a loophole?

When you claim your sins are too big, you are also saying God is too small.  And incidentally, you are kind of saying the whole death on a cross thing was a bit of a dud.   Equally so, if we assume our merit, in any way, affects God’s relationship with us, we have a gross misunderstanding of God’s plan from the beginning.  Jesus came to save the sinner… of which we all are.

We cloak our statements so it sounds like we are so bad and unworthy…. but what we are really saying is that God can’t.  Or God won’t.  That line of thinking has a problem with tense.  God did!  It’s already done. The price has already been paid.  To know that Jesus already died for your sins and then to believe you are exempt from that salvation is to call God’s plan a failure.  You think you are saying, “no, I failed… ME!”  but that is exactly why you have been forgiven… because we all fail.  We all seek forgiveness… and God will give that grace-filled forgiveness to any and all who ask sincerely.

Why would He go through the agony of letting His Son die…  Why would Jesus go through the whole of it… if it wasn’t a complete package deal?  Did God tell Him, “sorry, Son, the liars and thieves can be saved but the adulterers and murderers are on their own?  No.

No matter how sick, how disgusting, how repulsive you find yourself… Jesus bought those attributes from you.  There might be something holding you back or keeping you from letting go of those sins… but nothing held Jesus back from dying for them.

So instead of shrugging off your Savior and condemning yourself… try asking for a little grace.  Grace is that thing that NONE of us deserves, but He gives it to us anyway because He loves us.  You don’t require MORE grace than anyone else.  We all need grace.  And to all who ask, all will receive.

One final reminder… One of Satan’s biggest lies is in the mirror.  Its how we perceive ourselves.  God loves us and wants us to be with Him.  He payed dearly so we could be with Him.  If you are feeling unwanted, useless, unworthy, or unloved… you are being deceived.  God follows His own commands, of which the greatest is, to love all.

Here is the sad summary… you can choose not to accept grace.  Many do.  But it isn’t because it wasn’t offered.  Can you get so hungry that food won’t help?  Can you get so thirsty that water won’t work?  Can you be so poor that you turn down money because it will just make things worse?  I hope those all sound ridiculous to you.  Because it seems quite silly to God that you would find yourself in a predicament that He can’t solve or forgive.

One Question: Pass / Fail

Lets call this an exercise.  It might sound like I’m getting political, but I promise it’ll barely scrape the surface before I get back on topic.  And the topic is a single question test to help you understand where you stand spiritually.  It’s not meant as anything other than a personal self assessment in one key area of faith.

Jesus, our intercessor, is often seen as standing at the gates of Heaven.  He will, as promised, vouch for those who have received His gift of salvation.  The Bible calls it, among other things, the separation of grains from weeds.

Before we get going, I’d like to ask you to think of 2 names.  See, I’m not even going to mention them.  These 2 figures have been in political news non stop for months and likely won’t be left out of the news for the foreseeable future.  Most likely one of the two names brings up feelings of unhappiness.  In many people, the feelings are much stronger.  If I’m to believe social media, both of these people are absolutely hated by the opposing party.  If you aren’t wrapped up in the political turmoil then pick your current enemy number 1.

Some of us, get so agitated at the mere mention of the name, we probably already forgot what we are doing.  So all I want you to do is to think about those 2 people for a minute.  Got a good image?  All set on their character, beliefs, motives, and class?  Good.

Now, lets pretend for a moment that Jesus pulls you aside at the gates of Heaven.  He has a task for you.  Those 2 people are right behind you in line.  In your ear, He whispers the following:

I have already paid for their sins.  On the cross I endured absence from my Father while I took on the whole burden of all sin.  I was sacrificed and now is the time to deem people entrance or deny, forever, access to the Father.  I know how horrible time away from God is and it forced me to cry out in anguish for all to hear.  To be away from God is to be forsaken.  Lost.  Alone.  Horribly and wretchedly doomed.  I will not share their secrets or their sins, nor their accomplishments.  You only have the knowledge you have brought into death.  What sentence would you pass on to these 2 people?  Should they be allowed to praise God forever, or weep for eternity?  Should I forsake them?

And thus begins your test.  Knowing only what social media or biased media has provided you, are you ready to condemn others to an eternity of Hell?  Are your sins lesser?  Is God unable or incapable of forgiving?

I’ll remind you of a single scripture before you are asked to answer.

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. – Ephesians 4:31-32

Can you do it?  Can you pass judgement on these people?  Can your conscience bear the weight of eternal consequences?  I praise God every day that I am not a judge (in earthly or heavenly matters).  Passing out penalty is not something I envy.  Although it is much needed, I could not be the one to decide when a price should be paid.  Thankfully, the Bible makes it easy.  Forgive debts.  Forgive crimes against us.  Forgive each other.

This doesn’t mean to let people ruin the world with chaos.  This means that we are free from the burden of consequences when we forgive those who wrong us.  This affectively makes it “their” problem.  To not forgive is to hold on.  Picture Ebenezer Scrooge hoarding receipts, demanding payments, double checking the locks on all of his money…  Its a task to hold grudges.  Its a burden.  When you forgive, both parties become free.

OK, no more preaching.  It’s time to answer… Did you learn anything about yourself?

Was it hard to give grace to someone like this?

Did you find feelings of hatred stir up inside?

If you found that your emotions don’t exactly line up with the many, many verses in the Bible about forgiveness and judgement, then you are in the right place.  You are able to see the difference which will allow you to change your behavior.  The Christ-Like servant does not publicly hate or judge.  Instead, we pray.  If you believe, as the Bible tells us, that no one is beyond the reach of God’s grace, then you must also believe that everyone is worth praying for.

The bottom line is are you are a hater or a pray-er?  Who do you choose to be today?