Categories
Uncategorized

Holding Hands

“Hold my hand, we’re crossing the street,” we say, and a little palm reaches up to be engulfed in our fists grown larger over time. Is there a better feeling in life than a child’s hand clasping ours? Their hope, their security, their trust—these priceless treasures of the heart given over to us through vertically outstretched arms and tightly squeezing fingers. Mindful of the innocent confidence now resting in us, we firm our own grip and proceed carefully, for safety is not found in the hand of the child who trusts us, but in the strength of our own. Of course, children naturally outgrow this phase—“I can do it myself; I don’t need you to help me”—and in small matters like parking lots and city streets we want this for them.

Yet life itself, with all of its challenges, is too big for us. We were created to trust and rely on our adoring Creator, and we never outgrow our need for His outstretched hand. David understood this, celebrating through lyrics of song, “The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.”1 Trusting in the love of God, the king clasped the grip that extended first to his: “Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. I cling to you; your right hand upholds me.”2 And no matter where we go in life, or no matter where life finds us, we can never venture beyond God’s reach: “If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”3

Isn’t it amazing that God is not only willing to take our hand, but eagerly desiring to do so? Our need for Him is far greater than we realize, and His grace greater still. We never outgrow our need for Him, for safety is not found in the hand of the child who trusts God, but in the strength of His own. Reach up today; He is with you, and you can trust Him.

“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”4—Jesus the Son, to God the Father.

1 Psalm 37:23-24
2 Psalm 63:7-8
3 Psalm 139:9-10
4 Luke 23:46

Categories
Uncategorized

The Price We Pay To Forgive

Saturday evening is a powerful time on a Kairos Prison Ministry Weekend. Our focus that day is on forgiveness, and inmates and Kairos volunteers are encouraged to make a list of wrongdoers we need to release from our resentment, hatred, anger or pain. No one sees anyone else’s list; this is a private matter. Then in a “forgiveness ceremony” at day’s end, each person drops his own list of names into a bowl of water and watches as the dissolvable paper immediately and completely disappears before them. It is a powerful moment of liberation, understanding, peace and hope.

In his excellent book The Prodigal God, author Tim Keller wrote, “forgiveness always comes at a cost to the one granting the forgiveness.”1 As I paused to ponder his statement, the steep cost of forgiving others became clearer. We forfeit our right against those who have wronged us, and we destroy the moral IOUs we’ve vindictively waved in their face or bitterly stored in our heart. This was a cost the unmerciful servant in Jesus’ parable was unwilling to pay, for though his master had forgiven him much, he was unwilling to extend the same mercy to a peer who owned him little. [Read Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 18:21-35.] In forgiving others, we relinquish any notion of moral superiority, remembering that we have offended God far more than any one person has ever offended us, and yet we are forgiven. And when we forgive our debtors, we surrender our pride and risk vulnerability before those who have exploited it in the past.

But aren’t these just costs of the flesh, where we would be king? Surrendering grudges, accusations, bitterness, pride, relational isolation—isn’t this really addition by subtraction? Aren’t we happier without them? Or conversely, isn’t it taxing, in a way, to lug around a burgeoning ledger of resentments? Wouldn’t we prefer the sins of others and our grudges against them to be “hurled . . . into the depths of the sea,”2 where they dissolve for good?

God the Father “has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”3 Soak this in; it is true. Then as a people forgiven and brought into God’s kingdom, may we freely forgive others at the cost of our own.

“Be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”—Ephesians 4:32 NASB

Father, Your Son bore the ultimate price for our sin. Humble us in Your love, that we would at any cost forgive those who have trespassed against us. Grace us to live in the freedom of forgiveness. In Christ we pray. Amen.

1 Tim Keller , The Prodigal God, (Dutton: New York), 83.
2 Micah 7:19
3 Colossians 1:13-14

Categories
Uncategorized

Happiness in a New Year

Happy New Year to you, dear readers. “Happiness” for us who believe in Christ Jesus does not depend upon our external circumstances or getting “our way,” rather, true happiness rests in the inner assurance that we are individually known, loved, and forgiven by the Creator of all things, who at great cost has purchased us to be His own sons and daughters. It peers above our circumstances, be they good or bad, and locks its gaze onto something far higher and incomparably better—forever life in Christ, already begun through the birth of His Spirit in us. So, I say again, good friends, Happy New Year to you.

What will this year bring to us? We celebrate January 1 as something of a relief—new hope clinging to new beginnings. Which is to say we ring in 2022 with the same optimism with which we greeted 2021 and 2020 before that. But by now we know that world peace does not come with the turn of a calendar page, nor do disasters cease when our annual countdowns reach midnight. We will have good times in the months to come, certainly, and yet among them there will be good-byes, as well. We cannot control these things; we can only respond to them and persevere. So perhaps we do well to ask ourselves a different question from now on . . .

What will we bring to this year? As God knows everything about us and calls us His friends,1 can we grow as relational givers who listen openly in order to know others better? Can we be friends who “love at all times” and be there for people in their “times of adversity,” regardless of our inconvenience?2 Can we who have been so graciously forgiven likewise “bear with each other and forgive one another,3 letting go of our rights against others for their wrongs against us? Perhaps 2022 really can be a happier new year—that which comes from being vessels through whom God brings hope and happiness to those who cannot find it in a fallen world. This is what I hope for myself; this is what I hope for you. Happy New Year, good friends.

Father, turn my focus to upward to You and outward to others. This is what I want. Thank you for hearing my plea. You are good. In Christ I pray. Amen.

1 John 15:15
2 Proverbs 17:17
3 Colossians 3:13