Verily, verily I say unto you: Jesus Is The Amen

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.
-John 6:47 (KJV)

"Verily, verily, I say unto you".  Did you know that Jesus said this phrase twenty times, all in John's gospel?  Verily is the King James word for "amen".  We are used to hearing, "amen", at the end of a statement, and not at the beginning.  Jesus says, "amen", at the beginning of a statement, to bring emphasis to what he is saying.  He says, "Amen, amen", at the beginning of a declaration to really emphasize what he is about to say.

The Catholic Bible is one of the few that reads, "Amen, amen, I say to you".  The Revised Standard, New American Standard, and English Standard Versions, read, "Truly, truly, I say to you."  the New Living and New International Versions read, "I tell you the truth".

When we say, "amen", while someone is sharing; we are saying, "I agree", "that's right", or "that is so true".  There is another variant that we do, and that is to call out, to the preacher, "tell the truth!".  Preachers also sometimes either say, "amen?", or, "can I get an amen on that?".  A new one, that I see on Facebook, is to say, "truth!".  I think that they mean, "amen!", or, "that's the truth!".

Why does John record these twenty statements, with Jesus' special emphasis on each one?  Here are a few ideas from published sermons:
The "Verily, verily" is only employed by John because he sets forth Christ in His higher relations, and therefore conveys transcendent truth that requires emphasis. (A. Jukes, The Verilies of Christ)

(1) His verilies have nothing to do with natural truths which we can discover or demonstrate.
(2) Nor with matters of history which scholars may search out.
(3) Nor with such things as Sanhedrins wrangle over.
(4) But with vital, spiritual, eternal truths not otherwise discoverable by man. (N. Smyth, The Positiveness of Jesus)

Verily is simply the familiar "amen!" which properly is an adjective meaning firm or steadfast, and is used in two connections. Sometimes it precedes an assertion which it confirms, in which case it may be paraphrased by "Thus it certainly is." Sometimes it follows a prayer which it sums up and reiterates, and in that case it may be paraphrased by "So may it be." Doubled it has the force of a superlative, "Most assuredly." It is heard only from the lips of Christ. It becomes no other lips. (A. Maclaren, Verily)
What I believe is that when Jesus speaks, he is speaking authoritatively. He is not just a teacher or even just a prophet. Teachers may teach truth, but Jesus is the truth. Prophets may speak for God, but Jesus is God. Eugene Peterson translated John 6:47 as, “I’m telling you the most solemn and sober truth now: Whoever believes in me has real life, eternal life."

This is what the scholar, C. K. Barrett, writes in his commentary on John:
ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν. This solemn formula of asseveration occurs 20 times in John; with σοι for ὑμῖν, 5 times more. ἀμὴν is never used singularly in John, or without λέγω ὑμῖν (σοι). In the Synoptic Gospels ἀμὴν is never doubled, and is always followed by λέγω (except at Matt. 6:13, where there is doubt about the reading, and Mark 16:20). The origin of the characteristic NT use of ἀμὴν to introduce a statement (over against its common use in affirming a prayer or similar formula) is obscure... John has merely taken it over from earlier tradition, and employs it to give emphasis to a solemn pronouncement. (Barrett, p. 186)
Thayer's Greek Lexicon says this about the double amen, preceding Jesus' statements in John:
The repetition of the word (ἀμήν ἀμήν), employed by John alone in his Gospel (twenty-five times), has the force of a superlative.

Here is something that George Ladd wrote (The Presence of the Future: The Eschatology of Biblical Realism) about Jesus using the double amen:
The presence of the Kingdom in Jesus' words explains his imperious manner of speaking. All four Gospels witness to a characteristic speech form: "Amen, I say to you."  "Amen" is used in the Old Testament as a solemn formula to confirm the validity of an oath (Num. 5:22; Deut. 27:15-26), to give assent to an announcement (1 Kings 1:36), or as a doxology.  Jesus' use of the word to introduce a statement is without parallel in rabbinic usage.  Jesus used the expression as the equivalent of an oath, paralleling the Old Testament expression, "As I live, saith the Lord.  Jesus' usage is without analogy because in his person and words the Kingdom of God manifested its presence and authority.  H. Schlier is right: this one little word contains in nuce the whole of Christology. (Ladd, pp. 166-7)
A few more notes on Jesus words, from Ladd (p. 167-9):

  • Jesus' words possess eternal validity (Mark 13:31).
  • His words will decide the final destiny of men (Mark 8:38, Matt. 7:24-6)
  • Jesus' person is inseparable from his words (Mark 8:38).
  • He himself is the message he proclaims.
  • Jesus claimed for his words an authority equal to that of the word of God itself.
  • The prophet announced the coming of the Kingdom; Jesus embodied its presence and power in his own mission.
  • The gospel is present in Jesus' word (Mark 4:33 & 8:32).
  • The Kingdom is God's redemptive rule, now present in the person, deeds, and words of Jesus.

In The Revelation of John, chapter three, verse fourteen; John writes:
And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God. (KJV)
Jesus is the Amen.  He is the truth.  It is settled in him.  He is the authority.


He's Got The Whole World In His Hands (You & Me)

For the life of every living thing is in his hand, and the breath of every human being.
-Job 12:10

This, too, I carefully explored: Even though the actions of godly and wise people are in God's hands, no one knows whether God will show them favor.
-Ecclesiastes 9:1

He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together.
-Colossians 1:17

The Son radiates God's own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven.
-Hebrews 1:3

For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen.
-Romans 11:36 

He really does have the whole world in his hands, including you and me.  "How is this possible?", our little hearts ask.  It is because our God is big, mighty, all encompassing, and real.

And the person or face of our God is Jesus.  The gospel message is that God took on human form and showed himself to us.  The Father and The Holy Spirit are also God, because God is a triune God; which is a mystery or a revelation beyond human wisdom and reason, but it is true.

He has the whole world in his hands.  That's a poetic figure of speech in a song, but it is true.  That does not mean that he is controlling everything, but everything is within his reach or touch.

He is holding everything together, whether we realize it or not.  This realization, this discerning, and this experiencing needs to come from us.  The word of the world, with it's foolishness and deception is that there is no God (Psalm 14:1).

For those who do believe in God, the temptation is to believe in a weak or uncaring God, and get deceived.  The devil is still using the old strategy to tempt us to question what God said (Gen. 3:1), and get us to believe something different (2 Cor. 11:3).

The song, He's Got The Whole World In His Hands, is a Negro Spiritual, that anonymously arose from African American oral tradition.  The whole idea that God or Jesus, has the whole world in his hands, including you and me, came from the heart of an enslaved people, who were living in profound injustice.

Like Job, in his misery, the enslaved people, Africans brought to America; wrote beautiful songs, expressing their faith in God, that we call Spirituals.  Christians have always been suffering people - saved, but suffering.  Spiritual songs (Col. 3:16 & Eph. 5:19) are something Apostle Paul mentions, "psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs".

Paul writes, that we should, "teach and admonish one another" (Col. 3:16), with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; or that we should, "speak to one another" (Eph. 5:19), with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.

Psalms might be the Psalms of the Old Testament.  Hymns are praise and worship songs written by people with talent from God for poetry and tune.  Our hymnals are full of these.

But, spiritual songs are something different.  Spiritual songs are songs of faith, sometimes written in the crucible of suffering.  Despite the real chains of bondage, the injustice, the not-a-good-life-now; spirituals express faith in God, in a faith like Job's, expressing, "although he slay me, yet I will believe" (Job 13:15).

My point here is that the song,  "He's Got The Whole World In His Hands", was not written by an "armchair Christian".  It was written by a community that was going through horrific suffering.  Their suffering was physical.

An authentic mark of a Christian is that he or she trusts God in suffering. We learn how to give thanks in all things (1 Thess. 5:18).

He's got the whole world in His hands
He's got the whole world in His hands
He's got the whole world in His hands
He's got the whole world in His hands

He's got the itty bitty baby in His hands
He's got the itty bitty baby in His hands
He's got the itty bitty baby in His hands
He's got the whole world in His hands

He's got a-you and me brother in His hands
He's got a-you and me brother in His hands
He's got a-you and me brother in His hands
He's got the whole world in His hands

He's got a-you and me sister in His hands
He's got a-you and me sister in His hands
He's got a-you and me sister in His hands
He's got the whole world in His hands

He's got the whole world in His hands
He's got the whole world in His hands
He's got the whole world in His hands
He's got the whole world in His hands


The scriptures at the top are from the New Living Translation.

Sent Out Among Wolves (Street-wise)

Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves.
-Matt. 10:16 (NLT)

It is ironic or a paradox that Jesus sends us out as sheep among wolves.  Normally, sheep are kept away from wolves.  But Jesus' words here, say that we, as his messengers and missionaries, will be seemingly defenseless.

But, the good shepherd goes with us (John 10:12-15).  The point Jesus makes here, is that we have no self defense, in our own power.  We are completely reliant on our shepherd.
We are not force of power, in and of ourselves.  We have a powerful message.  We have a powerful King.  The King can even do powerful things through us.  But we are not a power.  We are defenseless, like sheep, utterly dependent on our shepherd.

But, we are to have a special way of functioning, in our vulnerability.  We are to be as shrewd as snakes and as harmless as doves.  This is a paradox.  

Snakes are careful.  Shrewd, prudent, sensible, or crafty.  All this implies the wisdom in our thinking (1 Cor. 14:20).  Being shrewd, means that we are not naive nor simpletons.

Harmless as doves, means innocent, unmixed, pure, or transparent.    But the dove aspect, means that we are pure in our lack of guile and in our honesty.  We need, as Donald Hagner wrote, "practical discernment and at the same time the sort of guilelessness that characterized Jesus." (1)

The picture above is from Peter's blog post, Street-smart Disciples
1. Hagner, Matthew, p.277

Watch Out For Wolves and That You Do Not Become One

“Go in through the narrow gate. The gate that leads to destruction is broad and the road wide, so many people enter through it.  But the gate that leads to life is narrow and the road difficult, so few people find it.

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you dressed like sheep, but inside they are vicious wolves.  You will know them by their fruit. Do people get bunches of grapes from thorny weeds, or do they get figs from thistles?  In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit, and every rotten tree produces bad fruit.  A good tree can’t produce bad fruit. And a rotten tree can’t produce good fruit.  Every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire.  Therefore, you will know them by their fruit.

 “Not everybody who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will get into the kingdom of heaven. Only those who do the will of my Father who is in heaven will enter.
-Matt. 7:13-21 (CEB)

Jesus says to watch out for wolves, that are dressed like sheep.  Everyone, with their natural eyes, can spot a wolf.  Jesus tells us that the wolves that he wants us to be concerned about look like sheep.

Wolves prey on sheep.  Wolves are completely dangerous to sheep.  That is why Jesus says they are vicious.  They are not 'friendlies', but are 'enemies' of sheep.

Jesus warns us about certain people he calls false prophets, who look one way that is good, but really are another way, that is not good.  Who they are is destructive.  And what is insidious, is that they pretend to be sheep, but inside, they are destructive - sheep destroyers.

On the surface, they look like sheep, but upon deeper examination, we find out that they are wolves dressed as sheep.  In other words, frauds or fakes.  A great danger for the Christian is, 'faking it to make it'.  That is a way of the world that is not the way of the kingdom or of the disciple.

The context of Jesus' warning, tells us a lot about what he means.  We will misunderstand him, if we imagine he is talking about a person who advertises themselves as a prophet, but are not of God.  Jesus' perspective is that the whole people of God is prophetic and there are many prophets (Matt. 23:34).

A false prophet, according to Jesus, is more that just a person who predicts something that does not come true.  A false prophet is someone who's life is not true.  They have not gone through the narrow gate, nor are they on the narrow path.

Some Christians have not entered through that narrow gate, and are not walking the narrow path.  We say we are Christians, and only God can judge if we are.

Jesus tells us not to judge (Matt. 7:1), but here he says, "watch out", for this certain kind of people that will come to us.  Watching out is serious stuff, but it is different than condemning.  We are all called to be watchers.  There is a warning to be heeded, and if Jesus said it, then it is a very serious warning.

We can see, by the context. that these people, that Jesus identifies as wolves, who are false prophets, are people who are not obeying Jesus, in their hearts.  They have refused the narrow gate and they have bad fruit:
  • Go through the narrow gate, that leads to life.
  • A mark of the narrow gate is that is is hard and painful.
  • (That means dying of self, and letting resurrection life happen).
  • Watch out for false prophets that look like sheep, but are really wolves.
  • You will know who the wolves are by their fruit.
  • Yes, they bear fruit, but it is bad fruit.
  • God will judge the trees (people) who bear bad fruit.
  • Jesus has given you the ability to know these folks by observing their fruit.
  • It is not about what you say, but about what you do (the narrow gate).
Being a Christian, means that Christ has you at your core.  He rules how you live.  You are rooted in him.  It is not just about how you look and what you say, but what you do.  

And the Christian life is about becoming Christlike.  It is not about appearances.  Many people know the words, the verses, and even the right message of the gospel.  But, they themselves, refuse to live it out (through the narrow-way-life).

I believe that many of these (wolf) people do not even know they are wolves.  There is self-deception, they are mislead or deceived.  Most, if not all, deceivers are themselves deceived by the deceiver (John 8:44).

That does not make deception ok.  We need to expose darkness (Eph. 5:11, Matt. 5:13, 2 Cor. 4:6).  In our koinonia fellowship, our goal is agape love.  How do we, 'watch out', and 'judge not'?  Ephesians 4:15, admonishes us to, "speak the truth in love", to tricky, cunning, deceitful, scheming people; who do show up among us (Eph. 4:14).  Love here, is key.  If we can not say it in love, then we should not say it.

Jesus says that we will know them by their bad fruit.  Bad fruit can look good, but is is not so good on the inside.  With an eye on context, what does Jesus say that good fruit looks like?  Martyn Lloyd-Jones, in his book - Studies In the Sermon On The Mount, advises us to look at the Beatitudes, the fruit of the Spirit, and finally and ultimately, humility, in the person's life (p. 258-9, 1993 ed.).
“Happy are people who are hopeless, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
“Happy are people who grieve, because they will be made glad.
“Happy are people who are humble, because they will inherit the earth.
“Happy are people who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, because they will be fed until they are full.
“Happy are people who show mercy, because they will receive mercy.
“Happy are people who have pure hearts, because they will see God.
“Happy are people who make peace, because they will be called God’s children.
“Happy are people whose lives are harassed because they are righteous, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
“Happy are you when people insult you and harass you and speak all kinds of bad and false things about you, all because of me. Be full of joy and be glad, because you have a great reward in heaven. In the same way, people harassed the prophets who came before you. -Matt. 5:4-12 (CEB)
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against things like this.  Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the self with its passions and its desires. -Gal. 5:22-4 (CEB)
Jones also wrote about what the Puritans called 'temporary believers', who are people who say they have been saved, but do not keep on the path.

Wolf people, hiding as sheep, are ravenous.  The false person is destructive.  This is why Jesus says to watch out.  Henry Cloud talks about wise, foolish, and evil people; as being three categories that people are in.  I think this is helpful.

We want to be on the wisdom track.  But many people are on the foolish track.  I think that wolves in sheep's clothing can be foolish or evil people.  The fool does it 'their way' and wants to avoid the light.  When the light shines on them, they want the light turned down or off.  Wise people yield to the light and let it expose them and want to be transformed.  Disciples are in a transformation process.

Participate Now, Understand Later

Jesus answered, “You don’t really know (realize now, know now) what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
-John 13:7 (CEV, NIRV, NRSV)

I am fond of the quote by Søren Kierkegaard, where he says that life can only be understood looking back, but it must be lived looking forward.  What is implied is that we walk through things that we do not understand, that we do not know.  Later, we can know or understand.  We gain experience.  We are seasoned.  We get it now.

It is encouraging that we do not need to understand all things in order to participate in life.  Not understanding is normal.  I believe that God wants us to participate.  I believe that God calls each one of us to walk with him, into the unknown, in order to grow and to gain working knowledge of how to walk the walk.

I don't really know what he is doing, and that is ok.  God chooses to not have us know.  He is doing something with me, and I don't need to understand it.  He says that I will understand it later.  I think he wants me showing up and not understanding or knowing.  Saying, "I don't know", is humbling, but God gives grace to the humble (1).

We have things we want.  I have had things I have wanted to see God do.  All the time, God has been on the move, doing things, and wanting to do things.  I have not understood what he is doing.  But looking back now, I understand some of it and the good of it.

Peter and the other Apostles spent all that time, intimately with Jesus.  They heard and saw way more than we have in the four written gospels.  They had the day of Pentecost, so they were not lacking in spiritual fullness.  Yet, they did not understand the whole thing, all the time, and had to continually work things out.  They had to pray, they had to be bewildered.  They had to come together and seek consensus.

When Jesus knelt down to wash Peter's feet, it threw him for a loop.  Jesus did something to him that he did not understand, that he frankly refused, but then accepted.  I like Peter.  And after all the intimate teaching, in the communion of the upper room, Peter also struggled with who he was and publicly saying who Jesus was to him.  This wavering, unsteady, man is the man who gets the revelation that Jesus is the rock that the whole called apart, gathered, people of God is built upon.

The lesson here is that we don't have to understand.  He will teach us to understand.  And how Jesus teaches us is that he has us do things or he does things to us that we do not know.  They are not from us, they do not come natural to us.  They are ways of the spirit and they are paths in the kingdom of God.

I believe that God does not demand ever that we understand.  What he wants is faith that is walked out by showing up and participating in his life.  Jesus says, let me do this uncomfortable thing to you, that you don't understand.  It is unknown to you, but see me, experience me in it.

When we let Jesus do something in our lives that we don't know, that is uncomfortable; we end up with a spiritual upgrade.  You don't get it now, but you will have experiential knowledge later.  When Jesus comes to do something to us, it is not optional.  If we don't allow it, then our spiritual lives stunt or stick or halt there.

The road that he has for me goes through the uncomfortable experience.  Any other road is a detour, and when we are ready, the door to that path he chooses, is awaiting.  We talk about waiting on God or laboring in prayer and life, for God to do something.  All the while, God is waiting for us to let him do what he wants to do, with us, so that we can learn and grow, in him, on his path for us.

Jesus is often beckoning us into the uncomfortable, with him; while we are sad that he is not serving us, and making us comfortable and entertained.  The life is not about understanding, but about trust.

To say, "I don't understand, but I trust you", is to have faith and to gain experiential knowledge through intimate relationship.  Maybe God wants us in humility, so that he can grace us.

Real experiences with God are humbling, and that is a good thing.  We need to be obedient to the things he puts before us that are awkward and even seem backward.  We do not ever need to understand, but he says, that like Peter, we might get it later.  Today, he says, "just do it".  And the one who calls us gives us the ability to do what he calls us to do (2).
1. Prov. 3:34. 29:23; James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5
2. 1 Thess. 5:24

Forgive Seventy Times Seven

Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”

“No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!

“Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold—along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned—to pay the debt.

“But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’ Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt.

“But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment.

“His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded. But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full.

“When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened. Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.

“That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.”
-Matthew 18:21-35

What if someone hurt you in some way.  That is not too hard to imagine, because many of us get hurt by people all the time.  I heard a man tell his story of being hurt by the written words from someone.  He reacted by being very angry with the person.  He got so angry, that he said he hated the other person for a time.  After calming down, he sensed the Lord tell him that he needed to ask their forgiveness.

Think about that for a minute.  He was the one who had been hurt, so didn't he have the right to be angry?  Wouldn't you rather hear that the Lord prompted the man to confront the other person, and tell them they should ask for forgiveness?  But, God did the opposite!

What is profound to me, is that so often, I believe that we think we have a right to unforgiveness that is expressed in anger, hate, and contempt toward the one(s) who hurt us in word or deed.  Our anger is often cloaked or disguised in sarcasm or a passive-aggressive freeze-out towards the person who we really have not forgiven.

We do get angry and when we do, we need to release it, or process it out: eliminate it.  We cannot stay angry and get bitter.  That is what the verses mean that say, "don't let the sun go down on your anger and (thereby) don't give the devil a foothold (Eph. 4:27)

When we do not forgive, we stay stuck in the past and we punish our selves for the hurt someone else did to us.  Someone has put it this way: that we look at that person who hurt us, or we perceived to have hurt us, and we drink poison that ruins our own lives.

We don't want to let them 'off the hook', but in so doing, we drink poison.  We are tortured, rather than being at peace and in freedom.  We reason that they don't deserve forgiveness.  And, they are not even asking for it, so why give it, we say.

When we get into this mindset, we are stepping away from the gospel and forgetting what's been done for us, and forgetting Jesus command that his disciples - those who are really following him and learning to live out his words - to be forgivers.

Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.

It is not about how wrong that other person is or what they did.  Let's assume it was wrong, even evil perhaps.  We still get to forgive.  Jesus is our example, when he said, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do", as he was crucified.  And I say, "we get to forgive", meaning, that we get to let Christ live through us in these moments of forgiveness.

You might say, "it is too hard".  But that is the purpose of Jesus telling this story.   The seventy times seven part means, to forgive again and again, until it becomes second nature.

Imagine that you were forgiven a debt of millions, a hundred million, and it is unlikely that you are going to have that kind of money, over your whole lifetime.  You incur that impossible to ever pay debt.  You offer to try to pay it somehow, but the debt is forgiven by the King.

Then, you have the opportunity to forgive someone's debt that owes you twenty bucks.  And they tell you they don't have it, so you press charges.  Do you see the absurdity?  One hundred million versus twenty dollars.

We are under grace and much grace has been given to each one of us, as Christians, and the Lord asks us to give grace back to others.  If we cannot see this or live in it, some would say that maybe we need to reexamine our own salvation.  Are you saved and do you understand what has been given to you?  In light of that grace, that forgiveness, how could you not be gracious, and forgive others?

What does Jesus mean when he says that if you do not forgive, then God will not forgive you?  And Jesus paints this picture, in the the parable, of being turned over to the torturers, until the guy pays the impossible debt.  What does this mean?

Since you were never called to mete out unforgiveness and punishment, you become blocked from being who you are supposed to be - a person of love, walking in the fruit of the Spirit.  That is the life of being handed over to the torturers.  You drink poison, while looking at the people who hurt or harmed you.  Guess who the poison goes into and harms?  It does not harm that person who hurt or harmed you.

We actually think we are punishing the one who hurt us, but we punish ourselves; and that is why Jesus paints such a shocking picture, to try to teach us not to do that.  Forgive.

There is a distinction between hurt and harm.  Many things hurt us that do not harm us.  Sometimes, we get confused and blow a hurt up into a harm.  Many things in life hurt and some things do harm and there is a difference.

When you just take Jesus at his words and forgive, you get out of the way.  I am a forgiven person who forgives.  I am not the judge or even a junior judge.  I can and do hurt and I can forgive and also be hurt at the same time.

When I am hurt and forgive, I also turn to God, for comfort (2 Cor. 1:3-4).  Christianity and it's founder, is not a humanistic psychology that teaches us a better way of life.  Christianity is a God-centered life, surrendered to a savior, who gives us his life to live out, here in this present darkness (Eph. 6:12).  We are in a spiritual battle, which God has already won (Col. 2:15), which plays out now in a clash of kingdoms, where God displays his power through a weak people (Eph. 3:10), you and me, who are forgivers.  Forgiveness is the currency of the kingdom of God.

Forgiveness is not enabling or siding with evil.  Forgiveness is not saying the bad is ok.  Forgiveness does not absolve people of responsibility.

We also need to forgive ourselves.  You may be living out an unchristian life towards you own self, with unforgiveness.  Judging yourself, then meting out punishment to your self is way beyond the life in Christ.  We are never called to torture or selves, or what scripture calls 'the old man'.  We die to our selves, our sinful nature.  It is dead.  If it tries to come to life, like a ghost, tell it that it is dead, and move on in our living life in Christ.

Sometimes we think we have forgiven someone, but we really have not.  It is fake, false, pseudo, incomplete, or insincere.  In his book, Caring Enough To Forgive: True Forgiveness, David Augsburger writes about true and false forgiveness.  In the prologue, Augsburger says:

Forgiveness as it is frequently practiced is a process of denial, distortion, isolation,  or undoing which leads to behaviors of avoidance, distancing, and spiritual alienation.  Any stance of superiority, super-spirituality, or unilateral self-sacrifice reduces the possibility of real repentance and reconciliation.
Biblical agape is equal regard which refuses to stand up over another or live in denial, avoidance, or distance.  Thus it continues loving and living out the works of love as a genuine invitation to mutuality of forgiveness.  It sees the real focus of forgiving not in individualistic release from guilt and proof of goodness, but in interpersonal reconciliation, wholeness and life together in Christian community.
Perhaps Jesus said the seventy times seven word, because he meant that we need to keep forgiving, even the same person, until we process the forgiveness, unto agape love.

Sometimes, we think we have forgiven someone, but we really have not.  True forgiveness comes from the heart.  We need to be specific in our prayers of forgiveness.  We need to be aware of how we blame those who hurt us and try to somehow punish them through how we live and behave, and see the linkage and forgive that person.

Here is a messege I found on this topic that was good: The Currency of the Kingdom - Forgiveness, a sermon by David Levy

God Sees Me

Be still and know that I am God.
Cease striving and know that I am God.
Be in awe and know that I am God.
-Psalm 46:10a

It is a revelation that can change your life: To know that God is active in your life.  We ourselves are often the one thing that blocks us from knowing this.  If and when we slow down, dial down, and cease from striving, we make room to be aware of or to be in awe of God.  We can not 'do' awareness or awe.  We get to experience it.

The idea or concept that God is watching is something not just for children to get, but for adults too.   Like the song that says, "be careful little eyes what you see".
There's a Father up above
And He's looking down in love
So, be careful little eyes what you see
God is watching as the loving Father.  When you watch your child, or grandchild, you get a glimpse of what God does all the time.

It is one thing to know that God knows me, because he is God.  But to know that he really knows me, as an individual, is awesome.  It completely gives me pause.  It is life altering.  It is empowering and humbling.

I believe we need to live in the reality of God knowing us as The Father who is love.  All of God's knowledge of me is filled with love.  Even when God disciplines me, it is in love.

Wouldn't it be great to see the Lord?  There is a popular song called, "open the eyes of my heart", that says that we want to see God, like Isaiah did (Isaiah 6:1).  We imagine that if we saw the Lord, we would be changed or blessed.  But we also just want to see the one we love.

But when and if you get to have the experience of seeing the Lord, you will be impacted by him seeing you.  This is what Dallas Holm sung about in his song, I Saw The Lord.  Dallas describes the majesty of the Lord, but then adds, "and he saw me".

Even if we go to heaven and experience seeing Jesus with millions of other believers, I believe that we will experience him seeing us individually, like in Dallas Holm's song.  And that is how it is with the Lord even today.  He sees each one of us as individuals.

Be still and know that I am God.  He is loving you and me, as individuals.  It is intimate.  There are no facades or masks or personas.  With Augustine, we can also say, "in my deepest wound, I saw your glory, and it dazzled me".

Faithful in the Small or Few Things First

“The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!'

“The servant who had received the two bags of silver came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two bags of silver to invest, and I have earned two more.’

“The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’
-Matt. 25:21-3 (NLT)

I was pondering what are things to have running or have working in our lives, as we walk into a new, upgraded season.  Upgraded software needs upgraded hardware.  The software comes in over the air, but the hardware must be up to spec. to receive it.

Some of the things that have occurred to me, are:
  • Gracious generosity: Give and it shall be given (Luke 6:38).
  • The upside down job/ministry/life of being servant to all (Mark 9:35, 10:34 & Matt. 20:26).
  • The provision that the fruit of the Spirit provides for every interpersonal challenge (Gal. 5:22-3)
  • Having faith in life's storms and recognizing Jesus in our boat (Mark 4:38:40).
The next one, I want to share, is the principle of being faithful or trustworthy in the small things or small amounts first, before you can be trusted with larger things, or more responsibilities.

This is the principle:  You must not wait for the big to come along, nor wait to get responsible.  Whatever God has given you now, be responsible with that.  Faithfulness is the principle to be learned.

Here is a paradox:  When you do show that you are faithful or trustworthy in small things or small amounts, and you do get the promotion, from the Lord; you still have to remain faithful or trustworthy in the small things.  The 'servant of all' message applies to those who get more responsibilities.

These ideas or principles dovetail together, because they are aspects of the Jesus-follower or disciple of Christ.  These things describe how Jesus will live in you as you walk in him.  And there are many other aspects of the life in Christ.  

Jesus taught the practical.  Discipleship is when you learn something new, a better way, and then you try the new way and discover how it works.  And you can do it, because he is with you and living through you.  Discipleship is learning to live the life.

The painting above is called, 'Young Lady Sketching Landscape', by Henry Le Jeune, from Meghan Gorecki's post, here.

Blessing God and Being Guided

I will bless the Lord who guides me; even at night my heart instructs me.
-Psalm 16:7 (NLT)

This verse contains a spiritual principle, that we receive counsel or guidance (leading) from God; after we first bless or praise him.  And, our innermost being, or the seat of our emotions, will get it, and fall into line.

We are blessed and are being blessed by God.  It is the state we live in.  We say, "I am so blessed", or, "you are so blessed".  When we give someone our blessing, we are saying, "amen", or "may it go well with you", or more specifically, "I say, may it go well with you".  That is also what is meant when we say, "God bless you", when someone sneezes.

But, what about blessing the Lord?  God does not need our encouragement.  Blessing God, is a lifestyle of being thankful and praising him always.  We do give God permission and we do welcome him and we do make a royal road for the king, with our praise, thanks, and blessings towards God.

So, to bless God or to say, "Lord, I bless you", is right.  Notice that it says, "I will".  It is something you will to do.  It takes an effort.  Blessing God is a gift to give him, just like when we bless people.

We bless God first, then the guidance, instruction, or counsel comes to us.  Our will blessing God, opens the way to our receiving guidance or instruction.  We will thank him for the instruction and it is a circle.  But the circle begins or is started  by God being God, glorious and a blessing in being.  We, then praise God, and the way begins to open to our deepest innermost beings getting instructed, even chastised.

A side note is that it happens at night.  It does not say in your sleep.  But the night is when we sleep, so it can happen in our sleep.  Night is when the lights are off, when the sun is down, and when we do not see as much with our physical eyes.

We can have very good times with people at night, seeing them with candles or oil lamps, and today, with electric lights.  But things slow down at night.  We are getting ready to sleep and we may be up, while others sleep, so things are quieter.

The night is also symbolic of the dormant time, when there is less activity.  Perhaps the psalmist is remarking that in addition to being counseled or guided by God, his own inner man, innermost seat of his emotions aligned his life with the plan of God.

It may be like a chastisement to one's life that is out of alignment with God's plan, or it might be a confirmation from the well of the depths of the heart, saying, "that's true and right".  And we might need it to be night, for the heart to be able to have a voice, because during the day, some of our minds chatter so much, and our eyes and ears constantly take in distractions from what God wants for us and what our hearts can bear witness to.

We follow God with our hearts.  It says, "trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding" (Prov. 3:5).  The only time that God speaks to the mind to explain or get us straight, is when we are in sin, and he says, "come let us reason together; though you sin be as scarlet..."(Isa. 1:18).

We follow God by faith with our heart, which informs our mind.  We don't follow or decide with our minds (1 Cor. 2:14).  Our mind or reason might not think we should worship or praise God.  We might deduce that God does not need it or require it.  But our hearts and continually filled with exuberance towards God and want to praise him continually.

Having the Spirit of God in us, renews our minds.  Renewal of the mind, brings the mind to a place where it can hear God, and renewal of the mind happens when we thank God (Rom. 1:21), and the mind begins to be governed by God's Spirit (Rom. 8:6).

When our minds are in the place of being renewed, we can receive counsel and guidance from God (Rom. 12:1-2).  This is like what Psalm 16:7 is touching on.

We bless God.  At the end of the day, do you take stock of whether you blessed God today?  Bless God before you go to sleep, to cap off your day and kick off your rest.

We bless God throughout our day and we are guided or counseled by God, then we bless God some more.  We bless and are guided and we bless because we are guided.  We have continual thankfulness in our hearts.  And the fruit of the Spirit helps us to be thankful.

In addition, our hearts, that have God's blueprint in them or God's design for each one of us, is unlocked by God, and God's wisdom flows through our hearts to our minds, that are being renewed, and we get night classes or instruction, from the Lord.

So, it began with God.  We are now here and have the opportunity to bless God or praise him.  That's where is starts in our lives.  Our lives are a life of praise and blessing.  Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

When you bless God, you have come into the place where you can learn, which happens in our hearts.

I found the above picture here.

My Inheritance: The Lord

LORD, you alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing. You guard all that is mine.
The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
You hold my lot.
-Psalm 16:5 (NLT, ESV)

This verse says that my inheritance is the Lord, plus nothing.  What that means is that I may be rich or poor, have large amounts of stuff or little, and it does not matter.  What matters is that I have the Lord in my life and he has me.  This is personal and intimate.

This is what I now see here.  I would never want to discount the Lord himself being my inheritance, chosen for me.  The Lord has a destiny, a calling, and a design that is personally fitted for me (and for you too).

But, that destiny, calling, and design gift is not outside or beside the Lord.  It is in the Lord.  I can say, and I want to say, every day; "Lord, you are my portion in this life".  Knowing him is my greatest desire.  I want to see him.  I want to hear him.  I want to watch him do.  I want to let him live through me.

The Lord is my inheritance, means that I get to spend the rest of my life gaining Christ, knowing him experiential-ly, that is intimately.  I get to explore and learn faith.  This is the land I get to live in.  The land I get to live in is Christ land.  It is also the land of mercy and grace.  His land is also called love land.  The highway to and through his land is called cross roads.

I get to experience contentment.  The world does not know contentment.  I get to walk with the one who has wisdom and power to solve any problem.  I get to be with the one who gives me peace that passes all understanding.

Jesus came, so that we could have life, his life, living in us.  My inheritance is that I get to walk with God and let him love me.  I get to spend my life knowing him (getting to know him).

Knowing God is a privilege that we get to explore, like Lewis and Clark, or Columbus, or The Pioneers.  We also get to watch over what we have and pass it on to others, specifically our children.

Knowledge of God is discovered in our personal passion for God.  We also get to share it, which is a blessing to those who hear and see.  Each person much dig their own well and explore their own territory, in the Lord.  We are blessed and encouraged by others stories, but we have to live out our own personal histories with God.

We get to spend our inheritance, writing checks on the bank in heaven.  What I mean by that is that we get to pray for God's will to be done as it is in heaven.  We get to ask for the kingdom of heaven to come on earth and the financing for that comes from the Lord's bank.

We also get to live by faith as a dimension of the spending we get to do.  We get to exercise faith.   That faith is in a person.  Exercising faith is a dimension of our inheritance.  It is not enough to believe, but we must act on our belief.

The life, our lives, as Christians, has always been about knowing Christ and making him known.   It is more than just knowing about him and being in the crowd.  Getting to know him is not only knowing about him, but knowing him in your life, as in, "what God has done, or is doing, in your life".  What is God doing in your life?

Jesus said that he came that we might have life.  Christianity is not just looking forward to going to heaven some day.  Christianity is about living with and in Christ on earth, today.  Jesus came that we might live now, and forever, in him.  He did not come to just give us tickets to heaven.

Sometimes we are like children who want Santa for the gifts he gives or the toy maker for the toys he gives.  It is interesting that the father in the story of the two sons (Luke 15), does give the younger one his inheritance money early and let him spend it and leave home.

Like that young man, we can have the wrong attitude toward God and want the gifts, rather than the giver.  We can also live good lives and never enjoy our selves in it, like the older brother.  He was not experiencing an enjoyable relationship with his father.

The way it works is that we decide how close we want to be to God.  The Lord is our inheritance, but we have to explore it, share it, and spend it.  You've got the gift, what are you waiting for?

(I previously wrote some other thoughts about this verse (Psalm 16:5) and subject of inheritance, here, and here.)

The artwork above is by Cathy Freeman.