Tuesday, October 26, 2010

It's Time to Stop Doing Time (Genesis 39-41; 50:15-21)

Have you ever been in prison? If your answer is no, think again. Think carefully. Have you ever been imprisoned by resentment or by a refusal to forgive? Are you in prison now?

Joseph was in prison literally, yet he was free spiritually. He had been hurt by what people had done to him and by what they had failed to do for him. But even though he’d been wronged, he chose to have a right attitude—a God-focused mindset that refused to let resentment shackle his spirit. By forgiving, Joseph freed those who had hurt him. He released them from his debt—from what they owed him. And in extending freedom to others, he experienced freedom himself.

When we free others through forgiveness, we free ourselves. It’s not always easy to forgive, though, is it? Sometimes the things people have done, or have left undone, hurt us so badly that everything inside us cries out for revenge, or at least for restitution. We want the offenders to pay for how they’ve injured us, or at least to apologize. But regardless of what they choose to do, we have a choice to make ourselves. We can choose to relive the pain by focusing on it, or we can choose to release the pain by forgiving. It would be nice if we could make the choice once, and never feel the pain again. But it doesn’t work that way. We must choose to forgive again and again—each time we feel resentment wrapping its cold chains around our hearts. How can we find the strength to forgive in a way that truly sets us—and others—free? The strength to forgive lies in remembering the truth. The truth will set us free.

The truth is—we’re guilty before God, for what we’ve done and for what we’ve failed to do. We deserve the death penalty. But He paid it for us. He releases us from our debt—from what we owe Him, freeing us to release others from their debts to us. As we thank Him for forgiving us, we can take from Him the strength to forgive others.

Unlike Joseph, you don’t have to wait two years to be released from your prison. The King of all the earth is calling you out . . . now. Are you ready to leave?

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other,
just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32 NIV).

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32 NIV).

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36 NIV).

Copyright © 2010 Sherrie Lorance. All rights reserved.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Are You Settling for Better? (John 5:1-15)

At first glance, Jesus’ question to the sick man sounds strange. “Do you want to get well?” Of course the invalid wants to get well. But maybe he hasn’t thought about it in a while. After all, thirty-eight years is a long time to be sick. Has he stopped imagining what it’s like to be well—to walk on his own—to move without being carried by someone else?

The longer we are disabled—by fear, anxiety or anything else that cripples us—the harder it is to believe that things can be different. At some level, we hold onto a thread of hope, but we don’t put the weight of our future on that thread. As time passes, our situation becomes familiar. It may not be pleasant, but it doesn’t always seem as bad as it really is.

Notice that Jesus did not ask, “Do you want to get better?” or “Do you want to improve the quality of your life?” Getting a bit better was all the sick man hoped for. He didn’t expect perfect and permanent healing; he just hoped for improvement. If only I had someone to put me into the therapeutic water, he thought. That was the only solution he could imagine. It may have helped, but it would never be enough.

When we’ve been crippled for a long time, we begin lowering our expectations. A little improvement, we think, and we can cope. But Jesus offers us more—much more.

Jesus asks us the same question he asked the man at the pool of Bethesda. He looks us in the eye and asks, “Do you want to get well?”

We’re afraid to say yes. If we don’t hope, we can’t be disappointed. But Jesus waits for an answer, an honest answer. Even while we’re listing reasons why we can’t get well, Jesus moves us to action. “Get up!” He says. “Pick up your mat—what you’ve been resting on and relying on—and walk.” Suddenly we realize that we can.

We can walk, one step at a time, because Jesus walks with us—even through the valley of the shadow of death. Our healing may not happen instantly, as it did for the man at Bethesda, but it will happen. One day, we will stand before Jesus completely well.

“Now may the God of peace himself make you holy in every way, and may your whole being—spirit, soul, and body—be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 ISV).

Copyright © 2010 Sherrie Lorance. All rights reserved.