I am sad to say evil does exist. If it hasn’t personally touched you in a profound way then you can be thankful. But it only takes a quick perusal of the headlines to see that we do not live in a perfect world. After you finish with those headlines you can pick up a history book and see that as tragic as this evil reality is; it is not new.
For some people, the presence of evil in the world is evidence for the absence of God. I must admit that I understand this rationale and I would need to be completely oblivious to not struggle with the prevalence of evil actions in the world. If we are not jarred by what we see happening around the world with ISIS or Boko Haram then we need to once again be reminded that we are all united as one human race created by God. If that is just too removed from your everyday life to truly move you then just pay attention to the needs right in your back yard. We have people all around us crushed by injustice, materialism, bullying and loneliness just to name of few ways in which evil manifests itself in our midst.
As a person of faith in Jesus Christ this can move me to tears at times; but it also drives me to the truth of God’s Word and the amazing love of God to deal with this evil on our behalf. God’s Word doesn’t ignore evil at all. In fact, it provides the answer as to its origin and the eternal solution that is provided in Jesus. I realize that this perspective is one that only comes through faith, so I must not be surprised when others don’t see it the way my faith does. One reason I believe is that I find in the pages of Scripture a very real picture of the world in which I live.
Not only does Scripture accurately describe what is going on in the world around me; it also holds up a mirror so that I can see what is going on in my own heart and mind. I see my tendencies toward selfishness, power grabbing and apathy that are really quite evil in their own way. These things I see welling up in me are really the same seeds for what I see played out to extreme fruition in the headlines every day. I rejoice that I have been blessed with a different context and a wonderful Savior that have kept these evil seeds from growing to full blown rebellion. In Romans 1 Paul gives us a snapshot of lives lived in opposition to our righteous God.
With this in mind we are invited to pray as Jesus taught us, “Lord, deliver me from evil…all of it! Give us strength to live lives of love and freedom as we stand against evil in all of its forms.”
In Grace and Truth,
Maybe some of you are thinking, “Wow, I didn’t know Pastor Nick was such an egomaniac.” It really isn’t quite as bad as I made it sound – most of the time at least. It just pops up at times and I can be hard to deal with; my wife and God are the ones that get the brunt of this problem of mine. In Barb’s case it can be as simple as her asking me to change a light bulb NOW… and my sinfulness wells up within me. I will do it in three minutes but not right now even though I could. I run the show of my life – not her. What a jerk I can be when I am selfish.
In the case of God this problem occasionally pops up all over in my life in obvious and subtle ways. I would eliminate a lot of the struggle if I truly prayed – “lead me not into temptation” continually in all of its breadth and power. In its totality this petition means, “Lord, may I see all things at all times properly and go where you want to lead me.” All the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer are broader than we can grasp in a single lifetime.
This part of the Lord’s Prayer is a humble acknowledgement that I need help to process life in general and my life in particular. On my own I can turn virtually anything into something I worship or I can take an opportunity to grow and view it as a thing to be avoided. Far too often, my desires can so easily be summed up as a pursuit of wealth, comfort and good health. None of these are bad in themselves but if they are what I seek most of all in my life then there is a problem.
Do I want God to lead me into a life of character development, depth and significance? Do I truly trust God that I can have the same amount of peace and contentment in difficulty as I can experience when the smiles are coming easy and often? The way that God leads us is “the Way of the Cross”. It is a powerful journey that can be packed with joy even in the midst of testing. It is a way that is filled with the presence of God as He leads us in this adventure of faith.
So, am I willing to believe that of all the possible paths I could travel in my life God’s Way is the best? Am I willing to admit that I am drawn to take many journeys down paths that are not the way of Jesus? I am willing but I am also continually tempted off course from both what is “out there” and by what wells up inside of me. With all of that in mind, it makes perfect sense that I will come into the presence of my God each day and ask, “Lord, lead me in your ways. Lead me away from temptations! I need your help, your vision and your power. AMEN.” Will you pray with me?
Following Our Leader,
Do I want to be forgiven? Yes, of course!
Do you want to forgive? Well, yes but…
It is common for us to create this type of distinction regarding forgiveness. People need to understand I am not perfect and I will make mistakes from time to time. So they need to forgive me and get everything back to normal. But the sins against me are somehow more grievous or complex. I can’t just forgive them. There needs to be some retribution or at least some discomfort because… well, how dare they cross me.
In a perfect world there would be no word forgiveness in our vocabulary but we do not live in a perfect world. To forgive is as necessary for us to get through life relationally as food is necessary for us to live physically. We need to forgive others and be humble enough to receive forgiveness as well.
I could take the next few moments to make a list of what forgiveness is and what it isn’t but instead I will describe briefly what it feels like to be forgiven. I am no different than anyone else and I need to be forgiven just like the next person. Barb is the love of my life and I can’t imagine life without her but that has not always kept me from sinning against her in "word or deed."
I remember one particular time when I needed forgiveness and she gave it to me. It went something like this and I will speak in generic terms so that you might be able to relate to the gift I received.
One of the great destroyers of a joyful life is not being quick or wanting to give or receive forgiveness. If I break relationships every time forgiveness needs to be involved I will soon be all alone. And most importantly, I will be cut off completely from God if I do not come humbly into His presence and seek His forgiveness. In the passage from Colossians 3 that follows Paul describes a life of forgiveness – both received and given. It is a beautiful life!
12 Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.
Living in Forgiveness,
Pastor Nick Mundis