Can I Be Forgiven For…

Can all sins be forgiven?  Even the really super bad ones?  Jesus is pretty clear on this.  1 John 1:9 states that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us.  There is no condition on this.  It doesn’t matter how bad the sin is.  He will forgive us.

But what about those tricky tricksters that try to point out that Jesus said there was an unforgivable sin?  In Matthew 12:30-32, Jesus says He who is not with me is against me.  Every sin against me will be forgiven, but not blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.  Here, Jesus is talking about those who attribute His good works to Satan, basically denying who Jesus is.  Only someone who is completely closed off from God’s love as to attribute Him as evil could commit this sin.  It’s not something we could do by mistake or by a slip of the tongue.  So tell those tricky tricksters that there is no sin greater than the cross.

This is not to say that there are no consequences for sin.  In the Old Testament, atonement for sin required actual physical sacrifices, often in the form of an animal.  In the New Testament, Jesus becomes the final sacrifice in his death on the cross.  Even in His final moments on earth, Jesus was the ultimate picture of forgiveness, saying: forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.

God knows the sin that you commit.  He is not waiting for you to confess it so that He will know what you did.  He already knows it.  The act of confessing sin acknowledges our need for God.  God is always ready to forgive you.  Psalm 103:11-12 states as high as the heaven, so great is His love; as far as the east is from the west, so far have our transgressions been removed.

So what do we do with our forgiven life?  God doesn’t forgive us so that we can just keep on doing whatever we want.  John 13:35 says that all will know you are a disciple if you love one another.  Romans 6:1-4 says that we are not to live in sin any longer; we have been buried with Jesus and we have also been raised to a new life.  God’s forgiveness of us means that we have to life a different kind of life.  We have been changed and need to act like it.

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Hearing the Voice of God

Habakkuk provides a 5-step model for hearing the voice of God:

  1. Go off by yourself
  2. Be silent
  3. Read the Word of God
  4. Write down what God tells you
  5. Review it

I feel like I am pretty good with 3 through 5.  I read and listen to God’s Word, I journal and I talk about it with my small group and others.  What I really struggle with though is being completely silent.  I mean, even when I shower, I am listening to a podcast or music most of the time.  It’s the same thing when I run.  It’s like I’m afraid of just being silent, like I would be wasting time or something.

How is God really supposed to speak to me if I am constantly busy and noisy?  As a busy mom, I don’t have a lot of time to just sit and be still.  There is always something to do…house to be cleaned, kids to get ready, or one of the hundred other things that has to get done.  I know that I need to make sitting still and listening and praying to God a true priority in my life.  Sometimes setting large goals can be overwhelming, so I am going to start small.  Twice a week, I am going to just sit and be still in the morning…no television, no laptop, no music, and (hopefully) no kids.  I am confident that God has a lot to say to me if I would just sit and listen.

Why Is There Suffering?

People have been asking why God would let suffering into the world for thousands of years.  In Psalm 22, the psalmist asks God why He has forsaken him.  Psalm 73 asks God why good people suffer while evil people are prospering.

Here’s the thing…God didn’t create a world of suffering.  He actually created a perfect world.  Genesis 1:31 says that God saw what He made, and it was good.  However, God created the world not be unchanging and static, but to be dynamic.  The pinnacle of this is His creation of human beings.  God gives the responsibility of taking care of the earth to human in Genesis 1:26-30.

We all know what happened next.  Humans rebelled and sin entered the world.  Everyday we rebel against God too.  This is where we led the world.  This is why there is suffering.  We cannot blame God for our choices.  One of the cool things about the Genesis story is that after we sinned, God didn’t abandon us.  Genesis 3:21 says that God made garments out of animals for Adam and Eve to cover their shame.

The book of Job also tackles the question of why there is suffering.  The first part of the book describes how great Job’s life is.  The scene then changes to heaven and a discussion between God and Satan.  God tells Satan how faithful Job is and Satan says that Job is only faithful because of how blessed he is and if his life was horrible, he would curse God.  God agrees to let Satan ruin Job’s life in order to test him.

Job’s life is utterly ruined in a short period of time.  Job 2:13 states that three friends just sit with him for a week and say nothing, just suffering with him.  Finally, in Job 3:1-5, Job curses the day of his birth. The following chapters deal with the conversation between Job and his friends about why all this suffering happened to Job.

In chapter 38, God finally shows up.  God speaks to him and essentially says, “Who do you think you are? Are you God?”  Job is rebuked and tells God he is unworthy.

So what do we do when someone is suffering?  Chapter after chapter of Job’s friends debating the why of it certainly didn’t accomplish anything.  I think they had it right at the beginning, just sitting with him and sharing his suffering.  The good news is that God provides us an answer to suffering.  He has a plan to redeem His creation.  Jesus is God’s answer to suffering.  Where Adam failed, Jesus succeeds.  God is leading us toward healing so that is why we have hope.  We won’t be in this situation forever.  God is bringing us and His creation back.

From the Mountain to the Desert

1 Kings 18-19 tells the story of Elijah, God’s prophet, in the time of King Ahab.  The Israelites had begun to drift away from God, instead worshipping the gods of the people around them.  God sent Elijah to lead the people back to Him and Elijah tells the people that they cannot waiver between gods.  They have to choose.  God cannot be our backup plan.  We need to be fully committed to Him in every aspect of our lives.

Elijah tells the false gods prophets to get two bulls ready for sacrifice and to call on their gods to set fire to their bull.  After praying all day and even slashing themselves, Bael’s prophets are unsuccessful.  Then, Elijah prays and God sets his bull on fire.  The people believe and cry out that God is the true God.  Elijah must have been on such a high from that moment, bringing all the people back to God.

This high didn’t last for long because Ahab and his wife threaten to kill him and Elijah has to run away.  He sat under a bush in the desert and prayed for God to kill him.  What a difference a few days makes…going from a high on the mountain, to a low point in the desert.  In the desert, an angel came to Elijah and tells him to eat and drink.  He traveled for forty days and eventually met with God in the form of a gentle whisper.

The whole idea of this is that we cannot escape the desert moments in our lives.  There will always be failures…not every moment can be the high on the mountain bringing people to God.  However, it is at these desert times that God often speaks to us, often in the form of a gentle whisper.