Unwilling to Forgive

S (Scripture) – Matthew 18:21-35 “Then Peter came and said to Him, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him?  Up to seven times?’  Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.  For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves.  When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made.  So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will  repay you everything.’  And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt.  But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay back what you owe.’  So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you.’  But he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed.  So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened.  Then summoning him, his lord said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.  Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?‘  And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him.  My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.”

O (Observation) – Lord, You are using this parable to help us understand how absolutely ridiculous it sounds for us to cry out for mercy to You for our egregious misdeeds, yet withhold that same mercy from others that have wronged us.  This slave owed an amount so great that there was no way it could have ever been repaid.  The king had compassion on him and forgave the debt completely.  Fresh on the heels of the greatest act of mercy he’ed ever known, that man then went out and found a fellow slave who owed him such a small debt, yet demanded repayment without mercy, going as far as choking him.  How can someone who has experienced such amazing grace poured out from You refuse to allow that grace to flow through him to others?

A (Application) – The key word I see You drawing my attention to is “unwilling.”  When begged for mercy, the wicked slave was “unwilling” to forgive.  This word can also be likened to “obstinate,” meaning the person refuses willfully to comply with reason or directive.  The message from Jesus is clear – no matter what the offense committed against us, we are commanded to forgive others.

As explained by Tony Evans, there are two different types of forgiveness – unilateral forgiveness, and transactional forgiveness.  Unilateral forgiveness is forgiving someone even if they have not asked to be forgiven, or have not shown any visible signs of repentance and desire to see the relationship restored.  An example of this is when Jesus was dying on the cross, yet asking His Father to forgive those who were crucifying Him, or when Stephen was being stoned to death, yet praying for forgiveness for his murderers.  Transactional forgiveness takes place when the relationship is being restored due to intentional steps taken by the offending party.  When fellowship with each other is the desired result, transactional forgiveness is what allows that to occur.  With God’s help, by the power of the Holy Spirit, through the blood of Jesus, we are able to unilaterally offer forgiveness to all who have wronged us.  When the offending party repents, seeks mercy, and desires fellowship with us, it is possible through the grace of God.  When we refuse to offer forgiveness, we are essentially blocking the work of God in our lives because we are not on the same page.  Is there anyone that we need to forgive today?

P (Prayer) – Heavenly Father, thank You for Your unrelenting pursuit of my heart.  You are love, and if grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking (as the song goes).  Your desire is for us to be in constant fellowship with You, and we cannot enjoy Your presence fully if we are harboring un-forgiveness in our hearts.  Bring to mind anyone in our lives that we need to release through offering forgiveness.  Show us anything that we need to do to work through it – make a phone call, write a letter, visit in person…help us to see the glorious freedom that You provide to those who take You at Your word on this matter.

He is Faithful…Always

S (Scripture) – Matthew 15:30-38 “And large crowds came to Him, bringing with them those who were lame, crippled, blind, mute, and many others, and they laid them down at His feet; and He healed them.  So the crowd marveled as they saw the mute speaking, the crippled restored, and the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel.  And Jesus called His disciples to Him, and said, ‘I feel compassion for the people, because they have remained with Me now three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not want to send them away hungry, for they might faint on the way.’  The disciples said to Him, ‘Where would we get so many loaves in this desolate place to satisfy such a large crowd?’  And Jesus said to them, ‘How many loaves do you have?’  And they said, ‘Seven, and a few small fish.’  And He directed the people to sit down on the ground; and He took the seven loaves and the fish; and giving thanks, He broke them and started giving them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people.  And they all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, seven large baskets full.  And those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children.”

O (Observation) – Lord, what is so unbelievable about this story is that the disciples had already witnessed You feeding the 5,000 men plus women and children not long before this day, as well as watching You miraculously heal all of the various people who were present.  How is it possible to walk alongside You, witness Your amazing provision, see first-hand every single person around You healed of every possible ailment, and then wonder where the food might come from to feed them?

A (Application) – We do the same thing every day.  We know of Your greatness, we sing about it on Sundays.  We know You are able to do exceedingly, abundantly, above and beyond all that we ask or think…we say so in our prayers.  But then we go throughout our day living as if it were all up to us to make things happen.  When will we learn how to really believe You, and be still and know that You are God?  There are countless times in my life where Your fingerprints are unmistakeable.  I look back and marvel at how faithful You are, how perfect Your timing is, and how Your plan is so much greater than anything I could have come up with on my own…yet I wonder from day-to-day if Your grace and mercy will ever stop being as wonderful for me.  Maybe not consciously by what I believe, but certainly in how I allow the concerns of this life to dominate my thinking.  Instead of declaring Your promises over the areas of my life causing me anxiety, I sometimes slip into “fix it mode” and get to work on doing what I believe in my flesh is what needs to be done.

P (Prayer) – Precious Jesus, Help me to remember Your goodness and all that You have already done for me.  Help me to be still in my mind and allow Your peace and calmness to reign in my heart.  Just as You did not berate the disciples for asking such a silly question after witnessing Your greatness, thank You for never shaking Your finger in my face telling me to stop what I am doing…You just gently remind me that You love me and that You’ve got this.  If only I would receive that and live like I believed it.

We Are One Body

S (Scripture) – Matthew 13:18-23 “Hear then the parable of the sower.  When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart.  This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road.  The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away.  And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.  And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.”

O (Observation) – Millions of people are hearing Your word each and every day, spoken through Christian radio, television, apps, online, and maybe even reading it themselves.  The seed is being sown.  I usually read this passage and think to myself that it is predominantly about the “condition of the soil,” or rather, the condition of the person’s heart hearing Your word.  What I hear You telling me today is that it is up to the body of Christ to nurture those that are new in the faith (do not understand), those maturing in the faith (not yet having a firm root), and those who are mature in the faith yet facing a challenging season (worry of the world taking over the mind and resulting in an unfruitful disciple).

A (Application) – If the body of Christ would understand its role in coming alongside those who are in such desperate need of guidance, wisdom, healing, direction, and understanding of how to apply Your truth to their lives, we would see a very different set of Christ followers. Instead, we are seeing churches that are divided and more concerned with winning arguments rather than loving people into a relationship with You, Lord.  Your prayer for Your body was for us to be known for our love and to be united as one.  The enemy knows this, and has been at work to divide and rob us of Your heart for the lost and for those seeking You.  Open our eyes, Lord.  May our ministry not be about a certain program, but Holy Spirit led relationships that result in a deeper knowledge and appreciation of Your promises that result in transformed hearts, lives, families, and communities.

P (Prayer) – Heavenly Father, may we be one.  May we come together and love each other well.  Open up doors of opportunity for us to speak life into others, and never miss an opportunity to help cultivate the seed You have planted in their hearts.  You have called each of Your followers into ministry with You by our side.  Holy Spirit, be our guide.

Authority Given

S (Scripture) – Matthew 10:1, 7-8, 17-20

“Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness…And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’  Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.  Freely you received, freely give…But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles.  But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say.  For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.”

O (Observation) – Lord, You have given us authority to do great things in Your Name and for Your glory.  You have equipped us with Your Holy Spirit to tear down strongholds, heal sickness and disease, and You want us to go forth each day freely giving as we have freely received.  Inevitably, whenever anyone is doing anything for You and Your kingdom, we will find ourselves one day being questioned by others.  When we find ourselves in a situation where we need to speak, we can trust that as long as we are fully yielded to You, You will be the One speaking.

A (Application) – Sometimes we attempt to do good things in our own strength, apart from You.  While there is nothing wrong with doing good for others, it is absolutely necessary that we not miss out on the authority, covering, blessing, and favor that can only come from doing kingdom work by Your power, Spirit, and authority.  Ephesians 2:10 says “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”  You have already scripted exactly what it is that we are supposed to do for You in this life.  It’s our job to abide in You, seek Your face, spend time in Your presence, and listen for Your prompting.  We can trust that whatever it is that You have called us to, You have given us the authority through Jesus to see it through.  Not in our own strength, but together with You.  “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13).”

P (Prayer) – Heavenly Father, thank You for Your provision.  You’ve called us to more with You than we have right now.  Elevate our perspective and allow us to see a glimpse of what You see every day.  Help us to feel Your presence and experience Your power.  If there is anywhere in our hearts that are not fully submitted to You, show us.  We want all that You have for us, and know that we can only carry it out by Your strength.