Lord, how many times should I forgive?

Recently in a sermon, I was preaching on forgiveness.  I was fairly strong in the statements I made about the limits we put on forgiveness.  You can see that sermon here:  http://www.cloften.com/?cat=37 In some circles that has caused quite a stir.  We don’t want to have to forgive everyone for everything, especially if they have hurt us repeatedly or deeply.  “You can only hurt me so many times” and “Well, I can’t forgive that.” is what we say.  However, there appear to be no limits on what and who we are to forgive.  I am reminded of this, because I was reading in Matthew 18 today.

In Matthew 18:21-35, Jesus tells a story about a man who owes the king 10,000 talents, the equivalent of millions of dollars.  In today’s money, that would be roughly 1 cagillion-babillion dollars.  It is an unreasonable amount of money.  It is such an outrageous amount of money that it makes the story bizarre.  Why would the king let such a debt run up? Why on earth would the king forgive such a debt?  Yet this is how Jesus describes our situation before God.  Our sin has run a cagillion-babillion dollar debt and he has forgiven us.

The servant after having his debt forgiven, then comes across someone who owes him a few dollars.  Rather than showing parallel mercy, he has that guy thrown in jail.  Again, this is absurd.  If the bank calls me and tells me they are getting rid of my mortgage and then I see someone who owes me $10,  I’m thinking, “no big deal.  I will make it up 100 times over after the first time I miss my mortgage payment.”  At least I would like to think that I would.  In fact, we do not forgive this way.  God has forgiven us of our sins which are great and we turn around and hold huge grudges for significantly smaller offenses.

Why do we do this?  One of two things (or both) are true.  First, we do not believe that our sin has truly run up a cagillion-babillion dollar debt (I believe this is the first blog post in history to use the word cagillion-babillion 3, now 4 times).  We think that God has only forgiven us a little.  Second, we don’t believe that by comparison people offending us represents just a few dollars.  Hurting me must be a lot of money, simply becomes I am just that important.  If you accidentally cut me off in traffic, that’s at least $10,000, isn’t it?  I mean you delayed me getting to where I’m going by at least half a second.  If you gossip about me and hurt my feelings, that’s off the chart.  At least that is what we believe.  However, by comparison, people’s sin against us are small compared to ours against God.  Do we believe that?

What are you holding on to? What grudge do you have? Whom have you not forgiven? Remember how God has forgiven you, celebrate that forgiveness and then forgive as God has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:32)

2 thoughts on the LSU/Arkansas debacle

November 29, 2009 by cloften  
Filed under General Insanity, Silliness and Rants

This is two thoughts out of 100.

The first is one that I have shared before.  I wish I didn’t care so much.  I wish that I could have just gone to bed.  I wish that there hadn’t been a giant knot in my stomach.  I know in my head that it doesn’t really effect my life in any tangible way, but that doesn’t seem to translate into normal behavior.  It’s not that I enjoy being crazy.  It is what I am.  What’s worse is that I have turned my wife into the same kind of crazy.  She was just as mad (almost) as I was.

Second, I think that it is too easy to blame the kicker, Tejada.  This is what we do as sports fans.  We blame the person who messed up last.  “Tejada lost the game for us.”  Really? His 3 made field goals and 3 extra points are one of the reasons that we made it to overtime.  How many more missed opportunities were there?  How many passes could have been completed that would have given us more points?  Any of LSU’s drives could have been stopped, most notably the last one before regulation.  What we remember is who did something wrong last.  Had we won it would have been as a team.  We lost as a team.  (Did you notice that I said “we”?  What did I do?  I think this is just further evidence of point #1. I am too emotionally invested in this.  Don’t plan on this changing any time soon.)

I desire mercy, not sacrifice

November 25, 2009 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

After reading that verse yesterday (Matthew 12:7) and the week before (Matthew 9:13) while reading through Matthew, I cannot get that out of my head. On two different occasions, the Pharisees rebuke Jesus for doing something that they felt was “against the rules.”  Jesus told them that they needed to figure what this means, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”  On it’s face, it seems pretty straight forward, but there is a profundity to that statement that goes beyond face value.

What is the best way to learn what that means?  Go to the source.  Jesus is quoting Hosea. In Hosea 6:6, God is rebuking an unrepentant people. He tells them that he desires mercy over sacrifice and acknowledgment of God over burnt offerings.  God was concerned in their hearts not in their religious routines.  They were continuing to sacrifice but they were not showing mercy to one another.  They were bringing burnt offerings to God without acknowledging God.

How can they do that? How can they bring offerings to God without acknowledging Him? I am afraid that we know the answer to that more than we care to admit.  Have we ever gone to church without giving real thought to God? Have we ever dropped a check or cash into the offering without really giving that gift to God?  Of course, we have.  God wants our hearts not our rituals, our lives not our attendance.

When we have a heart that focuses on rules and routines, it effects the way we treat others as well.  We see someone in need of compassion, for example a homeless person, and our first thought is, “I wonder what they did to get in that situation.”  We focus on whether or not they broke the rules, not compassion and mercy.

What would our lives look like if instead of focusing on performing the right acts and duties at church, we focused on devotion to God?  What would we look like if we showed compassion and mercy on the hurting instead of judging what they did or didn’t do to get themselves where they are?

Best Movies

November 25, 2009 by cloften  
Filed under General Insanity, Silliness and Rants

Check out the lists tab for new lists of all sorts of stuff.  For now, all there is best movies.  Let me know what you think.


The Generosity of Fellowship Cabot

November 23, 2009 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership

I am proud to be a member of Fellowship Cabot. Forget about that I work there for a second.  I am proud to be a member there to worship with such great people.  On the weekend of November 14th and 15th, CASA asked us to adopt 20 kids in foster care for Christmas.  We adopted 40.  At the same time we raised $800 for Autism research thanks to Jack Ratliff.  The next weekend (Nov. 21st and 22nd) we raised $700 for turkeys for Mannafest Blessings to give out for Thanksgiving.  This was during a week where so many people went to help another ministry, Hope’s Closet, make food baskets for people for Thanksgiving.  Way to go, Fellowship Cabot. 

Did I mention that both of those food ministries are ministries of other local churches in town?  That’s a praise for you guys for another day.  It doesn’t matter who gets the glory as long as God gets the glory and lives are being changed.

Test Video and Coke Zero

November 23, 2009 by cloften  
Filed under General Insanity, Silliness and Rants

This is both a test and an example of my own brand of randomness.

Church Attendance and Neurotic Pastors

November 23, 2009 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

This is a simple question that I would love for pastors and ministry leaders to answer for me.  It is going to seem a little rhetorical, but I don’t necessarily mean for it to.  Why do we get so neurotic about attendance?  I understand that attendance in some part, determines success.  You plan for hundreds and you get four.  That means something went wrong.  However, it’s the small differences in attendance though that I think demonstrate how neurotic we are .  Let’s say, for example, that we are a church that averages 100 people.  If 90 people come, we get down, but if 10 more people (just 10) had come, we would be OK.  If we average 300, people, we can go into 2 day depression spirals is only 270 show up.  We go crazy over 30 people.  Why is that? Did God show up? Were hearts changed? Did people draw closer to God in worship?  I assure you there is no judgmental finger wagging going on here.  My wife, Heidi, will tell you I am the worst one.  I don’t want to be that guy any more.  Any thoughts?

Lie to Me

November 23, 2009 by cloften  
Filed under General Insanity, Silliness and Rants

Lie to Me is the best show on TV that you are probably not watching.  It is a show about a group of deception experts that get hired to solve various cases where they are trying to determine who’s lying and why.  It is clever, smart and funny and Tim Roth is great.

Anyway, the downside to this show is that you start using what you’re learning.  They talk about ways that people mask lies and then you’re hanging out with your friends and you see them do some of those things.  (If you start watching the show, this is your warning.  Do not use your new knowledge on your friends and family)  The classic one that people use all the time is this one.  You ask them a yes/no question and they want the answer to be yes, but really they are thinking no.  For example, “how was your visit with your family last week?”  They then make this face:

Lying face

Then they start nodding their head and in high pitch voice, they say, “good. . . It was good.”

I just want you to know that if you pull that on me, I know you’re lying.  I won’t necessarily call you out.  It depends on how well I know you.  You need to practice not making that face and going with the high pitch voice.  It’s a dead give away.

Again, I don’t mean to use this on you, but I just can’t help it.  Lie to Me:  It’s fun and educational.

Who you are not what you do.

I met with a group of guys this morning. We are meeting every Wednesday morning. We call it a leadership class, but it is not what you would necessarily expect from a leadership class. We have spent the entire fall talking about our spiritual life and how that provides the foundation for everything in our lives. Our relationship with God is not a piece of our lives but it is the driver for everything in our lives.

Anyway, we have been looking at Galatians 5 for the last couple of weeks. What I was struck by today is what Paul describes as the “fruit of the Spirit.” What he says next is what Paul believes is the primary evidence/result of God’s Spirit in our lives. He could have said anything: “The fruit of the Spirit is church attendance, serving, tithing . . .” “The fruit of the Spirit is working soup kitchens, feeding the poor, . . .” The fruit of the Spirit is not stealing, not drinking, not having sex outside of marriage. . .” “The fruit of the Spirit is speaking in tongues, performing miracles, healing, . . .”

All of those things are things that we do, but the result of God’s Spirit in us is who we are. God is interested in transforming our character, not in simply altering our behavior. It is when God changes our character that then our behavior really changes. Our behavior does not change our character.

(Expect more on this)