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When We Say, “I Forgive You”

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

What do we mean we say, “I forgive you”? More importantly, do we mean what the Bible means?

When we really dig into Scripture’s teaching on forgiveness, we find that it stretches and challenges us, forcing us into the uncomfortable territory of being more like Jesus. Without further ado, taking our cues from God’s Word and God’s forgiveness, here’s what we should mean when we say “I forgive you”:

God’s Word is at Work

A brief encouragement for the culturally discouraged or even culturally fearful:

This morning at our local pastors’ meeting, our leader encouraged us to share how God was using His Word in our lives or in the lives of the churches we serve. As we went around the room, pastor after pastor said almost the same thing: “We are preaching in Judges / Numbers / Ephesians / Genesis right now and God is using His Word to equip us for faithfulness in a difficult world.” 

From the RPCNA Synod

Most of the readers of this blog know that the writers are (mostly) pastors in the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, which is currently wrapping up their annual meeting of synod at Indiana Wesleyan in Marion, Indiana. Without giving a full update, I thought I might mention a few encouraging blessings God has given this week. 

A Catechism for the Very Youngest

Many of our readers are familiar with the Westminster Shorter Catechism, which B.B. Warfield notes is definitely worth learning, but definitely not very easy. Many families use the shorter catechism as a regular part of their devotions, family worship and theological training of children. Others are also familiar with the First Catechism – a form of the shorter catechism designed for younger children.

When our children were very young (able to speak a few words, but certainly not sentences), I found even the First Catechism to be a little unwieldy for them. And so we began to put together a short catechism for very young children.

The Church’s Egypt Moment

“Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.” So sayeth the apostle Paul. Land for your offspring. A great name. A great nation. A great blessing. The protection of God. Abram believed those promises and acted like he believed them. He left Ur; even when he got to the promised land, he kept moving and camping out, trusting God the whole time.

But then things were complicated by a famine. Leaving the promised land in the rear view mirror, they headed to Egypt, still believing that they would return (see Gen. 12:10’s note about the “sojourn”). Struck by the beauty of his wife, he began to fear for his life – what would they do to Abram in order to get to Sarai? And so he hatched a plan of half-truths and self-protection: “Tell them you’re my sister.”

It worked – almost too well. Not only wasn’t Abram killed, his pockets and stalls were filled with the riches of none less than Pharaoh himself. And only by the hand of God himself was Sarai saved from a life in Pharaoh’s harem.

What just happened??! I’m glad you asked, because if we pay attention, we’ll see a mirror for the American church to peer […]

Movies & Gratitude

[I’m writing this before the Indiana primary results are published; so this post has nothing to do with that. Sorry for any disappointment.]

During a recent vacation, I watched two movies. This is unremarkable as I watched movies at other times, too. But this time I watched films I’m not embarrassed to having enjoyed (I’m looking at you, Michael Bay). Both movies were well done and both, uniquely, made me grateful. Misery loves company, so hopefully thankfulness does, too. 

Why We Sing

Of all the things we do in worship, singing is the most mysterious to me. That’s probably not a great statement about my theology, but it’s accurate. I understand the why of our singing less than the other elements of worship. Why do we sing? Why not just recite Scripture out loud? Or why do we sing together? Why not just let one person sing (this tempts me sometimes…)? 

In Praise of Administration

[Note: After a helpful conversation with a friend, I’ve edited this post to speak more clearly to the structure and organizational ministry in local congregations, realizing that “administration” is used in 1 Corinthians more to highlight the work of elders ruling in the church. Since the article was more focused on the organizational side of administration, I’ve made some word changes to reflect that.]

“I’m not gifted in organization.”

I’ve said that. Many pastors I know have said the same thing. When you hear a pastor say that, it may be an attempted excuse for why the life of the church is a muddied mess and something fell through the cracks, again. There’s often some truth to it. Not everyone is naturally gifted at organization and organizational leadership. And so, for almost a decade of pastoral ministry, I chanted the mantra in order to explain why our church calendar wasn’t up-to-date and why my expense reports were months late. It’s true that I’m not great at it. But the wider truth is that I don’t like to do administrative work, so I just don’t. 

Super Wednesday

I’m writing this before the results of “Super Tuesday” (surely the highest billing any Tuesday’s ever gotten) are announced. Still, it seems fairly certain that I’ll continue to be disappointed and frustrated by the whole thing. If you want insight into my psyche, see my non-gentle-nor-reformational note over at facebook.

To right the ship of my heart, to bring my frustrations and anxieties to the proper place (i.e., God, not the internet), here are some things that make this Wednesday “Super Wednesday.”

Today, on Super Wednesday, Jesus is still on his throne, working everything out for the good of the church (Eph. 1:22). It’s up to me to decide whether to view Jesus’ kingship through the lens of my frustrations (personal or national) or vice versa: to view my frustrations through the lens of Jesus’ reign. Hopefully the choice is clear.

Today, on Super Wednesday, God still listens to the prayers of His people and is moved to action by those prayers. He loves them so much they’re like heaven’s scented candles (Rev. 5:8). And He loves you so much He wants to hear what’s on your heart, what’s keeping you up at night or eating at you from the inside out (1 Pet. 5:7)! I hope […]