The Only One Left

,,, began to go away one at a time, … until only Jesus was left, with the woman ….
John 8:9

I have chosen only a couple of phrases from the entire verse of John 8:9 for reflection today. These words are taken from the account of Jesus with the sinful woman who was brought to Him by the Pharisees. The religious leaders wanted her stoned for adultery while Jesus wanted to forgive her. However, it was only after everyone had left that Jesus had a One on one conversation with this woman.

I may not be an adulterous woman but I have to admit that I am a woman who can sin. Although I strive to live a godly life, Romans 3:23 points out that all of us sin and fall short of the glory of God. Two things become evident to me through this account in John 8. First, I require Jesus’ forgiveness. Second, I hear Jesus speaking to me best when I am alone with Him.

In John 8:7 Jesus says, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Jesus is pointing out that all of us have sin in our lives that needs to be dealt with. The Pharisees were in the same category as the adulterous woman. Jesus did not condemn anyone but He did acknowledge the frailties of human nature. The Pharisees responded by simply leaving Jesus and the woman according to John 8:9. They walked away from their sinful natures by walking away from the presence of Jesus. They did not deny that they could have committed a wrongful act at some point in their lives but neither did they acknowledge their sinfulness to Jesus and ask for forgiveness.

In John 8:10 Jesus asks, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” Jesus waits until He is alone with the woman before He confronts her about her lifestyle. Even then, He does not place condemnation upon her but He does point out that her actions have not been righteous. When she admits her sin, Jesus forgives her. And He goes to say in John 8:11, “Go now and leave your life of sin.” He instructs her not only to confess her sin but to repent which includes a change in lifestyle in addition to acknowledging her wrong doing. What I want to emphasize is that Jesus dealt with this woman alone. He did not confront her in a public surrounding.

This leads me to look at my daily lifestyle to see if I allow for personal time with the Lord so He can convict me of changes I need to make in my life. If Jesus is considerate enough to wait and deal with me privately, then I must be considerate enough of Him to give Him time to speak to me. What do I allow to crowd around me that prevents me from hearing the Lord? Who and what do I need to dismiss from my life so I can hear what Jesus is saying?

George Matheson has asked the question, “Have you ever pictured yourself as the last remaining person on earth, or the only person left in the entire universe?” He then goes on to say, “If you were the only person left remaining in the universe, your every thought would be, ‘God and I…. God and I …!’” Yet in reality, this is how God perceives each of us today. God desires to be close to us and be with us if we will give Him that time and place of honor. Matheson challenges us by saying, “Practice dismissing the crowd!” If I dismiss the crowd, Jesus will personally speak to me. He most likely will convict me of my sin but He will also forgive me of my sin. Then He will guide me and empower me to live my life in a way that will glorify Him.

I desire to be the only one left in the presence of Jesus! I want to have a one on One conversation with Jesus like the woman in the account of John 9. He will not embarrass me about my shortcomings but He will make me aware of them. According to I John 1:9, if I confess my sins, He will be faithful and just and will forgive my sins and purify me from all unrighteousness. I never need to be afraid of being alone with Jesus. Rather, I should desire to be with Him and listen to His voice. Jesus assures me in John 15:4 that if I remain in Him, He will remain in me.

Joyfully,
Cheryl

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Fire with a Purpose

fire-hs2fire-bonfireRecently I attended a Christian women’s retreat and our evening session was held around a bonfire. While the speaker shared what had happened in her life that caused her to feel like trash, many women threw their own garbage into the fire. What happens when the worthlessness of our lives is combined with fire?

The most obvious answer is that all the trash and garbage is burned up. However, ashes remain. Ashes often symbolize sorrow and repentance for sin committed. Job 42:6 NLT says, “I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.” When we toss our garbage into the fire, flames are kindled that burn up the useless things that have happened to us.

Malachi 3:2 describes God by saying, “For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap.” When we leave our rubbish and rubble at the feet of Jesus, He becomes our fire who refines us to be pure like silver and gold. In Isaiah 48:10 the Lord says to us, See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.”  This concept is expanded in I Peter 1:7 NLT that says, These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold–though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” Once again we see how God uses everything in our lives for good. (see Romans 8:28) Although we may mess up when difficulties arise in our lives, God will refine our trash into treasure when we throw it into the heat of the fire. God has a flame of forgiveness for us.

I Corinthians 3:15 says,If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” Then Paul goes on to say in verse 16, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” This is possible because of another function of fire. Acts 2:3-4 describes Pentecost and the descending of the Holy Spirit by saying, “They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” The Holy Spirit sets us on fire to serve the Lord.

In Daniel 3, we read the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego being thrown into the fire by Nebuchadnezzar, but upon closer look there were four in the fire because God was with them. My Reader, I want to assure you today that if you are in the fire for any reason, God is with you. He will burn up your trash and receive your ashes of repentance. He will turn these ashes into beauty by refining you into someone more precious than gold or silver. He will set you on fire with the Holy Spirit and will live within you. II Timothy 1:6 says, “For this reason I(Paul) remind you (Timothy) to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.” I remind you to do the same. Fan the flame of fire within your heart and also fulfill I Thessalonians 5:19 that says, “Do not quench the Spirit.”

The bonfire I experienced at the retreat helped to keep all of us warm on a chilly evening. However, it also provided us with a powerful picture of what the Lord was doing in our spiritual lives that evening.

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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Forgiveness – Receive and Give

prayer-man2

Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.

And do not lead us into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
[For Yours is the kingdom
and the power and the glory forever.
Amen.]
Matthew 6:9-13

lentMy Reader, is it easier for you to receive forgiveness from someone who has offended you or for you to ask someone to forgive you for offending them? Neither act is easy and both acts require humility. I will admit that I find it is easier to say “I forgive you” than to say “please forgive me”. However, it can still be hard for me to fully forgive and forget. Actually, God does not tell us that we have to forget because we can often learn from the offense we have experienced. However, we must not hold the offense against the other person and allow it to hinder our relationship with them. I found the following statement as a notation in the Life Application Bible, “You have to admit you need forgiveness before you can accept it.” That is certainly something for me to ponder!

Let’s immerse ourselves into the concept of forgiveness as we continue our exploration of the paradigm for prayer given to us by Jesus. Each week we are taken deeper into the Lord’s Prayer as we continue our expedition during this Lenten season.

And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
Matthew 6:12

Once again, we will focus upon specific highlighted words as we unpack the meaning of this verse of scripture.

And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our
debtors.

Debts and debtors are the first words we will study. These are the words used in most translations of the Bible for Matthew 6:12. The Greek word for “debts” is ophelilema and it means “that which is owed.” Opheiletes is the Greek word for debtors and means “one who owes another.” I grew up in a mainline denominational church that prayed the Lord’s Prayer saying, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Why the different choice of words? When I read Matthew 6:14-15 NKJV, it says, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive you your trespasses.These verses are the basis for the alternate wording of the Lord’s Prayer. No matter what terms one is most familiar with, the concept we are dealing with in Matthew 6:12 concerns the need of our asking for forgiveness and extending forgiveness for our debts or trespasses or sins or mistakes or shortcomings.

And forgive us our debts,
as we also have f
orgiven
our debtors.
I notice the word “forgive” in the first line followed by “forgiven” in the second line of this scripture. Forgiveness is found on a two-way street. One way I travel requires me to ask God to forgive me while the other direction of travel says I am to forgive others. Everyone sins so we all need to seek God’s forgiveness. Romans 3:23 says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” So, what is the solution for my sinfulness? Jesus is the answer! II Corinthians 5:21 says, “God made him (Jesus) who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” One of the names for Jesus I highlighted on February 17 in the blog post What Is in a Name? was Jehovah-tsidkenu that means “The LORD Our Righteousness.” Although Romans 3:10 says, “”There is no one righteous, not even one;” when we cry out to Jesus for forgiveness He restores us into right relationship with Him again. I John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins (ask for forgiveness), he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (my emphasis) I said earlier that everyone sins. Now I highlight that everyone needs to be forgiven and to forgive others.

OK, I understand how I can receive God’s forgiveness when I ask Him to forgive me for the ways I have hurt or offended Him. This requires humility but I can do it! However, I notice that in order for God to fully forgive me, He asks that I forgive others who have hurt me. I may not want to do this, but I remind myself of my analogy of forgiveness being a two-way street. I must ask, “How can I expect my Heavenly Father to forgive my sins if I am not willing to forgive those who sin against me?” A note in the Spirit Filled Life Bible says, “Prayer for forgiveness is qualified by a readiness to forgive personal injury.” This is what makes forgiveness hard! No one likes to be hurt. And, if I am hurt, I often like to keep the wound open by replaying in my mind what happened to cause the injury. This really is not a healthy thing for me to do. One of the reasons the Lord asks us to forgive others is that forgiveness frees us from the bondage of our hurts. Healing comes after forgiveness. Our extension of forgiveness to the one who has hurt us also frees the Lord to work in the life of the person who sinned against us in the first place. We are to let go and let God do His work of restoration in the lives of everyone involved. When I have trouble forgiving another person, I often find it helpful for me to pray the prayer Jesus prayed for those who were crucifying Him. Jesus simply prayed, “Father forgive them for they know not what they doin Luke 23:34. In this verse, I notice that Jesus asked His Heavenly Father to forgive them. This allows me to ask the Holy Spirit to help me forgive others when I am not able to do so on my own.

And forgive us our debts,
as
we also have forgiven our
debtors.
The use of three little pronouns four times is significant. All of these words are plural. When I consider that Jesus used the words “Forgive us our debts,” I believe that He was emphasizing that all of us have a need for giving and receiving forgiveness. I agree! However, I think that each of us also should pray this phrase of the Lord’s Prayer on a more personal level. I need to examine my heart to see what sins I have committed for which I may need to specifically ask forgiveness. I also need to ask myself if there is any person I need to forgive. My Reader, I encourage you this week to pray this prayer guideline as follows, “Forgive me my debts, as I also have forgiven my debtors.” You might also like to study on your own the Parable on Forgiveness found in Matthew 18:21-35. I like the words that conclude of this parable, “forgive your brother from your heart.” Will you follow these words of Jesus?

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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