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The Forgiveness Business

Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

That’s from Matthew 18:21,22.

That’s not easy.

That sounds harsh.

St. Peter already had an answer to his question in mind: 7.  Seven was considered to be the perfect number (and if you want a mind-numbing recitation of why, here’s a quick search result with more than you and I’d ever need to know: All he needed was for Jesus to nod at him and he’d be good to go, confirmed and justified n his sense of being offended and angry.

But Jesus didn’t just throw him a curve ball; Jesus threw the entire stadium back at him: “77 times.”

Sounds like we’re in the forgiveness business.





How to Stop Being So Angry

“How does a person stop being so angry?”

Good question.

In this instance, it was asked by a character on Necessary Roughness, a tv series about a pro football team and its psychotherapist.

The answer?


Let’s go over that again —

Q. “How does a person stop being so angry?”

A. “Forgiveness.”

There’s a prayer we’ve been taught that includes the line, “forgive us…as we forgive.” Jesus said that in Matthew 6:12.

And yeah, so, that leaves me needing to work on that thing called “forgiveness” today, how about you?



Beyond a Wine Patch

“No one sews a patch of unshrunk/new cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse.”  Jesus said that in Matthew 9:16.

I don’t know much about sewing and patching but I get the idea.

So do you.

Then why do I try and slap a new covering on an old habit and think it’s going to make a difference?

You ever do that?

Let’s try the principle that comes next: “Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins,” Jesus says in Matthew 9:17. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”

Newness seems to need newness.



Where’s the Bible?

Just as words mean something, so do things and where we literally place them.

Churches tend to put a very large Bible on the altar table up front. It’s a good way to remind people of the centrality of Scripture.

But one church I served before retiring didn’t do that.

For quite some time before I arrived, their Bible had been on the lectern. On the reading stand. Where the worship leader stood. Not on the altar for all to see.

I was shocked and appalled.

Then I stood there to lead worship and experienced the brilliance of that.

It happened when I glanced down at the bulletin and my notes for that service.

They were resting on The Bible.

Get that: every announcement, every detail of the service and the entire corresponding life of the church, stood on Scripture.

Actually took my breath away. I actually gasped.

Remember this song? How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, is laid for your faith in His excellent word!




I’m Speechless

I actually drove past a church sign recently that said, and I do quote, “Worship the way it used to be.”

Left me speechless.

Still does.

What say ye?

Please let me hear from you. Thanks in advance, I’ll see you back here tomorrow.



To Snooze or Not to Snooze?

This is the day again now what?

Oh, yeah, *yawn* this is the day that the Lord has made.

That Bible verse. Old Testament, right?

Heard it all before. Reaching for the snooze button.

Not so fast, my friend.

Catch the not-subtle nuance of that same verse in the Aramaic Bible in Plain English:

This is the day that Lord Jehovah has made;

come, we will leap for joy and rejoice in him!

— Psalm 118:24

Two quick things:

  1. Jehovah = generally understood to be a name so holy as to be unpronounceable by us sinners, except by one person in one place once a year. Whoa…pretty big deal, eh?
  2. the second line is an invitation to fully participate in celebration: “leap for joy and rejoice in God!

Nothing there at all that’s snooze-worthy…so what are we waiting for?


Building Debt

The meeting had been going smoothly until someone brought it up.

The debt.

The building debt.

The church building debt.

The only sound next was squirming. Lots of it.

Someone cleared their throat.

Heads turned.

“Let’s just get this out there,”  said someone who looks a lot like me. “This isn’t pretty. This isn’t funding disaster relief. We’re not sending kids to church camp with this money. Hard to put a face on this indebtedness.”

Silence around the table.

“Didn’t used to be this way,” I blundered on.

“Things change. Attitudes change. In a lotta places, building debt has become a hard sell.”

A now painful silence filled the room.

“I guess what I’m saying,” I went on, without really thinking this part through, “is that paying off debt isn’t sexy.”

Stunned silence this time. Including my own.

Had I really just said that out loud?!

And then a woman chuckled.

Let’s call her Janet. Because that’s her name.

“No, it’s not,” she said. “But being OUT of debt sure is sexy!”

That was the turning point in the discussion.

Things began to flow freely: laughter, money, grace.

The borrower is slave to the lender, says Proverbs 22:7.

Or, to give that Janet’s positive spin, “being OUT of debt sure is” uh, well, it’s “sexy.”

See you back here tomorrow.