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The Basin and Towel

with Indispensable Churches and Tending the Light

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forgiveness

Formational Prayer and Jesus

As you are heading to Ashland for the Formational Prayer seminar this week, I want you to know something about you and Jesus:  everything He did, He did to forgive your sins and give you life with His Father forever.  That means that as you come to Ashland you can be assured that

  • you don’t owe God anything for any of your sins
  • Jesus has completely wiped clean any accusation at all against you, whether from Satan or from anyone else
  • anything that any person may hold against you means nothing to Jesus, who loves you with an unimaginable love
  • in His resurrection He has trampled on the gates of hell and broken them forever – there is no way you can become imprisoned there again
  • He can and does call on legions of angels to surround you with His protection while you are away from home this week
  • wherever you may be hurting or wounded, He knows those wounds intimately; and it is by His wounds that you are healed – that’s another promise of His
  • He will strengthen your faith in every aspect of your participation this week
  • He will surround you with a community of believers so that, like the 99 in the wilderness, Satan will hesitate longer to attack any one of us because of the mass of us gathered together
  • if you don’t have the opportunity to hear it tomorrow in worship, hear it from me now:  as a called and ordained servant of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by His authority, I tell you that all your sins have been forgiven you, in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit
  • He has given you and me the Holy Spirit as His pledge and guarantee that all these promises are true.

I’m looking forward to seeing everything that our generous Lord Jesus will be doing for you this week!

God bless us everyone!

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1 John 2:1-11

1 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

 3 We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. 4 Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. 5 But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: 6Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did. . . .

  9 Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. 10 Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. 11 But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.  (NIV)

If the greatest commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and strength and mind” and the second, “love your neighbor as yourself” is its partner, then the greatest sin is to hate and turn away from the Lord who is God and its partner is to hate your neighbor / brother / sister.  It’s not the unforgivable sin – Jesus pleads for us in the presence of the Father as our Advocate, and the Father is faithful and just and will forgive even this sin – but for us who are the children of God and walking in His light it is the sin that colors and darkens everything we do.

But I confess, my brother, that it is entirely my fault, my sin, that I do not love you as Jesus would love you.  I am not willing to give you the time of day sometimes, my sister, much less my entire life, and that is entirely my sin.  There is no sin in you that Jesus has not forgiven and no failure of yours that He does not take to the Father’s throne for overflowing mercy and grace, but there are times when I feel uncomfortable around you.  That is my darkness, not yours.  If I am to walk and live in the true light of Jesus, I must recognize my own darkness so that I can turn from it and reach out my arms of compassion to you.

And will you take me up on the offer of the compassionate embrace?  That’s your decision, one which I dare not influence in any way except to extend the invitation.  The only loving thing I can do for you is to put away my darkness and extend the hand of love, hoping that someday you will take it in yours.

God bless us everyone!

I John 1:8-10

8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us. (NIV)

Our fellowship together as Christians requires openness and vulnerability.  Openness is me revealing to you my heart, my dreams, my disappointments, my sadness and my joys.  It is me showing you my inward life, so that perhaps you can understand me better.  Vulnerability is me opening my arms to you, inviting you to come in to my embrace.  There’s always a risk in that, as the Prodigal Father knew (Luke 15) – my open arms and my invitation are not a grabbing at you and a forcing of you into my clutches, but an invitation that you are free to decline, even to reject.  Still, the more open and vulnerable I am with you, and the more open and vulnerable you are with me, the stronger our fellowship may become.

But there are times when I am fooling myself when I think I am being open and vulnerable to you.  Sometimes I hear words coming out of my mouth like “I’m only human” or “well, that’s who I am.”  Most of the time I hear them not with tones of sadness, tears and Godly contrition but with tones more like defiance, even pride.  Since I use them when I’m being defensive, I know they are bricks in the wall I build between us, not true efforts at fellowship.  And yet I fool myself into thinking that I’m being humble or honest or open with you, when I’m really daring you to storm the wall from your side.

When I do that with God, He is ready to open His inviting, grace-filled arms to pour out His patient and faithful love  over my rebellion and invite me back into His embrace, to be warmed and welcomed at His heart.  But there are a number of reasons why I still stand off to the side and tell Him I’m fine without that embrace – pride, self-protection, stubbornness and more.  Nevertheless He patiently waits for me to come to my senses and take Him up at His invitation, knowing that I will not regret it in the end.

And if I am open and vulnerable with you, and you with me, will we regret it in the end?  If we show our hearts to each other, and open our arms to embrace each other, will we regret the fellowship that may result?  Or will we fall into that fellowship the way the Prodigal Son fell into the Prodigal Father’s arms, clinging to that love and welcome for all he was worth?  I think the latter.  And this kind of fellowship that we have with one another, modeled as it is after the fellowship we have with our Prodigal Father, will strengthen us both as we face the trials and troubles of the world.

Will you take my hand?

God bless us everyone!

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