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Food for Thought - Manna

The Lord‘s Prayer: "Forgive us our tresspasses"

Forgive us our trespasses

As we pray this segment of the prayer it can seem a little daunting, maybe even frightening. For we are asking God to forgive us in the same way as we have forgiven others. Now I cannot speak for you but that is a tad bit unsettling. I am not a grudge holder but neither am I the champion of forgiving others and thus the seeming implication of this passage, linking my mode of forgiving others to God’s mode of forgiving me, leaves me a little uneasy. But maybe that is the point. Maybe Jesus is telling me, telling us, that we are not merely to rest in God forgiveness of ourselves but we are to be about the forgiveness business too. This portion of the Lord’s Prayer reminds me of Paul’s words in Ephesians 4:32; “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” In that passage Paul seems to express an expected correlation between being forgiven by God and then forgiving others. Or maybe our ability to forgive is one of the signs of having truly received and internalized God’s forgiveness of ourselves. As I write those words, another passage springs to mind; the parable of the person who was forgiven much but was unwilling to forgive others (Mt 18:21-35). Now we can seek to escape the angst that can arise from the words, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,” by reminding ourselves of the unconditional forgiveness but this would be done to the detriment of our own souls. So I encourage you even as you soak in the soothing waters of the forgiveness you have received through the death and resurrection of Jesus that you remember the challenge and invitation inherent in Jesus words; “forgive us our trespasses even as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

All that being said, the topic we will dive into this month is the truth of our forgiveness in and through Christ. You will be invited to explore not only the truth of our being forgiven through the sacrifice of Christ but also the need you had for this forgiveness. Some of what you will be looking at this month is your identity as a sinner. Yes, I used the “s” word! I know it is not in vogue to talk about the “s” word in Church but I do believe that if pressed we would have to admit that we have each sinned and do sin. Now owning this reality, namely, that you are (I am) a sinner, is extremely important. Jesus tells us why it is important for the s word to find it’s place back into our language, not as a means of shocking people, but rather waking them up to the reality of forgiveness. Jesus puts it quite succinctly when he says the one who has forgiven much loves much (Lk 7:47). Now we invite you to turn your attention to your forgiveness in Christ.

Your forgiveness in Christ

One of the magnificent gifts of the death and resurrection of Christ is your forgiveness, you are no longer children of wrath but a child of God. It is through God’s forgiveness, brought about in and through Christ, that you are able to enter into a vital growing relationship with God, to live in a place where there is no condemnation and nothing can separate you from the love God has for you.

The extraordinary grace of total and complete forgiveness is what sets Christianity apart. It is foundational to what it means to be a Christian; you are forgiven and you forgive. These twin aspects of forgiveness are tied together, inseparable. There is not one without the other.

Forgiveness brings you freedom

Both God’s forgiveness of you and your forgiveness of others brings you life-giving and heart-transforming freedom to live, to be and to become.

Exercises: Part 1

The focus of this first exercises will be on your own sin. This may at first seem strange but to understand one as forgiven by God one also needs to embrace the reality of one’s need for forgiveness. It is because you have sinned that Jesus’ death is necessary. Jesus satisfies the justice and holiness of God by paying the price, taking the punishment that was rightfully ours. I love the words of Paul when he describes all this; “he who knew no sin (Jesus) became sin (took all our sins upon himself) that we (you and me) might become the righteousness of God.”

1. Spend a couple of days looking at the results of breaking the 10 commandments both globally and personally. What is the result of breaking these commandments throughout the world and throughout your own life? Please remember the goal of this exercise is not self-condemnation but an internalized sense of the implications of sin and acknowledgement of your own sin. Also as you explore your life keep in mind there are sins of omission (things you did not do) and commission (things you did). Now take a couple days to explore the following:

"You shall have no other gods before me.”

"You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand {generations} of those who love me and keep my commandments.”

"You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.”

"Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

"Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.”

"You shall not murder.”

"You shall not commit adultery.”

"You shall not steal.”

"You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.”

"You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor."

2. In light of your time spent in the 10 commandments interact with the following:

• Name and own the results of your sinfulness as witnessed in the lives of others and ultimately in the suffering and death of Christ,

• Name and own the gift from God of your forgiveness in Christ as one who was a sinner but is know seen as and called a saint – a new creation in God! What feelings arise within you? Can you own your new identity as a saint? Why, Why not? How does all this make you feel toward the person of God/Jesus and what God/Jesus has done on your behalf? Share your thoughts and feelings with God.

3. What does it mean to you that God has forgiven YOU?
As you think of your complete and unconditional forgiveness in Christ what feelings arise within you? Share these feelings with Jesus.
How about you? What would you rate as your level of the ‘FELT’ forgiveness of God – See different level delineated below. Where do you see yourself? Why?

• No real ‘felt’ forgiveness: I know in my head that God forgave me, but I feel guilty and condemned by God. My past mistakes define me.

• Some ‘felt’ sense of being forgiven: I struggle with feelings that I have disappointed God, letting him down. I can’t escape my past.

• I feel forgiven: I am able to hold on to my forgiveness, to believe my past doesn’t define me.

• I am not getting stuck in feelings of condemnation. I am able to trust in God’s love for me.

• I feel forgiven: I am free from condemnation and the memories of past sins. I am able to own God’s love and freely forgive those who wrong me.

• I feel forgiven: I am free from condemnation; free from my past, able to more fully own who I am in Christ as one forgiven, able to love and be loved and I am able and willing to forgive others.

What may be blocking you from more fully entering into God’s forgiveness and/or being a conduit of that forgiveness to others who falsely accuse you, say evil against you, persecute you…?

Exercises: Part 2

1. Exploring the level of our forgiveness of ourselves.

Forgiveness of ourselves allows us freedom from having our lives defined by the sins we have committed.

Take some time to ponder the verses below paying attention to what thoughts and feelings surface within you.

“I write to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name…”1 John 2:12

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace.” Eph. 1:7

“For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Col. 1:13, 14

“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.” Col. 2:13, 14

“For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit.” 1 Peter 3:18

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

2. Steps to Owning your Forgiveness in Christ and God’s Extraordinary love for you

• Name and own the wages of sinfulness (Rom 3:23, Ephesians 2:1-3)

• Name and own your sinfulness (be specific)

In the following set of exercises you’ll be encouraged to spend some time focusing on the gift of forgiveness you have received from the life, death and resurrection of Christ.

a. God’s forgiveness is extravagant – beyond ‘I don’t hold it against you’, to celebrating, embracing, and valuing you (e.g. the prodigal). Take some time to remind yourself of the wondrous gift of forgiveness that you have received through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Allow this to lead you into a time of praise and thanksgiving to our triune God.

b. Spend some time meditating on the following passages. What are the feelings that rise within you as you sit with and ponder the glorious truths concerning the grace and mercy God has showered upon you.

“For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:11-12

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” Ephesians. 1: 7

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” Ephesians 2: 1-5

c. Spend some time thinking through some of the marvelous gifts you have received as a result of being forgiven by God.

Escape God’s wrath and punishment

Reconciliation to God, self and others

Adoption into the family of God

The gift of the Holy Spirit

A secure forever

The absence of condemnation

No longer being defined by past mistakes

Freedom to be and become

Relationship with God

Deep sense of worth, value and significance

Abundant life/Eternal life

Be able to address God as daddy, mommy

Knowing God and being known by God

Communicate openly and honestly with God

Confidence that nothing can separate you from God’s love for you

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Choose the two or three results listed above that you are most drawn to and spend some time journaling about them. Why are they important to you? What feelings do they stir within you? What do they tell you about who God is and why is that important to you?

Exercises: Part 3

1. Use the watercolors to create something that communicates with colors and not words your feelings about being forgiven.

2. In light of God’s total forgiveness of you spend time with the words found in Romans 8:1. How much condemnation comes to us from God? Where does condemnation come from? And sense condemnation is not from God how might you best deal with it so that it does not take you away from God but rather draws you to God?

3. In light of God’s total and complete forgiveness of you spend time pondering the words of Romans 8:38-39. What are the things that sometimes hinder you from being able to own God’s love for you – are they things you have done (they are forgiven) are they things that have been done to you (these do not define you nor defile you). Nothing can separate you from God’s love. Spend some time making Romans 8:38-39 personal replacing the words height…with things from your own life that feel like they separate you from God’s love.

4. Jesus’ words “those who have been forgiven much love much…” How is the depth of your love of God growing as your have pondered the twin truths of your own sinfulness and Jesus gift of forgiveness?

5. Enter into the story below of the prodigal son as the son who has sinned against the father, wishing he was dead, demanding his inheritance, squandering the resources the father gave to him, and then returning to the father. The following is adapted from Luke 15:11-24 (Imaginative Prayer in Youth Ministry p. 105)

Imaginative Prayer Exercise

Using your imagination enter into the story below as the child that leaves home. Do not merely read the story but become a part of it being aware of your feelings each step of the way. When you have finished journeying through the story spend time interacting with the following:

Reflection/Journal Questions
+What surprises you about this story?
+What does this story tell you about God’s love for you/ God’s forgiveness of you?
+How does God’s love/forgiveness for you make you feel?
+How does this story make you feel about God, about yourself?

It is morning. You wake up in a bad mood. You are disgusted with your life, your family, you have had enough. You want what is yours. You want the freedom to make your own decisions, to live life the way you want to live life. You have waited long enough, today is the day. You march into your dad’s room and demand what is yours. The words flow from your mouth filled with anger, tinged with hatred; “Dad, I wish you were dead, I want what is mine. Give me my inheritance. Your dad doesn’t react in anger he merely says okay. He walks to his desk scribbles out some numbers on a sheet of paper, then moves behind the desk to the safe and begins to take out some sacks of money. You can’t believe your eyes. He is doing it. He is giving me my inheritance. Your dad says, “here you go.” Wow, so much money, my money to do with as I please. You grab the money and head out the door, too much in a hurry to see the love in your dad’s eyes, to hear the pain in his voice as he says good-bye and wishes you the best of luck.

You are free, free to live as you want, free to make your own decisions. As you leave the house you imagine the fun you will have and the fortune you will make for yourself. But you fall into the wrong group and get caught up in a lifestyle of parties, drugs and all that goes along with those things. You are surrounded by many who call you friend. That is until your money runs out. Your money goes quickly and your so called friends disappear too. You are alone and hungry with no place to stay You get a job feeding pigs. Your hopes and dreams now mock you, as does your last encounter with your dad.

You are so hungry that you are tempted to eat some of the pig’s food. This is not good, you think to yourself, no one should have to live this way. But what can you do? You remember your dad and think back to the harsh and angry words you said to him. I can’t go back there, no way. But what other choice do you have. You wonder if your dad would hire you as a servant at least then you would get three meals a day and a roof over your head. You decide to give it a try, to go back home and throw yourself on the mercy of your father, begging him to make you a servant. As you begin your journey home you try and convince yourself that your dad will take you. You rehearse the scene with your dad in your head. What should I say and will I say it. You come up with a plan. You will fall at his feet you will say, dad, I was wrong, I screwed up, I blew it, I don’t deserve to be your child. I have wasted all you have given me. Please hire me as your servant. I will work hard and pay back every last dime of the money you gave me. You practice your speech over and over imagining your father’s stern look and his harsh words re-enforcing how much you have hurt and dishonored your dad, your family and yourself. How you have let him and everyone down. How it is not fair to your brother for you to just come back like nothing has happened. But then you imagine your dad finally agreeing to have you work as a servant, allowing you to sleep and work as a servant but wanting nothing to do with you. You can hear your dad saying “I am only doing this so you will be able to pay back all the money you wasted.” Over and over you play out this scene in your mind.

Finally, one day as the sun is setting, you get close enough to see your home. You see someone standing at the front gate. The figure begins to run toward you, as the figure gets closer, you can see it is your dad. Your dad is running! You have never seen your dad run. What can this mean? As your dad gets closer you see tears streaming down his face. When he reaches you, he throws his arms around you and begins to kiss you. You try and drop to your knees to beg for a job but your dad is holding you so tight you are not able to. So you begin to say your speech but your dad is not listening. He is giving orders to the servants who followed your father from the house. You hear your father’s words. They seem strange, not filled with judgment, anger or disappointment but love and joy. This isn’t how you pictured the scene. Your father speaks to the servants and they go running off. In a few minutes they return with a beautiful robe, fine shoes and the family ring. Your father gently places the ring on your finger and says we are going to have a feast, we are going to celebrate, my precious child has returned. It is time for music and celebration. My child was lost but now my child has returned. My child was dead but now my child is alive. Let the party begin.

Interact using the reflection/journal questions above.

Concluding Remarks

You are forgiven in Christ. This is a reality. As one who is completely forgiven, past present and future you are freed from condemnation and shame. So radical is your forgiveness that God now calls you a holy one, a saint. That is who you are! This is an important truth to hang on to because it means there is now no condemnation for you (Romans 8:1) and nothing, not even your own sin, can separate you from God’s love (Romans 8:38-39). You are forgiven, the old has passed and the new has come. You are no longer a child of wrath but a child of God. Seek to live life in light of the forgiveness you have received dismissing any feelings of condemnation and/or shame that may arise and confirming the truth of your identity as a forgiven, holy saint, chosen and beloved of God.


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