God's Dress Code
NOTES FROM THE VALLEY
May 9, 2010
"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil for you are with me." Psalm 23.
GOD'S DRESS CODE
The "Notes" for this week come from Colossians, Chapter 3. I like to call it "God's Dress Code." The great things about this wardrobe are:
- everything's already picked out (no shopping); - everything fits perfectly (no dieting); and
- everything is paid for (no bills).
In the Message Translation these verses read, "So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It's the basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it."
All of us have something in life that just sets us off. For me, it used to be drivers that weren't in as big a hurry as I usually was, but wouldn't get out of my way. I used to get rather vocal and animated towards those people. But now I've learned to keep my mumblings to myself and keep my hands on the wheel. Can you guess why? It's not because Cathy fusses at me so much about being "rude" and "childish" though she certainly had to do enough of that. No - it's this little piece of chrome-plated plastic in the shape of a fish on the rear panel of my car. I'm sure most of you have one or something like it. But have you ever thought about what that emblem, coupled with your behavior, could be saying about Jesus? I didn't. And then one day the good Lord jerked me up on a short leash and made me realize what I'd just done and what it said to others about Him and about His Son. I felt so embarrassed. I even went out and bought one of those license plate frames that says, "Christians aren't perfect - just forgiven" as a kind of apology to the past victims of my anger.
For you, the trigger is probably something else entirely. Whoever or whatever it is, God expects us to respond to others the way He responds to us. And let me emphasize that these are not "optional" expectations on His part. Jesus tells a parable about the Master and the wicked servant who was forgiven his enormous debt, but refused to forgive another servant's small debt to him. When the Master finds out about the servants unforgiveness, He is furious. His new sentence for the wicked servant is to have him turned over to the jailers for torture until he could pay his own debt. Jesus closes the parable with these words, "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart." (Matthew 18:24-35)
I may not be one of the brightest of God's children, but I know an eternal sentence when I hear one. Like the wicked servant, our debt of sin is too large for us to ever repay. And I know the jailer and the place of eternal torture. I'm not interested in either.
By comparison, our brother's debt to us is infinitesimal. Unforgiveness on our part is more than foolish; it is absolute folly. For our sins, God could have sent us to Hell out of anger. Instead, He sent His Son to the cross out of love. Having been forgiven so much, how can we be unforgiving?
Sheltered under His wings and overwhelmed by His love,
The Cost of An Unforgiving Spirit
(Author - Dick Innes)
Some years ago during a visit to Yellowstone Park, one writer observed that the only animal that the grizzly bear would share his food with was a skunk. It wasn't that the grizzly wanted to share his food, but rather that he choses to. With one swing of his powerful paw he could have crushed the skunk. So why did he allow the skunk to eat with him? Because he knew the high cost of getting even. Clever bear! Undoubtedly he learned the hard way. Strange that we humans often aren't as smart. Sometimes we carry grudges for years, often repressing them from conscious memory, and end up hurting ourselves more than the ones we would like to get even with. We fail to see how damaging an unforgiving spirit is.
In his book, "None of These Diseases," Dr. S.I. McMillen says, "Medical science recognizes that emotions such as fear, sorrow, envy, resentment and hatred are responsible for the majority of our sicknesses. Estimates vary from 60 percent to nearly 100 percent." I read one report of an astonished patient who was told by his doctor, "If you don't cut out your resentments, I may have to cut out a part of your intestinal tract." Fortunately, the man took the doctor's advice. He had been nursing a bitter grudge against a former business partner. He went to see this man, resolved their differences, and forgave him. When he returned to the doctor, his physical condition had cleared up. That advice isn't new of course. The greatest physician who ever lived, Jesus Christ, pointed out 2,000 years ago the importance of forgiveness. When he encouraged us to "forgive seventy times seven," he was thinking of our physical as much as our spiritual well-being. (Matthew 18:21-22)
As Dr. McMillen says, he knew that a forgiving spirit would save us from "ulcerative colitis, toxic goiters, high blood pressure, and scores of other diseases." including ulcers, asthma, arthritis, neuro-dermatitis, and heart ailments--all possible effects of resentment. The Bible's advice is therefore just as relevant today as it was when written 2,000 years ago: "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." (Ephesians 4:32).
Years after her concentration camp experiences in Nazi Germany, Corrie ten Boom met face to face one of the most cruel and heartless German guards that she had ever contacted. He had humiliated and degraded her and her sister. He had jeered and visually raped them as they stood in the delousing shower. Now he stood before her with hand outstretched and said, "Will you forgive me?"
She writes: "I stood there with coldness clutching at my heart, but I know that the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. I prayed, Jesus, help me! Woodenly, mechanically I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me and I experienced an incredible thing. The current started in my shoulder, raced down into my arms and sprang into our clutched hands. Then this warm reconciliation seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes. 'I forgive you, brother,' I cried with my whole heart. For a long moment we grasped each other's hands, the former guard, the former prisoner. I have never known the love of God so intensely as I did in that moment!" To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover the prisoner was you."
What Jesus Said
(Author - Bruce Larson)
Bruce Larson tells the true story of a Catholic priest living in the Philippines, a much-loved man of God who once carried a secret burden of long-past sin buried deep in his heart. He had committed that sin once, many years before, during his time in seminary. No one else knew of this sin. He had repented of it and he had suffered years of remorse for it, but he still had no peace, no inner joy, no sense of God's forgiveness.
There was a woman in this priest's parish who deeply loved God, and who claimed to have visions in which she spoke with Christ, and He with her. The priest, however, was skeptical of her claims, so to test her visions he said to her, "You say you actually speak directly with Christ in your visions. Let me ask you a favor. The next time you have one of these visions, I want you to ask Him what sin your priest committed while he was in seminary." The woman agreed and went home.
When she returned to the church a few days later, the priest said, "Well, did Christ visit you in your dreams?"
She replied, "Yes, He did."
"And did you ask Him what sin I committed in seminary?"
"Yes, I asked Him."
"Well, what did He say?"
"He said, 'I don't remember.'"
This is what God wants you to know about the forgiveness He freely offers you. When your sins are forgiven, they are forgotten. The past, with its sins, hurts, brokenness, and self-recrimination is gone, dead, crucified, remembered no more. What God forgives, He forgets.
Forgiveness Is . . .
(Author - George Roemisch)
Forgiveness is the windblown bud which blooms in placid beauty at Verdun.
Forgiveness is the tiny slate-gray sparrow which has built its nest of twigs and string among the shards of glass upon the wall of shame.
Forgiveness is the child who laughs in merry ecstasy beneath the toothed fence that closes DaNang.
Forgiveness is the fragrance of the violet which still clings fast to the heel that crushed it.
Forgiveness is the broken dream which hides itself within the corner of the mind oft called forgetfulness, so that it will not bring pain to the dreamer.
Forgiveness is the reed which stands up straight and green when nature's mighty rampage halts, full spent.
Forgiveness is a God who will not leave us even after all we've done.
Copyright © 1998 - 2010 by Stephen J. Hall - Notes from the Valley and Humor from the Valley are meant to brighten your day and encourage you along the way. If you are blessed by them, please feel free to make copies and pass them along to others. If you have something you'd like to contribute to a future edition, would like to ask a question or make a comment, please contact us at: steveh.rbis@...
Your love, God, is my song, and I'll sing it! I'm forever telling everyone how faithful you are. I'll never quit telling the story of your love . . . (Psalm 89:1-2 The Message)