the first problem with a grudge

Have you ever found yourself in a thought-loop unable to get your mind on something else?  Really its worse than the time I was unable to find my way out of Oklahoma City.  Around and around I drove for what seemed like an eternity trying to find the way out of that city and head back towards Fort Worth.  I was trying to leave but couldn’t find the way.

The problem with a grudge though, is that we aren’t trying to leave.  We harbour, nurse, feed our offendedness with rationalistic reasons for why we are right to feel the way we do and to keep holding onto it.  Before we know it a root of bitterness and resentment has turned into a habitual way of relating in relationships  making us over-sensitive, proud, and very self-righteous.  I know, I’ve been there.

As we have been reading through Mark in our journey with Jesus at Cityview I have been surprised at the way Mark correlates Jesus’ teaching with Jesus’ activity.  This pattern is evident in the text associated with Palm Sunday.

A.  Jesus enter Jersusalem as a triumphant king and proceeds to the temple where he looks around.  Mark 11:1-11

B.  The next day, Jesus examines a fig tree for fruit, and finding none, judges it.  11:1-17

C.  Jesus returns to the Temple and clears the Court of Gentiles, and announces that the redemptive purpose of the temple is not being fulfilled:  Is it not written, “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations?” But you have made it a ‘den of robbers.’  Mark 11:13-19

D.  The chief priests and teachers are deeply offended and begin to seek in earnest a way to get rid of Jesus.

E.   The Disciples observe the withered fig tree and Peter is astonished.

E.  Jesus addresses two concerns He has for the Disciples:
1.  Faith-full prayer/conversation with God.
2.  Forgiveness in prayer of any people with whom they might hold an offense.

I believe Jesus recognizes a challenge for the disciples that will keep them from realizing their full redemptive potential in His Kingdom.  In the course of the ministry with Him, Jesus’ disciples will run into confrontations with people.  The Kingdom of God and the Gospel of Jesus confronts what is wrong in the world:  unbelief, abandonment to the flesh, idolatry, misuse of God’s gifts, and the abuse of people.  The disciples  had just accompanied Jesus on such a foray and I believe it would have been easy for them to hold “something” against the people who were now planning Jesus’ death.

An enemy thinks the world would be a better place without you.  And clearly these enemies of Jesus were headed down that path.  However, Jesus would have nothing to do with holding a grudge, planting bitterness, and nursing resentment.

In the future, these disciples of Jesus confronting a world of unbelief and opposition at times to the Gospel would discover that the world would not change as quickly as they might have hoped.  The now-but-not-yet nature of the Kingdom of God meant that they must look forward with faith in a good God who does complete what He says that he would complete.  Even Israel in celebration of the Passover where called out in this week to persist in their faith that God would prevail.  They must not retreat into despair or un-believing doubting prayer.  I do not believe the issue here is whether or not the disciples believed God could do something miraculous.  The real issue was in doubting the fundamental nature of God as one who cares.  Faith-full believing prayer maintains the revealed character of God in His Word as fundamentally good.  It is this quiet confidence and faith then that allows us to engage the sovereignty of God with faith in prayer.  His “no,” “yes,” or “wait” can be accepted and trusted.

And it is this observation that brings us to the first problem with a grudge.  We want to believe that a grudge or resentment is first and foremost a problem between me and the person, or me and the company, or me and that race of people, or me and individual in the past.  But Jesus makes a grudge or sensitive offendedness to a first and foremost a problem between me and God.

“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”  Mark 11:25

The first problem with a grudge toward a person is that it is a problem between me and God.  If I am holding something against another person and believing that they owe me, it is a problem between me and God.  And it is such a problem that I will not be able to fulfill the full redemptive purpose of God for my life.  Jesus tells me that God refuses to bless this course of action in my interior world.  A grudge will cause me to be as lifeless and fruitless as the fig tree Jesus examined the day before this teaching.  A grudge will cause me to be as cluttered, busy, and void of the redemptive purposes of God as Israel was in the Court of the Gentiles.  A grudge, you see, is actually an persistent act of unbelief and treats the Gospel of Jesus’ grace, God’s unmerited choosing, as something small, trite, and of little consequence.  God will not bless grudge keeping, bitterness, and nursed resentments.  Unforgiveness keeps me from fulfilling the redemptive purposes of God and limits my generosity, kindness, compassion, patience, gentleness, faithfulness, joy, peace, self-control, and love.

What to do?

Well we can’t wait to forgive until the other person changes.  To pray is to change.  If I am in conversation with God I am the one called to forgive.  Choose over and over to say, “This person owes me nothing.”  I entrust them to God.  I entrust myself to God’s grace in the Gospel of Jesus.  God has abundantly blessed me…I can afford to extend such grace to others…even to others who wish ill of me.   Jesus has shown us how, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”  Our challenge is that because most of us who are habitually confronted with our ability to keep a grudge rarely enter into that pain because of our commitment to Jesus’ mission, we fail to make the connection between grudges, grace, and our experience of God’s power.  Our experience of such pain derives mostly from unmetabolized pain in our past and/or from the irritants  that accompany daily relationships common to us all.

When we stand praying and God reminds us of a offense we are holding onto, he is inviting us to a new level of living and relationship in the Kingdom of His Son, Jesus Christ.

It is possible that unforgiveness can become such a mountain in our soul that we are not sure we will ever be free of it.  The 70 times 7 challenges to forgiveness have  shown me that forgiveness is sometimes a  process of growth and experience of Jesus grace.  Thankfulness for the other person(s), Surrender of myself to God, Interecssion for God to bless the other person(s), and then finally imagining what the full redemptive work of Jesus’ grace could look like.  On the later, let me paint the picture I have:  Seated at the banquet table of heaven we raise our glasses to toast Jesus, the King of Kings, but instead he begins to toast us…he makes his way to me and blesses me, toasts me, welcomes me to His table as a loved and cherished son…a tear slips down me cheek and Jesus reaches out to wipe it away…I turn away and find that beside me is one who was an enemy, recognition crosses our eyes in an instant, and all I can think to say is, “Jesus is awesome isn’t He?”


The New Testament Challenge: Forgiveness

Here are the notes from Sunday’s talk at Cityview.  You can listen to the audio later in the week.  I have included in the notes the song Forgiven, by Jacob Favela, that we watched and the link for the interview with Kim Phuc that I referenced.


New Testament Challenge:  The Challenge of Forgiveness

“Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins
against us.”   Luke 11:4

The Big Idea:  When I forgive someone I decide that they don’t owe me anything anymore.

1.  Admit the debt pain/hurt creates in your heart.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of  life.”  Proverbs 4:23

“He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.   Blessed is the man who always fears the LORD, but he who hardens his heart falls into trouble.”
Proverbs 28:13-14

After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him ‘unclean’?  For it doesn’t go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods “clean.”)  He went on: “What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’  For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.  All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.'”   Mark 7:17-23


2.  Turn to Jesus who has paid it all and forgiven you.

“Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”  Luke 23:34
“In him, we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.”  Ephesians 1:7-8


For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.  For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.   2 Peter 1:5-9


3.  Choose to forgive the one who sinned against you.

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”  Ephesians 5:32

Matthew  18:21-27

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

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

“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.   “The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.


4.  Make yourself available to God for His redemptive work.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.  Romans  8:26-29


The Ministry of Forgiveness

Here are the notes from my talk today to Pastors/Staff at the Westcoast Baptist Association Prayer lunch.

The Ministry of Forgiveness

Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  Colossians 3:13

If I were to write a book on The Minister and Forgiveness here is a rough outline of my chapter topics:

1.  The Minister receives forgiveness from God.

2.  The Minister gives forgiveness to people.

3.  The Minister receives forgiveness from people.

4.  The Minister models and teaches the forgiving life.

5.  The Minister conveys the forgiveness of God.

Jesus has set the work of forgiveness into the center of our prayer life.

One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”  He said to them, “When you pray, say:


hallowed be your name,

your kingdom come.

Give us each day our daily bread.

Forgive us our sins,

for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.

And lead us not into temptation.'”

Luke 11:1-4

Matthew 5:23-24

23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.

Our capacity to minister fruitfully in the Gospel depends on our continuing experience of the grace and forgiveness of Jesus Christ.

5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

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 has no place in our lives.  1 John 5:5-10

The ministry of forgiveness requires us to lead people wisely, firmly, and with respect to reorder their  relationships in Christian community.

5 If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you, to some extent-not to put it too severely. 6 The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient for him. 7 Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8 I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. 9 The reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. 10 If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him. And what I have forgiven-if there was anything to forgive-I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, 11 in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes. 2 Corinthians 2:5-11

21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”  22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”   John 20:21-23

In the ministry of forgiveness the church practices the ministry of healing prayer that accompanies confession.

Galatians  6:1-3

6:1 Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

James 5:13-20

13 Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. 14 Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

17 Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. 18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.

19 My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, 20 remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.   NIV

In the ministry of forgiveness the minister of the Gospel sometimes may need to lead others into the process of forgiveness and healing by “leading from who we represent” to them.

“I am so sorry _______________ happened to you.  I believe what __________ did is wrong.  I wonder if you would forgive ___________ and enter into the freedom that Christ wants you to enjoy.  When you forgive you are not saying that ________ is OK or right.  Rather you are saying that ________ no longer owes you anything because of Jesus’s love in your life.  So could we enter together now into prayer and ask God to help you forgive and to enjoy your freedom in Christ?”

Forgiveness and Prayer Exercises of Examine

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know

my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me,

and lead me in the way everlasting.   Psalm 139:23-24

1. Ask God to search you and reveal any sin to confess to Him and to receive forgiveness.
2. Ask God to search you and to reveal any relationships and offenses for which you need to forgive.

Extended Family

3. Ask God to search you and to reveal any relationships in which you need to confess your wrong and ask for forgiveness.

4. Forgiveness is a process we enter into in response to the Gospel.  Ask God for His grace to sustain you through the process.

2 Corinthians 12:8-10

8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

integrity test: forgiveness is work

I like to think of myself as a person who forgives easily.  However, I know that the roots of unforgiveness are easily nurtured by the fertile soil of hurt.  It is too easy to let a relationship and a memory sit sour for a day then weeks and months and years.  The result is bit like the lost Easter egg.  It may not stink for days and weeks, but there will come a day that it creates a stink.  You may not smell it anymore, but anyone who enters that room and the adjoining rooms will know that something is rotten!  Relationships will be soured by your unresolved or unforgiven hurt and pain.

Forgiveness is a work that is at the heart of the Gospel of Jesus and therefore the “family life” of any who follow Jesus.  

The notes that follow are from the Sunday message at Cityview.  The audio will be posted later in the week.


Text:  Luke 17:1-10

Big Idea:  Forgiveness is work.

Unpacking the Text:

Vs. 1-3  A warning regarding sin.

     1.  Temptation and situations that cause people to stumble and to sin
          are reality.

     2.  Being the source of stumbling or scandal,  or sin, is awful.
     3.  We must give careful attention to the impact of our lives.

Vs. 3-4  Instructions regarding how to deal with a person who sins against you.  Forgiveness always costs someone; it does not excuse, overlook or condone wrong doing.

     1.  If your brother sins against you, rebuke him.

     2.  If he repents, forgive him.

     3.  If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times
          comes back to you and says, “I repent,” forgive him.

     (other texts:  Matthew 5: 21-26, 6:12-15, 18:15-35)

 Vs.  5-6  The Disciples want increased faith in order to forgive with the generosity Jesus commands; Jesus wants them to have even a little bit of confidence in Him.  We want forgiveness to be about justice, but it is about healing.  It is not about reforming, but about releasing.

      If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this
      mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea,” and it will
      obey you.

 Vs. 7-10  Jesus treats forgiveness as “dutiful work” to be pursued no matter the Disciple’s feelings, but because of their relationship to Him.  This parable is also a warning against feeling that God owes us because we have now forgiven another person who hurt us.

“We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.”

 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”  Luke 23:34

I introduced the message on Sunday with a news piece on the Amish schoolhouse shooting October 2, 2006.  I remember watching with the rest of the world and being convicted and challenged by the grace of many in this community.

heard at Cityview this past weekend

I really appreciate the leadership that Lalpi gives to the congregation at Cityview for our worship of the Triune God.  Yesterday the service was a tight weave that created a picture and an experience of the extraordinary grace of Jesus.  I was so blessed by how Dan and Lalpi presented East to West by Casting Crowns.  A stillness descended on the congregation as we contemplated Jesus’ forgiveness!  Thanks Lalpi and thanks Dan.  If you want to reflect again on Jesus’ forgiveness of our sin you can watch the video below.