Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Album of the Year (2008)

If I were to vote for album of the year, it would be Come Weary Saints from Sovereign Grace Music. Each song has been been remarkably timely and encouraging during a particularly trying time. My three favorite tracks are...

I Have a Shelter

Steve & Vikki Cook and Bob Kauflin

I have a shelter in the storm
When troubles pour upon me
Though fears are rising like a flood
My soul can rest securely
O Jesus, I will hide in You
My place of peace and solace
No trial is deeper than Your love
That comforts all my sorrows

I have a shelter in the storm
When all my sins accuse me
Though justice charges me with guilt
Your grace will not refuse me
O Jesus, I will hide in You
Who bore my condemnation
I find my refuge in Your wounds
For there I find salvation

I have a shelter in the storm
When constant winds would break me
For in my weakness, I have learned
Your strength will not forsake me
O Jesus, I will hide in You
The One who bears my burdens
With faithful hands that cannot fail
You’ll bring me home to heaven

© 2008 Integrity’s Hosanna! Music (ASCAP)/Sovereign Grace Worship (ASCAP)

Oh the Deep, Deep Love

Original Words by Samuel Trevor Francis (1834-1925). Music, chorus, and alternate words by Bob Kauflin.

Oh the deep, deep love of Jesus
Vast, unmeasured, boundless, free
Rolling as a mighty ocean
In its fullness over me
Underneath me, all around me
Is the current of Your love
Leading onward, leading homeward
To Your glorious rest above

Oh the deep, deep love
All I need and trust
Is the deep, deep love of Jesus


Oh the deep, deep love of Jesus
Spread His praise from shore to shore
How He came to pay our ransom
Through the saving cross He bore
How He watches o’er His loved ones
Those He died to make His own
How for them He’s interceding
Pleading now before the throne

Oh the deep, deep love of Jesus
Far surpassing all the rest
It’s an ocean full of blessing
In the midst of every test
Oh the deep, deep love of Jesus
Mighty Savior, precious Friend
You will bring us home to glory
Where Your love will never end

© 2008 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI).

As Long As You Are Glorified

Mark Altrogge

Shall I take from Your hand Your blessings
Yet not welcome any pain
Shall I thank You for days of sunshine
Yet grumble in days of rain
Shall I love You in times of plenty
Then leave You in days of drought
Shall I trust when I reap a harvest
But when winter winds blow, then doubt

Oh let Your will be done in me
In Your love I will abide
Oh I long for nothing else as long
As You are glorified

Are You good only when I prosper
And true only when I’m filled
Are You King only when I’m carefree
And God only when I’m well
You are good when I’m poor and needy
You are true when I’m parched and dry
You still reign in the deepest valley
You’re still God in the darkest night

© 2008 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The First Thanksgiving without My Mom

A very long while ago, Paul asked me if I wanted to be a "guest blogger". I declined. I didn't have anything to say. (Shocking, I know.) Tonight, I am having a hard time sleeping, so I thought I would give it a try. Here goes....

Grief is a funny thing. I have compared it to an ocean often in the past 9 months since I have experienced it in a new way after my moms death. It was incredibly choppy the first several weeks. As the months went on it became easier on a daily basis. Then those waves would come... almost out of nowhere. It just rolls right over you sometimes with an almost shocking intensity.

So, tonight is one of those nights. I knew it was coming. I've known for about a month now, wondering when it would hit and dreading it. Here it is. My first Thanksgiving without her. And this Thanksgiving particularly, I would really like to share with her. I really, really miss her. I feel like part of my history went with her. No one can answer "Did I do that when I was little?" or a host of other questions I wish I would have asked her about.

She was really a remarkable woman. She loved God. She trusted God. She didn't always understand what He was doing, but she was His and that was enough. She instilled in me a love for His church as I watched her serve it with joy and make it a priority in our home. I am really grateful for that. She modeled faith and trust in a remarkable way.

I was reading through Psalm 103 this past week. It has always been my favorite Psalm and I have loved it at Thanksgiving time especially as it reminds us to talk to our souls: "Praise the Lord, oh my soul, and forget not all His benefits." The Psalmists goes on to list several which are truly incredible and reason for exuberant praise. However, something new struck me in my reading this time:

"As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord's love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children's children." vs 15-17

The notes in my study bible says this: "The song reaches its crescendo here: amid the shortness of human life (vv. 15–16), God's steadfast love for his faithful is everlasting (v. 17a), bestowing on them the privilege of nurturing those who will be his people in coming generations (vv. 17b–18). This psalm goes beyond that, however: the faithful expect that God sets his saving love on their children's children. This is the crowning privilege that God gives to his faithful: though their lives are short and appear almost insignificant, they may still contribute to the future well-being of the people of God by their godly and prayerful parenting and grandparenting."

I couldn't help but think of my mom when I read that. She is gone, but God gave her the amazing privilege of contributing to the future well-being of the people of God by her Godly example. He graciously put me into a covenant home, redeemed my life from the pit and crowned me with love and compassion (vs 4 & 5). My children have also been given that blessing and because God's steadfast love is from everlasting to everlasting I can trust that their children and the generations after them will be a part of that. Her life, with all its struggles as a single mom, was incredibly significant because God had placed His everlasting love on her. I'm grateful for her and MORE grateful for a God like this who redeems broken things and turns a life that seems insignificant into something of incredible worth and value. I pray earnestly He does that in my life as I seek to train my children to love, obey, honor and adore their God. The thought that He could do this is incredibly humbling. Only by His grace will what I do contribute to the future well being of the people of God - I am so very well aware of that. I want it, though. I want to make more of Him and less of me.

So, all that to say, I am grateful God gave me Barbara Strom to nurture me. She didn't do it perfectly, but she did it well. She relied on God's grace. She left a Godly example for me to follow as I am in the middle of nurturing my own children. I wish she was still here. I miss her incredibly.

I'll probably wake up in the morning and regret posting this. I'll think it sounds too sappy or something - but it's been good for my soul. Missing her makes me long for heaven more. Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Don't Go to Church?

Jeff Purswell is a pastor at Covenant Life in Gaithersburg, MD and serves as the Dean of the Sovereign Grace Pastors College. He saw a bumper sticker the other day that read "Don't go to church - be the church."
Here are his thoughts:
Now, despite the element of truth (God’s people are the church), there are all kinds of things wrong with this statement. But behind the words is obviously someone’s disappointment (and possibly disillusionment) with organized Christianity. And although I’d guess that many Christians would reject this false choice, their attitude to Sunday gatherings of the church may reveal a similar apathy.

To fight such apathy, we all need a biblical perspective on what is taking place on Sunday—a perspective that can transform our attitude toward “going to church.” And it’s this perspective that the writer of Hebrews gives us when he describes the ongoing worship service we join when we gather to worship each Sunday.

Mount Sinai and Mount Zion

In Hebrews the writer presents a striking contrast between Mount Sinai and Mount Zion, between the experience of the people of God under the old covenant and their experience under the new covenant.

In verses 18–21 the writer recounts the gathering at Mount Sinai (as recorded in Exodus 19). After their deliverance from Egypt, God gathered his people and made a covenant with them. He constituted them as a nation, his very own people.

For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.”

Now look at the gathering at Mount Zion described in verses 22–24:

But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

What a contrast.

At Mount Sinai everything served to emphasize the chasm between God and these people. At Mount Zion everything encourages us to come boldly into God’s presence. There, at Mount Sinai, the scene itself is frightening—fire, darkness, gloom. Here, at Mount Zion, is a gleaming city, the New Jerusalem, the place where God dwells with his covenant people.

At Mount Sinai the sounds are frightening—whirlwind, trumpet blast, unutterable words. At Mount Zion is the sound of exuberant and celebratory praise.

At Mount Sinai was a solemn gathering filled with fear. Here at Mount Zion is a joyful assembly of those whose names are forever written in the Lamb’s book of life.

There at Mount Sinai was a picture of the unapproachability of God’s holy presence. But here at Mount Zion is a picture of full access into the presence of God through the mediator Jesus Christ.

Now think about your church. Think about the people with whom you serve, live, and worship. Have you fully grasped just what your local church is and what it’s doing on a Sunday morning? Your local church is one authentic, visible manifestation of the entire people of God for all time. It is a part of the heavenly throng that even now is worshiping before the throne of God. And we get to be part of that!

Think about this gathering, which includes—

Angels. We are worshiping with creatures before whom we would be tempted to fall down in terror and worship, if we could see them.

The spirits of the righteous-made-perfect. Here are the heroes from Hebrews 11—Abraham, Moses, Samuel, and David—mighty men of God, mighty prophets who trusted God, so endued with power that they stopped lion’s mouths and put foreign armies to flight. We are worshiping with them.

Faithful saints. These men and women endured torture and refused deliverance if it meant compromise. They chose a stoning pit or a chopping block before they would deny Jesus. And if they survived, they joyfully embraced poverty, deprivation, and persecution. They feared God and they feared sinning more than they feared man—all so that they might receive something better. And when we worship, we join them before the throne of God, who remains “a consuming fire” (v. 29).

We come to Jesus. He is there, our mediator, whose sprinkled blood cleanses us from sin. His blood “speaks a better word than the blood of Abel” (v. 24). Abel’s blood cried out for judgment, but Jesus’s blood cries out for mercy.

Sunday Morning

So back to your home church this upcoming Sunday. When you enter and the music begins, what are you more aware of? Is it the song set? the musicians? the mix? Does the worship band wow you? Does the routine bore you?

Or do you perceive something beyond all this?

Your church is one authentic manifestation of the entire people of God that right now is worshiping before the throne of God. That is the reality of new covenant worship. And when we begin to wrap our minds around that, there springs to mind a thousand reasons to rejoice, to praise, and to sing; and to renounce flippancy, self-display, selfishness, superficiality, sloppiness, and thoughtlessness.

Before the God who is a consuming fire, we don’t shuffle in casually. We don’t demand our artistic preferences. We don’t merely gather with our friends. We don’t merely sing together. As the people of God, we enter into the very presence of God. Encountering God in this way is the very nature of the church. By definition, to be the church is to gather in God’s presence and to worship God together. And when we begin singing, we join the glorious worship that takes place unceasingly before the throne of God.

This is true regardless of how we feel, who leads worship, what songs we sing, or how we think worship went. There is something incredible happening on Sunday morning!

Be the church and go to church. Something eternal is going on in there. Don’t miss it.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

John Donne

John Donne (1572-1631) was an English poet and a churchman famous for his spellbinding sermons. Here are some of my favorite John Donne quotes and poems.
Our critical day is not the very day of our death, but the whole course of our life: I thank him, that prays for me when my bell tolls; but I thank him much more, that catechizes me, or preaches to me, or instructs me how to live.

John Donne: Sermons.

The whole life of Christ was a continual passion; others die martyrs, but Christ was born a martyr . . . His birth and his death were but one continual act, and his Christmas-day and his Good Friday are but the evening and morning of the one and the same day.

John Donne: Sermon of Christmas-Day, 1626.

The Father was pleased to breathe into his body [of man] in the creation; the Son was pleased to assume this body in the redemption; the Holy Ghost is pleased to consecrate this body by his sanctification. The consultation of the whole Trinity is exercised upon the dignifying of man's body.

John Donne: Sermons.

Meditation XVII (No Man Is An Island)

No man is an island, entire of itself
every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main
if a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were,
as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were
any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind
and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls
it tolls for thee.

Holy Sonnets: Batter my heart, three-person'd God

Batter my heart, three-person'd God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp'd town to another due,
Labor to admit you, but oh, to no end;
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captiv'd, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be lov'd fain,
But am betroth'd unto your enemy;
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Doctrine Is the Drama

Quote of the day--"It it is worse than useless for Christians to talk about the importance of Christian morality, unless they are prepared to take their stand upon the fundamentals of Christian theology. It is a lie to say that dogma does not matter; it matters enormously. It is fatal to let people suppose that Christianity is only a mode of feeling; it is vitally necessary to insist that it is first and foremost a rational explanation of the universe. It is hopeless to offer Christianity as a vaguely idealistic aspiration of a simple and consoling kind; it is, on the contrary, a hard, tough, exacting, and complex doctrine, steeped in a drastic and incompromising realism. And it is fatal to imagine that everybody knows quite well what Christianity is and needs only a little encouragement to practice it. The brutal fact is that in this Christian country not one person in a hundred has the faintest notion what the Church teaches about God or man or society or the person of Jesus Christ.... ...Theologically this country is at present is in a state of utter chaos established in the name of religious toleration and rapidly degenerating into flight from reason and the death of hope."
— Dorothy L. Sayers (Creed or Chaos?)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Economic Good News

The financial crisis of 2007–2009 has been called by leading economists the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s. It contributed to the failure of key businesses, declines in consumer wealth estimated in the trillions of U.S. dollars, substantial financial commitments incurred by governments, and a significant decline in economic activity. The International Monetary Fund estimated that large U.S. and European banks lost more than $1 trillion on toxic assets and from bad loans from January 2007 to September 2009. These losses are expected to top $2.8 trillion from 2007-10. U.S. banks losses were forecast to hit $1 trillion and European bank losses will reach $1.6 trillion. Many causes have been proposed, with varying weight assigned by experts. Certainly high among the causes would be a lack of responsible management, a shortage of high ethical standards, and widespread greed run amuck.

There is some good news. There seems to be a movement toward more responsible management. More than 1600 business school grads since early 2009 have now signed an oath on "Responsible Value Creation." Their promise is to lead organizations "for the greater good" rather than just their own benefit. In this way they are modeling Christ, who came not to be served, but to serve.

These men and women with MBAs desire to create value, build wealth, and use money for the greater good rather than contribute to a hedonistic lifestyle and culture where people are "enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures." I encourage you to consider taking this oath or recommending it to those you know in the business world.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Doxology

The Lord's prayer ends how it began: with God. "For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen." The kingdom refers to God's all embracing control over all of his universe. He created the world, so he has the right to rule the world--and, in fact, does. More particularly, his kingdom denotes his design to redeem a people for himself by overthrowing the rule and dominion of Satan. Having asked for God to bring that about, the prayer concludes by asserting its reality: the kingdom is his. J. I. Packer comments:
Satan, the prime example of how sin breeds cunning but saps intelligence and rots the mind, does not accept that the Lord is king in this basic sense, and would dismiss this doxology--indeed, all doxologies--as false; but Christians know better, and praise God accordingly.

The power is God's as well. God can do anything in accord with his nature. There is no power that can overthrow the rule of God Almighty. Jesus came into the world to destroy the works of the devil and his naive claim to power (1 John 3:8). Derek Thomas provides this helpful summary:
What needs do you have? The kingdom and power are the Lord's to provide!
What sins have you confessed? The kingdom and power are the Lord's to pardon!
What temptations threaten to undo you? The kingdom and power are the Lord's to protect you!

The glory is also his. The word glory speaks of "weight" and "worth." Glory can be defined as God's essential being. It is synonymous with who and what God is. The doxology is therefore attributing, not only rule and might to God (kingdom and power), but also divinity. To say that all glory belongs to him is the same as saying, He is the Lord!

It is noteable then that when John wants to convey to us that Jesus is none other than God, he declares, "we have seen his glory." Paul writes along the same lines: "For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:6).

Finally, the doxology declares that God has his kingdom, power and glory forever and ever. God is outside of time. Time itself is part of the created order of things. He is not subject to the ravages of time. He is unchangeable, utterly dependable, always the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Because God will never change, we know that our relationship with God as his children will never change.

Amen is a transliteration of the Hebrew word meaning "truth" or "firmness." Jesus used it to emphasize some important truth he was about to speak ("Amen, Amen" or "Verily, verily" as the King James Version rendered it). Saying "Amen" to this prayer (or any other) asserts our conviction that everything in it is our longing. We are saying, "This is my prayer. These petitions express the longing of my heart. This is my confession of faith, my record to what is essential and true." Amen.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Everyone Must Live for Something

Quote of the day--"Every human being must live for something. Something must capture our imagination, our heart's most fundamental allegiance and hope. But, the Bible tells us, without the intervention of the Holy Spirit, that object will never be God Himself." Tim Keller in Counterfeit Gods
Get the book here.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Temptation

While I was in college, I was told a story of two brothers from Tennessee who received a surprising gift from their father. Their dad brought home a lion cub to the farm as a pet for the boys. They were thrilled of course, but soon realized that the cub was growing and needed a pen of its own. They built a cage for the lion and all was well, until one day they discovered the heads of chickens scattered around the yard. Right away the boys realized that the lion was responsible, but how was he killing the chickens. They decided to set up surveillance. Hidden behind some bushes they saw the lion in its cage feigning sleep. Soon chickens were approaching the lion's cage and poking their heads through to eat from the lion's feeding trough. First timidly, then with abandon, the chicken gorged themselves. At that moment, the lion swiped at the chicken's head and it went sailing through the air and into the yard. The chicken would then run around like the proverbial chicken with its head chopped off and fall to the ground.

The amusement of this (true) story wears off when we see how it parallels our temptations to sin. Satan lures us to taste the forbidden and let's us fulfill our craving until we lose our heads. Peter instructs us: "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8).

How are we to guard against temptation? Jesus warned his disciples: "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation" (Matthew 26:41) The last petition of the prayer he taught his disciples is, "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." Jesus is teaching us to pray for protection when we find ourselves faced with situation and enticements that would drag us away from loyalty to him. He was tempted in all points as we are--yet without sin. Jesus answered each temptation with truth from God's Word. He resisted the liar by speaking truth.

We will fall to temptation unless we see our need for God to protect us from it. We need to recognize our weakness. We must never think that we cannot be tempted in certain ways. We must never say, "That could never happen to me." John Owen warns:
Do not flatter yourself that you can hols out against temptation's power. Secret lusts lie lurking in your own heart which will never give up until they are either destroyed or satisfied. "Am I a dog, that I should do this thing?" asks Hazael (2 Kings 8:13). Yes, you will be such a dog, if you are like the king of Syria. Temptation and self-interest will dehumanize you. In theory we abhor lustful thoughts, but once temptation enters our heart, all contrary reasonings are overcome and silenced.

John Bunyan, in 1684, published a short article to be posted on the walls of homes called A Caution to Stir Up to Watch Against Sin. The second verse (of the sixteen-verse poem) goes like this:
Sin, rather than ‘twill out of action be,
Will pray to stay, though but a while with thee;
One night, one hour, one moment, will it cry,
Embrace me in thy bosom, else I die:
Time to repent [saith it] I will allow,
And help, if to repent thou know’st not how.
But if you give it entrance at the door,
It will come in, and may go out no more.

Why do we have to go through temptation? Why is there still a struggle? Derek Thomas answers: "God allows us to experience...temptation's attraction because he wants to engage us in living the Christian life. He actually wants us to battle because it is through the experience of battle that we often grow. Just as unused muscles atrophy, so spiritual maturity is stunted by passivity. God wants to develop in us the skills of resisting the devil so that he will flee from us (cf. Jas. 4:7; 1 Pet. 5:9)."

How do we resist the devil? How did Jesus respond to temptation?
1. He recognized the devil's subtle villainy. "Surely God wants you to eat. Why don't you just turn these stones into bread? Use your miraculous powers for self-satisfaction." Most temptations are subtle.
2. Jesus asserted the truth of God's Word. He charged and rebuked Satan out of the Scriptures. Jesus replied that he needed (to trust and obey) God's Word more than physical nourishment.
3. Jesus recommitted himself to God. He had come, not to do his own will, but the will of his Father. We are to follow the same example. It is interesting that Jesus quotes Deuteronomy, the book of covenant-renewal, which taught him to yield his entire life to God and his ways. Saying "No!" to temptation means saying "Yes!" to God's will.

It is the grace of God, Paul says, that "teaches us to say 'No' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope--the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good" (Titus 2:12-14).

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Forgive Us

There once was a boy that was quizzed by his father about the sermon he had just heard. "What was the preacher talking about?"
"He was preaching about sin," the boy replied.
"What did he say about it?" asked his dad.
"He was against it," the boy answered.

The fifth petition is "Forgive us our sins (or debts)." Sin is not pleasant or popular, but we ignore it to our peril. If we don't deal with our own sin it will swallow us up. Go wrong here, and everything else is warped. Make light of sin and you make light of God's holiness and his love. Jesus came and gave his life to deal with our sin.

David dealt forthrightly with his sin and expressed great grief at having disobeyed God by his adulterous affair with Bathsheba and the subsequent murder of Uriah:
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are proved right when you speak
and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
(Psalm 51:1-5)

In this short passage there are three words about sin, three about forgiveness, and three about God's grace. The word "sin" conveys the idea of failing to hit the target or of coming short. The word "iniquity" means a distorting, a bending out of shape. The word "transgression" involves a willful rebellion, of knowing that a thing is wrong but doing it anyway.

The three words that teach about forgiveness show us what God must do to deal with sin: "blot out...wash away...cleanse." These words come from the ceremonial system, where they refer to rites that allow a person to come safely into God's presence. They focus on the inner condition that the ceremony points to. Sin makes us unclean and unfit to enter the presence of God. Forgiveness comes at a cost. A sacrifice must be made. God provided the sacrifice by sending his Son to die in our place.

The three words that show us the riches of God's grace "mercy, unfailing love and compassion." Mercy is unmerited favor. Unfailing love (perhaps the richest word in the whole Bible--hesed) speaks of God's covenant commitment to do as he promises no matter what. Compassion reminds us of God's passionate and ever-flowing love.

Sin is an ongoing concern of the Christian life. Question: Why do we need to pray for forgiveness? Answer: Because we keep on sinning! Sin is a debt we owe God. Every failure to perform renders us culpable. As the Prayer Book puts it: "We have left undone those things which we ought to have done..." Sin is a failure to meet our obligations.

If we don't realize why Jesus came into this world as a man and why we need him as our Savior, then we haven't yet considered the greatness of the weight of our sin. It is a cancer, a parasite that will undo us unless it is removed. The greatness of our sin shows us the greatness of our Savior. Through his life and death he rescued us from sin's penalty. We are no longer under condemnation. Through his Spirit we are being rescued from sin's power. We are no longer under sin's dominion. Through his resurrection we will one day be rescued from sin's presence. We will no longer sin!

This petition not only reconciles us to God, but is meant to reconcile us to one another: "Forgive our debts as we forgive our debtors." There is clearly a link between the two. Jesus presses the truth home by adding, "If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Matthew 6:14-15).

This brings up several questions. Is forgiveness conditional? Do we extend forgiveness to the repentant only? Is there a difference between forgiveness and reconciliation? One thing is abundantly clear--there must never be on our part an unwillingness to forgive. Whatever obstacles there may be on the part of the offender in receiving forgiveness--we, on our part, must always be ready to forgive.