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The High Cost of Unforgiveness  

 

Unforgiveness.

It might not be a real word, but it's a real attitude. And sometimes, we're all guilty of such twisted thinking. But unforgiveness is like drinking poison—and hoping someone else will die.

Speaking of unforgiveness, Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has a favorite question she often asks of her audience when speaking. The question: “Are there one or more people in your life—past or present—that you’ve never forgiven?”

Nancy recalls, "I have asked for a response from tens of thousands of people, including long-time believers, Bible study leaders, and vocational Christian workers….In virtually every case, somewhere between 80 and 95 percent of the people in the room raise their hands….The vast majority of people sitting in church Sunday after Sunday (and many of who are sitting at home, having left the church, disillusioned) have a least a seed—if not a forest—of unforgiveness in their heart."

Why the stinginess? Why the rock-hard reluctance to forgive?

Glynn Evans comments, “One of the reasons we forgive so superficially is because we ourselves feel we have been forgiven only slightly by God. Cheap forgiveness is always a sign that we have not dealt adequately with our sin. One thing is sure—we’ll never rise above the level of our own experience. If we feel God forgave us casually, that’s how we’ll treat those who offend us.”

What would He find if Jesus Himself showed up for a one-on-one conversation about this issue with you and me? How much unforgiveness is lodged in your heart? In my heart?

Having been forgiven the whole slate of our offenses (surely numbering in the tens of thousands), how could we be so miserly in forgiving others? What could be LESS like Jesus than a heart of unforgiveness?

Forgiven much, let us forgive others much.

"Forgive as the Lord forgave you."

-Colossians 3:13

 
Going Nowhere  

In the proud community where I live, there stands a not-so-proud diner. The greasiest of greasy spoons, its notoriety stems less from what’s served inside on its faded Formica countertops than what’s outside.

The pot-holed parking lot has a sizable collection of vehicles going nowhere. Four Fed Ex trucks doze in the back corner. One has its hood tipped back, the boxy engine compartment exposed, as if imminent repairs are coming. They're not. Been that way for months.

As you amble across the lot, you can't miss the ice cream truck adorned with images of tempting frozen treats. It hasn't moved for months. Waiting for summer?

And who can forget the 1970s dark red Cadillac—its massive bench seats cracked with age and sun? You’ll find it parked next to the faded orange “Fire and Restoration” truck.

The parking lot hosts such a wide array of cars and trucks going nowhere, it makes me wonder. Is this graveled place:

  • A hospital for wounded vehicles?
  • A holding pattern for the undecided?
  • A car cemetery for the dead and dying?

Sadly, the scene reminds me a bit of evangelicalism in America. Like that lot, we are surrounded by churches going nowhere fast.

Of course, many dynamic congregations are alive and well, serving Christ and their community with significant impact. But so many historically solid churches are in decline. Churches that were once spiritually vibrant are now attended by seemingly "undecided folks" with one foot in the world and one in a confused Christianity. Then there are the dead and dying churches where nothing is new, nothing will change—and that's the way they like it.

God, spare us from becoming religious museums for a flat-tired faith. Breathe new life into us—and our dead and dying churches.

Amen!

 
The Horror of Horror Movies  

Horror films are on the rise.

A decade ago, horror movies represented just under six percent of American movies. Today, they make up 13 percent of our big-screen offerings.

M3GAN, a movie about a murderous doll controlled by artificial intelligence, has now brought in more than 175 million dollars since its January 6 release.

I was intrigued by a recent Wall Street Journal article announcing that movie studios plan to release—get this—29 more horror films by the end of 2023.

Tension and shock are potent tools in storytelling of any kind. But celebrating gore and all things gruesome is different. When you look at the emerging statistics on mental health in America, you have to scratch your head at society’s inability (unwillingness?) to connect today’s generation of emotionless killers with the surge in horror movies.

Why would we not create a society with mental health issues when young children—toddlers—are exposed to scenes where knives puncture bodies, chainsaws remove limbs, and heads are severed? How could we not have a warped attitude toward slashing, bashing, and burning?

The question, of course, is why? Why the fascination with horror movies? I have no research—only a hunch. As our culture grows evil, so grows our fascination with evil. That’s what decaying souls do. I would argue that the rise of horror movies contributes to the decline of our culture—and nation.

In John 3:19, Jesus observed, “Men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.” And that is the real horror of horror movies.

 

 

 
Too Familiar  

Too familiar.

Is that us? So familiar with the Easter story that we don't really connect? We know the facts in our heads, but they don't penetrate our hearts. Like three-year-old Emma listening to her six-year-old sister Ava:

AVA:         Easter is when Jesus died on the cross for our sins. Then they put him in the tomb for…

EMMA:     (Interrupting)…forty days and forty nights (said with rolled eyes, as if exasperated from rehearsing the story yet again).

AVA:         No, Emma. That’s Noah! Jesus was in the tomb for three days.

EMMA:     (Still unimpressed) Yeah—three days.

If the Easter story does not affect us or rolls off us, just like Emma's rolled eyes, we've got a problem. So, what’s the solution?

This Holy Week, take time to pause. Stop the hamster wheel of life and sit still for a few moments.

Next, ponder. Ponder the sadness Jesus felt locking eyes with His friend Judas, who kissed Him in the act of betrayal. Ponder the humiliation of Christ's trial, the fists on His cheeks, the whip on his back, the thorns on His head, and the nails in His hands and feet.

Finally, pray. Can we not make time to say thank you to our Savior? Can we not spend some moments on our knees expressing our heart's gratitude?

 

O Lord that lends me life lend me a heart replete with thankfulness.

—William Shakespeare

 

 

 
Not Pure Enough  

When ten-year-old Caleb trotted in, his story tumbled out.

He’d just returned from his weekly Bible club at church, which includes a game time. Judging by the look on his face, something unusual had happened—and Caleb’s siblings leaned in to hear the juicy details.

"So, a boy got a scrape on his leg at game time. He got some blood on his new white shoes. He was so mad he said the 'H' and the 'D' words!"

Incredulous, six-year-old Sadie responded, “Hot Diggity Dog?!”

Ponder the purity of a six-year-old whose best shot at guessing the "H" and "D" words took her to "Hot Diggity Dog.” She knows nothing more shocking or vile.

Don't you envy her purity? Don't you love that unspoiled speech? Jesus does.

In the spirit of Sadie's innocent heart, may I ask you (as I ask myself) how pure is your speech? Bear in mind that if your answer is "mostly pure," it's the same as acknowledging your words are impure, at least sometimes. How could we possibly be comfortable with “mostly pure” water or “mostly pure” food?

No secret that Christ has called His followers to a higher standard. And whether it's our food, water, or speech, "somewhat pure" is just not pure enough.

Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead, let there be thanksgiving.  -Ephesians 5:4

 
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Jon GaugerJon Gauger

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