“Who, me?” “Not me! I would never do such a thing.”

For those who come across this piece in some distant future, it would be helpful to state what’s happening in the U.S.A. at this moment, November/December 2017.  An outbreak of accusations against well-known men by women who accuse them of sexual offenses (harassments, manipulation, pressure, molestation, and such) is a daily occurrence.  Prominent men are resigning their positions or being fired by their boards.  No one thinks we’ve seen the worst of it, but everyone expects this to be the leading edge. 

A woman friend tells me she’d love to see a movement of men stepping up to say, “Me, too,” in some kind of admission that they are partly at fault for the climate of sexual harassment in our culture.  “Either they have done the things we’re talking about–the sexual innuendos, the flirtatiousness, the manipulation–or they have been complicit by their silence,” she says.

I’m still thinking about that one.

It’s a minefield walking out in front of the world to say, “I’m to blame.”  Particularly if you feel you aren’t.

And that’s what prompted what follows.

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The scriptures I often pray

In no particular order, here are several prayers that I find myself offering to the Father repeatedly….

I pray for my mouth: I have a tendency to say the wrong things.

My mouth has gotten me in trouble for my entire life.  It has been known to write checks I could not cash, to blurt out exactly what I was thinking but should not have been, and to cut people down just to get a laugh from the spectators.  God has let me learn the hard way to discipline my tongue.  So, over the years, I have often found myself praying Psalm 141:3 alongside Psalm 19:14.

Set a guard upon my mouth, O Lord.  Keep watch over the door of my lips.”

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

(Someone reading this wondered how the Lord let me learn to discipline my tongue.  The best thing to happen is that when I was young in the ministry, more than once a church member called me on the carpet for the cruel thing I’d said just for laughs.  When I apologized profusely–and on one occasion, even apologized before the entire church–it left a lasting impression.  I didn’t ever want to do that again!)

I pray for forgiveness:  I am so often negligent, disobedient, and rebellious.

Who among us does not feel the need for forgiveness every day of our lives? (The single exception might be my wife.  Last night as we chatted with a couple who stopped by to visit, Bertha mentioned something about confessing her sins each day.  Everything inside me wanted to shout, “What sins?  You are about as sinless as anyone I’ve ever known.”  I didn’t say it, of course, but I thought it.)

However, my wonderful wife is married to an accomplished sinner.  So very often, I find myself praying these words of Psalm 51, followed by the confession of the publican in Luke 18:13….

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When a private apology is not enough

“Forgive me, father, for I have sinned.”  “Why are you telling me this?  Get out there and confess to those you hurt.”

Some repentance is cheap, some apologies all too easy.

A deacon pitched a royal fit in a church business meeting.  I’ve long since forgotten the issue.  Afterward, a visitor came to me and said, “I belong to Such-and-such church.  If one of our members spoke to the pastor the way that man did you, the church would have risen up in arms.  But your people sat there and took it.  That is alarming.”

I suppose they sat there quietly because they’d seen it happen so often. Anyway…

A few days later that deacon came to my office and apologized.

Don’t miss this: The damage he did was very public; his apology was in private.

What’s wrong with this picture?

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A cloud over my head all week

The popular comic strip “L’il Abner” used to feature a character who lived under a constant, tiny storm cloud.  It followed him around wherever he went, maybe 12 inches above his head, always pouring rain down upon him. (The character’s name was an unpronounceable “Btfsplk.”  When asked, cartoonist Al Capp said “It’s a rude sound.”  Maybe what’s called a raspberry or Bronx cheer. Google Btfsplk and see the cartoon.)

I’ve felt like Joe Btfsplk all this week.

Analyzing that me-sized stormcloud–“why am I feeling so sad?”–I can identify several forces that are raining on my parade, if you will.

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Forgive you your sins as you forgive others theirs

 indeed (third article on the incident of Mark 2:1-12)

“Son, your sins are forgiven you.”

Look how eager the Lord Jesus was to forgive sins. The man hadn’t even asked for such.  No one had asked for forgiveness, for themselves or for the paralytic.

The Lord Jesus brought the subject up and unilaterally announced the man’s sins were gone. And the man lay there and took it.

It’s amazing, is what it is.

Forgiveness is in God’s DNA.

It’s the nature of God to forgive sins, much to the consternation of the enemy who keeps trying to brand God as a sin-inspector/catcher/treasurer.  Moses had asked the Lord to “show me your glory.”  God said, “I’ll show you my goodness.” (Exodus 33:18-19)  We take this to mean that God’s goodness is one element of His glory, although far less than the full measure.  In truth, Moses could no more stand to be shown the fullness of God’s glory than a housefly could hope to stand a half-mile from the sun and take it all its radiance without being fried to a crisp in the process.

“The Lord came down in a cloud, stood with (Moses) there, and proclaimed His name:  ‘The Lord, the Lord God.  Compassionate and gracious.  Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness and truth.  Maintaining faithful love to a thousand generations.  Forgiving iniquity, transgressions, and sins…’ ” (Exodus 34:6-7)

I enjoy pointing out that there is nothing else like this self-revelation from God except for all the places where it is quoted, throughout the Old Testament.  The prophetic writers correctly judged this to be one of the most important insights in all history.

We do well to keep in mind that the very nature of God means that He is compassionate and gracious and delights in forgiving iniquity, transgressions, and sins.

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Forgiving hearts and short memories

“…He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities” (Psalm 103:10)

“If you should mark iniquities, O Lord, who would stand?” (Psalm 130:3)

I have set records along life’s way for naivete’ and plain-out stupidity.

If everyone kept a record of my flaws and faults and slights and blights, I’d be the least popular person on the planet.

I have said things to people–blurted them out without thinking–that return to me in the middle of the night and put me to shame. “What was I thinking?”  “Why wasn’t I thinking?”

Some remarks were trivial, off-handed nonsense, meant as nothing and, as Shakespeare said, “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”  And yet, in my  determination to make sure no moment lacked the sound of my voice, I prated on and on.

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Forgiveness: Such a powerful concept

“….accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another.  Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so also you must forgive” (Colossians 3:13).

For reasons I never fully understood the old gentleman carried around a load of bitterness, much of it directed toward me his pastor. In a business conference when we were discussing calling a young man as our youth director, the old man stood and poured out venom on the proceedings. He was clearly angry about something, all out of proportion to what we were discussing.

“I have no idea what it is between you and him,” said a man in his Sunday School class.  “Actually,” he continued, “he’s a good teacher. I like him.”

I knew a little of what had happened.  A year earlier, the gentleman was convinced that I had not spoken to him and his wife at a church function.  “You talked to everyone there except us.”  I was completely unaware of this and apologized, then drove across the city to his home and apologized to his wife. A sweet lady, she said it was nothing, that her husband was just being himself.

The man never turned it loose.  He now had a license to be angry at his preacher.

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“We dropped the ball!”

I find myself wondering when pastors and churches stand before the Lord and are asked what they did with the resources given them, whether they will say, “We dropped the ball.”

And wondering how that will fly.

In the city where I live, the local Children’s Hospital–a hero to untold thousands for many years–is under attack and the focus of a number of lawsuits.

Over the past couple of years, the hospital had at least five patients (all children) to die of a fungal infection which was the result of infected bed clothing.

As bad as that is, the hospital leadership did something even worse: They did not report it.

They were protecting themselves, they thought, by not following the law and informing the appropriate agencies about this. Consequently, they are in a mess of trouble.

Sound familiar?

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The right to be forgotten

“And their sins and lawless deeds I will remember no more” (Hebrews 10:17).

Something happened this week to remind me of a note I received from a preacher some time back.

On my website, I had reported that the local newspaper was telling of the arrest of this man for incest.  I was appropriately concerned that servants of the Most High God should conduct themselves by higher standards and I probably shamed this fellow for his iniquity.

The man wrote, “All charges against me were dropped.  But every time I try to get a job and the employer googles my name, your article comes up telling of my arrest. That’s the end of that job.”

He needed me to go back into my files, find that article, and delete that story.

It took some doing, but I managed to find the article and erase the story. Then, I sent him an apology.

It was a well-learned lesson, and I’ve been cautious ever since.

It turns out that this is a far-reaching problem with all kinds of legal dimensions.

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