Tag Archives: Matthew

Second Chances

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Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name!
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The LORD works righteousness
and justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
his acts to the people of Israel.
The LORD is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust.
As for man, his days are like grass;
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
and its place knows it no more.
But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,
and his righteousness to children’s children,
to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments.
The LORD has established his throne in the heavens,
and his kingdom rules over all.

Bless the LORD, O you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his word,
obeying the voice of his word!
Bless the LORD, all his hosts,
his ministers, who do his will!
Bless the LORD, all his works,
in all places of his dominion.
Bless the LORD, O my soul!
Psalms 103

As the new year approaches we often think back on the old. We attempt to think of resolutions to help us correct our flaws, and hopefully, give ourselves a second chance in the new year. We are blessed to have a God who grant second chances. In fact, He grants an infinite number of chances. This is good news because most of us mess up the second chance fairly quickly. One of the amazing facets of God’s character is His incredible patience with us. Psalm 86:15 says it well: “But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”

How many times have any of us done something really stupid, and realize it right after, or right in the middle of it? Do you ever get to feeling like you can’t do anything right, wondering why you bother trying as your going to fail anyway? I’ve had instances when I really didn’t mean to hurt someone, yet I did, and I didn’t know how to set it right. I must admit, I’ve experienced this on more days than I want to admit. It just seems like no matter how hard I try, things just don’t seem to work out, or not that often anyway. Yet, in each instance I look to God for guidance, and he shows me the way.

Just as God is patient and forgiving, He wants His children to be patient with and forgiving of others. “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience” (Colossians 3:12). He gives us second chances, and we must give the same to others. Jesus gives a stern warning to those who refuse to forgive, saying that if we will not forgive others, God will not forgive us. If someone is truly repentant, then we are obligated to forgive. Matthew 18:21-22 says “Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

Forgiveness, however, is not the same thing as reconciliation. Many people struggle to find the balance between showing mercy and enabling a harmful person to continue harming. We should forgive everyone who wrongs us, just as Jesus forgives us. Forgiveness is between our heart and God’s, removing any barriers that non-forgiveness brings. When someone continues to unrepentantly violate another person’s boundaries, a wise person learns to set firmer boundaries.

Giving someone a second chance means we give him another chance to earn our trust. But that does not mean we instantly forget what experience has taught us. Trust must be earned over time, and we are foolish if we give trust prematurely. We can have a loving and forgiving heart that also practices wise guardianship over our lives.

When we have wronged someone, we have no right to demand another chance. But we should work to earn another chance by continued demonstration of repentance and change.

God does everything possible to draw us to repentance, offering forgiveness and second chances (2 Peter 3:9). But if we continue to reject Him, the offer is withdrawn and, at death, there are no more chances (Hebrews 9:27). God’s grace is our model. We can offer second chances to others until a healthy relationship is no longer possible.

In this new year, we should try to emulate God more. Just as he gives us second chances, give others a second chance as well. Maybe that someone deserves even more than a single second chance, then offer them more chances as long as they are attempting to do what is right. However, if that person is continuously hurting you, then forgive them and walk away. Just because someone has hurt you, it does not mean that it was intentional. Give them that second chance, just as God would give you a second chance. Yet, when it is intentional hurting, sometimes it is best to just cut ties. It is often difficult to do so, but it is occasionally what is best for both. Sometimes, it’s easy to just cut ties, but evaluate the situation. Could you help that person more by giving them a second chance? If so, then that is what god asks us to do.

Let God give you a second chance in the new year, and resolve to be a better person. Also, try to give someone in your life a second chance, maybe they truly deserve it. I hope each of you has a blessed and happy 2014!


Proverbial Giving

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Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.
Proverbs 19:17

Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.
Proverbs 14:31

I have to admit that when I was looking up some commentaries on giving and the Bible, too many of the sources I found focused on giving to the church. I give what I can to church, which is what I think of when the apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 8:12 “For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have.” Many churches though use this as a means of forcing a true tithe of 10 percent. However, even though we are in the season of giving, we should be giving and helping year round to those who need assistance.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus commands us to give to the needy:

Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Matthew 6:1-4

Giving is not all about what you give to your local congregation, but what you give to those who are in need. We are to love our fellow man and not judge them. If we look down on the poor, the how can we look up to God. Some people blame God for the misfortunes of the world, I blame those who do not follow the teachings of love and charity. Do you have to be a Christian to have love for your fellow man or to be charitable to the less fortunate? Of course you don’t. But I will say this, too many people who call themselves Christian often follow the proverb “God helps those who help themselves.” The phrase is often mistaken as scriptural, but it appears nowhere in the Bible.

Political commentator Bill O’Reilly employed the phrase, in responding to Jim McDermott, the Democratic U.S. Representative for Washington’s 7th congressional district, who argued, “This is Christmas time. We talk about Good Samaritans, the poor, the little baby Jesus in the cradle and all this stuff. And then we say to the unemployed we won’t give you a check to feed your family. That’s simply wrong.” O’Reilly argued for a more selective approach to unemployment benefits, and the importance of individual responsibility, concluding “while Jesus promoted charity at the highest level, he was not self-destructive. The Lord helps those who help themselves. Does he not?” Political comedian Stephen Colbert parodied him in response, concluding in character, “if this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn’t help the poor, either we’ve got to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we’ve got to acknowledge that he commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition; and then admit that we just don’t want to do it.” Colbert may be a comedian who is often irreverent, but he makes a good point.

For the vast majority of us, misfortune finds us at one point or another. Various people have helped me during those unfortunate times, and I do my best to help those in need when I am able to help. Giving is not just for the red buckets of the Salvation Army during Christmastime bit for all year round. It is also not about gifts and money, because not all of us are able to do so, but it is about giving our love to those around us. Love is the greatest gift we can give.

Peace, love, and charity!


Agape and Optimism

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Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Philippians 4:8

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Ephesians 4:31-32

There are many people in this world who only look at the negatives of religion. They consider religion to be exclusive, not inclusive. They dwell on what not to do, instead of what should be done. Some of these same people are religious, others are not. However, this view of Christianity is as far from my belief as possible. This is a pessimistic view of religion, and as someone who decided years ago that a positive attitude is far greater than a negative attitude, I look to a far more optimistic view of Christianity.

The two verses above are just two of many examples in the Bible that shows the optimistic view of Christianity. More than anything, I believe in the inclusiveness of Christianity. God loves us all, and we are told that we should love all. This type of love is called agape. Agape often translated “unconditional love”, is one of the Koine Greek words translated into English as love, one which became particularly appropriated in Christian theology as the love of God or Christ for humankind. In the New Testament, it refers to the covenant love of God for humans, as well as the human reciprocal love for God; the term necessarily extends to the love of one’s fellow man.

Although the word agape does not have specific religious connotation, the word has been used by a variety of contemporary and ancient sources, including biblical authors and Christian authors. Greek philosophers at the time of Plato and other ancient authors have used forms of the word to denote love of a spouse or family, or affection for a particular activity, in contrast to philia (an affection that could denote friendship, brotherhood or generally non-sexual affection) and eros, an affection of a sexual nature. The term agape is rarely used in ancient manuscripts, but was used by the early Christians to refer to the self-sacrificing love of God for humanity, which they were committed to reciprocating and practicing towards God and among one another (also see kenosis). When 1 John 4:8 says “God is love,” the Greek New Testament uses the word agape to describe God’s love.

Anyone who proclaims that Christianity is a negative religion and focuses only on what not to do, need look only at the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:3-7:27) to be proven wrong. The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12) are enough in themselves to show the positive nature of what Christianity should be:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

If more people would follow the teachings of Jesus Christ instead of focusing on the negatives, then I honestly and wholeheartedly believe that the world would be a better place.


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