Way back in the day there was this idealistic and even utopian thought that was mentioned in the Bible.  The thought was given a name and it was supposed to be a celebrationJubilee Birthday Cake every seven years.  But no one celebrated.

It was one of those things that was a novel idea but didn’t seem practical to the ruling elite.  It was called the Jubilee.  During Jubilee all of Israel was supposed to cancel the debt of their fellow Israelites, this was theoretically to happen every seven years.  The idea was to level the playing field and not allow poverty to become systemic.

I think God wanted His people to know what it was like to set others free.  If you think about it canceling debt is one of the most basic forms of forgiveness.  A debt forgiven life would bring an amazing level of freedom.  You would know the slavery of being in debt and the freedom of the forgiveness of it.  I think God wanted to create a society of people who both experienced and practiced the cancellation of debt in order to show off His forgiveness.

I wonder if this was a divine pre-enactment or a rehearsal for what was to come.  This same society that would practice giving and receiving debt cancellation, would ultimately experience the freedom and redemption of Jesus, the real Jubilee. Jubilee is an economic plan that communicates redemption, forgiveness and freedom.  Although the Jubilee was never put into practice Jesus brought it to fulfillment in the ultimate cancellation of debts.



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My father-in law told me a story about a time when he was an apprentice in the carpet trade.  Every day before they started laying carpet, his job was to clean the bathrooms in the shop.  One day there was a little present in one of the toilets, and the toilet didn’t flush.  He called his boss over and asked what to do.  His boss scooped the little present out with his hands, threw it in another toilet, flushed it and said, “never ask anyone to do anything that your not willing to do yourself, the next one is yours.”   Kind of gross, but you get the point.  God doesn’t ask us to do things that he is not willing to do himself.

One of the things that is so striking about Jesus is that He asks us to put His good news on display with your life.  One of the most well known things that Jesus did was forgive the sins of the world.  But there is this thread of teaching throughout the New Testament that says if you want to be forgiven then you need to forgive.  For example, right after Jesus teaches his disciples how to pray he says, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”  In the book of Mark, Jesus goes further by saying, “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”  Jesus doesn’t ask us to do things He’s not willing to do.  I think God wants us to experience forgiveness in our personal relationships so that we can really catch the value of our own forgiveness by God.

So before you put in your own request in prayer, there may be business that you need to take care of with others.  Forgive, so that you will be forgiven.  Why would Jesus want to forgive you if you’re not willing to forgive others?  By forgiving someone, or by asking for forgiveness, you are putting the gospel on display.


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to forgive

Many times in life, we are thrown into chaos.  The death of a family member, maybe a physical or mental sickness, the loss of a job can all take us into chaos.  Love delivers us from that chaos.  Love doesn’t necessarily put food on the table but it moves us to the point of security and clarity.  A lot of times when we are in chaos we are experiencing an inner pain.  There are times in our lives where we allow this inner pain to fester so much that it begins to govern our actions and thoughts.

Fits of rage, being withdrawn, and selfishness are all elements of lasting inner pains.  These pains can never really be satisfied without accepting them and forgiving the root cause of them.  Forgiveness releases us from chaos.  It takes us out of the place where there is bondage.

I love that in the gospel story of the four guys who carry their paralyzed friend to the presence of Jesus, He forgives the man of his sins before he heals him.  There is an understanding that before this man can be physically healed, he must be spiritually set free.  He needs to be forgiven.

Forgiveness reminds us that we no longer need to be defined by the past.  It reminds us that we don’t need to carry the weight of the guilt that defines us.  Practicing forgiveness is a simple reminder that we can be set free.  There are a lot of times in the gospels that Jesus addresses the topic of prayer.  A lot of the times Jesus talks about the need to forgive others before we pray.  It makes sense.  How can we beg for something that we are not willing to give to others?  Maybe Jesus just wants us to experience leading someone out of chaos before he can lead us out of our bondage.

This week, may you practice the seventh element of love by forgiving others and yourself.  May you help others walk out of chaos and into clarity; may you be set free in the process.


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open letter to pastor terry jones

Dear Pastor Terry Jones,

I wanted to write you to encourage you to continue with your rally on Saturday. However, I would like to encourage you to surprise the world with the love of Jesus Christ. You really have a golden opportunity; all of the media and the press will be at your Qur’an burning. You know that Muslims will be watching from around the world. Instead of burning these Qur’ans that are considered holy to so many, I’d encourage to speak of the love of Jesus in a way that is compelling. Paul says that when he preached, “Christ Crucified.” Maybe presenting the world with the reality that Jesus died for Muslims too will change some minds about who Christians are.

I would respectfully ask you to re-consider for a few reasons. First, what your church is involved with makes it more difficult for my church to reach non-Christians and Muslims. As you know, people who speak the loudest for any particular group, paint the entire group with the same brush. There are many of us who would not like to be painted with the brush that you will be using on Saturday. Please consider the repercussions on the rest of the family of Christ.

Second, I would ask you to reconsider because I don’t think it is in the best interest of the world in general. If you carry on with the Qur’an burning then I believe this will be taken as an act of aggression and escalation. The Bible is clear that we are to be peacemakers. Jesus even said, blessed are the peacemakers, and as he was exiting this earth he told his disciples that he was leaving his peace with them.

Third, I really do not think that the Qur’an burning that you are planning on Saturday will bring honor to the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, I am questioning if this is even something that is led by the Spirit at all. The book of Galatians is clear that the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. If you are convinced that this is really a Holy Spirit led activity, please ask yourself if these attributes are present. I do feel that it is my duty as a brother in Christ to reveal to you that the acts of the sinful nature are obvious. Galatians 5:19 lists many of them and the ones that I would like to point out are: hatred, discord, fits of rage, selfish ambition and fractions. If you look at your plans for this Saturday and see that the acts of the sinful nature are there, then I would encourage you to repent, and ask for forgiveness.

As I started with, please continue with your gathering on Saturday, but please shock the world by displaying the love of Jesus, and the forgiveness that he offers. Maybe extend an invitation to a life of forgiveness rather than a life of hatred.

Pastor Terry, I pray that Jesus will change your heart and mind and that you will be a force in spreading the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Grace & Peace,

Rev. David Johnson


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the rebuke

The other day I was having coffee with a friend.  My friend told me that he was a little taken back by the way that I handled something.  The friend went on to tell me that they wish I hadn’t handled the situation in the way that I did. Reviewing the situation, the friend was absolutely correct.

So I began to wonder why people don’t correct others more often. “Rebuke” is a very harsh sounding Biblical word.  There are two different ways to give a rebuke, one that is redemptive and one that is not.  I know the word sounds bad but the particular form of the word that means, “to give honor” is used 30 times in the New Testament. Many times Biblical words that we read have a ton of meaning.  The words have lost a lot of significance because when they are translated into English.  In English words usually just mean one thing.

I guess the question I have is why doesn’t our culture practice rebuking? Why don’t we rebuke in a way that gives life and restores relationships?  Being upset for years at someone only to forget what you were upset about doesn’t seem very effective.  Maybe all would not have been lost if you would have honored your friend enough to rebuke him or her in a meaningful way. So I guess the question that remains, how do you rebuke someone in a way that shows him or her honor?

I think it is simple.  You let them know how much you value their relationship and how important they are to you.  You let them know why you are hurt, sad, and upset.  Then you let them know that you’d like things to be different from now on.

A good friend will value what is said, acknowledge what they did and ask for forgiveness.

A lot of times only you know your hurt.  The people who are hurting others probably don’t realize it.


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