Saturday, March 28, 2009

Five Leadership Lessons from Obama's Second Month in Office

I don't know whether Shaun Reins approves or disapproves of President Obama's performance as a leader during the the president's second month in office.

That isn't the point of this article from Forbes. In it, he analyzes Obama's second thirty day period as president for lessons, some positive and some negative, that other leaders, particularly in the business world, can use.

It's interesting, similar to the unbiased analysis of presidents-as-leaders I try to do here and at The Moderate Voice, not from a business perspective, but from the vantage point of a student of history and my own experiences with leadership.

40-Days to Servanthood: Day 32

Servants pay attention to their SHAPE.

Several days ago, I mentioned the five ways in which the light of Christ shines through believers as they express gratitude to God for all His gifts. These five ways have been summarized by Pastor Rick Warren with the acronym, SHAPE. The “s” stands for spiritual gifts, at which we’ve already looked. Let’s examine two other elements today.

Heart: When I was a boy, I developed several intense interests. I loved to read, write, and speak. I took an interest in faith issues and in the Bible.* I enjoyed interacting with people and helping them solve problems. My great-grandmother, who died when I was eight, unbeknownst to me, called me her “little preacher,” feeling certain that I would one day become a pastor. What she saw in me even then, was some of my areas of passionate interest.

Of course, one’s heart implies more about us than our professional pursuits. When we have passionate interests, those passions will also be expressed by we Christians in our ministries of service, pursued in more than our 9-to-5 lives. That’s why, in addition to pastoring, I always done a lot of writing in my free time and always volunteered for various community service projects.

Warren advises: “Don’t ignore your interests. Consider how they might be used for God’s glory. There is a reason that you love to do these things.”

Ability: In the Old Testament, God said of a man named Bezalel, “I have filled him with divine spirit, with ability, intelligence, and knowledge in every kind of craft...” (Exodus 31:1-11)

Bezalel's "knowledge in every kind of craft" described his abilities. God has filled you with abilities, too, all given for the purpose of helping you play a vital role in the Church’s ministry of servanthood. Whether your ability is cooking, carpentry, accounting, musicianship, needlework, videography, financial investing, management, or whatever, it may have something to do with your God-shaped area of servanthood.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at the rest of your SHAPE.

Bible Passage to Ponder: “Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it” (First Peter 4:10, The Message)

Friday, March 27, 2009

And if you play it backwards, it spells out Lee Harvey Oswald's Hat Size


40-Days to Servanthood: Day 31

Servants use their spiritual gifts.

I read somewhere about a man who never opened his Christmas presents. Instead, each year, he placed his newest gifts under the tree with past years’ packages, all unopened.

It’s a stupid story. But it’s the story of most Christians. God gives all believers in Christ at least one spiritual gift to be used in ministries of service. But most Christians never open their gifts.

Yesterday, we said that there’s probably no end to the numbers of spiritual gifts God distributes in the Church. But I have always felt that a good general list is shared by Paul in Romans 12:6-8. There, the apostle mentions seven gifts. Every Christian should exhibit a measure of the attributes Paul mentions. We’re all called to serve and to give, for example. But people with any of the spiritual gifts Paul lists have the capacity for expressing them at greater depth and with greater impact on the church and the world than the rest of us. Let’s look at Paul’s list of spiritual gifts.

Prophecy is the capacity to apply God’s Word to current life situations.

Ministry is more than just the life of servanthood to which all Christians are called. People with this gift take service to extraordinary lengths, usually being the anonymous faithful on which every church relies. This is an all-purpose gift, indispensable to the Church. (I call people who possess this gift, "the church's utility infielders." Some experts on spiritual gifts estimate that in any given church, about 70% of the adults have this gift.)

Teaching is the ability to make difficult Biblical truths clear.

The gift of exhortation encompasses a two-sided capacity for (1) encouraging the despondent and (2) motivating the spiritually lazy or rebellious.

The gift of giving motivates its possessor to give more than the usual 10% of their income to the cause of Christ and to charitable or community causes. These folks aren’t necessarily wealthy; they just know how to stretch their money to serve others. They also have a passion for doing just that.

Those with the gift of leadership don’t bark orders. They’re believers whom others seem inclined to follow in one way or another. To be diligent in the exercise of this gift means, in part, to be in constant prayer so as to avoid abusing the privileges of leadership.

The gift of compassion is exhibited by those who love to engage in ministries of mercy.

Try different ministries and learn what gifts God wants you to open.

Servants use their spiritual gifts.

Bible Passage to Ponder: “We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us...” (Romans 12:7).

Thursday, March 26, 2009

"New" Music from Half Price Books: Some Half Price Music

My wife and I hit Half Price Books today. I didn't look at books. Instead, I spent most of my time going through music.

What did I get?

First, I picked up a 2002 release from the Elms called The Chess Hotel. I love the Elms. I saw them after they'd released an EP, before their first LP came out. They were young and friendly and so happy to be able to play their music. The Beatles were a huge influence on them, clearly, and like them, lead singer and composer, Owen Thomas, has a great sense of melody. [Click on all the images below to see them in full.]

I also got two by Dylan. Blonde on Blonde, which I think, my friend Richard has said is his favorite Dylan release. It came out in '66 and the CD I picked up is digitally remastered.

I also got a remastered version of Infidels. It came out in 1983, ostensibly after Dylan's "Christian phase," though frankly I believe that he's always been, again as Richard puts it, a Jewish Christian...even before the Christian phase.

You hear that in a lot of his stuff. The very title of Infidels evokes Old and New Testament themes---you might want to check out the entire Old Testament as well as the New Testament book of First Peter to see if I'm leading you astray or not. It can refer to the faithlessness of the faithful, of which I have firsthand knowledge as a sinner saved by the exile of Israel and Judah...Or maybe to believers being, in First Peter's phrase, "aliens and strangers" in the world. (An old hymn, picking up on this theme, said, "I'm but a stranger here, heaven is my home.")

Historian and bishop N.T. Wright points out that from the earliest days of the Church, the Jews who followed Jesus made a claim that would have horrified them just a few years earlier: That Jesus and Yahweh--God--were one and the same. Dylan, as Richard pointed out to me a few weeks ago, seemed to make a similar claim in the title track of his 1967 release, John Wesley Harding, one of my favorite Dylan LPs. Richard points out that the initials of Dylan's criminal-hero, JWH, are a rough transliteration for the vowel-less Hebrew word for God's Name, Yahweh (I AM). Richard also pointed to some of the lyrics Dylan used to describe the fictional Harding, which might as readily describe Jesus:

John Wesley Harding
Was a friend to the poor...

...he was always known
To lend a helping hand...

[and most evocatively of all:]

All across the telegraph
His name it did resound,
But no charge held against him
Could they prove...

Richard's hypothesis holds up for me when one considers the name Dylan gave his hero. Jesus, in spite of no charge that could be proven against Him, was subjected to the form of execution reserved for the worst criminals. John Wesley Hardin was an outlaw and all-around bad guy.

Why do you suppose Dylan added a "g" to the last name of his crook? Do you suppose it was because he saw the One convicted as a criminal as being one and the same as somebody we call by a word starting with "g"? Hmmm.

(Infidels was produced by Mark Knopfler, who also played guitar on it. The first time I ever heard Dire Straits, Mark Knopfler's band, I thought it was a new Dylan track. Dylan claims not to hear any similarity between his and Knopfler's voice. I often wonder why most of us can't hear what other people deem so obvious.)

I also got a copy of James Taylor's Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon. I owned this on vinyl right after it was released in 1971. It was the first thing I bought by Taylor. I so fell in love with Mud Slide then, that I bought Sweet Baby James, which had been released earlier. I love the home cooked feel of this LP, although Peter Asher, formerly of Peter and Gordon and brother of one time Paul McCartney girlfriend Jane Asher, doesn't allow the LP, as so many it its ilk do, to fall into sloppiness. (Think Wildlife by McCartney.)

I saw Taylor in concert in Columbus back in 1972, right after the release of One Man Dog and his marriage to Carly Simon. I took a girl named Lisa with me. I'd had a crush on her when we first met at freshman orientation together at Ohio State. I got over that and we became good friends.

I knew that Lisa did some drugs--grass and the then-popular qualuudes, known as sopors because they made people soporific--and I was death on drugs. (Still am, for that matter.) But I liked Lisa. I liked James Taylor and I knew that she did too. So I asked if she'd like to go to the concert with me.

The first thing she said when she got into my car that night was, "I know that you don't do drugs. But I've got one sopor in my purse and we can split it if you want to."

I wasn't sure what the etiquette was for turning down a date's offer of an illegal substance. So, I just said, "No, thank you," although I wanted to add, "I'd prefer to actually take in and remember the concert."

She deferred to my preferences and so far as I know, she didn't drop the sopor. Taylor was wonderful...too wonderful to put behind a drug-induced fog.

Here's what One Man Dog and John Wesley Harding looked like.

[UPDATE: Richard also pointed out the second track of Infidels to me a few weeks ago. It's called 'Sweetheart Like You' and it's definitely about Christ. Check out the lyrics here.]

[ANOTHER UPDATE: Richard and I have dialogued about Dylan before.]

Whatever you do today...

do it to the glory of God. See here.

40-Days to Servanthood: Day 30

God gives every believer in Christ at least one spiritual gift.

We’ve said that as a believer, you are a prism through whom the light of Jesus Christ is uniquely reflected in your service to the Church and through the Church, to the world. Pastor Rick Warren says that this is done in five ways, represented by the acronym, SHAPE. You personally reflect Christ through your Spiritual gifts, Heart, Abilities, Personality, and Experience.

What are spiritual gifts? They’re mentioned in many places in the New Testament, but most prominently in Romans 12, First Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4. Looking at these passages and others, theologian C. Peter Wagner gives this definition: “A spiritual gift is a special attribute given by the Holy Spirit to every member of the Body of Christ, according to God’s grace, for use within the context of the Body.”

Who has spiritual gifts? First Peter 4:10 and First Corinthians 12:1-18 lead to the inevitable conclusion that every believer in Christ who lives in the Christian community called the Church has been given at least one spiritual gift, often more than one.

A spiritual gift is different from a talent or a honed skill. A gift is supernatural, inexplicable by either the one with the gift or those blessed by it. A man I know is clearly gifted as a Christian teacher. When he opens his mouth, people listen. The content of what he says isn’t unique. Nor is his style dazzling. But the Spirit of God is clearly at work in him when he teaches.

How many spiritual gifts are there? Since God is living and active, the possible number of gifts is infinite. But the New Testament lists a number of them, a few of which we’ll consider tomorrow.

To determine your spiritual gift, the best method is the one we’ve already described as trial, error, and success. Along the way, make sure that you pray about it and get the feedback of Christian friends you trust. Their feedback will help you discern how you can best glorify God personally.

God gives every believer in Christ at least one spiritual gift.

Bible Passage to Ponder: “To each is given manifestation of the Spirit for the common good...” (First Corinthians 12:7)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Please keep praying for David Wayne...

and read his latest blog post. He reflects on the emotional, physical, and spiritual roller coaster involved in fighting cancer.

40-Days to Servanthood: Day 29

Every follower of Jesus Christ has her or his own way of serving.

Rocker Steve Taylor once wrote a song from the perspective of a new Christian. It was called I Want to Be a Clone. With tongue in cheek, Taylor sang in the last verse:

So now I see the whole design:
My church is an assembly line.
The parts are there, I'm feeling fine.
I Want To Be A Clone...

Does growing to be more like Jesus mean that we must all be the same? Not according to the Bible. In discussing what’s called “spiritual gifts” (more on that later), Paul says in the New Testament: “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (First Corinthians 12:4-7).

Think of what Paul is saying in this way: A prism takes a single beam of light, filters it, and then refracts it in differing colors and directions. Jesus Christ is, according to the Bible, the light of the world (John 1:9). When that one true light floods our lives, it’s God’s desire that it be refracted through us in millions of different ways. We receive Christ into our lives and offer service to fellow believers and to others through the ministries of the Church.

Jesus Christ frees people who surrender to Him to become what I’ve called their true God-selves, the people God had in mind for us to be when He put us together in our mother’s wombs (Psalm 139:13).

We’re made to be part of a community called the Church, a community that exists in this world and in eternity. While God wants the Church to live in unity, He doesn’t expect uniformity. Some believers will feel comfortable in jeans; others will enjoy three-piece suits. For their ministries, some will sing; others will prepare dinners. Christ sets us free to refract and reflect His light in our own unique ways.

Every follower of Jesus Christ has his or her own way of serving.

Bible Passage to Ponder: “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

40-Days to Servanthood: Day 28

Servants know that to finish strong, they must keep going back to the beginning.

The list of things that servants do at which we’ve looked the past two weeks is daunting. Servants, we've said: pursue a process of trial, error, and success in finding their own brand of servanthood; serve in hidden ways; don’t overlook the service of small things; guard others’ reputations; allow others to serve them when appropriate; demonstrate common courtesy; show hospitality; attentively listen to and bear the burdens of others; give generously of themselves; forgive; choose to forget the hurts others have inflicted on them; and tell others about Jesus Christ.

No wonder many who begin by offering their lives to Christ—at least the ones who rely on their own brain, muscle, and enthusiasm--give up! But how do we keep serving God and neighbor when things like discouragement, weariness, or resentment of those who take advantage of us, set in?

I offer two passages of Scripture to encourage you.

First, Jesus says: “Apart from Me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5). He says this while speaking of His relationship with all who are part of the Church. He is the vine and we are he branches, Jesus tells us. We draw everything we need to live and “bear fruit” from Him. (“Bearing fruit” means living lives that reflect the presence of Christ within us.) This passage tells us that although our commitment to reflecting our gratitude to Christ by being servants may falter, as long as we remain attached to “the vine,” Christ’s life, energy, and inspiration will flow into our lives, renewing our commitment to servanthood.

The second passage comes from the apostle Paul, who said: “I can do all things through Him [Christ] Who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). In a few moments, I intend to vacuum the first floor of our house. But unless I plug the sweeper into the outlet, I won’t get much vacuuming done and in the end, I’ll quit from discouragement. If we’re resolved to be servants who don’t give up, we must keep going back to our power source: the God we know in Jesus Christ.

Without Him, we can’t accomplish anything that matters. With Him, we can do everything that truly matters.

Servants know that to finish strong, they must keep going back to the beginning: Jesus Himself!

Monday, March 23, 2009

40-Days to Servanthood: Day 27

When the time is right, servants tell others about Jesus Christ.

In the book of Acts, the apostle Paul is dragged in chains before Herod Agrippa. Agrippa was a king over portions of Palestine. The Romans found this puppet useful for their purposes, putting a local face on their foreign rule. Agrippa had power to advise Festus, the emperor’s representative, to free Paul...or to have him executed.

When asked to defend himself, Paul tells the king about Jesus Christ, His death, and His resurrection and of how all who turn from sin and trust in Christ can live with God forever. Luke, the writer of Acts, tells us: “Agrippa said to Paul, ‘In this short time do you think you will make me a Christian?’ ‘Whether a short time or a long time,’ Paul answered, ‘my prayer is that you and all the rest of you who are listening to me today might become as I am---except, of course, for these chains” (Acts 26:28-29, Today’s English Version). With his own life on the line, Paul wasn’t concerned about protecting himself, but about sharing Christ!

Believers in Jesus are called to be “ambassadors” for Him, His representatives in the world, whose aim is to help others know the Savior Who sets us free from sin and death so that we can live with God (Second Corinthians 5:17; Matthew 28:19-20). Much of the time, we will make our appeals for Christ through our acts of service. "Preach the Gospel [the good news about Jesus] at all times,” Saint Francis of Assisi said, “If necessary, use words."

When words are needed, servants aren’t hesitant about using them. “Be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you, but do it with gentleness and respect” (First Peter 3:15-16, Today’s English Version). We get ready to tell people about Christ by maintaining a strong personal relationship with Him and by asking God for the opportunities to witness.

Servants tell others about Jesus Christ.

Bible Passage to Ponder: “Agrippa said to Paul, ‘Are you so quickly persuading me to become a Christian?’ Paul replied, ‘Whether quickly or not, I pray to God that not only you but also all who are listening to me today might become such as I am—except for these chains.’” (Acts 26:28-29)

Congratulations Are in Order!

Blogger Ann Althouse and a regular commenter on her blog have become engaged to be married. Althouse, a law professor at the University of Wisconsin, met her betrothed, who goes by the nom de comment, Meade, via her blog over four years ago.


Sunday, March 22, 2009

What is Confession, Anyway?

[This was shared during worship with the people of Saint Matthew Lutheran Church in Logan, Ohio, this morning.]

John 3:14-21
Years ago, I fell for an April Fool’s Day joke that paraded as a news story. It was about a guy who had been indicting for making millions of dollars getting illegal inside information on companies, enabling him to buy and sell at just the right times. “There’s no way he could have acquired all that money in so short a time without insiders helping him,” declared an SEC official in the fake news story. The story went on to say that in order to avoid prosecution and imprisonment, the charged man told a judge that he was a time traveler from the twenty-second century and, incidentally, that he knew the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden. This is what made this fake news story so convincing to me: The alleged criminal was more willing to be labeled insane than to confess his wrongs.

Confession is tough, for the follower of Jesus Christ no less than anyone else. It can be embarrassing and humiliating to confess our wrongs, whether we confess them to God, to others, or to ourselves. But followers of Jesus also know that confession is an essential component for healthy living. In confession—owning up to our faults and sins, coming clean—we clear away anything and everything that obstructs our relationship with God or keeps us from living life fully.

In our Gospel lesson for this morning, a man named Nicodemus visits Jesus. Nicodemus was a respected religious authority. But in Jesus, Nicodemus was beginning to understand that all his religious training, all the authority he enjoyed in the society of his time was meaningless. Still, Nicodemus was too concerned for his “place” in society, too worried about what the neighbors might think, and so, instead of owning up to the suspicion he had that Jesus was the Savior of the world, he sneaked to a meeting with Jesus under cover of darkness. He wanted to warn Jesus that powerful men—Jewish religious figures and Roman government functionaries—saw Jesus as an enemy to be killed. But in our lesson, which picks things up in the middle of their conversation, we find Jesus deflecting Nicodemus’ concern; Jesus tells Nicodemus that He has come into the world for the express purpose of dying. It’s by His death on a cross, Jesus says, that He will absorb all the horrors of human sin into His body, killing off its power over us forever. Jesus then turns the focus back on Nicodemus and his spineless nighttime visit when He says:

"..those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God."

When we are truthful with God, we can come into His blazingly true light, see our faults up close, seek God’s forgiveness, and know that God will light our way to better living. We can engage in confession.

As you’ve already heard me point out countless times, Martin Luther was fond of saying that the follower of Jesus Christ is called to live “in daily repentance and renewal.” We need to constantly re-focus our lives on Jesus, never being afraid to “come clean” about our faults and our need of God’s forgiveness and help. Confession needs to be a daily discipline for us. But what exactly do we mean when we talk about confession?

There are three elements that go into genuine confession. First: There is a genuine examination of one’s conscience. In shorthand, that means honesty before God. Richard Foster is a Quaker theologian and writer whose most famous work is a book called Celebration of Discipline. There, he tells a story from early in his ministry as a young pastor. His work was going well. But he felt the need for more of God’s power in his life in order to meet the almost crushing demand of human need that he confronted each day in his work. He prayed to God, “Lord, is there more You want to bring into my life? I want to be conquered and ruled by You. If there is anything blocking the flow of Your power, reveal it to me.”

Over a period of several days during his prayer time, Foster sat in silence, asking God to reveal things to him. At the end of three days’ time, he had filled three sheets of paper with sins and unresolved conflicts from three different phases of his life. He took those with him one day as he met with a trusted Christian friend. He went through each one and was putting the stack into a briefcase when his friend reached across the table, took the sheets in hand, and tore them into hundreds of little pieces. Echoing words that appear in the Old Testament book of Isaiah, Foster says that he knew then that his sins “were as far away as the east is from the west.” It was shortly after engaging in that exercise in confession that Foster began to develop a closer relationship with God.

Psalm 139 in the Old Testament says: "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." Confession begins with honesty, asking God to help us fearlessly face His inventory of our sin. It’s only when we’re honest with God about our sins that He can purge them from our systems.

The second element in genuine confession is sorrow. Sorrow, as it relates to confession, isn’t necessarily an emotion. I was talking with someone about his teenage years once. He told me, “As much as it may make me sound like a goody-two-shoes, I have to tell you that back then, I never did anything my parents didn’t want me to do. If they wanted me to be home by midnight, I was usually home by ten till. If they told me not to hang out with particular people, I didn’t do it.” I asked him, “Were you that afraid of your parents?” “I was never afraid of my parents,” he told me. “I just knew how much they loved me and I never wanted to hurt their feelings.” Sorrow over sin is animated by the same impulse that guy expressed about his parents. The cross of Jesus shows us how deeply and desperately God loves us. Sorrow over sin is a sense of deep regret and revulsion at the whole notion of having done anything to offend the heart of our Father God.

The third element in genuine confession is a determination to avoid future sin. When we confess our sin to God, we ask Him to change our hearts so that we want to avoid future sin. We ask God to change our wills and make us recoil and turn away from the very idea of violating any of God’s ten commandments, the thrust of which Jesus once summed up as to love God completely and to love others as we love ourselves.

Writer John Ortberg tells about a mauve sofa that he and his wife bought. It was the first new piece of furniture they had ever owned. After the sofa was delivered, a new rule was instituted in their household, which included several small children. “Don’t sit on the mauve sofa. Don’t touch it, don’t play around it, don’t eat on it, don’t breathe on it, don’t even look at that mauve sofa.” But one day, a terrible thing happened. A red jelly stain appeared on the mauve sofa. Ortberg’s wife loved the sofa and was devastated. She lined up the three kids and told them the stain would stay in the sofa “forever” and asked the kids if they knew how long “forever” was. She then told the kids that they would remain standing forever until one of them came clean, owning up to eating and spilling jelly on the mauve sofa. But the kids didn’t say a thing.

Ortberg knew the kids wouldn’t say anything for three reasons. First, because they’d never seen their mom that mad. Second, because they didn’t want to spend forever in the time-out chair. And finally, because John Ortberg knew that it was he, not his kids, who had caused the red jelly stain on the mauve sofa. He knew that he had to come clean. He might not be able to remove the jelly stain from the sofa, but he could get his kids off the hook and try to start fresh with his wife.

When we confess our sins, exposing our faults in God’s bright light, we remove the walls between God and us, between other people and us, between us and our best selves.

I can't close today without saying a word to those of you who, like me, may be a little obsessive compulsive or even a bit neurotic. If we're in either of these categories, you and I are in good company. Clearly, Martin Luther was a bit obsessive, a bit neurotic, at least as it relates to this issue of confession.

When Luther was a young monk, he would spend hours confessing his sins with his confessor, a man named von Staupitz. Luther would no more than walk a few steps from the confessional when he would recall more sins he hadn't catalogued. Von Staupitz got so fed up with Luther's incessant confessing that he finally told Luther, "Quit coming to me with your puppy sins!"

Von Staupitz wasn't saying that some sins are greater or lesser violations of God's holiness. What he was saying is that confession isn't a religious hoop that you jump through by remembering every sin you've ever committed.

Who could possibly remember their every sin? I myself am often so oblivious to my sins that it isn't until years after I've committed them that I realize the wrong I've done.

You're a human being. God knows that. Your memory is imperfect. God knows that. Your salvation doesn't hang in the balance because of your faulty memory or your faulty sensitivity to sin.

When we confess our sins, known and unknown, we show God our intentions. Through Jesus Christ, we already know God's intentions: God wants us to be with Him for eternity. When we confess, we say, "Yes!" to the "Yes!" God already said to us when Jesus died and rose for us.

Confession is hard. But it’s the indispensable way to experiencing all that God intends for us as His children. Amen!

[The message was inspired greatly by a sermon by Pastor Dan Anderson, Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, Burnsville, Minnesota.]

40-Days to Servanthood: Day 26

After they forgive, servants strive to forget.

Love, Paul writes in the New Testament, “doesn't keep score of the sins of others” (First Corinthians 13:5, The Message).

Servants of God try to be as forgetful of the hurts inflicted on them by others as God is of the hurts they’ve inflicted on God. The power to forgive and to forget comes from Jesus Christ. But only those who decide that they want to forgive and forget will be given that power, which in turn translates into what the Bible calls a “fruitful” life of servanthood.

Clara Barton, the founder of the Red Cross, knew this. It’s hard to believe that the person behind such a benign organization had her detractors, but she did. Once, on a tour, a woman who had treated Barton particularly unkindly sent word that she would like to have dinner with her. The aide with whom Barton was traveling was mystified at how readily Barton agreed to the dinner. She reminded Barton of the woman’s vicious misdeed toward her. But the Red Cross founder seemed not to recall it. “Don’t you remember?” the aide asked. “No,” Barton replied, “I specifically remember forgetting it.”

Forgetting doesn’t mean that we’re heedless of our past experiences with people. An abused wife shouldn’t give her abusive husband more opportunities to do her harm, for example.

A man I know has lashed out at me many times. I’ve decided that the interaction of our personalities is like a meeting between gas and fire. We can’t be friends. To that extent, I remember our past experiences together. But whenever I see him these days, I’m always friendly and courteous. Often, I even enjoy his company. God helps me to forgive and forget and so be freed for Christian servanthood.

Chuck Swindoll says that “forgetting” sins perpetrated against us has three elements: refusing to keep score (First Corinthians 13:5); being bigger than any offense (Psalm 119:165); and harboring no judgmental attitude (Matthew 7:1-5).

After they forgive, servants strive to forget.

Bible Passage to Ponder: Love “doesn't keep score of the sins of others” (First Corinthians 13:5, The Message).