The Arrogance Of Unforgiveness


I grew up in an Irish family where one of our favorite jokes, statements and, I think for a period of time, refrigerator magnets was a quip about Irish Alzheimer’s.  If you haven’t heard it before, Irish Alzheimers is when you forget everything but the grudge.  It always made me laugh and, to be honest, feel a little vindicated.  I struggled with holding grudges for the same reason I struggle with sunburns and dancing…I’m Irish!  It’s incredibly convenient when we give ourselves ethnic exemptions for what the Bible calls sin.

It’s also incredibly destructive.

Unwillingness or inability to forgive turns our hearts into a breading ground for self-righteous anger, bitterness, and resentment.  It’s hard to accomplish anything meaningful in life when all you can think about is how you’ve been wronged and why God isn’t punishing that person the way you think He should.  The old adage really is true, “Not forgiving someone is like drinking poison yourself and waiting for the other person to die.

None of us set out to waste our lives by drinking the poison of unforgiveness.  It just happens because forgiving people is hard, especially when they’ve really hurt us.  But that’s what Jesus calls us to do, “as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” (Colossians 3:13)  Notice, “so you also must forgive”.  This isn’t optional.  It’s a command.

Here’s what I’ve learned about actually doing the hard work of forgiveness: My greatest obstacle to forgiveness isn’t my sense of justice.  It’s my pride.  The path to forgiveness is found in allowing the grace of God to melt my pride.  Here’s how it works.

(1)  Our forgiveness of others is rooted in God’s forgiveness of us.  I know just how much God has forgiven me of in my life.  I know that forgiveness was completely undeserved and totally motived by His grace.  I didn’t do anything to earn it nor can I do anything to pay Him back.  So, the forgiveness God calls us to in Colossians 3 is made possible by the forgiveness He offers us in Colossians 2, “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:14-15)  This is the essence of the gospel – my debts were nailed to a tree in the person of Jesus Christ so that I could be forgiven and made alive.  That’s grace!

(2)  Grace always kills pride.  When it comes to forgiving another Christian, we need to ask ourselves, “If the cross is enough for God to forgive this person, why isn’t it enough for me?”  Why do we feel like we need something more?  God didn’t.  And if the person we’re struggling to forgive isn’t a Christian, we can rest in the promise of Proverbs 11:21, “Be sure of this: The wicked will not go unpunished“.  God deals with all injustice – either on the cross or in hell.

Jesus offers us a forgiveness that is so complete, so undeserved, and so permanent that it will melt the pride of our unforgiveness as we come to understand it.  In Christ, we not only find our forgiveness but also the power to forgive others.  So, lay your cup of poison at the foot of the cross and let grace do it’s transforming work.

RCC Needs More Gray Hair


Last week I found out that being the speaker at a middle school/high school retreat is an interesting experience when you’re 39.  It starts with the realization that these kids were born after you graduated from college.  From there you discover that a lot of them have parents your age; which is particularly encouraging when you have 3 kids but your oldest won’t start kindergarten for another year!  And it reaches a climax with the music.  I’ll be forever grateful for those two David Crowder songs the band played but, other than that, I hadn’t heard any of them before.  And, maybe for the first time in my life, I found myself wondering why everything was so loud!

What’s happened to me?!?

I was a college pastor for 7 years and led a young adult ministry for another 3.  So much of my Christian life has been shaped by Passion’s music, messages and conferences.  I love Hillsong.  Part of me is still clinging to the vain thought that at least I’m still young enough to get invited to a student camp at 39.  But, trust me, those kids didn’t think I was there because I was cool.  At best, they were grateful that an old guy would come speak into their lives.

But there I was.  Surrounded by people who could be my children.  Totally happy and thrilled to be there.  Why?  Because I was there for the sake of the gospel.  I wasn’t there for the music.  I was there to serve.  I was there to fight for the next generation of the people of God.

And I started to think about Restoration City Church.  I started to think about the college students, 20 somethings, and 30 somethings who call our church home.  And I started thanking God for sacrificial  40 somethings, 50 somethings and 60 somethings who are part of our church even though they may not love the music, aren’t surrounded by a lot of their peers and sometimes feel like the chaperones at a high school dance.  I love these older saints who are willing to define their church experience through the lens of serving the next generation.  They’re some of my heroes!

And we need more of them.  Restoration City needs more gray hair.  Not because we’re trying to Make Choirs Great Again and not because we’re going to be planning senior adult weekends in the Poconos.  We need mature believers to make disciples, to do pre-marital counseling, to mentor young parents, to teach a generation how to live for Jesus in the work place.  We need older saints who will sacrifice their comfort for the advance of the gospel.

If you agree, let me ask you to do three things:

  1.  Pray.  Join me in asking God to bring some winsome, sacrificial, godly older believers to our church.
  2. Recruit.  If you know some older (40+ and that’s negotiable!) believers, forward them this blog and ask them to pray about joining our church.  If they don’t do blogs, call them on their landline and ask them to come to church with you on Sunday!
  3. Bless.  If you have an older believer who is willing to disciple you, look for ways to bless them.  Babysit their kids.  House sit when they’re out of town (ok, that blesses you too).  Help with yard work.  Whatever you can think of!

I believe the vision of an intergenerational church is worth fighting for, sacrificing for and striving for.  The local church is at her best when all of the generations come together under the banner of changing lives and transforming communities.

Tennessee Mornings


It’s pretty easy to spend time with Jesus in the morning when you wake up to this view.  At least that’s what I found last week when I got to spend a few days in East Tennessee speaking at a student summer camp.  I could hardly wait to wake up in the morning, grab a big cup of coffee, sit in a rocking chair on the front porch, take in the majesty of God’s creation, read His Word and spend time with Him in prayer.  To make it even easier, the cabin I was staying in had no phone line, no internet and no cell signal and my nearest neighbor was miles away.  Just to complete the picture, Laura and the kids were at her parents, so there were no little voices asking me for juice or to telling me they had to go potty.

So, I would sit there in silence and solitude. Read a little.  Pray a little.  Talk to myself.  Talk to God.  Reflect.  It was all kind of surreal…kind of like I found my own Walden Pond, in a really good way!

And somewhere along the way, I found myself thinking, “this is the way life should be.” That’s an unsettling thing for a guy living in an apartment in the city with a family of five to be thinking.  But, I suspect all of us city dwellers think similar things when we get out of town for a bit, right?  If we had different jobs, more space, less traffic, and simpler lives we would have better relationships with Jesus.  In short, if we lived elsewhere, we’d be healthier.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s something really good about getting out of our routines.  My friend Mark Batterson says it so clearly, “change of pace + change of place = change of perspective”  He’s totally right and I’m all for vacations, retreats trips out of town and speaking at any church retreat with a good view!

But blaming our spiritual apathy on our surroundings is a cop out.  That was a point the Lord drilled home one morning last week with a simple question in my spirit, “John, which are you enjoying more, me or the view?”  Ouch.  Was I reveling in Jesus or in a novel experience?

When it comes to spending time with God, we all have a tendency to put too much hope in the experience and too little hope in experiencing God.  We spend so much time getting ourselves comfortable and creating an experience that will look amazing on Instagram and so little time enjoying Jesus.  Any time we lose sight of the fact that Jesus is the best part of any experience, we’re headed for trouble.

What mattered last week wasn’t the view.  What mattered is that God was there.  He wanted to speak.  I wanted to hear.  And that’s transportable.  That’s available in DC.  That’s available everywhere.  To every one of us.  Today.  Tomorrow.  And the next morning.

Don’t settle for an experience when God invites us to experience Himself!