There is Freedom in Forgiveness

The word forgiveness brings up all kinds of feelings and images for people. Some see forgiveness as being weak, allowing those who have hurt you to “get away with” the pain they have inflicted. Some see forgiveness as giving permission to wrongs, others see it as allowing evil to exist unchecked in the world. However you view forgiveness, I believe it is fair to say that the word carries with it strong emotion. Shakespeare could just have easily written the words, ‘to forgive, or not to forgive, that is the question.’

Whatever your view of forgiveness, one thing remains true, God calls us to forgive others as He has forgiven us. He does not follow that statement with a litany of exceptions to this command. It is complete and absolute, without exception. We are called to forgive, just as God forgave us. Let’s be clear, I do not know what sins have been committed against you, so I cannot, and will not claim to fully understand the pain that you may have suffered, and continue to suffer because of them. I would never want to do anything to negate what has happened to you. My sole desire in sharing this is to help you understand the toll that unforgiveness takes on your life.

People who hold on to wrongs, injure only themselves not the person whom their grudge is against. Unforgiveness festers in your heart, it makes you bitter, angry, resentful, and at its worst can cause you to injure others. All the while, the individual(s) who sinned against you, continue on as they were. Forgiveness is not about them; it is about you and your relationship with God. By living with unforgiveness in your heart, you are creating separation between you and God.

Remember God forgave us for all the sins we committed and have yet to commit. There is nothing, and I mean nothing, in this world we can do to make amends for, or to earn that forgiveness.  If we could in our own power make ourselves righteousness, and restore our relationship with God the Cross would not have been necessary to reconcile us to the Father. He forgave us in the midst of our sin, our injuring others, and in our denial. When we didn’t even realize we needed forgiveness, He forgave us. His love for us, and His desire for us to be reconciled to Him was so great that He forgave it all…ALL. He made the ultimate sacrifice in Jesus, who paid the price for all our sin, so that we could return to God.

“But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive in with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it Is by grace you have been saved.” (Ephesians 2:4-5)

All scripture speak aside, unforgiveness puts you in bondage…ties you to the person who wronged you, forever. Unforgiveness is bondage, it is handing your life over to another, your emotions, your heart, to the person who has hurt you. Living in unforgiveness is like handing the reigns of your life over to someone else and letting them drive you. The hate, anger and resentment that festers in your heart will overtake your life and you will be unable to move forward.

The word forgiveness (aphesis) mean loosing someone from what binds him. It stems from a verb meaning to send away. Forgiveness grants freedom to those who are in bondage. Those bonds tie you to the hurt that others have caused either intentionally or not. Forgiveness allows you to send away the pain that holds your heart and mind hostage. Imagine for a moment, what it would be like to not have those feelings shadowing you. To be free from those negative feelings associated with that person or action.

Forgiveness is not something we can do on our own. We are broken and resentful people, unable to do anything good outside of God. Sure, we may forget for a while, we may stuff it down and chalk it up to ‘no big deal’. However, there will come a time where something will happen to remind you of the pain that was caused, and it’s like living through it all over again. In fact, the longer you stuff it, the worse it will be when it comes out…and it will come out.

The only way to be rid of the root of bitterness is the loosing of forgiveness. “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling, and slander, along with every for of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Follow God’s example, therefore as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 4:31-5:2)

Yes, I do know what I’m saying. I know that pain and bitterness has become part of who you are and you’re not sure who you will be without it. You feel justified in your anger and desire for revenge, but if you hold on to that bitterness, your hands are not free to hold onto Christ. Forgiving those wrongs does not make them right, does not mean you approve, does not mean it was OK, it means you are loosing that which binds you, sending it away.  You can’t do it on your own, but you don’t have too.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably ore than all we ask or imagine according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21)

My prayer for each person reading this, is that the Holy Spirit will reveal the unforgiveness in your heart, what which binds you and keeps your heart hostage. I pray that He will work in your life and enable you to let go and forgive those who have hurt you, just as Christ forgave you.

Please help me share the good news of Jesus and how He can change our world!

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Choose Contentment over Resentment

I was watching a Skit Guys video this week with our church youth group. We all love the way they present the gospel in humorous yet very meaningful ways. In this particular episode, they were reviewing the 10 Commandments, which if you know the Skit Guys, is a wealth of wit combined with wisdom. The youth laughed (we all did actually) as they waded through the meaning and relevance of each of God’s commands. Then toward the end Tommy makes the comment, “be content”. So much of what God calls us to do falls into the bucket of be content, with what you have, who is in your life, and how we are called to live.

The Apostle Paul writes to Timothy on this very subject, But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” (1 Timothy 6:6-10)

Paul is writing to Timothy about the sickness of this world, the sickness of self and putting ones self before everything else, before God, before others, sometimes we even put our own fleshly desires above what is really good for our own person. When we place our wants, not needs, above all else we become resentful and bitter toward God, others and the world in general. It is only by being content with what we have that we can find any kind of happiness in this world. After all, as Paul pointed out, we brought nothing into this world, and will take nothing out. All we have is from God.

I was going about my day this week when I got a text reminder about a house. It was a house that my husband and I considered buying several years ago, we decided at the time that it was too big of a commitment so we declined. I had forgotten that I had an alert set up if the house was ever up for sale again. Well, it was! And whoever bought it had done a wonderful job renovating it, and fixing, and updating all the things that we had decided were too big for us to handle. Within all of 5 minutes I was talking to a realtor friend of mine, texting my husband and picturing our family moving into this beautiful historic home. It consumed the rest of my day and part of the next.

My family has a wonderful home. We have the space we need, a backyard I have literally bled over. We have built our life there and have no need of anything more (although a 3rd bathroom would be nice in a family of 6). I don’t need a great room with picture windows, Mexican tile floors and a courtyard. I don’t need to become house poor just to host a lovely dinner in my own courtyard with friends who come to my home to visit me, not my house. I became so distracted by the idea of this beautiful, one of a kind, historic home belonging to me that I forgot what was important.  Wanting a new house isn’t a sin! Let me be clear! Obsessing and coveting what I don’t have and don’t need to the detriment of being grateful for what God has given me is.

In this passage Paul is explaining to Timothy that if we have what we need, we should be content, we should feel blessed. It’s when we want more than that, when we allow the temptation to become more, this desire becomes a trap that can ruin people, and lead to their destruction. Paul states that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. By this he doesn’t mean cash in hand, although it’s part of it, it means our desire to have more. More than what we already have, more than what our friends and neighbors have, more than our enemies have. And having more, always, ALWAYS, leads us to want more. “It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” 

Resentment sinks in when we live our lives in constant comparison to those around us. When we see what we have as not being enough. The world tells us we need new cars, new homes, new jewelry, first class tickets and front row seats. There is a billboard that went up this spring in my home town that states, “you don’t need a divorce, you need a bigger house.” It was a joint advertisement for a husband and wife team. One is a realtor one is a divorce lawyer. The world we live in is consumer oriented. Whatever your particular temptation may be, you can bet that there is a billboard along the nearest highway designed to feed it.

Our discontentment with the blessings God has bestowed upon each of us is what causes our resentment, leads to arguments, anger, frustration and from that we have people who will gable, become workaholics, steal, cheat, lie and murder to fulfill that desire for more. When Paul stated that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil, he was not exaggerating.

Dear friends, we each have been given riches beyond our wildest dreams. Our salvation is worth more than anything that this would could provide us. What we get here is temporary, yet we spend the majority of our lives energy trying to attain more. If we invested that time, those resources (meaning the gifts God has given us through the Holy Spirit) into the lives of others, into sharing the Kingdom of God with those around us, providing for the poor, weak, sick, widowed and orphans, we’d make life better for so many. Our riches, rewards are stored up in Heaven and we’ll have more people there to share them with.

Our lives here on this earth were not meant to be lived as if that were all we have. Our lives on this earth were meant to be lived in a way that brings Glory to God by sharing His love with as many people as we can. Our lives on this earth were meant to be lived with our eyes fixed on Jesus and the life we’ll live with Him forever. To do that we need to be content with what we have, where God placed us and use those blessings to bring ore people to knowledge of His love and salvation. When we are discontented with our lives, we grow resentful and that drives people away from us, ruins our witness and will eventually, as Paul states, drive us from the faith and pierce ourselves with many pangs. Our resentment will ruin our lives here and our chance for life in the Kingdom.

Chose contentment over resentment and be blessed with the knowledge that our riches are waiting for us with Jesus.

Please help me share the good news of Jesus and how He can change our world!

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Our Words and Our Witness…inextricably intertwined

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29

I’ve considered this scripture and many more like it lately as I’ve seen and heard friends, co-workers, local and state leaders jump into the current tide of demeaning, and divisive rhetoric.

Spoiler Alert: What I write here today is for my Christian brothers and sisters. Those who have accepted the call to the cause of Christ and who are being led by the Spirit to be a witness to this world… Do Not Engage!

The witness of the Church has become so like that of the world that we are becoming barely distinguishable from everything around us. What happened to us being set apart for God, looking different than the world, being resident aliens in hostile territory? “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

This week’s political convention, followed by another next week, it stoking the fires of an already emotionally charged and volatile debate in this country. Now, I do not claim to be an expert in politics and can only claim to be an amateur theologian, however, I can’t imagine (because of what we’re shown in scripture) that Jesus would approve of our participation in, or acceptance of, the current conversations.

I was stunned when a friend of mine commented Tuesday morning that neither empathy nor compassion are mentioned in the constitution of the United States. As if being American legally precludes us from our Christian calling to care for the needs of others before our own. To love others as we love ourselves. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31

There is no grace or mercy in speaking slander or lies about people you don’t even know, in order to win an argument. The ends here do NOT justify the means. Every hateful, slanderous negligent, divisive word that comes forth from your mouth leaves a mark. It condemns your heart, it damages others and it completely destroys your witness to the world. “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.” James 3:9-12 Words, once spoken, can not be taken back. Words spoken in secret are still heard by God. He will judge the fruit of our lives and our hearts.

Competing political candidates are your neighbors, not your enemy. People who look different than you are your neighbor, not your enemy. People who choose to live their lives different than you are your neighbor, not your enemy. And, even if they were your enemy, Jesus tells us to love and pray for them too.“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[a] and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:43-48.

We have an opportunity to help stem the tide of hateful speech that is over taking our country and causing so much division and pain. Examine y our words, speak with love and mercy and forgiveness. If you find that is something you can not do, then choose to cause no harm, and stay silent. In the words of my bunny buddy Thumper, best friend to Bambi, “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.”

We know that we have a greater treasure that we can imagine waiting for us. When this world passes away all these arguments that seem so important now, arguments we’ll say anything to win…will just not matter. However, the people we damage, the people we cause to turn from Christ because of our broken witness, will matter very very much.

Please help me share the good news of Jesus and how He can change our world!

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