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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While I was listening to Jack Graham this morning on the radio, he said something that I loved and feel many of us need to hear, Christianity is not immunity. Think about that for a moment, do we believe that because we have put our faith in Jesus that our lives are now going to be easy and that everything we want is going to quickly fall into place? No, really, think about it. How often have we gotten frustrated or angry because what we thought should happen, didn’t. Or what we thought God should do, He didn’t. If we really take a good hard look in scripture, we quickly see that Jesus never promised us a smooth ride. In fact, He offered up the opposite. And in the midst of it, He calls us to be at peace, without anxiety, full of hope and joy.
Paul tells us, ” You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:10-17
Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
Continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” James 1:2-4
Consider it joy whenever you face trials of many kinds.
Being a Christian does not mean our lives will be free from troubles, in fact, it’s quite the contrary. Our very existence is in opposition to the world. What we believe the world considers foolish, and we are told throughout scripture is that we will face trials and persecutions, just as Christ did. It is never a matter of if but when. If we follow Christ, we will have a share in His sufferings. Anyone who tells you differently is not sharing truth.
Being a Christian does not mean we are now immune to the disease of this world, the disease of sin and death. It means we are in a constant battle for our lives, and the lives of those around us. What we are told in scripture is that when we face challenges, we don’t face them alone, we don’t need to be anxious, we don’t need to fear the trials and tribulations of this world because God has overcome the world. What does that mean? Well, it means that we’ll experience some pretty awful stuff in this life, but we do it so that we can have an eternity free from suffering as we share in Christ’s inheritance.
My grandmother used to tell me, “the human mind and body can endure just about anything, so long as we can conceive of the end.” We know there is an end, we know the battle is won, we know that we will finally be in the arms of the savior and the suffering will cease. It is that hope, that confidence that allows us to whether the storms of this life.
The particular challenges that you are facing right now, they are hard, they seem overwhelming, you’re wondering how you can make it one more day. Perhaps it’s your health or that of someone you love, perhaps it’s your finances or your job. I don’t know what your trial is, I do know that it is not insurmountable. I do know you are not alone. I do know that God’s promises are true and can be counted on. I do know that you are not facing anything that hundreds or thousands have not faced before you. I do know that if you hold on to Christ, it will not destroy you.
We are not immune to the sin of this world. Jesus blood is more like Teflon. the arrows of this life will fly at us, Jesus blood empowers us to stand firm against those forces and not be destroyed. They don’t have to penetrate who we are in Him.
Christianity is not immunity; Christianity is the rudder that allows us to navigate through the trials of this life until we can securely anchor ourselves in the Kingdom with our savior.
Please help me share the good news of Jesus and how He can change our world!
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In our youth group recently we have been getting the teens involved by encouraging them to pick our study topics. Each week one teen is selected and they work with one leader to pose and answer, from scripture, any question they may have. I will admit I was afraid aliens, dinosaurs and other silliness would claim the forefront, but was pleasantly surprised by the depth of the questions asked. Questions about homosexuality, where is God when bad things happen, and most recently, why do so many have to hit rock bottom before turning to God?
Needless to say we’ve had some amazing conversations, and it has been a huge growth opportunity as our teens dig deep to get answers to questions that really matter to them. This most recent question we discusses in the context of the parable of the Prodigal Son. As many of have done, he prioritized the wrong things, went all in and found himself at rock bottom. He was faced with the decision of turning to his father or death. It took him hitting rock bottom to turn to his salvation. It’s a beautiful story and one we can all probably identify with.
I got to thinking this morning, what about those that follow the same path; seeking self promotion at any cost, placing fame and fortune above all else. What happens when the prodigal son spends his last dollar on a lottery ticket…and wins? Because, we see this happen as well. People who put themselves and their interests and their happiness above all else, often to the detriment of many…succeed and get all they want in this world. What does that story tell us? Where is God when good things seem to happen to not so good people?
We read about these people throughout the Psalms, the wicked prospering and mockingly stating that God either doesn’t care, is asleep or doesn’t see their actions. Since the begging of time people have called out to God to bring ‘justice’ on the wicked. However, the wicked still seem to prosper, the wicked still seem to triumph over the oppressed, the wicked still seem to win.
Let me bring your attention to another story in the bible, also found in the book of Luke, just one chapter later. This is a story about a poor, sick, oppressed man who dies in abject poverty and pain, Lazarus, and a rich man who had every good thing in life, neglecting the needs of those around him. Both men die, and as such have very different experiences.
“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.” Luke 16:22-24
Lazarus, was one of the least of men and so received a mighty reward in heaven. The rich man, on the other hand, who had not used his blessings on earth to bless others, who had used his blessings on earth to glorify himself by satisfying his fleshly desires, went to Hades.
Yes, people in this world, who chose to help themselves first, will be last in the life after this one. “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.” Luke 16:25-26
The story continues with the rich man’s plea for Abraham to send Lazarus to the home of the rich man’s father to warn his brothers to change their lives so they will not suffer the same fate (sounds very Charles Dickens). To which Abraham replies, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” Luke 16:31
If the prodigal son won mega millions, his outcome would be of his making. Would he use his blessings to bless others, or would he continue down a path of selfishness and waste? We obviously can’t say. What we can say, is if he chose the latter, his rewards, all his rewards would be used up in this short lifetime. There would be nothing for him in the next. Yes, good things happen to bad, or wicked, or selfish people. Or perhaps it’s better stated that good things seem to happen to wicked people. The truth of it is, that they may seem to have all they want for a time, but our lives here on this earth are short compared to our eternity with Jesus. That short moment of pleasure will cost them eternity. Where our short moment of suffering will yield us an eternity of glory with our savior.
Good things, bad things, here on earth doesn’t matter. What matters is what we do with what we have while we’re here. Did we give God the glory by placing our faith in Jesus and blessing others with thanksgiving, or did we live to glorify and please ourselves? Mega millions mean nothing in the light of eternal salvation.
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I want you to picture a plot of land. It’s tilled, clean, no weeds; as a gardener myself it’s a beautiful sight to behold. There is nothing so exciting and full of expectation as a ‘yet to be planted’ harvest. Imagine what God sees as He looks down at us. However, what God sees is not a perfect, clean, weedless, fertilized, field of soil.
“Then he told them many things in parables, saying: ‘A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.'” Matthew 13:3-8
When God is sowing, He is throwing seed (His word) toward us, wherever we are. We may be on a lonely path, in a time of life where nothing is penetrating into our hearts. We may be in a rocky time of life, and because of the difficulties in life we are unable to maintain growth without the root. Perhaps the seed is sown while we are so focused on the things of this world, that we have no energy to focus on the things of God. Our desire for wealth, fame, position, choke out any desire we have for God. Then, sometimes, the Word is sown on good soil, where it will grow and flourish and produce abundant fruit.
The point being, God is always sowing. He is always calling out to us. He calls when we are not ready, kinda ready, think were ready and when we are actually ready. Any one of us have been every kind of soil at some point in our life. But God, (best words ever) keeps sowing. God never gives up, He never stops calling us, He is faithful in all He does.
“You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.” Psalm 139:1-6
God has also called us to be sowers. Christ called each of us who believe to reach out to all those who do not know Him. We are to reach out to ALL those who do not know Him. I have found that we have a tendency to reach out to those who we are most comfortable with. We reach out where we believe there will be the least resistance. We reach out to people like ourselves. “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?” Matthew 5:46-47
What I found most inspiring in the parable of the sower; is that God continued to sow! He provided His word to everyone, everywhere no matter their condition, no matter their place in life. He didn’t discriminate in any way. Even knowing that some of the time the seed would not sprout, He continued to sow. God never gives up on us! He generously sends His Spirit to each of us, over and over and over again. He is constantly reaching out to bring us to Him.
Why then, are we stingy with our sowing? Are we worried about making people mad, offending someone, scaring them off, making a bad impression, losing a friend or just plain looking the fool? Everything that keeps us from walking like Jesus did, will fall away. We’ll look back one day and know all the times we stingily kept Christ to ourselves and the silly reasons we did it. We’ll also recognize that in the Kingdom, those reasons just don’t matter. How will we feel knowing that it was more important for us to be comfortable than to share Christ? We pick and chose who we think deserves our time as if we know better than God. We are called to sow not to judge.
We want to pick and chose where we sow the Word, we want to see growth, we want to stand proudly and say, “we did that.” But the truth is that God is the only reason any seed will grow, our job isn’t to identify the perfect place and time to plant, growth isn’t dependent upon us. Our job is to sow, and to sow generously. What happens to those seeds after that is up to Him. We may never see the results of the seeds we plant. We know that God’s word will always accomplish it’s purpose.
“As the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
and do not return to it without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:10-11
Sow generously, God will take care of the rest.
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We all know the rhyme, Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall, all the kings horses, and all the kings men couldn’t put Humpty together again. The image of something so silly as an egg, sitting on a wall, falling down, and being smashed into an irreparable state, made us laugh as children, who would come up with such a sad silly story, without a happy ending?
Similarly, in Genesis we read a story about how all the people in the world spoke one language and how they came together to build a tower to ‘reach the heavens’ and ‘to make a name for themselves’. Like a silly round bottom egg sitting on a wall, their pride drove them to take actions which ultimately led to their being scattered across the world, unable to be unified as they once were. There was nothing that could bring them back together like that again, irreparably broken they went their separate ways.
“Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.
They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”
But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”
So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.” Genesis 11:1-9
God saw that the people, (all as a group), had great pride. Pride that drove them to believe themselves His equal. A pride that will continue to drive the human race to attempt feats that bring us renown, and make us feel godlike. “If as one people speaking the same language, they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.” Throughout the Old Testament we find stories of the people of God, driven by pride, to take action in direct opposition to Him, serving only to glorify themselves.
Why would Humpty sit on the wall? To have the best view of the military parade passing by, to be seen as clever by attempting the impossible, balancing so precariously on a wall. We don’t know why he did it, we do know that he fell, and his pieces were so completely shattered that no one could repair the damage. Not even the people he sought so hard to impress.
This moment in Genesis, the people were of one mind, one language, working together for a common cause; the cause however was not God’s, it was their own. We as a race, instead of using our unity for good, wanted to use it to glorify ourselves and try to reach the heavens, we wanted to be god’s in our own right. Sound familiar, how many times in our history have we done something we thought was so smart, only to reap the horrible consequences of those actions? From that moment, we were scattered, never again to be so unified in purpose. “So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city.” No longer able to communicate the people lost interest in their project and went their own separate ways.
What happens next you ask? Well, instead of working together we fought each other; for land, for money, for ‘love’, for every reason you can imagine. The unity we knew, the unity we were created to have, was destroyed by our pride.
God knew what we were capable of accomplishing together, we are, after all, made in His image. We have His capacity for love, compassion, joy, peace, hope, patience and kindness encoded into our very DNA. But pride won over.
Then one day everything changed. He provided a way for us to again be unified. Christ is our universal translator. On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit demonstrated that when He came to indwell in the hearts of the Apostles and all those who would believe, we could again be unified in heart and purpose.
“Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” Acts 2:2-4
From Babel to Pentecost, God did not provide us a way to reunite, doing so would only have led to the same outcome. Our lives being about us. But Christ’s selflessness and sacrifice brought us all together; Jews, Gentiles, men and women, slaves and free people. We are ALL united in Christ. The Holy Spirit speaks in and through all those who believe. God not only gave us the ability to be unified as His Church working together for one purpose, He also gave us the purpose.
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. ’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40
Babel to Pentecost; confusion to clarity, separation from God to unity in Christ. God’s plan reflects His character, He is Sovereign, loving and compassionate. His plans will never fade, fail or falter.
It was man’s choice to give into our pride, it was that pride that led to our confusion at Babel, it was God’s love and compassion that, through Christ’s sacrifice, we were again brought together and given a common purpose.
Yes, we all speak different languages, compounded exponentially by the number of people and cultures and countries that exist in our fragmented world today. But God (two of my FAVORITE words in the Bible) provided us a way, through belief in Christ, to come together. Will we use this blessing to serve His purpose, or our own.
Sitting face down on my bed praying, crying really, someone said something to someone else, gossip starts which creates distractions, hurt feelings and damaged relationships. I’m not sure how the snowball got formed or who pushed it down the snow covered hillside, but by the time it slammed into me it was a hard, cold, dirty and painful.
As I placed my head in my folded hands and cried, I wanted so desperately to cry out to God, intercede! I wanted to be bold like David before the throne and cry out to the Lord God of the universe to fight my battle, to carry His standard before me.
“I come to you, Lord, for protection; never let me be defeated. You are a righteous God; save me, I pray! Hear me! Save me now! Be my refuge to protect me; my defense to save me. You are my refuge and defense; guide me and lead me as you have promised. Keep me safe from the trap that has been set for me; shelter me from danger. I place myself in your care. You will save me, Lord; you are a faithful God.” Psalm 31:1-5
I wanted so much to cry out for the Lord to fight this battle and defend me, but I felt unworthy. I sat there with my face to the floor wanting to cry out for my Father’s help and couldn’t because I know I’m not perfect. I wanted to go to my Father and show Him I was bleeding and ask for His help, but I was afraid because I was dirty.
Does any of this sound familiar? This was one of those moment where God truly spoke to me. David wasn’t perfect, neither was Paul, neither was Peter. He doesn’t call people because they are perfect, actually they are usually very very imperfect. In that moment the God of the universe showed me that His love, His protection, His defense was not dependent on my perfection, or even on my being worthy. It is only dependent on His love.
Let that sink in a moment… how often have we not gone to God because we feel we are unworthy?
There’s no shadow You won’t light up
Mountain You won’t climb up
Coming after me
There’s no wall You won’t kick down
Lie You won’t tear down
Coming after me
He fights for us, He chases us, there is no distance, no pain, no sin, no obstacle to big (or too small) that He can’t – won’t overcome to get to us. Hear me dear ones, there is NOTHING that can separate you, make Him love you less (or more). We all need to step out with the boldness of David and claim the amazing grace God has given to each of us. There is nothing out there that can separate you from Him.
I cried harder at the realization of the depth of God’s love for me, than I did at the pain that this situation caused. He stands between me and trouble, He defends my right and left side, He goes before me and protects behind me. The only part I play in this relationship is to keep my eyes and heart on Him, and follow. He will guide my steps and lead me in the way of righteousness.
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